When Tom Avery was a boy, he used to climb the bookshelves and trees that populated his England home. Now, he’s conquering unnamed mountains in the Himalayas that no one has ever climbed before.
“It really is like going back to the Victorian era and exploring these places for the very first time,” he said on the phone from his London home. “There are tracks of forest that are waiting to be mapped and rivers waiting to be kayaked and navigated for the first time.”
Avery, 33, is a professional explorer. Since his teenaged years, he’s visited more than 50 countries, completing expeditions in places like the Andes, the Alps, New Zealand, South America, East Africa, Central Asia and the South Pole. In his new book, To the End of the Earth, Avery details his 2005 journey to the North Pole, which made him just the 41st person to reach both Poles.
While travelling the world for a living may sound like an exciting career, Avery said those stricken with such wanderlust as him must be aware of and comfortable with the potential for danger on trips like his North Pole one.
“As soon as you step foot on the Arctic Ocean, the place is basically trying to kill you,” he said. Not only did he have to deal with climactic perils like freezing open waters and 60 foot-high walls of ice, but also with bitterly cold North Pole temperatures.
“You Canadians are used to the cold, far more than us Brits. But let me tell you, -45 C takes some getting used to.”
You’ve also got to be used to finding the money to fund expeditions. “It’s not all glamorous snow and ice,” said Avery. “I’ve also got to be back here in the U.K. because that’s the only time I get to earn a living.” Surely Avery’s former job as an accountant gives him a fundraising advantage, but he uses channels like giving lectures to business and schools, writing books and working with sponsors to support exploration’s financial needs.
But, if pennilessness prevents you from gallivanting overseas, don’t despair. Avery himself said he is envious of just how much of the great outdoors Canada has to offer.
“Canadians are so lucky because you have untamed wilderness in your backyard. There are so many courses available. It doesn’t have to be dog sledding to the North Pole. With kayaking, hill walking (and) mountaineering, there’s so much to do!”