Category Interviews

The polyglot

By the time he turned 21, Benny Lewis, from Ireland, knew only English. In his intellectual armoury was a degree in electronic engineering. After graduation, in 2003, he moved to Spain. Some 10 years later, all spent on the road, Lewis is fluent in eight languages. He knows everything from Spanish and French to Mandarin, Irish, Esperanto and American Sign Language. Hundreds of thousands of keen learners read his website each month, enabling Lewis to make a full-time living off language projects. Is there a secret to success with languages? Yes there is.

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1. At 21 you knew only English. What made you decide you wanted to learn languages? 

I had moved to Spain and was getting frustrated with the limitations that only speaking English gave me, since I could only make friends with rich Spani...

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‘We still have time’

The natural world is beset with threats such as climate change and wildlife poaching, but it can be saved, says WWF chief executive Carter Roberts.

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Protecting the natural world was never going to be easy. In Africa, wildlife poachers are using increasingly sophisticated technology to hunt rhino horns and ivory; in Asia and elsewhere, tigers, gorillas, giant pandas and other species near extinction; across the world, business leaders and politicians are turning a blind eye to climate change.

For environmentalists, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) should need no introduction. The influential conservation organisation works in 100 countries and is supported by almost 5 million people...

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Fighting the good fight

The environmental activist believes organisational efforts on a worldwide basis are required to defend the earth’s remaining resources.

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Joss Garman knows a thing or two about coordinated campaigning. The activist, who works for Greenpeace UK, has become a prolific voice in Britain after involvement in demonstrations against coal-fired power stations, politicians and airlines. He has reportedly been arrested more than 20 times. Yet Garman knows results are best achieved through grouped efforts. “We won’t save the world through altruistic individual action, but through working together as a worldwide movement to transform the way our economy is powered,” he says.

Garman was born in Wales in 1985 and has already conducted a lifetime of environmental action...

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The hitchhiker

In September 2012, Sébastian Dahl, a half-Norwegian, half-French photographer, set out to hitchhike from his hometown Oslo, the Norwegian capital, to Beirut, in Lebanon. He grabbed his camera, sealed his backpack, and embarked on a three-month journey. Some 10,000 kilometres (6,370 miles) later, Sébastian could complete an exceptional photographic diary that captured the moments he experienced, the people he met, and the 112 vehicles he used to get there. He tells us about the ride.

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How did the idea come about to hitchhike from Oslo to Beirut?

First I wanted to travel around the world a few times for a year or two but then I realised that it would be more interesting to live in different places for a while...

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The underwater photographer

The oceanic world is full of surprises, and Alastair Pollock has captured them since he was 10 years old. The Sydney-based underwater photographer has produced images from some of the most exotic marine environments, such as Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, the Philippines and the Bahamas, and has featured in a range of international publications. He talks to us about what makes a good photographer, the threats to our marine ecosystems, and what it is like diving with sharks. 

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First of all, how did you get into underwater photography?

I started shooting underwater as a child with cheap disposable underwater film cameras. I managed to shoot a few sharks and a manta ray when I was around 10. Needless to say, these photos weren’t very good, but I still have them.

What is for you the most fasci...

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‘We can turn it around’

Illegal fishing and wildlife poaching have heightened in recent years, but John Scanlon, the world’s top wildlife official, believes the global community can halt the trend. 

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The wheels are already in motion. Between 3 and 14 March, delegates from 177 governments gathered in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – the leading body for preventing wildlife trade that threatens species with extinction. They joined NGOs and businesses for what were a hugely important convention – and the first since 2010.

There was plenty to discuss. The numbers for elephant- and rhino poaching in Africa have worsened in recent years, with markets in Asia driving demand through the roof...

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A wake-up call

With Africa’s rhino and elephant poaching worsening by the year, Charlie Mayhew, founder and chief executive of conservation charity Tusk, says nations must pass tougher legislation or risk losing their prized wildlife.

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In early December last year, four black rhinos were found dead at the Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya. They had been shot. The news was shocking: this was Africa’s most secure facility. Protected by 150 armed officers, it had gone from 1995, when it was founded, to 2010 without losing a single rhino. Two weeks later another discovery was made. A four-year-old calf was found dead, its body riddled with bullets.

The slaughter highlighted the increasingly brutal reality of rhino and elephant poaching that Charlie Mayhew and fellow conservationists are fighting against...

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The camel artist

Since quitting his job as a middle school teacher in Washington, D.C. in 2010 to travel West Africa, Phil Paoletta has discovered a continent at odds with that portrayed in the mainstream media. Now established in Africa running a restaurant and catering business, he talks about ‘slow travel’, western misconceptions and why he now teaches people how to draw camels.

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How did you end up in West Africa?

I had studied abroad in Ghana when I was in college and I simply wanted to go back. I originally chose Ghana to study abroad due to an obsession with highlife music. Once there, I fell in love with many other aspects of Ghanaian life and culture. Each year that I was teaching, I put a bit of money aside with the eventual goal being to take a substantial trip in West Africa...

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The storm chaser

When people are fleeing something dangerous, the man running in the opposite direction is George Kourounis. The Canadian adventurer has for 15 years explored furious tornadoes, active volcanoes, floods, blizzards, hail and lightening; often while hosting the TV series Angry Planet, whose 39 episodes were broadcast worldwide from 2006 to 2010. He tells us about getting caught in a tornado, visiting a lethal 52˚C crystal cave and getting married on the edge of an erupting volcano. 

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The first question has to be: what inspires you to do this? 

I get inspired by nature itself. I find it exciting to document things others might be frightened of or run away from. The beauty in nature is all around us and I gravitate towards the extreme end of the scale...

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‘Our greatest responsibility’

The adventurous Virgin Group chairman says mindful travelling, shared responsibility and continued research into renewable fuels and energy are key to combat climate change.  

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Sir Richard Branson is not quite like other multi-billionaire entrepreneurs. Far from living in an economic hub such as London or New York, the self-described ‘tie-loathing adventurer and thrill seeker’ resides on the secluded Necker Island, of the British Virgin Islands; that is, whenever he’s not jetting around the globe attending environmental forums and climate change initiatives...

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The permanent nomad

Derek Earl Baron has travelled continually for nearly 13 years. After leaving his US home for a post-graduation trip to south-east Asia in 1999, he has worked on cruise ships, been kidnapped and acted in a Bollywood movie – all while visiting 83 countries. He has no plans to stop just yet.

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When you first set out, could you ever have envisaged the journey you’ve had?

Never… it was never my goal to see so much of the world and I never once thought that such long-term travel would be appealing to me or even possible at all.

What made you pursue a life as a permanent nomad?  

I was celebrating the Millennium at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, just sitting on the wall of an ancient temple in the middle of the jungle, eating and drinking and dancing with 40,000 Cambodians around me...

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‘Time to send a message’

As the World Travel Market gears up for its 33rd annual event in London this November, chairman Fiona Jeffery says the travel industry needs to send out a clear message about the threats of climate change.

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It’s not hard to understand why the World Travel Market is so important. With travel operators, trade professionals, exhibitors and ministers gathering under one roof, the negotiations, trade and decisions made at this global business-to-business event will heavily shape the industry’s future. Now, amid the eurozone’s economic turmoil and the escalating climate crisis, they carry more importance than ever.

The event’s popularity increases each year and Fiona Jeffery, the World Travel Market chairman, expects its popularity to continue...

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