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August 31, 2009
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About John Oldale

At the end of things.
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A scientist by training, lawyer by profession and explorer by intent, my life can be summarised as a four-decade struggle between sound careers advice and following my heart. I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and speak five languages. In 30 years of travelling I have visited around 90 countries and clocked up over 500,000 miles on the road. Home is a former village pub in Hampshire, England, shared with my wife and two young sons.

More… Some people love cars, others horses, a few even grow marrows. Since before I can remember, all I’ve wanted is to understand the world—collecting information about places and the people who live there, and then joining the dots.

I was schooled at Bradfield College in Berkshire, leaving with 18 O levels, a clutch of A and S levels, and memories of crossing Iceland on foot and hiding from the KGB in the footwell of a Lada. A gap-year followed, spent nursing an ancient Fiat around the Middle East and living out of a tent. Student life gave me three years at Exeter, four at Cambridge and allowed me to call myself a doctor. Notionally a chemist, I lived to explore, notching up many trips across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

After university, I travelled for six months in Central America researching a book about its guerrilla conflicts (then at their nastiest and ugliest). I found a publisher, but got dropped when the First Gulf War knocked the bottom out of the travel market. Broke and fed up with life on the dole in Tooting, I gave in and signed up for Law School. For the next nine years I was a corporate suit, first in the City, then Bristol; travelling for a few precious weeks each year. A jungle beach in the Philippines was the place I snapped—I gave my notice on my return.

I’ve spent much of this decade publishing websites exhorting people to do more with their annual two weeks than sit by a pool. In between times, I’ve lived in Madrid and Brussels, become a dad to two little boys and grabbed as much time as possible over the horizon (most recently rootling amongst the ancient churches of rural Albania in search of Byzantine frescoes).

In 2008 I started to write, and my work has been published by a variety of national magazines and websites. I am currently working on a book to be published in 2011.

Along the way… Breaking into an East European Communist leader’s private mansion, talking my way out of a Latin American prison cell, facing down Kalashnikov-wielding Muslim militiamen, outrunning knife-wielding brigands (twice) and being charged through the African bush by a buffalo. But also walking through the Borneo rainforest by the light of dancing fireflies, skiing through the snow-fast forests of the High Sierras, being plucked by plane off a stormbound sub-Antarctic beach, tracking down a lost city in a Saharan sand sea, breakfasting on 37 sorts of mushroom in a Korean monastery and flying to Bangkok for the weekend for dinner with a friend.

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