The intrepid adventurer, broadcaster and best-selling author shares his travel wisdom and how it feels to conquer Everest
I’ve rowed the Atlantic Ocean, crossed Antarctica on foot, run across the Sahara and traversed the Empty Quarter on camel. When my wife Marina and I had our first child eight years ago, however, I drew a line under the major expeditions. But Climbing Everest had always been a deep-rooted, burning passion. I wanted to do it to confront my own fears and to show my children, Ludo and Iona, that when you put your mind to it, anything is possible. My trek with [Olympic cyclist] Victoria Pendleton in support of the British Red Cross in May was the culmination of years of hard work and the realisation of a childhood dream. Reaching the summit is almost impossible to put into words. I can’t begin to explain how beautiful the view is. It was an other-worldly experience.
I’ve travelled extensively but I’ve always loved South America – Bolivia in particular. There is something very exciting about the Andes and Bolivia is like the country the world forgot.
A sense of stillness can also be experienced in Dorset, where I grew up – a beautiful rural area in the South West of England. It’s farming country with a dramatic coastline called the Jurassic coast that appears as if it has been frozen in time.
When travelling, I always cross my fingers when the plane takes off and lands. I’m not particularly superstitious but I’ve been doing it for years now and I don’t think I can ever stop.
Fatherhood is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me – it has given me a new perspective on travel. Now, my primary role in life is as a dad, and adventure and travel is secondary. Of course, I love taking my children away with me. They have already been to places as eclectic as Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
Tragically four years ago, my wife and I had a still-birth, and that experience made us both re-evaluate and appreciate things far more. It was a reminder that life is precious and to live life to the full in memory of this little boy who wasn’t able to experience these things himself.
I’m yet to visit Madagascar, but it’s at the top of my wish list. I can’t wait to finally get there.
A documentary charting Ben and Victoria’s Everest attempt, The Challenge: Everest, recently aired on CNN International