With #MissionYangtze well and truly underway, Ash is relying heavily on his survival instincts to cope with the physical and mental day-to-day challenges he’s facing.
To activate these instincts and be best prepared for any situation that may eventuate, Ash breaks into what he calls his ‘wild side’ - a mental state that allows him to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and deal with dangerous situations and experiences in a calm, measured manner.
Every human has a basic survival instinct but most of us keep it buried unless we need it. Ash, who regularly pushes himself to the extreme during his expeditions, has become familiar with this natural state of being while in the wilderness, and deliberately taps into it as a survival mechanism.
One night in Burma, Ash woke to find himself surrounded by hundreds of ants marching within inches of him. He realised that they were uncomfortable with him being there and he was uncomfortable with them being so close. Contemplating whether or not he should move, he decided that if he left them alone they would also leave him alone.
This was a great example of being at one with mother nature and, despite the smoke in his eyes from the fire and the sweat and dirt that he was covered in, he simply laid his head down and went back to sleep.
Another example was in Mongolia, when Ash became the first person to walk across the country solo and unsupported. At one point he was struggling mentally, having said goodbye to friends and family, and found himself alone pulling his trailer in elements so cold that his lips were blistered and bleeding.
Ash came across a local farmer who gave him shelter for the night, but then found himself depressed the following day when it was time to leave and face more, brutal extremes in terrain and climate.
At this point, so early into his expedition, it was difficult to see how he could keep going and achieve his goal of a world-first. However over the following two weeks he was able to become comfortable with the uncomfortable again, coped better with the cold and got used to the pain from the blisters. He was able to get to sleep easier, despite being wet, hungry or thirsty, and suffering discomfort from his beard.
Ash in Madagascar
It was similar in Madagascar, during his second world-first expedition where, by tapping into his ‘wild side’, Ash pushed on through the jungle despite the leeches, spiders, dehydration and hunger.
Ash anticipated transitioning into his ‘wild side’ during the first two weeks of #MissionYangtze, helping him deal with the expected altitude sickness, extreme temperatures, potential storms as well as the discomfort of breaking in his clothing and equipment during the early days of the expedition.
He is drawing on experiences from his adventures in Mongolia, Madagascar, Vietnam and the jungles of Thailand and Burma to feel unstoppable, be focused and visualise the end point of #MissionYangtze where the river meets the East China Sea.
The difference on this adventure is that #MissionYangtze is expected to take almost a year to complete, making it a much tougher mental challenge - effectively four times the duration of his Mongolian journey and more than twice the duration of his Madagascan expedition.
When you face difficulties after two weeks but know there are almost 50 more to go you need to have prepared both physically and mentally to be able to push yourself on. Knowing the length of the expedition and how difficult the conditions will be means Ash needs to adapt quicker and remain in his ‘wild side’ for a lot longer this time, while mentally breaking down what lies ahead into smaller, more manageable chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
If you'd like to read more about how Ash came to be an explorer and his earlier expeditions, check out his book Mission Possible.
And to keep up-to-date with the latest news and hear how Ash’s ‘wild side’ is helping him cope with the unexpected on #MissionYangtze, sign up to Ash’s email tribe and follow him on social media - sign up form and links below!