CheapTents.com contacted Mikael Strandberg just a couple of days ago, along with a select few other MSR sponsored adventurers…and he kindly agreed to give us an insight into the life of this prolific adventurer…literally one of whom who has traveled into virgin territory on remarkable expeditions.
Mikael Strandberg was born in 1962 in Sweden. He started his professional career as an explorer 19 years ago. The multi-talented Mikael is currently working as an explorer, a lecturer and a writer. Mikael has also produced three internationally renowned documentaries for television “PATAGONIA – 3,000 kilometres by horse” and “THE MASAAI PEOPLE – 1,000 kilometres by foot” and his much awarded, “-58 degrees – exploring Siberia on skis.”
Mikael Strandberg Interview
CheapTents.com: What inspired you to make exploring your profession?
Mikael: Many things, but first of all a curiosity to try to understand the meaning of life. More an intellectual challenge, then simply a physical one. the physical aspect, the limits of a human being, are less interesting, but I prefer traveling by my own means, since it is far easier to get in touch with these cultures and peoples I want to get to know and understand.
CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest adventure or other exploratory achievement?
Mikael: Exploring the Kolyma River located in the north-eastern part of Siberia. the coldest inhabited place on earth. See www.siberia.nu
The Purpose of the expedition along the Kolyma River:
The main aim is to use words, pictures and film to make a record of this unknown part of our world. This is a vital task, since in the course of our extensive research work we have realised that not even the Russians or the Siberians themselves have a comprehensive picture of the area along the Kolyma River. The obstacles are the cold, the distance, the size and the isolation.
The area is untouched, remote and unknown. Nonetheless the area is as rich in gold, oil and mineral deposits as the rest of Siberia. This part of the world is one of the few remaining places on earth that is virgin territory. This is a genuine journey of discovery.
We also believe that it is in this untouched area that the answers to many of the questions asked by modern men are to be found: What are we doing here? What is our task? How do we find calm, harmony and satisfaction in our lives?
Here’s a snippet of the time spent in North-East Siberia:
The day I arrived to the small Siberian settlement of Kolymskaya was the happiest moment of my exploring life. It was the end of the most demanding part of my Expedition along the Kolyma River, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth.
I had, together with my assistant Johan, spent most of the past 5 months hauling 660 pounds of necessities, mainly in utter darkness, experiencing a terrifying cold with average temperatures around -50°F, day and night. A reality which made sleep almost impossible, giving us plenty of frostbites on both fingers and cheeks and it ruined most metal parts in our equipment. Like our ski bindings, and therefore, we arrived walking, not skiing, to the village.
It seemed like every inhabitant were there to greet us with customary warmth, joy and most of them were dressed in their colourful traditional dress. We saw Chukchis, Even, Yakuts, Yugahirs and Russians. After the traditional welcoming offerings to the spirits, we were brought into the local museum, where more cheerful and hugging villagers awaited us, around a table full of local delicacies. After having survived mainly on moose meat and raw, frozen fish during most of the winter, we nearly cried when we came across big plates of fried reindeer brain and cooked bone marrow.
At that stage, I suddenly realized, after spending 20 years of exploring extreme parts of our world and trying to understand the meaning of life, from now on, I’ll stop thinking about the big worrisome issues and simply concentrate on the uncomplicated ones. Like the thought of some more cooked bone marrow.
CheapTents.com: What is you biggest weakness? Sport or otherwise…
Mikael: My biggest weakness….but it would also be my biggest strength….I am very naive and trust everybody. Unconditionally.
Plus that I am not very technically skilled. I am an intellectual, not somebody who can repair things….
CheapTents.com: When did you feel like you ‘made it’ in your field of exploration? And do you feel like you’ve satisfied your goals?
Mikael: I felt like I made it after Siberia, getting a lot of worldwide attention. And after Siberia, felt like I had done everything in my wildest dreams and, life fell a part, 2½ years later, I am back with a search to find a new Expedition worthy Siberia…visit: http://preparingforthenextexpedition.blogspot.com/
CheapTents.com: What do you find most challenging about training / keeping fit? Any tips to overcome these challenges?
Mikael: The mot challenging is to avoid training getting static and boring, so I find new ways to train all the time. Right now, since I don´t know what kind of an Expedition I will set out on next time, i am bodybuilding, adding on big muscles, since it makes a difference in many ways when penetrating other cultures. And it makes your body very strong overall. When i finally know where to set up my next Expedition, I will change my training and tune in on that. Before Siberia I did a lot of hunting and fishing plus dragging tires all over the place, I lived then in the north of sweden, where I am born and hunted and fished 150 days a year. Now, I´ve left the bush, to live in the city. Which I love. i don´t want life to become static, boring and without challenge.
CheapTents.com: Blood thirsty question now, what has been your worst injury (if any) from your multiple adventures and how did it happen?
Mikael: No injuries at all. Physically, on the outside of the body. However, I did a test with a world famous polar scientist and athlete, Dr Arkady Maximov, and he said that my body takes a damange every time, every year on Expedition, which equals 5 normal years of living. So, I am therefore 150 years old…..but i have had pretty much all tropical diseases you can think about. Malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, etc. The reason, touch wood, for not having had any external injuries, is due to all year around training. And new techniques all the time.
CheapTents.com: What will be your most challenging adventure for next year?
Mikael: Am slowly preparing for the Empty Quarter, so see when it will be time to leave….
CheapTents.com: You’ve obviously been heavily involved with multiple explorations around the world, which has been your favourite and why?
Mikael: Siberia, see above. It changed my way how to look at life.
CheapTents.com: Where would you like to be in 5 years time? Main Ambitions?
Mikael: I have no idea at all, and it doesn’t bother me one bit. You only have ambitions until you realize the workings of life. One day at a time, who knows what tomorrow will be like?
CheapTents.com: For other budding outdoor sports enthusiasts, what tips can you provide to help other compete at a higher level?
Mikael: The only way to reach the top is to become a fanatic. Train harder then anybody else, read and prepare yourself harder than anybody else and fully concentrate all your life on the goal. The issue.
CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Mikael: I like a good tent and a good stove, the essentials of surviving nowadays….
CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank? Any other comments?
Mikael: Gee, so many, so many…see the sponsors list at www.siberia.nu
CheapTents.com Thank you Mikael, from all of the CheapTents.com team for the time spent answering our questions so openly and honestly, and for discovering and sharing so much!
- 1986-1987 Mikael went by bicycle from Chile to Alaska, a distance of 27,500 kilometres. He crossed the El Darién Jungle, 800 kilometres of virgin rainforest between Panama and Colombia, without any roads. He carried his bike through swamps and a dense jungle for a month.
- 1989-1992 He went by bicycle from Norway to South Africa a distance of 33,000 kilometres, passing through the Sahara Desert. It took 3 months to push the bike through the dessert, with the help of only a manual compass.
- 1994 –1996 Mikael went by bicycle from New Zealand to Cairo traversing Asia, a distance of 90,000 kilometres.
- 1997- 1998 As a newly wed man Mikael was accompanied by his wife on his next expedition. This was also their honeymoon. Patagonia 3,000 kilometres by horse through an isolated, windy and painfully cold part of the world.
2000 Mikael walked through Maasailand in Eastern Africa, exploring all clans of the Maasai people.
- 2004 Mikael explored the unknown Kolyma River in North-Eastern Siberia. 3500 km:s by canoe and by skis. An Expedition which is globally hailed as one of the coldest ever in the history of exploration.
- Mikael has written six books and numerous articles. He is frequently used by broadcasters for travel and adventure programmes. In Sweden Mikael has become a household name and Swedish Television SVT and National Geographic have made a documentary about his life.
- Mikael is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Explorers’ Club, Travellers Club and the Long Riders Guild.
- During the Siberian Expedition they carried Explorer Club´s Flag # 95 as a sign of it’s scientific interest and importance.
- He was voted Explorer Hero by the National Geographic 2002.
- He’s an Honorary Ambassador of his native district Älvdalen.
- He’s the first Swede to lecture at the Royal Geographical Society since Charles John Anderson, 1867. And at the Explorers Club in New York, where he has lectured twice.
- He was awarded The Determination in the Face of Adversity Medal by the Explorers Club 2005.
- The King of Sweden and The Travellers Club of Sweden awarded him the prestigious Silver Medal in 2006.
- Travellers Club in Finland awarded Mikael the prestigious Mannerheim Medal at a ceremony in October, 2006.
- Mikael is considered as one of the worlds 50 most important and famous explorers by The Royal Geographical Society in London, together with, for example, Sir Edmund Hillary, Jane Goddall, Reinhart Messner, Borge Ousland, Wade Davies, George Schaller and many more. They´re all featured in the book “Faces of Exploration”.
- Explorers Club in London considers Mikael “the best contemporary explorer in the world” at the present.
- Mikael is at the present explorer-in-residence at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which means he will be part of their lecture and guide team made up of the worlds foremost scientists.
- Mikael also works as a freelance media strategic advisor for such global companies as Al Jazeera International, ABC News, Discovery Channel and others.
- Mikael is also a guide for various travel companies, for example The Scientific Exploration Society in London, to places such as Galapagos, Patagonia, Siberia, New Guinea and the Polar areas.
- Mikael has also been included in the pages of Adventurous Dreams, Adventurous Lives, with 120 other outstanding individuals, representing a Who’s Who of international exploration, relating those indelible moments in their youth when the dreams that launched their remarkable lives were born.
- Mikaels Siberian Journey was picked as one of the most important Expeditions in the 21st Century and was included in Explorers Clubs book, in the autumn of 2007, “They Lived To Tell the Tale – True Stories of Modern Adventure from the Legendary Explorers Club”.