On June 6, 2016, Mark Watson and Hana Black began one of the biggest adventures of their lives – a transcontinental cycling journey that followed the length of the Americas. They began on the stark flat expanse of Deadhorse, Alaska, finishing in the windswept town of Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of South America. Having crossed every imaginable landscape and leaving behind them only two thin tire tracks in the dust, we asked them what they had learned along the way.
This isn’t your first taste of adventure, even if it might be the largest. How has your relationship with adventure changed over time?
Ever since we were children the outdoors and adventure have been critical parts of our lives. We’ve both tramped and camped since we were very young. When we became a couple back in the early 1990s, our first big trip together was a five-month cycling journey to all four major capes of the North Island of New Zealand, with a bit of rock climbing along the way. Over the years, many hundreds of outdoor excursions have followed both in NZ and overseas, whether it’s an afternoon mountain bike riding or a week climbing in the Fiordland mountains.
If we were to focus on how our relationship with adventure has changed, we’d say it’s the quality of those experiences, and that is something that has become particularly salient during our Alaska to Patagonia journey. Firstly, we’ve been repeatedly shown that the deeper we go, the more we learn and the richer the experience. That is to say that the greater the physical and mental challenge is for us — and the less prior knowledge we have — the more we discover about ourselves and each other. These throwing-ourselves-in-the-deep-end challenges have had the result of resetting our estimate of what we are capable of. Another way of putting it is: what we might have thought of as obstacles, were actually opportunities.