Northern Irish adventurer, Leon McCarron, is a long distance kind of guy. In recent years he has cycled from New York to Hong Kong, walked across China, trekked through the Empty Quarter desert and ridden a horse across Argentina, following the Santa Cruz river.

Not one to put his feet up you imagine!

So tell us Leon, how did the whole adventure scene begin for you?

I've always enjoying being in the outdoors, and I've always valued spending time in the wilderness - but I never used to think of it as "adventure." When I left university I set off to try and cycle around the world - mostly to avoid getting stuck in a job in the UK that I didn't enjoy.

For about 18 months I lived on the road, with only my bike and pannier bags for company.

When I returned home after that trip I began to try and hone my storytelling skills, taking what I'd learned from adventures and turning them into something that other people could enjoy and be a part of.

Eventually this began to pay the bills through writing, filmmaking and public speaking, and at some point I inadvertently became part of the "scene!"

It's not necessarily an easy or lucrative way of life, but it allows me to do what I love, and increasingly to work towards finding ways to combine adventure with sharing stories of greater importance - experiences that have made me think in a different way, and that I hope can also give that platform of ideas to other people.

What are your best camping memories? And worst experiences?

I have two worst experiences! In 2011 I set off to walk from the Gobi desert in Mongolia to the South China Sea in Hong Kong - a distance of some 3000 miles. I'd never done anything like it before, and on the first night my friend Rob and I had trekked 15 miles into the Gobi desert.

It snowed that night, and the temperature dropped to at least -20C. I've never been so cold, overwhelmed, or intimidated by what's to come.

The other experience that stands out is camping in Michigan when I was cycling across the US, and waking up to hear racoons in the vestibule area of my little tent, eating all of my food. The next morning I realised they'd cleaned me out. Missing out on breakfast is a big deal for cyclists!

Hopefully there have been some good memories along the way too?

The best memory is harder to pin down there have been so many. The vast majority of my camping memories are wonderful - it's one of my favourite things to do in the world.

In 2012 I walked across the Empty Quarter desert on the Arabian peninsula. For six weeks a friend and I trekked through desert heat during the day, and at night simple lay down on the sand wherever we pleased and watched the stars fill the sky. I'll never forgot the simple pleasure and beauty of those nights.

Wow. That sounds epic! Are there any favourites closer to home?

I'm very biased because I grew up there, but I think the north coast of Northern Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I would love to spend more time there, but I only get back once or twice a year. When I do, I like to run along the coastline, and try and be brave enough to jump in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean.

It's incredibly rugged and wild feeling for somewhere that is in reality quite accessible, and I'm always finding new places that I haven't explored - even so many years of wandering there.

And what one adventure would you make part of everyone's UK bucket list?

Perhaps this is a cliche, but I think a night under the stars is the fundamental must-do. If it can be in the Cairngorms, or the Peak District, or the Mourne Mountains, all the better, but if it's simply in a nearby patch of woodland, that does the same job.

It's such a liberating feeling to spend a night outside. It's not always ideal in the UK, being 'blessed' as we are with significant rainfall. Ultimately though, even an evening spent in a tent in the rain feels good - at least in retrospect!

And if it's clear, warm and fresh, then there's nothing better than dozing off in the British countryside and waking with the first natural light of morning.

Too right! Do you have any tips for people wanting to do what you do?

I'd say first - go and do something. It's much easier to talk and plan than it is to do. Even if it's a smaller, more humble adventure that happens first, it's important to get started.

Then build skills - there's no shortcut to developing expertise in storytelling. I'm far from mastering it, but I love the process of learning.

Finally, if you want to make a living out of it (and it's worth thinking this through - perhaps it'd be easier to work another job and earn money to fund your adventures) then you need to produce something that someone else wants, and is willing to pay for.

It's a constant compromise between the purity of adventure and the practicality of making enough money to live, but the core concept is pretty simple - create something that someone else will enjoy. It's also likely that if you value what you're making, other people will too.

Can you recommend any inspiring books?

I love South, by Ernest Shackleton. Any of the writings from that golden age of exploration are worth reading, but Shackleton in particular has such a compelling story. South made me completely re-evaluate what humans are capable of, and to marvel at what the true spirit of adventure really is.

What about a favourite campfire meal?

Baked beans!

If I'm on a bike trip, I love to try and create really elaborate meals on my camping stove, because I have the luxury of being able to carry a little extra gear in the bike. I particularly like trying to make chilli with fresh vegetables. However, nothing - not even gourmet camp stove chilli! - can match the joy of sitting down at the end of a long day's hike, making a fire and popping an open can of beans into the flames.

Simple, and always perfect!

Yes, it's hard to go wrong with beans! Are there any gadgets you always take?

These days, it's a smartphone. It makes me somewhat sad to say that, as I really loved my early days of travel where I'd send postcards home once ever few weeks to let my family know I was alive. These days I can call anywhere in the world from just about anywhere else in a matter of seconds.

However, smartphones have revolutionised travel. Mine is a secondary stills and video camera; it's an audio recorder and at times a diary; it has my calendar and travel details, not to mention my bank details; it connects me with contacts where I'm going as well as the people I care about back home. It's my map and my memory bank.

I have to manage usage of it and I try not to get absorbed in watching my little screen instead of experiencing what's going on around me, but it's wonderfully useful. I'd struggle to travel without it now.

We'd be the same. It's the modern equivalent of a Swiss army knife! Is there anything strange you always pack?

I used to always pack a tin whistle, so I could play some music when I got lonely, or give a bad rendition of some Irish classics to people that I met. These days though I've swapped it for a hip flask of whisky. Neither qualify as essentials by a long shot, but I've never regretted the extra weight!

Nice work! Perhaps the people you meet prefer the whisky to the whistle too?! Finally, has anything surprised you about today's world as you've made your way?

I love travelling because of how much the world changes - landscapes, people, culture, climate. What I've learned (and what is constantly a pleasant surprise) is that there are so many commonalities between humans all over the world. From the Belfast to Birmingham to Baghdad to Beijing, people share much the same values - a desire to be good to each other, to look after their families, to work hard and have fun.

In a often scary-seeming world, I love being reminded of this.

A lovely thought to end on, thanks Leon!

Find out more about Leon's travels on his website and Instagram, or follow him on Twitter. A book of his Walk the Masar adventure is expected in autumn 2017.