Natural born adventurer, Laura’s transformation from English teacher to explorer happened almost overnight when she managed to blag her way onto a catamaran destined to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Having survived this maiden journey of sharks and storms, she decided her next quest should be to cross the entire continent of South America without any money to raise awareness for Operation South America – a charity that supports homeless and abused women in Paraguay. The adventure saw Laura foraging for food scraps, fishing for piranhas and surviving off insects in the Amazon jungle as she journeyed her way from the Pacific coast of Equador to Buenos Aires.
Tessa Packard [TP]: Laura, you’ve had a pretty extraordinary adult life to date. What first inspired you to want to make a career out of adventure and what continues to drive you?
Laura Bingham [LB]: It wasn’t so much something in particular that inspired me, but the fact that I kept going on adventure after adventure, travelling all over the world. When I reached 21, I realised it was probably time to get serious about this way of life and turn it into a viable career. Constantly pushing boundaries and realising what I’m truly capable of are the things that drive me.
TP: What were the greatest challenges you faced on your expeditions? Did being a woman ever put you at a disadvantage?
LB: Being a woman certainly limits some of the choices you make, such as being alone in certain locations. Ultimately being a lone female traveller is more risky than being a lone male traveller and women are potentially subject to more dangerous situations than men, however it’s about taking this into consideration and being careful and aware. Being a woman certainly shouldn’t prevent you from being an adventurer. The greatest challenges I faced were probably more mental than physical ones. Everyone has that voice of doubt in their head and for me it tends to be loudest at the start of any expedition. My challenge was to overcome that voice and tell myself that no matter what; I was perfectly capable of achieving what I wanted to do.
TP: What have been your highest and lowest points from your adventures to date?
LB: I experienced plenty of both while sailing the Atlantic and cycling South America. Being on a boat for 2 months with no one but your 3 sailing companions for company and nowhere to escape if things went sour, that was pretty intense and at times very frustrating! However those days were matched by beautiful experiences such as sailing next to a pod of dolphins and the incredible kindness of strangers. One thing I find that helps with the low points is to remember that for every low there is a high to match it and in my experience the lower the low, the higher the high. You’ve got to be able to appreciate both in equal measure for what they are.
TP: What advice would you offer to women also looking to follow this path?
LB: Don’t let being a woman define or ultimately limit you. However consider the places you’re going on your expeditions and do plenty of advanced preparation – gain a good understanding of the location, the people and the culture ahead of the trip and be aware of the dangers you could be facing. Be open to doing expeditions with a companion, there is nothing wrong with safety in numbers.
TP: Has social media proved beneficial to your career and how?
LB: It’s been a bittersweet relationship to be honest. Ultimately the more followers you have, the more likely it is companies will want to sponsor you. It’s annoying however to be so dependent on social media to make a living out of what you do. My friends find it hard when I’m constantly updating Twitter and Instagram while away, often ahead of messaging them. They forget that this is all part of the job! Social media also plays on your insecurities – making you question whether people like you or want to follow you. You’ve got the additional challenge on top of the expedition itself of constantly having to post inspirational content to satisfy your audience, which isn’t easy.
TP: With such adrenaline-fuelled trips, how do you like to unwind when back in the UK?
LB: By spending quality time with family and friends. Relaxing at home with my husband, watching films, doing as little as possible really. Your head is in such a funny place when you get back from these trips it takes a few days to settle back into a normal ‘home’ life and routine.
TP: Many of your expeditions have had a philanthropic nature to them; can you tell us a bit more about your work on this front?
LB: Ahead of my South American cycling trip, I discovered the charity Operation South America with whom I truly empathised with. I decided to do the whole trip without any money to better understand and relate to those people who live in absolute poverty. Depending on the kindness of strangers to survive on the trip puts things into perspective and I knew that it was important to give back to the community. I felt that raising money for this charity whose goal is to feed and nurture children from some of the poorest families was the best way to do this. I fully intend to keep supporting this and other charities with future expeditions.
TP: You recently married a fellow explorer. Is he very understanding and supportive of your endeavours, knowing how dangerous they can be? Would you consider taking on an expedition as a couple?
LB: He’s naturally very conscious of the dangers I expose myself to on my expeditions however since he’s embarking on similar dangers himself, there’s only so much he can say. I love that he understands what drives me and offers endless support for my adventures, and I his – we can completely relate to one another and the risks we both take. In that sense it’s a very equal relationship. We’re actually in the process of pitching an idea for an expedition as a couple to a production company – so watch this space! Ultimately though I want to make a name for myself first before embarking on any serious adventures as a couple.
TP: Jewellery is probably not the wisest thing to take with you on your adventures, however are there any pieces you refuse to part with and are perhaps almost talismanic in properties?
LB: Since I can’t take my silver wedding ring with me, I always replace it with a wooden ring while travelling, so the symbol is ever present. I also never leave home without the necklace I gave to my gran when I was 14, which she never took off. She died while I was in Greece and since then, I’ve worn it every day. It’s my lucky charm, keeping me safe and reminding me that she’s constantly watching over me. My mother also insists I carry a little glass angel with me on all my expeditions.
TP: Finally, we recently launched a collection inspired by the Golden Age of Discovery. What would explorers from this time have made of today’s modern day adventurers?
LB: They’d probably think we were very fortunate to have so much modern equipment at our disposal. If Amelia Earhart for example had access to today’s satellite technology, maybe she wouldn’t have disappeared on that fateful day while flying over the Pacific Ocean. We’re in such a lucky position to be able to embark on these adventures, while ensuring they can be as safe as possible.
ON THE SPOT
- Town or Countryside? Countryside…always!
- Favourite city? Don’t have one
- Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? Amelia Earhart
- If you could time travel to any era it would be…? The 19th century
- The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? The McDonalds I had after finishing my South America trip – it was the first meal I’d bought since embarking on the trip
- The one essential you can’t leave home without? My phone
- Pet hate? People spitting in the street
- Biggest extravagance? Plane tickets
- Favourite book? Something Lost Behind the Ranges by John Blashford-Snell
- What would your gravestone read? Loving wife and mother
FIND OUT MORE