Expedition to Adventure: Oliver France

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but one day Oliver decided to go for it. He did what so many of us only dream of. He quit his job and set out on the adventure that would change his life. But for Oliver, it wasn’t just a year out on a whim. Adventure became his lifestyle and eventually his profession. Oliver started an expedition company a few years later, taking other like-minded people out to remote parts of the globe to see what the world has in store for them. Oliver was our interviewee to learn more about his life. Expedition to Adventure.

I have always had a wanderlust. I spent most of my childhood staring out of my classroom window, climbing trees, and building huts within local forests. As I grew older, my insatiable desire to explore led to me wanting to travel and embark on expeditions.

After a year abroad, I returned to the UK in 2013. I was in desperate need of some money and found a job at a kitchen manufacturer. I worked in both design and sales. It wasn’t a job that I loved or was passionate about. After two years, I decided to leave the company and re-start my adventure life. It was extremely intimidating for me. I was leaving behind a job well-paid and a company car. For me, however, I had reached a point in my life where I hated it. It took me three years before I was able to make a sustainable career out of the adventure travel industry. Leaving behind the day job remains the toughest decision I ever made but looking back, it’s also the best.

I set off to climb the mountainous spines of Asia, climbing mountains in each country until I reached Istanbul, which was my final destination. Although it was an adventurous solo winter trip, I felt that it was something I had to do. I told my fiancée, who had miraculously supported my plan, that I would be home in around six weeks. I was already eleven weeks in Uzbekistan when I arrived. After crossing the border into Uzbekistan, I was detained in a cell. My charge was trafficking drugs. Uzbeck border guards have a strong suspicion of me because there is a problem with heroin crossing the borders into Uzbekistan. After going through my laptop files, my photographs, and all the fluff in my pockets they found the prize: a dozen small cocodamol tablets. These tablets are a common item. painkillerThe UK, but an illegal drug in Uzbekistan. This was not known to me until I was collared.

Thankfully I was able to get out of my predicament in Uzbekistan and continue on my way across Asia, but it does remain one of the scariest experiences I’ve had. The unknown is what excites me. I learned one thing: despite all your planning, unexpected events can happen at any time. These events are almost always what create the best stories. If I felt intimidated by the unknown I would still be selling kitchens.

My fascination with Asia’s route was its cultural and geographical diversity. There are many things to love about it, from the frozen festivals of Tibet to the wrestling horsemen of Tajikistan to the bush meat hunters of the jungles of Laos. Each country I visited had its own personality. It is important to do extensive research before you plan an expedition to unfamiliar places. However, it is not a good idea to attempt to learn everything by yourself. You will find local knowledge or guidance from other travellers. It is important to have a plan in place to address all the risks that you might face when travelling to high-risk areas.

This is something I’ve been keen to translate into my own company and to impress upon the individuals I travel with. Another reason is that you need to be physically fit so that you are ready for anything that might happen while on the road. I enjoy keeping fit and trying out new things to keep my mind sharp. A typical week would consist of four to five circuit training sessions plus a few long runs and speed-work. There might also be some rock climbing or a walk. It takes a lot of creativity to keep fit while traveling. If I can grab some free time, it’s also a great way to get some important time to myself when I’m working with a group overseas. As an expedition leader, it is vital to be physically strong and energized. A reserve of physical stamina and strength is crucial when things get difficult or in an emergency situation. A strong head game is equally important. A budding adventurer must have the ability to keep calm in difficult situations and make big decisions in stressful situations.

Although the world is vast and there is so much adventure, much of what we hear about certain countries are negative. You are more likely in Iraq to encounter a smiling market trader or a group of friendly schoolchildren than hostility. Unfortunately, such normality doesn’t often make the headlines. I think one of the most important things to be aware of while you’re travelling, is cultural differences. Knowing how to greet people and whether to remove your shoes at the entrance will make a big difference. It is best to treat everyone you meet as a human being. To build strong human connections, we don’t have to share one common word. That is the real beauty of it. And it’ll make you a great adventurer.

To read more about Oliver’s story, click here.

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