‘I don’t need to jump out of a plane to get the joy out of life’

Steve Backshall in a rare quiet moment away from the adventure trailSteve Backshall in a rare quiet moment away from the adventure trail
Steve Backshall in a rare quiet moment away from the adventure trail
Steve, as a wildlife enthusiast, adventurer and presenter, you’ve been everywhere! Do you have a particularly treasured stamp in your passport?

I have loads. But it would probably be Cambodia circa 1995 when I’m pretty sure I was the only non-UN foreigner in the country.

It was a time when there was still a lot of conflict going on and the country closed to international travellers but I got in on a technicality, thanks to the help of someone in the UN.

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I got out on the back of a motorbike across the border, thanks to a couple of hundred dollars slipped in my passport and given to the passport official.

I guess it was one of those pieces of travel where you feel you’ve done something under the radar.

That sounds intense...

I was only 19 at the time, but I guess back then I was less aware of my own mortality and the dangers I got myself into!

Any tips for someone on their first expedition – though perhaps a little more legit?

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I think the most important thing is not to aim too high too soon. I’ve been doing this for a living for about 20 years, and I started off learning my skills in things like the Scouts and The Duke of Edinburgh Award, and through that gained the skills I need for navigation, having the right kit and being prepared.

I learnt kayaking and climbing which have proved absolutely essential now.

I think if you try to throw yourself in too fast, too quickly, then things are going to go wrong.

So what’s worth exploring closer to home?

We have so many wonderful environments right here in the UK, you don’t have to burn tremendous amounts of carbon or spend tremendous amounts of money to explore them, and they’re just a great introduction to the world’s wild places.

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So going to the Highlands in Scotland, to Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, to Cornwall, these places have beauties that we tend to overlook or take for granted, but for me they are every bit as special as the more dramatic places we might think about around the world.

Is there a piece of kit you can’t do without when on the road?

Superglue and earplugs. Earplugs because you never know when you’re going to be waking up next to a mosque at 5am with a call to prayer – or when you might have someone in your tent who snores like a steam train!

Superglue is useful because it has a remarkable array of applications – you can use it to fix your kit, to seal up blisters, wounds, for making sutures, it’s an absolute wonder creation, and I always make sure to take some with me.

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What will you be speaking about at the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show?

I’m going to talk about a range of different expeditions to far-flung parts of the world and some of my first ascents of mountains, or going into cave chambers that have never been explored before.

So, these are the big first expeditions in some of the world’s wildest places.

Would you describe yourself as a thrill seeker?

I would describe myself as a joy-seeker, or as someone who tries to get the absolute most out of life.

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I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’m not someone who thrives on fear and on danger. I get just as much wonder out of putting a moth trap out in the garden and maybe finding a species of moth that I haven’t seen before.

I’m sitting right now looking at about eight long- tailed tits sitting on my bird feeder. There’s a fair amount of joy in that too. I don’t need to jump out of an aeroplane to get joy out of life.

Steve Backshall is speaking at The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show at ExCeL London, from February 12 to February 15. For tickets, visit http://telegraphoutdoorshow.eventgenius.co.uk

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