Ash Bhardwaj is a travel-writer, film-maker and storyteller who explores the world. From a young age, he had a love of travel. On this week’s episode, we speak with him about his 8500 km overland from the top of Norway to Romania, exploring former Soviet countries and their neighbours, at a time of increased tensions between Russia and the West. We talk about what motivates him and inspires him in his pursuits.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Ash Bharwadj

[00:00:00] Ash Bharwadj: hello? How are you doing great to have you on the show and, amazing sort of adventures that you’ve done over the last couple of years. I sort of been following your journey since you were doing sort of walking the Nile. With Levison. and so have you always had this love for adventures or with this something quite recent?

Yeah. I didn’t really always have this love, so it started when I. Look back at it. The critical moment was, going to New Zealand, when I was in sixth form in my local state school. But if I think back to the things that probably triggered it in the first place, my favorite TV show when I was a [00:01:00] kid was star Trek, which is star Trek, the next generation, which is very much about going out and, encountering new cultures.

New places and trying to gain an understanding and seeing what we can learn from other, other cultures. So I think. on a very subtle level, having that as a, as a sort of more or less than from an early age was probably quite, quite a good one to have. And the big one surprisingly probably came through my parents, neither of which traveled much.

My father migrated from India when he was 16, but then basically stayed mostly in England. Yet he had a fairly gregarious and adventurous spirit in the way he did things, set up a bunch of different. Bars restaurants, takeaway Fisher chip takeaways and Windsor, and growing up in that environment meant that I spent a lot of time talking to older people, people from very different backgrounds, yet Nigerian friends, he had of course Indian family, [00:02:00] and people that just came into the restaurant that I would just sit and chat to from the age of two onwards.

Yeah, my mum. Well, I actually think back on it, this is something I’ve only really considered recently. She’s quite an adventurous person. When she was 16, she went to go live up in Scotland. Her mum had gone to Peru on her own in the 1960s. Now, if you think about a woman traveling on her own to prune the 1960s, just quite how adventurous that is, it’s quite a remarkable thing, really.

and. My mum had also traveled to New Zealand in her twenties and New Zealand would have been a very different place back then. Fast forward to when I was 16, I carried on loving star Trek and games, workshop, and all these sort of slightly geeky things. Although I had an uncle that really inspired me this love of astronomy in spaces, whether it’s the star Trek science fiction side.

And I moved to Windsor boys school, which is a local state comprehensive school in my hometown [00:03:00] winter. And in the first year we discovered that the rugby team was going on a turret Australia, New Zealand, and the cook islands, the following summer, the one person who dropped out and my mum, single mum raised me, effectively on social income and social housing, mostly, had a second job working or had a job working as a cleaner.

And she said to me, look, if you can get into the rugby team, I will. Pay for your cost to go to New Zealand. So she worked really hard to pay for my trip to New Zealand because she knew that I would just love it. Having been there herself. She was like, look, these opportunities don’t come along very often.

and they certainly don’t come along with this sort of affordability given what you’re going to do. So yeah. That was the deal. I was rubbish at rugby, but I managed to make it into the teams. The prop, I was a terrible prop as a total Roku player. but it got me to Australia, New Zealand and the cook islands.

And I think New Zealand in particular was a place that really [00:04:00] struck me because of the motory heritage there, which unlike most other indigenous cultures in, European colonized nations has survived in a very strong way in the modern identity of New Zealand. Obviously they’ve, had. Over dispossession of land and various other crimes against them over the last hundred and 50 years yet at the same time, they’ve managed to retain an important part of New Zealand identity and existing culture and New Zealand politics and law.

And I found that fascinating, a country like New Zealand, that from the outside looked very Western. In the way it was set up the legislature, being able to move around, they speak English. A lot of the people are white, but at the same time, there’s this, Polynesian element to their identity, which actually has become stronger over the last 20 years, I’d say.

And it really triggered me this interest. And I think it was there that my love [00:05:00] of travel was really triggered. And actually it was going back to New Zealand in 2007. That really got me into the outdoors. I’d been skiing. I’d been, I’d done one ski ski season by this point. I, you know, I hated walking in the outdoors.

I, that’s not true. My mom used to take us out. We used to go walking around the great park and Windsor with our dog and stuff. So, you know, I probably developed a love of the outdoors, but I wasn’t some of that. Loved going camping. I love going hiking up mountains. I was, I didn’t, I certainly didn’t hate it.

I had an appreciation of it. I wasn’t one of these people who, you know, like Rob McFarland, he’d spent all of his life up in the mountains, broken, followed the great Nat nature writer. and yeah, I, I tried skiing in my first year of university, decided I wanted to do a ski seas and did one in France at the end of university.

Had no idea what I wanted to do. bizarrely enough, I got a place to go to Sandhurst with what was then the light infantry as my sponsorship. Regimen. but there [00:06:00] are three things I wanted to do. I wanted to be a cowboy and somewhere I wants to be a ski instructor or wants to go back and play rugby better than New Zealand.

So I learned how to ride horses and Windsor by mocking up the, the Queens stables and the great bark in exchange for riding lessons. and then when it stayed with some, These guys who’d come in and lived with us in England, was a coaching rowing at the Windsor boys school. So it’s going to stay with them in Tasmania, worked on some farms and then moved over to New Zealand, played rugby.

And whilst I was there, I trained as a ski instructor. That was also the first time I started to do big hikes in the outdoors. Multi-day hikes like the burn. Yeah. I, I have to sort of agree. I, my sort of love sort of came in the Alps as well when. You know, I started when I did a season, I was skiing. And then, well, I, I actually found the love of walking up the mountains far more enjoyable than just sort of skiing and going on these big day, [00:07:00] hikes of the mountain, finding the sort of fresh snow.

And I actually found the hike almost as enjoyable as the ski down sort of going somewhere where no one else is going or no one’s ever gone. And that sort of love of the outdoors sort of came about quite late in my time as well. Do you think, your time at Santa’s also, molded you towards the sort of travel writing?

Absolutely not, I didn’t actually go to Santos until 2014. So I decided to not join the regular army. I, at the time the Iraq war had just started. And I was like, I’m not sure if this is a moral war or a just war. I did philosophy at university. So I did, morality and justice of warfare as, as part of my studies.

I don’t think this was more, or I don’t think this is just, and I don’t think it’s war that’s gonna have any good [00:08:00] outcomes. And I think it’s safe to say that 17 years on it has done nothing but bad things that will. so I decided that I probably couldn’t join a or an organization in which I had no choice in that I did later join the army reserve, which is, which is a different organization.

And I’ve done some operations, but only in the UK. So operation rescripts, which was the response to COVID-19. yeah, I, I think it’s something that I, I haven’t come to a final decision on. Well, how I feel about that yet. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s important to always, reflect on what it is you’re doing.

And I think that organization is founded in patriotism duty, various other things. I think sometimes the challenge is, is the things that the army is asked to do aren’t necessarily for the good of the nation or wherever else. And I think IRAK showed that, but eventually I joined as an army reservist.

the organization [00:09:00] itself separate from the thing that’s asked to do is a really good organization to be part of, sadness teaches you. The first thing Sounders teaches you is tolerance of discomfort and tolerance of being tired. I mean, that’s. That’s part of the conditioning that you go through, particularly in the starting phases, you learn some very practical skills B being in the outdoors, obviously, you learn to just sort of like, okay, I’m worth that’s all right.

I can. Deal with that. I can resolve that problem. You learn navigation, you learn problem management, you learn decision-making. They give you, systems to do that with, the whole system to assess problems a bit like imagining consultant, but, for dismantled close combat warfare, rather than, trying to find people from businesses say, it was a great thing to do, Did it improve?

My love of the outdoors will most certainly I, [00:10:00] spent lots of time in the outdoors and I think you get the opportunity to do things that you never wise with other, see, you know, seeing doing a Dawn attack in Kenya, on a training area, doing a Dawn attack in Wales and a training area. And you see these.

Places that are extremely remote. That very few people will ever go to an embassy at that time of day. I see many more sunrises as a product of being in the army reserve than I would have done in any other parts of my life. And I cherish that and I met some great people. Who’ve done some really interesting things as well through it, specifically how it’s triggered and assist to my career was when I went to Estonia in 2017.

So it was on a training exercise as part of the. British military deployment to Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression. Often Russia had invaded Ukraine in Crimea and Donbass. they hadn’t openly invade both of those. They, they, they did it with unmarked soldiers, but understand, at least [00:11:00] I’ve got a bit scared.

so being part of NATO, We were deployed there and understanding what was going on and seeing those stories of what was happening in Australia with the mix of the Russians and the Estonians of the lakes in the Soviet union that directly contributed to Agilent, which is the podcast project I did with the tub.

All right. Well, and so that’s when, so what the project you did with the Telegraph woods, was that you coming up with the idea or was that the Telegraph. Coming out with the idea and asking you to go on it. It’s completely my different beginning to end. So I had first written for the Telegraph in 2013, I’d gone to Everest with walking with the wounded, which is a charity that tries to get a wounded servicemen back into employment physically, or, or not invisible injuries, getting them back into, Into work and a sense of purpose in their life.

[00:12:00] I’d gone to Everest with them to film it as part of a PR campaign. And I then took my dad’s ashes to India from there. My father was Indian and I wrote that up for the Telegraph. So that was the first piece I wrote for the Telegraph. And for that, I just stayed in touch. When I did walking to Norwich live, I walked about pretty about 15% of walking and over deliver.

I think we walked about. I can never quite remember. I think it was, it was it 700 or a thousand closes was the same road miles and a thousand kilometers. Anyway, along way, I wrote that up for the Telegraph as well, and then brought a few bits and pieces again over the years after that. And then I came with this idea.

I was, I was intrigued by, you know, The legacy of the Soviet union and this Russian, the Asperger living in Estonia, what that meant for Russia’s Estonia’s identity insecurity, how Russia might use to leverage that as they had done in Ukraine to justify an invasion and annexation, and realize that this was something was going all along the Eastern border of Europe, [00:13:00] where, where, where the rest of Europe, Russia, and the.

The legacy of world war two. It never really goes in that region. And, the impact of what had happened when the Soviet union had, allied with Nazi, Germany and jointly invaded Eastern Europe and Poland, and also the legacy of, the ongoing, the Soviet occupation for the years. So I wanted to go and, Explore that more.

And I went to the Telegraph and I said, Oh, I think I can’t remember. I was going to film it or audio record at first. I think I have come to find the idea of the podcast, if that was generated in conversation with them. I’d originally got to try to get a con and then they’d had this guy called Greg Dickinson.

Who’s one of their content editors. Who’s a brilliant guy. and Greg and I kind of talked about turning into a podcast. And so we did. and I love doing this podcast. So I’m astonished that not more people have [00:14:00] done travel narrative podcasts, because I think it’s a great way to immerse the listener in the place that you’re going to, the way that you just don’t get with with, with writing’s quite the same extent because you have the audio, you have everything else.

So my friend pips do it and I have now created a new podcast called the first mile, which is a mix of that immersive travel narrative. Audio storytelling with, sort of behind the scenes and how to conversations with people who are the best at what they do in the travel industry. so yeah, you know, tell me the travel writing so that it did.

That’s awesome. That’s a, an incredible trip and see the, I, as I was saying earlier, the idea with PIP is that you will travel from place to place and record from. Well, the great thing about having your own podcast, rather than doing it for, for commissioner or publisher or broadcasters, you can do it.

[00:15:00] and I think both of us wanted to get away from the sort of interview format podcasts, which we both being a part of the pedal. So beause our experience at both of us have done these quite long adventures pips done put cycle from. Hong Kong back to London. That was her first big adventure. She was then the rebel adventure editor said socks across the arms in various other bits and pieces.

You know, I did a bunch of walking. Then I’ve left a bunch of walking the Himalayas with the live. I did a bunch of my separate things, walked around our Bader in the footsteps of world war two missions. there was the Japanese stuff I’ve done a few times. It was the, excellence, you aren’t curtain. So between us, we’ve both had some pretty interesting tricks and used them to cover some interesting stories.

And I think we just. What it’s do it in different ways. Yeah. So the podcast will be a benefit. Got dispatches the way we did it with excellence. I’m sure we’ll go off and do some pieces where PIP and I golf and a mini adventure at some [00:16:00] point as well. She’s got a baby now as well. We’ll only say we’re going to have a whole bunch of interesting stuff with, her, her doing adventures with Willow.

So yeah, the first mile, check it out. So I will, I will. And for anyone listening, go and check it out too. So, you, your adventures with Levison because that’s probably how I first came across. You was when he was walking the miles, you’ve done the Himalayas and walking the mile with him. And you were the, I went on all of those expeditions, but I never did all of them from beginning to end.

Then I went to university together and after he left the parents, I’d already written for a few of the papers and working as a ski instruction. Doing a bunch of stuff within the travel writing world, Lev is a remarkable talent at networking and learning from people. And then, doing it better than them.

He got in touch cause he was like, Ashley, I’m trying against travel writing. [00:17:00] I see you’re already doing it. We go to catch up for coffee. I was working in Switzerland, running a. Ski chalet in verbally having been a ski instructor there. And he came out and worked with me for awhile. We plotted and planned some travels.

He’d already done a bunch of his own stuff. He’d already backpack from London to daddy via Afghanistan and he’s year after year now, just before the British army went into helmets, Afghanistan was relatively stable at that point. And he, had set up a company called secret compass with a fellow power, power being a member of the British Army’s parachute regiment.

And. They were doing eventually some really cool software going to Afghanistan to the wakhan corridor. And I tried to plot and create a way to make that into a TV program, which didn’t happen. And then they ended up doing a bunch of location management stuff for production companies. He spoke to a director, eventually walking, the all was commissioned, [00:18:00] and it was on, it was off, it was doing it with another guy there who’s doing what on his own.

And they’ve actually asked me to do the whole of walk in the door with it. and I decided to reserve Santos, which is probably the worst career decision of my life. And, he ended up becoming a television superstar and, I’m still just, you know, making podcasts over the Telegraph, but no, it was, it was great.

He, wanted people that he trusted to do elements with him. So he knew that I could film a video production company by then digital dandy, mostly doing marketing and a website videos, but he knew when you had film, I’d trained, I’d done. I’d done a bunch of TV stuff already as a. Cheating researcher basically persuaded the production company that I needed to go out and film more than most remakes sections.

Cause he wouldn’t trust the other camera men to do it with him and [00:19:00] he didn’t trust him, but he just, you know, it was a case of those, those guys had big pieces of kit. It would have been impractical for them to do some of the long distance pieces, do the more remote sections. So I went with him for those sessions, and that was brilliant.

And I basically did the same thing walking in the Himalayas, walk in the Americas. Went out and beveled around Georgia with him for crossing the caucuses and then walked through part of a mine with him for Arabia. so yeah, being on all of them, which is I think going, walking with elephants, unfortunately, but, yeah, so, you know, let’s, there’s a great friend of mine.

He came to my wedding. He was one of my, one of my better men and, Hey, you know, I have done some great adventures together over the years. Amazing. I’m so how, in terms of the trips, like the Himalayas denial, I suppose with these and you being a filmmaker, you really only need a camera microphone, especially in these sort of remote [00:20:00] areas.

So the key thing you need to do, first of all, is do your research and learn how to film. And I think one of the big mistakes, a lot of adventures make is they think that their suffering is the way to interesting things with humor or landscape. It’s the most interesting thing to view which landscape is nice, but, you know, we’ve had painted stories about Antarctica or Everest, and I’d think I get bored by hearing about somebody telling me about how hard their journey is because.

You chose to do it. What was really great about doing this? And I’d worked in TV, documentaries in the UK, which if you look at anything, that’s about the challenge a person goes through it’s about their own personal transformation and how they deal with those things. Not just, this is really hard. Oh, my legs.

Aren’t breathing. and if you’ve done that within stuff in the UK, that is, British British coat fairs or things that really matter to people in Britain, whether that’s about poverty [00:21:00] or, or challenges they’ve gone through with, within their lives. and you’ve worked on documentaries like that.

You bring that idea, that storytelling to that, that format, they had a couple of great, the, the main crew were excellent. Jamie Barry is a very experienced filmmaking. He’d done loads of series that were in challenging locations, but very much good at the heart of the human stories there. And Neil Bonner, who’s gone on to do some incredible stuff, including a story about a.

Young woman, with breast cancer who founded strategies, Copperfield Chris, her experiences of going through breast cancer as a young woman. and he’s made some amazing films here. You actually did that after walking there now, but to be able to learn from those too was a whiskey. And so what we did beforehand is they mapped out the journey that identified what were the key points along the way?

How, what, how would live. Developers canceling the way. And if you watch the [00:22:00] first episode of walking now, let’s still mix like an army officer. And, you know, he hasn’t become a much more, much more worldly, I guess. It’s just those more people of greater interest. Seeing him evolve his character is why we’re fascinated with it.

The cultures that he meets along the way, whether we’ve not really encountered before. And seeing how he interacts with them and how they react to him. That’s what you really need to do. So you’re not doing something like I’m not doing a Bruce Perry talk show where he immerses himself in a tribe for a period of time, Lev is passing through these places and he encounters them, but he’s not living with them.

He’s not an anthropologist. in those places. So it’s understanding how all those different stories fit together and having, Boston on our first who’s, who was really important because Boston was able to express. Yeah. Bronson was already from the Congo. Now lived in Uganda and [00:23:00] many of these places were familiar to possible.

Others were not. So seeing Boston’s interaction. well, I think was key because it’s very, we hit so often Africa referred to as a single. Place, but there’s more ethnic and genetic diversity in Africa than the rest of the world put together. So saying something like Boston traveling for a wander through to South Sudan is eventually did, was, was, was a very important, aspect of that film as well.

And then you, you do your training in filmmaking in order to understand how to capture those stories. but doing all that planning beforehand is the vital part of it. I think you think is the sort of key to capturing like the perfect storytelling in those sort of adventures. So in all observational documentary, which affected is what walking the Nile is.

You sit down and very similar to the army. You, you, you sit down and you assess the entire property and you assess the entire journey and the army call it. Imagine consulting, you call it a problem in the army. You call it a mission [00:24:00] in filmmaking. You call it the story. What’s the journey. What are all the different phases?

what are the key beats of the story? So in stories only call it the key beats, where are the key moments again, to happen? So in a military operations, what are the key phase of the operation? Where things, places we need to be in work. And so then in storytelling, you go. Who are the people that we’re going to encounter them?

What are they likely to say? What are the themes? If you think about walking the Nile, there’s like three or four different themes. There there’s the journey of level walking along, going from a round to each, there is the, personal development of left along that place. There are the socio political, economic and military.

Stories that are going along simultaneously go underneath the, the, at that time was the legacy of the Arab spring in Egypt. It is environmental destruction and poaching and Uganda. It is, the police state in Sudan. [00:25:00] It is the legacy of, the genocide in Rwanda. So those are all different themes and topics.

And. Stories that you have along the way. and then it’s who are the people that go to tell us those stories, how’s that going to interact with them? So you, you basically plan all of these things out and you go right today. We, we used to get information through from the team back in the back office, like over the next week, these are the places you guys are going because you know, 11 plan for years in advance here are the things we found a there that might be interesting for you to encounter.

So every day me is I as a camera man, walking with over and thinking, right, what’s coming up today, what’s happening in three days, time on three in a week’s time, level’s going to be crossing into South Sudan. So I just thought getting him talking about now, how he’s feeling and looking forward to that, as you keep things, always trying to get stuff out of the contributor in that case live, and then thinking about how that interacts and intersects with the environment around him.

And then, you know, [00:26:00] filming is going to be telling you about why it’s. Yeah, I suppose it’s also like the sort of three act narrative of like build up the complex, the resume. Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean that, that’s, that’s a fundamental it’s storytelling then you just, you’re basically painting by numbers out on top of it.

And then you also remember that as soon as you go out into the environment, all of that goes to. It goes to shit because you’re into interacting with the real world. But unless you’ve done that plan in the first place, you are not prepared for what you encounter, who was it? the Eisenhower said, plans are useless, but planning is essential or plans are useless, but planning is vital.

You know, no parents vice first contact with the enemy with that kind of stuff. So, you know, you have to do it with that planning. So that when you encounter something, you’re like, okay, how does that intersect with what I’m trying to do? You know, if you do a platoon attack and you suddenly discover machine gun nest, you’re like, I can not do [00:27:00] that, but I know the train is like, what are the other assets I have around me that I can bring it onto this problem and deal with it.

That’s administering when you’re filming. Yeah, those tragic things that happened in, in walk, the not, and then it’s case, how do you, how do you do that from a storytelling perspective? I sort of agree with that in terms of, I think it’s Mike Tyson, who said everyone has a plan until they get smacked in the face.

And with adventure, we did a trip along the silk road, going from Switzerland to Afghanistan and back again. And in terms of storytelling, it was. As you say, we sort of had a plan of how to get through it and through these different cultures, but, sort of on a day-to-day basis or filming, it was very difficult to sort of construct the story behind it until the, story that we, that we thought was of interest because on a sort of day-to-day basis.

You’re so as you say, most of the time, a [00:28:00] lot of it’s very mundane. It’s probably review it was walking. 20 miles a day, and you’re going through a desert, not seeing anyone it’s just you and Levison and the same with us, it would be driving for, and the guide they’ve always had a local guide. So there’s always a story of a local guide in their experiences and feelings of things.

So you always have that, you know, when I fast forward to when I was doing the new art cursing, the, the challenge that I think you always face, if you’re trying to be the producer director and you’re the, you’re the main. You’re the you’re the expedition lead is you’re dealing so much with the abdomen and the transport and what you’re doing, that you do not have enough distance to, document it properly, which is why, you know, the documentary team on walking and are the Americans in Himalayas came in and out for me when I was doing the new iron curtain, the challenge I faced was I was trying to record the podcast.

I was trying to film, I was trying to do [00:29:00] social media. I was also trying to create new contacts, like two months down the line and set up those stories. There was also mitigating a planet for what was going on around me, where I was. And that’s, that’s tough. You know, there’s a reason why production teams in television are as big as they are.

And it’s also the reason why professional filmmakers do what they do. I think everybody thinks that they can be a filmmaker now that they have a camera on their phone and they can do Instagram. But the difference between doing a bit of Instagram on your phone and making a proper film is quite fast.

And the difference between. Being an expedition leader or someone with, you know, Know, I don’t mean it in a disparaging way. And talk about that sort of self-centered drive or focus that a guy like a guy, like level or NIMS or, Al Humphreys habit, audited or Leon McCarran or PIP Stewart. Have in order to do the things they want to do to then, come away from that and have the ability [00:30:00] to oversee it is important.

I think one thing that’s really important at the moment is actually to get much more diversity in storytelling. I think the idea of, people go off and doing tough adventures is just like, I’m just a bit bored of it. Really. I think what’s been really good over the last year or two is to have some really.

well back a bit further than that, it’s just not been, raised. One of for stories is diversity in storytelling and storytellers, both ethnic diversity and gender diversity. One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years is miniature Roger twos around India in 80 trains. So. militia is Porter racer, the UK, her parents from India.

And she wrote a book about traveling around India on trains. It was the first book first proper travel book. I’d read by a British Asian, a proper travel writer writing about it rather than a TV presenter writing about a travel series they’ve done in India. [00:31:00] And I remember when I went traveling around India in 2001 to learn a bit about my heritage, trying to find.

Books that connected with me resonated with me. There were none, you know, there were books by, white male orphans. And there was nothing by British Indian about regarding India over the years. Afterwards, as I started to do more research about India, the best books I found were books by Indians about India, rather than books by white English, people about India.

And I think when we think about the storytelling that we want to hear more of at the moment, the great thing about increasing diversity, whether that’s ethnic or gender. Different insights. You get different types of storytelling. You hear people traveling to these places with empathy and insight and understanding rather than observational entertainment.

And I think that is a very important element. Okay. So Ash, [00:32:00] this is the part of the show where we are asked the same five questions to every guest that comes on the show with the first one being. What’s the one thing. That you miss or crave from home when you’re out or doing your sort of adventures.

Pint of beer is something that I used to miss a lot, because a few years ago you just couldn’t get pints of beer anywhere other than England, I think a craft beer has become a thing across the world. So, it’s nice. And a bit of a shame that when you go to anywhere in the world now they’ll tell you that they have an amazing craft brewery scene.

You’ve just got, you’ve just. Got pups. that used to be something I miss an awful lot. I think a cup of tea is a bit of cliche, so I probably wouldn’t really say that. you know, I go to the gym. I’m not really a gym buddy, but I think having that time that you just go and. [00:33:00] Workout and have that time to yourself.

I find it quite meditative. I do a lot of, have to do a lot of physio stuff all my years of destroying myself, playing rugby, largely that I find it quite a meditative experience. And you just don’t do that when you’re in the very deep divisions or, or even just travel writing, you don’t tend to make the time for it.

So oddly enough, I think that might be the one thing that I miss the most. Yeah. I’ve certainly missed, the gym in the sort of locked down era. I, yeah, I used to sort of go when I’m back in the UK sort of every day or every other day, at least. And suddenly now I’m resorting to the park and sort of running around and doing chin-ups on trees and on bars, wherever I can see them.

So yeah, I have to say it’s definitely one thing I certainly miss. Yeah. There’s not that many other things that we use to really, ground ourselves to the now and our physical experience. I think that’s quite a good one. Yeah. [00:34:00] did you have a sort of favorite adventure book? I think that the books that really triggered me on adventures.

Yeah, Lord of the rings is an amazing book. I think it has lots of flaws, particularly the lack of female characters, but the concept of adventure and the stories that both Bilbo and Frodo go through the archetypes of Joseph Campbell’s, the hero’s journey. And. They’re just brilliant books, fill you with, wonder about what is out there, where the wild things are is another great one.

But in terms of, you know, books that I think are great to read, I think Manisha’s book around enduring 80 trains is quite, a group of people that would read something quite different. Isn’t about physical audio, but it is about. A [00:35:00] journey and a person’s journey through it. also because it adds, a whole new insight that you just don’t often get in most travel books.

yeah. Where the wild things are. I think that was probably a really good entry level for nice. And what about an inspirational figure growing up? Inspirational figures for me growing up, where were captain Jean-Luc Picard and Catherine Benjamin, Cisco, the, captain of the USS enterprise D and the commodity of deep space nine and later captain of the USS defined.

So I think what was really interesting about that is, Picard like a real humanity, empathy, and diplomacy and understanding of other cultures. And I think obviously the, you know, the archetypes from a science fiction show, but. If you think about the amount of time that you spend with TV characters, if you read into a program they’re as much of an inspiration as anybody for the real world.

And I [00:36:00] think the qualities and characteristics of those people can really influence you. And so the, the characteristics, characteristics that I learned from them around empathy, and tolerance, I think a really important when you’re out traveling the world, we’re under seeing other cultures as weird.

You understand. They just come from a different paradigm. Yeah. I, I completely agree with that. And what is your favorite quote or motivational quotes? quite knew that I, myself, I think that Socrates, Socrates, Plato, I think that’s where it comes from. So crazy. I think it’s Socratic. Yeah. So I think it’s really difficult to know yourself.

You know, what motivates you? What inspires you? What troubles you? What brings out the best in you? What brings out the worst in you? It’s quite hard to know [00:37:00] that sort of, a priority and I think you kind of. I think one of the good things about travel and one of the good things about challenging yourself as you slowly start to develop an awareness and insights into those things.

Okay. And a lot of people listening are always keen to go on these sort of grand adventures. What’s the one thing you would recommend them to get started? Oh, John I’ll, I’ll cheat a bit here. I think, when you were trying to find. A reason to go on, adventures. I went to the outdoors or do something, well, always, always starts off don’t over do it too big, but I think the key thing to get you outside, it’s something that draws you there.

So I think, the three rules, I like to tell people when they’re going traveling so that you don’t just spend all your time looking at your phone or thinking about bars and food. So the first one is to go for your hobbies. So when I went to Australia, New Zealand in 2006, seven, I went. To ride horses. I went to play [00:38:00] rugby and I went to, Ski now I was terrible at all of those things, but it, when I went there, it took me into those places and I had an amazing time and became much more a part of the local communities than if I hadn’t gone to do those things and became good enough happened to not always fall off resources.

and sometimes I made a few tackles in front of me. And then the second one is to go for, your inspirations or the stories or people that interest you. So in 2015, I went. Traveling around Eastern Albania out towards Macedonia to follow in the footsteps of a guy called Edmund Trotsky Davies. He was a SOE British special forces guy who was there during the war and got a magical captured by the Germans and the Albanian collaborators.

So it’s following that story, which took me on an amazing adventure. And then the other one is to hunt for the unexpected. So whenever you go places, think what is. Different what is not just cliched here. So in [00:39:00] Uganda, in 2014, when I was with Lev, one of the things that I noticed was a massive proportion of people wearing awesome shirts.

A very might also have not been a good team for quite a long time, although they did win the FAA cup last year. Why ask them friends tells me now I don’t really care for football, a huge amount. I like watching entertaining football, but I don’t care. I don’t really follow any of the teams, but I need this.

This was like a disproportionate amount of people in ASAM shirts. So that’s unusual. that gave me a reason to communicate with people. And I think it’s really easy to go to places and see them as orient is seen through this orientalist lens and see them as foreign and interesting. And it’s good to get in touch with the culture of Uganda.

what’s authentic here. You know, there are people who have lives and who, Have the similar dreams, aspirations and interests as you and I, sometimes identical interests when it comes to football. And I discovered the extraordinarily passionate about football [00:40:00] and the reason they love arsenal is because when the premier league became an international sporting fixture and transmitted to a Uganda, Also where, what are the leading team to the premier league?

And they also had a lot of black players in their team at that time. Like Saul, Campbell, Kanu, Vieira, Sierra Ray, I think was finishing off his career there. So. That is why they love arsenal. And that legacy is carried on through, in the place like Uganda. so that scan to talk to them about and reveal something that not many people would have said after coming back from Uganda.

So hunt for the unexpected, follow your hobbies and follow your heroes and those interests. Yeah, football was definitely one of these things, no matter where you go in the world, just kicking a sort of bull around or talking about the premier league, which as you say is a worldwide brand. It’s just so easy and people love to talk about it and get so passionate about it too.

Well, I think it’s really important. It’s not just talk [00:41:00] about the premier league, dig into it about what what’s behind this, you know? Oh, you guys have awesome. Cool. But what was amazing was why do you love Arsalan? Why Austin. and their knowledge was incredible. They knew which linesmen Hertz had been more or less prejudice towards arsenal in the previous seasons.

But that level of detail, if you go into that kind of stuff, you really getting somewhere rather than sticking with the normal, boring, not boring, but the normal thing, which is, Oh, Whoa, you love, I dunno. I don’t know if there’s any one good at our site anymore, you know, so if you use those entry points to dig deeper, then you really start to, you know, look under those rocks of interest because I, I, well, I mean, I could talk about football for hours and hours, but yeah, it is that sort of fascination in Africa, which football is just sort of exploded and world cup in 2010 in South Africa, which was the first African.

Country to host the world [00:42:00] cup also exploded the sport as well. We’ve gone out and Senegal, I think in 20 2002, or see going for I’ll I’ll I’ll try. I have no idea about football, and Ash, how, people listening, how can, how can we follow your journeys and adventures in the future? I put stuff up on my website, intermittently www dot Ash,

That’s B H a R D w H, but the easiest one is probably on Twitter and Instagram. And they’re both at Ash Bhardwaj, Ash, B H a I D w a J but Pepperdine are about to launch the first mile, which is our new podcast. So what I would love everybody to do is. Search for the first of all on Spotify or Apple podcasts, subscribe like, and rate it and give us five [00:43:00] stars.

So now if you, if you jump on that and follow that, that’d probably be the best way to find out what Pepperdine we’re up to right now. and that that’s where I’d often would go the first one. Amazing Ash, thank you so much for coming on today. And guys go check out his Instagram, Twitter, and website.

Thank you very much.

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