Around The Fire With Ben Page
“I think anybody who goes off into wild places is really answering a call from deep within them, something which isn’t easily communicated...”
We caught up with Ben Page, multi-award winning filmmaker, adventurer and photographer from here in the UK. Covering 35,000 miles over 5 continents, he has spent the past few years journeying to some of the world’s most remote corners. Stoke the fire, open a cold one, Ben has a story to share..
Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes and means different things to everyone. We’re always looking for ways to inspire others to get out there and find their own path. What inspires you to seek adventure?
That’s a question I’ve been searching for an answer to for some time now. I think anybody who goes off into wild places is really answering a call from deep within them, something which isn’t easily communicated. But certainly there is the joy of stripping down the artifice of modern life and simplifying it all. For me that comes in the shape of human powered self-supported travel. To know that you are reliant only on the items you carry on your back (or bike) and your own wits is a really important process to go through, and I think it is something that will never stop being rewarding.
Music is a big part of our ethos and can play a big part in our adventures. Instantly taking us back to places, journeys and people we’ve met along the way. What song takes you straight back to your travels?
Anything by Jose Gonzalez, Kim Janssen or Alexi Murdoch – they have been my three go to musicians for a while now. Something about stripped back acoustic and camping in the mountains after a long day’s cycle is just beautiful…take me back!
You talk about silence in your film and the effect it can have on how you experience your surroundings. Where was the wildest place you found yourself?
Silence is a strange one, it's something that we rarely experience in modern life, and often we try and distract and distance ourselves from it. But whilst I was cycling through the Canadian Arctic the silence of the land was something that really pressed upon me. I’d never come across a place that could be so still before. On my ride around the world I had the luxury of spending time in some of the world’s more beautiful places, but rarely did I experience that level of silence again. The Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge has written some wonderful books on the impact and importance of silence which I would really recommend.
Our ethos is ‘embrace the journey’, sometimes the best adventure is with no fixed plan or destination. Was there much planning involved?
That’s a great ethos to have. Something like a bike ride is so fluid and slow and, in all honesty, relatively untaxing and low risk, that there really is no need to plan or prepare ahead of time. When I set off riding from the southern tip of South America all I knew that I wanted to do was to cycle back home – that could have either been to the nearest airport or, as it turned out, three years and five continents! There was no way that I could plan a journey of that length, and had I attempted to then I’m sure I wouldn’t have even set off in the first place since the task at hand would have felt overwhelming. So yes I think it is really important to allow yourself to be spontaneous and flexible when and where you can.
Journeys can be as much about ourselves as the lands we travel. What were you searching for?
There is a romantic idea in the west of the solo traveller, my literary diet growing up I remember was one of stories from far flung places and of people doing extraordinary things. These were the tales I naturally gravitated towards and certainly sparked my imagination. So I think my own journey as certainly dreamed up in the fire of those tales, realising that there was nothing stopping me doing what I wanted to do other than myself – it was a fairly clichéd journey of ‘ chasing your dreams’. But I’ve always enjoyed challenges and travelling alone is a fantastic challenge, there is nobody else to rely on but yourself. So as a young person (or whatever age) I don’t think there is a better way to learn about yourself and ‘grow’ as a person that to go it alone.
In one part of the film, you talk about a duality between loneliness and solitude when travelling solo. Was it the the good times or the trials and tribulations that you’d have liked to share with someone?
Yes the film is thematically centred around this duality, solitude and loneliness. I see solitude as the positive expression of being alone whilst loneliness is the negative. Both are experiences which are wonderful to share, and also really important to live through on your own. The trials and tribulations are hard, and in the moment there is little satisfaction from them, but at the same time you know that one of the reasons that we go into these wild spaces alone is to journey through these hardships. They are almost the purpose of doing it, because you just learn so much through that process. The perspective it provides you with and that can then be carried forward into the future is invaluable.
We love sharing stories from the road and hearing tales of adventure and escapism. If you could relive one moment from your adventure, what would that be?
I’ve always said that I didn’t want to cycle around the world, I wanted to see it from my tent. I find that moment after a long day in the saddle where your legs are aching and your heart is singing and you pitch your little home on a hillside overlooking a valley of nothing but beauty. That’s what has always inspired me to travel – a bike was just the means for me to get to those places. So perhaps I would go back to Peru in South America. I spent a brilliant couple of weeks riding through the Central Peruvian Andes on small tracks and paths and barely saw a soul there. It was early in my ride and I was still fairly wide-eyed and fresh faced, around each corner was another spectacular landscape that I had never seen before. I’m undoubtedly remembering it with rose tinted glasses, but it’s always better that way...