Continuing my interview series ……
If you are a hiker or if you love beautiful pictures taken in remote places then you will love this interview.
Today I bring you Neil Fahey, a complex human being that you will love. He is interested and involved in conservation, writing, human rights, nature and art in all it’s forms as he states on his remarkable blog.
Find out more about his passion for the outdoors, what was the trigger for starting his blog, what choice of gear and survival accessories are his favorites and what are his amazing tips on how to make the most of a hiking experience.
So, here we go:
1. Please introduce us to yourself.
I’m Neil, and I love life. I’m passionate about lots of things… Some of these are hiking, writing, blogging, and online communications. You can find my hiking-related musings online at Bushwalking Blog, or connect with me on my Twitter accounts, @neil_fahey and @BushwalkingBlog.
2. How did you find your passion for the outdoors and what made you start blogging?
I grew up in a small rural town, so I was always surrounded by nature. I remember going to a nearby forest for picnics as a young child, and for sporadic hikes with school and friends. It wasn’t until 2008, when I booked a trip to Peru to take on the Inca Trail, that hiking really became my passion. I quickly realised that I was completely unprepared for hiking long distances at altitude, so I made it my mission to hike as much as I possibly could in preparation. I found that Melbourne was completely surrounded by beautiful state and national parks and, in the lead up to my trip, I hiked every weekend and even during my lunchbreaks on weekdays. The blog started from there, mainly as somewhere to share photos and information about the hikes, but it has massively evolved since then.
3. I personally love the “Photography” section on your blog. What environment that you photographed did you enjoy the most?
Thanks. I’m glad you like it. Last year I took a trip to Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, where we hiked some of the most rugged and remote coastline I’ve ever seen. It felt like everywhere I pointed my lens was another amazing photo, just waiting to be snapped. It’s such an incredible place.
Every place I visit presents a new challenge to my photography skills, though. I guess that’s what I love about photography. A place can be breathtaking to look at, but capturing that in a photograph is a completely different thing.
4. What is a hiker’s greatest fear? What do you do to prevent an unfortunate event like that?
I’m sure everybody has their own fears, but mine has always been being bitten by a snake during a solo hike where I don’t have phone reception. There are lots of things you can do to minimise the likelihood of that happening and your chance of dying if it does. The statistics do lie in my favour though, considering there’s actually more chance of dying from a lightning strike than a snake bite in Australia. It’s all about harm minimisation approaches, accepting that there’s a chance it could happen, and that keeping your wits about you could save your life if it does.
5. If you were in a life-threatening situation, facing the elements what gear would save your life?
After watching 127 Hours I bought myself a Leatherman Skeletool, just in case I should ever find myself in the position of having to sever a limb in order to keep myself alive. However, in most survival situations your brain would probably be your biggest asset. Aside from that, it would be the combination of the right equipment that would save you rather than any one item. I always make sure that the gear I’m carrying is suited to the conditions I’m hiking in.
6. What is your favourite air mattress and why did you choose it?
The mattress I use for overnight and multi-day hikes is a Thermarest NeoAir, and I’m super happy with it. I went for an air mattress rather than a foam one because I’m a terrible sleeper and I find foam very uncomfortable. This particular model sold itself, when I saw the packed size (23cm x 10cm) and felt the weight (370g).
7. What is your favourite survival gear?
Having never really been in a life threatening situation, I guess I’m not fond of any one piece of gear in particular. You’ve got to admit that the Leatherman Skeletools are a very cool little piece of kit though. I’ve been a bit fascinated with pocket knives since I was a kid. I love how they make all those tools fit together in such a neat (and in the Skeletool’s case, extremely light) little package.
8. Give us 5 tips on how to make the most of a hiking experience.
- Make an effort to properly hydrate before you set off on a hike, and to regularly take small sips of water throughout. Dehydration is of course fatal in the worst case scenario, but staying hydrated at the very least prevents headaches and can help with your stamina throughout the day.
- Don’t take on a hike that you’re not equipped with the navigation and safety skills to complete. Every few weeks there are news reports about another lost or injured hiker who has bitten off more than they could chew.
- Hike with kids. They teach you a whole new way of looking at the natural world.
- Hiking can be a great time to be alone with your thoughts and analyse everything that’s going on in your life, but your nature experience can be a whole lot more beneficial if you make time to just be present and in the moment. A technique that works for me is to concentrate on my breathing and try to synchronise it with my steps. I find that this causes a flow-on effect that leads to a more connected feeling, where I see much more of the beauty surrounding me.
- Further to the previous point, one thing that I often regret after a hike is having my camera glued to my face the entire time. I try not to do it, but I guess that’s one of the issues with trying to turn my passion into a living. Sometimes I have to. I doubt I’ll ever stop bringing my camera along on hikes, but I’m trying to make time on each hike to really see my surroundings, rather than just concentrate on capturing them in photos.
9. What do you love most about your lifestyle?
Although I’m obviously a pretty outdoorsy guy, I love living in Melbourne because it provides my family and I with the best of both worlds. Accessing national and state parks is easy (as I mentioned, I can even hike on my lunch break) but we also have the opportunity to attend all kinds of fun community art and cultural events on a weekly basis and, when we can get a babysitter, there’s a whole raft of live music, pubs and clubs, festivals, and restaurants to take advantage of. I love most things about my lifestyle, but pretty much all of them are possible because I live in Melbourne.
10. A message to your readers and fans.
I just hope they know how very thankful I am that they continue to read and share my work. I consider many of them to be my friends, although in most cases we’ve never met, and I hope that I help and inspire them to enjoy and conserve our amazing natural spaces.
Thank you so much Neil for the amazing opportunity and for sharing with us your amazing experiences. I will keep in mind your tips when I will go for my next hike. Keep on the amazing work you do at your blog. We appreciate you!