A World-Famous Explorer On How To Make Every Day An Adventure
David de Rothschild is no stranger to adventure. The 39-year-old Brit much prefers remote, off-the-grid locales to cities and his resume could easily belong to Indiana Jones. He crossed the Antarctic on foot at the age of 26, was part of a team that broke the world record for fastest crossing of the Greenland ice cap, and was the youngest Brit to visit both the North and South Poles. One of his most publicized journeys was a jaunt from San Francisco to Sydney aboard an unconventional vessel, called Plastiki, that was made from 12,500 plastic water bottles. While Rothschild has likened the conditions onboard to a plastic sweat lodge, he withstood four uncomfortable months at sea to increase public awareness of the trash problem in our oceans.
Hailing from a wealthy British banking family, Rothschild recognizes that not everyone has the same means to travel the world. Now, he's working to help more people connect to what he sees as a universal desire to explore.
"We’re all born as explorers, but then circumstance sometimes beats it out of us," Rothschild tells mbg from his home base in California. "We are living in an age when there is just so much fear. Nature is wrecked by fear because so often we don’t hear the good stories; we only hear the bad ones."
He established Sculpt the Future Foundation to lend guidance and financial support to people looking to search the world for inspiring stories to share with others. His latest project, The Lost Explorer, is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand that inspires a similar sense of adventure. He hopes that by amplifying stories of people and places around the world, he and his team will leave a lasting mark on both human and environmental health.
You start exploring the moment you start feeling a little uncomfortable.
The Foundation's scope is far-reaching: Its projects have helped bring solar energy to the Philippines and bring an explorer back from a dangerous expedition to the Amazon. The common thread is that they all seek to bridge the gap between people and wild places, since Rothschild believes that this gap is the root of all stress, disease, and environmental destruction.
"We're losing our wildness. That to me is the biggest risk. Everything we do to our own bodies is replicated in the world in so many ways," he explains, saying that vices like social media and junk food are keeping us stagnant and choking our environment with trash and dangerous emissions. "We're starting to see the worst of ourselves in the planet—the worst of our greed, the worst of our consumerism, and yet we try to mask it by consuming more."
"We've changed the chemistry of our bodies the same way we changed the chemistry of our planet. As we get more stressed out, we're seeing our planet become more erratic too—there are hot swings, cold swings, etc. The ironic thing is that for humans, the antidote to stress is nature."
By this logic, in order to promote a healthier relationship to ourselves, our communities, and our world, we must first carve out time for outdoor exploration. And that doesn't have to mean hopping aboard a ship made of plastic waste or booking a one-way ticket to Antartica.
"You start exploring the moment you start feeling a little uncomfortable," says Rothschild, adding that adventure is always out there for the taking. "You can be an explorer by taking a different route home, taking a bus ride you've never taken, walking through a part of the city you've never been."
One quick way to encourage this sense of everyday exploration is to pretend that you're on a vacation in your own neighborhood. Make that extra effort to test out new restaurants, talk to new people, and map out time to wander into little nooks and crannies and see what you can find. Being a tourist in your own space can remind you of the grandeur that lies all around you. Pull this reverence for the world inward, and you have something healing on your hands.
"We talk about nature being out there, but nature is really inside us. That's the fundamental shift we need to make right now."
Check out more inspiring tales of outdoor exploration here and here.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.