Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to strip back the things that don’t matter and shine a light on the things that do. Following your own independent spirit results in the greater good for many – it’s much more than just you.
In the last of our Maverick Streak series, we learn the resolve it takes to follow your inner voice.
Justin Miles is an explorer, author and an advocate for universal education provision. He explains how a car accident in 1999 was the catalyst for the path he now follows.
A Loose Objective. Words and Photography by Justin Miles.
Growing up in Devon was like being in heaven for a budding explorer. With moors to hike over, rocks to climb, rivers to kayak and the sea to swim in (back in those days we just called it ‘swimming’ – the trendy term ‘wild swimming’ hadn’t been invented yet!) I was in my element and always doing something, somewhere. As a child I dreamed of adventure; of touring the world as a version of ‘Indiana Jones’, doing ‘cool stuff’ and experiencing all that the world had to offer. The trouble is that, as with most people, by the time I became an adult reality had kicked in. With a mortgage to fund, bills to pay and a job eating away the weeks my adventurous activities were relegated to weekends and holidays. Then the most amazing thing happened, I had a car accident. The car accident resulted in brain injuries and the brain injuries left me having to learn to walk and talk again and it was then, during my recovery, that I resolved to make life happen.
Fatigue was a huge problem throughout my recovery. Every small burst of activity would leave me absolutely shattered and in need of rest so I would spend hour after hour lying in bed or sitting in a chair in front of the television. Bear in mind that it was 1999 so there were only four television channels and living in Devon one of those channels was ‘flakey’ at best, usually non-existent, and there’s only so much daytime television that anyone can watch whether they’re brain damaged or not. The television was switched off and to pass the time I would relive my childhood memories, aspirations and dreams – and one of those dreams was about becoming an explorer.
The dream stuck in my mind and I couldn’t let it go. Every day I would while away the hours as my mind wandered off around the globe exploring different environments, countries and cultures. Those thoughts, those dreams inspired me and the thought that I may actually be able to do something different, exciting, gave me the determination that I needed to make my recovery possible. I refined and defined my ideas until I had tangible objectives. I wanted to undertake adventures all over the globe and use my experiences to engage with schools around the world, and I wanted to use the connections that I made to make education possible for those children who couldn’t access it.
With my objectives loosely in place, I developed goals to give me direction and progression and then set about turning my dream in to reality. Now I’m almost living the dream. I undertake expeditions and adventures all over the globe in polar, desert, mountain and jungle regions and through those adventures I connect with thousands of schools all around the world. As a passionate advocate for universal education provision – education for every child, everywhere – I work to support the provision of education to the 59 million children who, for a plethora of reasons ranging from cultural barriers to conflict, can’t currently go to school.
I work with and support programmes including ‘Educate A Child’, ‘Girl Child Network’ and ‘Educate The World’. In July 2015 I launched the #spoonappeal (find it on Twitter!) as a vehicle for introducing business and education communities to the education crisis – and it’s working! So far schools, colleges and businesses are taking part from the UK, US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa and Japan and every one of those people learns a little about the fact that not every child has the chance to go to school. And I write books to encourage kids to get up, get out and get active! My first, ‘The Ultimate Explorers Guide For Kids’ was launched in 2015 and the second is due out in early 2016 with more already being planned. I love what I do. I really love what I do. There’s an adventurer in each and every person on the planet – you just have to make it happen.