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Sir Ranulph Fiennes: The world’s greatest living explorer reveals his proudest achievement at WYSTC 2014

07 October 2014
7 Oct 2014 -
WYS_8515-3568581782-OHe may have served in the SAS, completed over 30 extraordinary global expeditions and raised over £14.2 million for charity, but Sir Ranulph Fiennes revealed during WYSTC 2014’s closing address that his greatest achievement was not one of his ground-breaking records but, rather, being happily married for 38 years to the same lady.

Speaking to WYSTC delegates in Dublin, the icon for adventure travel entertained the audience with his inspiring tales and insight into team optimisation gleaned from over four decades of being at the forefront of record-breaking expeditions.

WYSE Travel Confederation’s Director General, David Chapman, introduced the conference’s final speaker by telling delegates: “At WYSE Travel Confederation’s heart is our commitment as an organisation to positively contribute to the personal and professional growth of students and young people. We were delighted to have a final WYSTC speaker who truly embodies this principle – an icon for adventure travel who has made a career out of encouraging young people to challenge themselves and inspiring them with his ability to excel even in the toughest of circumstances.”

Meticulous planning

WYS_8568-3568587773-OOne of the key messages from Sir Ranulph’s speech was how critical meticulous planning, focus and a shared commitment by each team member to achieving the expedition goals were to his famous accomplishments, elements which delegates were reminded apply as much to day-to-day business success.

With his Transglobe Expedition resulting in 17 marriages out of a 52-person team as well as the world record, his reference to his first wife – who was instrumental in the planning behind most of his remarkable endeavours – was an important reminder of the value of having a team who share the same vision.

Sir Ranulph explained: “We had to choose the right people as if they were to wimp out at any stage the whole expedition would fail.”  Demonstrating his trademark deadpan humour, he continued: “To keep me motivated I thought of my father and grandfather – the people I respected most – and imagined them watching me so didn’t want to let them down. Obviously I wanted to give up on many occasions so kept looking at the others, secretly hoping they’d broken their leg.”

Inspire the young

WYS_8587-3568590106-OHaving described youth travel as “obviously very vital”, he also told attendees that his advice to educators is to inspire the young. “Those that take time to really get to know each child and make a personal connection will make a big impact, though clearly this becomes harder as class sizes increase.”

From Morse Code to GPS

In keeping with much of WYSTC’s focus on how technology is changing the future of travel, Sir Ranulph explained how developments have benefitted his expeditions. “When GPS technology arrived it was just amazing – I was so excited when we no longer had to find out the altitude of the sun to know where we were.  Furthermore, it also saves time and therefore helps avoid us getting overly cold”, a particular risk on polar expeditions where frostbite avoidance is essential.

With Morse Code having been the communicational tool throughout many of his global explorations, he also cited satellite phones as another invaluable invention, describing the former as “not nearly as loving.”  However, his only warning about relying too heavily on new technology is that “modern stuff doesn’t like minus 40 temperatures much,” a problem that fortunately not too many of WYSE Travel Confederation’s members will need to worry about.

By way of his final motivating advice, the man who once worked every day for seven years for no money to make his next expedition work, said: “if you want something, even if it is ambitious, just aim and you can always get there.”