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Beyond Boundaries
Navigating Life's Rapids with Pip Stewart

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I first crossed paths with Pip almost seven years ago, just ahead of her world-first Essequibo River kayak expedition. It was a conversation packed with Pip’s trademark positivity and wisdom that has stayed with me ever since. 

 

Over the years, I've watched her fight a life threatening disease, captivate audiences and embrace her biggest adventure to date: motherhood. 

 

It's with huge pride that we now welcome Pip to 360 Speakers, confident that her authentic voice and riveting tales will continue to captivate and inspire. Please enjoy this interview with a true explorer; a woman whose every word and deed embodies the spirit of adventure. 

 

Q: Pip, your upbringing played a significant role in shaping your adventurous spirit. Can you share how those early experiences influenced you?

 

A: "Family influences you profoundly, doesn't it? My Dad was in the forces and so I traveled around a lot as a kid. This lifestyle, which was particularly peripatetic, instilled a deep-seated love for adventure. My mum, who was such a strong role model, would often drive my sister and me back to England during my Dad's tours, which added to that sense of adventure. Now, if I've stayed somewhere for more than three years, I'm like, oh, hang on a minute…what’s next?”

 

Q: This brings us nicely into your early adult years. You spent time in Malaysia as a journalist before embarking on an incredible journey – a 13-month cycling expedition with your partner Charlie, all the way back to the UK. Can you share what inspired this monumental adventure?

 

A: When Charlie floated the idea of cycling around the world, my first thought was, 'No way, I'm not cut out for this.' I mean, I'm no athlete. But the more I mulled it over, the more the idea thrilled me. I wanted to be someone who embraced such adventures, to see the world not in a blur from above, but up close, at the pace of a pedal stroke. So we went for it, transforming what could have been a 13-hour flight into a 13-month journey that felt like a lifetime, packed with unforgettable experiences. That decision, driven by a thirst for adventure and slow travel, has profoundly shaped my life. It's been a lasting adventure, one that's shown me the world and shown me myself. That was the one that showed me I could. 

 

 

Q: And then came the Amazon adventure and your horrendous battle with a flesh-eating parasite. How did this experience impact you?

 

 

A: The Amazon adventure was a game-changer for me. Cycling halfway around the world filled me with a sense of 'I can do this,' but the Essequibo journey? That was a whole different level of transformative. Being remote for three months, facing daily dangers, and then battling a flesh-eating parasite upon my return really humbled me. It made me confront my ego, question my motives, and learn the value of being present in the moment. This expedition taught me so much, not just about survival, but about humility, the importance of giving credit where it's due, and the complexities of travel's impact. It's one thing to venture into the unknown with confidence, but another to navigate the fine line between confidence and arrogance. This journey, with its ups and downs, its life-threatening challenges, and its moments of sheer beauty, reshaped me. It's left me more content, more reflective. And the camaraderie? Unforgettable. Ness, Laura, Fay, our wai-wai guides, and everyone who joined us made this more than just an expedition. It was a shared journey of growth, survival, and deep connection. We're still in touch; bonds forged in the heart of the Amazon, or any extreme environment will never die.

 

Q. You’ve mentioned that this particular trip was incredibly humbling. What did you learn from your guides, that you’ve taken with you? 

 

A. On that trip, every day was a lesson in humility and survival, taught by our incredible guides. I remember asking Cemci our 'grandpa' of the group, about whether an animal was a friend or foe, and he'd say, 'Everything is a friend unless you disturb it.' That simple wisdom really stuck with me. It's not just about animals; it's a way to view the world. Our guides, like Jackson, shared invaluable knowledge, from using tree bark for cuts to surviving in the jungle. There was this moment when I got my foot stuck between a vine and a log, and a deadly snake was right beneath me. Without Jackson, that could've been the end. It made me realise how crucial their guidance was, not just for navigating the jungle but for survival itself. 

 

Every night I collected stories and highlights from the group to include in the book I was writing. The error I made was in not communicating it on social media as well.  Looking back at my Instagram feed, it was filled with just my selfies, which totally missed the mark. It wasn't just my adventure; it was ours. I learned so much from those guides. Not just about the jungle, but about teamwork, respect, and the importance of giving credit where it's due. It was a humbling experience that taught me the value of every person's role in an adventure.

 

 

Q. In another of your adventures, you took a journey across Brazil and Peru, looking at deforestation for a documentary. Can you share a moment or a story from that particular adventure that deeply moved you or changed your perspective?

 

A. On our journey through Brazil and Peru which, yes, focused on the effects of deforestation, we stumbled upon a story that truly opened my eyes. In Peru, near the proposed site for a road similar to the Trans-Amazonian highway, we met a young man working in eco-tourism, driven there by tragedy. His wife, only 26, had succumbed to mercury poisoning, a consequence of the gold mining rampant in the area. This mercury, used to extract gold, ends up in the water, contaminating the fish that local communities rely on for food. Hearing his story, seeing the raw pain in his eyes, it was a stark reminder of the real human cost behind the products we consume so thoughtlessly in the global North. It challenged me to reconsider not just what I consume, but the entire chain of impact our choices have on the planet and its people. It was a heart-wrenching realisation, a moment that profoundly changed my perspective on consumption and the importance of making conscious choices.

 

Q: Your stories resonate deeply with so many. How do you connect with your audience during your talks, and what message do you hope they take away?

 

A: I really try to tune into who's with me, finding out about their stories and making mine something they can relate to. It's not just me up there; it's a conversation, a shared experience. And with a bit of help from videos and visuals, I try to bring them right into the heart of the adventure. But beyond the adventure, it's about challenging the narratives we box ourselves into. Like, why can't an accountant also be a passionate potter, right? I hope to inspire my audience to question these self-imposed limits, to rewrite their stories, not based on others' expectations but on their own dreams and desires. We're all constantly evolving, and I want everyone to leave feeling empowered to embrace that change, to step out of their comfort zones, and to truly live the stories they dream about.

 

 

Q. What tips or approaches would you suggest for those eager to venture beyond their usual boundaries and explore adventure, without necessarily undertaking extreme challenges like multi-year quests or summiting Everest?

 

You know, after the Amazon, something as simple as staring at this incredible tree, all wrapped in vines and bursting with life, really hit home for me. It was a moment of pure wonder, not unlike watching my daughter play with stones on the beach, totally engrossed in her little adventure. It made me realise, adventures aren't just about far-flung jungles or towering peaks. They're right here, in the cracks of the pavement, in the stories of every leaf and pebble in our path. It's about tuning into the world around us, really seeing it, maybe for the first time. So, if you're looking to step out of your comfort zone, start with the wonders of your own backyard. Notice the little things, the everyday adventures. That's where the magic starts, no Everest required.

 

Q: Looking ahead, what new adventures or projects are on the horizon for you? And what themes or issues do you hope to explore through them, especially now as a new mum? 

 

A. Becoming a mum has really flipped the script on my adventures. Now, it's all about championing family adventures, showing that the spirit of exploration doesn't have to pause for parenthood. We're toying with the idea, still in the early planning stages, of walking across Britain as a family. Imagine that, a trek across the diverse landscapes of our own backyard, as a family unit. We're also keen on venturing even further afield, introducing the kids to different cultures. It's an exciting new chapter for sure.

 

Q. How has connecting with diverse cultures and communities around the world shaped your worldview and approach to life?

 

A. Traveling and meeting folks from all corners of the world has been such an eye-opener. It's taught me to look beyond what we're often fed by the media and to engage directly with people. Like, wandering through London, chatting with someone from a different culture, tasting new foods - it's all part of this rich tapestry of human experience. You quickly realise we're not that different at the core. We all seek love, connection, and happiness. And when you get down to it, having those face-to-face conversations, it's nothing like the impersonal debates we see online. We're in an era dominated by digital interactions, but there's something irreplaceable about real, human connection. It grounds you, reminds you of our shared humanity, and in a way, how small we each are in this vast world. That's humbling, but also incredibly liberating. So my take? Be curious, engage, and remember, we're more alike than we often think.

 

 

Q. And finally Pip, what legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

 

A. Shining a light on those neglected tropical diseases, and really bringing them into the conversation is hugely important to me. Beyond that, if I can inspire just one person to chase after what their heart's truly calling for, to take even the smallest step towards their dream, that'd mean the world to me. Life's about finding those rainbows, those moments of wonder and joy, no matter where you are. So, if I leave behind a trail of inspired souls, eager to embrace their own adventures and see the beauty in the everyday, then I'll have done something right.

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