Trailblazer

The ultimate
work-life balance

Olie Hunter Smart, London, England

For many people in regular jobs, the idea of mixing up their regular working week with wild adventures seems like nothing but a pipe-dream. Olie Hunter Smart, 35, is living proof that it isn’t.

Back in 2015, Olie was doing well in the world of digital marketing, but was frustrated. His complaints of “working all hours, not seeing friends, not making the most of life” will seem familiar to many. But he changed things up – while still maintaining a career – and has since been on some incredible trips and had some amazing experiences.

“The idea is getting away for a day, or just an evening, into the wild”

“I went freelance, so I could control which jobs to take on, and fit in some expeditions,” he says. “The first big one was the Amazon River Run. We went from source to sea down the Amazon. We walked the first 600km, and kayaked the rest. What I loved was learning about different cultures as we travelled.” After returning home – and banking some more travel funds – Olie then embarked on a journey through India on foot, tracing the history of the country’s independence. “The walk took seven and a half months, and when you travel solo, you’re more approachable,” he says. “Again, the way the cultures, religions and people changed, from the Himalayas to the plains, was fascinating. People told me incredible stories, and I was invited to stay in their homes. It was very fulfilling.”

“I find that escapism gives me the energy to stick with work”

Olie also made a film during his walk: “I’d never done anything like film-making before. We tend not to learn too many new skills as adults, but it is very satisfying, and another way to enrich your life.” Even if you don’t fancy a huge project, though, Olie believes that everybody can introduce variety, and embrace the natural world more, thanks to the concept of “micro-adventures”. “The idea is getting away for a day, or just an evening, into the wild,” he says. “I’ve done several from London, where you head out after work, camp in a forest or by a lake, then go back into the office the next morning. I find that escapism gives me the energy to stick with work.”

Photography by Jody Daunton