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November 25, 2019

TRAVEL CHANGEMAKERS: Henry Brydon, Founder ‘We Are Explorers’

Words by Travel to change the world
Changemakers
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As the founder of We Are Explorers, Henry is an adventurer on a mission to spread the power of outdoor escapades to everyday explorers.

Henry created the adventure platform and community We Are Explorers in 2014 with a simple vision to help others live more adventurously and unleash the explorer shackled within us all.

The inspiring platform encourages Australians and New Zealanders to spend more time in nature and the outdoors by producing soul smacking content as well as hosting inspiring events to create more ambassadors for our planet.

We chatted to Henry to find out what makes him tick and what drives him to be more responsible on his own travels.

What was it that inspired you to join the travel industry?

In 2010 I quit my corporate job, bought a bicycle and cycled 38,000km from my hometown in the UK (Shrewsbury) to Sydney.

I’d never ridden a bike further than the shops before that! I’ll never forget the confused and worried look my Dad gave me as I attempted to change a tire before setting off.

The 2-year adventure taught me a heck of a lot; it re-wired my brain from the inside out, showed me the magic of the world and taught me about the power of self-belief.

I’m a delusional optimist, which – as it turns out – can be a good thing.

In the end, my riding compadre Jamie and I raised $100,000 for charity, which was pretty sweet.

Since I arrived in Australia in 2012 my mission has been to turn my passion for travel and adventure into something that I could make a living out of.

Through We Are Explorers I feel I’m helping others live adventurously by squeezing more juice from life’s plump fruit. All without the need for chafing cream and lycra (unless you’re into that kind of thing of course).

Cycling through Syria

Where has been the most sustainable and/or inspiring place you have visited and why?

Bloody hell that’s a tough one. Dharavi, Mumbai is one that sticks out. As one of India’s largest slums, your mind immediately conjures up images of destitution and squalor, but that’s so far from the reality.

While there is still some work to be done in the hygiene stakes, it’s hands done one of the most enterprising communities I’ve ever stepped foot in.

Humming with industry and progression, it was a glimpse into a world that was far from ‘poor me’, but instead showcased what hard work, purpose and community can do for a group of people who don’t have a leg-up into life.

People actually choose to live in the slum rather than the outside because it’s safer, there is more work and a stronger sense of community.

What concerns you about the long term impact of travel on people, animals and the planet?

The increasing wealth, accessibility and subsequent volume of global travellers, all intent on filling their lives with new experiences, is putting immense pressure on the planet.

Everyone knows this and the effects are painfully clear to anyone who chooses to travel – overcrowding and harm to local traditions are a couple of the most notable for me.

While lots is being done to educate and change this, we’ve got a bloody long way to go, and a societal shift in the way individuals approach exploring is required.

The industry needs to continue to ask itself far tougher questions too. Demoting profit from the conversation for a moment and asking ‘How can the success of our travel businesses be modelled around the way they work in harmony with the environment?’.

Capitalism needs to be drastically re-thought so that the sharks, sheep and shrews of the world can all smile, and so can the shareholders. 

Henry & Jet in Sigiriya

Do you think travel can change the world?

Damn right it can, and it starts with the individual.

The world is a wonderful place full of even more wonderful people. Seeing it makes us better people – it broadens perspectives, develops empathy, ignites new ideas and ways of thinking, and makes the unfamiliar feel familiar. It also creates more advocates for the planet, so how can this be a bad thing?!

This is slowly extending into business world too (the BCorp movement is one such way) but we need to keep having these conversations and standing up for our values as travellers too so that we can create the change in the industry too. The lines between the two are blurring, after all.

“Travel broadens perspectives, develops empathy, ignites new ideas and ways of thinking, and makes the unfamiliar feel familiar.”

Are you seeing positive change happening in responsible and sustainable travel?

Absolutely. Seeing how social media is now being used as a force for good is incredibly exciting. Look at what Jackson Groves is doing with the Adventure Bag movement, the travellers behind BambuuBrush or the ‘Strawkling’ group in Manly.

The often devilled ‘travel influencer’ is now having notably positive impacts on the planet, and people are loving it.

We have even put our money where our mouths are too. We’re currently crowdfunding to buy a hectare of the Daintree Rainforest to save it from development, and then hand it over to National Parks and protect it forever.

These might only be small initiatives but collectively they become part of a movement that’ll have a huge impact on the earth’s future.

Indonesia

Is there a particular moment or milestone in your life, that changed your outlook on things and inspired you to want to make change?

The decision I made to quit my job and ride a bicycle across the world.

I went from working in a bank to living like a glorified hobo. A vagabond at best. I survived on $5 a day and minimalised my entire worldly possessions to a few bags that I strapped onto a two-wheeled tarmac tank. I slept in a tent or with kind locals that took me in for the night.

Every day was an entirely new experience; predictability vanished and a deep-seated excitement for life consumed me. My bum hurt and my legs ached. I was the happiest dude on earth.

Re-adapting to modern western society was a cinch after two years of living the life of an unrefined, nomadic tramp. But my life took on a new course from that moment and I haven’t looked back.

An experience like this inherently alters perspectives and I urge everyone to take some time out in their lives to ride a bicycle in an unfamiliar country, even for just a few days. You won’t regret it.

Wild Camping in Turkey

What advice would you give to people wanting to travel more responsibly?

Apart from buying a bicycle? We need to use our common sense more and make wiser choices when we travel – ditching single-use plastics, plastic straws, questioning the tours we go on and even choosing the right sunscreen is a start.

I think we should also question the amount we travel and think about exploring what is closer to home.

Microadventures are the antidote – cheap, local experiences that pack the spirit of a big adventure into epic weekends away. Scratch at the surface and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find there is to see and do within only a couple of hours of your front door. Australia is a micro adventurer’s playground. 

So before you book that next flight, maybe first think “have I really seen all there is to do in our own backyard?”

Find out more: weareexplorers.co

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your own impact by sharing your new-found knowledge. Share this link to a friend who you think would be interested or post it on your own social media.

Ultimately, it all comes down to staying curious, keeping yourself up-to-date and making yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.

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