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PAD­DLING THE EN­TIRE LENGTH OF THE ESSEQUIBO RIVER was the first time I truly un­der­stood what it was like to be hu­man. My­self and two friends de­cided to pad­dle the third-long­est river in the Amazon af­ter learn­ing it had never been done be­fore. None of us had much kayak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, which was hi­lar­i­ously ter­ri­fy­ing, yet ex­cit­ing. It was the most phys­i­cal thing I’ve ever done. In prepa­ra­tion, we spent the win­ter train­ing with the Wai Wai group in Guyana, the guides we pad­dled the river with. From spend­ing months with this indige­nous com­mu­nity, I learned about jun­gle sur­vival and in­cred­i­ble life lessons – it was truly a priv­i­lege.

GROW­ING UP, I WAS AL­WAYS IN­TER­ESTED IN AD­VEN­TURE and in­spired by na­ture. My grand­mother has been my great­est in­spi­ra­tion – dur­ing the Cold War, she and a friend snuck off to Rus­sia. Hav­ing worked as a jour­nal­ist in hard news pre­vi­ously, life for me was of­ten de­press­ing. Ex­plor­ing weird, won­der­ful and dar­ing lo­ca­tions and con­nect­ing with peo­ple is what I love about trav­el­ling and has given me such an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for hu­man­ity. The nat­u­ral world is the most beau­ti­ful place.

I’VE NEVER FOUND BE­ING A WOMAN TRAV­ELLER AN OB­STA­CLE. If any­thing, it’s been ad­van­ta­geous. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced un­be­liev­able hos­pi­tal­ity. In cer­tain cul­tures, mothers and chil­dren would trust me more, which has been amaz­ing for open­ing up con­ver­sa­tions and learn­ing from them. There’s no deny­ing women are more vul­ner­a­ble, but lis­ten to your gut, ap­proach sit­u­a­tions with more caution when alone, and trust your in­stincts. NA­TURE CAN TEACH US SO MUCH when we lis­ten. It’s my med­i­ta­tion. Walk­ing down to the beach and pay­ing at­ten­tion to the waves gives me an op­por­tu­nity to check in with my­self. From liv­ing har­mo­niously with na­ture and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life with com­mu­ni­ties in wild places, I’ve re­alised how out of touch peo­ple in modern so­ci­ety can be.

FOR PEO­PLE IN IRE­LAND JUST START­ING OUT, take ad­van­tage of the fan­tas­tic walk­ing lo­ca­tions scat­tered around the coun­try. I did a walk from Grey­stones to Bray and loved it. The Wild At­lantic Way I’ve heard so much about, but haven’t done it just yet. It’s on my list. FIND AN EX­ER­CISE YOU LIKE, or keep try­ing dif­fer­ent things un­til you do. To be nat­u­rally healthy and happy, ap­proach things in a child-like man­ner by hav­ing fun with it, oth­er­wise you won’t do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not about be­ing per­fect straight­away and put­ting pres­sure on your­self. It’s a jour­ney. WHEN TRAV­EL­LING, EAT­ING LO­CALLY IS KEY. In or­der to stay strong and healthy on our jour­neys, we eat fresh fish on the river and Brazil nuts in the jun­gle. Fire­pot, a com­pany that makes healthy dehydrated meals, pro­vided us with slow­cooked, nat­u­ral, hearty meals which came in com­postable bio bags and tasted de­li­cious.

Pad­dling through Ama­zo­nian rivers and com­ing face to face with dan­ger­ous wildlife

is all in a day’s work for Pip Ste­wart. ELLEN BIRD chats to the ad­ven­turer who

be­lieves life is worth liv­ing to the full.

AF­TER AL­MOST BE­ING AT­TACKED BY THE JUN­GLE’S MOST DAN­GER­OUS SNAKE, the labaria, I re­ally strug­gled men­tally. My friend quickly killed the snake with his ma­chete, but I had many sleep­less nights af­ter that. It forced me to con­front the dan­ger of what I was do­ing. I conf ided in my group that I was hav­ing a hard time processing it, and I over­came it with their sup­port.

Pip chop­ping logs in the jun­gle, Guyana Catch Pip Ste­wart at the Thrive Fes­ti­val at the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre Dublin March 30-31, thrive­fes­ti­ Fol­low Pip at @Ste­wart_Pip

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