Cycling and sailing to Chile: James travelled 9000 kilometres without fossil fuel
- 19 maa 2022
- 5 minuten leestijd
Sustainability and travel may seem like an incompatible combination. But adventurer and filmmaker James M. Levelle shows it is possible. One of his latest challenges? Travelling 9000 kilometres from homeland England to Chile. Fossil-fuel free.
“I am not some sort of evangelist,” James says from behind his computer, while a kettle of water is simmering on the stove in his houseboat. "I don't tell people: ‘Naughty, naughty'." And yet… this man cycled, sailed, and rode on horseback to South America. Why? To drop by at a climate conference in the Chilean capital Santiago with Race For Future, a documentary full of stories from young people who strive for a better climate.
Adventure, nature, and impact
Ever since he was a little boy, he has had a close bond with nature and since 2007 he has filmed some of the world’s wildest places. At that time, he started working for an international NGO, reporting on child labor in India and deadly pirate fishermen off the coast of Sierra Leone. His life – unsurprisingly – is full of extraordinary adventures, nature, and incredible stories.
A different way of travel
James himself was introduced to a different way of travelling by creating the tv-series Free Ride. Discovery Channel asked: “How do you feel about travelling seven thousand miles in South America in ten weeks, with a guy you don’t know and with absolutely no money?” James didn't have to think long about that. “Rock and roll, let’s go.”
Surviving 72 days without money
So in 2015 he traveled through South America with American environmentalist Rob Greenfield. The target? Inspiring people to a less impactful, more positive lifestyle. “For 72 days I had no idea what would happen.” Every day James had to figure out what the next location, meal, and place to sleep would be. “This adventure changed my life. But I have to say: doing it every day for ten weeks is a bit much. Two weeks, okay. But ten: wow.”
Turbulent near-death experience
Although James has always been very conscious about nature, it was when he came face to face with death during Hurricane Michael in Florida in 2018 that he realised: 'I have to do something about the nature and climate crisis'. This hurricane was the most intense to hit the United States after Hurricane Camille of 1969.
“I was never in denial about the climate crisis, but for so long it’s been all talk about CO2-levels in the atmosphere, global warming and melting icecaps. And it’s bad, but it’s just numbers. Then suddenly I was living it. That’s true understanding. And it’s just kicking off: rising sea levels and insane floods, forest fires and drought, and loads more storms and hurricanes. We all need to engage with this problem in any way we can.”
The power of young people
During the same period, young people worldwide – being too young to vote – took to the streets with climate demonstrations. Logically, they had to be the subject. The final ingredient for the James M. Levelle mix? A challenge like Free Ride. This time: travel fossil fuel-free to the UN Climate Change Conference in Chile. And so, the documentary Race For Future was born.
So said, so done: James departed from hometown London. A bicycle and express train ride later, he boarded a tallship in Seville in southern Spain to Montevideo in Uruguay. But once in the middle of the ocean - weeks from land in sight - the message came: 'The climate summit in Chile has been canceled and relocated to Madrid'. And he had already passed there. What did James do? He completed the challenge, showed his documentary in Santiago and then also at the conference in Madrid.
A climate puzzle and a flexible mindset
Travelling with no money or fossil fuel. It sounds almost impossible, but James makes it sound easy. This is partly due to his way of looking at things. “You can look at something as a terrible problem – like the climate crisis – or you can get curious and see it as a puzzle. Then go at it with a spirit of adventure and act in any way you can.”
A flexible mindset. That’s all you need according to him. “Yes, your bike can break down. But stuff can break down regardless. You got to be prepared for things to go wrong and embrace the unexpected. Ask for help, meet people, connect with the place. That’s where the magic happens. Those are the truly memorable moments.”
With positive, entertaining, and accessible stories, the award-winning filmmaker hopes to inspire people to a different way of life. One in which people act positively for the climate. One in which they slow down and make more time for friends and family. And one in which they travel in a more creative, flexible way and are more connected to nature, places, and people.