An Interview with...Olie Hunter Smart

Olie Hunter Smart, ad man with a burning passion for adventure.  Olie has walked the length of India and travelled the Amazon, unsupported.

During our Year of Adventure, Olie explains how, by breaking an adventure down into its primary components, something that seemed unachievable becomes within reach.

This is what he had to say:

1. What are your top 3 places in the world?

Number 1 is Salsipuede in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve in Belize. We’d spent over a week trekking through tough jungle and stumbled across this beautiful wide river. We took a day off to chill out, swim in the river and to have some fun.

Second on my list would have to be Patagonia, particularly the Torres del Paine National Park. There are the most amazing mountains capped with snow.

Third on my list are the hills around Shillong in Megalaya, North East India. The hills are covered in thick forest which every now and again open out to the most spectacular view. This area is home to the root bridges created by weaving live tree roots across a gulley to form a bridge.

2. Where’s the weirdest place you’ve slept?

The weirdest was probably a government office in a small village in southern India. I turned up after a long day of walking and asked around if there was anywhere I could put my tent up.  I was told “no”, but someone said I could sleep in the government office next door!

3. What’s the one thing you wouldn't go on an adventure without?

Iodine.  It’s something we were told to bring in our jungle first aid kit because you can treat infected wounds with it, as well as water to ensure its safe to drink.

4. What would be your top tip for people who are thinking about going on their first adventure?

Planning an adventure can be overwhelming. I guess the first thing is to tell people what you're planning. Once you've announced it, it’s far harder to back out! 

You need to look at it as a project with many small components. For example, when I said I'd walk the length of India the first step for me was to buy a map and look at the route. Once that was set I looked at how I would travel, where I might stay and what I would eat and drink. Slowly but surely something that seemed unachievable was now within reach. 

But don't over plan as that's the beauty of adventures!

5. Who was your role model growing up?

I didn’t really have a role model but I did and still do look up to those who are doing some incredible journeys. Bruce Parry who I first met in Belize has done some fascinating things, particularly with tribes in the remoter parts of the world.  Ed Stafford is another that I am really impressed with. I first met him a month or so after he came back from walking the length of the Amazon River.

6. How did you get into going on adventures - what was your first adventure as a teenager?

I was part of the cubs and scouts so that was my first introduction to overnight camps.  I also completed my silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards which gave me the skills and confidence to plan my own expeditions.  

The main thing I learnt was to just get out and push yourself each time.  You’ll grow in your ability and confidence so that the next time it doesn’t seem so daunting. So for young people maybe start off by camping in the back garden, then a local park or forest. 

7. What’s your greatest achievement?

I'm a modest kind of person and believe anyone could do what I have achieved. 

When you get to the end of a big adventure, the finish line is imaginary, often made up in your head. There’s no big ceremony, no fanfare and unlikely to be anyone to celebrate with you. 

I still can't believe that I have walked and kayaked the length of the Amazon River, nor walked the length of India, but I am incredibly proud to have done both.

8. What is your favourite expedition snack?

One staple on both big expeditions has been biscuits, mainly because they are so readily available in a rural village in the remotest part of the world.  My favourites when away would be something like a Bourbon or butter cookie.

9. A question we often end up discussing on camp is…cake or cheese?

Given the answer to the last question, it has to be cake!

10. Can you nominate someone inspiring for us to interview next?

Lindsey Cole - she walked the Rabbit Proof Fence in Australia retracing the footsteps of three aborigine children who undertook the journey in 1931.  She managed to contact one of the girls from the book and had the opportunity to walk with her the last few kilometres. It was very inspiring. 


You can find out more about what Olie is up to on his website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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