As part of the launch of the expedition, patron and adventurer Levison Wood gave an exclusive interview on inspiration, women in adventure and why he's never done a Polar journey...
On surprises in adventuring..
Incredibly, I am still surprised. There are so many places that defy expectation and defy the stereotypes that have built up around them. Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan get all sorts of attention in the media, often for all the wrong reasons – but the people in both countries are some of the most friendly and hospitable that I’ve met. There are surprises around every corner when you travel – I recently saw some incredible views in Russia that I hadn’t expected and in Mexico I chanced across unknown pyramids.
Most of the people I meet are pretty inspirational – and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some real heroes on the road, such as being invited to a audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Most recently though, my friend Alberto has taught me a lot about life and been a great inspiration. At the drop of a hat, he left his life as a studio photographer behind and came on the road with me – walking from his home in Mexico, the length of the Americas, to reach Colombia. He’d hardly walked before and certainly wasn’t versed in expeditions or the challenges of that. But he embraced it all with such a sense of adventure and fun, and most importantly an incredible sense of humour.
On female role models in adventure travel..
Sadly there aren’t enough women getting the opportunities in adventure travel and of course I’ll always encourage them to get involved. But there are some great role models – from the historic greats like Freya Stark and Gertrude Bell, to modern day heroines like Nepali mountaineer Pasang Sherpa, who has achieved incredible charitable work in the aftermath of the earthquake, as well as her impressive summit feats or Hanli Prinsloo, a free diver who founded a marine conservation charity alongside her underwater record-holding adventures.
On Polar travel..
I suppose in truth I am more of a warm weather kind of person – but polar travel is definitely on my bucket list.
I suppose I’d see the major challenge of polar travel is dealing with the relentless landscape, which doesn’t change for days, or even weeks on end. This is pretty unique – even the desert has some variety. You’re out there in the icy cold with very little support and completely at the mercy of the weather.
On the importance of adventurers and expeditioners supporting each other..
It’s so important to support each other. Ultimately we are all trying to keep the great traditions of British exploration alive and we are all on the same side.