Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Interview Tuesday: Louis-Philippe Loncke

We start March (the blog's third full month) with an incredible interview with Belgian Adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke; a man I was lucky enough to meet, and join for a drink, at Adventure Travel Live in January. Louis is impressively making his way in the adventure world having embarked on several extremely impressive adventures across the globe - he now talks about them and is planning bigger and better expeditions for the future, he is also a member of the Explorers Club. Please read the following interview to find out more and make sure to visit the links for further interesting reading and information!

1) How did you get in to long distance trekking and being an adventurer?

It started with a hike with a friend in Ireland back in 2004, he used the “Lonely Planet Walking in Ireland”. A few months later I was on a 1 year travel journey around Oceania. I bought the “Lonely Planet Walking in Australia” and started to hike all around the country adding up experience to nearly 2000km including hikes in New Zealand. At the end I was so trained that I managed to cut in half the recommended times to cover a hike distance. I saw 2 films that triggered something unknown in me the same year: “Touching the Void” & “Alone across Australia”. It triggered the envy to do the first unsupported traverse of the West MacDonnell National Park in the Australian Outback Mountains. Most of the trek was following the larapinta trail but 1/3 of the distance was completely remote so this was my first adventure and also expedition as it involved a lot of planning to make what locals considered impossible.

2) Will you always travel on your adventures alone? Do you like the solitude?

I like to do solo treks but I want to do more with people and yes I do like the solitude for what it brings. I guess with time, I’ll do less solo expeditions. Having done all extreme treks alone is not always by choice, the treks are often very dangerous and not everyone wants to take the risks I’m taking. I just try to minimize the maximum risk of being alone and completely in autonomy. I call it fully unsupported. I consider I’m the only human in the area I’m crossing so no help at all.

3) I'm lucky enough to be going to Iceland next year for a field trip, you completed your journey across it this summer; what made you choose Iceland and what was it like?

I choose every trip based on where I want to go the same way everyone chooses its next holiday except that it’s not a holiday and it take several years to prepare. Reason why I prepare several expeditions at the same time, once one is nearly ready I focus only on it and just go.

4) What has been your toughest and most demanding challenge to date?

The Simpson desert trek was very challenging and a lot of creativity and logistics was required to make this world first expedition. But the hardest and the most dangerous was the Tasmania’s wilderness traverse in 2006/2007. Looking back, it was rather insane. Just figure out a 300km trek through inextricable forest and climb 15 peaks underway without resupplying. I had 40 days of food in my backpack and the trip lasted 49 days, I escaped deaths numerous times. I got lucky to be able to save my life during the last 2 weeks where I had no GPS, no communications systems, an infected leg and 16km to cover. I looked like the actor at the end of the movie Into the Wild. Today, this trip helps me to motivate my mental skills in difficult situations.

5) What big adventures or treks have you got planned for the future?

There’s one expedition I’m preparing for almost 10 years, I’m just not ready for it as it will include a huge budget and a lot of skills I don’t have yet. The next challenge is a kayak trip around Belgium on the waterways. In January 2012 I want to make my first attempt to cross Iceland in the winter. It’s the Iceland trek winter expedition. I still have a list of about 15 expeditions planned on a variety of terrains including mountains, rivers, oceans, deserts, poles, flying and underwater. In the near future I’ll reshape my old website to reflect this and will call brand myself the versatile explorer. I’m also working on a new adventure company. I hope to be ready in 2012 with the first part of the website.

6) If you could take on any challenge, what would it be?

I’m not finished with Australia, there are still a lot of expeditions to be done there. I’d like for instance to push the limit of insanity further in Tasmania and attempt a winter North-South traverse. There’s also in my opinion one of the hardest trek remaining as first and that would be a solo crossing of Australia from West to East, from Exmouth to Byron Bay. By foot and fully unsupported. I’m wondering who will make the first attempt, trust me it’s not going to be me.

7) What other hobbies do you have when not on your expeditions?

I have currently a day job and hope to be able to be paid for what I’m doing in the coming years. So everything I do is related to adventure and expeditions. Of course I try to go out a few times a year, visit friends or go art exhibitions. I’d like to paint again and read books. Catching up with my Russian evening classes would be a bonus. I also volunteer for the young NGO Art in All of us for the past 5 years as I adhere 100% to its mission and the developing program they have using art.

8) Lastly, What would you say to someone keen on taking their own adventures, have you got any advice on starting up?

Nowadays it’s easy to travel, cheaper and safer. In my opinion, adventure is about getting out the comfort zone, thus taking a certain amount of risks. Adventure can be short and extreme or last multiple months or years. There are heaps of new trips to do, adventure is certainly not dead. So my advice for a starter would be not to go for the obvious “overcrowded” adventures like going to the poles or to the Everest. Look at Ed Stafford’s expedition going down the Amazon walking for over 2 years. It not a record type expedition, it’s about doing something new. Because it’s new, long and such a great idea for a new adventure, I put him in the same league as Mike Horn or Australian Jon Muir. He’s my pick for the adventurer of the year.

My second advice would be to start small and build up experience to be able to show you’ve done something before. In the past years, I’ve seen many newbies announcing breakthrough expeditions with a beautiful website then doing nothing at all. This new generation is inspired by us but do believe they just need to announce a world first to get paid or get sponsors. Although this has been working for a few ones, it doesn’t work like this. One should build trust towards the media and the sponsors. Being an adventurer or explorer is a hard job. You have to put a lot of effort in it.

The best example I know of is a guy who in 2006 launched a website for a human powered trek around the world (a bit like Jason Lewis). His trip was supposed to start in 2007 and last 7 years. He delayed many times as he said he was a perfectionist in his preparations. In 2009 he finally mentioned he’ll leave on 12 FEB 2011 full stop. His website is gone for over a year and we haven’t heard from him. You can’t be a perfectionist in adventure, it’s the purpose of adventure to throw difficulties at you. Adventure is about going and finding solutions to the surprises & challenges to keep going and for this you have to go! And to go you need motivations of previous trips to feel some success of accomplishments. In one word, to convince other you need to be convinced yourself. Unfortunately, I think he will not fulfill his dream trip.

Thanks to Louis-Philippe Loncke for an interesting interview. Please check out Louis' blog at http://louphi.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lonckelph. I'm sure you'll all agree that Louis-Philippe is an adventurer to keep an eye on in the future; I hope he can inspire all to get out there and take their own adventures. 

If you would like to be interviewed then please do get in contact! Enjoy!

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