'Scouting helped me to be prepared' - Bear Grylls, an interview
Bear Grylls is United Kingdom’s youngest Chief Scout, aged 37. Whether it is crossing oceans in an open boat, scaling Mount Everest or flying a powered paraglider to 29,000ft in the Himalayas, or hosting Man v/s Wild on Discovery Channel, Bear knows a thing or two about adventure.
As an ex Special Forces soldier, he is not only known around the world as the host of the hit TV series Born Survivor and Man Vs Wild, he is also an inspirational speaker, best selling author of nine books and a fervent supporter of young people getting out there to experience adventure for themselves. Bear got his taste for the outdoors as a Scout, whilst a young boy. He was taught to climb by his late father on the sea cliffs of the Isle of Wight, and this interest rapidly developed when he left school. Scouting is a global movement and Bear has travelled extensively to every continent in the world. Known and respected in many countries outside the UK he is truly a global ambassador for a global movement. His languages include Spanish and French, and he has a deep respect for diverse faiths and cultures.
Everyone wants to know about you and your passion for adventure, but we also want to know what you are doing these days in Scouting?
I am currently 37 years old and am loving my time as the UK’s Chief Scout. Since I took over, it has been a roller coaster ride for sure! But I have met Scouts from all walks of life and from across the globe. The more I meet the more impressed (and humbled) I am.
I am right now - currently - part way through our Bear Grylls LIVE Mud Sweat and Tears Tour. It’s a Stage show where I show a lot of the survival skills as well as share my experiences of life, climbing Everest, the military, Scouts and much more. We toured the show in Australia first. I am now taking it around Europe and North America. In May this year I will undertake another of our Scout weekend tours - this time to Northern Ireland and Scotland visiting thousands of Scouts in these parts of the UK. Doing events like this is one of the best parts of the job. At about the same time as this tour UK Scouting is launching Scout Community week. This event is an opportunity for Scouts across the UK to work with their local community to identify issues that need sorting and fix them. It’s about just doing one thing for the local community. These could be fixing broken play areas, breathing life back into neglected footpaths or simply visiting old and spending time listening to them and talking with them.
What made you decide to get involved with Scouting, do you remember your motivation to join Scouting when you were young?
I got involved because I heard that Scouting was a fun way to get to do some cool adventures! I was right! As a new Scout my leader challenged me and my patrol to cook two sausages on a small fire on a London backstreet. He only gave us two matches but we made it happen. That was the beginning!
What is your passion in Scouting today?
My passion: is about helping every young person have an adventure Life; is about grabbing opportunities; and our job is about helping young people grab hold of those opportunities with both hands. The prizes in life don’t always go to the biggest, the best or the strongest. They go to those who persevere. These are simple life lessons that Scouting teaches.
What makes you really attracted to Scouting today?
Seeing what young people are capable of and seeing adventure change young lives. I love the touring around different parts of the UK and loved my visit to last summer’s World Scout Jamboree (in Sweden). it is always fun to meet as many Scouts as possible and see and hear what they are doing in all parts of the globe. The sea of tents and faces buzzing with excitement and laughter and real cultural friendship was a real inspiration. I never tire of the enthusiasm and energy that these experiences bring to young people.
Do you think Scouting is relevant as a Movement for today’s children and youth?
I am sure BP would love what he sees today. He was a man ahead of his time and he was all about helping young people get out and have adventures away from their everyday lives. That’s what the Movement is about today. He would be so proud of our Scouts today – and the vibrancy, strength and determination to carrying on changing to meet the demands of today’s young people. We are called a Movement for a reason. We move with the times.
In your thoughts, who is the target of the Scout Movement? Why should someone join the Scout Movement?
Scouting is for everyone and the Movement inspires young people to strive to achieve the best they can achieve. Being a Scout gives young people real life skills such as learning about real teamwork, leadership and planning. Scouting also installs values such as faith, fun, fairness, respect for others and tolerance. Those qualities really matter.
In what way does Scouting contribute to your professional life?
I travel so much with my role it’s great to be able to turn up anywhere in the world and meet Scouts. Being part of the worldwide family of over 30 million Scouts is the best thing ever. Last year I was filming in Darwin Australia and I was able to drop in on a modest Scout HQ (headquarters) full of smiling, motivated and adventurous Scouts, all wanting to get the most out of life. Being able to share the enthusiasm that young people have for the Movement anywhere in the world is a real bonus. I love it. I am so proud to be part of our worldwide family. Families look after each other in times of need; they protect, encourage and share support. I draw on that support while filming and taking on nature across the globe. Together we are always stronger.
What are the values in Scouting that drive you towards it?
The reason I am involved in Scouting is because it’s got great core values. As I grew up Scouting gave me lots of adventures, friendship and fun. I think the great strength of Scouting is that it’s a real family, it’s a really inclusive community and I found a second home there. I thought at last this is something I can really feel part of and enjoy. It wasn’t school and it had everything I loved. I look back now and realise it was those years that inspired me to do the job that I love now.
These skills and values help people with a real roadmap for life. In today’s world young people need all the help they can get.
What message would you like to share with the young Scouts from around the world?
Where ever there is conflict in the world you will find Scouts working with refugees, offering basic first aid or just helping people who are suffering. In the recent Libyan conflict Scouts ended up digging graves to bury the dead because all the men were away fighting in the conflict. That’s what Scouting does - it provides practical support in difficult times.
Young people don’t see differences in colour, race or religion. Those are adult traits. I was recently at the world Scout Jamboree in Sweden with 40,000 young people from every religion in the world and they all respected and wanted to learn about each other’s views and beliefs. We need more of that type of approach in the world, not less.