With Easter holidays coming up and the promise of nice weather and playing outside we were very excited when the author of the brilliant Ultimate Explorer Guide for Kids agreed to write a special piece about why he wanted to write this book.
My childhood was awesome! I grew up in Devon with its beautiful moors, woods, rivers and coastline as my playground and I never wasted an opportunity to go out and have fun.
My younger brother and I would be out from sunrise until sunset and often longer, coming home covered in mud, sometimes soaking wet with torn and worn clothes and usually sporting some pretty impressive cuts and bruises.
It was a fantastic way to start a young life. It was healthy, I was constantly active and without even realising it I was learning a huge amount about the world and the natural environment from what weather patterns and which clouds meant “time to go home before we get wet” to what animals lived where.
I played at reading and making maps. I learned about using a compass, how to find my way without a compass (no, GPS wasn’t invented when I was a kid!), how to light a fire, how to make water safe to drink, how to build a shelter and much, much more.
Those early escapades sparked my passion for the outdoor world and the natural environment and inspired a life of adventure.
In March 1999 I was still enjoying outdoor life, but as a ‘grown-up’ my outdoor activities were curtailed to days off and a few weeks holiday a year. I was working hard and investing every second in developing my career when, suddenly, my career, in fact my whole life as I knew it, came to a very abrupt halt.
I was involved in a car accident and the car accident resulted in brain injuries and the brain injuries left me unable to walk or talk properly. At the age of 26, I was about as physically able, or even less so, as an average two year old!
In the early stages of my recovery I couldn’t do an awful lot. Fatigue was a huge problem and my very short bursts of activity – if you can call them ‘bursts’ – were interspersed with long periods of inactivity. I couldn’t focus my attention well enough to read, so if I wasn’t asleep I’d spend most of my time slumped awkwardly in a chair watching television.
It was 1999 so there were only four television channels and, being in Devon, one of those channels was very flaky and there is only so much daytime TV that anyone can watch, brain damaged or not. My mind would frequently drift away from whatever programme was on the box, partly through boredom and largely through not being able to concentrate and absorb what I was watching and I began to explore the corners of my own mind. I would re-live childhood memories and dreams and use them as a foundation to build new dreams and new ideas.
From the window in the living room, in the distance I could see the woods where my brother and I played as children. The memories of our adventures came flooding back; exploring caves (shhh… don’t tell our parents!), lighting fires (shhh… don’t tell our parents!), climbing rocks (shhh… don’t tell our parents!) building dens, making rafts, fishing, filtering water… and then I had the craziest of crazy ideas.
I decided that I wanted to be an explorer, or adventurer, or whatever title that job attracts. I wanted to see the world at and beyond the fringes of civilisation and I wanted to raise money for charity and I wanted to support education and I wanted to encourage kids to live life and pursue adventures of their own.
Now – sixteen years on – I’m living the dream. My adventures and journeys take me to some of the most awesome places on Earth, I get to do some pretty cool stuff and I meet the most amazing people from a whole range of backgrounds and cultures. My projects are used to support charities*. I support a global education initiative called ‘Educate A Child’. I run education initiatives. And this book, the ‘Ultimate Explorers Guide For Kids’ will hopefully inspire kids and give them the tools that they need to start living a life of adventure.
I don’t want this book to ever be handed down or bought, in good condition, second hand. I don’t want to ever read or hear about this book being kept in pristine condition. I want to see the ‘Ultimate Guide’
with ragged-eared mud covered pages with colours faded by the sun. I want this book to be used and abused by kids as they kick-start their own journeys.
No matter where I am or what I’m doing, the idea for my next adventure usually starts with a memory of me and my brother playing in the woods at the fall of darkness and wondering how much trouble we would be in for getting home late; “It was all his fault!”
In the words of Mark Twain “Explore. Dream. Discover.” Click here to find out more about The Ultimate Explorer Guide for Kids.
*Justin supports the global education programme EAC and as part of that, the aim is to highlight global education poverty. Please tweet your support by using the #educationisimportantbecause
find out more by visiting Justin’s Twitter is @ExplorerJust