Prepare to be inspired to think big! Meet Holly Budge. She’s a badass adventurer with a couple of world records under her belt, including being the first woman to skydive Everest and race 1000 km across Mongolia on semi-wild horses. She recently climbed to the summit of Everest and has raised over £300K for charities.
Holly doesn’t stop there. she is passionate about elephants and is educating and inspiring a global audience about the devastating impacts of the African Elephant ivory trade. Her multi award-winning charity, How Many Elephants, is immersive, design-led and will leave you speechless. It visualises the annual poaching rate of 35 000 elephants in a powerful art installation and avoids any gruesome or gory imagery. Holly is gaining momentum quicker than a charging herd of elephants and will resume touring major international cities with her anti-poaching campaign.
How did you fall in love with travelling? I’ve always loved maps. I often whittle away time looking at maps, getting caught up in a world of thoughts and day dreams, marvelling at place names, wandering what those places look like and how far would it take to get from one place to the other. Maps present a whole host of opportunities. I marvelled at how far away New Zealand is from the UK. In my early twenties, I made a bee line for the faraway land and quickly it became my home! I threw myself out of a perfectly good aeroplane for the first time while I was there and that 60 seconds of adrenaline (and sheer terror) completely changed my life forever. I decided there and then that I wanted to be employed as a freefall camera flyer. In taking that first step towards achieving my big goal, I returned to the UK in earnest, saved up enough money to return to New Zealand and learn how to skydive. Eventually, I landed my dream job was getting paid to jump out of planes over 10 times a day, every day. Anything seemed possible and indeed it was. On reflection, this is a wonderful example of the ‘boldness’ of youth. I didn’t over think it. When I set myself that goal, I knew nobody in New Zealand, I knew nothing about Skydiving and I knew nothing about filming, but none of that mattered. I knew I could learn the skills I needed, or, at the very least, I could try. Achieving my far-fetched goal gave me immense confidence and self-belief that I could do whatever I set my mind too.
What kind of traveller are you? Luxury or practicality? A bit of both. When I’m climbing big mountains, I may be on the mountain for weeks at a time and luxury becomes redefined. A partially warm shower or a clean pair of socks or a packet of Percy Pigs is pure, pure luxury. Practicality is a must. Every day in the mountains is a personal challenge. Keeping warm and in good health are up there but it’s the little things like constantly feeling dirty, putting grubby clothes back on after you do wash, valuing Wet Wipes as gold, ridiculously bad hair days, split and broken nails, trying to accurately pee in a bottle in pitch darkness, eating hairy spam and the list goes on…. A positive mindset and an acceptance that nothing is perfect, normal or comfortable at times is essential.
What’s your travel philosophy? My travel philosophy is the same as my life philosophy – think big, dream bigger! I always pack a positive mindset, an open mind and an acceptance that nothing ever goes entirely to plan. Through my own travels and adventures, my goal is to inspire others to daydream, meander, run, climb and jump into their own adventure of self-discovery, and in doing so, learn that with self-belief, determination and resilience, even the biggest of challenges can be overcome.
What are your top travel essentials? A notebook and pen so I can write or sketch my ideas, inspirations and musings. I have a collection of my old sketchbooks and notepads which I treasure. Plus, my white sunglasses have become a trademark look! I wear and carry them all the time.
Where was your most memorable trip? A stand-out trip was climbing to the top of Mount Everest where I had the rare privilege of enjoying the summit for over 30 minutes, with just myself and my climbing partner, soaking in the view and the bluebird day. A very memorable recent trip was to Zimbabwe where I immersed myself with the Akashinga Rangers, an armed, all-female, anti-poaching team. These rangers are not only changing the face of conservation but the attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond. I’m no stranger to adventure but this was a whole different beast; It was 5:45 am. I was stood in line with four armed rangers, ready to go out on foot patrol. “You may not see any wildlife Holly, this is not a safari trip” said my go-to ranger. I pinched myself as the realisation of what I was about to do got real. These women are fighting a war on poaching and the poachers are not the only threat out there. The rangers loaded their rifles, the front ranger clicked her fingers as a signal to go. I took a deep breath as we moved into the darkness. These women are highly trained and highly motivated to make a difference to the future survival of endangered African wildlife species. Through my charity, How Many Elephants, I champion and support female rangers working courageously on the front line, including ‘The Black Mambas’ in South Africa.
How has travelling changed your life? I feel most alive when I’m travelling, immersed in rich and colourful cultures and open to new ideas and narratives. As an adventurer, travel is a essential part of my life, travelling to far away and remote parts of the globe, often not knowing what lies ahead! I guess that the magic right there.
When borders open again and the world starts to return to ‘a new normal’ what’s your first travel destination on your list? Returning to Nepal and the Himalayas. Wandering, climbing, hiking, daydreaming, sketching, writing and just being. Life in these mountains is not for the fainthearted though! Every day presents new challenges. A positive mindset and an acceptance that nothing is perfect or even comfortable is essential. However, the rewards are huge. There is a wonderful simplicity about life in the mountains. Every piece of equipment has a role, every object has a place and thoughts have purpose. I love the local people I have met in the mountains, the culture and the energy. I have a huge respect for the Sherpas, especially those whom I have had the pleasure to climb and work with. Sometimes they deserve a lot more respect than they get. Without them, many climbers on fixed lines climbing big Himalayan peaks would not reach the summit or make it back down safely. The Sherpas are skilled professionals and I always treat them with the respect they deserve.
Best travel advice you can share? Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start now with what you have. Now is the time to start.