30 October 2014
We caught up with David Webb, no, not the fictional character from the Bourne series, this one is very real. He is, amongst other things, the Editor of Explore Magazine, an adventurer, travel writer, backcountry skier, surfer, motorcyclist, hiker, stand-up paddler, angler and the list actually goes on.
David seemed like the perfect candidate for our theme of interviewing Canadians who are making a difference. He is the personification of what we are trying to achieve with getting more people to spend less time indoors and more time out of doors.
We had a few questions, and David hapily answered them for us. Read on.
HT: How do you find time to travel so much, and go on epic adventures, and be the Editor of a major publication, and have a wife?
DW: It starts with having an understanding wife, then the rest falls into place (she’s a traveller too). But, besides that, since my job allows me to travel, it’s like killing two birds with one stone. However, I’m not always travelling. Being a magazine editor means a lot of desk time — I just like to get away to exciting places whenever I can, and make sure I’m always documenting the trips for future articles. From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem like I’m always travelling — but the truth is I tend to travel in “clusters.” For example, I may do three or four trips in the spring, then space out the articles throughout the summer and fall.
HT: Where did you just come from, where are you now and where are you going next? (That’s technically 3 questions…)
DW: I just came from Newfoundland & Labrador last month, which was amazing (and my first trip to that province). Right now? In my home city of Vancouver, BC, which I love — there is so much to do here — working on the winter issue of Explore (desk time). And I’ll be off to Malaysia (Borneo) in mid-November.
HT: Where in Canada do you love spending time in the wilderness most?
DW: So many choices. I love the West Coast of Vancouver Island — raw beauty and great surfing, kayaking and hiking. But I also feel a strong connection with Canada's North. Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut (and Nunavik, in Quebec) represent some of the last true wilderness on Earth. It’s rugged and real.
HT: What is your favourite pastime?
DW: I’m always jealous of people who have singular passions. It would be easier to devote the time if I had one major hobby. I’m all over the place. But if I had to pick one — and I’m kind of cheating here — it would be motorcycle touring. That way I can combine motorcycling with travel and still include some great hikes at stops along the way. Or maybe stand-up paddleboarding. I really love that. (See? All over the place.)
HT: Can you provide a list of countries you’ve visited, and tell us which one you liked most, and why?
DW: I actually was a bit of a late-bloomer in terms of travel, so I’m catching up to some of the Big Travellers. But, and hopefully I won’t forget any, here they are (some multiple times): USA, Mexico, Belize, Aruba, Colombia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, India, U.K., Italy, everywhere in Canada and very soon Malaysia. India is the most fascinating of them all, thus far.
A taxi driver in Jaipur provided me with the perfect summation of India via a silly riddle: “What is impossible in India?” His answer: “Nothing!” It’s true: it can be the most chaotic cities on Earth as well as serene expanses of nature. It can be scorching heat and snowy mountains. Jungles and oceans. Modern skyscrapers beside ancient temples. Snake charmers and Louis Vuitton stores. Deep traditions in a 21st century economy. Total fascination.
HT: What does the word adventure mean to you?
DW: Wow, I deal with this question all the time — from readers, PR reps, potential advertisers… all trying to figure out what Explore Magazine is about, or what angle I’m looking for in a story. I think it’s defined as such: any time you’re outside of your comfort zone, it’s adventure.
HT: Since you’re always going to awesome destinations in other countries for work, where do you actually go when you ‘go on holiday’?
DW: The majority of my work-related travel is within Canada, as Explore Magazine is focused primarily on Canadian outdoor adventure and I also write for the Canadian Tourism Commission. So any international trip is always a treat, vacation or work. I don’t really have a single preferred destination, I always like to try somewhere new. That said — my wife and I love Hawaii. For West Coast Canadians, it’s a perfect warm-weather getaway and very underrated from an “adventure/active travel” perspective.
HT: Can you tell us about the most interesting person you’ve met on a trip?
DW: So many. While abroad, it’s always interesting to talk to people and discover the realities of their day-to-day life and listen as they discover yours with equal interest. But, if I had to choose one, I’d say it was Susie Morgan — an Inuit woman I met in Nunavik earlier this year. What made her so interesting is that despite the fact she is a Canadian citizen, there were effectively no cultural similarities between us. Not even language — she only spoke Inuktitut. She had been born in a tent to a nomadic tribe 72 years ago, somewhere in northern Labrador. Traditional Inuit communities are as different to other Canadian cities (like Vancouver) as just about anywhere else in the world. The fact that we’re both from the same country makes it all the more fascinating.
HT: Have you ever feared for your life on a trip to another country? When, where, and why?
DW: Maybe. I remember in Bangkok, in the early morning hours on Khao San Road, a fiery little guy pulled a gigantic Bowie knife on my friend and I, then shortly thereafter a strange limousine pulled up, opened its doors and beckoned us inside. (We talked the guy down, and didn’t get in the limo.) Lesson here: nothing good happens after 3:00 a.m.
However, I think that people, worldwide, are basically good. There have been many times where I’ve gotten by with the kindness of strangers. Sure, every country has “jerks” but 99.9% of any population will happily lend a helping hand to a visitor. Wouldn’t you?
Finally — I always listen to my "inner voice.” If something feels off or wrong, it probably is. This is especially important in outdoor adventure situations (climbing, paddling, skiing, etc.). If the mountainside exposure seems too dangerous, or the waves seem too high, or the snow seems unstable, and your inner voice is telling you NO — then don’t do it! The most skilled adventurers in the world know when to back off. We had a great quote from one of our columnists, Will Gadd (a Red Bull athlete, X-Games gold medalist) in the last issue of Explore, “I turn back early and often…"
HT: Being required to travel for work sounds like a pretty cool prospect! Do you have any advice for young, aspiring adventurers and travel writers?
DW: There is a certain requirement for me to travel for my job, but a lot of the trips I take are voluntary. That’s my advice: say “yes.” From the outset of my career, I always said “yes” to any good opportunity that came along, even if I had no idea how I would actually do it at the time. If you’re passionate and hard-working, you’ll figure it out. Trust me.
For more information about David Webb and his travels, go to: