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01:19 What was this TV travel host scared of
04:15 Managing anxiety
09:01 Traveling through COVID-19
14:10 The difference between fearless and reckless
19:29 What’s Mike doing now?
23:24 Dancing with risk – what does he mean?
24:53 Get in touch
"I guess there are lots of quotes, but there are a few about the fear that I really enjoy. And one of them is by Joseph Campbell. And it's, "The cave you fear to enter hides the treasure that you seek." And that is I think a beautiful quote about fear, and about my story and about anybody who has overcome a difficulty in their life and then been able to live the best version of their life. Is that the darkest crevice in your life that you're scared of, if you decide with shaking hands and a beating heart and sweat on your brow to hold a lantern up into there and just explore it and get it out and do the thing you're scared of, and unearth whether it be a problem in your life, something you're avoiding, it's always a solution, right?" - Mike
Mike Corey, the host of the BBC's The Travel Show and star of the YouTube channel 'Fearless and Far', is breaking the mold. He is traveling the world and filming things never filmed before, to inspire people to chase their fears, lean into discomfort, and find the opportunities hidden in the struggle.
Mike believes that when we face our fears and overcome them, we become better versions of ourselves. He also hopes that by experiencing and sharing the unique, weird, and unusual aspects of a country, we can begin to understand that our fears are often unfounded. “More often, it's our lack of understanding that makes us afraid”.
Mike aims to show people that the world is inherently good, ultimately allowing us to embrace new cultures, rituals, and practices.
This is Socotra where Mike and his girlfriend were when the pandemic was declared.
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Kim: Mike Corey is the host of the BBC's ‘The Travel Show’ and star of the YouTube channel 'Fearless and Far', and he is breaking the mould, traveling the world and filming things never filmed before, in an effort to inspire people to chase their fears, lean into discomfort and find the opportunities hidden in the struggle. So, what is it he is frightened of?
Mike: And that's such a good question, because the channel is called Fearless and Far, and that is my alias. It actually used to be called Kick the Grind, and I changed that a few years ago to Fearless and Far because I am truly fearless. No, that's actually the opposite. I am fearful. I'm a recovering scaredy-cat. And I learned a while ago that fear was something that was controlling my life completely. And so right now I have a YouTube channel, obviously, I'm a social media, I mentioned, travel influencer, I have a television show on BBC, I do public speaking circuits. My life is public speaking.
But what you don't see on the surface is I had a phobia of public speaking. I was blackout terrified to speak publicly for most of my life. And then through travel and through life just whipping coconuts at my head and making me make hard decisions, I was able to become, I feel, the best version of myself. And that was only through tackling these giant fears in my life head-on. And for myself, I guess I never was given the tools to know how to deal with that. We all have these traumatic experiences when we're younger, these develop up into fears, and then we just kind of deal with it. And we assume they're part of who we are. but I am the living breathing definition that if you choose to head-charge these fears, you can level up in ways you'd never imagined. So I'm not fearless at all, but I do really, really enjoy fighting them, and I do really, really enjoy encouraging other people to do the same.
Kim: Yeah. We've got a couple of interviews coming up, actually, with people that have to conquer anxiety, for example, have headed off and walked 3000 kilometers over from the North Island of New Zealand to the South Island. That takes real guts, doesn't it? And as someone with anxiety, when you are crippled with fear, to put yourself out there it takes guts, doesn't it? But are you saying it's worth it?
Mike: Yeah. Well, the thing is it does take guts, but I guess I realized that I was so paralyzed by fear because I didn't understand it. I didn't know what was happening. And there's that old cliche saying that there's nothing to fear but fear itself. And you kind of just brush off these sayings like you've heard them before, but really if you think about it, that's kind of what anxiety is. I used to have anxiety attacks as well when it came to speaking in class and things during grade school. And I realized after that I would have this feeling, this physical reaction, my heart would start beating, my palms would start sweating, I'd start shaking. And then I'd be like, "Oh no, it's happening." And then I was scared of being scared. So they would just burn up in this giant spinning wheel of fire and take me off a cliff basically.
And so if you... And what I started doing on the channel and my message, is trying to disassociate the reaction of fear to fear. And when you do feel this feeling, it's not an, "Oh my God, I'm so scared. What am I going to do? Oh my God. I'm getting scared again." It's, "Cool. Okay. Hi, we're back old friend. I know you're trying here to save me, but listen, we can walk along this path together, but I'm not going to listen to you." And so approaching this feeling that wells up inside of you this way changes your whole relationship with the feeling. Because at the end of the day, it is a relationship. And it's something that's as human as breathing to us.
And especially, when these people who have anxiety as I did, it's like if you can disassociate this thing you're afraid of and also this feeling, I think that's step one. Number two is understanding, learning about it. Let's say you have a fear of spiders. Do you think someone who grew up in a household where their dad had a pet tarantula and every weekend they went and they lovingly fed it crickets and they learned about how interesting spiders are? No, that's not the case. Someone threw a spider on you when you were six or chased around the house, your brother or your sister, whatever it was. And then you developed this phobia. Or maybe you just watched a bunch of scary spider movies. And so you just don't understand how spiders work, you don't understand any interesting thing about. The only data points you have in your head are these horror movies basically, horror situations.
And I think the same thing applies to travel. And a lot of these locations that people call tourist unfriendly. Where the only data points we have of the Middle East or whatever it be, are these negative things we see in the news and the media. They're not our experiences. They're not the experiences of a friend or a family member, they're just all of these random data points thrown at us like darts. And they stick in, and that's what we remember. And I think with some of these phobias, like my public speaking, for example, I wasn't born with a public speaking phobia. I was in grade four, and I had a hamster that died, and I was brought up in front of the class by the teacher to explain to the class why I was looking sullen. And so she made me, and I was in French immersion, and she forced me in my first year of French immersion to explain why I was sad in front of 30 people when my hamster just died. And she kept on pushing and pushing and pushing, I didn't know how to explain, "Excuse me, my hamster just died." You learn how to say, "Where is the mailbox, sir? Excuse me, how do I find the bathroom?" You don't learn the vocabulary of how to explain a dead hamster.
Kim: She was expecting you to do this in French?
Mike: Yes. And so I was like, "My hamster is..." And like, "[foreign language 00:05:18]." " [foreign language 00:05:22]." Anyway, it was just... and there were a couple of instances during that year that I was... This was my introduction to public speaking. So like any, I think, malleable ball of clay at that age, you carry some baggage after that. Do you know what I mean? And so it was because I had three or four of my first data points of being in front of a crowd. Because how much public speaking are you doing at that age? Basically none. Maybe you answer a couple of math questions in a line, but yeah. So I carry that with me, and after a while it kind of just balloons and festers like a wound and gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it becomes a giant elephant in the back of your head.
Kim: Yeah. Well, we tend to, with minds like this, catastrophize things.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. And I think we grew up as kids with monsters under our bed. And after a while, I realized, "Hey, monsters aren't real." But those are just fears, right? That's the fear you have when you're five or six, monsters, you see them on TV. And then as we grow up, those fears grow up too. The things that are even more scary, like fear of commitment or fear of public speaking, or fear of [inaudible 00:06:20]. But the fear still comes along with us, it just changes forms as well.
Kim: Let's talk about, and you mentioned the elephant in the room, this time we're talking about coronavirus and fear. And you know that in March when the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, the world went into lockdown. And it's slowly recovering in some areas. Certainly not here in Australia, I can report, at the time of our recording there are only four reasons why we can leave our country. We are also a Federation, but we've got hard closed borders. So it's just crazy. So why are you continuing to travel despite the pandemic? And how are you doing it?
Mike: Yeah, great question. So let's rewind a few months. Before coronavirus took the world by surprise, I guess let's say early March when things started to close down. I had already been to 11 countries this year. So my lifestyle is I travel 11 out of the 12 months of the year. I split time between my hometown on the East Coast of Canada, a small province called New Brunswick where my family's from, and I was living in Mexico City at the time. So I kind of bounce around those if I want to settle down, but for the most part, I'm on the road 11 months of the year. And so before March, I had already been to 11 countries. Which was Mauritania, Bangladesh, Oman, and all these other places that generally aren't on the normal tourist path.
And so when coronavirus hit, I was with my girlfriend and we were actually camping on the Island of Socotra in Yemen. So not exactly the easiest and most accessible place, probably one of the most remote places on the planet actually. Socotra is like Madagascar, or it's like the Galapagos. This Island Juul in the middle of the ocean, where most of the animals are endemic, they're only found there. The most iconic one is the dragon blood tree, which is a strange upside-down cactus baobab type thing that if you cut the bark it bleeds red Sap, like dragon blood. It is an alien landscape. A beautiful place, but very remote and very little cell reception.
Kim: These are the types of places you like to visit, right?
Mike: Yeah, exactly. I still think there are places we can truly explore and be one of the first there. And that was one of those places. Anyway. And so we were there and I got a scratch at the tent at like 3:00 AM, and it was our guide saying, "Hey, a guy just came on a motorbike saying that flight you were supposed to take in two weeks actually is leaving in three hours. And if you're not on it, you're going to be stuck there." And I had just broken my laptop, and I had lost my wallet, and I was there with my girlfriend. And actually, she ended up staying there for four months, because that was the next opportunity to leave the Island. And I actually went back to Canada, and it was in lockdown for the coronavirus. So she had this really amazing desert island fantasy getaway. Well, amazing. I mean, you sleep in a tent the entire time and it's not much, but that's what she likes to do.
Kim: So why did she do that and not go with you?
Mike: Because she couldn't come to Canada, number one. We had closed our borders and to anyone but non-residents. Sorry, anyone but residents. I couldn't go to Poland. And she doesn't really... She's from Poland, but she used to live in the UK, and her home is on the road. And so for her home was staying in Socotra. And she has her own story, maybe for another day, but it was quite incredible staying there for four months. And it's all on YouTube as well, if you type in... Her name's Eva Zu Beck. Anyway. So I went home and I spent those three, four months on the East coast of Canada. And like the rest of us, just trying to understand the world. And it was difficult.
And then in early July, the EU opened up to Canadians. And so again, being Canadian was a bit of a blessing because Americans still can't leave their country for the most part. And so then the debate happened in my head where it's like, "What is essential travel, and what does non-essential travel?" So for someone who gets employment through travel and has a travel YouTube channel, or maybe has a blog or whatever, their income is by traveling. That's kind of deemed... No, it is deemed non-essential. Or someone who has a relationship that is across borders, whether I'm dating someone from Poland or the United States, is maintaining a relationship like that essential? Well maybe if you're boyfriend and girlfriend, maybe not. But what if you're fiance? It starts to get a bit fuzzy with what essentially is. Coffee's not essential in the morning, but it's damn nice.
So anyway, the opportunity came to leave Canada on the 2nd of July, and so I did. And I think I had two ways to approach it. I could be kind of do it secretly, or I could do it in an unapologetic way. And so that's what I did. I made a video about why I'm choosing to go to Europe as a tourist, so non-essential, and also a guide and showing the experience and some difference along the way. And so I really tried to embody that, knowing that it was going to have some controversy. And I'm sure there are listeners now who would think that's okay, or maybe not think that's okay. Maybe think it was a reckless thing. But at the end of the day, I thought about what are the most important things? And one of them is if I am choosing to travel because I deem it essential, making sure I'm not tracking dirty feet around the world. Making sure that I'm not being a potential carrier, bringing it into small communities, making sure I'm following the rules.
I came to Europe, I quarantined for two weeks even though I didn't have to, it wasn't required for Canadians to do so. But I thought, "Hey, you know what? It's not a bad idea. Plus I've got some work to do as well." And so I went above and beyond what I was required to do. And so far here, I've been to seven countries since I left in early July. So it's been still a slower pace, and I've changed my travel style a little bit. I'm not visiting indigenous tribes in the forest anymore, but you can still see some sites. And you have to wear a mask, and there are some other things you have to keep in mind as well, but for the most part, the world is continuing to click. And no one's come after me with pitchforks yet, so it's been going pretty well.
Kim: Well during the height of the pandemic we were sharing stories of people, much like your girlfriend who I'd loved to hear her story about, and I will go to YouTube. We were sharing stories about travelers that had been stuck and had to get home, industry experts, company directors, all those that have been affected by the pandemic. But now we're switching our conversation to actually, well okay, we're going to live with this for a bit and how do we travel through it? So you've done that, even though... We say you're fearless, you're obviously not reckless. What tips would you give to people listening to this on how to do this right so that you're not being reckless?
Mike: Yeah. And I think the number one thing is if you do decide to travel, that is a great thing that you can do, but at the end of the day, if you want to choose to take a small risk with your life, I think it's a bit of a small risk than we're blowing it up to be, but if you're choosing to take that risk, don't put that risk on other people. Do you know what I mean? So again, being cautious and above and beyond, and knowing that if you're a foreigner in a place, at some point people might not... There's only really one situation we were in, in a country in Europe where we were in a small town, we show up with a license plate that wasn't from there, both speaking English, and they were not so happy to see us.
We tried to get to a restaurant. And so for the most part locals have been very accepting, but sometimes cautious. But again, if you're from a small little community and a car rolls in from far away, I don't blame people for being a little bit cautious. So just keep that in mind. And realizing by going a bit above and beyond, even if you don't agree with it all, it doesn't really matter. Agree with the fact that you are an ambassador for your country, and this is just travel advice all of the time, not necessarily during corona. You're an ambassador for your country. You're an ambassador for your language, your skin color. People make an impression when they see you. So this is a very important thing now.
As far as traveling with coronavirus, honestly, I thought it was going to be more inconvenient. I did a blog series, what it was like to travel as one of the very first tourists from Canada to the EU. And I document the whole thing., The differences along the way. You would think it would be a little bit more stringent, but with the temperature checks and some questionnaires, it really hasn't been that bad. And even traveling to seven countries since being able to get into the EU, there are not really many borders in between, so you can travel freely. When I flew to the UK, I have a BBC television show as well called The Travel Show, and I had to fill out a form, also had to wear a mask basically in any enclosed space, which is the same here in Europe as well. And again, be a little bit conscious of people. I've given so many elbow bumps since I've been here, it's kind of wild.
But the hardest thing, I think, with travel is I didn't realize how much I relied on my facial expressions to communicate when I can't speak the language. And it feels a bit soulless at times. I'm in Romania now, and you're meeting people who don't speak English or French or Spanish or any language you speak, and you have to try to smile and make an impression. I realize I rely on my smile a lot to make an impression. And I guess you can kind of see if someone's smiling with their eyes, but it's not exactly the same thing. And it's really hard, it's even harder to communicate when you can't see someone's mouth. So even if they're trying to speak English, or you're trying to speak Romanian or French, it's harder to understand. And so it has a little bit inconvenient in that way. But for the most part, it's been pretty much business as usual, like a masked business as usual. Again, and I always try to be a bit more cautious than the average person only because knowing people know that I'm not from here.
Kim: Okay. So you've had experiences living with remote tribes, you said since the virus you're unlikely to go into an indigenous community. What aspects of travel, or what aspects of the world stopping have you enjoyed seeing that you hadn't thought of before March?
Mike: I guess I think there's a really interesting opportunity now for the next year or two, or who knows how long, to see some of these places that were previously so clogged with tourism be almost empty. And maybe see how they should be seen or originally seen 100 years ago. I mean it's very unprecedented, and I guess for worse, not better the world has changed, but imagine seeing Machu Picchu with very few people there. Before the coronavirus, there were 2,500 people a day on this mountaintop, and a small little sacred site, right? So I think in certain parts of the world, I haven't been to Paris to see the Eiffel tower or Italy to see the Trevi fountain or anything. But I would imagine it's a once in a lifetime opportunity now to see some of these world attractions, even if it's the cathedral in some unknown town in Europe, these places aren't going to be clogged with tourists. It's going to be locals and maybe some local tourists. But I think there's a really interesting opportunity there if people do choose to think about traveling at this time.
Kim: What are you planning to do next?
Mike: Yeah. Well for me, as I said, I've really enjoyed in the past visiting some of these communities that were relatively untouched by tourism and finding strange shamans and people in the forest or in the mountains. And that's going to go on hold for a while. I think there's still room to be able to do that. So for example, I'm getting a coronavirus test tomorrow, and I think as long as I keep myself tested and wear a mask and I can prove to myself and others that I am COVID free, then I think there is space at some point to be able to consider doing the [inaudible] stuff again. Right now, I'm fine finding some other things.
For example, a couple of weeks ago we did some survival training in Poland, and I think in the future it'll be a bit more of that coming up. So I know I had visited some abandoned castles and palaces here in Europe, visiting some incredible ones scattered across Germany and Poland and Romania. And the abandoned exploration urbex is pretty COVID friendly for the most part. As well as wilderness survival training and doing some treks. So right now we've been planning some more adventures like that. Until we can kind of find where the world is and where we are in this COVID travel situation.
Kim: We've got a previous episode we did on urbex, so that's one for the show notes as well. So just two final questions. Do you have a travel quote or mantra that you subscribe to?
Mike: Yeah. I guess there are lots of quotes, but there are a few about the fear that I really enjoy. And one of them is by Joseph Campbell. And it's, "The cave you fear to enter hides the treasure that you seek." And that is I think a beautiful quote about fear, and about my story and about anybody who has overcome a difficulty in their life and then been able to live the best version of their life. Is that the darkest crevice in your life that you're scared of, if you decide with shaking hands and a beating heart and sweat on your brow to hold a lantern up into there and just explore it and get it out and do the thing you're scared of, and unearth whether it be a problem in your life, something you're avoiding, it's always a solution, right?
Procrastination or something you've been dreading to do. You know if you just go in there and do it then, Oh my God, wild things can happen. And so that's where that quote comes from. And I mean whether it was a dragon in there or your deepest, darkest fear, it's kind of the same thing. It's this monster you're afraid to face. But we all know that facing it is the key. Well maybe we don't all know that, but I'm here, I'm living proof that it is. And there's so many stories and great quotes similar to that, that if you go in there and find that dark place and illuminate it, that the world is your oyster after that.
Kim: Well, you are lucky to be alive, some of the stuff that I've seen you do. But that's another story.
Mike: But you said it earlier, there's a line between reckless and scary, right? So dangling your feet off a bridge with no safety harness could be considered reckless, right? And there's a lot of things. Driving drunk is reckless. But there are things that if you train your body, train your mind and you learn about them... Like I wouldn't say someone who's got done 500 skydives and goes out and does a skydive is as reckless as someone who just jumps off a cliff with a parachute, right? There's training that goes involved, that's involved with a lot of these things. And traveling to... Pick a country that's maybe not as... We were in Mauritania. Okay?
So Mauritania is not a destination, it's a small Saharan... Well, it's actually a big Saharan country in West Africa. Not really tourist-friendly. The people there are so friendly, but you kind of have to know how to navigate a cultural situation, right? Again, if you don't do that, you can probably end up in a little bit of trouble there. But again, having traveled for all these years now, almost a decade, I feel like these countries that people would disregard can be quite beautiful, safe, enjoyable, travel experiences. And it's all just knowing how to behave. Don't walk around in a bikini, for example. And don't shove a camera in a police officer's face, things you might do in our home countries that could get you in a lot of trouble there, right? And so I kind of approach it the same way. If you want to understand the situation through experience, through knowledge, through research, then reckless can turn into...
You're not going to get rid of the risk completely, but life always has risks. Life is a dance with risks. Sitting on your couch your entire life still has a lot of inherent risk to it, right? So I think that's how you have to approach it. If you spend time, over-prepare for these situations, learn about them, then you can dance with risk in a very beautiful way. I mean, God. Drivings a risk. We never talk about how we're putting the lives, our life into the hands of everybody else we cross on the highway. It's crazy that driving is... I think in 50 years we're going to look back now and say this. "How did we ever trust all of these people, and trust ourselves to drive on the freeway?" It's going to be one of those things that just seems so ridiculous in 50 years.
Kim: Well I don't want to scratch any wounds, but what was the name of the hamster?
Mike: Oh, I think it was Marty.
Kim: We'll release this episode in his honor.
Mike: Okay. RIP Marty. Hope you're doing well in hamster Heaven.
Kim: Yeah. Well if it wasn't for him, you may not have overcome this fear.
Mike: He was a martyr, I guess, in a certain way, wasn't he?
Kim: Marty the martyr, I love it.
Mike: I love it.
Kim: Mike, thank you so much. Really enjoyed talking about chasing your fears with you. And yeah, keep doing what you're doing. It's great.
Mike: Thanks. I had a great time.