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Megan Hine - Survival Consultant & Expedition Guide

Rose & Willard is honoured to have Megan Hine as a brand ambassador. Megan is a survival consultant and expedition guide. As well as leading her own clients into survival territories, she is widely known for working alongside Bear Grylls on his various television shows. Megan is also the author of 'Mind of a Survivor: What the Wild Has Taught Me About Survival and Success'. She is a true pioneer.

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We interviewed Megan to find out more about how she chose a career most women would not even consider and how her survival techniques can be applied to everyday challenges.

  • What is a survival consultant?

For TV production companies and channels I act as a survival and safety consultant/advisor and guide. This involves meeting with the producers or the channel to ascertain what they would like to achieve on their adventure show. Once I have the brief I scout locations and plan the journey or the locations they will use. I also advise on what survival or challenges (stunts) we can do in the specified terrain. Once we start filming I take on a safety role which involves working in tandem as the challenges are undertaken. Often I'll be running or climbing through steep, hazardous terrain with a camera operator attached to me by a rope.

On some shows where we have dropped presenters/ everyday people out in the wild, jungles, deserts, mountains, I will accompany them for the duration off screen. I'll hunt and fish for them and generally oversee their welfare. We often push people to quite extreme mental and physical barriers and as such there is a duty of care. We need to monitor for when someone has had enough.

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  • Would you consider yourself a modern-day pioneer? Which other female pioneers do you find inspiring?

Realistically, equal opportunities have only opened up for women in the Western world in say, the last hundred years. Although there have always been pioneering women who rebelled or who would not be denied their nature, it's only recently that this has become broadly acceptable.

Therefore, I truly believe that women today have the opportunity to be pioneers in their own way and in every way. Many women want careers, to be financially independent, to have a full social life and to have a family and without compromising their femininity. 
Women also want to be bold about how they are seen and what constitutes beauty. Some of this comes down to body image and body acceptance which is a slow process but there is a growing redefinition of what it means to be beautiful.
There are no rules and so we need to find our way but this means that we can blaze a trail and carve an easier path for future generations.
As far as being a pioneer goes, I just hope that I am helping in my small way to encourage others to question stereotypes. Throughout history there have been incredible female adventurers, explorers and mountaineers, such as Gertrude Bell, who for some reason never had the same exposure as their male counterparts. I love what I do. It has never been about proving a point, I simply enjoy guiding people (men and women) on adventures.

 

Megan Hine Rose & Willard ambassador 

  • How did you first develop your love for adventure and how did this become your career?

I have always, even before I could talk (much to the consternation of my parents), had an inherent need to push and explore boundaries and discover how the world around me works and to discover what my place is within it. I feel most alive and calm when I'm surrounded by nature. My parents encouraged me and my siblings to play outside and to enjoy active and adventurous family holidays.

Although I did well enough at school academically and in sports ( I represented GB in sabre fencing for several years) I struggled to sit still in lessons and would find myself staring out of the window at the hills and trees and dreaming of far off places and soaring peaks. Being indoors left me feeling trapped and feeling anxious. It was when I was outside, moving and pushing myself mentally and physically that I felt at ease.

In my early teens I became involved with the military cadets and took advantage of any adventurous training I could get my hands on - ice climbing, mountaineering, white water kayaking. I'd also head off to Snowdonia, on my own or with a friend, and for days on end.

After leaving school I gained outdoor qualifications and spent a year working in an outdoor centre in New Zealand. This was followed up with a degree in Outdoor Education. I then taught off-road driving, mountaineering, climbing and then did a two-year intensive apprenticeship in survival and bushcraft which saw me spending six months at a time living in the woods. It was at this time that I started assisting and then leading pretty extreme expeditions to remote corners of the world and with some incredibly talented people.

I also ran an outdoor programme at an international school in the Swiss Alps for four years whilst leading expeditions and working on TV shoots in the school holidays. The combination of all these random skills proved a perfect fit for the adventure TV world and I now split my time between setting up and running the safety on TV shows and private guiding all over the world. I have had the fortune to work with some amazing people, from every day adventurers to scientists to A-list celebrities and royalty.

 

  • Tell us more about your book, ‘Mind of a Survivor’ which explores how to apply survival knowledge to everyday life.

‘Mind of a Survivor’ is an exploration into resilience - through my own experiences of personal survival scenarios and people I have worked with along with the journey. There are people I have helped develop during TV shows; ordinary people who have learned to survive in the wilderness. It's an assessment of what I believe are the components for resilience.

I wrote the book with the intention of making it accessible to the general public. My aim was to subtle trigger people to question the way they view their lives and to encourage them to consider how they react in certain situations. 

One of the questions I wanted to explore was whether what could be learned in wilderness was applicable to everyday life. And if so, how it could be achieved. My experience has taught me that resilience can be learned and that traits can be developed to transform someone into a survivor.

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  • What’s the most challenging or fearful situation you’ve faced during an expedition and how did you deal with it?

I often get asked this question and I find it hard to answer. Part of what inspired me to write ‘Mind of a Survivor’ came about as a child after reading several books by explorers. ‘These people are human just like me, how do they deal mentally with such extreme hardship and the real risk of losing their lives to chase their dream? And how come they rarely talk about this in their books?’

My own experience, and working with and guiding others, has taught me the critical important of dealing with emotions that can be potentially overwhelming. Rationality can be difficult to maintain when faced with a genuine life-or-death situation.

There have been some situations, especially when I've had other peoples' lives in my hands, when I've known how vital it is to keep a calm and clear mind. There can be no room for emotions. Therefore, when I'm in a challenging situation, my emotions go straight into a mental box which gets locked. This allows me to focus on what I need to do to get the whole team safely through. 

In terms of what I've been through - I've been caught in the crossfire of warring tribes in Kenya, been chased by armed opium farmers in Thailand, had to hide in the mountains of Mexico while being hunted by armed drug smugglers, been stalked by large predators, been caught in an avalanche, stung by scorpions, bitten by a snake and quite a few more near misses. 

Megan Hine Rose & Willard brand ambassador

  • How do people react to you being a female adventurer? In what way do you think male adventurers are treated differently?

This might be considered controversial and is something I find really fascinating to watch but I am not actually sure there is too much difference in terms of how male and female adventurers are treated. Rather there just aren't many female adventurers in the public eye.

The term 'adventurer', in any event, is rather broad. In the media it's often treated as someone doing something unusual or, in some way, challenging. Regardless of gender, the pressures are the same.

I'm glad to say that the scene to which I belong - the outdoor instructor and guide scene - women are very much accepted and more women are joining. That's not to say that there aren't issues to address. Many of the learning models are still male-centric but it is changing. This is principally because the outdoor industry has a strong 'be yourself' culture.
Issues sometimes arise during media events. On ordinary working day, clothing and make-up choices are determined by the job in hand and the weather. However, when the media is involved there's a certain amount of pressure to glamourise and create sex appeal. Interestingly this applies to both male and female adventurers. 
  • Are you a feminist? If yes, what’s your definition of feminism?

Feminism to me is not about valuing one sex over the other, or giving one opportunities over the other. To me, it is about the best person for the job and for that person to be treated equally. With this in mind I suppose yes, I am a feminist. I believe in hard graft and showing the world what we are made of, whatever our gender.

 

  • Being a survival expedition leader has traditionally been seen as a male role. What do you think you do to challenge the stereotype?

I just do it. I am not trying to prove anything to anyone about my sex. There have been times when I've been discriminated against or have hit cultural buffers which can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally draining. However, I love what I do and I have dedicated precious time and money to training and getting the qualifications to better myself. I never give up because I know that what I do keeps me and my team safe.

I was recently heading up the safety team for a high-profile show that was being shot in Bulgaria. We had just wrapped filming when I got into conversation with a local guide on the team who had helped scout locations. As I was saying goodbye, he said to me, ‘I am a man, you are a woman, but yet I couldn’t keep up. This is not right! I must train harder’.

My first reaction was to remind him that he wouldn't have been able to keep up because I do this every day and have been committed to it all my life. But then I realised that it was actually a compliment. In Bulgaria, it is rare to see a woman doing what I do. I was actually glad that I'd been able to show him what women are capable of and that this is a step towards normalising attitudes. I do not believe change happens by talking about it, change happens through exposure to other possibilities.

Megan Hine brand ambassador Rose and Willard

  •  Who would be your dream person to lead on a survival expedition?

I would love to work with David Attenborough, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work on one of his shows. I grew up watching him and have worked with camera operators and other film crew who have worked with him and find him truly inspirational. The fact that after all these years he remains passionate about the wilderness and is still learning. He is a true role model and icon.

 

  • Your job obviously involves spending a lot of time away from family and friends. How do you deal with that?

I suppose it’s something I have always done. While I am more than happy spending long periods of time alone or with strangers I love having an active social life when I am home. It takes a conscious effort to keep in touch with people and checking in with friends and family occasionally. It would be so easy for me in ten years' time to look around me and realise I have left family and friends behind - that would be a tragedy. Getting the balance right when you are travelling all the time is almost impossible but those odd moments of catching up with those I love and care about are so beautiful - I very much treasure them.

 

  • What advice would you give to other ambitious women?

Have faith in yourself. You hold the key to your resilience. Tap into all the experiences you have had over the years and transfer the skills to what you want to do. To get anywhere in this world you have to have an inner strength and fire deep inside you that keeps you interested in your environment. Always question and always listen to that inner fire. If it dulls then it is time to reassess your choices.

 

  • What advice would you give to your younger self?

I actually don’t think I’d give her much advice, she must learn from her own mistakes and find where her passions lie and where her place is in the world. What I would do is give her support, give her a hug when she cried with frustration and show her how far she has come and that she needn’t have doubted herself for she will survive.

 

  • You must have seen some beautiful and remote parts of the world. What would say has been your most memorable or favourite?

For me it’s about the people I travel with. I’ve encountered incredible wildlife and seen places straight out story books. I’ve been allowed access to areas that westerners or film crews have never been allowed before but it’s people that make or break a place for me.

 

  • Rose & Willard means ‘Feminine & Bold’ which we think describes you perfectly. Who would you describe as Feminine & Bold and why?

My grandmother. I have always admired how genuinely interested in the people around her she is. She has remained young at heart. She insisted on sleeping on the couch when she visited my brother at university a few years ago just because it was something she had never done. She came snowshoeing in the Alps with me at 83 and completed a degree in psychology with the open university at 84. To me she is timeless in her feminine fashion sense and is bold in making the conscious decision to remain aware of the changing world around her.

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  • As you know, we have a studio dog called Amanda. Tell us more about your dog.

Tug is a rather stubborn and cheeky Husky, German Shepherd, Malamute cross. She has the typical husky mind set of being incredibly loyal but independent at the same time. She came into my life as bit of a surprise and has become the perfect travelling and adventure buddy. When I am working on non-technical outdoor jobs in Europe she comes with me. She has her own passport and has travelled extensively around Europe. When I am further afield she stays with a dog trainer where she works helping train dogs with behavioural issues. She needs constant mental and physical stimulation so this suits her perfectly. I miss her a huge amount when I am away and am always really excited to be reunited with her.

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