Where are you from, what sparked your love of adventure and the outdoors?
I'm from Hampshire, UK. I have lived in NZ on and off for the past decade, mainly in Lake Taupo. I started life as an adventurer at an early age. I competed in pony club competitions throughout my childhood and I carried on to compete for my country up until I was 21. I then discovered a new sport, Skydiving! I did my first skydive over Lake Taupo in New Zealand in 1999 and I was absolutely blown away by it. I thought it was awesome that people were getting paid to jump out of planes for a job and I decided that was what I wanted to do. Six months later I became a free-fall camera flyer in Lake Taupo. I now have over 2000 jumps, 1,200 have been with a camera strapped to some part of my body and I've only pulled my reserve parachute once! I am a qualified rock-climbing instructor and have climbed extensively in South-East Asia and recently spent a season snowboarding in Colorado.
Who was your greatest influence and support?
My family. My parents spend a lot of time in the outdoors and have always encouraged me to get out there and follow my dreams. My mum came to Nepal and trekked with me for 8 days, during the Skydive Everest expedition. She has also done a skydive with me in Lake Taupo and we have been rock climbing together in Thailand. She's pretty out there, she wants to come mountaineering with me next! Why have you focused on your chosen field? I love the outdoors and the adventures that go with it. Being an adventurer has allowed me to travel to some of the worlds remotest and most inhospitable places. I have met some hugely inspiring individuals on the way and I really love the unknown element of adventure and travel!
Have you ever felt defeated by nature?
I haven't felt defeated by nature but I have felt incredibly inferior to nature. When I was under my skydiving canopy next to Mount Everest, I felt extremely insignificant! I have felt very threatened by Mother Nature before, especially during the 2004 Tsunami, when I was climbing in Thailand and more recently, during the Christchurch earthquake. Mother Nature isn't joking when she shows up! What has been your biggest challenge and greatest achievements? On October 6th 2008, I became the first woman to Skydive Everest by successfully jumped out of a plane at 29,500ft, looking onto the summit of Mount Everest and getting a birds eye view of some of the most breath-taking mountain scenery before landing on the worlds highest dropzone at 12,350ft! I freefalled past the mountain in excess of 140mph, in temperatures of -40C. It was an incredible experience! On August 31st 2009, I set a new world record, completing the worlds longest horse race of 1000kms in 9 days. I spent up to 13 hours in the saddle everyday, navigating through the Mongolian wilderness, overcoming a hazardous night in the mountains without water, losing one of my steeds and recovered another from sinking in a bog. The Mongol Derby was a truly awesome adventure. I experienced Mongolia in a very unique way, riding in vast wildernesses with total freedom, eating Mongolian food, including Marmut and sleeping in nomadic family gers most nights! Is it still hard for outdoor women to get respect or is there any equal playing field now? When I worked in Lake Taupo as a freefall camera flyer, filming tandem skydives, some customers would say ' but you're a woman! or your lucky having a job like this'. I don't think luck came into it. I set myself a goal and worked hard to achieve it. In my mind, there is nothing 'lucky' about that. Skydiving is a very male orientated industry and ten years ago, only two women had ever worked in Lake Taupo as a free-fall camera flyer. This gave me even more incentive to achieve my goal of becoming the third woman to be employed as a free-fall camera flyer!
What is the most important piece of travel advice you could give to an aspiring adventurer?
Work hard, train hard, get the right skills and then go for it and believe in yourself 100%. Rely on your gut feelings. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it, no matter what the situation is. I have really taken this on board on my adventures.
What are your future goals?
I am going to the Himalayas in two weeks time, to climb Mera Peak, snowboard from the summit and then climb Buruntse (7000m). I am planning on climbing Denali, in Alaska, next May and hopefully another mountain in Nepal later in the year. On my Skydive Everest expedition, I was mesmerized by the mountains and set my goal to return to the Himalayas to climb. As an adventurer, I am always on the look out for new challenges.
Tell us more about your role as a public speaker?
I get a real buzz from sharing my experiences of both adventure and business through public speaking emphasising how important it is to set goals in life, seize opportunities and overcome challenges.
Hear more tales of adventure from Holly in person at Base Camp Festival this September!