Geordie Stewart is a British author, explorer, mountaineer and former British Army, officer. In May 2011, aged 22, he became the youngest Briton to climb the Seven Summits – the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. In October 2019, he completed a 22,500-mile solo cycle around the world. On this weeks episode, we talk about his first summit on Mount Everest and how he was 150 metres from the top before making the decision to turn around. We talk about his Cycle around the world and the problems he encountered along the way.

Geordie’s Website

Geordie’s Instagram

Geordie’s Book “A Rolling Stone” Available at –

Powered by RedCircle

Latest Podcast Episodes

  • lucy-shepherd-podcast
  • mike-corey
  • elise-wortley-iran

Transcript of our Conversation

Interview with Geordie Stewart

[00:00:00] Interview with Geordie Stewart: Got incredibly altitude sick. He had summited twice before, but the same altitude sick and was throwing photos of his family off the mountain saying he was going to die and it required. And he didn’t, he didn’t want the oxygen. We gave him; he refused it because he wanted to die in peace.

So my next guest is an endurance athlete and author. He was the youngest Brit to complete the seven summits and last year got back from an epic cycle ride. And I’m delighted to introduce to the show, Geordie Stewart, Geordie. Hey John. Nice to see you virtually see you you’ve bit. Very nice. Yeah. Good to see you too.

So how did you get into all these Epic adventures? How do I get into it? [00:01:00] In terms of big adventures. I think the most obvious starting point was a book I read when I was 17. My dad gave me Bear Grylls’s book about climbing Everest. I guess I was revising for my A levels at the time gave me this.

And for some reason, something about the story about his journey or Everest just struck a chord in away. So I think from that moment, I. Obsessed over Everest, certainly, but then the seven summits. So the highest mountain on every continent sort of fell out from that as I kind of delved into Wikipedia and it some kind of ticked a lot of boxes about what I wanted in terms of adventure and travel and meeting people and proving something, a bit of self-esteem and.

A lot of those boxes. And I sort of then set about that particular journey, because of the book, I guess, historical, if you go back to, you know, when I was younger, I’ve always been outdoorsy. I’ve always been adventurous, you [00:02:00] know, running around in fields and having too much energy climbing trees. I was that sort of person when I was younger.

And I think that sort of adventurous spirit is probably we’ve been there in away. It just. Maybe needed an Avenue to express itself. And I think certainly when you’re younger, it can be a bit harder to do these big expeditions, but you get to a certain age, and you’re a bit freer to do. So university, you had this big idea to do the seven summits?

No, it was a university pre-university. Yeah. So I, I sort of, again, Unconventionally most people who do these big expeditions, they weren’t as young as I was then. And again, looking back now I can acknowledge that it was a more abnormal thing to do than I probably appreciated it at a time. I basically, this is 18.

I had it sort of gap year plan, you know, to do the normal, [00:03:00] normal trips Thailand or Australia, whatever. And then I basically just. I became obsessed with trying to do these Seven summits. And I basically then cancelled all my plans and just worked seven days a week, putting up marquees, working in weddings, working in call centres, you know, working as an indoor, carpet or what else was I doing?

Gardening, things like that. I like anything and everything every day, a week. And I just sacrificed. six months, certainly it to pay for the first expedition to Aconcagua and my gap year, which again was a huge step. That was the first, first big expedition highest mountain outside the Himalayas. I lied on the application form to get a place on the trip.

You know, cause I had no outdoor experience really. And I sort of was claiming I’d done the great peaks in the Alps. And I knew nothing basically, really. And I used some of my old dad’s, my dad’s old sailing kit and, you know, sort of improvise my way through and actually what was quite a significant [00:04:00] expedition, you know, thankfully that went well.

And then I again went back to work. I had very little money and then I went to Kilimanjaro. On a sort of shoestring budget, like a thousand pounds to go do Kili and, You know, that ended up, I mean, successfully on my 19th birthday summiting, but I ran out of money and was wild camping. If you can call it down the streets of Nairobi.

And then I eventually went to Elbrus, before university and then, and then university a year and then Denali, then tried to do Everest failed. And then, did the other three. So I order the seven summits were pre and during university and then the army came after. Wild camping in Nairobi. That’s I mean, I’ve been to Nairobi.

It’s chaotic. Yeah. I know you have, it’s that whole, that whole trip was [00:05:00] madness really. and it was one of those things, which I didn’t really think about until, until I wrote the book and my sister read it and where that was mental. but I was, well, I was just turned 19, but I had the long story was I.

Had a short amount, a small amount of money for the expedition paid for it. went up the mountain with a local guide, cause I wasn’t allowed to do it by myself, came back and then try to get money out of a cash machine and had nothing. So I didn’t have any money. I only had my return bus ticket, to get to the airport and my return flight home.

So. I didn’t have anywhere to stay and didn’t have any money to do so, other than like a pound by, I dunno, five cigarettes like you can buy individual cigarettes and things. So I was doing that and then just camped out in an alleyway, somewhere with a couple of rucksacks around me. Sacrificing food for cigarettes day.

Well, something like that. Yeah. I think it seemed a wise idea when you’re a teenager. Yeah, [00:06:00] of course. and so we that was a Kilimanjaro. And so you had done three before, three self-funded before you started looking at the big ones. yeah, those three were self-funded. So again, just through a variety of jobs and I basically just didn’t have a social life or anything.

and then once the university started, let loose for a bit, as you should at university. And then I had this, weird, transition around Christmas time where. I watched a TV program and somebody climbed a big mountain in Nepal, and I thought, Jesus story to get you, get your off back and gear. And I immediately then paid the deposit for Denali the following July.

so what, six, seven months after that. And then again, slightly went from student let’s get pissed and make a fool out of yourself mode to get into expedition mode again. So, you know, [00:07:00] this was this weird thing university where I would try and socialize and the normal thing and would, but then I’d also be dragging people up and down and ties up and down the beach North to train for a sledge, filling expedition and Denali, and then I’d be running however many times a week and you know, was working incredibly hard to try and get the money.

So it was. This weird, divide between normal student life and then what I was trying to do on the side. and then. Denali was yeah, July 29, 2009. which was again, a wonderful expedition. just a lot of fun, just a fun trip. I think the others were more demanding, in terms of what I was trying to do, whereas that one, I felt pretty confident about my own physical ability and.

I was more mature. I was probably in better mental headspace and I was just, we had a lot of laughs, in a very remote [00:08:00] place with quite a cohesive 12 person team. And you’re self-sufficient, you’ve got your sledges, your digging in your tents and you’re living out of your slugs and there’s something sort of self-sustainable about that, which was enjoyable.

Yeah. So once you, because I know that your first attempt at Everest was an interesting one. Can you tell us a bit about that? Yeah. So yes, the post-Denali, then I then decided on Everest and, I can pay the deposit, which was as, is often the case of really good. You know, way to commit to something. If you’d paid, I don’t know, a thousand-pound deposit, then it sort of just goes, okay, this is a, it’s a line in the sand and this is your deadline.

And you can work towards that. And then I just spent many, many months and hundreds of emails and letters and phone calls to try and get sponsorship, which was just a really demoralizing [00:09:00] process. I learned an enormous amount and I look back now and I’m slightly. Cringing about how I did it or may mean in terms of my own naivety.

I’d say rather than my methods, if you’re just, we had no idea what we were doing. I had a friend who was helping me a lot. but eventually we got there just, I think, through sheer perseverance, really, and then ended up on Everest and I was 20. And. I had done big expeditions, but not really big expeditions, not so two month expeditions, which is whatever it was.

I think I’ve found that, quite hard. I was still young, I think mentally still quite young. anyway, we then. Fast forward, the climb was going okay. I wasn’t super strong, but I was competent. I was confident as well in my own ability to summit. And then I got a really bad throat infection at base camp before a summit attempt.

so I was struggling to breathe at a really [00:10:00] bad voice. Anyway, we got to high camp. I was struggling to eat much at this point. I’d had an a half pack of jelly babies or something, but pretty much not much for a couple of days. And was. Was pretty ill in terms of my breathing and had taken a bit of time set off for the summit.

And then it was, as you say, interesting. and it’s one of those where you go, it was sort of a perfect. not literally the weather was perfect, which is one of those ironies, but it was a perfect storm in terms of situations, that all emerged at the same time. So, you know, first of all, my, my head torch cut out, batteries wern’t happy with the cold spare battery didn’t work.

So I was sort of fumbling around in the dark and free climbing up without a rope and, you know, things like that and relying on Moonlight, which. You got, it seemed fine at the time, you know, just plowing on, but actually on the north face of Everest. That’s, that’s a pretty rash thing to do and you can’t [00:11:00] see properly.

And then I had three incidents back to back. One was a teammate. Well, the sh sherpa at the bottom of the, first step got incredibly altitude, sick he had summited twice before, but very altitude sick. Was throwing photos of his family off the mountain and saying he was going to die and it required. And he didn’t want, he didn’t want the oxygen.

We gave them. he refused it because he wanted to die in peace. which. Was, there’s not much we can do about it. And it required another shepa to come behind him and literally punch him in the face. you know, full, full sort of Mike Tyson style and floor him, and then wake him up and see what you’re coming down on me.

So, Keith and I carried on going keith then. he, he sort of asked me whether it was cloudy outside and whether we should descend, it was perfectly skies. So his eyesight had frozen over as corny as it started to freeze. So he [00:12:00] descended again, fast forward, came across another teammate at the base of the second step who was incredibly altitude, sick, blocking the route.

And he can really remember who he was. Where he was, what his name was, how to put on a rucksack. We have to put that on for him. So, yeah, just chaos really. And then got to the top of the second step and came across another teammate, had run out of oxygen. and so gave him one of mine and spoke with him for a bit until someone else would take him down and then carried on going and then got to a stage where I turned around.

so, teammate descending spoke to him and basically realized that I didn’t have time in my view to safely summit and come back down again. so I was probably 150 meters from the top, which is about two and a half hours, which is not very far, but I think. I was very tired, [00:13:00] certainly, but I basically concluded that I couldn’t, I still think I would have summited.

I think I would have just blindly and blinkered in my perspective would have continued on going and summited. I just was along myself and I was now 21 years old and I’m pretty confident I would have had a proper drawa on the way down. So I turned around and then yeah, had an Epic descent. Live to tell the tale, but didn’t, couldn’t have the summit photo I wanted.

Yeah, because I imagine I it’s a difficult one. When you have put so much time and effort into. You know, training for these huge expeditions and finance as well, and then to be 150 meters away and sort of feel like it’s not your fault. I mean, when you came back, did you feel, was there a feeling of giving up or did it just sort of make you slightly more determined?

[00:14:00] I think to be honest, I was a bit melancholic when I got back. I just, I’d lost a lot of weight. I was physically pretty drained, mentally pretty drained. I mean, the very, very intense experience. you know, to have one of the guys who I saw, the one who was talking to his rucksack ended up just off the route.

just off the route and was lucky to survive. My other teammate, who I descended with fell in a crevas, I’d seen, you know, several bodies on the route and, you know, I was very young and it’s, it was I think, quite a lot, to take on board actually. And within a week of that day, I was, you know, back at Heathrow Airport and.

I think that was, an odd transition. And I think I spent a lot of time trying to come to terms with what had happened. Really. I don’t mean the actual events themselves, from what I’ve seen and done that partly that it [00:15:00] was partly the amount of energy. As you said, an effort that I had expended trying to get to that stage.

And then you have to basically realize that what I did was the right thing to do, and that’s a big transition. And I spoke to a lot of teammates about, Our own experiences on whole expedition, why other people are having summited and specifically why I didn’t submit. And you know, sometimes when you’re young and gung ho and matcha, you just think you can sort of rule the world in the puzzle pieces that will go into place and all will be well.

And I think I struggled with that transition when it sort of didn’t go according to the plan, I’d set myself. But I think that’s when I sort of required friends and, the wisdom of people older than me to, to give me insights basically as to whether I’d made the right choice. And I found a men’s reassurance in that to basically then accept the fact that in reality, I’d [00:16:00] done the right thing.

In hindsight, if I were in the same position again, I would have made the same decision and it was the right thing to do in terms of my own safety. Really. So then again, I think that now when I go, you know, the 20 year old kid days, Those bodies on that mountain who basically have exactly the same dilemma and don’t do the same thing.

And even the following day, there was a guy who I knew at base camp, who almost had exactly the same dilemma I had almost to the letter. And he carried on going summited died on the way down when his. You got cerebral edema. The following year, when I summited, there was another story of a guy who summited late, died on the way down with bad eyes, certain cerebral edema, there’s a body.

I passed a young Canadian climber. He tried to do it at oxygen summit. Third died on the way down because he submitted too late, got [00:17:00] cerebral edema. And I think when you suddenly have context of all of these, you go. I’m grateful. I turned around and didn’t become a statistic. Yeah. I mean, God, I mean, there’s such a, I don’t know what it is about that mountain, but I, as you say, it’s a sort of dilemma between the financial commitment and the sort of pressure that you put on yourself to summit and by not doing it, I mean, to have the courage to turn around and say, no, especially at that age is, you know, unbelievable.

And of course, yeah. A really difficult decision at the time, but definitely looking back the right one and yeah, as you say, you could have so easily just being another statistic and another body being carried off the mountain. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you’re right. It’s there is fortunate in that regard and I think there’s that, Mountain’s a funny one.

[00:18:00] It’s yeah, I’m sure we will, get onto that. We talk about 2011, but. I, this isn’t meant to be a back in my day, cause it was only 10 years ago thing. But if I think of, I spoke to my teammates about this after those pictures about Everest last year and the year before came out and I. I couldn’t relate to them at all.

I couldn’t make sense of it because I spent four months, at least on that mountain, like up and down on both attempts and was never in a queue and was never in, a line of people. And even when I summited, I spent an over an hour on the top with virtually no one around except for my teammates. Certainly when I had that big issue in 2010 it’s because there was no one else around it.

Wasn’t because there was a queue of people holding me up. So I then see, you know, I remember in 2011, when I started off from the summit, I was completely by [00:19:00] myself and I went off without a sherpa and just headed into the dark because I was like, cool, I want to go to the summit now. And off we go. And I then look at those photos and I go, that’s not it doesn’t, I can’t relate to it.

But I think there is still something about that mountain, which as you say, seemed to. Just drive people in a different way. I think because the financial element is more significant and more importantly than that, the ego is, is far more significant as well. You know, you’re going it’s Everest. It’s not, it’s not an unknown mountain.

So then the ego and the risk and the expectation is that much higher. And indeed the mindset of the people that do it is probably different to that over an unknown mountain. You know, it’s not it’s because it’s, it’s because it’s Everest, it attracts a certain type of person who is probably of the mindset that they are willing to do that.

I think a lot of people now [00:20:00] see Everest because so many people seem to do it. And then people see those pictures. There’s a sort of feeling of, Oh, anyone can do it. Or do you think it’s very now after seeing those pictures more and more people will be sort of put off. I think amongst real climbers, proper climbers, who have been doing it their life they’ve always had this torn relationship with Everest.

I had a guide, for example, on my second trip, who for 20 years had been chatting away saying he would never climb Everest because it’s a cliche thing it’s commercialized and anyone can do it. And yet he was given the opportunity to climb there and he goes sure Ill that. I think a lot of people. Would love the opportunity and would still try and grab that with both hands and often might underestimate it as well.

However, as for those [00:21:00] pictures, I think it’s still a really difficult achievement and still worthy of credit. I think this is the idealistic scenario is that you almost have an asterix next to it about how you did it. you know, I know I spoke to one of my very, wise teammates actually, before and after our expedition, he was with me in 2010 and he was like, look, there’s a spectrum here at bank of how you want to do Everest.

And on this side is say to unsupported, this is your wine hole maximum. These are your goals, Carlton Bruner’s, we’re going solo without oxygen and just find smashing it. And they’re heroes. They’re usually stacks and. Now on the other side, you have people who have unlimited oxygen. We have unlimited sherpas was with an unlimited budget.

You got a helicopter back to Katmandu from base camp who short rope down and up the mountain. And that’s fine, but what annoys me? it annoys me in [00:22:00] adventure in general, if I’m being cynical is I don’t see why people need to lie about how they’ve done things or indeed lie about having done things, because it’s a lot easier to just do it properly and do it the way you’re most comfortable with.

And then, Hey Presto, you don’t need to lie about it. I think some Everest will always. Remain appealing to certain characters. I remember a friend saying to me, I think everyone at some point or another within reason has probably dreamt of climbing Everest and I don’t, you know, of what it’s like anyway, and I don’t think that desire will disappear because a couple of photos of a near the top, I think the desire will still be there.

The parameters for difficulty will be minimized because that’s what modern technology does. And I think that’s fine. If you really want to challenge yourself and masochistically, put yourself in a tough position on the side of the mountain, there’s other ones you can do it [00:23:00] on. If you want, you still climb Everest and people will still want to do that.

I, I think as you say, it’s that, It’s that feeling of the biggest mountain and to the world or the biggest mountain in the world you’ve climbed. And you can sort of have that on your CV. I think a lot of people like that sort of feeling that feeling of conquering the biggest mountain. Yeah. The biggest, hardest, fastest, whatever toughest it’s longest, you know, look at any, look at any subtype on a book.

It’s still everyone. It’s the same. It’s trying to get sponsored as well. You know, it’s hard to get sponsored if you’re like. I’m a young guy or young girl, he wants to climb Everest. It’s like, Hey, Presto, join the club. But you know which, which is the catch 22, trying to get sponsorship. You then need to become and do something in order to get the money for it.

I couldn’t have got the funding. I don’t think unless I was going to become the youngest because there’s no media angle. You’re [00:24:00] not going to get a TV program in a, a big marketing deal. If you’re not going to get media exposure. So then this catch 22, and that goes back to what we were talking about earlier.

It’s really nice going on a trip with my cycle, for example, when there’s no desire for media, when there’s no need for sponsorship, because you can just go and you don’t need to say I’m the youngest fastest, whatever, you can just do a trip cause you want to do a trip. I think back in 2012, when I was trying to get sponsorship for my cycle across the States at the time I thought it was quite a big thing to do.

And I remember going, I think, to a bike shop to see if the bike shop would. Give me a sponsorship. And I remember his just expression was just like, Oh God, another one, another one. And I thought it was a really big deal. I was like, Oh, you know, and he’s like, well, you know, if you do it on a uni cycle, then I might.

And I was like, gosh. [00:25:00] Yeah, I know. And anyway, when I did, I did see a uni cyclist going from Canada down to the tip of. The Cape of horn? yeah, Cape Horn. So yeah, a lot of these things, a lot of these big adventures, especially in the last, I think 10, 20 years are slowly becoming harder and harder to get a sort of big media angle.

And as you say, any company who’s willing to sponsor you is going to need a media angle. so yeah, it’s, it’s quite a difficult one to get sponsorship. I would say for anyone who is trying to go out there and do some crazy adventure is probably, yeah, I agree. I think it is. However, however, however, there are, it depends on your competency and what you’re doing.

You know, like how you want to record it. There’s so many amazing expeditions [00:26:00] that are still happening from people who are genuinely pushing boundaries, doing really bold, exciting stuff, still getting sponsored for it because they’re not doing the same as everyone else. Yeah. I think on my last podcast, we spoke about Ross Edgley, who had just swam around Great Britain.

Which is just nuts. And, you know, as you say, if you can think it, then you can probably do it. Yeah. So to a large degree, there is, I think there’s a, certainly a degree of, creativity that people would need if they want to do something. but again, it comes down to what trips do you want to do? My cycle was, and is, as you know, one of the cheapest means of transport.

And I think it’s one of the most demanding and fulfilling ones. So it comes down to what you want to do. And I certainly, I was. Just writing about this or going through the [00:27:00] edits. And one of the things I was saying was just be honest with yourself about the type of trip you want to go on and don’t try and fulfill someone else’s aspirations or expectations.

You know, if you, if you want to go cycle touring, then if you want to do 50 miles a day, do 50 miles a day. If you want to do 150 do it, I don’t, I don’t care. And it doesn’t actually matter. because Mark Beaumont will be faster than you. And that’s great. So you’re not trying to beat Mark Beaumont. And if you all are going to beat Mark Beaumont, then go for it.

It’s if you have full credit, if you can, but, you know, you say you can do 150 miles is great, but he can do 250. So who cares? You’re trying to, you know, you’re trying to do it for your own reasons. I still think this is someone was asking, I did an interview recently. And they were asking about advice and I was like, just be honest with why you’re going on this trip.

Like, it’s the [00:28:00] hardest thing to get your head around. But I think as soon as you can get that right in your own head about why you’re doing it, then it makes everything a lot easier, you know? And you also don’t need to tell anyone. You don’t need to tell the world I’m doing it to satisfy my ego, give myself a CV boost.

Well, because I’m trying to prove a point or get over mental health issue, whatever it is, get it right in your own head. And then you’ll have the freedom to make the decisions you want. I, I, I, again, I remember the first time I broke a hundred miles in a day. I was really, really chuffed. But again, no one cares.

No, but it’s still great. It’s a good little thing for yourself, but yeah, I remember. Yeah. And, you know, cause I was sort of hitting 70, 80 N you know, as you do it, your. Energy levels build up and you can go further and further each day. And then when I broke a hundred miles, I’m like, yes, thank God. I think it was like on 19 day 19 and I was like, sweet.

Okay. But yeah, as you [00:29:00] say, no one really knows and then you’re like both on me, but it’s no little cares, but you care. And sometimes that’s enough. And then after that, you know, so many times there were so many opportunities where I could have stopped. I, in America, I remember stopping at a cafe and this woman and her husband started chatting to me because, you know, I have a British accent and.

I was wearing Lycra in the middle of the Midwest in the middle of this, right? Where in the Midwest? I think we’re talking like Ohio or Indiana. Yeah. And I remember at the time she was like, Oh, you know, if you, Oh, actually I really apologize for my American accent. I won’t even attempt, I won’t even attempt it.

But, she was saying. If you would like to come and watch my kids recital tonight, you know, we’re very happy for you to come along. [00:30:00] And I remember at the time thinking, nah, I’m all right, but actually looking back, I wish I had gone. And that’s the thing is all these small interactions you have along the way are actually what makes the day and.

Everything about your trip. More interesting. It’s not cycling. Cycling is just the means to get from a to B. And it’s a very nice way of transporting yourself around the world, but it’s the interactions with the locals, which will be the lasting memories you have. I have, I always find, did you find that?

Yeah. To a large extent, I did, you know, the, I. I split the trip pretty much in two. And I, I was I’ve written, I’ve actually written the book on just, just the first half of the trip, but it’s because there was a different mindset and also understanding, [00:31:00] the, the reason we reasons for the trip, but it’s still, what was your mindset for it?

your first part, you said you had two different mindsets. The first part. So the first one was London, Singapore. So Europe and Asia, I think the, it’s different because that was about leaving consciously, leaving home, and making the decision to not fulfill the expectations that was sort of placed upon you as a.

You know, relatively, mature person who’s left a job and you know, what you should be doing at a particular stage of your life. so I think that was an important phase to go through. And then it was about understanding what cycle travel was like, you know, to be alone. You know, I’ve called the, this isn’t meant to be a self promotion thing.

I’ve called the book of rolling stone because I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan. And there’s, you [00:32:00] know, I don’t really know the song, but it’s that, how, how does it feel to you on your own home as a rolling stone and it’s, it’s that principle is always, it’s the same thing. It’s like, I just wanted to understand what solo travel was like.

You know, I’d read so many bloody books about, you know, Paddy Lee from , you know, they’ve all done these great things. They’re always by themselves. And I just did not. Have any understanding of what that was really like, and I’ve done some cool expeditions over the years. I still was like, what about the solo ventures?

What is it about them and what is it about deserts? And I was sort of fascinated by these two things. So just wanted to go off exploring and understand what bike travel was like. And, you know, I’d read friends, books about them in the weird countries, with weird people and. Interacting with people in a way.

And somehow surviving, I was like, how did they survive? How did they [00:33:00] get food and water and phone signal and communicate with people? How do you communicate with someone in the middle of China? When you don’t speak the language, like all of these questions, I just could not get my head around. It just seems a very, very, yeah.

Authentic way of traveling. And I was sort of obsessed by this idea of authenticity. So that’s why, that’s why I sort of wanted to go on it and probably a bit of escapism about not wanting to be bracketed about what I should be doing. I think the other bit of that phase of the trip was like real sort of like prove to yourself, you know, go through Siberia or winter type of stuff.

I think there was a bit of, okay, if we’re going to do this cycling thing, then make it really, really hard. And then, then you can understand the cycling thing. Once you’ve seen the extreme, you can then wind yourself back in. And I pushed it about as far as I think I could have actually. I really don’t think I actually could have [00:34:00] survived mentally as much as physically, much more than I did by myself.

And then that took me then Singapore and your. I slightly recalibrated my mind. I, the back end of Southeast Asia, I sort of realized why I’d go on a trip and what I was lacking. And I saw four or five friends in Southeast Asia. They’re living out there and I was like, what am I doing by myself? I don’t, I basically, I, as wonderful as it is to be by yourself in a foreign country.

I just. I felt much closer for anything to my own home when I was 10,000 miles away. So that’s why it changed. And then you reasonably my art. Why do you continue across Australia? New Zealand and America, because I sort of, the mindset was different. Like that second half was okay is still 10,000 miles, but it was, it was fun.

I enjoyed it. I enjoyed encounters. I had a lot of. [00:35:00] Banter and humor with a lot of people. I embraced every detour and, you know, I still rode really long miles and pretty quick, but I loved meeting different people and laughing with people in the Midwest, people in the middle of an Australian desert, watching the cricket with Kiwis, whatever the hell it was.

It would just, I really miss that sort of human interaction, I think in terms of, in terms of your questions about individuals, like it really mattered. I will say the language barrier. I always find this quite difficult. in Russia, especially when you’re up in Siberia, did you struggle? I struggled a lot more in China to be honest.

I found, I found China very, very mentally draining. Kazakhstan was. Funny. I found it funny other than winter winter was, was a challenge, but I still think the people, because I was by myself in a [00:36:00] desert, they have a very, very strong nomadic culture and character in Kazakhstan. So I was constantly and consistently stopped by locals giving me.

completely extraordinary variety things and money and water and random Apple juices and sausages, and just like random take two and things like that, just like random things. And everyone was kind and happy to see me and smiled and wanted a selfie all the time. And I specifically say selfie because it’s the difference I had with China.

And I then went to China, went through XinJing for a month, which was. I think pretty much close to the worst month of I can remember in my life. And, and then the rest of China was beautiful, inspiring, impressive, fascinating all the time. Very, very stressful. There was no time to [00:37:00] relax or stop or process.

There was no sort of time off. I would stop at every restaurant I go to just to get my bowl of noodles or something. And I just felt like I just sat in the book. I was like, Fish in a fish bowl. I felt like a zoo animal, you know, with, a lot of people looking at you constantly and walking up and not taking a selfie.

We just walking up and taking a photo, of my face and from about a metre away. and it happened, you know, and it’s funny and it is funny talking about it. Now I’d be sat in the restaurant and I would have. Queues, if not, no, not queues or crowds and people walk up to me, not asking, not asking for a selfie or having one with you, just walking up and going bang photo in your face and laughing and walking away.

It’s funny. Other than that, other than when it happened. And that happens every single day, every single [00:38:00] rest stop for months. And I couldn’t communicate with people properly. And I just, I think, wanted someone to laugh with basically, and be like, this is ridiculous. I want a mate alongside me to be like for fuck sake.

What are we doing with our lives? And instead, I just had my own thoughts to be like, what am I doing with my life? And I’ve found it quite difficult, actually. I I cause a couple of years ago we were in Tajikistan and all the cyclists come through from China into Tajikistan or Tajikistan into China. And they said China was difficult.

I especially, in certain areas was very, very challenging. You know, I think where you were saying in, in one place, you, you can’t get off the side of the road. You can’t actually go into the village without a sort of policemen telling you to get back on the road [00:39:00] and. Don’t go. And I think it’s sort of a very contentious issue at the moment, but back here, was it the same last year?

yeah, so that’s, that’s Xinjang, which is Northwest China. which, yeah, it’s, it’s a really. It’s a really contentious part of the world. It’s somewhere I’m really not fond of at all. Don’t speak about with any fondness. Pretty much. I almost added to that. I feel slightly saddened about my own bitterness and I’m typically towards aspects of China because it was an amazing country in many ways, but Xinjang, I.

I’m very happy to critise. So I think it’s pretty awful to be quite honest. yeah, I mean, from a personal point of view, I was held by police every single day, about four or five times a day [00:40:00] for a month. I was camping under motorway bridges cause they can’t let you come outside of the barbed wire from the motorways.

It was just rubbish. The police would confiscate my phone, delete photos from my phone arbitrarily, not just from Xinjang, but like arbitrarily delete photos. you’d have facial recognition, fingerprint scanners, every 20 kilometers. It was really bad and just constantly interviewed or forced to stay in hotels.

And I slightly knew what I was getting myself in for. I was. Anticipating it to an extent, but I think experiencing that and being the wrong side of that is very, very different to reading about in advance. And I became quite resentful about the situation. I also think that regardless of my own experiences, And this has gone down a slightly [00:41:00] more cynical line of interviewing now, but regardless of my own experiences, I, I do think that imprisoning over a million people because of their religious beliefs, it’s quite hard to justify.

Yeah. And you’ve got the book about this trip coming out. actually probably by the time this podcast goes live, it will be available to buy. I will be available at a very few shops, but it’s definitely made avaialble on Amazon. well, I’ll, I’ll put the link below, say people can buy it if, after listening to this podcast, That’s very kind.

no, I actually don’t think the, I don’t feel the trip was finished until I’d been able to write about it. it’ll honestly, I almost felt the same with the seven summits, so that took me 10 years to write that. I just feel it’s the most important way [00:42:00] to reflect condensed one’s thoughts? I, I think I th I think they’re always interesting because to me, I find when I put them out, it’s not interesting to me, but I’m always interested in other people’s adventures and seeing what they did and how they did it differently.

So for one per four, you know, one, it’s not that interesting, but I think to others, it can be very interesting. Well, a couple of very good friends are fellow adventury folk and cyclists and things like that. And, I was lucky to get some very good, people, I respected endorsements for the book, but also others who I’ve read that book.

It’s about this trip. And I think they are interested in how I basically portrayed his story because. You know, they’ve gone on not dissimilar adventure, but it’s written about it in a very different way to what I would put [00:43:00] in writers, but they would just focus on different things. So, whereas I would. I focused on the human interactions and those are the two most important things really were writing about the human interactions in a funny, interesting experiences.

And that’s the sort of travelogue aspect of this is, you know, if you read it, I want a reader to understand something more about a part of the world that I went through. The, I certainly had no idea about and. And I want them to learn in that regard because that’s what I would want to know. And there’s also the, introspective, reflective side of it, of why one goes on these trips about soda travel, what it means to be by yourself.

which again, I know other people that wouldn’t give a hoot about when they write, but they would be very, very good at describing the exact cultural significance is of a particular incident, which I. Do to an extent, but I can’t write in that way [00:44:00] as much. Whereas I find it easier to understand the, the why’s in the house and, and that sort of aspect.

So, you know, I, that’s why I like reading friends, books. I’ve done trips because I’m not okay. I want to get in your head. And what have you prioritized about your trip? Which someone else might not, who were they. well, I mean, what, in terms of endorsements? Well, Robin hambury Tenison was wanted a great adventure over years.

Ranulph Fiennes, Mark Beaumont did, which was great. Berlin cargo, who’s one of my favorite writers. You know, so there’s been, there’s a few, Chrissy Wellington did, but that’s totally different. She’s an Ironman athlete, but I think she’s one of the coolest people in history. So there’s, there’s a great selection and it’s, it’s very humbling, but, I’d say it’s more about, I wanted to write a book that.

They’re in an adventurey [00:45:00] world that people would look at and be like, okay, that’s something different. That’s interesting. And it provides a perspective that other people might not have done. which is, I guess we can really hope for. Oh, well, go check out a rolling stone on Amazon. It’s on Amazon.

Are you going to write a book at some point, John? No. I say I’ve actually started, doing a. I’m doing a podcast. So I find it more interesting. You’re a very, very good photographer to be fair. Oh, well, thank you. so I, my plan is to do a photograph book of the white silk road as we called it, which was attempting to ski all the way to central Asia and Afghanistan.

But, it turned into something a bit different in the end, which, No skiing and just sort of immersing yourself into this [00:46:00] insane adventure really of cause have you ever been to Tajikistan and no, I didn’t in the end. I mean, places like that and Krgzstan sort of, so. Wild and so hot and know how to describe it.

it’s just an adventurous paradise. It’s just so isolated. As you say, there’s no phone signal you’re very much left to your own accord and then mixing that in with sort of Uzbekistan and Iran and Turkmenistan. So it was a really interesting trip, but do you have a guide in Iran because he timed that very well.

If we’re to go before now, basically. Well, we were on the border. About to cross into Iran. We were in Turkey at the border when Trump announced the end to the Iranian deal. And so we were going through Iran as Boris Johnson was foreign secretary at the time, [00:47:00] we’ll be like, Oh my God, what is he going to say is what is he going to say?

luckily he said, you know, we, we approve of the Iranian deal. So I was like, okay, I think we’re safe being Brits now, but. I we, how do we say we managed to get a way that. We were guided without having a guide. I probably, I probably can’t put this on the podcast, but we ha we claimed to have a guide and we paid a guide, but he never turned up.

Yeah. Perfect. And so, and that actually made all the difference because. On our trip. A lot of it was how do we find the most isolated place in the middle of nowhere that we can camp, where we can sort of just enjoy. And I think if you had someone there, who’d be like, no, no, you’re not allowed to do this.

You’re not allowed to do [00:48:00] that. You have to go and stay in this hotel, which is heavily overpriced. I think at that point you would just be like, Oh, this is just shit. So, and that’s the thing with this trip is it’s very difficult to come up with an angle of how, of what it was really. I think, anyway, it’s very difficult to, because it’s two guys who went out to go and ski and every country from.

Switzerland to Afghanistan and to sort of try and break down these ideas of what people had to Afghanistan and Iran, which were usually very portrayed, very negatively in the media. And actually Iran was an incredible place. And, you know, we managed to go skiing and one of them in one of the resorts and ski toward for seven hours to ski down for two minutes, which was great fun.

as you say, climbing up mountains to ski in some of [00:49:00] the worst snow I’ve ever experienced, but we went so late, so it was no surprise, but as you say, it’s a. You have to have a sort of reason and an angle. And at the moment, I don’t really have that to sort of tell it, to tell a good story. And as soon as I find it, then I can tell the sort of story, but.

I guess it also depends what your aims are for what you produce. Yeah, because I, as I say, I, I attempted to what’s the word vlog while I was doing it and sort of try and tell the story to a camera rather than my camera phone. And I realized sometimes I, I don’t come across as very, I I’m usually a really quite happy person and quite smiley, but as soon as I camera gets in front of my face, my face goes, And I, yeah, I suddenly become super serious and everything’s, everyone’s like, Oh my God, you look so [00:50:00] grumpy.

Why are you? Like, why so miserable? You’re like, no, it’s really happy. It was the greatest thing. Yeah. That’s tough. Tough balance. Isn’t that a problem with TV stuff. That’s why the really good presenters managed to somehow do it instantaneously and authentically, which is not easy. This is the part of the show where we ask the same five questions to everyone each week.

And the first one is on your trips. What’s the one bizarre thing that you crave or miss

ice cream and really good coffee. Proper strong, good coffee. Yeah. Good coffee. I actually gave up on instant coffee on my cycle. It demoralized me. I was at an essence, good stuff. It just makes me more unhappy. Yeah. Did you know it, [00:51:00] on your trips have the sort of, you know, grabbed the coffees, you know, extra luggage on, on the cycle trip?

I had extra luggage. I actually didn’t on that one, but I always had herbal tea. That was every night I would sit outside of the cup of tea and I was always happy. Yeah. Say that’s, that’s one of the guilty pleasures I always find as well. what is your favourite adventure book?

what were the ones? I mean, Bear Grylls, the first one. It’s not my favourite adventure book. It was, it certainly got me started. I think Jon Krakauer is a great adventure, right. I wrote a re-read, into wild actually a few months ago, which was really enjoyable. And I haven’t read it for 10 years. I re-read Rory Stewart, but a place in between.

[00:52:00] when I got back from the cycle of loved that. I mean, if I aye. I I, if I can count things that Lord of the rings and Peter pan is adventure books, I’ll put them in my higher adventure category. Yeah. I think Lord of the rings is a great adventure. Yeah. That I think, a lot of inspiration from Lord of the rings, especially in New Zealand.

I mean that really? Yeah. I agree. When you, when you go out there, it’s just. Unbelievable really? I think had a proper adventurous spirit to be fair. Yeah. I would say as adventurous go, they probably had a pretty Epic one as well. did you have an inspirational figure growing up? Was there someone you looked up to?

I mean, my parents are probably the biggest factors in my outlook on life. So I think probably like all [00:53:00] children, I looked up to them. I certainly, as a. Boy, I would look up to my dad an enormous amount. I think they certainly shaped my view on the world and gave me the freedom to pursue these adventures.

So, you know, they, they would be up there, I think, in terms of people, I didn’t know. I think the Shackleton’s masteries Nelson, you know, I think those, those three were sort of always. Present in some way, it will. All three of them had a sort of disregard for what convention was and they just sort of persevered and led their men very well.

Let’s see if one of these are in your next question. favorite quote, they did have some great quotes Shackleton. he always, yeah, he always put his men first shot within three feet, which I liked. [00:54:00] What’d he say, live the dead lion. I, I would go with that, but I actually know favorite quotes. I always, so I always had, a book of quotes with me on expeditions.

There was a couple that always stood out. It was things like Jim Bridwell saying thousands. The enemy of success was a small one. There was another nice one, which I always liked about the battle between, A stream and a rock and the stream always wins through shirts through perseverance rather than sheer strength.

I always liked that, that idea. and actually I’ve got, is it the one on, on my way, websites it’s an Ian Fleming quote says always and never say no to adventure though. You’ll live a very dull life or along those lines. And I think those are nice. I also, I always had, if I always on [00:55:00] every diary I’ve ever written, it’s pretty much the first thing I write the if poem.

My, I think my dad forced my brothers and sisters, to learn that when they were about five and six,

a lot of people listening are always keen to go on these grand adventures. What’s the one thing you would recommend to get them started?

it’s not even an advice question. Is it recommend up? I always tease the idealistic side of me says, you know, follow your passion, follow your hearts because that’s the right thing to do. Which is to an extent true. I, I sort of would always encourage people to just have the confidence to pursue what they think is the right plan and not follow convention about what people say they should be doing.

I think that’s really important. And I [00:56:00] think that was the most important decisions I’ve made have probably been when I’ve. Personally done it, or whether I’ve been encouraged to pursue an instinctive idea I had, that was outside of the norm. And I think that’s been the most fulfilling parts I’ve ever taken.

Okay. And I suppose everyone is wondering after COVID what is next? Okay. What is this world? John don’t know what this world is post COVID. I don’t know. I, I never know. I had no plans to do my cycle trip until about six months a year before it. And I, at the moment I am have very, very little spare time to finish the book I have.

That’s coming out in a month. I will work another one after that about a totally different subject. And I will, I at the moment, I’m pretty happy. Where I am. I don’t feel any great need to go on any big trips, [00:57:00] but I have no idea what will happen in the future. No. I think if you had asked me a year ago, when I got back, what are you going to do?

I don’t think we expected to be in lock down for six months. So I sort of felt content to sort of be in the UK for a bit of time. Yeah, I’m the same. I, I love this country very much. I missed it when I was away. And right now I’m very happy in my own little UK bubble. Do you always appreciate it when you come back?

Yeah, well, there’s not, well I quoted at the end of the book, so I, you know, you only know of any travel when you come and having to old you old pillow. And there’s a bit of that. There’s something reassuring about coming back to the UK, certainly, but that’s why it was nice to be in something like New Zealand to Australia.

There’s there’s elements of, of the UK and you go, okay, cool. There’s a bit of home, which is nice. [00:58:00] but yeah, no, I just, I quite happy getting back and laughing, a British banter, and Ricky Gervais been an idiot, and I quite miss that, to be honest and watching the cricket. And the premier league, on, on our travels.

I remember when the football world cup was on. I used to watch it in the most bizarre places, I think, in, on a ship in the Caspian sea. And like everyone else was sort of doing their thing, but at then a sport I really miss when I travel. So do I, so I, yeah. And what you, I always find a weird and wonderful way of watching it, but yeah, I dunno.

I think, I think the, that whole cycle, and to an extent locked down as well, but it’s all part of the same narrative, which is, which is slightly about perspective and reprioritizing. And I think my priorities are different now to what they were two years ago, which is probably a stage of life thing.

It’s probably a assocaited [00:59:00] from travel and being abroad and yeah. Yeah. Well, Geordie, thank you so much for coming on the show. Go check out his book, a rolling stone and thank you again. Hi, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Lovely to chat. Thank you. Slept on the floor in the bathroom and literally work up the next morning, pulled myself up onto the sink, looked at myself in the mirror and thought, this is not healthy.

It’s not the direction your life should be going. And I kind of went into my desk, looked around, I don’t want to be these people. I don’t want to be the guy. He doesn’t see his wife. It’s I, they want to be the person. You never ends up with someone and they wanted my life to be just stuck in this office for another 30 years.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google