Along with the unique adventure aspect of the journey (never been done), Johan is also raising awareness for the environment and working with additional charities. Recently we had a chance to ask Johan about both his current and prior expeditions.
Q. Tell us about your current ambitious one year project of Pole 2 Pole (www.pole2pole.net) and its main focus.
A one year project contains so many different kind of experiences. I started on the North Pole on the 6 of April and have been skiing, sailing, dog sledding and biking all the way down to Guatemala. I will now follow the route down for a couple of month until I reach Antarctica in December. It is a very intense year 😉
Q. Logistics must be a huge part of preparing for an adventure like this – an adventure that covers every latitude on the globe. How do you go about preparing and planning for an adventure of this magnitude and length?
I try to prepare for anything to might happen and everything that could not possibly happen – ’cause that will happen as well…..believe me. I always try to plan for it all but it is crazy what kind of situations accrue along the way: a shark biting in my kayak outside Africa, stones falling from the sky on Mt Everest etc. The best way to plan is to learn from other peoples mistakes.
Q. In another interview I heard you mention the “inner journey” – could you expand on what this is and discuss why it’s important for people to take the time to do this?
The real reason why people takes risks is that we grow as humans when we reach new levels and when we dare to walk outside the comfort zone, I believe that the biggest exploration is within ourselves.
Q. It is been our experience that life is more rewarding when you follow your passion – something you really love to do. What advice can you tell people who are looking to make a career change to something more personally rewarding?
The higher the mountain is, the more difficult it will be to climb it but the more beautiful the panorama will be. If you are very passionate about something and then maybe afraid to walk outside the comfort zone I can only say; it will be hard and it will be blood, sweat and tears…..but that does not mean that it’s not worth it. It is worth it just because it was hard to get there. You grow as a person.
Q. Did you have any predilection towards outdoor adventure as a child? I read that you became an adventurer after a bar-room bet – that’s certainly an interesting way to start a career! Tell us a little about that life changing bet.
When I was 15 years old I was watching someone playing the piano on the TV and I asked my mother who that was. She told me that his name was Elton John and that he played the piano. I said that I wanted to play like that and she said I need to do three things; practice, be motivated and focused. After three years I worked as a pianist and I started my exploration. You see, exploration is not necessary a geographical journey. I started to understand the importance and power of focusing. A few years later I was talking about this in the bar where I worked in Stockholm. My friends told me that I “happened” to have an ear for music….that it was mostly luck and that this couldn’t be put in a another context. I made a bet that could bike to Africa from Stockholm…..the next day…..despite my low grades in Gym class. So after 52 days and 70000 km I was in the Sahara. That is how it all started….
Q. During your climbs of the world’s seven summits – which mountain was the most physically and mentally challenging to climb for you and why?
Mount McKinley. The reason is that was my first mountain and it was harder than Everest (at that time) and even more spectacular. I had never been in the Alpes before and to see the world from a summit of a mountain was mind blowing….but very hard for me.
Q. I’m sure all of your 30 some odd expeditions have been interesting in their own way but which one really stands out and why?
I think that my Everest climb was special to me. Everything was planned in the right way and during the other expeditions I always had to fight with my own doubts and the logistics. Now I knew that I could do it and I had planned it in detail.
Q. What first led you to becoming a strong proponent and supporter of environmental awareness issues?
It pretty much speaks for itself. When you are out in the nature the whole time you see how beautiful the world is but also how fragile this planet is and that we are in charge of its future. I started to do my expedition Climate Neutral in 2002 when I heard that it was possible to climb Climate Neutral and I found an organization that helped me to solve the problems around it.
Q. Your expedition is certainly raising awareness about climate Neutrality – what is it, how can we find out more about it and how can people in their everyday lives work towards it?
The organization that I work with is called Respect Climate and they really help a lot of companies to both save money and to reduce the carbon foot prints. Today the is a formula for how this could be done. 20 years ago it was harder because we did not have enough information about the climate and our human interference.
Q. Since you were born in Stockholm and still call that city “home” (among others) when you are not traveling – what are some of your favorite activities and or sights in and around Sweden’s capital city?
My family and my home. Those are the two biggest things that I miss right now, sitting out here in the desert in Mexico. I love the archipelago and Stockholm as a city. I will always be a Swede no matter how much I fly over the world
Globally known as the environmental explorer, Johan’s most famed project to-date is his 2008 Seven Summits journey, where he reached the summits of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest, Mount McKinley and the Vinson Massif. Johan has also published a photobook titled Seven Summits – The Photobook, featuring images from his Seven Summits journey.
Johan plans each project with the purpose of sharing his experiences and observations with others. Known globally, Johan has produced news stories and reports that have been featured on globally renowned media outlets such as BBC, CNN, Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel. He was also elected Swedish President of Everest Summiteers Association (ESA) in 2007.