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An Evening with Levison Wood

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On the evening of Thursday 8th February, local charity Challengers brought together their Champions Business Club and 240 guests at the Guildford Cathedral to hear from inspirational explorer, Levison Wood. Levison spoke about his numerous adventures and told anecdotes from his life which left the room buzzing with excitement and motivation to plan their next adventure. This event was generously sponsored by award-winning adventure company, Explore.

Challengers Business Club members met for an exclusive reception in the Cathedral’s refectory where they were welcomed by Chairman, Derek Arden, and networked with other members whilst enjoying canapes and a drinks reception before joining other guests for the talk from Levison and a Q+A session.

Challengers CEO, Laura Sercombe, welcomed the room and opened with a story about her childhood friendships: “My childhood friend was a girl called Lucy, we did everything together, sleepovers, playdates first trips to town, we grew up together and I know everyone is this room has had those experiences too.” She went on to say that 51% of disabled young people are excluded from settings where those childhood friendships begin and thanked everyone in the room for supporting Challengers to help change that figure.

Laura then handed over to Simon Grove, Head of Product at Explore, who introduced the adventure company and expressed how happy they were to be supporting the event: “We are a local company and offer small group holidays to 120 different countries around the world. We have 600 different trips for small groups, including cycling and walking holidays, family adventures, cultural trips and polar expeditions.

There are two main reasons why we are here tonight. The first is that we are delighted to be supporting a local charity and a cause close to our staff. Secondly, it’s Levison Wood!”

Levison Wood then began his talk, telling tales of his time walking the River Nile, his visit to the Himalayas, sharing anecdotes and stories from his journeys, and really giving an insight to the various cultures he has experienced.

“One thing I learned you must take with you is a nice clean shirt, preferably a crisp linen shirt. Obviously I spent a lot of time in the mountains, in deserts and in the jungle, but in-between all of those bits there’s lots of villages and towns. You never know who you might meet, so sometimes the jungle rags won’t do, you need to look a little smarter. On one expedition in particular it came in pretty handy, I was going through the Himalayas and I thought, I can’t go through the Himalayas without meeting the most famous and important man himself, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We rang his private secretary and the answer was always the same, the Dalai Lama is a very busy man, but he will meet you if he is in town, so we gave them the rough window of when I thought I was going to be there and the private secretary came back and said to me, “I’m really sorry, but that week the Dalai Lama is ironically going to be in England, he’s going to Glastonbury festival!”

“Anyway, we got there and I met a young monk, I explained the situation and how excited we had been to meet the Dalai Lama and the monk said, He’s here! He landed this morning, do you want to go and meet him? So we went and knocked on the Dalai Lama’s door and I was met by the private secretary we’d been hassling for the last few months and he asked us to come back the following morning, he’s holding a private ceremony for a couple of his friends from Tibet, he invited us to join him and we might get the chance to meet him then.

So I did, we were there at about 7:30am the next morning and slightly dismayed to find hundreds of Tibetan monks queuing up to meet their spiritual leader. Nevertheless we joined the end of the queue and my camera man Ash got out his camera and started taking photographs (we had already been told not to take any). So out of the crowds came the security guards, they grabbed us both by the scruff of the neck and stated whispering, we thought we were going to get thrown out, but it turns out the Tibetans are very good at PR! They dragged us out and dumped us in the Dalai Lama’s living room and we were told we were going to get a private talk with the Dalai Lama, he’ll be here in 30 seconds. We thought great, brilliant! But of course it’s times like that, that you haven’t really prepared when you have a bit of a mind blank, what is the one question, given the opportunity that you’re supposed to ask the man who according to the Buddhist tradition is the living incarnation of God? Well the best we could come up with was ‘Have you ever worn trousers?’”

Levison then opened the room to questions with many guests eager to hear more from his expeditions, which led the room into laughter and admiration for him.

For more information about the Challengers Champion Business Club, visit the dedicated section of our website or get in touch with Susie Jewell on: SusieJewell@disability-challengers.org / 01483 230 060. To plan your next adventure, head to Explore’s website.