Leigh and Steph (GrizzlyNBear)

Today's Explorers

Leigh and Steph (GrizzlyNBear)

January 31, 2021
min read
Charles Forman
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Leigh and Steph are explmore Mantra Ambassadors.

Steph and Leigh’s thirst for exploration stems from their passion for rock climbing, mountaineering, and hiking. They started exploring more of the world in 2017, in search of challenging rock faces. Exploration which has enabled them to experience some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world.

However, it is through their international search (with their Land Rover Defender Camper, named GrizzlyNBear) that they came to realise that the true beauty of exploration comes from engaging with the people of the countries they visit. Becoming the most important part of their journey, it allows them to share their passion for travel, nature, climbing, food, cultural understanding, and new friendships.

Embracing global cultures means to them an educational experience and something that cannot be taught in schools, but only through first hand engagement. Their life changing adventure has taught them that as humans we are all the same. We may have different ways of doing things, traditions, religions, appearances and ideals, but fundamentally we are all the same.

Where are you from?

Leigh is from Australia and Steph is from France

When did you start your interest in exploration?

We were rock climbers before we were overlanders. Our passion for exploration stems from our love for climbing. Climbing takes you to the most remote and beautiful places in the world. Now we access those areas overland, taking our home with us.

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

Steph grew up in the suburbs of Paris and has a diploma in cosmetics. Leigh grew up in rural Western Australia and is a plumber.

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

We own a Land Rover. Owning a Land Rover is like an on the job mechanical course.Everything we learn is self taught. Leigh worked as a plumber, mechanical fitter and in the offshore industry for many years. These occupations helped him gain a broad range of skills that are helpful on our journey. Navigation in this day and age is easy with access to offline apps etc. We don’t use paper maps anymore.

Where have you explored so far?

Over 50 countries explored with 30 of them in our own vehicle.

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

We have driven through 30 countries starting in France and most recently in Japan.

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

Taiwan, Africa, America’s. All of these destinations are famous for incredible rock climbing.

Our climbing adventures bring with them interaction with the locals, cultural understanding and of course exposure to the wild nature of each country we visit.

Where would you recommend others visit?

Turkey for all of the above reasons and some of the most welcoming people in the world.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

Land Rover Defender 130 with a Four Wheel Camper. Diesel heating, large solar / electrical capacity upgrade, IH cooking system.

What inspires you to explore more?

The never ending quest for new rock climbing destinations and the desire to make new friends from all over the world.

How do you engage with others?

Through rock climbing and owning a Land Rover Defender we are continuously exposed to the local communities. The Land Rover community is like an extended international family. We’re also very open people and will regularly approach locals to have a chat. Being active on social media has also led to numerous meetups and events in the countries we travel.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

It’s an educational experience to learn about cultures other than your own. This broadens your horizons, opens your mind, challenges you and allows you to grow as a human being.

What are your goals when you explore?

To travel slowly and immerse ourselves in the cultures of the countries we travel whilst challenging ourselves mentally and physically with our rock climbing.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

We were involved in a head on collision with a truck in Portugal, arrested in Azerbaijan, snapped an axle in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and had our vehicle stuck in a frozen river in remote Mongolia.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

There are far too many, to single out one moment above the hundreds of incredibly special experiences we have had on this journey.

How has exploration changed you?

We see the world through different eyes than when we set out many years ago. We feel we’ve grown both mentally and physically over the years. The world is a beautiful place, full of amazing people and definitely not as scary and dangerous as the media would have us believe.

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

Keep smiling. :)

How do you explore locally?

We hike and use our vehicle.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

Embrace the opportunity to travel and engage in the world around you.

It will change everything you ever thought you knew and offer the greatest rewards imaginable to your soul.

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

You can plan and talk all you want. The real commitment is to lock in a date of departure that cannot be altered. Quit your job and rent out your house ensuring that you won’t alter your decision.

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

We have it easy these days with access to online information, navigation etc. The respect we have for explorers who were travelling the world to remote locations before the digital age is enormous.

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