10 Lessons from Two Great Adventurers

January 01, 2011 Travel

Another great thing about 2010, I got to meet two great adventurers -- Olly Steed and Skip Yowell.

As a public relations consultant, I work with great brands like Discovery Channel, Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center, and Jansport. 2010 is a particularly lucky year for me because I did not only work with these brands, I got to meet some people I turned out admiring because of their achievements as explorers.

Olly Steed is a British explorer and journalist. He hosts Discovery Channel's Solving History with Olly Steeds. He is featured in the book "Faces of Exploration," which featured other legendary names as astronaut Buzz Aldrin, conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, the first to conquer Mt. Everest Sir Edmund Hillary, and deep Sea Explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Skip Yowell is the founder of Jansport and author of the book "The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains: How JanSport Makes It Happen.”

1) Seeing from other people's eyes

As Olly said, "They will see things more differently than you. It is about owning their trust, their respect, getting them to open up to you, getting them to teach you, so you can see the world through their eyes... It is about being able to see through other people's eyes. 

As a photographer, you want the people to see through your own eyes, and sometimes you want to see through other people's eyes."

Well, even if you are not a photographer, this is a great lesson for any traveler. There's really a lot we can learn and appreciate when we see through locals' eyes.

2) Sensitivity to the community you visit

Olly relayed a story about one of his adventure travels. It was when he was filming a gunman in one of those countries from the middle east.

"I pulled up my camera to film it. The gunman didn't like being filmed so he pulled up a gun. Unfortunately, we were in a gun market, so everybody has guns. So when one person pulls up a gun, everybody pulls up a gun. Sometimes you have to ask if you can take photographs, because it can get you killed. The base of that is sensitivity to your subject and to the people you work with and some people do not like having their photo taken or may not understand what your camera is about or they may want to see your photograph."

Well, this can also happen to us if we are not careful. Sensitivity is key (and also being low profile).

3) Sharing pictures

"A good technique in taking photographs in remote locations is to travel with small polaroid cameras because you can take good photos. You can take cameras around. You can show people who may not have seen cameras before. It is incredible thing for them. What is more incredible is being able to give these people something.  You take photographs of them and you give them photographs of themselves. You can give them small things like that and that can help to enable you to enter these communities. People will be more natural, will have more respect for you, will trust you. They will relax more and the photographs you will be able to take will be better."

This is a tip shared by Olly. Unfortunately, I do not have a polaroid camera but I usually let, especially children, view their pictures from my camera. It is fun watching little children get amazed by their pictures.

4) Use natural lights

I am not really an avid photographer but I am very much interested in seeing great scenes and moments captured. I do have my trusty Lumix with me so I took note of these words from Olly.

"If you want to tell the story, the beauty, you don't wanna look kinda washed out. We want to imbibe the power, the mystery, the beauty of the landscape from people we are with, so we only shoot in the morning and in the evening, also the romantic hour and perfect time to shoot. It is also about trying to use the different light effects we have at this time. To use the natural light is to express the natural component of the story you are trying to compose."

5) Life's disappointments can lead to new ideas

One of the tents I keep is dome type and I got to meet the creator, Skip Yowell. He said that this is one of his sources of satisfaction and also the biggest mistake of his life. Why?

It happened on his cross country ski trip with a photographer from Seattle Times. He figured that the best way to get exposure for his products is to have a photographer catch them in action. It was a well-planned trip except for one thing, the weather didn't cooperate. It was called Cascade Mountain and it started to snow. They used A-frame tents and they learned that these tents could not withstand the tough conditions on the mountains. So, that was how they got the inspiration to create the dome type tents. However, they forgot to patent the design.

Well, all of us mountaineers are thankful we got the dome type tent and this life lesson.

“..be thankful when things don’t always work out as you originally planned. Oftentimes life’s disappointments and detours ultimately open doors to new ideas, innovations, and opportunities that would remain otherwise undiscovered. Try looking for a breakthrough the next time you bump into a major roadblock. And take it from me… make sure you secure the patent!”

6) For an extraordinary climb

“I’m sometimes asked what lessons I learned by participating in that extraordinary climb. While there are many insights to be pondered, at the top of my list is this: anyone can reach their dream or overcome a particular mountain in their life if they are willing to leave their comfort zone, work together with others, do their part with excellence, know their limits, stay 'on mission', and share in the rewards when appropriate. I had always known these values."

7) Climb with a team

I am a firm believer of this, and not only because I am afraid to go out there alone.

"You know what? That’s another reason why a team effort is more desirable than going solo… try picking leeches off your back by yourself!”


8) Pursue your passion

If I’ve done anything of lasting value, I hope it will have been this: that you will heed the call to explore this amazing planet and, in turn, find the hidden treasures that await your discovery; that you will love and have fun with your work - if not, that you’ll stop, change course, and pursue the passions of your soul.”

As Skip says "Life is such a grand adventure. Why waste it doing something you don’t like, right?”


“The words LISTEN and SILENT are both spelled using the same exact six letters. In order to really listen, a wise person remains silent while another is speaking." Enough said.

and finally ...

10) Ain't no mountain high enough

“Just remember, for the pioneer, life is an adventure and the path is unknown. But for those with a passion for their dreams, no mountain is too high.”

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