The wide and wonderful world of travel attracts so many of us, for so many different reasons. Maybe you’re an adventurer. Maybe you’re one of those who likes to lie on a sunbed on the deck of a luxury cruise ship, doing absolutely nothing as stylishly as possible. There’s a trip somewhere that’s just right for you. All possible tastes are catered to.
Lots of factors go into deciding what your particular perfect vacation would be. All too often, one of the deciding factors is money. As we reported just recently, there are a number of excellent ways to travel on a budget in 2019, and that’s fantastic. The cold, hard truth, however, is that there are certain things that you just won’t be able to do without a Kardashian-rivaling bank account.
In the end, though, that doesn’t really matter. Some of us are entirely content to sit on their own comfortable couches, traveling vicariously. TV, books and other media have brought us closer to the journeys of other travellers than we’ve ever been before.
When it comes to the absurd adventures of Bear Grylls, I’m quite content to read about his famous travels, rather than imitate them myself.
The man’s life to date has been completely extraordinary. Are you ready to discover how he achieved one of the strangest world records ever, how he survived an 11,000ft fall and… all about his great fondness for bubble baths? Let’s meet the man behind the legend, the iconic and fearless Bear Grylls.
Before we get to the super dangerous, utterly ridiculous facts, I’m going to ease you in gently. Let’s start with something a little more low-key: As it turns out, Bear Grylls isn’t actually a bear.
That’s right. Legendary rugged adventurer he may be, but he’s really just a plain old human like the rest of us (you might not believe that by the end of this rundown, but there it is). As Edward Michael Grylls told The Guardian, his older sister gave him the nickname Bear when he was just a week old.
He’s now 44, and it’s safe to say that the nickname has well and truly stuck for life.
If you’ve watched The Expendables movies, you’ll know that there comes a time when action heroes… just can’t be action heroes anymore. Sylvester Stallone sure was showing his age there.
You just mellow out a little, I suppose, become a little less reckless. As Bear himself has said, "The crew say I used to be 110% reckless on everything we did and I’m now about 80%, but I see that as positive progress – with some room for improvement."
Again, he credits the influence of his wife and children for the change, stating that he has “smartened up and started listening to my inner voice” as their family and his responsibilities to them grew.
With everything we’ve seen so far, then, one thing is abundantly clear: Bear Grylls cannot and will not be stopped. As he’s demonstrated to us all on countless occasions, there’s sustenance everywhere, if you’re resourceful enough (and iron-stomached enough) to find and utilise it.
As The Independent reports, some of the delectable treats he’s sampled in the line of duty include “a camel's intestinal fluids or bear poo... or maybe elephant dung, snakes and scorpions.”
Tasty, tasty stuff. Needless to say, if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to watch the eating trials on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, the wilderness is going to give you the shock of your life.
A lot of actors and actresses are used to the concept of having to transform themselves and their bodies, for particular roles. Muscle may have to be gained, for instance, hair may have to be cut, all of these sorts of things.
For the physically-intensive situations Bear Grylls tends to find himself in, it’s no surprise that he’s always got to keep himself at the peak of fitness. How does he do this? Again, in typical Bear fashion, that’s how. When he’s at his secluded island home, he states,
“I train most days by running up and down the steep 150 feet from the jetty to the house, and then I have a pull-up bar that is 30 feet above the sea in a cave. That makes it motivating not to fall off after each set!”
We all know about the legendary (and brilliantly ridiculous) stunts that Grylls pulls on TV. We’ve all seen the absurd sorts of situations he manages to get himself into. As we’ve seen over the course of this rundown, though, there’s a lot more to him. How about Grylls as a father?
Unsurprisingly, his three sons, Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry, have grown up with a real sense of adventure too. As Bear told Heart,
“We spend part of the year in the mountains in Switzerland, I paraglide a lot and we climb, the boys love that. There's nothing better than strapping them in and we jump off these mountains together - and they've grown up like that. It's one of the great pleasures in my life, to get to do those sort of adventures with the family."
There’s no doubt that Bear Grylls is a super talented and able survivor. He knows what he’s talking about, he’s dispensing real, life-saving advice, he’s pretty darn amazing all around.
At the same time, though, we’ve got to remember that his TV shows are, first and foremost, made for entertainment. Some things are a little exaggerated, or otherwise safer than they may appear.
“After all,” ScreenRant points out, “[Man Vs. Wild] begins with a disclaimer that explicitly says, “Bear Grylls and the crew receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations.”
In one example, they go on, “After the episode aired, it was revealed that a Polynesian-style raft that Bear Grylls supposedly built was actually constructed by a team of people lead by an outside expert name Mark Weinert.”
Now, you might think there’s nothing much that can surprise you about this guy. After all, his extreme exploits are well-documented. If I were to tell you that he holds a world record (which I just have, try and keep up here), what would you think it would be?
It could be anything, couldn’t it? You’re probably thinking Most Desert Ground Covered Carrying The Chrysler Building On Your Back, or something along those lines. This IS Bear Grylls we’re talking about, after all.
As it turns out, though, the record he holds comes from an adventure of a very high-brow sort. It’s the record for the world’s highest open-air formal dinner party, which he held in a hot-air balloon 7,600m in the air. As SBS reports:
“Grylls enjoyed asparagus tips, duck a l’orange and fruit terrine, with side orders of freezing temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius. Once finished, he saluted the Queen and then skydived back down to earth, as you do.”
Watching the indefatigable survivor that is Grylls on TV, you might be left with the impression that he’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger-style action hero. That he feeds only on carnage, pain and his own raw fury, and could survive for eighty years on just a droplet of rainwater and his own steeliest of steely determination.
To be totally honest, yes, that’s true. He’s got a softer side too, though. A bubbly, perfume-scented side. As he once told The Mirror, “When I get home from filming all I want is a cup of tea and a bubble bath.”
Does Bear fear getting a little No More Tears shampoo in his eyes, or delicate bath salts in crevices where delicate bath salts don’t belong? He does not. Always the consummate survivor.
Now, I’m probably not qualified to comment here. The closest I’ve ever come to climbing a mountain was the time the elevator was out of order in my apartment building (it’s a long way up to the fourth floor, friends).
Having said that, there’s one thing even a complete amateur like myself can tell you: Mount Everest is pretty darn steep. That’s a mountainous mountain in every sense of the word, right there. None of this deterred our hero Bear, though (predictably), who became one of the youngest people ever to reach the summit of Everest in 1998, aged 23.
So, yes. It’s quite early in the rundown, but I think one thing is already abundantly clear: You do not mess with Bear Grylls. He may be a bit of a fancy British gent (more on that later), but he can tangle with the best of them and come out on top. Including crocodiles (more on that later, as well).
Is it altogether surprising that he holds the 2nd Dan rank in Shotokan Karate? Well, not really. It’s just another string to his bow. This is quickly becoming one heckola of a bow, I think you’ll agree, and we’ve barely scratched the surface yet.
As a survival expert, Bear Grylls has shown a generation the importance of that old boy scout motto: always be prepared. In extreme situations, resourcefulness and determination are key, and that’s what it’s all about.
In recognition of his efforts and success in promoting these ideals, Grylls was appointed Chief Scout at the age of 34. At the time, he was the youngest man in the UK to be honoured in this way. He stated, “The Scouting Movement is a massive force for good, touching many, many young lives. Above all, it gives millions of kids the chance to live and learn about the wild and to experience real adventure.”
Now, see, this is what I mean with the whole living vicariously thing. I don’t know about you, friends, but owning a private island is just a little out of the realms of possibility for myself and my future wife. If we’re lucky, and maybe start a GoFundMe page, we might be able to spring for a modest kitchen remodel or something, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Bear Grylls, meanwhile, has a small private island off the coast of Wales in the U.K. It’s not as glamorous as you make think, though, as explained by the man himself:
“It’s 20 acres and five miles offshore with no mains, electricity, or running water. It has a little lighthouse beside our house and is surrounded by amazing sea cliffs, seals, and dolphins. It is my favorite place on the planet!”
Where better for a great outdoorsman?
Maybe you already knew the story of how Grylls conquered the mighty Everest at the tender age of 23. That’s a heckola of a feat for anybody, regardless of experience and ability, but to be one of the youngest ever to climb the mountain? Absolutely extraordinary.
Bear Grylls being Bear Grylls, though, there’s much more to the story than that. As well as a perilous expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, he’s also conquered another notorious mountain in the Himalayas: Mount Ama Dablam. This is a peak that the famed Sir Edmund Hillary once deemed ‘unclimbable’.
Apparently, Bear didn’t get that memo.
As we’ve established, then, Bear Grylls is not a man for luxurious vacations. He doesn’t want to lay there and be pampered, that’s for darn certain. When he says he’s a traveller, that’s exactly what he is. He dives right in, with only his resourcefulness to keep him going. Resourcefulness and elephant dung, apparently.
Oh, yes indeed, friends. If you’re looking for a harsh environment on Earth, the African savannah is not going to disappoint. As Digital Spy reports, he once demonstrated the technique of ‘squeezing’ elephant droppings in order to extract moisture. To his credit, though, he also explained that this was a “real last resort,” and that you risk contracting illnesses by doing so.
Still, heck. When you need a drink, you need a drink.
I suppose, really, with all the super-dangerous feats Grylls performs, something was bound to go horribly wrong. That’s just the way things are, however careful you are to take precautions.
As The BBC reports, Gryll’s career as a television personality almost never happened. During an SAS training exercise in 1996, he began a skydive in Zambia when his parachute failed to open.
“he came to earth on his parachute pack,” the report explains, “fracturing three vertebrae in the process. Although his spinal cord was intact, he spent the next year undergoing 10 hours a day of rehabilitation including physiotherapy, swimming and ultrasound treatment.”
So, yes. There’s Bear Grylls after that awful accident, facing a long period of convalescence and lucky not to have been permanently paralysed. Lucky to have survived, period, in fact.
Even so, the math whizzes among you will have noticed that the accident happened very shortly before Grylls’s record-breaking ascent to the summit of Mount Everest. True enough, it was less than two full years after the dramatic fall that the adventurer completed his climb.
It’s a real testament to his determination and resolve, and it makes the fact that he actually made it to the top (and back down again) even more remarkable.
Needless to say, being a huge television personality who owns his own darn island (if a totally spartan one), Bear Grylls isn’t short of a little of the old cashola.
This sort of fame is enough to go to anybody’s head, and we could all name many celebrities who went completely off the rails as a result of it. Bear, however, is not one to be seduced by the siren call of celebrity.
On the contrary, famous people make him feel super nervous. Of his wife, Shara, he says, "She finds the fame thing awkward – she’s very grounded. It makes home nice to come back to. I don’t want to go to glitzy parties.”
That’s the sticky issue, though. It’s often said that there are two kinds of financial wealth: the kind that you’re fortunate enough to be born into, and the kind that you have to work your little cheeks off to earn.
The former wasn’t the case with Bear, who has certainly emerged as a personality and talent in his own right. It’s still true, however, that he was born into a notable British family. The son of Sir Michael and Lady Sarah Grylls, his father had a prominent place in British politics and business during his career. How he would feel about his son drinking his own urine in the desert, we can’t quite say.
Now, I’m a dedicated horror fan and gamer. As such, you can bet that I’ve spent considerable time with Resident Evil, Silent Hill and other big names in horror video games. A video game based around Bear Grylls' notorious exploits, however, would probably contain more nightmares than I have the guts to dive into.
Here it is, though. Man Vs. Wild is an actual game you can dive into. It was released for the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, and based on the hit TV show of the same name. Players took on the role of Bear himself, in various absurd survival situations. The game was nothing groundbreaking, but a relatively solid effort, which is more than you can often say for video game adaptions.
Now, we all know that there are certain things that just have to be on any rough-and-tough adventurer’s resume. If you haven’t done these things, you just can’t join the club.
One of these things would be the old class crocodile/alligator wrestling. Naturally (you probably see where I was going with this), Bear has been there and done that. Heck, never mind Bear himself, he’s got other celebrities doing it on his shows.
As Sporting News reported in 2015, Drew Brees (known to NFL fans as the quarterback for the Saints) sure had his work cut out for him:
“Brees appeared on the NBC show "Running Wild with Bear Grylls" (taped during the offseason) and Brees could be seen jumping out of a helicopter and even wrestling crocodiles.”
So, yes. As we’ve seen, our ol’ buddy Bear knows his mountain climbing. Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world (technicalities aside)? Yep, he’s climbed it. At a super young age and after recovering from a horrific accident to boot. An allegedly ‘unclimbable’ mountain? Unclimbable doesn’t mean a darn thing when you’re Bear Grylls.
He’s gone even further than that, though. In 2008, he was climbing a 9,000ft peak in Antarctica, one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet. He fell and broke his shoulder, and did so in typical Bear fashion (“Grylls fell while kite skiing across the ice shelf,” Backpacker reports).
Even his failures are spectacular.
As you can imagine, a high-profile personality like Bear Grylls is always in demand. He’s always jetting around the world, filming shows with various important people. Clearly, it’s a nice life if you can get it, but that’s just one side of Bear Grylls.
He’s away from home for long stretches while filming, so when he’s back, he makes the most of it. Not only in terms of enjoying bubble baths, but quiet family time too.
He lists his wife and their three children as his ideal travel companions, and loves nothing more than cozying up with them and watching DVDs.
As interesting and informative as Bear Grylls’ shows are, there’s no doubt that he’s caused a fair amount of controversy in his time. The fact of the matter is, the survival situations depicted don’t tend to be actual survival situations, per se. They’re for entertainment value. Which is where some of the backlash comes in.
David Attenborough, an icon in the field of wildlife television, has blasted Bear for some of the activities on his shows. Grylls’ contestants are sometimes seen hunting animals, which, in Sir David’s view, is done “just to make entertaining television.”
It’s an angle that some viewing often don’t consider.
Speaking of the contestants on his shows, you’ve got to admire the way that Bear inspires others to push the envelope. To be stronger, fitter, more capable than they ever believed they could be. This is one of the factors that made him such a perfect candidate as a Chief Scout, and it’s not just budding adventurers he’s training.
For his series Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, he trained and tested the survival abilities of celebrities in the Costa Rican jungle. He told The Mirror,
"I was worried that covering 20 miles a day and dealing with big cliffs and rapids would break someone like Emilia Fox, who’s tiny and wasn’t eating, but she was incredible – she had a real steely streak that was inspiring.”
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that most of us really aren’t in Bear Grylls’ league, adventurer-wise. I’ve made my peace with that, though, because there’s one thing that I’m right there with him on: mosquitos bites really are no fun.
Those pesky bugs are a pain that we share in common as we travel, and it’s nice to know that we share at least that in common with Bear. Even so, naturally, he just has to go a couple of stages higher than the rest of us. Do you know how many mosquitos bites he reportedly has? I’ll tell you how many: 4,319, as of 2015. Now that’s precise
References: The Guardian, SBS, The Mirror, Performing Artistes, Scouts.org.uk, K2news, Sporting News, Heart, Vanity Fair, The Independent.