Levison Wood has done just about everything. He served with the British Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, has walked the length of the Nile, trekked from end to end of the Himalayas, and traversed central America on foot. He has documented his experiences in television series for the BBC and in award-winning books, and his photographs of his adventures have featured in exhibitions at the Royal Opera Arcade on Pall Mall and at Leica Mayfair. He’s an ambassador for several charities including UNICEF and the Soldiers Charity, and now he has taken up a new challenge: choosing the most inspirational entrants as a judge for the San Miguel Rich List 2017.
The list aims to celebrate individuals who are rich in experience rather than money, and with his impressive resumé it’s clear why Levison was tapped for the job of judging. Spindle managed to catch a few minutes on the phone with the explorer to discuss the task and what he’s learned from his travels so far (as one might expect from a roving adventurer, a London coffee wasn’t on the cards – he’s currently in Dubai).
What’s been your favourite thing about working with San Miguel on the Rich List?
I think my favourite part has been the event day that we did at One Marylebone, [which] was amazing, meeting so many fascinating people. That’s really what it’s about – it’s about the great characters and other people’s stories that you hear as a result and obviously with the Rich List, you know, you hear some incredible stories, from all sorts of different people. So, yeah – it’s all about hearing other people’s stories that are really an inspiration.
I’m sure! What does it mean to you for a life to be rich?
What does a rich life mean… Well, I guess it means having a passion, something that you love and enjoy, and having the courage to follow it, really – that’s what it comes down to. Because lots of people have passions, but not everyone has the guts to actually go and follow it through. A lot of the people that I was reading about are the people who made it happen.
You’ve walked the length of the Nile, from end to end of the Himalayas, and your recent documentary Walking the Americas follows your trek from Mexico to Colombia. If you could keep only a few memories from any of your trips, the moments that really stand out for you as enriching and which are valuable to you, what would they be?
Probably, on Walking the Americas, you know, Alberto [Cacero, his walking companion] was such a great guide and, as you know, a very good friend – I think all the times he made me laugh along the way, really. Those are some of the most special moments. And likewise with the other two – it’s those moments with my guides that have always been so amazing.
You’ve seen and done so many amazing things already and they’re always such big projects – how do you go about deciding on your next project?
I mean, they’ve all been ideas that have been born out of places that I’ve been fascinated by, really, and places that I think have got a great story to tell – about the history, and the current affairs – and for me it’s a place that I’ve studied in the past and wanted to go explore in more detail.
Do you have a bucket list? Is there anything left on it?
[Laughs] Well, the world’s still a very big place. You know, I’ve not explored much of South America really, so I’d love to go to Brazil… There’s lots of amazing places I’d love to visit.
You’re not only an adventurer but a writer and photographer – what advice would you give to young creatives who want to see the world and document it the way you have?
Yeah, I think it’s about having the courage to actually go and take a few risks along the way – and I don’t mean to necessarily put yourself in danger. What I mean is taking risks financially. Take the plunge! If it’s something you really enjoy, don’t worry about the money. Just go and do what you love, and hopefully the stability will come later on.
‘[Take] risks financially. Take the plunge! Just go and do what you love, and hopefully the stability will come later on.’
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on your travels?
The most valuable lesson, ooh… [Laughing] That’s a very good one! I think the most valuable lesson I’ve had is probably just having to put my faith in other people, really, and [to] trust other people. Because when you’re out in places that you might think are a bit dodgy, you know, you have to still trust people, that people are going to look after you. And I’ve been lucky because the places I’ve been – some of the most dangerous places in the world – people have tended to be very hospitable and looked after me.
That’s a great answer. Thanks so much for talking to us, Levison!
Levison Wood was speaking ahead of the San Miguel Rich List launch at Somerset House on 12th October 2017. He has helped unearth individuals who have devoted their lives to pursuing the most valuable of all things – experiences. To review the full list visit www.sanmiguel.com
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