Our man in Greenland: A Q&A with explorer Mikael Strandberg (Part 2)
Explorer and documentarian Mikael Stranberg is packing up his family to live in a remote community in Greenland for a year. We caught up with him to ask why.
For more than 30 years, Mikael Strandberg has parlayed a natural rootlessness and a consuming curiosity with human nature into a career as one of the world’s most unconventional explorers and filmmakers. Director of six documentaries, including 2016’s Man With a Pram – an eye-opening 466-mile journey across post-Brexit Britain in which he walked from one of Manchester’s poorest suburbs to the steps of Buckingham Palace while pushing his two-year-old daughter in a stroller – and a fellow of The Explorers Club, the Royal Geographical Society, and other distinguished organizations, Strandberg is no stranger to going where others don’t or won’t.
In Part 2 of our interview, we delve into the logistics of life as an explorer-for-hire and get into the philosophy that guides people like Mikael to seek out wild experiences, far-off places, and new people.
Missed the first part of the interview? Read it here.
How long does it take to prepare for these kinds of expeditions? What kind of training do you do beforehand?
I started working on [the Greenland expedition] full-time in December 2016 and have basically worked day and night on it since we decided to do this project.
The preparations are based on reading as many subjects as possible about the job ahead, which for me means doing a fair and realistic documentary on Greenland and our time as a family there. I read a lot about Inuit history and Nunavut, which is very much like Greenland, and I read a lot of Canadian media and articles about climate change, which is part of the documentary. Greenland is very much at the center of the climate issue and the concerns about it.
Physically, I train almost every day. In wintertime, I go to the gym. In the summer, I go bouldering. (The same applies to my wife, Pam, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan.)
How do you decide where to go next?
I met my wife in Yemen in 2009 and have pretty much gone where her academic career choices have taken us. We’ve ended up in some very interesting places: Moss Side in Manchester, Kazakhstan, and, to a certain degree, Greenland. She went over first this winter for her studies.
Once our destination is settled, I end up doing a documentary about a certain aspect of it. My last film was Man With a Pram, in which I put my two-year-old daughter Dana in a stroller and walked from Moss Side, one of Britain’s poorest areas, all the way to Buckingham Palace.
What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned or discovered in your travels? Something that challenged your preconceptions of a place or a people?
Every day my preconceptions of a place or an issue are challenged. That is why I love to travel!
The most surprising thing I’ve learned throughout my years of travel is the fact that, contrary to what you read in the news, in books or online, people all over the world are generally extremely nice, welcoming, and generous.
Why should people travel?
Travel should really be a major part of the curriculum of life. It makes life more inspiring, fun, and awesome. But it also makes you a better, more intelligent, and empathetic human being. If more people traveled, we would have fewer problems and live in a less divided world.
What do you hope your audience gets out of your adventures? What do you want them to take away from your experiences?
I want to both inspire them to spend more of their short existence on Earth traveling and to get a better understanding of the real world.
What’s one place you’ve never been that you really want to explore?
China, Japan, and Iraq. It wasn’t easy when I was young to get a visa to China, for example. When it became easier, I had my mind elsewhere. I believe you need to put years into researching China before going there to do a job.
Is there anywhere that’s too far, too dangerous, too extreme? Is anywhere that’s off-limits?
Nope. What is there to be scared of? Honestly, I don´t understand the question!
What’s the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever received?