Explorer Mikael Strandberg

An Indie Gandolfie Interview with Mikael Strandberg

Coming with quite a recommendation, as The Explorer’s Club’s “best contemporary explorer in the world” (albeit, with a tongue-in-cheek nod to the chairman Barry Moss, coincidentally counted amongst Mikael’s closest friends), innumerable medals, awards, and honorary positions, and an impressive resume of adventures and experiences (not to mention the near misses!), I’m delighted to say that Mikael Strandberg has checked in from the furthest reaches of the Frozen Frontier of Siberia…

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I could write an introduction, but it wouldn’t be as evocative,  eloquent, or honest as Mikael’s own recounting of his life, so instead I’ll  pick the phrases that I think most summarises his incredible attitude towards life:

The real explorer is the one, who explores every moment and every day of his, or hers, life. Not only on an Expedition. An individual, who understands that joy and tragedy, are part of being a human and fully alive. You have to dare, even in every day life, to be able to live life to its fullest.

And these are not just pretty words.  Instead one gets the sense that they really are the driving force behind each of Mikael’s amazing stories from a myriad places; cycling a cumulative of over 150,000km (*not right, I have no idea where Indie got this figure, it is more like 90000 km) around the world, attempting monastic life in India, spending a year drinking blood with the Maasai, testing life as a cowboy in Patagonia, travelling on camel from Oman to the Atlantic, or finding solace and a spiritual home in Siberia, and love and fatherhood with his family.

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But whilst his achievements and successes are endless, when you go onto his website, the first thing you’ll see is his dedication to ensuring other voices are heard and other explorers are encouraged – and it was this same enthusiastic, nurturing boost that touched me when I  first approached Mikael.  Having been more than a little enamoured with this particular explorer for quite some time, I was decidedly nervous about his interview, worrying he would think my questions dull or silly. But that turned out to be absolutely unnecessary, Mikael was kind and reassuring, and had me smiling with his disarming compliments! Anyway, on to the interesting bit…

How did you become interested in exploration?

I read Jack London´s Wolfhound as a kid, and I discovered the world of books, which eventually brought me into exploration.

Modern day explorers tend to face criticism that they’re no longer able to “live” in their expeditions, instead constantly updating Twitter, Facebook, and the like, do you feel like you can remove yourself from the outside world during your expeditions?

To explore is also being updated with the modern society and today, if you want to survive on your dream, you need to stay updated with for example social media. And most of us, like me, love sharing my experiences.

It is what you update which matters.

Silly critique anyway. Life is continuously changing and one has to go with the flow. That must be British critique from people who still live in some kind of a Victorian past. Time to wake up! The world has changed!

Given how much is said about the world changing, and traditions fading, do you think the Reindeer People of Siberia you’ve been with throughout the Frozen Frontier journey will be able to endure the coming challenges?

Hard question. They´re dependent on governments to understand their need for their own land to preserve as much as possible for their ways, so on paper, it looks negative.

But I hope all these governments where we still have indigenous people, will understand that we need to offer possibilities and just rights, for them to preserve these elements which are part of who we all are, we human beings.

Both with them, and on other expeditions, do you feel that things have changed for traditional peoples to their detriment and irreversibly?

You see, we often see everything in a short perspective in the West, we are in a hurry to make a judgement, and of course there have been some enormous changes to their lives the last 300 years or so, but they´re slowly adapting, doing their best to find ways to keep some of their traditions, language and knowledge.

Their biggest problem today is that they don´t own their own land but are dominated by external interests such as mining, oil, wind mills and so on.

This is the biggest problem I believe.

Is there anything that you can’t do without whilst you’re away? Any guilty pleasures?

Nothing really. Maybe chocolate!

Do you ever go on “normal” holidays (say a beach or city break)?

Nope. I wish I could, but I have a family to support so these visits become work… unfortunately.  I would love that now!

If you could invite 5 people, from any point in history, to join you for dinner, who would they be?

Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, the present Dalai Lama, Lenin, and finally my dad who really never got to know.

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Follow Mikael’s updates on the Frozen Frontier expedition on Facebook.

For his on-the-road (-sleigh?) blog go here.

And  for more about his amazing explorations, and so many beautiful photographs (which will show you that Mikael isn’t fooling anyone with his statement that he isn’t a professional photographer!), go here.

Photos courtesy of Explorer Mikael Strandberg.

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Indie Gandolfie writes this about herself: I don’t want to live an ordinary life when there is the chance of an extraordinary one.

I am an anthropologist, traveller, and aspiring writer. Every spare second and penny goes into planning the next madcap adventure, destined to land me somewhere with just a dog-eared copy of my favourite book and my trusty backpack… and, happily, more often than not, a delightful travelling companion.

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