Graeme and Laura (LOOK!)

Today's Explorers

Charles Forman
March 4, 2021
8
min read
All photos subject to copyright protection from their respect owners.

Where are you from?

Scotland

When did you start your interest in exploration?

For Graeme, his interest in exploration started with reading books with a torch under a duvet (like so many of us!). Growing up he was fortunate enough to travel far and wide with his parents and he realised his favourite part of the trips was always sitting on buses in between 'destinations'.

At the first opportunity to take a backpack and travel, Graeme hit the road always seeking out adventure.

For Laura, as a young girl she loved visiting new places and her favourite thing was meeting new people. Her desire to travel had been tamed during her early twenties as she worked different jobs and arranged ambitious trips within the parameters of these jobs. Working with Graeme inspired Laura to go off on an independent teaching and travel excursion to South East Asia.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

Together we formed a close personal bond based on shared ambitions. Initially we became colleagues working in education for young children, developing a play-based pedagogy and artistic outlook founded in creativity. We had a focus on outdoor education and inclusion. This was successful in UK schools.

Eventually...we became a couple! We had a common dream which was to combine our love for our work, love of travel and love for each other.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

Graeme has an unquenchably adventurous spirit. He considers himself to be fairly creative and will determinedly put his mind to anything - considering himself a problem solver - mechanical know-how is not his strongest suit, but he has successfully carried out various jobs on the Land Rover.

Graeme and Laura are lifelong learners and are always happy to pick up any tips they can, they consider this to be at the core of making connections when travelling.

Laura is an accomplished hill walker and children's yoga practitioner, meaning she has great stamina and flexibility. These attributes are both extremely valuable on all our explorations.Having been forced to study maps at school, Laura has come to love looking at maps from a purposeful point of view. She was surprised to find this talent and led the way!

One of the things Graeme and Laura really value is having a sense of humour when approaching an adventurous lifestyle.

Where have you explored so far?

Between us we have travelled, lived and worked in:

Australia 🇦🇺 , Austria 🇦🇹 , Belgium 🇧🇪 , Belize 🇧🇿 , China 🇨🇳 , Croatia 🇭🇷 , Denmark 🇩🇰 , Egypt 🇪🇬 , England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 , France 🇫🇷 , Germany 🇩🇪 , Greece 🇬🇷 , Guatemala 🇬🇹 , Honduras 🇭🇳 , Iceland 🇮🇸 , India 🇮🇳 , Italy 🇮🇹 , Kenya 🇰🇪 , Mauritania 🇲🇷 , Morocco 🇲🇦 , Mozambique 🇲🇿 , Netherlands 🇳🇱, Nicaragua 🇳🇮 , Poland 🇵🇱 , Portugal 🇵🇹 , Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 , Senegal 🇸🇳 , Slovenia 🇸🇮 , Spain 🇪🇸 , Switzerland 🇨🇭, Thailand 🇹🇭 , Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹 and Zimbabwe 🇿🇼 .

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

We converted our van to spend 6 weeks discovering the Hebrides - walking the dog for miles, connecting with the wildlife and going to sleep with the sound of the sea every night. We then took the van down to the south of Spain (and the dog back to her motherland). We slept under the stars and dreamt of Africa, so close.

Our ambition was to convert a huge old Mercedes truck and pursue opportunities for endless expeditions - we got our teeth into this pre-pandemic - we had to make a tricky decision to swap this idea for a Land Rover. Having the Land Rover has kept our dreams of adventure alive and we have travelled throughout Europe, now in Greece. She is quite an agile beast (yes, even a 130!).

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

  1. Africa! We shared a walk and a sandwich on our first date and the conversation was only about discovering Africa together. One day we would like to drive down and drive back up again!! 
  2. Turkey; we have only heard good things and the Turkish people we have met on our travels are ambassadors to what must be a spectacular country. 
  3. The Greek wetlands, we've had a brief trip and seen a few flamingos, that whetted our appetite.

Where would you recommend others visit?

The Hebrides and park under the lighthouses; spectacular in a hoolie.

The Black Forest in autumn.

Costa de la Luz in Spain; good waves and beaches for miles.

Greece, all of it, just wonderful.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

BamBam is a 2003 Land Rover Defender 130, TD5 - roof tent, portable solar with power pack, and camping canopy with wooden fittings in back.

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

Binoculars, waterproofs, camera, a big hammer and a butter knife (old faithful, I have fixed all sorts with this baby).

What inspires you to explore more?

We believe in making a meaningful connection and sharing stories - our worldview is that we have more in common as people than differences as societies. Humankind! We are often welcomed and this inspires us to stop and embrace new surroundings, experiences and culture.

How do you engage with others?

Sunbeams from the face (except at borders when it is a serious face)!

Top tip to any couple travelling; cooking together and sharing food with people, is a warm way forwards!

Fun and lots of laughter.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

The world can work as one in so many ways and we look to follow these pathways. Travel allows us to experience this firsthand. 

Referring to what we said earlier... 

"We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us."

Jo Cox.

This quote was brought back to me when a former pupil (he was 10 when I taught him) reached out via Instagram and coined it as "similar differences". Such a wise way of looking at the world.

What are your goals when you explore?

To make a positive contribution; whilst expecting the unexpected, remaining open minded, having fun and learning something new.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

Dirty fuel, clogging fuel filter and a rainy night spent on the A66, Penines, trying to track down a famous national recovery service... Luckily, with the dog doubling up as a hot water bottle, we were all quite comfortable.

Waiting for a part in Austria (delivery slowed by pandemic) meant we had to change plans for winter in Romania and head towards Greece - all part of the magic and adapting to Covid travel.

Catching a mud slide into a deep ditch in rural Greece - having to keep a straight face when we were told that this road was always avoided in winter... a local farmer came with a tractor and his young son guided us out within hours. We went back with presents for all the local villagers that helped and a football for the boy.

We will never forget the kindness of strangers.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Beyond human connection and the kindness of strangers, we had a moment of our joy: we ran like children chasing a pod of dolphins along the Barra coastline. Binoculars in one hand, sandwiches in the other, smiles all over our faces - lost in the moment together.

How has exploration changed you?

Optimism is absolutely key; even the hardships are good learning.

We accept and trust that plans will work out, even if they take a detour!

We have grown as individuals and as a couple. Compromise is key, living in close proximity makes that a necessity. We have both become far more adaptable and motivated.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Never give up.

How do you explore locally?

We walk for miles.

We talk for days.

We (Graeme) have a cargo bike and often one of us (Laura) sits on the front, we view the world from our happy seats!

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

To persevere.

To live.

To listen.

To learn.

To love.

Leap.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

Keep it simple, do it well. When times are really tough breathe and push on through.

What are some comparisons you can make between exploration today, compared to what you know of exploration in the past?

Travel before the internet was an endless discovery for the individuals. It is easy to feel that this sense has been lost: millions of photos, reviews and live feeds can show you many destinations - we work hard to find our own pathways and our own experiences. Often this is simple; just be! We have heard OG overlanders argue this topic to death. It is interesting; we see it as a matter of perspective... We consider stimulation and discovery through our adventures, engagement and interaction with the people we meet and places we travel as our exploration. However, we are really jealous that some of the marvellous places that were, are no longer accessible - having said this, we have sat for hours and heard wonderful stories of a past and places that is now mythical; Jochen talking of Damascus when he was a young man was a trip to listen to.

We recently spoke to someone who explained their desire to work at "the end of the road". This really resonated as we always aim for the unknown and seek our own road ends to expand our journey. This means that exploration today is easily achieved if you approach it with a positive mindset and means we get a sense of discovery and of the found when we explore. Past explorations are often rooted in geographical 'discovery'

Whilst we do have sat nav, we consider it far less fun to follow, than the map.

Meeting people through social media is a real positive, as is pulling up near a stranger who will soon be a friend!

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