Wild at heart

Ben Fogle may sup­port those who turn their backs on the rat-race, but the London res­i­dent’s own plans to live in a re­mote cor­ner of the world re­main on hold – for now. In the mean­time, the ad­ven­turer tells Gemma Dunn he is grate­ful to ex­pe­ri­ence the wilde

Cynon Valley - - TELEVISION -

“HOW many of us ful­fil our dreams?” asks Ben Fogle, point­edly.

“I’ve al­ways lived my life to have no re­grets and when I die I’d like to think, ‘You know what, I made a dif­fer­ence and I did ev­ery­thing I wanted to do.’ But so many peo­ple won’t nec­es­sar­ily have done that, and that’s re­ally sad.”

We’re dis­cussing the premise be­hind his hit C5 show, New Lives In The Wild, in which he trav­els the globe to meet peo­ple who have turned their backs on the daily grind.

“The world is quite an­gry right now, isn’t it?” Fogle, 43, con­tin­ues. “It’s never been so di­vided – this kind of sim­mer­ing anger that man­i­fests it­self on the in­ter­net, in so­cial me­dia, it’s so un­healthy.

“For me, the wilder­ness is very black and white – it’s go­ing to ei­ther be rainy or it’s go­ing to be dry, you’re ei­ther go­ing to be cold or you’re go­ing to be hot. It has an hon­esty to it that I think so­ci­ety has lost.”

Six sea­sons in and Fogle, whose TV ca­reer stemmed from his stint on the BBC re­al­ity show Cast­away in 2000, is clearly thrilled about the se­ries’ suc­cess.

Dur­ing this run he will join an­other set of brave in­di­vid­u­als who have cho­sen to ven­ture down an al­ter­na­tive path, from Egyp­tian farms on the edge of the Sa­hara and the wilder­ness of Aus­tralia (don’t miss the mov­ing story of Jim and Kim in episode one!) to the foothills of the Span­ish moun­tains and even a float­ing is­land off the Cana­dian coast.

“The more places I go, the more I un­der­stand and also the more I want to ask,” says Fogle. “My in­quis­i­tive­ness and cu­rios­ity has in­creased, [and] what’s re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing is the dif­fer­ent rea­sons, the cat­a­lysts, that make peo­ple give it all up.

“I think so many of us dream of break­ing free from the manic ex­pec­ta­tion in so­ci­ety. Now, more than ever, peo­ple are try­ing to earn enough money to be able to pay their mort­gage or pay their rent and then have enough money to pay for the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.”

“I’ve got this real prob­lem with planned ob­so­les­cence – this whole idea that ev­ery­thing is made to only last for a year. Planned ob­so­les­cence is sym­bolic of why the wilder­ness is where we be­long,” he elab­o­rates.

“The sim­plic­ity of just pick­ing fruits that are grow­ing on the trees, of be­ing able to plant your own crops, of not hav­ing a fi­nan­cial tie to other peo­ple and busi­nesses and govern­ment – I think that’s an­other rea­son why so many peo­ple are em­brac­ing al­ter­na­tive lives.

“That’s what makes all these in­di­vid­u­als happy, be­cause they’ve achieved their dream, they’ve done it, they’ve walked the walk, they’ve done what many of us wish we were brave enough to do.”

But that’s not to say he’s en­cour­ag­ing the UK’s pop­u­la­tion to up sticks.

“If I did that I’d prob­a­bly go back to the city to kind of have a lit­tle space to my­self!” he laughs.

Rather iron­i­cally, London-born Fogle lives in Kens­ing­ton with his wife Ma­rina and two young chil­dren Ludo and Iona. Can he see him­self jack­ing it all in and wav­ing good­bye to the rat-race?

“Yeah, for sure! I’d love to give it all up and go and live in a wild re­mote cor­ner of the world, [but] I’m very lucky be­cause I get to do it through my work.

“We’re be­com­ing more aware, es­pe­cially in London, of the im­pact of the pol­lu­tion all around us. I fear that within the next few years we’ll all have to wear masks, and that does worry me – I don’t know that I re­ally want to bring my chil­dren up in that kind of en­vi­ron­ment.

“I’m al­most be­ing hyp­o­crit­i­cal if I’m ex­tolling virtues of the wilder­ness and the sim­plic­ity of life and I’m still liv­ing in the city. I’ve been in­sti­tu­tion­alised my­self – I can see through it, yet I’m still tied to it.”

His dream is to em­bark on an “ex­pe­di­tion” with his chil­dren. Fogle be­lieves kids should be en­cour­aged to be ad­ven­tur­ous and in­de­pen­dent – in fact, he’s re­ceived a back­lash for ad­mit­ting his two are fa­mil­iar with hunt­ing knives and fire.

“I’ve said this many times and I feel even more mil­i­tant about it – the health and safety ob­sessed mol­ly­cod­dling so­ci­ety we live in now is ridicu­lous. It’s syn­ony­mous with this ob­ses­sion with con­trol – the state wants to con­trol ev­ery­thing and par­ents want to con­trol ev­ery­thing. It’s so un­healthy for ev­ery­one in­volved and if we just let go a lit­tle bit and if we just re­laxed, a bit like what hap­pens in the wilder­ness, we’d be in a much health­ier place.”

Ben Fogle: New Lives In The Wild starts on C5 on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 17.

Ben Fogle, left, Kim and Jim on the Wilder­ness Is­land beach

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