Guest Post by Nellie Huang, adventure travel blogger and author of “Explorers” talking about what it takes to be an explorer, what inspired her own adventures, and how she’s travelled around the world with her very young daughter.
Q: “Explorers” tells the stories of over fifty famous, and lesser known, pioneers and adventurers. How did you go about choosing these particular people?
I worked with the editors from DK Books to compile a list of explorers from all walks of life and different parts of the world. We wanted diversity, not just in terms of the adventurers’ field of interest but also cultural background. We also looked across generations, not just focusing on explorers from the past, but also shining a light on modern-day adventurers who are alive and continuing to push their boundaries today.
Q: Do you think they share any attributes that made them the explorers they were?
I think all great explorers have one thing in common: the urge to go beyond their boundaries. They are willing to take a step into the unknown, regardless of the danger or risk involved.
Q: Who inspired you to become an adventure travel blogger yourself?
From a young age, I had a strong urge to travel the world thanks to my parents who brought me on vacations to places like Thailand and Australia. I grew up reading lots of encyclopedias about the world. As a teenager, I spent all my free time watching travel shows like Globe Trekker on Travel Channel. In a way, I was inspired by travel show hosts, such as Ian Wright and Megan McCormick, to tell stories about travel.
Q: Of the historical figures in the book, who do you most wish you could meet?
I most wish to meet Amelia Earhart. Amelia went against all odds and dedicated much of her life to prove that women could do well in their jobs just like men. I think she paved the way for women back in those days and contributed a lot to promoting gender equality. She still continues to inspire many girls, including myself. She is also my daughter’s favorite character in the book!
Q: Have you been able to meet any of the contemporary explores you’ve written about?
I’ve never met them but I did interview some of them via email. One of my favorite interviews was with Korean mountaineer Sung Taek Hong. It was such an honor conversing with him through emails and learning all about his accomplishments. He took the time to answer my questions and even wrote a note to me this week to send his thanks for featuring him in the book.
Q: You don’t shy away from some of the negative aspects of the stories you cover, and you’ve included a chapter called “The Dark Side of Exploration” that lists some of the terrible consequences of exploration throughout history. How important do you think it is that children learn about this darker side of history?
I think it’s very important for children to learn that there are sometimes good and bad sides to the things that we do. We wanted to show children both sides of history and teach them the lessons we can learn from them.
Q: You’ve travelled to many countries accompanied by your young daughter Kaleya. How difficult has that been? Was there anywhere that turned out surprisingly easy? Is there anywhere you definitely wouldn’t go with a toddler?
We started travelling with our daughter when she was five months old and she’s learned that travel is our lifestyle. Because she started so early, she is used to flying and being on the road. It was difficult at first for sure, but we adjusted our expectations and have adapted our travel style to suit her needs. We do lots of active travel with her and we’ve found that places with nature and wildlife are the easiest for travel with kids. Kaleya especially loved our time in Iceland, Costa Rica and South Africa where she could run freely, go hiking and see lots of animals. I don’t think there’s anywhere I definitely wouldn’t go with her, but we have been to a few challenging places like Timor Lester and Haiti that I probably wouldn’t recommend others to visit with kids.
Q: You’ve made it your mission to visit every country in the world. How many countries do you have left to go, and how long do you think it will take?
At the moment, I have travelled to 138 UN countries and have 55 left to go. I’m not in a rush though and I’m slowly taking my time to explore the rest of the countries at my own pace. I want to experience each of them the way I usually do, and not just spend a night at the airport and tick it off my list. It will probably take me another five to 10 years.
Q: To end at the beginning of the book, the inspirational forward to “Explorers” is written by the extraordinary Barbary Hillary: the first African American woman to reach the North Pole, and at the age of 75! With the inspiration of someone like Barbary, still pioneering at her age, where do you hope you’ll be adventuring when you reach your eighties?
She is an incredible woman and role model! I don’t think there are specific places I want to be adventuring to in my seventies or eighties — I just hope I’ll still be in good health to be adventuring then!
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.
Explorers: Amazing Tales of the World’s Greatest Adventurers by Nellie Huang, illustrated by Jessamy Hawke ISBN: 978-0241343784 (Dorling Kindersley) £16.99
You can find more about Nellie’s travels and adventures on her blog at www.wildjunket.com