A few months ago, we partnered up with American Express to help promote their Room For Thought (RFT) contest. We asked our Travel & Adventure readers what their space would look like if they could fill it with anything of their imagination. Well yesterday, we finally got a chance to see the winning room brought to life at the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts.
At least it looked like Nepal minus the frosty wind chill! Les is witty, intelligent, charming and well, a super hip Survivorman. We got up close and personal and talked to him about everything from surviving the Apocalypse to tribal Ayahuasca experiences to his mentorship role with American Express.
1) What made you decide to be a mentor for RFT?
I've always believed in mentorship programs. I think it is important to take the valuable experiences you have and be able to share them with people. When American Express approached me with the RFT concept, I liked it because it wasn't a "get rich quick scheme" but something that had integrity, credibility and made a difference socially.
2) Your Beyond Survival Show is absolutely amazing! Many of the places you traveled to are completely remote and barely documented on a map so how do you come up with such ideas?
I wanted to create a show with a survival theme but that was different from Survivorman so I did a lot of research and talked to many anthropologists to find out about remote indigenous cultures, earth-oriented people who lived close to the ground and still made their own weapons and medicines.
3) If you were in the middle of the Gobi Desert and was allowed to charge ONE item to your American Express card (to be dropped off), what would it be?
It would cost a lot of money but I would want a water truck with an endless supply of water. (Hmmm Les, that is almost like saying you wish you had another million wishes but we'll let it go this time *winks*!)
During a snowboarding trip last year, just before he lost power and found himself facing the frigid wild alone, he received a text on his cell phone with this message...
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” - Albert Pike
Evan's winning entry for the Travel & Adventure category spawned from this quote and the simple idea of giving underprivileged youth the opportunity to travel the world. We chatted with him about winning the contest and how it has changed his life.
I have a broad background in sociology, music and arts and I've always wondered what it means to be human. I love story-telling in different forms whether it is through my song-writing or performing in the theatre so I think Second Chance Travel will be an extension of that. I came up with the idea because I wanted to create significant positive change in the world. I was a survivor after being stranded alone at Whistler's Blackcomb Mountain for 28 hours. I remember some of the tips Les taught in his Survivorman shows, so I was able to build a fire and make a bed out of pine needles. This experience was a big turning point in my life... I realized how lucky I've been to be able to travel and how it has opened my eyes to the majestic beauty the world has to offer . Many people don't have this chance. Then I saw the ad for the RFT contest, it was like the catalyst, a sign that I needed to enter so I came up with the idea of Second Chance Travel.
2) Tell us more about Second Chance Travel.
It's all about helping those who have overcome abuse, disease, or a near death experience, Second Chance Travel offers the adventure of a lifetime to those whose lives were almost lost.
3) I love the idea of giving back to the community in the form of a life-changing experience! What about yourself -- did you visit a place that was life-changing or where do you hope to visit?
I have so many places I want to go to, however, I believe it's not just about the destination but the experiences you are able to share afterwards. I mean it is great to climb Mount Everest but what do you bring with you when you come down. That is what's important to me.
4) Your RFT will be on display for three days but when it's taken down, what are the next steps for Second Chance Travel?
With Les' mentorship and advice I know I have to team up with other similar organizations, work on securing corporate funding and even try to collaborate with the Canadian Government to help send underprivileged kids abroad.
I'll be going to Argentina soon with this Filmmaker who was asked by the Canadian Consulate to speak to South American corporations about social responsibility. I'm excited to be there and see if there is an opportunity to work together.
5) Any last words of motivation for hip + urban girls?
Follow your heart, believe in yourself and don't compare yourself to others - find out who you are and what you love. The rest doesn't matter.
Congratulations again, Evan! Les, you've been a great inspiration to us all! We wish you both safe travels and all the best in wherever life's journey takes you!