I was so excited to chat to Belinda Kirk, because she has transformed my life. Belinda has inspired and helped me to push and stretch myself through adventure, ever since my first Exploers Connect event in Cornwall a few years ago.
Belinda is one of life's rare special people and I really wanted all of you to meet her, so you too, can have your life transformed by adventure.
Belinda's mission is to help others live more adventurously by starting an...
Belinda’s biggest passion is helping others find their own adventures, through running Explorers Connect, Base Camp Festival and Wild Night Out, a nationwide campaign to help disadvantaged young people get outdoors.
Her lifelong obsession with adventure started when she was just a child…
Growing up on Alderney island in the English Channel, Belinda was fortunate to have the freedom to explore the World War II ruins and her own secret garden in the woods. Apparently she was so wild, that the word ‘feral’ was mostly used!
In the last two decades Belinda has led groups to most of the jungles on the planet, crossed Nicaragua coast to coast, searched for camels in the Desert of Death in China and lost rock paintings in the mountains of Lesotho, managed remote trips for Bear Grylls and Ray Mears amongst many others and more recently got a Guinness World Record for rowing around the British Isles in a row-boat!
The Guardian believe Belinda is...
So sit back with a cup of tea, or stand in a squashed train if you're unfortunate to be reading this on your commute and let yourself be inspired...
1. What inspired your to start your life of adventure?
My grandfather had been a zoologist in Africa for many years, tales of African wildlife and adventures as a kid inspired me to go to Africa on my own at 18yrs old. Before that I had been on a couple of family holidays in Europe.
I was green. A year’s travelling solo changed my life. It was tough, effortless, terrifying and joyful all at the same time. I knew that this was what ‘living’ was all about, not always easy, but always worth it.
There’s no doubt it changed my life, I came back a changed person and knew that whatever I did I had to get my adventure/travel fix as much as possible.
2. In 2010 you received a Guinness World Record for rowing around the British Isles with 4 women, how did you come up with this challenging adventure?
I’d spent years running jungle and desert expeditions and wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Being at sea, was something I’d never really done, so seemed like a good place to start.
When I heard that only one boat had successfully gotten round the UK and many others had failed, that was it, a perfect adventure — one where I really didn’t know if we would be able to do it.
Sir Richard Branson described this adventure as “Quite the most remarkable achievement carried out by any women alive today. Absolutely magnificent both for mental and physical achievement bar none”!
3. If you had to choose your most memorable moment from all of your adventures, what would it be?
I’ve been lucky to have been on at least one ‘big’ adventure every year since I was 18. It's only in the last 4yrs that I’ve been spending more time doing small regular adventures in the UK with friends and Explorer Connect members.
Once you hit your 30s I think you start to realise it’s the impact you leave, the ability to make a difference that is way more important than any ‘gongs’ or world records.
So without doubt, the adventures I look back on with the most pride are the ones that have made a difference.
My first big adventure in Africa…
Studying colobus monkeys in Tanzania and then travelling around aloneafterwards, changed my life.
The youth development expeditions…
Taking young people out into remote areas (mostly jungles and deserts) for 8–12 weeks at a time. I’d see these youngsters gain confidence, skills and a different view of the world. I’ve seen it change them like it changed me. I’m still in touch with some of them, some of them now adults with their own kids and I know for some it was life-changing.
My favourite filming expedition was definitely the first series of Beyond Boundaries for BBC...
We filmed a group of people with disabilities crossing Nicaragua. It was spectacular on so many levels.
For me personally it was life affirming to understand that people are people no matter what they look like, what their background is or in this case what particular disability they happened to have.
Everyone was pushed to their limit and everyone excelled in their own area. I’ll never forget a guy called Karl who said to me that loosing his legwas one of the best things that had ever happened to him — for him it was a wake up call, it was a turning point after which he quit his job he hated and started living the life he had always wanted to but had been too afraid to do so before his near-death experience.
The best thing though was when the series aired, is that it had a real effect on the viewers, we had bags of letters and emails from people with disabilities who had watched the show and had decided if our team had crossed Nicaragua blind, deaf, missing limbs, in wheelchairs then they could also do more than they had ever believed to, despite how their disabilities might make it so much harder for them.
And that’s really one of the ways in which I think adventurous challenges is so transformative. If you’ve never climbed a mountain, walked across a continent or learnt a new skill and then you do it, then what else might you do in the rest of your life that you’ve maybe thought is beyond you?
You gain a new and wider perspective of what is possible.
4. In the last several years you’ve become an adventure entrepreneur, what was your motivation for starting Explorers Connect?
I'm on a mission to help people have more adventures - to start an adventure revolution.
Western society has become so disconnected from nature and challengeand I think the more of us that embrace those things, the better societywe will be — and the more fun we’ll all have too.
I’ve spent 20yrs taking groups into the wilderness and I’ve seen it literally change people’s lives again and again.
So 8 years ago I set up Explorers Connect as a free hub for people to findand help each other have adventures.
Explorers Connect is about helping others do their own local, easily accessible adventures as often as possible and when ready, help them do big expeditions too.
We also run adventure weekends, holidays and courses, open to all abilities, where you can come on your own or with your friends. We make it easy for people to reconnect with the outdoors, gain outdoors skills and meet likeminded people.
5. What are your top 3 pieces of advice for women who have little experience in the outdoors, but want to start embarking on their own adventures?
Go on a big adventure or your first adventure with an organisation or person who has more experience, learn from them, then go off on your own adventures armed with that extra knowledge.
Excuses are so easy to find, so don’t even give yourself time to find them, just book a ticket, pack a bag and go. The view from the road will give you a braver perspective.
Get some outdoor skills; Navigation, first aid, kayaking skills, climbing skills etc etc. You will feel more confident and be better equipped if you know what you are doing — and you will be able to do much more than you imagine
6. What are your top 3 pieces of kit that you couldn’t go without when on an adventure?
A head torch, my Sigg water bottle (its been everywhere with me) and a good travelling companion.
I’ve travelled on my own a lot in my teens and twenties and to do it a few times is empowering, but I realise now that to share those experiences is the best thing ever, I don’t have anything to prove, now I just want to enjoy my adventures with friends.
7. What’s the one book and film that’s had the biggest impact on your life?
Living the best day ever by Henry Coetzee is a must-read, it makes you want to live.
Not sure about a film — probably Gorillas in the Mist! At 18 I went to Africa to see gorillas and chimps in the wild, still one of the best things I’ve ever done — again its about someone who lived with passion and without fear of convention.
8. Who is your wild women heroine?
Ffyona Campbell - She walked around the world 20+ years ago.
At the time I was at school and remember being so excited by the fact there was a woman out there doing big adventures. There were very few female role models in exploration.
Her achievement is one of the most significant of any living explorer and its a shame most of Britain has forgotten about her, she’s definitely a national hero.
9. What inspired you to create Britain's First National Day Of Adventure #WildNightOut?
I grew up on Alderney for several years as a young child and was so wild I was labelled ‘feral’. What a great start for any kid!
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 25/30+ most of your happiest childhood memories will be outdoors, 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.
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