Earlier this month we met with outdoor explorer, Colonel John Blashford-Snell in one of our stores and had a quick chat with him about his experiences in the wild – quite a tricky question when there’s a lot to choose from! In 1969 Blashford-Snell founded the Scientific Exploration Society, a UK-based charity that carry out an array of scientific expeditions focusing on scientific, conservation, education and community aid projects across the globe. During our conversation, John explained that outdoor adventurer Ben Fogle and European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peak were just a couple of his previous students. Others include the British ambassador in Beijing, and thousands of other young men and women who have all carried on in the world of outdoor exploration.
With this in mind, we wanted to know what advice he’d give to younger explorers out there who might be looking to start their journey in the great outdoors. “Well, the first thing I’d say is go whilst you’re young. You may not have a lot of money, but you’ve got your strength and your abilities. By the time you’ve got some money you might not have all those vital necessities such as your health and fitness – so while you’re young, go out and see the world.” John continued to say “but at the same time try to do some sort of project that helps the world.” Speaking from experience, John advised “don’t just go wandering off, ambling with no purpose. They’re a lot of organisations these days that help young people like Raleigh International and The British Exploring Society. It’s much more satisfying if you set yourself a target i.e. teaching English or teaching children how to make a boat.”
Speaking with pride, John went on to talk about a past student’s experience who went to New Guinea to inspire the young people he met there to build canoes and then started the canoe industry there. A similar project took place in Guyana where they “discovered a tribe where the young people were drifting away to the coast, probably getting into trouble with the police as they had no trade. We decided to set up an expedition to take over a grand piano (the film ‘The Grand Adventure’ was based on these events) and brought one from England into the jungle and taught the young people how to play, revitalizing their interest in music.
‘The Grand Adventure’ went worldwide and as a result of this, an American charity offered to give the tribe 2 million dollars and in return asked them to turn their territory into a protected zone, guarding it from illegal loggers and miners. The area is now the size of Wales! John reflects “and this all started with taking a grand piano out there to give these young people purpose, so I’m saying to young people today, if you’re thinking of going out somewhere, do something that’s really worthwhile and you can come back and say ‘well, not only did I have an interesting time and saw things possibly other people haven’t seen, but I left behind a real legacy that helped the people on the ground.'”
Colonel John-Blashford Snell offered some valuable advice there to young explorers who might be thinking of going on an outdoor adventure. Stay tuned for our next post where we find out John’s favourite past experiences and what he has coming up this year.