My Perfect Adventure
If there were a prize for the world’s most bizarre resume, British adventurer Bear Grylls might take the cake. As the star of Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, a survival show that had him battling some of nature’s roughest environments, Grylls can proudly list past work experiences such as sleeping inside a dead camel for warmth; fashioning a toboggan out of a yak he skinned; spending a night up a tree with ants, bees and orangutans; drinking his own urine to stay hydrated; and swimming in a river with nearby alligators. And that’s just getting started.
Grylls was raised an adventurer. He learned to mountain climb when he was eight years old and reached the top of Everest when he was 23, one of the youngest Britons ever to do so. (That feat came less than two years after breaking his back in a parachuting accident while serving with the British Army.) And although the 38-year-old has stopped filming new episodes for Man vs. Wild, he’s still keeping plenty busy, with a new TV series, Get Out Alive, for NBC and a new film in the works. Other job duties include promoting his autobiography and his Survival Guide for Life, set for release in the United States next spring; leading the U.K.’s Scout Association after taking over as the youngest ever Chief Scout; and developing his gear and clothing lines, iPhone apps, and even a survival training school.
Here the adrenaline junkie tells us about a naked swim in Siberia that was almost too much to handle, his initial apprehension about entering the world of television, and his recovery from a broken back to climb the world’s tallest mountain.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
I’d spend the day on our little Welsh island hideaway; it’s about 20 acres, a few miles offshore into the Irish Sea, surrounded by amazing mountain views, our islands sea cliffs, seals and frequent dolphin visitor friends. The island has great caves that my three boys love to have me take them exploring in. The day would consist of a workout to start, hill runs up to the lighthouse and pull-ups on the scaffolding bars over the big cave, and then the rest of the day would be a mix of swimming, climbing and maybe a paraglide off the top, too. This would all be nicely intermixed with a barbeque and a sun snooze in the heather!. There’d be sun downer wine on the cliff tops with Shara, my wife, before bed (I’d probably be exhausted). Days never quite work out like this, but that’s my ideal—you did ask!
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
The Antarctic Peninsula in a rib. I’ve lead a team to the Antarctic mainland but never to the peninsula, which sounds amazing, with the many islands, coves, mountains, and penguins. The Nordenskjold coast is riddled with these islands and many unclimbed peaks, which are all ripe for adventure, from paragliding and first ascents to epic kayak crossings.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
Siberia in winter—the conditions there force cultures to work together or die, and that brings with it a special understanding of wilderness. I was there a few years ago to film several episodes of Man vs. Wild, and in the winter it proved to be a tough wilderness. It was rarely warmer than -35 degrees, so cold that pee freezes almost as it hits the ice. I remember having to swim naked across this river one day (naked, so I could keep my clothes dry in my pack) and I almost didn’t make it out the other side. There’s a haunting silence to the place, and the scale of the infamous Taiga forest is incredible, with vast, snow-covered dense trees and epic mountains. It’s humbling place to survive.
If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
Roger Federer, who I admire hugely for the way he lives and plays. He has proven to be the greatest player ever to live, yet he values home, his family, and his privacy hugely. Whenever we’ve hung out, he’s always fun to be with and is the first to laugh at himself, which in my mind is the true mark of a champion in life and not just sport.
What's something you can't travel without? And why do you need it?
A sense of humor for when “stuff” happens.