Adventure By Accident

My name is Justin Miles - aka @ExplorerJust - and I am what you may call a ‘professional explorer’. Actually, I don’t really care what job title I’m given; I get to go to the most amazing places on Earth, do some interesting stuff when I get there and meet the most awesome and inspiring people along the way.

I was born and brought up in Devon, England, which was a perfect ‘petri-dish’ for a budding young adventurer. Easy access to woods and forests, farmland, moors, the coast, rivers, streams and lakes and all of the activities that you may associate with them provided plenty of opportunity to develop the interests, skills and knowledge that I’ve come to rely on in later life.

My interest and passion for the outdoors and adventure grew and evolved over time however, as with most of us ‘growing up’, I settled in to adult life with a house, a mortgage and a wife. My adventurous activities became relegated to evenings, weekends and extended vacations but then, at the age of twenty-six, the most amazing thing happened.

I was involved in a car accident. The car accident resulted in brain injuries and the brain injuries left me having to relearn absolutely everything all over again; basic functional movements, from walking and talking to feeding myself. My body, my entire life, was in ruins.

My mind worked. I was capable of conscious thought, albeit slowly and often more than a little confused, and I knew what movements I wanted to make but there was a ‘disconnect’ between mind and body. Unable to gain or maintain control over my movements, I was a prisoner inside my own skin.

Although my body was unable to wander, my mind certainly did. I recollected the memories from my childhood, youth and younger years and wondered at my earlier dreams and aspirations to become a ‘real-life’ explorer.

The more I remembered, the more I dreamed, the more I wanted it to happen. I wanted to tour the world, to challenge myself in some of the toughest environments on Earth, to experience cultures different to my own and to use my experiences to help other people to achieve whatever they wanted to achieve.

But I was trapped in a body that didn’t work, being shuffled through a monotonous cycle from a bed to a chair and back again.

I decided that I could do it. That when I recovered, not ‘if’ I recovered, I would become a professional adventurer and do all of the things that at that moment I could only dream of. My dream became my objective and with my objective set in stone - I was absolutely resolute in my determination. I developed goals to give me anchors for progression, direction and motivation, and then embarked on a physically and emotionally challenging journey to turn my dream into reality.

Now I’m roughly ‘living the dream’. My adventures, challenges and expeditions have taken me all over the globe, through desert, jungle, mountain and polar regions, as well as urban landscapes and aquatic environments. I’ve done some pretty cool stuff which gives me more than a tale or two to share; paddleboarding up the coast of Greenland; suffering a catastrophic hernia (proper ‘guts hanging out’ stuff!) whilst exploring a new route to the North Pole; experiencing baking days and freezing nights in deserts and the seemingly constant damp of a rain forest; the joy of living with remote indigenous populations, and the stomach-churning experience of being tossed around on the relentless waves of the North Atlantic Ocean for days on end.

My other passion is education. Education is more than just important: it’s essential. Education is the key to eradicating poverty, famine and disease; the key to global financial stability and the key to how we, as a species, learn to live in harmony with each other and every other living thing on the planet. Everything that I do, all of my experiences, are used to support education in some way.

One aspect of my work in education is within countries and regions with developed education structures. I use various technology platforms and partners to bring the world to life in classrooms everywhere and using those platforms, my last adventure was viewed and followed by an estimated 2.5 million teachers globally. As an ambassador and advocate for universal education provision (Sustainable Development Goal G4), the other aspect of my work involves raising awareness of, and breaking down barriers to education to give every child everywhere, the opportunity to go to school.

My first book, the ‘Ultimate Explorers Guide for Kids’ was released in 2015 and was followed in 2016 with the release of the ‘Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids’. My intention was, through these books, to encourage children and their families to get active outdoors but what actually happened I hadn’t expected.

Both books won approval from the international education community so they’re now used in classrooms around the world as a resource to support learning in a whole range of subjects, from geography to maths, languages, history, science and more. I was at the Edinburgh International Book Festival when my publishers took me out for dinner and informed me that, just a week or two after release, the government of Chile had purchased 5,000 copies of one of the books to use as a resource in schools across the country. It’s quite odd but very humbling when you receive emails with photographs of your book, printed in the appropriate language, being used in classrooms as far afield as the US, Canada, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, South Africa, the Ukraine, Japan and China!

In between all of that I still have to find a way to ‘pay the bills’. All of my education work carries no fee; I make no money from it. I believe that ‘education’ should present a level playing field where every child has the opportunity to succeed no matter where they come from and what they have or haven’t got. That’s why everything that I do and create is entirely free for schools to access. My personal income is derived from writing, motivational speaking and working as a consultant in the field of organisational behavior, focusing on improving the efficiency of human resources.

Having the right kit, or ‘equipment’ for each environment and scenario is important and as you can no doubt imagine, I have a lot of kit. When I say ‘a lot’, I actually mean ‘A LOT!’. I’ve got clothes, rucksacks, footwear, hats, gloves and socks for almost any occasion in any environment or climate on Earth, but, no matter where I’m travelling in the world, no matter what I’m doing, there’s one jacket that I always reach for before leaving the house and that’s my trusty Rohan.

Its simple design has proven itself through the course of time, more than a decade, travelling with me and becoming a part of the story of so many of my expeditions and adventures.

My life is pretty cool most of the time, but it appears ‘way cooler’ on social media and in the press where time and space are compressed which gives the impression of a life constantly revolving through various exciting travels and thrilling adventures, but the reality is a little different. The reality is hours, weeks, months or even years of research and planning combined with hour upon hour of relentless gut-busting, intense physical training, knowledge and skills development and hundreds of conversations and meetings to develop the sponsorship agreements to bring my expeditions and education work to life. Failures and successes. Heartbreak and happiness.

Would I change it? Absolutely not!

A final quote from me. A few lines of thought for you to peruse and pursue.

“Play with your interests and discover your passions. Pursue your passions and discover your purpose.”

Find out more about Justin and follow his tales of adventure on Twitter.

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