Interview with Angelo Wilkie-Page of Expedition 720°

An expedition of daunting magnitude, a time frame of eight years, this is a story that will inspire a generation of people who are already beginning to make their way into the wild, to venture even further, to worry less and rage against the limitations they have bound themselves in. Twenty nine year old Angelo Wilkie-Page’s is soon to embark on an expedition to circumnavigate the globe from East to West and Pole to Pole, crossing all lines of latitude and longitude, using only human power. I got the opportunity to ask him a few question before he sets off on Expedition 720° in just over a month’s time.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°
Courtesy of Expedition 720°

1. Eight years without a home, without staying still, without your family and friends around you. Is that an issue for you or are you looking forward to that escape?

Fortunately this is not a non-stop circumnavigation. The route is designed in 2 parts east to west and pole-to-pole, each part is broken up into 4 legs. I have no problem spending time on my own; in fact I enjoy it. I’m not married and don’t have kids. If I did have children I don’t think that I would attempt a project of this nature. I am looking forward to physically starting Expedition 720°.

2.You are 29 years old, what makes now the right time to embark on something like this?

I would say now is the right time for me personally at 29, as all my life experiences have led and partly prepared me for this expedition. I don’t think I would have been ready for this 3 years ago, and I don’t want to leave it till later in life. The timing is right for it now.

3. How is your head dealing with the sheer scale of the expedition? How will you keep your mind in check so as not to become overwhelmed?

I only concentrate on the stage or leg ahead of me; there is no point stressing about leg 6 when I’m on leg 1. I feel it’s important to be adaptable, as there are some many outside factors that can influence the expedition. Best thing I find is to look a few steps ahead but focus on the present.

4.The expedition will require a lot of equipment for it’s different stages, will it all be pre set up (boat, bike etc)?

Each leg is very unique and equipment will adapt as per individual leg requirements. At this point I am fully equipped for the first cycle leg from Los Angeles to Anchorage, but I will use a different bike setup for Siberia and Mongolia. The Atlantic rowing boat is currently being constructed, along with the ocean kayak that will be used for the Bearing straight crossing.

5. Aside from raising money for charity and conducting research, what is your motivation for doing this? Have you never found something to hold you in the 9-5 world?

I worked as a commodities trader for three years before leaving to work in the yachting industry. I can’t see myself going back to a corporate 9-5. Attempting a project of this magnitude one needs to be 100% committed, I can’t have any doubts about going to back to corporate. Expedition 720° is my 9-5! I’m all in.

6. I know this is a childish question but will it be any fun or all hard grit?

I hope it will be more fun than hard grit, I expect to meet, see and experience some wonderful people and places along the route. I will make sure to take time out for enjoyment and the odd beer. It’s a once in a lifetime expedition, doing what I love so to answer your question more fun than hard grit.

7. With it been a world first, is failure something you’ve considered?

I have been told that I can be rather stubborn, I don’t give up easily. The thing about an expedition of this nature is that there are so many external elements that could play a role in the success or failure of the expedition. Elements such as shifting ice, rough waves, being hit by a car, visa’s, consistent campaigning, extreme weather conditions, health these are a few factors that could get in the way of the project. My strategy is to complete one kilometer at a time and be as safe as possible.

8. The expedition could take up to eight years, that means you will be 38 when you finish. I know I am getting ahead of myself here but have you considered how will you adjust to normal life after that?

If I complete this project I would have achieved a lifelong dream. Ill cross that bridge when the time comes. Adjusting I’m sure would not be easy and might take a while.

Follow every step of Wilkie-Page’s expedition on his website, Facebook or Twitter page.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°
Courtesy of Expedition 720°
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Interview with Derek Cullen – Cycling solo across Africa

Tired of the monotony of everyday life, 32 year old Irishman Derek Cullen mounted an old bike and began an epic unsupported cycle across Africa. It is a story with the potential to inspire the ordinary person, to break down the very shackles that we confine ourselves to.  I, myself really wanted to interview him, as I am well short of a few Irish adventurers to look up to. And he is every bit the stereotype (the good one) :  the pale skin, the ginger beard, the easy warm character, the sense of humour and of course he is much more modest than he needs to be. This interview, I hope, will make you smile, as it did to me,  and maybe plant a tiny thought into your mind; if he can do it, then why can I not do it too?

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1.What is your current location?

Arusha, Tanzania – exactly half way between the start point Cape Town & Cairo.

2.What type of bike are you ridding?

Trek820 – it’s nothing fancy, 13 years old, has 23 gears and god knows how many previous owners.

3.What have you packed in your panniers?

Clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, tent, cameras, water – anything you’d need to survive a wilderness area.

4.What books have you brought with you to entertain you in the evenings?

Arabian Sands, Adrift, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air – are you seeing the trend? Mostly adventure stories about ridiculously lonesome journeys!

5.How are you navigating?

Map and compass, to be honest it would be harder to go the wrong way – there’s not many roads down here. I’ve got the distance wrong several times but who cares, I just pitch the tent behind a bush and carry on the next morning.

6.What distance are you covering each day?

Usually between 60 – 100km. The most covered in a day was 160km, the least 20km (exhausted). I travel very slowly even against bicycle standards, I like to spend more time anywhere that’s cool.

7.What does your diet consist of on the road?

On the bike – bananas, chocolate, biscuits, water, water, water. Off the bike – two minute noodles, beans, rice, heaps of local food (god knows what some of the meat really is). You eat like a horse doing this and literally give up being fussy.

8.What was your cycling experience like before you embarked on this massive trip?

Believe it or not – none. I was never a fan of cycling as strange as that may sound – it’s just the mode in which I seek adventure! My brother likes to tell people about how I struggled to cycle to his house last year in Ireland, I barely made it home – it was a 10km ride.

9.Have you discovered anything about your character, about who you are as a person?

Yeah completely, I realised the world didn’t revolve around me for a start – that was disappointing! It has changed me in ways I never thought imaginable, facing fears and taking on such a big challenge has brought huge confidence and a lot of humility. I genuinely feel a much “better person” now than ever before.

10.Does the joy outweigh the suffering on the road?

Every. Single. Time.

There are pretty depressing times, especially the aspect of being alone so long, for so often – but you get over that. Three words – Cycling with Giraffes.  I can’t forget that people are living hard lives back home, I’m very lucky to be where I am.

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11. As you make progress, has the fear and anxiety you have mentioned before become more manageable or are you still dealing with it on a daily basis?

It may sound too good to be true but the anxiety has all but disappeared.  I spent a lot of time worrying at the beginning but the anxieties proved to be “false concerns” every time – I literally stopped bothering to worry about what never seemed to happen anyway! I still feel the fear of course, that’s a healthy concern to have and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the worry of having Hyenas or lions around my tent.

12. How are you finding using social media and a blog to document your trip? Is it a motivator not to quit or does it take away a little from the adventure?

A lot of work goes into it for sure but it’s worth it for the chance of sharing this experience with someone. Also, writing fills a lot of spare time that is usually spent alone.

13. I am allowed stereotype you here because I am also Irish, but how are you not burnt alive with the heat?!

Yeah it’s kinda hot alright, I got heat exhaustion in the lower Namibia Desert which involved not having the energy to roll over and two days of falling asleep. That was enough reason to be careful in the future. I wear a wide brimmed hat (which looks stupid, I know) and keep putting sun cream on the arms – everything else stays covered while cycling. Yes, I have a farmers tan.

Speaking of stereotypes, I’ve had less than 15 bottles of beer in 7 months – beat that Ireland!

14. How do you make yourself get up and ride again the next day after having a shit day (aka how are you keeping your head in the right place)?

That’s been difficult, I doubt anyone could properly understand just how hard this gets when you spend so much time alone. I keep mentioning being alone but it’s the most influential factor of the trip each day and for staying motivated. The answer is, some days I just do and some days I just don’t – I just stay where I am until the mood has passed.

In general, I keep my head together by finding meaning in everything that happens. No matter how bad it gets, there is always a positive way to look at it. Looking down from the top of a mountain with the bicycle is an empowering feeling but it never feels like that at the time of cycling uphill to get there.

15. Is the journey harder than you thought, or is it living up to your expectations?

Harder yes but not for the reasons I would have thought prior. Physically, it is tough but manageable. Mentally, it can be a right battle. The trip has exceeded anything I could have imagined, it is the single most profound experience in my thirty two years and has definitely changed my outlook on life.

16. Is the stereotypical image of Africa of a poverty stricken and dangerous continent holding true?

Poverty, yes at times but what many people don’t realise is that most Africans are happy with their conditions – they still live traditionally and get by with what they have. It’s wrong of the western world to think of Africans as unprivileged for not having the same standard of living. If you ask me, the simple life being led in these parts has resulted in a community that is much richer and far more content than the complicated world we live in. Mobile phones are everywhere you go now, it disappoints me to see this in Africa too.

Africa is no more dangerous than London, New York, Dublin or Rome. If anything people here are more friendly. The danger associated with Africa is derived from western media and peoples natural feeling to fear the unknown.

17. Why are you doing it, what was the trigger?

My life was crap!!

I was so bored, I wasn’t happy with work, my social life was average, I felt I wasn’t growing or doing what I really wanted to do. Nobody needs to feel this way, it’s a choice really.

I genuinely thought if there was any real meaning to life, it had to be out there to experience but I needed to “go out there” first in order to find out.

18. How are you coping with being alone for so many hours each day?

It can be quite depressing but mostly a great experience. You learn to be your best friend in a situation like this – I really needed that, to gain a better opinion and respect for myself.

19. You are obviously fit by now – 6,000km in. Is the actual physical cycle itself no longer the hard part?

Yes and no. Physically, it gets harder over time with the constant strain on the body but by then you have learnt to just get on with it so it cancels it out somewhat. Being alone and keeping a sane mental state is by far the biggest challenge.

20. What are the descents/downhill’s like?

Elation – to the point of feeling crazy and screaming random words before realising the locals are watching….and continuing on anyway!

Along with “being tied down” and having kids (thinking ahead!) I’ve already no doubt they will be the happiest memories I will ever have – it’s been worth the risk.

Follow Derek’s journey via his website, Twitter or Facebook page.

Video: Eleutheromania

So this is it.

Four years of university. Four years in Edinburgh. Done.

Years of being broke, of trying to fit in, then trying to stand out. Years of craving to escape Ireland, then crying from homesickness and calling up Mammy on the phone to let me come home. Four years of crappy jobs, of acne, of tears but also four years of making the most brilliant of friends, of dancing, of surfing, of laughing. Four hard but brilliant years. And it all comes down to this. It is decision making time.

Where do I go from here? Here I sit, yearning for freedom, for the life of an adventurer, but been held back by two empty bank accounts,  by the fear of sleeping wild in a tent alone. By the fear of failing and having to start again. The fear of mean people. The fear that the people who keep telling me, that as a girl I must beware of certain things, will be proved right. The fear of rejection. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of always wanting more. But most of all, the fear of taking the easy way out and shoving all those dreams down for the comfortable life, just for now, in the hope that one day I won’t be afraid. The ever elusive one day.

I leave you with my final university assignment, a ten minute documentary entitled; Eleutheromania; which denotes an irresistible desire for freedom. It is far from perfect, poor Alastair Humphreys looks a little blue due to my failure to check the white balance, and the brilliant Em Bell is a bit blurry at times and Jamie Bunchuk is looking at the camera instead of at me (again my fault). But bear with me, I am still learning, I am still raw and unpolished, still finding my way, still tripping up regularly, but I am on the way. Be kind, I know my faults. Just bear with me on this journey, I only promise that it will be worth it.

One day…

An interview with Simon Reeve

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Check out my interview with adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve on Sidetracked online.

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Over the last ten years, author, adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve has travelled the world with a camera in tow to record his extraordinary experiences for shows such as Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Indian Ocean and now his latest adventure ‘Australia’, is showing in the UK on BBC 2. We spoke to Simon about his past, current and future adventures.

Sidetracked: Hi Simon, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Author, adventurer and presenter: which do you think best represents you?

Simon Reeve: An adventurer would be one of the descriptions I might use if I was feeling really poncey along with author. I like calling myself an author because I wrote a book and I’ll be trading off that for probably the rest of my life. Also now, probably my most important title is dad and that’s the hardest one to live up to.

So tell us a little more about your book, and how did you go from writing to presenting?

I really don’t know how that happened to be honest. It’s really bizarre. I wrote a book on al-qada that came out in 1998 which warned of a new era of terrorism and nobody took any notice whatsoever and then 9-11 happened and it became a best seller, I went on the telly to talk about it quite a lot and that lead to discussions with the BBC about making TV programs for them. I had my own hair and teeth and I had written this book that had given me some experience and legitimacy and so I set off on a journey for them around central Asia which was interesting. It was an area in which I was really interested in and I thought BBC viewers might like to learn a little bit more about it and so that was my first TV gig. That was around Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a series brilliantly titled Meet the Stans and I’ve been going ever since. I can’t believe it. Here I am now ten years later. Don’t tell anyone.

Read the rest of the interview on the Sidetracked website here.

Interview with Adventurer Alastair Humphreys

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Credit: Alastair Humphreys
Credit: Alastair Humphreys

Published on OutDare Adventures, read the full interview here.

Q: Did you ever drink and party and live the ‘student life’?

A: Ya definitely, I was a completely normal student; I did all of that stuff!
Q: You’ve never received sponsorship; you just save up and then do cheap trips. That’s freedom in one sense but does it mean you’ll never be financially free because you have to spend so much of your own money?

A: The row the Atlantic was a sponsored trip so I am starting to head down that way. But if I can possibly afford to do it myself then I like to maintain the independence, the simplicity and just to be my own boss and that’s worth quite a lot of money. Most of the trips that appeal to me really aren’t very expensive, so I just save for it.

Q: Do you think it’s just as safe for women as it is for men to go on solo adventures/expeditions?

A: I think that 99 percent of the time yes it is or perhaps even safer because people are nicer to you, but I also think there is that slight, elemental, potential risk that at times you’re a women on your own in the middle of somewhere, it can get a bit scary.
Q: What do you look for when choosing a suitable place to set up camp?

A: Running water, so near a river would be good and nice soft grass.
Q: Do you get any criticism over not having a traditional job? – How do you prevent that from disheartening you?

A: A little bit, people often say things like oh it’s alright for you, or you’re lucky, or it’s easy for you. Mostly I think, well I chose to do this, I’m no superman, I’m not a genius. Anyone could have done what I have; it’s just a choice I made. It slightly annoys me when people sneer a little bit and say oh when are you going to get a proper job. I’m earning enough money to live the life I love. So it doesn’t really bother me, mostly I think it’s just envy.

Read the full Interview here.

Interview with Mountaineer Ed Farrelly

Ed is a 20-year old mountaineer who has climbed some of the biggest peaks in the world, while still managing to pass his exams at university. What can I say, some of us just walk in the light. 😉

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1.You say you are an Adventure traveller, what does that entail?

My adventure travelling has been focused mainly around mountaineering. Mountaineering expeditions have taken me well off the beaten track to far flung corners of the earth and have normally involved weird and wonderful modes of transport along the way.

2.How did you get your first sponsorship deal?

It came about after I became the youngest person to climb Baruntse (7129m), Nepal, aged 18. It’s when people realised I was serious about the whole thing, although I must say on the whole I am strongly against the idea of climbing mountains for records!

3.You are only twenty years old, do you study on the side or are you a full time mountaineer?

I study full time at the University of York and fit mountaineering into my holidays of which I have plenty! Most of my recent expeditions have fitted around summer holidays, which is the wrong season for a lot of popular high altitude areas. Weirdly it’s perfect for me because I prefer to be climbing off the tourist trail hence my last expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

4.What does your mother think of your lifestyle?

I think she’s happy that I’m happy, although she does sometimes get anxious before I leave on expedition- that’s to be expected I guess.

5.How did you afford to travel and climb and buy the gear before you got sponsored?

Before I was sponsored I did most of my mountaineering in the UK and only a few trips to the Alps so I kept the cost down. Also during my teens rather than head off to Zante or Ibiza I spent my cash on climbing gear and trips- I guess it’s where your priorities are.

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6.Have you climbed solo before or do you mostly go in teams?

I have never been on a mountaineering expedition solo, it’s a totally different challenge to that faced when you’re part of a team. It’s a lot more of a mental game and also far more dangerous. That said I do have my eye on going back to Khan Tengri (7010m- Kyrgyzstan) and attempting it solo but only when I feel ready!

7.Is  fear ever an issue for you?

I often get nerves before a climbing day begins. I think that’s healthy though because it means you realise what you’re doing is serious and not to be taken lightly. I don’t think I’d want to climb with someone who never got anxious, that smells of recklessness.

8. What is the longest you have been out on an expedition?

A couple of months- it wasn’t a mountaineering expedition rather a car race from London to Mongolia followed by the Trans-Siberian railway and then backpacking around Scandinavia. It was awesome!

9.Do you ever feel like you are missing out on the ‘traditional’ student life?

Not really, I fit my expeditions into the holidays and whilst I’m at uni I live pretty much as a student- I drink too much, smoke and don’t do enough exercise. It’s only when I’m in the final few months leading up to an expedition that I really kick into gear.

10.What is it that keeps you going  back to the mountains?

That moment when you unzip the tent look up and think blimey, what an honour it is to be able to here trying to climb that thing.

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11. Can you describe the feeling of frostbite for those of us who haven’t had the pleasure?

It’s pretty nasty; there is an intense throbbing as the blood tries to push its way back into the dying tissue. You know that if you could feel a lot of what’s going on in the infected tissue it would be agony but you just can’t- that’s the craziest thing about it.

12. How did you get so confident at public speaking?

I have no idea, I don’t think I am confident to be honest! Like anything it becomes easier with practise, it also helps when you have something to talk about and feel confident that people want to hear what you have to say.

13.Favourite place to climb?

Kyrgyzstan hands down. The unsupported nature of the expeditions, the sheer remoteness and beauty of the place stand it apart from anywhere else I’ve been.

14. Most important piece of equipment?

Probably sunglasses, they pretty much never leave my head and without which would make me snow blind very quickly. Underestimated in the mountaineers gear arsenal.

15.Plans for the next few years on and off the mountains?

Multi-discipline driving expedition from London to Cape Town, I will be climbing/mountaineering and paragliding/skiing/rafting along the way- It is going to be an epic challenge!

Solo expedition to Khan Tengri (7010m, Kyrgyzstan)

Para-alpinist expedition to Ama Dablam (6812m, Nepal)

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16. What are the most impressive mountains you have climbed?

I guess I would have to say Khan Tengri (7010m, Kyrgzystan) despite the fact I didn’t summit. The mountain is very technical and the expedition was unsupported. Also Baruntse (7129m) was pretty tough considering my age and relative lack of experience.

17. What brand do you think offers the best quality mountaineering gear?

Hmmm It’s hard to say, it depends what you’re after because everything has a price and usually there is a correlation between the two i.e. the more expensive, the better quality.

18. What does the UK have to offer the mountaineering folk worldwide?

Absolutely loads, Scotland has some of the harshest weather and toughest winter mountaineering in the world. Also a lot of the stuff here is cheap, accessible and beginner friendly. People in general become to worked up about heading off to the Alps when actually they could be better served here.

Follow Ed on Twitter: @edfarrelly or via his website.

The Winter Racer – Lee Peyton

I sat in Starbucks waiting for Lee Peyton to arrive. I was nervous, who was I but a little girl carrying a Dictaphone that I didn’t know how to use, and pages of questions to ask the endurance racer. What gave me the right to probe him for information, what did he get out of this, his name mentioned on a little blog on the internet? He didn’t even get a free coffee because he beat me to the chase.

It may not of been worth his while to meet me, but he was kind and after a small amount of persistence on my part, he agreed. But I got something out of it, I got to hear his story and now you get to too.

It’s not just his modesty that strikes you when you meet him, it’s his raw and ill disguised ambition. It’s what he has the ability to do on a whim. He organised and ran the Sally Challenge, Epic 2012, Outer Hebrides Sub 60, Arrowhead 135, the national three peaks challenge three time, The Drambuie Pursuit, the Yukon Arctic Ultra, and several marathons.

What Epic 2012 entailed was a 430 mile mixed bike, run and kayak the length of Scotland.  Broken down, the mileage consists of a 140 mile cycle, running the West Highland Way, climbing Ben Nevis and paddling the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness, and a final cycle to John O Groat’s.

The money raised went to Yorkhill Children’s Foundation.The orthopaedic department which deals with cases of limb lengthening and straightening, reconstructive surgery for congenital disabilities, cerebral palsy related conditions and trauma. He did it with two friend’s; Garry Mackay and Greg McEwan.  McEwan hadn’t kayaked before and when asked, Peyton said of himself and Mackay; “We still can’t roll but we can self rescue.”

My impressions: he endures despite injury, he’s walked through the night, he’s hallucinated seeing chickens with sunglasses, the grim reaper, animal prints the size of dinner plates. He lifts weights, he lugs tyres along Gullane beach and all he wants is for people to get outside. Where’s good to train in Scotland I asked; “Anywhere, just get out! A lot of the time it’s just getting out the front door. That’s the hardest part.”

His career in the fire service means he gets annual leave, which in turn allows him to race. It was the fire service that prompted his entry into endurance events. “The fire service culture promotes you to do charity work, so in 2002 – 2003, we ran the Glasgow 10km in firekit and breathing apparatus sets, which combined is the weight of like 20 kilos. Then we did the three peaks challenge in under 24hrs.”

Peyton is a cold weather racer because he says it narrow’s the field as he’s not a runner; “I’m a plodder I can just finish the races, I’m not moving quickly. I did the Yukon race two years ago, where the weather went down to minus forty two, so you have got all these super endurance athletes but if they can’t manage the extremes then it’s no good.” Let the facts speak for themselves; out of the 56 competitors who started the Arrowhead 135 on foot in February 2012 only 28 finished.

He doesn’t talk about fear, only frustration; “Because of the extreme cold the pulk attachment shattered, it was a hard plastic and when I grabbed it with my hand it took heat from my hand. It was cramping, I needed to go stand by the fire and sort it out but to me that is a waste of race time. We were about a mile further on from the checkpoint and I looked at Garry and said I’m in the shitter here, It’s probably the most honest I’ve ever been.  I tried to put a heat pack in my glove, I bit my finger and felt nothing. It’s a bit shit, a bit scary. It all comes down to how well you manage yourself, if you don’t sort the logistics out or forget a glove well then that’s you gone.”

Up next on Peyton’s list is a 150km race in northern Finland in February. One which has never been completed before by someone on foot. “They clear the trails with snowmobiles but by the time the competitors get there, enough snow has fallen to cover them up again.” He is using the Original Mountain Marathon and Glenogle 33 to train for it; “It’s that adrenaline fuelled event that gets you focused again, Like life in the fire brigade, the day to day checks, go to a school, talk to the kids maybe go to an old folks home, do some training, do paperwork and computer work but then you get those peaks where you go to a fire, a traffic collision or a technical rescue, it’s so adrenaline fuelled.”

There’s no mention of possible failure; just excitement and advice;”You can always do that 10 percent more, but it’s your head that has to get you through.” Again, his frustration shines through his words. I attempt to complement all his achievements but he shields it away. “It’s all quite controlled though, because they are races. It’s no different from running the Edinburgh marathon, it’s just a different level but if you’ve trained and you are used to working in those conditions, then it’s just a race. I want to do something a bit wilder without the safety net. Everest was going to be a retirement thing and I’m doing Kilimanjaro next year for kids charity.”

Everyone give’s out about the tendency of writers/journalists for building up someone too much, for making them out to be better than they are. That annoys me because maybe, just maybe they are better than they or you think they are, and I’ve met Lee Peyton and I think he is accomplishing feats that are incredible, so he hasn’t climbed Everest, yet…. but for a seemingly ordinary man with a cool but traditional job, that he manages to do cold weather endurance events and create challenges to raise money for charity on the side. To me, that’s pretty impressive.

Follow Lee on Twitter @leepeyton or via his website Breaking Strain.

Interview with Videographer and Producer Ash Bhardwaj

Age: 29

Occupation: Videographer and Producer

Location: London

1. You are a producer and presenter of travel and adventure programming. How did you get into the field?

It started when I went backpacking at age eighteen, I kept a diary and updated my friends at home via email (a precursor to blogging).  After uni I was planning on taking my father’s ashes to India. A producer suggested this might make a good documentary.  I wrote the treatment and won development funding from BBC Three and it went from there.

I also make videos for the corporate sector taking the storytelling and production that I have learned in broadcast to tell stories about companies to use in their internal or external communications which includes training and events.

2. Advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Find a good story, and start producing content even if nobody is paying you for it.  Start doing what you want to be paid for now and someone will pay you for it eventually!  Make videos, write blogs, submit ideas to magazines, develop programme ideas with a production company.

3. You are also a Media Guardian One to Watch for the Edinburgh International Television Festival (MGEITF) – What does this mean?

It does three things: it gives you credibility, gives you some extra training, and makes it much easier to make contacts with senior people in the industry.  To get a place on it you have to be seen as one of the 30 ‘leading lights’ in television production – future heads of channel; development, production.  There is a nomination process followed by a series of applications and selection by a panel.  It’s part of a charity programme funded by the Media Guardian at the Edinburgh Television Festival, where you have special sessions with Heads Of Production, Development and even Heads Of Channel, which no-one else at the festival has, plus there are no journalists in these sessions, so the speakers are much more open and honest.

– Will it open any doors for you?

Yes. It enabled me to meet panellists who I would otherwise not be able to meet and I can use it in introductions as a form of credibility.

4. What are you working on at the moment?

Video production of events, including charity events.  I have just finished a piece about the Royal Marines Association.  I am also possibly working on a great series about education for Channel 4.

5. What can we expect from you in the next few years?

More films about wild locations, possibly a big trip through Africa, some films about skiing, a return to New Zealand, something about polo/gaucho and cowboys and more work in mentoring and education.

6. What piece of work are you most proud of?

The five short films that I made about the soldiers from Walking With The Wounded who went to Everest.

7. Have you got to meet anyone interesting through your profession?

Absolutely, and not just soldiers and royalty.  The most interesting and impressive people are not necessarily famous but people with a certain determination and passion.  Kris Hallenga of Coppafeel has created a campaign about early detection of breast cancer after her own battle with the illness.  A phenomenal woman.

8. What are your hobbies?

Rugby, skiing, hiking, clubbing, reading ,travel, film-making, story-telling.  I am in the process of adding a few more to that list though!

9. What have you done personally adventure wise?

I backpacked through India and Nepal when I was 18 which was quite a challenge.  After a ski season in France, I lived in the South Island of New Zealand which is where I really fell in love with the wilderness. There, I started getting into kayaking, tramping, and horse-riding.  Most recently I went to Mount Everest to film an expedition for Walking With The Wounded and Glenfiddich.

10. Who have you worked for or contributed content to?

  • The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • City AM
  • Glow
  • Beyond Limits
  • The Mayfair Magazine
  • Jet International
  • Etihad Inflight.

 

11. Why have you chosen to put your work up on Vimeo rather than YouTube?

I actually use both.  Vimeo is more “cinematic” and higher quality, it looks more “professional” and is a better place to host a portfolio.  But YouTube loads quicker and is much more searchable,  it’s also easier to embed content from YouTube.  In commercial production, I tend to create YouTube accounts for clients and host their videos there as it is easier for them to use and get the most value from.

12. Have you found it a difficult industry to break into?

Yes.  It is a fairly traditional industry that looks for direct experience, but if you have great ideas, energy and unique experience, that can be circumvented.  There is a lot of competition so you have to stand out not just by what you do and how you do it, but why you do it.

13. What’s the dream job?

I think I’d rather avoid ever getting a job but run a business that allows me to be creative and travel . It is through writing and video production that are taking me in that direction.  Other than that, acting and presenting.  If there were a way to get that tied together with travel, I’d be a very happy man.

14. Are you en route to getting there?

We’ll see. It’s very much stop and start but I have done more now than I had a year ago.

15. Whose YouTube or video accounts do you follow that produce great work?

Al Humphreys does some great stuff.  Dave Cornthwaite is very accessible.  Tim Ferriss has some great tutorials and insights.  Old Spice produce some of the funniest social video’s out there.  I also use YouTube to listen to music recommended by friends.

16. Also what websites or blogs?

The BBC College Of Production is awesome for video production tips.  Their College Of Production Podcast is a must-listen if you are interested.  William Dalrymple talks about writing in a way that you can learn from.  Tim Ferriss’ blog is always useful.  There are a lot of the digital media agencies that I follow to see new creativity in copyediting and video.

17. How did you get from a degree in philosophy to working in journalism and copywriting?

A lot of the skills are transferable. I learned by going through lots of information to find facts and tidbits, then re-writing and analysing  as well as finding more effective ways to say things.  For copywriting you need to have a decent vocabulary and be able to put yourself into the mind of a reader. It’s more targeted and character-driven than journalism.  Like all things, it’s about practice.

18. Are your skills in video and writing self-taught or did you take a course?

Largely self-taught.  I think storytelling is the key element, writing and video are just the media that I work in.  Most editing tools are easy to work with, but there are plenty of free courses and online video tutorials which I use to learn.  I have done two directing and camerawork courses at 3 days each, which have been more than worthwhile.  As for writing , the key is to read a lot.  Submit lots to magazines and listen to your sub-editors!

19. Any advice for pitching ideas on documentary’s etc. to media companies?

Figure out what channels would be interested in your idea.  That is down to your research, but it’s all on channel websites.  Think about the idea from an audience perspective, not just because you are interested in it.  Then take it to a production company with a track record in that area.  But to be taken seriously, you would have to have unique access to a subject, specialist technology or specialist knowledge.

20. How do you come up with ideas for your next project?

  • Reading
  • Talking to everyone I can
  • Thinking of how different ideas and combinations could come together
  • Going to talks, presentations and exhibitions

 

21 .Where is the coolest destination you’ve been to?

New Zealand –  standing on the point looking out over the Matakitaki Valley and Mount Aspiring on the closing day of Treble Cone ski season in 2007.

22. What is the coolest thing you have ever done?

Probably hiking to Everest Base Camp.  I have done 6 ski seasons, but the landscape and immensity of the Himalaya utterly took my breath away.  It was a far more challenging and cultural experience than I anticipated because of the expedition company we went with. We stayed in lodges that had far fewer Western tourists, allowing us to get to know the Sherpa better.   I carried by father’s ashes to scatter them there making it an incredibly spiritual journey.

23. What brand of equipment do you use most often?

None in particular.  We used Helly Hansen for the Walking With The Wounded expedition.  My skis are Dynastar or Volkl.  My computer is a Mac, my boots are Meindl.  Whatever has the best recommendation in that particular field, but I find them all much of a muchness.  Although my new red Rab waterproof is awesome.

24. What make is your camcorder?

Canon.

25. What is the most vital piece of equipment to carry with you while working?

A notebook and pen!  Or an iPhone, the video tool allows you to capture anything anywhere and make short films of everything.

Follow Ash on Twitter @AshBhardwaj

Interview with Mountain Guide and Mountaineering Instructor James Thacker:

1.What age were you when you started climbing mountains?

I first started walking with my parents when we moved to Derbyshire in my early teens.  We spent most weekends exploring the moors of the Peak District and later climbing on the grit-stone edges.  My parents despite being active weren’t walkers so we started together really, learning to navigate and look after ourselves on the hill.

-What was the first mountain you climbed?

Most likely Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, but the ones I most vividly remember are Tryfan in North Wales and Ben Nevis in the Highlands.  Tryfan was particularly exciting as it involved a lengthy scramble up the north ridge and I had never experienced anything like that before.  Ben Nevis I also remember as we turned back from fairly close to the summit in bad weather, we were worried about the large cliffs of the north face in bad visibility.  Turning round was a good learning experience an something that might be essential on any mountain.

Mont Blanc du Tacul

2.What are the most impressive mountains you have climbed?

Argh, hit me with a difficult question there.  This is a tricky, I guess for me I like the variety so it’s nice to climb summits in Derbyshire, remote Scottish Munros and peaks in the European Alps.  The ‘Steeple’ in the Lemon Mountains of East Greenland stands out as one of my best achievements, it’s fairly low and technically relatively easy by modern standards but is very remote.  I climbed this route in 2000 on an expedition to Greenland with some friends, all in their 20’s at the time, making a number of first ascents including the Steeple which had been attempted previously by Chris Bonington.  22 hours after starting we were back at our skis having climbed a fantastic icy couloir line aided by the “midnight sun” of the Arctic Circle.  Some seven or eight years later I went on to climb the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland with Nick Wallis, a route with a considerable reputation and standing out as a definite high point for me.  Firstly, because of the route and secondly getting to share it with Nick – we had a great time and everything went well which was great as we had bumped into each other in Chamonix randomly.  It just felt right!

3.Any good stories of danger to share with us?

By choosing to visit the mountains we all expose ourselves to greater risk that is always present.  Certainly for me part of the appeal of climbing is trying to minimise this risk as much as possible.  Being adequately prepared, checking the weather and avalanche forecasts, choosing the right route and partner are all really important.  But inevitably some things are out of your control, or sometimes you just overstep the mark.  Getting avalanched in Greenland, was a massive learning experience, nearly getting hit by a collapsing ice fall in France meant I learned a bit more…

4.Why did you go into mountain guiding?

I always wanted to be a fighter pilot to be honest!  Having got as far as doing my aircrew selection for the Royal Air Force, I realised that the shortest contract I could sign up for was eighteen years and I was eighteen at the time.  To start such a career at the time just seemed inconceivable so I chose to go to University to study Geology instead.  Going to University in Sheffield I inevitably met some really keen climbers and decided pretty soon that I wanted to climb professionally.  As a teenager I had been on a climbing course at my local outdoor centre, the course being run by a British Mountain Guide – this was a really positive experience and the first time that I realised that there were people out there who could take you to amazing places or reach elusive summits.  

5.Whats next on the list to climb?

Today I am checking the weather forecast to see if I can climb Mont Blanc over the weekend.  I then have a week with a friend and regular client Martin, we are yet to decide on exactly where to go – but we could go anywhere and thats the beauty in guiding with a person you know well.  Later in the year I am off to Ama Dablam in Nepal.

6.What needs to be done to save our mountains of the world from problems such as litter, etc.?

As individuals I think we just need to be a low impact as possible when visiting the mountains.  That might mean taking your litter home or making sure that you employ local porters and kit them out properly at the other end of the scale.  The danger is that people fail to even give it some thought.

Abseiling on Creag Meagaidh

7.How many times a week do you get out yourself on the climbs or are you mostly a man of the office now?

I am better at climbing mountains than sending emails, so I am usually out working whether it be in Derbyshire, Scotland or here in the Alps.

8. What are the most popular climbs your company offers?

Most of my work is done at fairly low ratios (i.e. one or two people) and is pretty flexible in it’s nature.  As a result I get to go to lots of different places and do different things.  Of course some climbs, summits or itineraries are more popular than others so I often find myself on Ben Nevis winter climbing, on Mont Blanc or in the Swiss Valais for example.  This year I have already got some requests to go Ice Climbing in Norway, rock climbing in the Lofoten Islands and mountaineering in Nepal…

9.Is there a particular big or difficult climb that you really want to do in your lifetime?

I have always wanted to climb the six classic North Faces of the Alps: The Eiger, Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, Cima Grande de Laverado, Petite Dru and Piz Badile.  I have done four of the six so the remaining two i.e. Colton/MacIntyre on the Grandes Jorasses and the Schmidt Route on the Matterhorn.  The Colton/MacIntyre was climbed in 1976 by British alpinists Nick Colton and Alex MacIntyre and remains a classic and highly saught after prize today.  By chance I bumped into Nick Colton the other day and was dying to ask him (again) about the story of the first ascent.

10. What do you bring with you on a long climb?

On a big route, quite simply as little as possible.  The lightest equipment is the stuff you left behind.  On big alpine routes there are a few things that always go with me, the first is some abseil tat (i.e. cord) and a knife incase I need to retreat.  The second is a MacDonalds straw – sometimes these can be really useful for collecting melting snow which saves on the amount of gas you might need to carry.

11.What brand do you think offers the best quality mountaineering gear?

Well I have been supported by Haglöfs and Edelrid for a while now, both of whom make very good clothing and equipment which I would now find difficult to be without.  The reality now is that the mountaineering market is so competitive that bad equipment or brands just don’t flourish or even survive.  The result is that we have so much good gear available now to make our lives easier (or more comfortable) on the mountain.  I’m glad to have been a small part of that by providing product feedback for Haglöfs and Edelrid.

12.What does the UK have to offer the mountaineering folk worldwide?

The UK has a great mountaineering pedigree.  We are used to putting up with bad weather and making the most of it, and sometimes just toughing it out a bit with a slow and stready approach.  That results in British alpinists having a really good expedition record in the greater ranges but also an ability to miss the telephriques in the alps and get benighted!  The British Mountaineering Council run a popular Winter Climbing International Meet in Scotland every two years and climbers from around the world are always amazed at the Scottish weather and the climbing.

13.Its a pricey sport; how long did it take you to build up equipment stocks when you first started?

It can be expensive, but so are golf clubs, paragliders etc!  One of the best things about climbing is that you can participate at different levels.  I started out bouldering and soloing on Derbyshire outcrops with a chalk bag and a pair of rockshoes (now probably available for £120) max.  Other kit can then be built up as you go along, and or be split with a climbing partner.

14.Did you ever have any accidents while out on a climb?

No yet! But I did badly break my leg skiing.  

15. What is the average age group of your clients?

I have worked with everybody from 12 years – 65+ and age isn’t a barrier to climbing really if it’s your thing.  Most clients are 35-50 I would guess.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon

16. Is fear still a factor for you after so many years experience?

Fear, yes definitely.  Ultimately, fear is what keeps us safe.  I think you become better at managing it and deciding whether it is rational or irrational and then getting on with the task in hand.

Check out Jame’s website and Twitter @jamesthacker.

Interview with Matthew from Inertia Interrupted

Name: Matthew K. Sharp
Age: 31
Occupation: Unemployed, Previously Professional Services Consultant
Location: South East Asia headed to Eastern Europe, Originally from USA.


1. Your motto is; “Creating awareness by revealing our ignorance. One adventure at a time. “What do you do in order to live by that?

We work to share our story on Facebook, Twitter, and through our website and blog as well as speaking with new friends we meet along the way. By sharing our story with friends, family, and acquaintances we embody this message.
2.You have travelled for 305 days, and more than 100K miles visiting 40 cities in 8 countries on 2 continents. Was that the original plan?

The original plan was 3 months, then 6 months, then 1 year. In the end we will have been away for ~15 months. Early on we acknowledged that the journey is the destination. So we picked a few key locations and let the rest develop along the way. Many factors have changed the overall route as the months have passed. Just before we left we documented the plan as follows: “For the
next 12+ months we’ll travel through India, Nepal, China, SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and S America.”

 

3.How did you plan your route?

We started by creating a family and travel mission statement which we have refined over time. Once that was complete we picked destinations that were culturally interesting and reasonably safe to visit. We then crafted a selection of activities from trekking, scuba, yoga teacher training, volunteering, and language courses etc. To be sure we stimulated targeted personal growth relative to our values.
4.What means of transport did you take to get to the various destinations?

We have taken planes, trains, buses, taxis, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, motorboats, and cruise liners as well as bicycles, elephants, and walking to arrive at various destinations.
5.Why did you decide to embark on this adventure?
In my article on Career Break Secrets I talk about this.

Here’s basically what I said…

STEP 1: UNHAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT – STAMP YOUR FEET!
From the article “Happiness is Love — and $75K” we saw that after analysing more than 450,000 GHWBI responses from 2008 and 2009, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Kahneman found that happiness is actually the result of the fulfilment of two abstract psychological states — emotional well-being and life evaluation. When I started, from a Life Evaluation perspective, at work I had “accomplished the goals I had set, was financially secure, and emotionally fulfilled.” I was living a fast paced corporate life. I was getting results: an excellence award, a promotion, a bonus… I was a Hilton Diamond member, Hertz #1 Gold, Emerald Club, United Premier, and Southwest A-list. On the road more than 80% of the year, my stress levels were through the roof, I hadn’t seen a personal friend in months, and my marriage was strained to say the least. In all my success at work, I was lonely. I was unhappy. And no wonder…” Emotional happiness is primarily social,” says Dr. Kahneman. “The very best thing that can happen to people is to spend time with other people they like. That is when they are happiest, and so, without question, this is a major story. We find loneliness is a terrible thing. So is extreme poverty. But loneliness, regardless of how rich you are, is a very bad thing.”

STEP 2: EXAMINE THE BENEFITS

For more than a decade I dreamed about traveling. While this conviction that we needed to travel was strong… I had no idea why. Sure, other people unequivocally stated that their career break was the right decision for them. And I knew first hand from my Study Abroad experience that travel was good for my soul… but my life partner wasn’t convinced, and without her I probably wouldn’t be here today. Everything that I read on sabbaticals indicates that the benefits far outweigh any sacrifices made to realize these sacred times of fulfillment. For example, as this Career Break Secrets article explains, through measurement we know the effects of a sabbatical on a person’s health and well-being. Specifically, career breaker’s long term stress decreases, life satisfaction increases, and
they tend to burn-out less when they return. Businessweek reported in 2007, “Just as small breaks improve concentration,
long breaks replenish job performance. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers… The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles told ABC News. “Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.” Still other inspiring figures present their stories in TED forums and on YouTube which gave me even more desire to hit the road:

• Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off
• Radical Sabbatical: Scott Jordan

In the end, research shows that a career break would inherently reduce stress, boost creativity, amplify life satisfaction, increase productivity, and properly prioritize well-being. So even before I crafted a convincing personal argument
advocating a career break, I knew my premise was strong and the effort was worth it.

6.What have you learned from it?

Our Duyên page is dedicated to honoring the people we were destined to meet during our travels, and serves to remind us of the lessons we learned from each experience… Duyên is a Sino-Vietnamese word, derived from the Han character for “fate.” In this context, Duyên means “predestined affinity.”
7.What’s in store for your next trip?

Currently floating a few ideas from:

• 7 month ashram stay in Mumbai India
• Teach english in South America
• Website development in China
• Cycling through out Africa and climbing Kilimanjaro

 

8.You’ve contributed to 8 non-profit organizations, why do you think it is important to give even when you are on your own budget adventure?

We have found that giving is an excellent way to connect to the local people, and help in preserving the culture, and environment.

 

9.Where is the best place you have been to so far? Why so?
This question is always difficult. It depends on what is meant by “best”. Some places are the most charming, scenic, have delicious foods, warm people, etc. Truly every place has its unique lessons, and has a special feel that makes it a favourite for its own reasons.

 

10. There is an extreme element to your adventures…..trekked to 5550 m (18,208 ft.) of altitude, diving to 75 ft. below sea level…..what does this add to the experience?

This “extreme element” brings a physical challenge and sense of accomplishment, in addition to exposure to the natural beauty available in such settings.
11. On your travels you had to acquire 7 visas. Was that a frustrating process?

VISAs are definitely a source of frustration. We applied for Chinese VISAs in Mumbai, India and Russian VISAs in Beijing. Often the embassies don’t state on their website all requirements for application, the office hours are quite limited, and the lines are quite long. Using a VISA service company can simplify the process, but often comes at an excessive cost!

 

12. How did you formulate the following plan?

October 2011 – SCUBA in Roatan, Honduras
November 2011 – Trek to Mt. Everest Basecamp in Nepal
December 2011 – Volunteer for one (1) month in Hanoi, Vietnam
January 2012 – Tour of Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon
February 2012 – Tour India from New Delhi to Trivandrum
March 2012 – Tour Cambodia & Laos
April 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
May 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
June 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
July 2012 – SCUBA in Phuket, Thailand
August 2012 – Yoga Teacher Training Certification in Chiang Mai, Thailand
September 2012 – Eastern Europe Tour (Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania,
Bulgaria, Turkey)
October 2012 – Western Europe / Egypt & Jordan
November 2012 – Pilgrimage across Northern Spain
December 2012 – Cruise from Barcelona, Spain to Sao Paulo, Brazil

The plan is mostly a function of limited budget & time, combined with activities chosen according to personal values.
13.You have a Duyên (􃐊) page to document words of wisdom of various people…do you go back and read this often?

I do try to keep these lessons in mind; however, it seems each time I review the page I find benefit in the review.
14. The culinary aspect of your blog is really original! Is food a passion of yours?

One of our favorite aspects of travel is definitely food! We are thrilled to share these authentic dishes, and plan to make them when we get back home!