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Ed Stafford’s Two-and-a-half-Year Escape to the Amazon

Ed Stafford is many things; boring isn’t one of them.  First of all, the man walked the length of the entire Amazon River in 860 days, despite the fact that several experts told him it was impossible. Second of all, Ed knows how to tell a story.  At this week’s sold-out Escape Wednesday, Ed captivated a large audience with tales grim, gruesome, enlightening, and awe-inspiring.  I can’t wait to read his new book!

Some of the highlights from last night:

1.  On “Cuando hay, hay, cuando no hay, no hay” (If it is, it is, if it isn’t, it isn’t). This phrase was one often used by Ed’s walking partner, Cho Rivera, who joined him five months into his journey.  It conveys Cho’s zen-like attitude regarding the situation at-hand (If you’re in the middle of the rainforest without food, for example, don’t daydream about Cadbury’s chocolate bars).  Ed talked about how the expression drove him crazy, but he now appreciates the value of accepting the circumstances as a coping mechanism for dealing with them.

2.  On Self-Confidence: Humans generally base their opinions of themselves on feedback from others.  With no one around him for over two years, Ed had to reconstruct his self-image in a different way.   By learning something new or overcoming a great physical challenge, Ed built up self-confidence through internal reflection and individual accomplishment.  Awesome!

3. On Having a Mentor: To get through difficult times, Ed used to picture one of his friends from the Army whom he greatly admired and respected.  ‘If I was acting immature or being self-pitying, I would picture him telling me to shut up and get on with it,’ Ed said.  This anecdote was all the more poignant when we learned that this friend was killed by an IED in Afghanistan some time during the middle of Ed’s trek.

4. On the Challenge of Monotony:  Singing.  Keeping a journal.  Overanalysing every thought in your head a thousand times over.  These are all ways of biding time during a two and a half year trek- some more destructive than others.

5. On Facing Fear: Cho’s happy-go-lucky attitude gave Ed heaps of confidence during the trek, especially when they entered extremely dangerous areas.  It was difficult for him to be afraid with a stable, knowledgeable companion helping him get through it.  Fearlessness is contagious!

6. On Escaping the City: Ed acknowledged that the first step to ‘escaping the city’, no matter what your individual version of that may be, can be terrifying.  His strategy: ‘I tend to tell people I’m going to do something, and really commit to it in sort of a public manner.  Once I do that, I’m obliged to follow it through.’

7. On Overcoming Skepticism: Time and time again, people told Ed that his journey wasn’t possible.  During his search for funding, he was refused many times on the basis that what he was trying to do could not be done.  His perseverance paid off when he found some sponsors who ‘have a history of funding mad adventures.  I think they decided to give me money on the off-chance that I would come back alive.’

8.  On Training: According to Ed, he didn’t train too extensively for the journey.  ‘We figured that after a week of walking, we’d more or less be in shape,’ he said.  He did a few practice treks beforehand, to test his physical limits and see how he would react without much food, or under extreme physical stress.  But aside from that, he simply got his gear and set off!

9.  On Psychologically Re-adjusting: ‘I like to think of what I did as this great adventure, but when I look back at my journals, I realise I was miserable,’ Ed said.  Along the way through the Amazon, stopping in villages and interacting with people helped keep him sane.  Now that he’s back, Ed has spent lots of time writing, giving talks, and responding to media inquiries, which has allowed him to process the whole adventure.  ‘Nine months later though, I am starting to get a little bored,’ he said……

10. On What’s Next: The details are under wraps, but Ed is already planning his next adventure, scheduled to start late next year.  Best of luck, Ed!

If you missed out, don’t worry- Ed’s June book tour launched this week.  Be sure to check it out!