For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to SIMON REEVE.
Simon is one of the country’s biggest travellers, crossing the world to make documentaries and tell stories.
He’s also the best-selling author of books including ‘One Day In September’ and ‘Tropic of Capricorn’.
He recently signed up as an ambassador for the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge, encouraging people to set themselves challenges, and talks to HuffPostUK about the biggest lessons he’s learned, both overseas and nearer to home…
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I chop a lot of wood. I’m a demon with a splitting maul. It really clears my mind and re-focuses the brain.
How do you deal with negativity?
I try to remember that I’m completely blessed with a lovely life and there’s so many people in the world who are much less fortunate. If I’m really down, I think of a young woman called Fatimah, who I met in a refugee camp on the Kenyan–Somali border a few years back. She’d been there most of her life and was forbidden from travelling more than a few kilometres from the camp, but she was literate, well-educated, fluent in English and bursting with capability and promise. It was just an accident of birth and my British passport that allowed me to travel the world, while she was stuck out there in the desert. Her story still haunts me.
When and where are you happiest?
On the top of almost any British hill, in the sunshine, with a few wispy clouds in a blue sky, with a view, and my family and our dog Obi.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
‘You can’t go out wearing that’ has been pretty good. I’ve heard that a few times. ‘Make every sentence count’ was good advice from a veteran writer. My friend Tony once told me to stop piddling about with small projects and focus on bigger ideas. So I started writing books and having adventures.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
That life races along and one of the worst feelings is regretting not doing something. I hate to hear people saying they’re planning on leaving their boring job at some point in the distant future. Do it now! Life is short!
What would you tell your 13-year- old self?
Don’t worry about what other people think and get out there on the dance-floor. I was too worried about standing out and making a tit of myself, so I stood on the sidelines of life generally for too long.
What 3 things are at the top of your to-do list?
Top of the list is taking my son on some serious mind-blowing adventures. He’s such a sponge at the moment for experiences and encounters, and I love watching him enjoying life.
I’d love to learn a language and an instrument, both of which I’ve failed to do.
Top of the actual to-do list on my desk seems to be cutting back a bush, which is a bit more mundane.
What do you think happens when we die?
We can be such wonderful creatures, so capable of astonishing mental feats and acts of beautiful love and deep kindness. I can’t bear to think that it all just comes to a sudden stop with a death and a slow rot.
Hopefully we float to paradise. I’ve seen death around the world. My father died in my arms. I wanted to sense a spirit but it just felt like an end.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
Being out in raw Nature makes me feel very connected to our planet. I like the theory that Earth is basically a living organism, and I feel it deeply when I’m out in wilderness. I’ve been very lucky to visit places like the Empty Quarter desert, the mountains of the Caucuses, the Amazon, remote areas of Asia, and in each I’ve felt touched and moved by the sheer natural wonder of our world.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
I’m stroppy and stubborn, but I can also be pretty good at compromise. In my 20s, I thought I needed to find a partner who was a perfect fit with me. Then I thought I’d settle for an 80 per cent match. Then I realised that it’s not about finding a relationship that is 100 per cent right, or 80 per cent, it’s about how you both deal with those issues that cause problems. We all have to learn to back down, change our minds, and accept we’re wrong.
What keeps you grounded?
Having a five-year- old is pretty good grounding. Also my family and friends don’t put-up with any poncery. My journeys can be incredibly exciting, upsetting, thrilling, frightening and memorable – sometimes all at once.
But when I get home I fit back pretty well into normal life. I remember coming back from travelling all around the Tropic of Cancer and the first thing I had to do, even before unpacking my bags, was rod out our blocked sewers. That was back to earth with a bump.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
Our friend Madeleine went on a little adventure to get us some pots of wood oil last week. It involved Ikea, her baby Jack, a bus trip, and a long queue. That’s a level of self-sacrifice worthy of a friendship medal.
Simon Reeve is the ambassador for the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge 2016. The winner of this year’s charity challenge will receive £10,000 for their chosen charity, as well as the opportunity to undertake a challenge alongside Simon. Find out more here: www.mountainwarehouse.com/competitions/charity
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