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We talk drinking tea in Kenya, getting lost in the desert and itch cream with four of adventure’s finest…

If you weren’t already inspired to explore the big wide world, these four professional globetrotters will have you digging out your passport..

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Legendary explorer Sir Ranulph was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles by surface means and the first to completely cross Antarctica on foot. Oh, and he climbed the summit of Mt Everest aged 65. 

Have you ever underestimated a challenge?
Yes. Forty per cent of our expeditions have actually failed over the 40 years, but bearing in mind that we’re always going for world records, that’s not surprising. Included in our ‘failures’ we’ve actually broken existing world records but not always gotten to the final goal. 

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?  
I wouldn’t go anywhere without anti-itch cream. I’ve been using it for 30 years. On big polar expeditions when you don’t wash at all for three months, it gets itchy, so you put that stuff on and it’s a relief. And you get psoriasis, you get skin allergies and so on with dirty clothes. In hot climates too, with deserts or jungles with nettles and bites; it’s very good stuff.  

What’s been the toughest challenge you’ve ever undertaken?
They’re different – finding the lost city of Ubar took eight major expeditions into the desert. Each expedition had separate sponsors, separate permits, so it was very difficult in that manner. The Transglobe Expedition had 1,900 sponsors and it took seven years to organise – seven years when we were paid nothing.Then crossing the Antarctic continent with Mike Stroud. There was nothing that we didn’t carry from day one for 1,800 miles – that was physically very difficult with gangrene and frostbite. 

 

Tom Bodkin
The director of Secret Compass, a pioneering extreme travel company, Bodkin has taken teams on remote expeditions across Afghanistan, Madagascar and Sierra Leone.  

Were you an adventurous child? 
Yes, I’d be playing in the woods, building dens, running around getting into trouble, coming back covered in mud and getting told off by my mum. I left home at 18 and travelled around the world by myself and always looked to get off the beaten track. 

How did you spend that first adventure?
I flew out to Malawi then hitch hiked through Southern Africa for a couple of months, then climbed a mountain in Malawi by myself. I then went to New Zealand and did a trail that is closed in the winter but did it anyway by myself, in the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation with no potential for help if anything went wrong.  

What’s your essential survival tip?
To develop a really good relationship with the local people you’re working with. If you do that you can normally sort yourself out in any situation. 

A travel luxury you can’t do without?
I always take an empty pillow case: you can stuff that with clothes, a towel, fold it over and you’ve a pillow to sleep on too. 

Any great mementoes you’ve taken home?
I found a reindeer skull with huge antlers in northern Finland. We managed to bring it home, with the antlers wrapped in bubble wrap!


Simon Reeve
The face of Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, Places That Don’t Exist and Indian Ocean, travel presenter Simon Reeve and his film crew have opened our eyes to cultures across the world. 

You’ve travelled the globe on the job. Where’s the most fascinating place you’ve been? 
Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, is spectacular and beautiful and upsetting and ticks your fascinating boxes. There’s lots of extraordinary things to see there, and the people are amazing – they’ve got lots of really wonderful and bizarre traditions that are great to explore and discover. I’d also go for Somaliland, in the Horn of Africa, which I’ve been to a good few times and which actually is not recognised as a country. 

What mementos have you taken home? 
I’ve been banned from bringing back much else by my wife. I’ve got an interesting collection of knives that have been given to me by soldiers in various parts of the world. I’ve collected a lot of stamps on my passport, and I’ve picked up a lot of bugs along the way. 

You’ve spent a lot of time in Africa... 
I’ve had the privilege to visit between 25 and 30 countries in Africa. They’re the sorts of places you miss when you’re not there, and for all the reasons that people talk about: the people, the wildlife, the sheer joy of sitting out on the great plains in Kenya having a cup of tea with ladies of the Masai tribe and gossiping about the world and their families. It just brings a smile to my face.

Any terrible travel experiences?
I’ve had Malaria and I’ve been held up at gunpoint. I’ve been stuck in the desert with no food and not enough water with a broken down car, thinking, ‘What the hell are we gonna do?’ 

What’s your most rewarding travel experience? 
A moment that only travel can give you is when you’re completely out of your world and your culture and you have a little taste of somebody else’s. And they welcome you and there’s no pretension, no attempt to go, ‘Look how unlucky I am compared to you’; just a warm welcome. I always thought when I was growing up that the world is a big and scary place. But it really isn’t. Almost everyone can be incredibly welcoming, although lots of people in the media get off on saying how scary it is out there – it’s actually amazing.

 

Steve Backshall
The wildlife presenter has spent his career befriending deadly animals and exploring cliffs, jungles and forests in the name of nature. 

How much of the year do you spend travelling?
Last year four months, and in 2013 I was away for 10 months.   

Would you describe yourself as a thrill seeker? 
I would describe myself as a joy seeker or as someone who tries to get the absolute most out of life. I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie; I’m not someone who thrives on fear and on danger – I get just as much wonder out of putting a moth trap out in the garden and finding species I haven’t seen before. 

Any creature left to tick off your bucket list?
Absolutely scores of them. The thing about working in wildlife is that it’s an infinite subject, there are probably two million described species in the world, there could easily be 20 million or even more. I know people who have spent their entire life focusing the fleas that live on bats and they still don’t know everything about them. There is more than you could ever know or see in a thousand lifetimes. I’ve gotten very close to the snow leopard but never seen one with my own eyes in the wild, so that I’d really love to do. And there are countless invertebrates I’d still really like to see.

What’s the most treasured stamp in your passport?
Probably Cambodia circa 1995 when I’m pretty sure I was the only non-UN foreigner in the country. It was a time when there was still a lot of conflict. The country closed to international travellers but I kind of got in on a technicality thanks to the help of someone in the UN, and I got out on the back of a motorbike across the border thanks to a couple of hundred dollars slipped in my passport and given to the passport official…

 


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