Maya Angelou: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
Thanks for the visit. I am an adventurer and an explorer. I travel to the furthest places on earth and walk through its toughest habitats. I have been described as ‘Indiana Jones for girls’ (which I liked!) We live in a time when the world is in crisis in so many ways. I want to bear witness to what is happening to the planet as our climate and our society changes and I want to tell the stories that bring we humans together rather than the ones that drive us apart. Together, we can strive towards solutions and a happier world. What better place to start than with the places and people that are furthest away.
For more on me – there is a full bio below or you can get to know me through my latest book Adventures in Morocco
I was born in 1963 in the Edinburgh Infirmary. Six weeks later, just after my mum had successfully taken her law exams, my parents Jim and Fredi boarded a ship and sailed to Africa. For the first 8 years of my life, I got to run free in the African Bush, roaming around the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda, hunting tadpoles and running away from snakes.
At the age of 11, by now the family was living in Ghana, it was back to Scotland to St Denis and Cranley Academy for Young Ladies, where I had to wear two sets of knickers – under and over – and a velour hat to church. NO idea why the two sets of knickers but they did help keep the nethers warm in the freezing winters of an unheated school in Edinburgh!
At Edinburgh University, I studied Arabic and Turkish and discovered the joys of the Poetry Society and the Socialist Worker’s club – both joined because I fancied the guy that ran them. Six memorable months were spent living in Damascus with my lifelong (now!) friend and fellow Arabist Martin, where we faced down the secret police and survived on a diet of bread, condensed milk and jam because I was a terrible cook.
After university I spent two years teaching English in Cairo and exploring the country. Hitchhiking on military trucks across the Western Desert and spending afternoons sleeping with the stray dogs in the shade of the Pharaonic temples of the Luxor.
Moving to London, I pursued a career in journalism which had started in Dubai at “What’s On in Dubai”. My first job was with Technical Review Middle East (there is nothing I don’t know about concrete decay). From there to Middle East Broadcasting, the original Arabic Satellite News Station, with my first assignment being to produce coverage in the USA for the Clinton Election. My next step was to BBC News with jobs on BBC World TV and then BBC Arabic TV. I rose quickly (ish) through the ranks in BBC News and was recruited to help launch the BBC News Channel where I went on to become co-Editor of the daytime hours which meant I was in charge of all the BBC News Channel output between 10 am and 8 pm. I was one of only three female news editors in the corporation at the time. My speciality was managing the complexities of live, breaking stories in the news gallery. One of my abiding memories is causing higher ups to almost have cardiac arrests when I threw live to the George Michael arrest press conference in the USA when the details of his cottaging were revealed – apparently that was not what the British news-watching public wanted to watch at teatime with the kids.
For the new millennium I moved North to Manchester and onto the internet www.supanet.com where I built the ISP’s content from six pages to one million pages in two years; oversaw content deals with all the major players and attracted six million users. Happy days! I also started to break out into mini adventures squeezed into the holidays: the Snowdon Challenge, crossing Costa Rica coast to coast, Kilimanjaro, ice climbing in the Andes, climbing the Ruwenzoris….
In 2002, I plunged into public service when I was appointed as CEO of Vision+Media, a quango dedicated to growing the creative industries in the Northwest and remained there for nine years. I am proud that I managed – with my Board and my Team – to build the company from a modest start of £830k funding annually to £10 million, move it into brand new premises in Salford’s media city, work closely with the BBC Move North team and delivered 10x value to funders. However, following Tory government cuts in 2011 we were no longer viable, so I merged the company into Creative England and cast off my pinstripes for lycra.
I left the rat race for a bike race. The Adventure started here.
It was my turning point really, my defining moment, as I decided to turn the negative experience of my company closing into a positive liberation and to follow my dream of cycling across Africa. I entered the Tour D’Afrique and raced my bike from Cairo to Cape Town: 12,500km through ten countries in 100 days with 20 days rest. I survived close encounters with charging wild elephants and very nasty toilets. My first book came out of the experience, Dodging Elephants
Bitten with the adventure bug, I entered the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth, 6 marathons across the Sahara in 6 days carrying all your own food and equipment. To up the challenge, the middle marathon is a double at 80+ kilometres. As a terrible runner who had never even run a marathon, I decided to give herself the best possible chance by moving to Morocco in January 2014 to train in the sand and sun.
I loved Morocco so much I stayed and committed to my heart’s desire of becoming a full time Adventurer.
In 2015 I did my first “world first” with the Atlas to Atlantic Trek, sponsored by Epic Travel. My expedition guide, Rachid Aitelmahjoub, and I became the first people ever to hike from the highest point in North Africa, Mount Toubkal (4167m) to the Atlantic Ocean (Agadir) straight across the Atlas Mountains. We lived off the land as we went, and relied on Amazigh, Berber hospitality in villages so remote that they had never seen a European before.
In 2016/17 I filmed the BBC2 documentary series, “From Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure” It was a dream come true for me. My quest for the “furtherest place on earth” was an epic journey along the ancient salt roads, over the snow-covered Atlas mountains and across the Saharan sands. I mined for gold, risked death in a donkey cart and spent hours up to my thighs in pigeon shit. All in a day’s work. I also wrote a book about the series.
In November 2018, I took on another big challenge – one that was a bit beyond me in many ways. I ran the Everest Trail Race ultra marathon – 150km around Everest in 6 days and to make sure I was ready, I moved to Imlil and the Atlas Mountains to train. I successfully completed the race and consider it one of the major achievements of my life. It was so difficult for me that I felt overwhelming relief at the finish line, rather than my default of overwhelming joy.
In March 2019, I became the first woman to walk the Draa River in Morocco. 1500km across desert and mountain with my three Amazigh guides and five camels. It was real “Indiana Jones for Girls!” stuff. I was exploring rather than just taking on a big physical feat and I had time to discover the environmental, social and cultural effects of climate and social change. This is one of the oldest settled areas on planet earth, but now much of it is a barren wasteland. Please check out my little YouTube videos and blog for more on this. Where has all the water gone?
After that expedition, I decided to keep walking and cross the whole of Morocco by doing two further legs: the Sahara and the Atlas. So, it turns out that walking the Sahara is really, really tough, who knew! I walked around 1000 miles with my three Amazigh (Berber) companions and six camels from where we left off the Draa at Oued Chbika to Guerguerat on the Mauritanian Border. We started on 26th November 2019 and finished at the end of February 2020. Sandstorms, water stress, camels on heat and endless barren days – check out the podcasts (episodes 4-9 were broadcast from the Sahara, my personal favourite is 8)
Then Covid struck and I spent lockdown in my home in Imlil in the Atlas Mountains with my adopted Amazigh family, the cow, the chickens and Squeaky the Cat. Lockdown was really tough in Morocco and I longed for freedom. At the end of August 2020, thanks to the unflinching efforts of my Expedition Organiser, Jean-Pierre Datcharry, Addi, Brahim, Ali, our six camels and I set off on the last part of our Moroccan trilogy, the Atlas Expedition, and walked 1400km from Nador on the Mediterranean to Ouarzazate where we had started in January 2019. It was an incredible experience to be able to walk in the time of Corona and I will be covering it in the next book – which has been commissioned by Simon&Schuster. Also… I found dinosaur footprints – so exciting!
My third book with Simon&Schuster, Adventures in Morocco (first published as My 1001 Nights) is the story of my life here in Morocco so far which is sometimes hard, sometimes hilarious and always interesting.
I hope you will join me on my adventures, either by buying my books, listening to my podcast Alice in Wanderland which is available on all major platforms, reading my blog, having a look at my YouTube channel, or following me on social media!Links on the page. Do check out my Instagram feed @aliceoutthere1 for (I hope) some great photos.
I LOVE talking to people and do a lot of public speaking and also leadership training and mentoring, so if that is your interest please email me: [email protected]
And if you are a Wiki editor, it would be amazing if you’d do an entry for me! Need that objective Wiki view
If you got this far, thanks for your perseverance and I hope to see you in the mountains one day.