I recently met with Sandy Sanderson from Extreme Expeditions, to talk about his passionate work in exploration and the possibility that I might join one of his expeditions in the next couple of years. Our relationship is synchronistic – we bumped into each other in a Manchester Airport hotel, whilst “The Island with Bear Grylls” was screened during the summer. He came over for a chat and selfie and I enjoyed the momentary celebrity and a good conversation – we have stayed in touch since.Sandy is a bit of a one-off (hence we “clicked”) and a look at his website will have you thinking either that he is a bit bonkers or totally committed to his quest (is there any difference?).
I prefer the latter view, as a fellow risk-taker and rule-breaker.
We talked about Sumatra, Nepal and the Congo amongst other places – and about the levels of deprivation that will be experienced should I decide to embark on one of his journeys.
Finally, he asked me a very good question:
Why do I want to return to an experience similar to The Island, this time with no TV status, possibly even fewer home comforts and no evacuation team 15 minutes away by speedboat in case anything really does go wrong.
In answering his question I reflect that the biggest challenges I have experienced so far in life have been:
living with heavy-drinking and emotionally unstable parents as an only child
failing my O Levels first time around
being passed over for promotion in corporate UK
Everest Base Camp
2 failed marriages
18 arduous marathons
3 failed business partnerships
The Island with Bear Grylls
and that each of these have a 2 common themes.
1. I was there and in some way engaged and responsible
2. They have been journeys inside myself
(p.s. I could populate a longer list of personal and professional triumphs – so no sympathy required)
I imagine that all humans are like onions, with layers or skins covering a hard central core that seldom sees daylight.
Sometimes those skins are very superficial – a choice of clothing, shoes, computer, home, kid’s school, watch, car – the ways in which we define the tribes that we aspire to join.
Sometimes the skins are deeper – political, religious, economic and moral beliefs, career choice, family environment.
But the core is perhaps only truly visited when all of the skins are stripped away and we are laid bare and exposed to the elements.
The moment when you are charged too little for a sale and you point out the error.
The moment when you commit a random act of kindness and prefer to remain anonymous.
The moments when you only have yourself to blame.
Warts and all – a Perfect Imperfectionist wants to be remembered as humane first and human second.
Some of my favourite times on The Island were my daily, solitary, hour-long walks along the beach; no cameras or microphones, just thinking about my life as I watched the pelicans dive, the waves crash onto silvered sand and a crimson sun settling into the Pacific.
At those times, with only nature as company, my voyage into me left me more grounded, at a deeper peace than I have ever known in my life.
An opportunity to answer the question “what matters most” and to contrast reality with an imagined future.
In the final words of “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer:
“I want to know
if you can be alone
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.”
I discovered on The Island that I did like the company I kept in those empty moments and also that I have an appetite to meet myself again.
“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”