Intrepid TV traveller reveals favourite journey is to see his son
Simon Reeve’s latest series sees the TV adventurer travel through another of the world’s danger zones.
The seasoned explorer – who has been to more than 120 countries – looked at the crisis in Burma that has seen many of the one million Rohingya people forced to flee.
In BurmaWith Simon Reeve, which airs tonight on BBC Two, the traveller made his way to the world’s largest refugee camp, despite tales of vicious beatings and restrictions placed on foreigners.
But he has told how being a dad has given him a whole new perspective on the risks he’ll take for his acclaimed programmes.
“I have a seven-year-old lad who I love coming home to,” says Simon, 45, who has young son Jake, with wife Anya. “I take being a dad very seriously.
“When we’re in a far- flung place and debating whether we should drive down the wrong side of a road to get to an execution, which has happened, I think of Jake.
“I will think carefully if it’s a wise thing to do because I want to get back to him.
“My attitude has definitely changed and I’ve tried to limit the trips.”
In the past, though, Simon admits his carefree nature and gung- ho attitude led to numerous situations where he could easily have died.
Once, in a part of the former Soviet Union, Simon was set to film some people clearing a minefield.
“We were walking in a gully when we suddenly came across a carcass of a cow that had obviously been blown up,” said Simon. “Then somebody screamed at us not to move – we were in the minefield.
“From the top of my head to the back of my heels, I felt a crackle of electricity as I had this primal reaction. Every bit of your body is saying, ‘Stay absolutely still, do not move a muscle’.
“Panic set in. After a few minutes an army officer screeched to a halt in a Jeep, looked down and said it was OK, they were tank mines.
“He said our weight wouldn’t set them off. But walking back out was horrific as you can’t help thinking that if he was wrong, that would be it.
“It was terrifying and getting in there was quite stupid, frankly.”
Simon’s see-what-happens attitude to filming has, he admits, led even recently to tense situations despite his newfound careful approach. “Sometimes it’s inevitable as I’ve been in some of the most remote, dangerous places on the planet,” he said.
“I’ve just been filming in Gaza for a new series and we found ourselves near an Islamic Jihad military camp which we didn’t know was there.
“The team have sent me a clip – just to take the mick – where you can see my dawning realisation that this is really not safe.
“Further down the road we were held up by a group of armed men who we thought were jihadis.
“When we found out they were Hamas we were so relieved about that being a better option, we were virtually celebrating being held up by them, which they couldn’t understand.”
Simon is reducing the time he’s away from home to cherish his times with Jake, having had such a troubled time himself as a youth he even thought of taking his own life. But a visit to the Highlands helped turn his life around.
“I went on a mini- adventure to Glen Coe in my teens,” said Simon.
“I was lost as a person and I had thought of ending it all. I had been in some very dark places from when I was just 12 or 13, a little lost lad.
“So I went off on my own, in a bit of a state, and climbed in Glen Coe.
“The very act of going up a hill, achieving something, convinced me I was capable of living a full and meaningful life. It helped make me. So Scotland has a very intense, emotional place in my heart.”
Simon will be back in Scotland for a theatre tour in Dundee, Inverness, Dunfermline and Glasgow from October 10.
Visit gcelive.com for tickets
I’m a dad now and making it home in one piece is a priority so I’ll definitely be trying to avoid wandering into a minefield...again
– Adventurer Simon Reeve
Simon, left, and brother James at Dalmally station, Argyll, in the 1980s
Simon says he’s taking fewer risks