All of us have had some time to meditate in the last few months and I'm sure it has led to some wise decisions and changes on how we live our life going forwards. I imagine for a lot of you these resolutions involve making things count and living more in the present. Once the freedom of movement has been taken away from us, it becomes so much more precious. Being able to travel whenever we chose (holiday allowance permitted) is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.
What if we swap delicious restaurants, villa's and city breaks for a further afield adventure and create the long-lasting memories that we will look back on for the rest of our lives? Don't get me wrong, delicious pasta and a bottle of red wine in Positano is hugely appealing but there are some accessible adventures out there to have a trip of a lifetime.
Heimat caught up with our friend Sam, a person who knows a thing or two about an adventure and helping others to also have those experiences.
After working in the corporate finance world for 5 years, living on 4 continents and travelling to over 60 countries, Sam realised that he had a different calling. A couple of trips a year were not enough to fuel his desire for exploration so he started his own travel company - YellowWood Adventures. From Ethiopia and Kyrgyzstan to Oman he will get you there. From skiing in Iran or horse riding in Mongolia he has got you covered. Enjoy the interview and if it has sparked a hunger for your very own adventure please check out https://www.yellowwoodadventures.com/ . Who is Sam McManus? The founder of YellowWood Adventures; a sustainable adventure travel company that takes you to the wilder corners of this wonderful world.
What inspired you to do what you do? I was born with a love of nature and exploration and just couldn't do anything else (despite trying to). I saw a real gap in the market with some adventure destinations like Everest Base Camp or Machu Picchu becoming completely overrun whilst many incredible destinations were continuing to be completely overlooked – and we have focussed on these. We have been operating now for four years. What influenced the name YellowWood? YellowWood is the door that allows you to access places you could never have imagined travelling to by yourself, or which at least can be very difficult to access in an enjoyable way. The name is taken from the famous American poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, and very much encompasses the ethos of who we are: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, … and I— I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” What is a memorable story from your travels? We were hiking in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan and had pitched camp in one of the lush green valleys after a great walk over a high pass. We use horses to transport all our equipment so this was a great opportunity for a friend and I to take a couple of horses and go riding around to explore the valley. We came across a small collection of yurts used by the local Kyrgyz nomadic shepherds who had brought their flocks up to the pasture to graze. I had a bad feeling about riding near to them but couldn’t say why. My friend insisted and we went riding past only to be greeted by two huge mountain guard dogs (more like small bears) one of which rushed my horse and sank its jaws into its hind leg. My horse reared but I managed to stay on and we bolted for safety and luckily my horse was not badly injured. I have never gone against my gut instinct ever since!
Which is your favourite adventure? I’m going to cheat and say I have two;
The first is our Nomad Horse Riding Adventure in Mongolia. We ride through the incredible and remote Naiman Nurr [Eight Lakes] region across grassy steppe, stunning lakes, and beautiful autumnal forests staying with the local Mongolian families in their felt ‘gers’ which are similar to the Kyrgyz ‘yurt’. The Mongolian people are just so friendly and fun to be around and there is something amazing about spending real time in nature with their animals, completely removed from even a road and the trappings of modern life. Wait until you try Mongolian vodka distilled from mare’s milk! The second is when we go hiking in Ethiopia in the Northern Gheralta Mountains where there are 12th Century churches carved into the very mountainsides. We hike up and see the beautiful frescos painted on the carved walls inside, it feels like being in the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. We have shipped 12 tents there as this route was not accessible for camping before us. We have a bonfire every night under the stars and a huge sycamore tree where you can experience and join in with the traditional Ethiopian dancing and singing – this is proper Africa! How would you typify your customers? Our customers range greatly in terms of age/sex/society but they all share many similar traits such as being open-minded and interested to experience new environments and cultures.
We see our clients more and more interested in our partnerships with charities in the countries we visit and especially in our partnership with WeForest https://www.weforest.org/ who plant 15 trees for every person who takes an international flight to one of our adventures. We are seeing a huge shift to sustainable travel and making a positive difference to the places we go to. On a trip I led this January (2020) to the southern coffee plantations of Ethiopia, our group also visited the Hamilin Fistula Clinic https://hamlinfistula.org/ in Addis Ababa. I know that some of the clients were so moved by the work they are doing there that they made personal private donations afterwards.
What is your favourite item from Heimat? The mechanics hat; so much so that we have branded YellowWood ones for our guides. Also the U Boat Rollneck; it is exceptionally warm and comfy but also very durable. I’ve had it for three years and taken it everywhere! It looks great too.
What are you interested in outside of travelling? Reading history and travel books and drinking wine in vineyards whenever possible. I also like to study languages and although I have a smattering of a few words from many of the countries we travel in, I focus on Spanish, Japanese and Arabic. Why do you like Heimat products? They are what I would imagine Ernest Hemingway wearing, my favourite author for a decade.
Anything you advise our readers to read watch or listen to during their time of restricted movement? I would advise not reading or watching anything too much in order to just kill time. Rather slow down, take advantage of the opportunity to de-clutter your life, and listen to what your intuition may be trying to tell you. We can get so caught up in the increasing speed and growth of modern life that we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that constant motion/progress/stimulus = progress when this can often be far from the case. If you do want a good book however I can recommend ‘Hearing Birds Fly’ by Louisa Waugh, documenting Waugh's year-long stay in the far West of Mongolia in an obscure little village. It is a very gentle book, whereby not much happens on the surface, but by allowing time to integrate into the lives of the people there, in effect everything happens. It is a candid, emotional and deeply beautiful testament to the Mongolian people and to humanity in general.