For more than 2 years Ed walked from western Peru to eastern Brazil – locating the source of the Amazon high in the Andes and then following the entire length of this great river to where it empties in the Atlantic Ocean. What a story! Recently we had a chance to ask Ed about his adventures and this epic trek.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from.
My name is Ed Stafford. I’m an ex-British Army captain who has spent the last decade planning and running remote expeditions all over the world. My biggest trip was the world record of being the first person to walk the length of the Amazon River.
Q. In early 2007 you decided to walk the entire length of the Amazon River – ideas like this usually fall by the wayside especially in the face of extreme adversity. What kept you motivated to complete your goals during the actual walk?
If you say you are going to do something – you need to see it through to the end. That’s what my dad always instilled in me and I just think that you can’t shout about things like this, have a flashy website etc and attract sponsorship and interest and then quit when it gets tough. It would be embarrassing and unacceptable.
Q. How has your Amazon journey changed your life?
Well I am now in the fortunate position of filming TV documentaries, writing books and doing motivational talks – all of which are different arms of the career that I’ve forged out of this. Its fun to be able to make a life out of something so different and I love the freedom of not having a boss or ever having to go to “the office”.
I met my fiancé through her son reading my book and so you could say that the expedition has had a pretty massive impact on my life. I am very very lucky and grateful that I’m in such a good position now.
Q. Your writing is refreshingly detailed and does not dramatize the trip as perhaps some authors might after a journey of this magnitude – how much of the book was written based off of your journals and how much was based upon reflections after the trip?
Well my mum lost my journals after I got back so a fair chunk of the book is written from memory although when I did have the journals (after they were recovered) the chapters are more detailed. Reflective parts are just that – more reflective and written with more hindsight – but the majority of the book is very wrapped up in the struggles of the present moment in the jungle which I recorded each night when I crawled into my hammock.
Q. Did anything on your previous trips or from the military prepare you for both the mental and physical challenges that you faced in the Amazon?
I thought that the Amazon would not challenge me that much. I underestimated it massively. The isolation from other westerners (I always walked with a local) had a big impact and the book details lots about how I struggled mentally. The military is all about dealing with stress through group interaction, banter and dark humour. For my trip all these strategies were lost to me and I often had a war going on in my head as it strained to deal with monotony, loneliness and fatigue.
Q. You offer motivational speaking – what is the typical focus of these talks?
Walking the Amazon surprisingly. Its just a no-nonsense story of setting out to do something that everybody thought impossible and, bit by bit, proving them wrong. So many people told me I would die and I didn’t. It’s about the struggles, the failures, the lessons and the elation of finally getting to the Atlantic alive and well – if a bit battered and bruised. It’s light-hearted and I’m very open about all the times I messed up. There’s no whooping or motivational messages imparted as such – I let people take what they want from what I did without patronizing them like that.
Q. “Cho” was an integral part of your Amazon journey – it has been more than 2 years since you both completed the journey – tell us what he is doing now?
I’m funding him whilst he completes an English language course in Lima. He lived over here in England with my mum for a bit and played rugby for my local team. He had an amazing time and was well looked after by everyone over here. He wants to return so I’m trying to get his language to a level that he can get a place at a college in the UK.
Q. While it is going to be hard to top a 2+ year walk across the Amazon, what are some of your upcoming adventures?
He he. Can’t say – sorry. (Ed has been working on a Discovery Channel project – look for this soon!)
Q. Since you currently call London home – what are some of your favorite places to visit in the city.
I like the pubs and fish and chip shops of Waterloo, the nice restaurants of the King’s Road, and the space and beauty of Richmond Park. I’m not really a city person but I like to eat well and have a comfortable time between trips because you appreciate nice things so much more. Life is now very centered around family which is what I’ve always wanted.
– and are there any recommendations you can make for first time visitors?
Hey I’m not a big fan of the tourist sights – Big Ben, the London Eye etc. But London is architecturally beautiful so I would give myself enough time to just wander the streets and soak up the sights and smells of the city. Lots of London is still privately owned and quirky – I would avoid the more obvious destinations like Oxford St or Leicester Sq and head down smaller back streets to explore. Well I would say that wouldn’t I?…
Ed Stafford started running worldwide expeditions after retiring from the British army in 2002. He worked with the U.N. in Afghanistan to assist with the country’s first-ever presidential elections. Stafford is currently working with Discovery Channel on a new project. He lives in London.
In April 2008, Ed Stafford embarked on a journey to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. In what was supposed to be a year long journey, Stafford followed the Amazon River from its known source in the Peruvian Andes to its end off the coast of Brazil 860 days later. Visit: www.walkingtheamazon.com and www.edstafford.org and read our review of his book here.