Belinda Kirk, adventurer
In 2009 Belinda Kirk established Explorers Connect to help people live more adventurously. Belinda is a Guinness World Record holding expedition leader and has many years of expedition experience. Belinda also founded the Base Camp Festival . ). She has walked across Nicaragua, searched for camels in the Desert of Death, discovered new rock paintings in Lesotho, rowed around Britain in a rowing boat, led numerous youth development expeditions and managed remote trips worldwide (for among others Ray Mears and Bear Grylls). Belinda is a huge believer in the power of the outdoors on our mental health and happiness and tells us here that it is always the first big adventure that will change your life.
Belinda Kirk interviewWhereís home?
Bristol. The perfect place to live if you want to appreciate the benefits of a city but be able to get out quick to the countryside. Itís definitely a hub for outdoorsy adventure-minded types.
Tell us about what you do and the main idea behind it.
I am on a mission to help people have more adventures. Western society is so disconnected from nature and challenge and I think the more of us that embrace those things, the better society we will be. So eight years ago I set up Explorers Connect as a free hub for people to find and help each other have adventures. Initially it was to inspire others to go on at least one expedition or 'big adventure' in their life but now itís increasingly about helping others do more local, easily accessible adventures; after all, once you've got a taste or a re-introduction to adventure and nature you just want more! The latest development and probably the thing I'm most excited about is that we as a community at Explorers Connect are setting up the first national day of adventure in the UK to inspire everyone to get outdoors but also to raise money for a charity that helps disadvantaged kids do the same. Itís called Wild Night Out and itís on 16th July 2016.
Whatís your first ever travel memory?
Exploring Alderney. I grew up there for several years as a young child and was so wild I was called feral. I would ride my bike all day to explore every corner of the island, build dens, have secret gardens, climb trees, catch fish etc. To have such freedom as a child was a blessing and is probably the reason I'm so passionate about helping kids - and everyone else - get outdoors now. Think back to your own childhood..... if you're 30+ most of your happiest memories will be outside, that says something doesn't it? But what about today's kids, what will their memories be? As a society I think we need to help make adventure; the outdoors; nature, more accessible for them.
Describe yourself in three words?
Idealistic, optimistic, adventurous
What inspired you to start traveling?
I believe that if more of us spent more time outside, reconnecting with nature and taking more challenges that many of our social problems would be alleviated. The links between our sedentary, isolated, monotonous, urban lifestyles and our physical, psychological and social problems is so strong. I believe we can build a society that is more connected to the planet and each other. I don't want to sound like some kind of unrealistic hippy! Ok I am a bit of a hippy but as a scientist by background, this is based on a huge amount of data, a huge amount of cold hard fact. For most of us in the western world, getting outside more often will improve our lives.
Whatís been the biggest challenge youíve faced?
Rowing around Britain non-stop and unsupported for 52 days. Ironically I'd spent my whole adult life searching for adventure anywhere but in the UK, but my hardest challenge has been right here along our coasts.
Whereís the best place youíve woken up?
In the mountains in Lesotho. I was leading a group searching for undiscovered rock paintings. We'd had weeks of hot sun but that morning we woke up to a blanket of snow. I love the mountains for that, you never know what weather will come.
Is there one person youíve met who you feel you were so lucky to connect with?
My partner is an artist. He lives on his passion. He gave me the inspiration to stop worrying about pensions, mortgages conforming, and to strike out and follow what I believe. That's when I set up Explorers Connect to make a difference in the world; around something I have passion for.
Has anyone ever told you that you wonít make it?
Yes I was told I wouldn't be an explorer as a child. Thankfully I didn't listen to them.
Tell us about a time when you felt like walking away from an adventure?
What keeps you going if you ever feel like giving up?
Knowing that someone somewhere is always worse off than you. Count your blessings and know that the best things in life come at a cost. I don't believe in luck I believe in hard work and determination.
What are you most proud of?
Making a difference
Whatís your happiest travel memory?
My first expedition at 18 years old. I studied monkeys with an organisation in the monsoonal forests of Tanzania then travelled on my own around East and Southern Africa for nearly a year. Your first big adventure is always the one that will change your life.
Whatís always in your bag Ė no matter what adventure youíre on?
A camera, I have a rubbish memory so my photos are the thing I'd run into a burning house for!
What do you still dream of doing that you havenít yet done?
Swimming the channel, diving in the Galapagos and searching unexplored parts of West Papua (West Papua is next hopefully in October).
Where would you like to be right now?
Somewhere wild - and warmer than Britain!
Where was the last trip you took and why did you decide to go there?
Skiing with Explorers Connect. These are my favourite trips, the perfect mix of outdoor adventure and social.
What does responsible tourism mean to you?
Respecting the cultures and environment you are visiting.
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