An Interview with Adventurer Ed Stafford
In our February 2019 Knowledge Guild, we were blown away by the stories of Ed Stafford. From moments of sheer joy and epiphany, to his most-challenging mental battles, Ed shared a whirlwind of experiences. Backstage, we got chance to catch up with him. We asked about his Amazon trek, mental health, and overcoming adversity. Enjoy!
In 2010, you became the first person to walk the full length of the Amazon River. How did that become a goal for you?
If I’m really honest, the reason that I walked the length of the Amazon was because I needed to prove something to myself. There was definitely a level of insecurity. If I look at other explorers around the world – even the really famous ones – I can see that in their eyes. There was something that I felt I needed to prove, both to myself, and to the world.
What were the biggest challenges of your trek?
The psychological side of it was hugely fascinating. I was having wars with myself all the time, dealing with life-threatening situations. I was held up at arrow point by indigenous tribes and held up at gun point by drugs traffickers. They were the times I had to fire up all senses and come alive, using every single bit of my experience and wits to get myself out of the problem.
How can your experiences of surviving adversity help us to embrace uncertainty in 2019?
Unless you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, unless you stretch outside of the sphere of what you think is possible, you start to stagnate. I’d never want to do that. It’s great to continue to be humbled. I put myself in situations where I curse myself the whole time, I say ‘why are you doing this again Stafford?’ but it’s important, isn’t it? Because each time you are humbled, each time you have to stretch in order to grow to overcome that particular problem.
Is there a link between adventure and personal growth, in a worth with increasing mental health issues?
My journeys through adventure and mental health have actually been quite parallel, and I don’t think one would exist without the other. I think when I walked the Amazon, I opened a can of worms, and being plonked on a desert island for two months without any contact with anyone and the outside world, was the greatest catalyst to self-awareness that I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s all too easy in everyday life to distract yourself with your phone, with Facebook, or chocolate, or red wine, or cigarettes – whatever your tipple might be – and therefore you don’t face head-on the core thing that maybe you need to face in your life.
And finally, what's next for you Ed?
I’ve just done a project for Channel 4, which was sleeping rough on the streets of the UK for 60 days. That’s the next thing, and it comes to screens on 13th March.
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