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Travel

Alongside space. My other love is travel. To me exploring Earth, goes hand in hand with exploring our universe. A sense of wonder and curiosity about our surroundings and what it is that we are a part of. An urge to know what is over that ‘next hill’. Something that is so innately human. 

While it was looking up at the Moon as a child which first inspired my life-long love of space. It was travelling to South America as a student, which ignited my love of travel. A feeling of being lost that comes with exploring new lands and something that soon became my new addiction. It also was an experience which opened my eyes to just how much inequality there is in the world, and in turn made me decide that being an academic was not for me. Instead I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to show people the world. If they could only see what I had, perhaps they would look at things a little differently.

My love of travel is not a desire to jostle with tourists on crowded beaches. Nor is it to tick off cliché bucket list items or tourist attractions. Instead it is to see, experience and understand the diversity of our planet and those who call it home. And to most importantly share those experiences with as many people as possible.

I have seen both the best and the worst of the world. I have dined with billionaires and royalty and celebrated some of humanity’s greatest achievements in science and technology. I have worked with the pioneers around the world who have pushed the limit of what we are capable of achieving, and where we as humans are capable of going. I have seen wealth far beyond anything I could have ever imagined during my childhood growing up on the outskirts of Hull, England. And I have stood in Hollywood not as a tourist, but as someone who has just been told they are going to host a tv show, and who has been able to dream that one-day their name might appear on a billboard on Sunset.

I have ridden a speedboat to North Korea, where on the banks of the Yalu River, I was able to peer into Sinuiju, a border town of this hermit nation. Seeing North Korea is an experience which will stay with me for the rest of my life. The first things you see on the banks are a giant waterslide and a Ferris wheel. A unexpected sight. What stays with me is the people, how they walked a little slower. How they appeared broken. How they were able to look out over the banks of the Yalu River at China just a few hundred meters away and to the comparatively bustling city of Dandong. But they could not leave.

I have reported from Tibet, a place where few journalist have visited, where airport style body scanners surround the main square in the regions capital Lhasa and natives of the region were not allowed to gain passports or travel. And I have explored and reported from unrecognised countries. In Transnistira, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine I have seen how fragile relations still are in parts of the former USSR as Soviet era monuments try to shield your view from the poverty and division.

I have covered stories on the psychological impacts of orphanages and institutional care of children in Moldova, Rwanda and Uganda. I have seen adults kept in institutions well into their 40s because they had no home to go to, no community support to help them leave. And children abandoned by their parent’s under the false hope that the state can provide better care to them. I have worked with victims of abuse and sex trafficking and felt anger at how unfair and unjust the world can be. I have laid awake in dark hotel rooms without power, questioning my judgement to venture away from the privilege comforts of Western life. But still that urge to explore and share stories about the diversity of life on our planet stays with me.

In Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Conga, I have had a gun pulled to my car and I have seen what I can only liken to the gateway to hell. Poverty, conflict, fear and perhaps most unfair – lack of opportunity. But I have also seen many things that give me hope. People born with so little, but full of generosity, spirt and passion.

I have seen have seen the benefits of community in developing countries and how advances of technology – in particular space technology – is helping to transform lives. From farming in Kazakhstan to medicine in East Africa. And I have heard stories of those born with nothing who grew up in extreme poverty, but who looked up at the stars with the same wonder and curiosity that so many others have too.

I have also experienced the diversity and greatness of nature, the varied landscape of our home planet and the other species we share it with. I have seen wild giraffes, lions, rhinos and elephants roaming the wilderness of South Africa’s game reserves. Trekked through jungles, swum with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, and have chased the Northern Lights through the northern most tips of Norway and Finland.

Exploring Earth has taught me just how complex our planet and life here is. Beautiful and diverse, but also fragile and unfair.

Just as I hope my stories of space can inspire and enrich people’s lives, I hope reporting from my travels can provide inspiration, but also thought on the inequality that exists in our world and how we must all work together to create a better planet.