Our Man in Greenland: Q&A with Explorer Mikael Strandberg (Part 1)
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.
Kensington Tours caught up with Strandberg as he prepared for his latest out-there endeavor: relocating his family to Greenland for a year-long posting at a remote, way-off-the-grid settlement.
Why do you do this? What drives you to explore such extreme places?
I am extremely curious about the workings of this globe. And the more I get to understand why certain things are the way they are; I just want to know more! After 31 years as a professional traveler, I have often found that extreme places give a deeper insight into understanding ourselves, homo sapiens, and my main drive is meeting people. Human beings fascinate me!
What inspired you to become an explorer? Was there a particular person or expedition that sparked your imagination?
I have often been asked this particular question, and I think a very big factor was that my sister lived in England during my youth and we used to go and visit her when the family could afford it. That sparked an interest in the world outside my own fence in a small country village in Sweden.
This interest turned out to be much stronger than education; in my early teens, I preferred sitting at the library reading books that interested me instead of doing mathematics. Most of those books dealt with different expeditions, especially those by Swedish travel writer, explorer, and adventurer Rolf Blomberg who wrote about fighting with anacondas in the jungles of the Amazonas and living with headhunters.
Reading is still a major part of preparing for expeditions and understanding the world. Right now, I am reading Fridtjof Nansen´s classic The First Crossing of Greenland.
Why are you moving your family to Greenland, of all places? How do they feel about the adventure ahead?
My kids have pretty much traveled with my wife and me since they were born, so to them, this is just another odd excursion with their parents. So far, they seem very happy, inspired, and content with what’s happening. But who knows? Maybe they will write books about their parents in the future which gives another side!
I grew up very close to what would be considered a polar climate, and I have spent a lot of time in cold arctic places. These last years I have lived in much warmer places and urban areas. I want to introduce my daughters to my background and show them why I am the complicated way I am. When Greenland turned up as a possibility, this was my dream!
I asked my wife, “Why don´t we move to an isolated settlement in Greenland, live there at least a year and introduce our kids to a completely different life?” I find that our children get spoiled by urban life and lose some perspective about what is important. Life is not always easy, so a year in an isolated village in Greenland will prepare them for the challenges and possibilities of their future.
Plus, traveling with kids is way more fun than traveling without them. They’re so perceptive and fun, and doors open more easily. I highly recommend it.
Read the second part of our interview with Mikael Strandberg next week.