On the 9th August 2010, Ed Stafford walked into the Guinness Book of Records after becoming the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River. Sir Ranulph Fiennes described his expedition as being “truly extraordinary… in the top league of expeditions past and present.” He was European Adventurer of the Year 2011. Ed Stafford filmed and blogged his deadly journey and engaged followers all over the world for two and a half years. His epic adventure made headline news, featuring in over 900 articles and on every major news channel in the UK and United States. Ed’s footage was made into a Discovery Channel documentary and was sold to over 100 countries. His book, Walking the Amazon, has been translated into Mandarin, Ukranian, Polish and Spanish as well as being sold to the USA. In 2012, the Discovery Channel filmed a three-part survival experiment where Ed Stafford was dropped on the uninhabited tropical island of Olorua in the Pacific for 60 days with no food or equipment to help him survive, the show was called Ed Stafford: Naked and Marooned. Ed Stafford is now an established face of Discovery Channel and has his own self-filmed series Marooned with Ed Stafford that is a joint Europe and US Discovery Channel commission. The series was followed up by Ed Stafford: Into The Unknown and his most recent series, Left For Dead. I’m a big fan of Ed’s work and have seen all of his work. I find him to be hugely inspirational. Please enjoy my interview with the amazing, Ed Stafford.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Explorer turned entertainer.
I’m currently reading The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sissons.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
My earliest reading memory is reading The Rats by James Herbert at the age of 11 and being very interested in the naughty bits.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle. I don’t think it’s very well written but if everyone lived by it, the world’s problems would evaporate overnight.
Can you remember the first non-fiction book you read and loved?
Learnabout Camping by David Harwood. It had amazing drawings of people digging ridiculous moats around tents. I loved it and read it under the duvet every night.
Out of all the crazy places you’ve been, which has been your toughest to survive/thrive in?
Western Australia. It was dry season and food was scarce. The Aboriginal community had given me permission to enter what was to them a sacred area. The problem, I think, was that I wasn’t psychologically prepared. I panicked and got frustrated and therefore didn’t have any success or even see a single animal in ten days. It was grim, and my feet got so cut up I could hardly walk.
Aboriginal Australians have taught me a lot over the years. Before I spent 60 days alone on an uninhabited island they warned me of the dangers of being caught up in my mind. The word they use for the mind is ‘Ngan Duppurru’ which is the same word that they would use for a fishing net that is tangled beyond repair (or “f*****” as they would now say). They advised I needed to tap into a deeper part of me (my largest and wisest brain being my gut and my instincts) if I was to stay sane and that if I allowed my thoughts to run riot I would go mad. “Isolation” they would say, “can f*** you up.”
What two pieces of advice would you give someone looking to go on an adventure?
The old Boy Scout motto still holds true: “Be prepared.” And the second piece of advice would be not to listen to the many who will tell you that you will fail or that it’s too dangerous. Trust your own gut – and do it.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Not at all. I have a five-month-old baby, two Newfoundland puppies, and a TV career!
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
I’ve read The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle about 15 times. I think not being present is the biggest sickness of our generation. Most illnesses, it could be argued, come because of some form of stress. What is stress? Wanting things to be different in some way to what they are. Therefore, to accept the state of play, to surrender to the ‘now’ and not wish the moment away is to be happy, content, and at peace in the present.
I’ve read it 15 times because it’s more important than anything else. If I’m not present, I’m not truly with my family or friends. If I’m distracted, I’m not giving my best when filming. I use this book as a bit of a reminder of when to bring me back to the present.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. As an ex-military traveller, it’s an epic tale of immersion in a new world. It’s fascinating in its focus on re-building a life in completely different circumstances.
Who would you say are the three explorers/adventurers who inspire you?
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Ernest Shackleton and Colonel Percy Fawcett.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
My favourite genre is self-development.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
I’ll read anything by Mark Sissons (see Mark Sisson’s reading list here), Dave Asprey.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. There is a place for both. But I read everything now on my iPhone Kindle app.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. To be immersed in a world of magic and adventure believing you could be a ‘seeker of truth’ was my template for life. I’m not being facetious either.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody is perhaps the funniest and most helpful read ever to someone who has grown up with severe developmental immaturity.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’m fascinated by diet and health and will read anything that discusses adapting to fuelling your body predominantly with fat rather than carbs. I’d like to read more about Aboriginal song lines too.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?