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Fancy An Adventure20 10 2005
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Everyone’s had dreams of wrestling with cobras, exploring uncharted territory or breaking world records, but often something just gets in the way. Just because you’ve gotten older, doesn’t mean that you need to lose your sense of adventure. Anything can be achieved if you want it badly enough - just ask Bear Grylls.
With his support of charities and good causes, Bear is a typical ‘New Adventurer’, a typography revealed in a report by Standard Life Bank that identifies 10 new ‘Travel Tribes’ of Britons searching for self-discovery, exploration and experience from their holiday.
The report also revealed that the main reasons why we don’t indulge our spirit of adventure are family commitments (45%), career commitments (26%) and a lack of spare cash (43%). Finance needn’t be a barrier to fulfilling your aspirations to go travelling and seek adventure.
Bear Grylls, world explorer joined us live online on Thursday 20th October 2005 to discuss how you can fulfil your dreams of adventure. He was joined by Ashley Ramsay of Standard Life Bank who gave advice on how to fund those dreams.
Presenter: Murray Norton (MN)
MN: Hello and welcome to Webchats. Very good of you to join us, thank you very much for doing so. This is going to be your chance today to ask questions about adventure travel and how to organise it, how to plan it and where, indeed, to go and what to do. It all comes off the back of a travel report that's been commissioned by Standard Life bank that found out that 42% of us in a job at the moment, want to pack up, clear off and do something that we see as more meaningful, a little bit of adventure travel. To find out how we can get to that stage, I'm delighted to we have joining us from Standard Life bank, Ashley Ramsey, thank you for joining us Ashley, we'll find out more about how we can get to that stage in just a second. And we've also got a real life adventurer as well, Bear Grylls.
Bear, welcome, you are the embodiment of an action man and we're going to find out about some of your adventures in just a second, in fact, let's have a look at some of the things you've been up to.
Voiceover: He was in the SAS until 1994, when he broke his back in three places, yet three years later after a massive rehabilitation he overcame the odds to become the youngest British climber, aged just 23, to conquer Everest.
In 2000 he led the first team to circumnavigate the British Isles an, would you believe, jet skis. Preparation for leading the first team to cross, unassisted, the frozen North Atlantic ocean in an open, rigid inflatable boat in 2003. Last year Bear's Channel 4 series Escape to the Foreign Legion won great reviews and ratings. In 2005 Bear had led the first team to attempt to Para motor over the remote jungle plateau of the Angel Falls in Venezuela in Aid of the charity Hope and Homes For Children. The team where attempting to reach the highest most remote flat topped mountain made famous by Conan Doyle's Lost. If that's not too much for you, he then followed that by breaking the world record for the highest ever open air dinner party, slung under a hot air balloon at 25,000 ft, be fore, as you would, freefalling to earth. When he's not doing all that Bear lives with his wife Shara and their two year old son Jesse, very quietly, on a boat on the Thames and sometimes on a small Welsh island as well.
MN: So, you can see what Bear's been up to, which is quite a lot really. You have been a busy boy haven't you? Do you sit there and think and dream up new ways of finding another real thrill?
BG: Yeah, I do, I spend an awful lot of time stuck in aeroplanes travelling around doing a lot of the speaking stuff which gives me a lot of time to dream, I guess, but people often say how do you come up with all the different ideas, but I think my problem is having too many ideas, I think I need ten lifetimes for then! Actually the more I see of the world, the more places I go, whether it's climbing or with the army or whatever, the more I'm amazed about how much there is to do and how many extraordinary places and cultures and people there are too see, so that's my problem!
MN: Maybe it's when people see things like we've just seen there, they think hey, we want to a little bit of that adventure, they want to pack up the nine to five job for a year or two months or six months, actually it's your company, Standard Life Bank, that started this travel life survey, any surprises on that? Where you surprised by how many people want to give it all up and go away?
AR: Well surprised and not surprised, I think us Brits are adventurous types, we live on a small island but we want to get off that and go and explore and I think what our research showed was that there are many, many people out there that want more for life. So whether or not they're demanding more of their holiday, so if they've got two weeks that they can take away from their desk or whether they want to take a career break they want to do something that's meaningful. I think that's what we found really exciting about the research.
MN: That comes under the umbrella 'adventure holidays' really doesn't it?
AR: Yes, and it takes on many different guises, it's not just the extreme things that Bear will be talking about later on. We have some groups of people for example who's idea of an extreme holiday is extreme shopping so they're actually going to these airports in Dubai or Singapore for example and just spending, going spending silly and that's an adventure.
MN: I find that more terrifying than jumping out of a balloon I think.
BG: It's when I see my wife disappear at the airports with my credit card, that's when I get real terror!
MN: You've managed to break down the type of travellers who would want to go away into ten different tribes, I like the idea of them being tribes, they should all be living in jungles anyway! So the ten different tribes, where would Bear fit into all of this?
AR: I was thinking about that earlier on today and I think the one that's closet to the type of things you're doing is the one we'd call the 'remote adventurer' or the 'twilight traveller' and these are people that genuinely want extreme experiences and they want to travel to far-flung places across the globe. I think where Bear differs slightly is that we would normally think of the remote travellers as being people that want to impress their friends, and I'm not sure if that's is what tribe fits you, but it's certainly what drives this tribe that we've identified; they want to sit at the dinner party and say 'I've climbed that mountain' or 'I've been to that place'
BG: I think my friends just think I'm an idiot most of the time! I've learnt over the years that you get back from these things, you're so full of excitement and your dying to tell people and actually I've learnt to just shut up and quietly get on with my stuff. What happens then if it's televised, it doesn't come out until a year later by which point I'm a bit bored of it, and everyone wants to talk about everything and it's all kind of gone in my mind
AR: Been there, done that!
MN: : I imagine at dinner parties, no one's going to top it are they? Because there is this game of topping at dinner parties...
BG: Yes, God it really makes everything boring if that's the way it is.
MN: You mentioned about people wanting to go away, be it for two weeks or two months, question in from Tom, thank you Tom, “I've always wanted to do the kind of things you do every day, but I don't have the first idea about where to begin, where do I start? Who do I turn to for advice in planning all this?” First of all Ashley, when it comes to planning to go away, I know what he'd be planning, he'd be planning to take the sleeping bag and something to eat from but there's more to it than that isn't there? If you give up your job it's a pretty serious thing.
AR: Yes, I mean there's an awful lot to it and I think planning is a really, really important part to make sure you are getting the most out of your experience, whether that is two weeks away or whether you are actually planning to take some time of from work. You have to think about the practical, I know it's really boring, but the practicalities are you're going to have to fund this somehow and if you're going away for two weeks then potentially it's just the amount of money you need to fund that particular holiday but if you're taking a longer break you may need to think about things like how am I going to keep my mortgage going while I'm away? What sort of things do I need to do there?
MN: The real world if you like...
AR: Yes, the real world. And do you know what's really interesting, we've been talking to lost and lots of consumers, we've been to lots of outdoor adventure shows recently, and they've been telling us that they want to do the types of fantastic explorations and adventure holidays that Bear is inspiring them to do but it can sometimes cost them £10,000, which is a lot of money so you have to think very carefully about how you're going to do that. What we've noticed about our customers at Standard Life Bank is that they're confident about using their mortgage as a financial planning tool so they recognise the benefits of drawing down equity, which can be a very cost effective solution to fund your trip.
MN: So you're talking about equity and cost-efficiency and did you see I glazed slightly? What you're actually talking about is using your mortgage as a way of levering some more money you can borrow from a different source?
AR: Yes, many, many people have enjoyed the advantage of the fact that house prices have gone up over the last five years, so that then means that their mortgage is potentially less than their house is worth and that means that for travel purposes, they've built up travel equity in their property. Now they can draw that down, so it's very similar to a conventional loan, and they can use that to fund their life-changing experience. It's an alternative option to high street loans, which can sometimes be quite costly. We would always say, make sure, when you're planning your trip, that you have adequate funds for that and that you have researched it effectively and that you if you ever need advice, go and see a financial adviser.
MN: You were talking about going on adventure holidays, and all of a sudden it's go see a financial adviser, but that's the real world angle of all this. Michael has sent us a question, thank you Michael, 'Before you go on any of these adventures do you think they are ever going to be as challenging as they turn out to be? Do they very often bring their own surprises?
BG: The last one we did across the Arctic in this little inflatable boat, I remember promising my wife before hand, don't worry it'll be fine, it'll be safe, we've got the timeline and the best weather forecast...
MN: Can I ask one question about this, this was a rigid inflatable you took right over the top of the Artic Circle and down the other side?
BG: Yeah, we went round the rim of the Article Circle from Canada and finishing in Scotland.
MN: There's only one word to ask, and that's why? Because it hadn't been done before?
BG: A British team had tried it back in '97 and I remember reading about the conditions that these guys put up with, they got caught it horrendous storms and the ice packs closed round them and they got very close to hypothermia. I remember it being branded as the last great ocean adventure and wondering if it actually could be done and time and experience have taught me it's a very dangerous question to keep asking yourself!
MN: So you promised your wife faithfully?
BG: I was pretty certain it would be OK; we had the best kit, the best of everything. Brilliant backers, we had the Royal Navy and everything, but it's a very dangerous part of the world and there's nothing known in the sea and nothing guaranteed and we hit some huge storms five hundred miles of the coast of Greenland and massive ice packs and we were just getting pounded by these storms and that was a very grateful one to get back from alive. I think the bottom line was we got lucky with that. So in answer to your question, yes, and I think it's part of the appeal is coping with the unexpected and knowing it's going to happen. But it brings you very close to the people you're with and you have to muddle through it together. But it's part of the appeal.
MN: Tim says, 'I really enjoyed your book on Everest and would love to climb it myself one day, is it possible to join expeditions like yours outside the normal commercial excursions? Are there any other ways of doing this?
BG: Yeah, there are loads of ways, the commercial way is one way and it guarantees you that you'll have food and you'll know where you're going.
MN: It's £25,000 to do Everest isn't it?
BG: And the rest for the big mountains, but I think the magic, really of adventure is to create your own adventure, and nowadays especially with the Internet there's so many ways to do it. In the olden days you'd have to spend weeks in the Royal Geographical Society sifting through maps and books and everything and now in a few clicks you can devise a brilliant adventure. Often it's a hell of a lot cheaper than actually doing two weeks on the beach in Torremolinos so go for it, just create your own adventure! As for coming with me, yeah, you might regret that decision!
MN: Really? You put them through their paces then?
BG: Yeah, I think people close to me have learnt to never go on holiday with me.
MN: Actually it's a good point that one, I've travelled a couple of places and you have to pick the people you go with really carefully don't you?
BG: It's so important, you spend so much time so close. On Everest we were, three months, on a big mountain, in small groups of people, in a pretty hostile environment and it all comes down to the people you're with and the bonds you create with those people and if ~I'm honest it's what always drags me back the expeditions, the bonds you create. It's where the magic is beyond the beauty of the places.
MN: I always say it's that kind of knowledge, you know something that that other person know s but no one else knows it. You share travel secrets don't you?
BG: Yes, and do you know what is the most important thing in a travel companion? Someone who's kind, not selfish. Much more important than being brave or fit or brilliant. Because when it's cold and minus fifty degrees and you've spent six hours melting a block of ice for a cup of tea, the person who will give you that last sip out of that cup is much more important. So pick people you like, if you're going on adventures.
MN: OK, a couple more questions related to all of this. David wants to know, what did you find the hardest, your training to join the special forces, because you worked in the SAS, or training for the TV series the French Foreign Legion, and how did the training regimes differ? The TV series was a great success, there were a lot of people who I think thought 'We'd like to do that but we're so pleased you're doing it, we can all sit at home and watch it!' But, in terms of the two training regimes, which one hurt the most?
BG: I think they were very, very different, I think a lot of the British side of things it was looking for people who are self-disciplined and self-motivated and we got shouted at very little during all the SAS selection. You started off with 150 people but the four of us at the end tend to be just normal people who can motivate themselves and look after themselves without having to be shouted at. The Legion stuff was very different, they have 150 different nationalities and some pretty wild characters, and the only way they keep them together is through this harsh regime of brutality. You're trusted with nothing. I don't think they even teach you to map read until you're in year three, you're just taught to march and die and obey orders. So one I suppose is a specialist soldiers and the other is very brave and very tough but I suppose 'march to your death kind of stuff' for the soldiers.
MN: Aaron's got a question along similar lines, he's ex-British services as well, ex-infantry, him and another guy used to serve and they're now embarking on the French Foreign Legion recruiting in Lille. He's 25, his friend is 28, any tips?
BG: I tell you, you're a braver man than me! I was there a month and I think what I learnt is there's no one who joins the Legion who after a few months doesn't think 'Have I really made the right decision?' Speaking to a lot of the legionnaires their advice is always, and I've heard it three or four times, put down your beer, and think very carefully about it, because it is five years, you lose absolutely everything when you join, and the romance and adventure gets lost pretty quickly through the training. But, if you're looking for an identity and for pride and belonging in a family and you can put up with the price, which they always say is a thousand gallons of sweat, you'll earn all of those things, and actually if you come out of the other side it'd be an amazing adventure. So it's a tricky one but... sod it, go for it! You'll have amazing time. But it's hard!
MN: When you get to the 50/50 you'll always say go for it won't you?
BG: Well I think Mark Twain put it better, he said in twenty years time you'll always regret the things you didn't do much more than the things you did, so if you join the Legion write that down and tell me how it feels in five years.
MN: All the best for you Aaron, hope it goes well. In the mean time, you say you pay the price in a thousand gallons of sweat, what about paying the price in cash terms, we were talking earlier on about being able to get the money to afford all of these things and you explained the way of being able to draw equity and I suppose you have to measure how much you're willing to draw and how long you're willing to be away for. That's pretty important isn't it?
AR: Yes, I think this all goes back to the planning question that we covered earlier, you need to make sure that what you are planning is realistic given your own personal circumstances at that time, and that it's a responsible thing to do. What we're finding is that more and more of our customers certainly are understanding that they can use their mortgage as this financial planning tool, it is leverage for them to actually achieve the passion in life.
MN: But this is people whoa re maybe not in their teens and twenties, they'll have mortgages certainly they'll be more likely to be in their thirties or their forties. Is that the stage where people are saying 'I'm early, late-thirties' or 'I'm mid forties, if I don't do it now I'm never going to do it'?
AR: It's partly that, but do you know what I found really, really interesting about the research is that some of these people actually experience the gap year, the year you would take at university or before, and that's a really hedonistic experience for most people. It's all about what they would feel at that moment in time but later on when people potentially settle down and certainly the people we've been looking at in their thirties they're looking at a life balance that gives them something fulfilling and it's a spiritual thing as well as an experiential thing. They want to make sure that whatever they do they get something from it. This is where they start looking for inspiration and they may look to people like Bear, Ranulph Fiennes, Ellen McArthur, these people who have achieved incredible things at a very young age, and while they might not actually go and do those things themselves they may use them as the basis to think 'I can do what I want to do, if I can fund it' and this is what we've been talking about today.
MN: What sort or tribes did you come up with?
AR: All sorts. We've got some funny names for them.
MN: Give me a couple.
MN: They are?
BG: Sounds a bit dodgy that!
AR: Flashpackers are people who love the freedom and flexibility to just be able to stick a rucksack on their back and go travelling wherever they want, but they will not go without their portable coffee machine and PDA, they like their things around them and they've always got just enough money to make sure that should they tire of the whole backpacking thing they can just check in to the nearest luxury hotel and have a fantastic time. We've got the A-Z traveller who think, OK, I'm going to work my way through the alphabet, so they start at Aberystwyth, go via Istanbul and end up in Zanzibar. We've got the Single-minded Couples, these are people who are married or co-habiting but they don't believe in spending every waking moment together so they go on separate adventures, so she might go on a surfing holiday, his adventure might be a golfing holiday. So all sorts of different types of people.
MN: Gregor says 'Hi Bear, I've backpacked through Asia twice before, taking six months to a year on each occasion, but that was a few years ago, I'm married now with three kids. I'm thinking of doing the same thing again, but with my wife and kids. Which part of the world would you recommend that is exotic but wouldn't be putting my family at risk?' So this is the sort of middle ground.
BG: Gregor, I've just been filming there a couple of months ago and that's the Rockies. I filmed a programme where they had to drop me seven days from the nearest road, so it's pretty remote, but I'd take your family. I'd hire one of those RV things, Recreational Vehicles that you can sleep in and stuff, and pile all the kids in that, I'd take all your toys and whatever you need and just head off and get lost and swim in the lakes, and climb and walk and go camping and have barbeques. That's what I really want to do. And don't feed the bears! That's what I really want to do with my family in the next few years. You'd have a real adventure doing that.
MN: That's just pre-empted the question I was going to ask, you've got two year old Jesse and Shara your wife as well, so are they going to be joining you on any adventures?
BG: I always feel Shara's my reason for coming home from the adventures. But yes, I'd love to, and my Dad taught me to climb when I was little and my dream is to teach Jesse to climb when he's a little older and I think it's a very strong thing to do with each other. But actually if I'm honest my perfect holiday is just on the beach in Wales somewhere. I love that. I spend so much time away normally that I just want to be somewhere cosy and warm.
MN: You're destroying that action man image all of a sudden! I can't see you on a beach in Marbella. Is there such a tribe as the family travelling tribe?
AR: It's funny because while you were speaking there what the report has also uncovered is that there will be in Britain a growing requirement for holiday companies travel companies to cater for the family adventurer. So it's not just about Dad perhaps going off on his own adventure, nowadays people are demanding that their children are part of that experience.
MN: OK, we've got a question here, several people, Dave, Geoff, Michael are all interested in your Everest trip, which I think everyone would be interested in, it's the ultimate trip isn't it? They want to know, did you ever think you'd make it and would you do it again?
BG: I think if I'm honest every day I was up there for those three and a bit months, I doubted whether we'd really make it and so often the summit just seems so far away. You look up and you're struggling to move 30 metres at a time. I think what I learnt was that it was OK to feel like that, that's just what high altitude climbing is, what matters is that you keep doing the little things every day and eventually the summits will come. Would I do it again? No! I'm daft but I'm not that daft and I think we did have four climbers lose their lives up there and it does have a ratio of one in six people not coming home and I think you take that risk once, you might get away with it, but if you take it consistently you won't always win. So if I'm honest I'm much more nervous of the really high mountains.
MN: Giles wants to know, after climbing Everest what's the next challenge? Obviously it can't be climbing a higher peak, so what are you looking to do?
AR: I'm filming a new series for Channel 4 which starts in a month out in South America - in the lost world and it's called Quest for Gold. It's trying to reach some of these high plateaus that no one has ever been to before and trying to retell the story of a lot of the early explorers, hoe they spent their whole lives up there searching for el Dorado and these rivers of gold. So if I find them I won't need any equity or mortgages!
MN: In that case I want to come along.
BG: You're welcome but you might regret it!
MN: Fifi wants to know when you were most scared?
BG: I think out of all the expeditions I did the point of most terror was definitely in that little boat in the heart of that storm when we lost all communication, everything went down. Actually my wife thought for three days we'd been swept out to sea and it was just a very scary nasty time. I don't want to get myself ever in that situation again.
MN: So more risk, but calculated risk?
BG: Yes, and so much of the stuff I'm doing now is TV, which is great. It means I can do the stuff I love but hopefully not die in the process.
MN: It does not make for great television; producers don't like it I can tell you. Ashley, in terms of people taking time off work, do you find people are actually leaving their job and finding a new one when they get back, or are they actually talking to their employers and saying 'I really want two months off, unpaid, I know I haven't got two months holiday, I'm borrowing the money to do it, I'm going to go away'. Is that happening?
AR: I think career sabbaticals are potentially on the rise, flexible working is definitely on the rise and we're seeing different types of working patterns. Employees are demanding that now and employers are being fairly flexible in doing so. Again it's all back to this work/life balance, you can work and still have this adventure. You just need to speak to your employer and work out what's most appropriate for you and them.
MN: So find the middle ground. You need more than five minutes in the pub planning this.
AR: Yes, but I think you need to keep spontaneity as well. Because it's all about the spirit of adventure too. But planning is extremely important.
MN: David wants to know, have you ever been close to giving up?
BG: Yes of course! I'm human, and normal!
MN: You're human? Let me tell you, when we were all having lunch, this man was out having a run, in central London!
BG: Well that was only because we'd spent all morning cooped up doing radio so it was nice to get some fresh air. Although it wasn't very fresh, there's a lot of traffic around. But anyway, have I ever been close to giving up, yes, of course. That's OK, what matters is that you don't. Lesson in life, don't give up. The best speech that Winston Churchill ever gave was when he went to this school and he was asked to speak for 45 minutes and he stood up and said: 'Never, ever, ever quit.' and sat down. And everyone in that school is going to remember that for the rest of their lives, if he'd spoken for 45 minutes no one would have remembered anything. What a brilliant thing. So remember what he said.
MN: Johnny is Cornwall wants to know, 'I'd love to copy what Bear is doing, is there anywhere I can go for more information to start all of this and to fund all of this?'
BG: I think the funding side of all of this, what's great is it's now become much more easy with people being more flexible.
MN: Like the banks coming on board?
BG: Yes, it makes a huge difference if someone can understand and support what you're doing. So the best place for advice on that is freestylemortgages.com. For information on adventures, well you've got the internet now, just surf and start dreaming! I don't know if you want to climb or go to jungles or deserts or whatever but just dream and start typing things in. There's no reason why you can't plan mini-adventures yourself. Look on the Foreign Office website because they have really good advice on a lot of the local...
MN: Can I just mention charity adventures, because there's a lot of adventure holidays where you can go and make a donation to charity, which could be a thousand or a couple of thousand pounds to do a cycle ride or a walk up Kilimanjaro or whatever, and that's a great way to get into it, you're in the safety of other people and it's for a good cause.
BG: If you plan it yourself you do take your own risk so that's why it's important to look at the Foreign Office website but a lot of charities do organise it, they take away a lot of the hassle, you just go and it can make a real difference to some of the charities back home.
MN: OK, so just be safe whatever your doing. Ashley, where do people go for more advice again?
MN: The banks are listening then?
BG: It's the way of the future, most definitely.
MN: OK, well thank you very much indeed for you questions, wherever you are. We look forward to seeing you more on Channel4 and hopefully you'll be back to talk about more adventures in the future. Ashley thank you very much indeed for your wise advice. Hope you'll join us again next time, on Webchats.