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Pip Stewart (Adventurer)

Pip Stewart is an adventurer, journalist and presenter. She believes that connecting with people and the great outdoors is good for the soul and seeks to tell stories with heart.

In 2013, she cycled home from Malaysia to London, covering 10,000 miles and 26 countries in a year on her bike. In 2016 her adventures took her on a 3,000-mile cycle, boat and plane journey exploring Brazil and Peru to raise awareness of the environmental issues in the region. She documented the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest with adventurer Reza Pakravan and its devastating effect on the indigenous communities.

Then February 2018, she teamed up with fellow adventurers Laura Bingham and Ness Knight to take on a world-first – paddling the entire length of The Essequibo, South America’s third-largest river, from source to sea.

On the Podcast today, talk about these adventures and the struggles that occur when doing these expeditions. We talk about the future of travel and the responsibility of travellers with a platform.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Pip Stewart

[00:00:00] Pip Stewart: Hello and welcome to the modern adventurer. Coming up PIP, you know, what you’re doing is remarkable, not least because it is neo-colonial and racist. And then you know, that that’s, that’s a hell of a message to receive. My initial reaction was very unhelpful. It was sort of one of like a classic white fragility, tears and embarrassment and, and the worry that people were going to see me.

And what I was doing is racist and feeling their pain. It, it really brings it to life in a way. You know, we can talk about deforestation from the comfort of our homes and then check and scroll through Instagram. But when you’re like, oh my gosh, you know, you’ve actually lost your dad, your family at risk every single day.

And I think that for me was just really woke me up to the issue. My next guest is an adventurer and journalist. She has done some incredible adventures over the years from starting from absolutely nothing to deciding to cycle from Malaysia to London where her adventure. We [00:01:00] discuss some of these incredible trips that she’s done down the years and have quite an honest and Frank conversation about the sort of future and travel and how one should be more responsible in the way we sort of communicate in exploring.

So I am delighted to introduce PIP Stewart to the. Thanks for having me, John. Nice to be here. Absolutely pleasure. Well, it’s so great to have you on, as I say, I have followed you for many, many years, and to get you on the show to talk about some of your adventures is just amazing. But before we sort of jump into your adventures, I always like to start at the beginning and sort of talk about how you got into it and the sort of early, early stages of your adventure career.

Yeah, well actually like many of the guests on your podcast, it was a complete accident. Really? I had a bit of a false start in business. I used to work innocent drinks, like selling smoothies into schools. I quickly realized I was a bit shit at this [00:02:00] and I sort of left before. I was sacked to be honest, John.

And essentially I knew that I loved travel. I knew that I love meeting people and I was sort of looking for a way to make taking out a year to sort of reconsider what I wanted to do. Look legitimate to my parents mainly. So I applied to go back to university to do a master’s in journalism. But in Hong Kong, So I thought, okay, cool.

I’ll scratch that. Travel itch. I’ll get something. Out of it potentially. And it turned out I absolutely loved journalism and I loved sort of being in Hong Kong and, and learning from my, my colleagues. And, yeah, so that sort of started this whole interest in, in travel and telling stories. And I suppose from Hong Kong, my partner, Charlie then got a job in Malaysia and he’d followed me from London, Hong Kong.

So I thought right. Probably time for me to go to Malaysia. We stayed there for a couple of years and [00:03:00] then ultimately he suggested cycling home. And at this point, you know, I wasn’t, I’m not like you, I’m not an athlete. I’m definitely not an athlete adventure. But I found myself saying sure, like, yeah, why not?

Let’s cycle home. And at the time I didn’t put much thought into it, John. I just thought, okay, well, if I can sit at my desk from nine to five, I can probably sit on a bicycle. The reality is, as you know, is somewhat different to that. Cause we didn’t really train at all. The first time I sat on a fully laid in bike was as we were leaving quite an impor and I was like, oh my gosh, like what have I.

I think three weeks in had a complete panic at the side of the road, we’d barely hit a hill. And I was like, I can’t do this Charlie, like three, my bike down. And then, yeah, eventually he said something to me that has stuck. And I’ve used an, every other adventure, which is, you know, this is not a physical journey.

This is a mental one. And I think he was a combination of things on that trip that really sort of [00:04:00] kick-started this desire to have more of a quote unquote career in this space because I realized. Traveling slowly and by human power. Yeah. Uncover so many interesting stories. You go to places that perhaps aren’t covered by mainstream media.

And I just loved it and it T it ticked a lot of boxes and I still came home, had no job whatsoever. I had a slight panic whenever. Prices in London are expensive and I needed to pay the bills. So I managed to get a job at red bull as their adventure editor, and then slowly things started to snowball from that, because I’d done that big journey.

Other people that approached me to say, look, we’re, we’re looking for people to do other journeys with. And yeah. So when people say, how did you get into this? It’s a complete accident. It was finding something that was interesting in stretches, interested in following that up. And then it kind of snowballed from there.

I think it’s so interesting. As you said about the physical and mental, like it’s a [00:05:00] mental journey because so often. When you start these, you sort of have this idea that you need to be really fast. You need to push yourself. And when you take a step back and actually take your time and immerse yourself in the situation you find, you uncover so much more.

Absolutely. And I am a huge fan. I think the world is split between team fast and teams slow, actually. And I’m funny in camp team slow because. Yeah, I do think when you slow down, you definitely immerse yourself more, as you said, and you kind of. Ah, get a deeper understanding. You have more time for conversation.

And actually now when I travel, one of my favorite things to do is just situate myself in a coffee shop, find where all the old men are hanging out. That’s usually where I go to, like, they usually have the best coffee and then just chat and, and really that’s like, yeah, that’s just magic, really slowing down and really getting under the skin of a place as far as you can, as, as a traveler.

Yeah. [00:06:00] I remember, I think we were speaking to Jody Stewart on her. Five or something four or five. And he said, unless we basically speak that, and this should break in a record, no one actually cares. If you travel from Malaysia to London in 101 days or 150. It doesn’t matter unless you’re mark Beaumont, who we had on and you’re doing it around the world in 80 days.

No, one’s going to care. And actually to that point, John, no one really cares generally about like, and I think that’s the thing. It’s, that’s where we’ve got to find meaning and enjoyment in our, in our own lives. Yeah, exactly. And for people listening, I always, I always try and tell them that this is the way to sort of go if you’re going down this route, because in your mind, you’re always thinking I need to push myself.

I need to slightly suffer. We had Elsa Kent on the podcast last week, and she was talking about the same thing that she sort of needed to go fast when actually always at the end, there’s always a slight regret of [00:07:00] maybe if I just taken my time and slowed down. That, would it be more opportunities? Yeah, I th I think that’s really insightful because actually it’s, it’s the same thing in life.

Isn’t it? Like, why, why are we doing, I don’t think we often stop and question, why are we doing what we do? Why are we rushing to these things? Why do we want to do world first? Why do we want to do these grand trips? And I suppose if someone who has. Done some a lot of it comes down to sort of insecurity doesn’t it insecurity a desire to prove something I think probably, and you know, better.

Cause you’ve probably interviewed a lot of people in this space, but I feel like people either running from something or to something and perhaps a bit more honesty about that and actually a lot of what you can achieve doing grand adventures could also be achieved through like therapy and discussion and a bit more introspective thought, but.

Yeah, I it’s, it’s just one way to sort of understand yourself, other people in the world around you. Isn’t it. And I personally love it. [00:08:00] Yeah, I, I, as you say, because I think, you know, we’ve spoken to nearly 46, 47 people on this podcast and there is a sort of theme around it. Or, you know, when we had Emily Scott on an episode nine, she talked about sort of, she was generally unhappy and sort of wanted to pursue and probably identify as similar with you or myself.

It’s that either. Your time at work, where you’re constantly thinking about something else and you want to sort of go out and prove yourself. And by going on these trips, you sort of feel like you need to push yourself a bit further. And as you say, it’s that sort of mental, which can be sort of used to channel in a really good direction.

Definitely. And I think a lot of the journeys that I’ve been on, it definitely be motivated by fear and it comes down to. Sort of fear of not fully living that sort of like, what am I doing? We get like one amazing precious life. How am [00:09:00] I using it? And it doesn’t have to be, and this is what I’m coming to understand.

It doesn’t have to be these grand adventures. It can just be at the risk of sounding like a crazed hippie, literally just looking at the undecided. Because my gosh, they’re beautiful. And yeah, I think it is about that. It’s just about finding what works for you guys, finding out what gives you meaning and purpose, and then trying to live a bit more inline with that, whether that’s traveling or whether that’s like, you know, going for a swim on the beach, say during your first trip, going, as you said, London, Malaysia to London, and that was with Charlie who is now.

Boyfriend long suffering partner about 13 years. And so when you were doing it and sort of starting out, what was the sort of, as you say, you’d never done anything like this. What was the sort of, as he said, the sort of mental, it’s a mental game rather than a physical one. But for you who had never done this, what was the sort of [00:10:00] feelings like when you were sort of getting ready, preparing for, I mean, what are you talking five, six months?

Well, literally in this case it was like, should we do it? Yes, let’s do it basically. So we knew that we wanted to go home and we talked about maybe going back over land, but by trains and things. And I think there is something to be said for setting yourself a big, hairy goal. You know, I think I wanted to be.

And this is where I think we need to be careful. I, that point, I think I wanted to be the person who could say I’ve cycled halfway around the world. If I’m honest, it was ego ego talking. What I realized when I was sat on the bike was that I had to be the person to cycle off around the world. And I had to put the effort in and, and saying something because you want to appear a certain way and doing something is very different.

And I definitely feel like these journeys have humbled me. So. To answer your question about what sort of emotions I was going through. There was excitement at doing something incredible and [00:11:00] Harry that I wasn’t entirely sure I could achieve. There was a lot of fear like, oh my gosh, we’ve got to do this.

And then also, as I mentioned, you know, three weeks, There was a lot of embarrassment because I told everybody I was going to cycle from Malaysia to London and there, I was barely able to get up a hill and I’m like, how? And then the self negative self-talk starts. Right? It’s like, whoa, why did you think you were capable of this?

Have you seen yourself? You fight for, for you like to eat cake, your art is super padded. You know, all this like negative chatter that we all have that kind of prevent us from doing what we really want to do. All that started up. And so. The beauty of adventure is that it just pushes you to all sides of yourself.

There are times when you’re like, oh my God, go me, look at me, go like that feeling of pride and confidence. And then as you know, as well, you have the unbelievable lows. They’re like, what am I doing? Like, this was a terrible idea. How did I think I was capable of this? So I think that that to me [00:12:00] is what I love about adventure, because it’s not all.

Positive. And I think that reflects life in so many ways. You know, we are pushed down our throats in life. Like it’s all about happiness. And I think that’s slightly misleading because I think this constant focus on being happy inevitably makes us more unhappy because actually, maybe we should focus on the wonderful range of emotions that we feel as humans.

And if we can accept that we have these bad days and accept that we have amazing days and just take them for what they are. It sort of becomes easier to deal with and ultimately ironically, you become happier for it. So, yeah, I think that that’s, to me, like what I loved about the travel was the lows, as well as the whole.

I think, I don’t know it’s the same if you, because let’s just say a very sort of similar first trip was a big cycle ride. Having gone from nothing to a big cycle ride, it was the first three weeks, which were the most [00:13:00] painful, the most sort of draining on your boy. And it was probably similar to you. And that’s, if once you get past the three weeks, then it’s just a sort of slug of every day stay clean, but your legs of sort of getting used to it in the first three weeks.

Well, I remember sort of being in, I was going across America and I said, I’d done very little training for it, but the first three days it was fine. And then suddenly your legs just stiffen up, getting off your legs, feel like jelly. Like you kind of walk, but then suddenly I think on like the second week or third week, It was all gone.

And then from there it was not playing salient per se, but you had the strength and the stamina to kiss, keep slowly building up and your legs were always just getting used to it. Now. I think that’s so interesting, isn’t it? Because actually, I think before I did this sort of journey, I looked at people who had done crazy journeys and I [00:14:00] thought, God, like, I’m not like you, there’s no way I can do this.

And actually. I think everybody could do it. If they, if you can sit at a desk from nine to five, you can sit on a bike or you can sit in a kayak or it’s just about kind of gritting it out a bit. Isn’t it. It’s pushing through that day through when you’re like, oh my God, my legs. And I think if you do that for long enough, then suddenly these things you grow and you develop don’t you.

Yeah. Cause we were also speaking, like when you on these sort of trips day to day, it’s pretty much the same. You just get. Cycle eat cycle, sleep, repeat. And so that like a day job, that’s your job as it is. You’re just going through the motions again and again, and seeing incredible things along the way.

Absolutely. So simple. And that’s the other thing the other secret of adventures is you don’t have to worry about all the other stuff, the admin and the to-do list. It’s like, if you can wake up, keep yourself alive, go to bed. Like that’s a successful [00:15:00] day. And I think there’s something really beautifully simple about that.

And actually I realized that when my, my journey in Guyana kayak, Jedi, which I’m sure we’ll touch on soon, but yeah, it was just beautifully simple and suddenly. There’s so many benefits to technology and I love it. We wouldn’t be able to speak now, but equally we are bombarding ourselves with more and more stimulus and we are part of nature ultimately.

And I think when we strip everything away and we allow that quietness to come back into our lives, it does, it does shift a lot of things and it does bring up a lot of things that maybe we wouldn’t notice in our otherwise busy and hectic lives. I sort of found it like a sort of form of meditation when you’re cycling.

I don’t know, on a street road for six hours straight because that’s all, that’s all you’re doing is just looking ahead cycling. You’re thinking of nothing else other than what’s ahead of you. And it is that sort of form of meditation where you’re just sort of so absorbed in the now and not thinking about anything.

[00:16:00] Yeah. And just the spinning of the legs and it’s, it’s just, yeah, there, when you get into that flow state, it is just magic, but there are also days where you’re like, oh my God, what am I doing? Like, I don’t want to strap myself. Where’s my next food coming from, like all of that. Yeah, there are those moments, especially when it gets to dusk and you haven’t found a place to camp.

You’re like, oh, this could be interesting. I’d say, how long do they take you to get from Malaysia to London? It took us 13 months. So to your point about slow travel, like Charlie he’s tall lanky. Very much a cycling build. If you like, I’m, as I mentioned, five foot four, and like to eat cakes. So I think I inevitably slowed him down.

But ironically he said he wouldn’t change it. So that was a 13 month journey came back home just before Christmas. All very exciting. And then the reality of, oh gosh, like we need to pay bills and get a, get a job. So yeah, there was a fight.

[00:17:00] And from that trip what were the sort of lessons do you think you learned because they see amazingly, you and Charlie are still together after such a long and probably quite intense trip. Well, you literally see everything John mez, like the romance, the mystery shall we say has gone. But there’s something beautiful about that as well.

That kind of sense that, you know, someone and you got those shared stories of being like, oh, do you remember when we did this? And I still think if we can survive that together, we can pretty much get through anything. So yeah, I would highly recommend it as a test of a relationship. It’s it’s, it’s like a good indoctrination so to speak, but yeah, it, I loved it.

I really loved it. I wouldn’t say. And what were the sort of amazing stories that you still tell each other 13 years later? Well, we narrowly escaped being blown up in Tajikistan, so we accidentally camped in a field of mortars. And we only realized this cause we sort of cycled pushed up. You know, you’re saying like looking for somewhere to camp.

[00:18:00] Pushed out by X off the side of the road, on the Pamir highway, which Tajikistan had a little river running, but like between Afghanistan and to GQ, Stan. And so over the decades, there’d been a lot of mortars sort of sent backwards and forwards, and we gingerly put our bikes to the side of the road and try to look for somebody to camp and suddenly.

Oh, my God. There’s an unexploded mortar about yay. Big. So we kind of wheeled our bikes back back onto the road really slowly and carefully cycled on a bit. It was getting really dark and we just had to set up camp. So we found what we thought was like a safe area. Set up our 10 and the next morning as I went to take my tent peg out, look down and there was another massive mortar, which we just narrowly scope sleeping on.

So yeah. As soon as we got to the Capitol, we basically went yeah, by the way, there’s a couple of mines in this particular area that you or unexploded mortars you might want to look at, which was possibly the most hairy moment of the trip, but it was all fine. [00:19:00] Survived. It. And then just, you know, other things like being invited into a wedding and it was Becca Stein, you know, we’re sweating smelly, you know, that like vinegar smell that you get when you sweat it too much and your clothes haven’t been washed, you know, just pulled into a wedding, like vodka shoved into our hands.

And and it’s just, it was amazing. And I think it was the people like it’s, it’s so cliched, but. Connection. And for me, that’s what travel and adventure is about is connection. Whether it’s with yourself, with other people or the world around you. And I think I came back from that journey. Just realize it.

Having worked in traditional media where there’s a, there’s a little saying that if it bleeds, it leads, which is a horrible expression, but I was very disillusioned covering news. You know, it was it’s, it’s not the most uplifting shall we say. Whereas when you’re actually going out and meeting people in the world, you realize actually 99% of people are blooming amazing.

And mainstream media just focuses [00:20:00] on the kind of. Well, the sensational stories. And it just, it just gave me a whole new perspective on the kind of stories and the kind of storytelling I wanted to do. Whereabouts was that, was that sort of down the sort of wakhan corridor or are we talking a bit further on exactly that corridor?

Amazing such beautiful place. Oh my God. Isn’t it. It’s just, yeah. And for anyone who’s not been, I would definitely recommend checking it out at some point, but. It just is otherworldly. Isn’t it? You feel like so insignificant, you got mountains sort of rising up and you’re going down this pass and the stars at night are just bonkers and I loved it.

I absolutely love. Yeah, horrific terrain, they force, oh my God. Yeah. If you’re cycling, you know, get ready to bring a puncture, a packet and a it’s very bumpy. So you spend your whole time just like bumping up and down. But you’re shaking when we were there, we saw so many [00:21:00] cyclists and. There they rate had gone from sort of 70, 80 miles down to about 10 or 20 miles every day, while they’re in Tajikistan, traveling slowly, you see what’s another slow day, 4,000 meters above sea level going up.

Very steep. Rugged terrains would love it. Like bird, definitely like bird. And so you came back into came back to London and you were pursuing journalism owner. You’ve got the job with red bull that sort of led to more. Sort of ad people sort of asking you to go on these adventures. And was that the one where you were cycling across south America with

Yeah, that’s exactly it. So I was, I was in red bull’s office and I was, I got an email notification about this guy called Raza packer van was looking for someone who had cycled [00:22:00] and was also interested in the environment. And I thought, oh, that sounds really interesting. So I sort of dropped him a note.

Yeah, I’m interested. D-Day he was also looking for someone with TV experience that I’d been working as a news anchor in Hong Kong. So I just dropped him a note. We met up for a drink. I really, really liked him. He got on really well. And ultimately he said, yeah, do you want to come join me? And his plan was to travel along the trans Amazonian highway in Brazil.

Well Brazil through Brazil, but into Korea as well. Looking at deforestation and how it impacts people on the ground. And essentially we ended up doing that and it was a fantastic trip, but it was also unbelievably heartbreaking. And you realize, especially now at moment, the environment’s like very much a front of mind.

Exactly the global impact of what we consume and what we use and how it impacts all of us really. And I hadn’t really linked before that [00:23:00] trip, what I was consuming to the source. But you know, when you’re cycling past burning forest and you can smell it when it’s such a visceral experience, when you got the smoke in your nostrils and the dirt of the road and your lungs, and you suddenly think.

This is because I, you know, want a beef burger and this land’s been cleared for cattle ranching or Palm oil, or and that was pre. Eye opening to say the least, and then talking to peoples whose family members had been murdered through illegal logging and, you know, gut wrenching stories of gold mining and mercury poisoning.

And, and suddenly I’m like, whoa, okay, this is a much bigger issue than I’d ever really kind of considered or thought about. So that was a journey that had a purpose. And I think, you know, our purpose when I recycling back from Malaysia to London was, you know, we needed to get home. It was a very much an a to B type journey.

And then this journey with Reza was [00:24:00] different again, because it was an adventure with purpose. And I, I definitely took a lot from that as well. And it’s something that I’d like to continue to, to do more of because I found that quite meaningful. What was the cycle? How long were you sort of say clean for?

So the whole trip was three months and it was a mixture of sort of cycling the highway. It was a mixture of taking small biplanes and then inevitably, cause it was a filmed thing for TV you’d you’d spend time in the, in the van as well. It was it was different again, cause it wasn’t like everyday on the bicycle going a to B it was very much like purpose driven.

Like we need to interview these people. I’m telling the story through the mechanism of the bicycle, so different again. Oh wow. And so, and with that, I mean, as you say, you’ve heard some of the may sort of gut wrenching stories and this sort of, cause you’re spending three months sort of on and off with him.

How did you find. We were speaking a lot on this [00:25:00] podcast about the partner that you pick going on these trips, because they incredibly intense at times. And if you can sort of tolerate, because as I said, quite a few times as last week, we had Elsa and she was saying like, when she did her trip, she was encouraged to get a partner to come and do it.

And I always say, you’ve got to be very specific about who you pick and. About the sort of relationship you have, what was the sort of difference between Reza and Charlie in a sense of you didn’t know Raza before you went on this big trip? It’s, that’s a really interesting question because with Charlie, you know, it’s unconditional, you know, you can have a bad day and it can be like, ah but when you’re getting to know somebody, it’s, it’s the whole different dynamic, especially doing a journey that’s physical and long and long hours.

And I’m happy to say Reza is now like a brother to me, and I love him to bits. [00:26:00] But what was fascinating is that inevitably when you spend 24 7 with someone, little niggles will come up and with the best will in the world, whether it’s your, your absolute life partner or whether it’s someone you’ve just met, there will be a little bit of tension and.

I think, well, I’ve come to realize doing more of these journeys, especially not just this one with wrestler, but also one I did with last night and Laura Bingham was it conflicts do arise and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just, how do you handle them? And actually on the kayak journey, we went to see a a psychotherapist before we set off or a psychologist, not, I’m never sure of the difference to roles, John.

And one thing that was really handy was he said, you know, make sure you have a common. So, if you have a common goal, the chance of conflict is dramatically reduced. And I think that came up on the trip with Reza is that he was trying to speed. He’s a speed cyclist. You know, he’s broken world records for cycling fast.

I am at the other end [00:27:00] of the spectrum say, well, then we had a common goal of producing a documentary that the mechanism of getting there was somewhat different. So that inevitably did cause a little bit of like, But equally, I think that really made me realize that as someone who will actively avoid conflict, you know, if you are meant to be friends with someone, you can have a bit of conflict and you can resolve it and you can be friends.

And that was really powerful for me. To realize it just cause you, you say a bad or crossword, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of. Very nice and three-month journey. I mean, I, I don’t want to sort of ask you to sort of tell some of the stories that you probably saw and heard from there. But maybe, I mean, can you.

Oh, right. They found that it sounded, it was pretty, pretty intense as in the arguing, or just see, I meant like the stories from that [00:28:00] documentary, some of the gut wrenching stories that you were sort of talking about and some of the, maybe stories of hope and joy. Well, I think that was a, that was the thing on this trip.

You know, we were going into very remote areas and looking at how communities are dealing with deforestation. And we met this one lady called Diana. And unfortunately her father had been murdered trying to protect the indigenous land, which, which his family lived on. And she’s now a campaigner kind of campaigning for indigenous rights to, to the land, because basically it’s been shown that when indigenous people have land rights, the deforestation.

Greatly reduced. So that’s one of the major ways that deforestation can be reduced and just sort of talking to her. You know, you can hear these stories, but when you’re, when you’re looking eyeball to eyeball to someone, when you’re hearing and feeling their pain, it, it really brings it to life in a way [00:29:00] that, you know, we can talk about deforestation from the comfort of our homes and then check and scroll through Instagram.

But when you’re like, oh my gosh, you’ve actually lost your dad, your family at risk every single day. And I think that for me was just. Really woke me up to, to the issue. And then also the solutions we met so many people who are like putting GPS detectors on trees that have like a microphone in which will alert communities to any sort of noise of a chain store.

And you think, wow. Okay. There’s some. Cool tech solutions to this problem as well, or people trying to farm in it in a more sustainable way. So there’s, there was a lot of hope there too. And I think that I came back in one sense, going, oh God, everything is screwed. The end of the world is here already.

And then on the other hand, I was like, well, actually, no, there are a lot of really amazing people working really hard on solutions. So we’ve got to kind of focus on the hopeless. I [00:30:00] think it’s also quite a bit sort of just coming out of cop 26, which one hopes we’ll show share a bit of encouragement towards.

So I hope so. And I hope it’s not too quick Gretta, but blah-blah-blah. I hope it’s just genuinely meaningful change because yeah. It’s so easy to say, oh, this is a governmental thing, and this is business things. But actually as individuals, we can all kind of look at what are we consuming? What’s the source of it.

And on masses, like real power and the purse. So I think it needs to be concerted effort, individuals, businesses, and governments kind of all pulling together to, to, to avoid conflict, find one common goal, which hopefully is to like, not shaft the planet. So yeah, we live in hope and I suppose your trip from there was that.

This sort of, when you saw it and saw south America and sort of places around there, was that your sort of encouragement to go back to [00:31:00] Guyana? Well, I came back from that trip and I was obviously, I think anyone who loves to travel and know what I mean by like the whole itchy feet thing, you know, when you, when you’re stationary for too long, it’s like, ah, I need to get out.

And it just so happened that I’d met this lady called Laura Bingham at an adventure festival called campfire. And she rang me up one afternoon. I was, I think I must have been post-lunch at red bull, you know, when you’re like slightly in that post-lunch slump in a bit of a food haze. And she said, you know, how do you feel about doing a world first kayaking journey sourced to see by river?

And I think, I must’ve thought float down a river, pina colada in hand, you know? So I, I essentially agreed to it having to do. Like very little kayaking in my life. The only time I’d kayaked was in New Zealand. And I hated it. I thought it was a rubbish sport. Can understand why anyone did it, but anyway, we sort of trained for six months in the darkness of winter in Wales for a hot humid Amazonian expedition.

[00:32:00] And it was, that was a journey. I think that has changed me like no other I got quite sick off the back of it. I got leishmaniasis, which is a flesh-eating parasite. Had to have chemotherapy on my return to try and get rid of it. You’ll never entirely sure if it’s gone. But in a funny way, it was also one of the best experiences of my life because the journey was incredible.

I’ve definitely. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of good you can do with that as well, because talking about doing these journeys and stumbling across stories, I found out that leishmaniasis the disease I got, you know, it’s a neglected tropical disease, second biggest CA parasitic killer after malaria.

But most people who get it are poor and live in remote areas. So there’s not much sort of awareness raised about it. So sometimes I talk to the point we were making early. You know, life, hands, everyone, all sorts, you know, you don’t know what cards you’re going to be dealt and it’s like trying to make the most of the [00:33:00] card you have been given.

So yeah, I think that was a journey that woke me in many ways. So to say, And I mean, that, that, as you said, that was a sort of world first with Laura and NES. And when we, when you spoke recently about the psycho therapists, same sort of common goal, obviously the common goal was to get from source to see was that in the quickest time possible, or was that we have a sort of further purpose of looking at local communities, speaking with them.

Yeah. So this was a fascinating journey in the sense of the goal was sourced to say world first. So that, that was, that was the goal. But within that, you know, you’re going from pristine Virgin forest at the source to the Atlantic ocean. And it takes in the breadth of the communities along the way. We sort of, we did it in conjunction with the Y Y community, which are the community [00:34:00] closest to the source of the river.

And we had five guides with us going to the source and then two guides joined us for the journey to the Atlantic ocean and. What we saw and witnessed on this journey. We’re sort of that slow creep of humanity going from this beautiful untouched wilderness to passing gold mines. You know, we can no longer drink the water.

We couldn’t wash in it because of the mercury that’s used to extract the gold can make you very sick. And it was really interesting seeing the impact of humanity on our environment. And, you know, we pass one at the second biggest open pit mine in, in the, in south America called oh my mind. And around it, you know, you’ve got sort of sparse trees where the dense rain forest had once been.

And you’ve got like Capuchin monkeys clinging onto their last bit of land and sort of seeing that and going God. Okay. Wow. I know what’s further upstream. I don’t know what’s coming downstream, but it really. [00:35:00] We felt the journey of that river, that so many people call home. And I think it was a really interesting journey in that regard.

Well it’s with the three of you, well, five of you going all the way and there was just kayaking the whole way. A team hiking to the source. And I say hiking to the source, you know, a good movement during the day is four kilometers. So you are literally hacking your way through dense primary rainforest.

And, you know, in that section, we went to see the helicopter rescue people before we set off and they said, look, we can, we can absolutely rescue you, but not in that particular bit, because we need an area for the rotator blades in order to be able to land. We essentially knew it was shafted in that particular section, if something went wrong.

And that was when, you know, I nearly sat on a deadly snake. [00:36:00] Unfortunately I got my foot stuck between a log and a vine and I was wildling it for about, you know, must’ve been a minute and a half or so. And then from Jaime, Laura goes, oh my God. There’s a snake and that she two inches under my bottom was something called the laborious snake, which is known for its fast swift and deadly attacks.

Next thing I know, Jackson, one of our guides is machete debt to death, and I just looked at Jackson. I’m like, you know, Why did you kill a snake? And you just stepped back at me and said, well, pep, if I didn’t kill the snake, it would have killed you. And then whoa, you know, that is a moment where you are fully confronted with your own ego and your own insecurities.

And I think that really changed the whole trip for me because, you know, I’m suddenly going to sleep like panicking. I was having night terrors. I couldn’t, I couldn’t settle my spirit because I’m like, I just want to run home. I just want to go home. And in that moment, [00:37:00] I kind of realized, you know, you can’t change your problems, but you can change your reaction to them.

And I think one of the bravest things I did on that trip was sort of open up to my teammates and say, guys, I’m really struggling here emotionally. I don’t know how to deal with. And suddenly rather than sleeping on the edge of the team, like it I’ll hammer in my hammock. I would suddenly be put in the middle and then a fire would appear when there hadn’t been a fire at night before.

And I think it was little thing like that that really sort of made me appreciate the environment, appreciate how small we are in the grand scheme of life. And actually not being top of the food chain was very, very humbling. And then also technology, you know, suddenly. Only being able to access tech.

When we physically wanted to, we had set up a, like a satellite system and it was called a began. And anytime you could see open sky sorta point up to the school. And I realized on that journey, you know, tack is so in control of me, like I was feeling this urge to check social [00:38:00] media and having had a Jaguar come through our camp.

I can absolutely say that the feeling of getting a notification or an email ping is not dissimilar to when a Jaguar comes through your camp, you know, obviously it’s heightened, but we are zapping ourselves day in, day out with these low level threats. In the jungle, when the threat goes away, you can relax a little bit, but in, in sort of urban life, We can’t because they’re constantly there.

So as all came back from this journey with a new appreciation of not just life, but how to sort of like maybe use tech to enable life to be that little bit better rather than like, it controlling me in quite the same way. Wow, that just sounds absolutely incredible. And this was a long journey with nurse and Laura.

And were they the same? Did they have their own sort of, I mean, all of us, all our teammates, like Ramelle for example, he had a [00:39:00] new baby. He had a baby the day before we set off, he didn’t even know the name of his child. You know, for, for the YY community guiding is one of the ways to earn money. And he decided that that’s what he wanted to come and do.

So I think we all had our individual battles and struggles and Laura, especially because she had an eight month old baby at the time. And this is, this was the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done. You know, on a daily basis, we were encountering scorpions snakes. We were paddling past 18 foot Cayman. You know, I, I picked up a neglected tropical diseases, you know, could he off my face essentially?

So it’s like, whoa, it was, it was one of those journeys where I think everybody struggled to varying degrees. I was also like we would belly laugh daily. So to that point about adventure, you have the highs and you have the lows. It was, I’ve never felt more alive in some senses and I’ve never felt more on edge.

[00:40:00] Did you say you like you didn’t laugh or you did laugh? I know we did. Every day we would belly laugh. We would how we laughed. I mean, just some of these situations. And I think that Laughter is such a good tool just for coping generally, isn’t it. And there was such joy in, in that bond as an, you know, anyone who’s done, like a team thing knows like there, there is a real kind of bond that happens when you spend time with each other, like for good and for bad, you know?

But yeah, you kind of, we left his family ultimately and you know, I’ve seen far too much of those ladies to be other than. Got it sounds such an amazing trip. And as you say, this sort of bond that you have at the end of that is just incredible. And the stories you can probably tell for years to come.

Okay. I think one of the really important things that I took from that trip, that it was the role of travel and the ethics of travel and who’s [00:41:00] traveling and why, and what’s the impact and it was something. But I hadn’t really thought about enough before if I’m honest, John, you know, as a white privileged traveler from the global north where the platform, you know, however small I received a message on the journey from someone I really admire and respect on Twitter and it was a direct message and they said, PIP, you know what you’re doing is remarkable.

Not least because it is neo-colonial and racist. And then, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s a hell of a message to receive. My initial reaction was very unhelpful. It was sort of one of like plastic, white fragility, tears, and embarrassment and, and the worry that people were going to see me and what I was doing is racist.

And then I kind of really thought about the comment a little bit further, and I realized, you know, what actually is someone who has traveled and someone who has had the privilege to travel. I haven’t thought enough about it. And actually by putting up selfie after selfie, or by [00:42:00] only presenting a country through my image and my lens, that is a form of neocolonialism and that is racist.

And ultimately I came to realize on that journey, you know, there’s so much about the work that I’ve done previously that I would do differently. And I’m, I’m really genuinely sorry for how I presented myself on social media. Through that expedition, but it was, it was a really interesting learning that, you know, we can be well-intentioned, but we can still unintentionally hurt other people around us.

And I think it’s just something I wanted to raise because I don’t think enough of us in the adventure industry and necessarily aware of it if we’re white travelers and I think it’s something that’s super important. And I think it needs to be discussed because yeah, it’s uncomfortable to, to think of yourself as your, all your actions as being racist, but quite often, we all, we all without intending to be.

Yeah, I think it [00:43:00] sort of depends. I know Benedict Allen, he was on the podcast when he came back from Papua New Guinea, he was accused of being racist. But as he said, when he travels his. Hello, understanding his his whole concept to travel. It’s about learning. It’s about going to these cultures and learning from them.

It’s not about going in and sort of, you know, taking P well, whatever it’s about sort of learning from the different coaches and seeing that your way is not necessarily the right way or the only way. And as you say, he was just accused because he was in a Papua New Guinea try. And because of him being a white male, I think the guardian came off to him saying that what he was doing was a form of colonial exploring back from a Victorian age.

As you [00:44:00] say his intentions were just to go and learn. Yeah. And I think this is, this raises an interesting point that maybe I think w travelers need to think about more generally is like, why have we been welcomed into the communities that we’re going to? Is there an exchange of knowledge? Like, and, and I, I think this is, I’m not articulating myself brilliant.

There definitely needs to be. It needs to be not a one way thing. It needs to be an exchange. And we need to make sure that we are actually welcomed into countries because I think that’s, that’s the thing about colonialism, isn’t it it’s like previously people would just go into a country and say, oh, what can I, what can I learn?

Or what can I take? Whereas there needs to be a new way of thinking and a new. Discussion around this. I think so, as I say, I’m not articulating myself brilliantly, but I do think there needs to be an awareness on the part of the traveler about. [00:45:00] Should I even be going here at, for example, our expedition, you know, should, should I be doing a world first in a country?

That’s not my own. There’s a, there’s a whole load of ethical questions that have definitely come up for me as a result of this journey that I hadn’t thought enough about. And I’m still trying to, as you can probably hear still trying to puzzle it all out, but I definitely think the conversation needs to be.

Do you think that when Laura being bought it to you, her idea was a world first, but it was more also about, you know, learning because by going to Guyana, you’re learning about their way of life. You’re learning about their communities, their people, and, you know, let’s just say. You’re not welcome you. If you go to the community and you want welcome you, at least.

Well, in this particular incident, you know, we had to get permission. We had to like clear it with the government, like every [00:46:00] state actually on every journey it’s especially important to like, get all the right kind of clearances. But yeah, it’s it’s when does learning become exploitation? I think that’s the key thing it’s like, yes.

It’s, it’s fantastic. And I think that’s one of the benefits of travel. Like. There was so much we can learn just, and that’s one of my favorite things with favorite quotes actually is everyone can teach you something. But it comes down to, is this exploitative in any way? If yes, we need to reevaluate.

I think what I came to realize is that actually social media can exacerbate that massively, you know I was guilty of posting selfie after selfie or to selfie and I wish I hadn’t. And so yes, in that sense, I think the message that I received was accurate. I think. Unintentionally. The way I presented Guyana probably was through a neo-colonial lens.

And for that I’m [00:47:00] genuinely sorry. Did I intend to do it? Absolutely not. And it’s just, it’s just made me really consider. You know how to travel going forward. And I think, you know, and we talk about it often, but like, you know, w when you take a photo, make sure you say, can I take a photo, you know, have permission.

And it’s just kind of the general courtesies. Of the ethics of travel, which you know, that go beyond just having an adventure. Cause it’s good. Fun. Yeah. February tree take it. Someone took a picture of me in Australia. I feel pretty uncomfortable. Exactly. Exactly. So I think it’s, it’s just coming down and being like a decent human being and I’m thinking a bit, bit deeper, which may be I, I neglected to do and.

So do you think it was just by pasting that social media on social media, the way you’re representing that you, that you found troubling? [00:48:00] I think travel itself. Is problematic. I mean, there’s some wonderful benefits to it. Like, like you were saying about learning and and I definitely, and I love it as well.

Like it’s, it’s, it’s good for connection and it’s good to bridge, understanding and foster understanding, but it’s also, it’s also got its dark side and I think we just need to. Check in more regularly, like as to what the motivation is here and what is the impact and how, how are we impacting the country and people that we are lucky enough and privileged enough to be going.

Yeah, I, I th I think that’s very true. I think, you know, with flying and everything, you need to sort of, you know, look at about why, but I will say thing that by traveling you open up, you broaden your horizons and you open yourself up to all sorts of new ideas and new new [00:49:00] experiences in a sense of. If you just confine yourself to an area, that’s all, you know, it’s like if you live in a cardboard box, that’s all you’ll know.

And by going out and exploring, you get to know these new communities, you know, a different way of life. You know, that your way is not the only way. And the other ways you become very narrow minded in a sense. This is the only way it should be done. And this is the only way to go. Yeah, no, I, I totally get that, but I think in a, in a globalized world, and I’ve, I, I want to get, I’m not arguing against this point by this.

It’s an interesting sort of discussion to sort of have, but I, I think in a globalized world that there are ways to get outside of that. Definitely. And I think that was the main takeaway from this trip. Is it just, it just made me reconsider. You know, that the ethics of travel, [00:50:00] no fair. Very, very true.

W C sorry, in terms of sort of going on there, it’s sort of like what you sort of say more of a VR type situation, or are you saying, I think, I definitely think there’s a place for travel. I think it’s brilliant. And I think people should still be doing it, but maybe we need to be doing it less and we definitely need to be.

Considering who’s profiting from the travel. You know, if you’re saying traveling to a country, you know, is it, is it a local tourist tour operator that you’re using or is it a foreign tour operator? In which case you, you want to be trying to put money back into local pockets, you want to make sure that tourists are actually welcomed in a place.

And yeah, I, I, I, I appreciate the irony of saying this is someone who’s traveled and who hasn’t thought about it enough. But yeah, I’m kind of just, just raising it as something that I wish I had thought more about. NA very true. I mean, a what’s it next [00:51:00] summer thing. The plan is to do a documentary with about eight others looking at sustainable tourism.

And so going to different communities around Europe, looking at more sustainable ways of travel in those sorts of communities. And in terms of, rather than then they’re in this sort of social media age, when I didn’t know a sort of big travel influencer puts sort of tag of this place, suddenly let’s just say rainbow mountain in Columbia.

Is it rainbow or Peru suddenly this place, which had no tourists suddenly is now, you know, on every social media, swarms of tourists, gay that to have their picture taken on rainbow mountain. And it’s is that sustainable for the future? You know, you’ve seen Thailand cut off beach [00:52:00] access to tourists so that the coral reefs can regrow.

It’s sort of looking at different aspects about how sustainable tourism can be more managed in a sense. I want to watch that, John, that sounds amazing. But nah, I think you raised a really interesting point and as you say, yeah, there are times of course, when you are going through and you are, you do have that sort of unused uneasy feeling of, am I, what am I doing here?

Or what am I here for the right reason? And I, I think, listen to that, you know, if this is a sense of unease and it’s a gut feeling that maybe something’s a bit off, but you know, we’re, we’re not perfect humans, Zoe, we all cook out. We all make mistakes and we all learn and grow from that. So I think, you know, we, we can, but kind of try and.

Of course well, as being such a pleasure, listening to your stories, there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five [00:53:00] questions to each guest each week with the first being on the sort of trips and expeditions that you do. What’s the one gadget that you always take with you? It’s not so much a gadget, but it’s a diary.

I keep a day a daily diary. So yeah, well actually I suppose in that sense, it’s my iPhone. Cause I always want my diary on mine. Ah, very nice. Yeah. I think that’s really important. I know on one of my trips three years gay, I, I always try to lash out sort of filming it. So I was sort of trying to capture different parts, but also writing it down, always key.

What’s what’s your favorite travel or adventure book? I’m going to cheat a bit on this one. Because. Travel is echoed in life. Like I mentioned, and I think, have you, have you heard of the poetry pharmacy? Oh my gosh. So if you haven’t checked out, I really recommend it. It’s I love poetry. And for each emotion, [00:54:00] there’s a little poem prescription.

So if you’re feeling like happy, there’s a little happy poem there or anxious or whatever the emotion is that you’re feeling. And there’s a, there’s a, a poem for that. And I just love it because. Yeah, I think there’s an insight and a lot of wisdom. You don’t have to have traveled through countries, traveling through life and, and that I love, I love that little bit.

And why are adventures important here to, to our point earlier that everyone can teach you something? And I think, yeah, like as we grow old, we, we refine our way. Very true. Very true. And what is your favorite quote or motivational quote? Well, I would say everyone can teach you something. Towards the end, when we were paddling to the Atlantic ocean, I find mantra really powerful, and I was going, you can do this, you are doing this, you can do this.

You are doing this to every paddle. Stroke is a headwind was battling us. So yeah, what are those two? You can [00:55:00] do it. You are doing it, or everyone can teach you something. The feeling like when you got to the mouth of the. The river, the river. It was funny. I’d say it’s like, we turned up and I’m like, I can see where we get a finish.

And then we had the blooming headwind. You had your huge waves cause we’d hit the Atlantic ocean. And I remember John just seeing this pink house on my right for what felt like hours. I was just like really paddling and I wasn’t moving. I was like, Aw. And level. It’s a point where I’m like, we are not going to make this.

And then finally we get there and ask our fixer on the ground. It’s set up like a banner to welcome us back, which had disintegrated into the sea. We stopped outside a fish processing plant, so it just stank of shrimp. And then I finally got out my boat. We’ve got all the media from Guyana lined up.

I managed to slip land on a groin panel, whacked me on the head. I mean, it was just, it was classic clubs. Yeah. And yeah, it was, it wasn’t the most finish. Let’s put it like that. We’re [00:56:00] using like a traditional. So we did a mix. So not on the way to the source. We used a traditional dugout canoe because it was, there was so many like obviously the river narrows and we didn’t want it to get, we had inflatable kayaks, so the remainder of the journey, and we didn’t want them to be punctured.

So we sort of did a mix the first bit, getting to the source, see that traditional. And then the inflatable lightweight kayaks for port arching around rapids and waterfalls later on in the journey, which were individual. So we had that nice dynamic between being in a team in the canoe and then being in individual kayaks for the remainder of the journey.

Amazing. And so when you S did you have family there at the end or no, no. No. So it was it was just the media and then we packed up. Hi kayaks and put them in a taxi and went back and it was, yeah. A strange sort of finish, but you know, usually they’re always quite underwhelming cause you kind of pick it up and then you’re like, oh my gosh, I’ve been dreaming [00:57:00] of a bed for three months and now I’m in a bed and I’m like, I want to be back in my hammock.

And yeah, the hotel had run out of food and it was just like, what are they? Things where you’re like, oh, this is not how I imagined our night of celebration together. Yeah, it is what it is. People, people listing are always keen to travel and go on these sort of big grand adventures. What’s the one thing you would recommend for people wanting to get started, ask for help and have a sense of humor, because I think ultimately if you’re new at something you’re going to be a bit rubbish.

Right. So just get used to the fact that, you know, you’re a bit rubbish and just crack on. Like, I think the, the biggest question I would say is ask yourself what would happen if I didn’t do that? And I think that’s for me where the fear kicks in. It’s like, actually, I’ve got more fear of not living my life.

Like I want to, than I do by doing this big, hairy goal. Very nice and PIP for people listening. How can they sort of follow you and find you on your sort of big adventures? Well, I’m on Instagram and [00:58:00] Twitter at PIP Stewart. I’ve just written a book about the guy on a trip called life lessons from the Amazon.

So you can, you can read that. Yeah, kind of see, see, I tried to take each chapter learning about the trip, whether it’s like happiness or appreciation or conflict and tie it to stories that happened along the way. So yeah. Check out the book if you’re so inclined, is that an illustration or is that a sort of diary of the.

So it’s a mixture of both. I said she had set a diary, but I’m trying to tie the stories in, because to our point, right at the beginning, often people don’t care about these journeys, right? John, no one gives a monkeys. And it’s often like, what can I learn from this trip? So I wanted to bring the, I hate to use the word wisdom, but more like the lessons I learned along the way.

So people can kind of use them in their own daily life. So a mixture of lessons and, and stories to illustrate those lessons. Very [00:59:00] nice. Yeah. Well, you can probably probably a perfect time coming up to Christmas now, hatefully. Hopefully. Well, we’ll leave a link to the book in the description below, and you can check pear pal to Instagram and all her social handles and PIP.

I just thank you so much for coming on today. It’s been such a pleasure listening to your story. Oh, likewise, John and I really hope, and I can’t wait to see this stuff. Yeah, well, it needs to get off the ground first. Sounds really good. Well, thank you so much. Thank you, John. Well, that is it for today.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope you got something out of it. If you did hit that like button and subscribe, if you haven’t already, and I will see you in the next video.

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