“I think there’s an explorer in everyone — we just all have to find our own Everest,” says Belinda Kirk, the exploration pioneer with an extraordinary list of personal achievements. She’s walked across Nicaragua, searched for camels in China’s “Desert of Death”, and was part of the first female crew to row non-stop around Britain (covering 2,101 miles in 51 days).
But for Kirk (above), the important thing is not necessarily trying to do something dazzling, it’s more about encouraging others to do anything that connects them to nature and adventure. Her projects, Explorers Connect and the Wild Night Out, have made a life mission of doing just that.
“I worry that our society is not set up for adventures,” she says. “I’ve realised that we are very disconnected in the modern world from nature and challenge.”
The trailblazer, who had a successful TV job as a producer and director working alongside the likes of Ray Mears, Bear Grylls and David Attenborough, eventually quit her career and dedicated herself to getting people to take that first step. She’s driven by her own transformation.
“When I was 18, I went to Tanzania to study monkeys,” she says. “After that, I travelled all around Africa on my own, and my whole heart and mind just opened. I did things I’d never believed I could have done. It gave me enormous strength. You realise the possibilities of the world. I think that’s the power of adventure, and your most important expedition is always the first one.”
You don’t need to travel to faraway places, at great expense, to reap the physical and mental rewards, Kirk says.
By trying little adventures, you can start something… you have to start small, and find a way to connect with nature
“When I set up Explorers Connect in 2009, it was a hub to connect people who wanted to go on expeditions,” she says. “But I noticed that people kept asking for smaller adventures in between the big stuff. They’d want to do a weekend, or even a day trip.
“I realised that by trying little adventures, you can start something. We don’t all have lots of time and money, or the right skills, to do the big things. You have to start small, and find a way to connect with nature. I’d find people would come on our weekends and they’d end up changing their outlook, their job, their lifestyle. It was great.”
What’s more, she says, it’s all available on our doorstep — “this country is amazing,” she says.
Through her work, Kirk, whose thirst for a more fulfilling life has put her on the San Miguel Rich List, has seen some dramatic transformations first hand. “I realised that making a difference was what really mattered to me,” she says. “I ran expeditions for young people and those with disabilities, and it gave me more satisfaction than winning Baftas for my TV work.”
After observing a number of wondrous moments on these expeditions, Wild Night Out (wildnightout.org) — held this year on 1 July — was born. “The idea is a national day of adventure to get people taking an outdoor challenge, no matter how big or small,” says Kirk. “It could be camping in your back garden with your kids for the first time, going on a nice easy hike, trying kayaking or climbing for the first time — or going for a world record!
“You want to take risks, not something dangerous, but just something that gives you a push. It’s about doing something you might not get round to otherwise.”
Meanwhile Kirk is as active as ever. “I’m in the middle of finishing a book, planning a trip swimming with seals, and we’re moving to Exmoor, where I’m hoping to set up an adventure hub,” she adds. That’s hardly a surprise. What is surprising is how easy it is to join in yourself.
San Miguel is searching for more inspirational people who live rich lives. If you, or someone you know, shares its thirst for discovery, creativity or new experiences, nominate yourself, or them, for a place on The San Miguel Rich List at
Terms & conditions: UK residents, 18 to nominate, 25 to feature. 1-4 Rich List places available. Closes 30 July 2017. To see full T&Cs visit