Thursday 16 March 2017

Travel Inspiration: 'An Evening With Levison Wood'

'So, what do you want to do as a job?' It's a question that we've all been asked multiple times and often it's the case that people change their 'dreams' to align with something that conforms to a typical 9 - 5 pattern, that's just the way it has to be, right? Well not for Levison Wood, modern day adventurer, explorer and ex-paratrooper in the British Army. He's made going on journeys of discovery to untouched corners of the globe, meeting the locals of far off lands and coming face-to-face with the some of the indigenous species, his full-time occupation. About to embark on his next exhilarating and currently top secret adventure in the coming weeks, he's already trekked the entire length of the river Nile from its source to the Mediterranean Sea in 2014, walked the Himalayas the following year and most recently completed an equally gargantuan and physically demanding journey across the length of central America, crossing through eight countries stretching across two continents, from the point where Europeans first stepped foot in Mexico. This route he followed all the way through Colombia and encountered unchartered terrains including one of the last great wildernesses on the planet, the jungle of the Darien Gap. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that he did all of this, entirely on foot, relentlessly covering the distance of a marathon each day for months at a time, whatever the elements had in store, from blistering midday sun to torrential tropical monsoon-season rain, for months on end. His latest journey saw him taking a whopping four million steps, otherwise known as 1,800 miles, over the course of four months.
His latest 4 part series aired on Channel 4 and can be viewed on Channel 4 On Demand here.

Throughout February and March, Lev has been touring the UK, talking to audiences up and down the country about his extraordinary journeys and all of the events which unfolded along the way, many incredibly poignant, encapsulating and thought provoking, not to mention some completely terrifying. I went to Lev's Newcastle tour date at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House and found that he's a complete natural when it comes to story telling, relaying with an attention capturing ease, the happenings of his journeys, from the people he met and how their characters shaped his experiences, to the kindness of strangers and how it can be psychologically demanding to remain self-motivated to continue with a journey when the expanse of the road ahead can seem never ending. He talked about how an unlikely everyday commodity offered as a token at high pressure times has diffused tension has saved his life on more than one occasion (I'm not telling any specifics, you'll have to catch one of the remaining shows!). Fashion photographer and Lev's friend and guide on the Americas journey, Alberto Caceres, accompanied him on stage for part of his show at Newcastle and it's easy to see how his charisma and humour must have enriched the whole experience and made it more fun. It was great to meet and talk with them both too.
Lev and Alberto on stage at Newcastle Tyne Theatre and Opera House on Tuesday night
Each of his three Chanel 4 documented walks has it's own accompanying book which packs in the details which the edited TV show can't cram into each hour long episode; his writing has seen him awarded the 2016 Edward Stanford Adventure Travel Book of the Year Award. Lev sets the scene with his writing which transcends the reader back to the moments he describes in the remote, far-off-the-beaten-tourist-track places which he has been. Many people might say that what Lev does is dangerous, but as he explains, the gene DRD4-7R could be accountable for the insatiable wanderlust in the 20% of us who crave exploration, to visit places and travel. So inspite of any potential or perceived threat, he lives by Mark Twain's inspired quote:-
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
You can order a copy of Walking The Americas online here. Also available in all good book shops.
For anyone who's already been to see Lev's show (and anyone yet to - disclaimer: you're going to be enthralled) the 'open house' opportunity to ask a question you've been wondering about, is great; My question was 'What's the best thing about your job not being a regular 9 - 5?' and naturally there were a fair few perks to being able to explore, visually document and then write about your adventures. Lev's answer summed up some of the highlights of being a modern day explorer as being able to live a life of freedom, without the predictability which a regular job instils into daily life. With such a diverse and interesting background and current career, it's really no surprise that Lev has also been selected by Clinique to be an ambassador for their latest men's #BehindTheFace skincare campaign.
So even though his journeys are projects which take as long to plan as they do to walk, Lev says that it is not the end point on the map which is the only goal to achieve, rather it is the process of the journey which is what makes it into an enriching, life changing experience, as this is where all the meetings with local people, being in the midst of a celebration in a remote village and being able to experience people's generosity and humility, takes place. I think that's an attitude we should all adopt no matter what we are doing or what goals we are trying to achieve.
Only one thing left to ask. Who wants to go on an adventure?! Bilgi x
Catch Lev on his UK tour, taking place until the 27th of March. View tour venues and locations here.

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