Talking to Levison Wood

Explorer, Photographer and Writer

A Life Well Lived

As part of our journey to Redefine Wealth we are exploring what “A Life Well Lived” means: interviewing artists, entrepreneurs, explorers, and change-makers as they share their stories and ask, “what is my life well lived?” Here we talk to intrepid explorer, photographer and writer, Levison Wood, about what living well means to him.

Levison Wood is a name that many of you will already be familiar with, having shot to fame in 2015 when his documentary ‘Walking the Nile’ first aired on Channel 4. A nine-month expedition which saw him cross deserts, rainforests and even war zones, he has since undertaken a number of even more awe-inspiring adventures. From walking the length of the Himalayas – Afghanistan to Bhutan – to his most recent 5,000-mile circumnavigation of the Arabian peninsula from Iraq to Lebanon.

On Work

“I left the British Army back in 2010, without much of a plan I have to say” begins Lev. “It was an idea of mine to write.  I really wanted to write a book about travel and adventure, but in order to do that I knew that I needed to establish myself and find a platform from which to do it.”

“The heart of it is creating something and sharing these journeys with other people.”

“I ended up setting up a little business when I left the Army, specialising in quite niche guiding services. Taking people to potentially high-risk areas, conflict zones and so on. I was basically organising journeys for private individuals, high net-worth clients but also journalists to places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.”

“Off the back of that it wasn’t long before I started working directly for the main media outlets and then did my ‘Walking the Nile’ journey which really kicked everything off. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride ever since.”

“I really enjoy the creativity of what I do at the moment. Part of what I do is entrepreneurial – I run three or four businesses now, including my own production company, but really the heart of it is creating something and sharing these journeys with other people.”

On Balance

“Everything I do now seems to be work, but it doesn’t feel like work.”

In his own words Lev is living his boyhood dream. “To do what I’m doing now and to be able to write, document travels, to be an ambassador for causes that I’m passionate about.  It doesn’t really get better than that. Finding that balance between work and leisure is a tricky one for me, because everything I do now seems to be work, but it doesn’t feel like work. It’s not a chore. Every day I wake up and get to do new things. It’s just been an amazing journey.”

On Hindsight

“Along the way I’ve had quite a few near misses and in hindsight, these journeys are not necessarily entirely safe. They’re not without their risks, but that’s part of it. I don’t think I’d change anything necessarily, but I wouldn’t have worried so much. If I was to tell my younger self one thing, it would be don’t stress about it – it’s going to work out all right.”

On Advice

“It’s a bit of a cliché, but I think getting to the start point is almost the hardest part. It’s making the decision to do something, whatever that might be. For me I knew that I wanted to travel, explore, document my journeys and ultimately write a book. That was my goal, ten years ago.”

“So if you’ve got a dream, whatever it might be, in any walk of life, you’ve just got to commit to it and dedicate yourself to it. Don’t be afraid to take risks, or to sometimes put all your eggs in one basket. Because I think the problem is if you’ve got a safety blanket, it can sometimes undermine your will to succeed. If you want to do something, you can do it. Don’t be scared of it.”

On Living Well

“I think for me that it is all about sticking to your own rules. It’s about having a purpose and goals along the way, but not forgetting to enjoy the journey. Life isn’t about the destination, it’s about ultimately trying to find those moments of joy and happiness in what you do along the way. It’s always good to have a focus and it’s always good to have an end state, but I think the good part of having a good life is about doing the very best you can, enjoying it and hopefully helping other people along the way.”

On Fulfilment

“If people go and achieve things that they never thought that they were capable of, then that is incredibly rewarding.”

“For me, fulfilment comes from inspiring other people to make their own journeys, to fulfil their dreams. And by doing what I do, and enjoying my own job and being passionate about my adventures, hopefully it inspires people. I’ve had so many nice letters of support from people saying: “Wow, you encouraged me to quit my job…” and I’m not telling everyone to quit their job(!), but if people go and achieve things that they never thought that they were capable of, then that is incredibly rewarding.”

“I really enjoy bringing people together as well, building teams. Whether that’s for my own journeys or helping other people to create their own and sending them off on their way. Again that is really fulfilling.”

On Success

“Success is having fewer regrets. I think it’s as simple as that really. People say: “No regrets” but I think everyone’s got at least some regrets. I’ve got regrets. But I think if I hadn’t have done the things that I took risks to do, then I would certainly have more.”

“There’s a great Mark Twain quote that says 20 years from now you’ll regret more the things that you didn’t do, than the things you did do. So explore, dream, discover. I think that for me summed up my early mantra on life, which was to just go and do it.  There were risks, yes, but if you go and give it your best shot, what’s the worst that can happen?”

On Wealth

“For me its meaning has changed over the last five years, certainly, just because of the opportunities that have presented themselves because of taking those early risks. But I don’t think it’s necessarily about the money. It’s having the means to do what you enjoy, yes, but also to do something that’s meaningful and purposeful along the way.”

“If you are in a position where you are stable and secure and can then help other people, then I think that’s a positive way of putting wealth to good use. Being philanthropic, but ultimately, it’s about providing for yourself, for the people around you, and setting an example to the wider community with what you do with that wealth.”

On Retirement

“I don’t know if I’ll ever retire, because I don’t feel that I go to work. I can make money doing what I’m doing now; which is inspiring other people by doing something I enjoy. So hopefully I never have to retire. I might take my foot off the gas a little bit and not necessarily do a massive expedition every year, but I hope that I can write and take pictures well into old age.”

You can find out more about Levison Wood and his upcoming expeditions by visiting his website, or following him on Instagram