Racking up 9,000 miles by canoe, kayak, bike and on foot, it's fair to say that Richard Harpham is a well-seasoned adventurer. After a Cool Runnings experience at the Winter Olympics, he co-founded the award-winning Inspired Life, to inspire young people to become what they want to be. When he's not helping others, he manages a canoe and kayak rental business with his wife.

Somehow he was kind enough to find the time to speak to us too!

Hi Richard, thanks for agreeing to chat to us. Can you tell us how you started in the world of adventure?

I have always embraced adventurous activities, watersports in particular, and being in the outdoors from an early age. All our family holidays were camping and walking mountains in Scotland and Wales.

I also enjoyed Scouts and was lucky enough to have a Scout Master who taught the old school skills. I then joined Viking Kayak Club and learnt to paddle, as well as cycling London to Paris as a teenager - the highlight of which was cycling down the Champs Elysses as if we had won the Tour de France.

Born to do it then?

In terms of bigger adventures then I was something of a late developer. In 2009 I created five kayaking challenges for charity including sea kayaking the Channel, Lands End to the Isles of Scilly, kayaking the length of the Thames in 33 hours during the blizzards and 1,000 miles from Vancouver to Alaska on the Inside Passage.

That fifth trip changed my life, experiencing bears, killer whales and a stunning remote wilderness. It was an awakening, I loved the physical challenge of the elements, being at one with nature and exploring new territory.

I have followed the same model for most of my adventures which include cycling and kayaking London to Marrakech, cycling the Sahara and canoeing the Yukon River. Each one special for allowing me to experience different cultures, explore at human powered speed and feel alive.

Of course everyone paints there adventure canvas in a different way. For me, adventure is the perfect antidote to the modern frantic world that we live in.

We couldn't agree more. Have you got any tips for people looking to become an adventurer?

Take the first step. The best adventure is the one that you take. So start now, rather than procrastinating.

All adventures big and small can give the same feeling of freedom exploring new places and experiencing wildlife, historic locations and meeting different people.

Then plan your adventures with enough detail that you understand the best route, conditions and skills needed. Consider what you are trying to achieve and get out of it, and if there is a group of you make sure that you all agree. It can be like herding cats with bigger groups!

Finally, be safe and have fun. There is a tendency to want to do it bigger and better but please, above all, do it safely. If you are not sure of the risks then contact a professional centre or instructor and ask advice.

Good tips. Which of your adventures have been the most life changing?

Bizarrely, I was the manager of the Ghana Ski Team at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 which was the adventure of a lifetime and a little bit like Cool Runnings. After the Olympics we set up www.inspiredlife.org to make a difference to young people and their communities by sharing inspiration and life skills.

That sounds like a great idea. What other lessons have your adventures have taught you?

You can't beat the weather. The best you will achieve is a score draw!

True enough! What adventure would you recommend for everyone's bucket list?

Canoeing or kayaking the Great Glenn Canoe Trail is a great paddling adventure for people to cut their teeth on, with 62 miles of paddling including the infamous Loch Ness.

The trail spans Scotland from Fort William in the South to Inverness in the North East. The journey can include paddling the rapid sections of the River Ness and River Oich for experienced paddlers. Less experienced paddlers can opt for a local guide (or Canoe Trail, my company!) for some advice.

Once that's in the bag then bigger adventures like canoeing the Yukon River don't seem so out of reach.

Where else in the UK is special to you?

Britain is amazing for its diversity, its changing seasons, the coast, and its history. I love exploring our beautiful island and enjoy lots of short breaks either wild camping, or making the most of the brilliant network of youth hostels.

In particular, I love visiting Pembrokeshire and enjoyed camping in Wales with my wife Ashley for our honeymoon.

The countryside, beaches, coves and islands off Pembroke make it magical and it is not overrun with tourists. There are plenty of adventurous activities on offer and great sea kayaking spots making it one of my favourite boltholes.

I get the same excited feeling when I reach the Highlands in Scotland.

Of course having our own woodland just down the road is pretty special as well. It is accessible from the River Great Ouse in Bedford, just one hour North of London. Paddling into the campsite provides a similar feeling to my canoe trips in the Yukon albeit without the bears and wolves! We spend considerable time there hosting corporate groups, schools and community groups and sharing adventurous activities.

Camping there feels like an honour rather than work.

That sounds superb - and we're impressed by the camping honeymoon too! Has it always been plain sailing, or do you have any horror stories?

My worst camping memory was getting a flooded tent in the middle of the night whilst sea kayaking in Alaska. It was the highest spring tide for 25 years and the tree line was full of bear scat (faeces) and I woke with my face partly under icy cold water.

It was raining heavily and we were forced to shelter on floating logs until the tide ebbed. Despite a few nightmares the following nights there was no harm done. I was, needless to say, not the happiest camper.

Second on my bad camping list was trying to bivvy on top of the Cuillin Ridge with a simple tarp. I qualified for the village idiot award noting the stunning rainbow commenting how lovely it looked. That rainbow delivered a raging storm and with nowhere to go, it was just a case of toughing it out.

A score draw that time then? Hopefully the are some better memories too?

My best camping memories are pretty much all of the others. I love being in the outdoors whether in a tent, under a tarp or in a bivvi bag. We sometimes approach finding the best campsite as a game, looking for a site with a view, good shelter, and easy access from the water. We select our best site and usually compare notes with a side dish of banter!

Campsites worth a mention include deserted islands on the Outer Hebrides, Lighthouses in British Columbia and Alaska, snow holing in the Yukon territories - and our own woodland campsite accessible from the River Great Ouse.

Can you recommend any inspiring books?

Giant Steps by Karl Bushby about his inspiring adventure in progress to walk around the world. For me he represents the gold standard and is the next Ranulph Fiennes in terms of the scale and magnitude of his adventures.

We'll have to check that one out. Who's your ideal companion on your travels?

My wife Ashley as she balances my strengths and weaknesses and makes me laugh lots. For my sea kayaking expeditions then Olly Jay of Active4Seasons as I know I can trust him with my life. And have done on several occasions.

Are there any words of wisdom that you always remember?

In Scouts we were told to "be prepared" which has proved essential. My dad always used to quote Richard Bach's "Argue your own limitations and sure enough they are yours". These have stayed with me through the ups and downs, although forgetting my pedals for cycling the Sahara by fat bike demonstrated I still need to work harder on being prepared!

Speaking of being prepared, how do you plan your adventures?

I love maps, paper versions in particular, and am a complete map geek! I do use digital maps for longer route planning and love tracking stuff with the Garmin Systems. Be warned, in 1D the hills and open water crossings seem so accessible and achievable.

What about gadgets?

I have been very lucky to have been supported by some great brands in the world of adventure. I have tested them in the harshest of conditions from the Sahara to stormy seas in Alaska and each bit of kit has proved itself invaluable on different expeditions.

Some kit worth mentioning are my cameras, currently a Fuji and a Garmin VIRB. I wear Bamboo Clothing and Paramo Clothing most days as they are anti-bacterial, ethical and great technical kit. For kayaking then Reed Chillcheater, Aquabound and Valley Sea Kayaks keep me moving. Finally I recommend British-made USE Exposure Lights as a world class brand and Surly for their incredible bling fat bikes.

That all sounds very well thought out. No doubt there is a curve ball in your backpack too?

A Hawaiian shirt – I want to look dapper at dinner! It somehow got packed on my first big trip so has been a tradition ever since.

There's always something! Thanks Richard.

For updates of Richard's journeys, take a look at his website or follow him on Twitter.