Last March we watched as traveller Ben Fogle explored the wilds of Alaska, Australia and Texas for his show New Lives in the Wild. In each place, he met people living ‘alternative lifestyles’ in an attempt to avoid the rat race in modern city life. This week Fogle’s back with a new series of the show (9pm, Friday 31 on Channel 5), and this time he’s off to Georgia, the Indian Himalayas, the Philippines and Panama.
“People really connected with the first series,” explains Fogle, who’s now been commissioned for a third series of New Lives in the Wild. “A lot of people are struggling a little bit economically. And they see the opportunity to go out there to do it themselves,” he says.
One of the characters Fogle meets in the upcoming series is a chap called Colbert, who lives in the swamplands of Georgia, naked. “He moved from a big, white-washed American house worth a million dollars to a swamp,” says Fogle. Colbert lived off road kill and fish he captured in the swamp, and slept in a little structure that he had built over 20 years from pieces of wood he found. “He was just the most amazing character,” he explains. “The swamp was full of spiders, and more mosquitos than I’ve ever known in my life, but he lives there very happily,” says Fogle.
Fogle also mets Ian Usher – the man who, after he split up with his wife, sold his entire life on eBay and then moved to an island off the coast of Panama. Plus, Fogle mets a man in the Indian Himalayas who ditched his high-class roots for love. “He was from a high society in New Delhi,” says Fogle, “and went to the equivalent of Eton, his father was at school with Gandhi, and he fell in love with a girl from the wrong caste.” The high society family ostracised this man, who went from a very privileged life to living a very remote region in the Indian Himalayas. “I went to go live with him and he was probably one of my favorite people I have ever met,” explains Fogle. “He had just the most wonderful, warm family.”
Fogle’s last meeting in the series is with a man who swapped his life as a taxi driver in Miami for a life in the Philippines, “To the exact region that got wiped out by the typhoon,” explains Fogle. “I got out of there just one week before the typhoon hit.” Fogle has been back in touch since the disaster. “They lost their house and a great deal of their possessions, but they all survived,” he says, relieved.
While these people living in remote places on small budgets don’t have the pressures of the big city, the recent natural disaster made Fogle aware of the realities they do face. “Some people find their own utopia, their own paradise, but it’s never necessarily easy,” he says. “You might not have the financial worries we have in the big cities, but that’s replaced by environmental worries, climate worries, weather worries.”
Despite the sacrifices and risks, Fogle is still tempted to live an isolated life in the wild. “My wife is terrified about that every time I go away,” jokes Fogle. “She knows it’s my ultimate dream… It kind of goes back to where I started, which is living on an island as a Castaway [a BBC show set on Scottish island that aired in 2000]. I lived there for a whole year. So I’ve kind of done it before, but in some ways I’d like to come full circle and maybe include my family,” he says. However, currently Fogle has taken an entirely different route.
“I’m working with Celebrity Cruises,” he says, “which might seem to have slightly less appeal to someone who loves independent travel and adventure.” But Fogle wanted to experience a new area of travel and has been asked to come up with some Great Adventures Shore Excursions – left-field destinations tours that would appeal to a broader audience. “I planned things for guests like snorkelling with wild salmon in Norway,” he says, “You literally get in the chilly waters with salmon. I’ve come up with an archipelago adventure where you go kayaking around Stockholm, around all of the islands. There’s a great mix of different things.
“There’s no doubt that the cruise industry is stereotyped… But, my experiences [with Celebrity Cruises are] great, and I’m heading back in May with my family.”
Watch the second series of new series of New Lives in the Wild at 9pm, on Friday 31, Channel 5