The second part of the third series of New Lives in the Wild returns tonight, with traveller Ben Fogle off to Laos, the Appalachian Mountains, the Mekong River and the Australian outback. Here, he meets some extraordinary people who’ve swapped the rat race for secluded lifestyles. “In this series I met my favourite wild person of all time,” explains Fogle.
Barbra Walker (originally from Switzerland) lives in the Australian outback alone. Thriving in one of the harshest, most arid environments known to man, she endures 50 degree temperatures, and has only the company of a bunch of rehabilitated kangaroos and some wild horses. “I went to stay with her and I really think people are going to absolutely love her,” says Fogle. “She’s one of the craziest, most lovely, hardest people I’ve ever met.”
Walker originally lived in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia with her husband – when he died she had to bury him with her own hands. She dug his grave and carried his body in a wheelbarrow. “She’s just an amazing character,” urges Fogle.
Meanwhile, former city trader Jon Watkinson, from the UK, now lives on an island in the Mekong River in Laos. “He’s a real character, I helped him catch frogs for his stir fry, which he lives off now,” explains Fogle, who’s tried all manner of weird and wonderful foods for previous episodes, including rattle snake and possum. “[The frog stir-fry] was very tasty… to be honest it was one of the nicer things I’ve eaten over the years.”
Fogle then meets inspiring couple Rick and Jasna, who live on a boat in French Polynesia, plus mountain man Justin Burke, a 25-year-old American who resides in the Appalachian Mountains. Having trekked 2,000 miles to get to his remote dwelling, Burke survives on a diet of road kill. “It’s a forest in a very bleak horror film sort of setting,” explains Fogle, “I had a really eclectic mix of people this series and that’s what really marks the show out.”
But Fogle reveals that he will be investigating alternative lifestyles a little closer to home in the next series. “New Lives in the UK, will hopefully be even more relatable,” he says. “It’s about people who have moved to remote corners of the British Isles.”
Unlike shows such as Kevin McCloud’s Escape to the Wild, which also investigates people who have relocated to unusual places, the remote dwellers on Fogle’s series have very little financial backing. “The people I visit really are people who’ve taken a massive gamble in life to sever themselves from the grid,” explains the presenter. “What I like is that we offer the viewer something that they really can achieve.
“Just watching other people’s stories fills you with hope and optimism and I’m positive that’s why so many of us are seeking a bit more adventure in our lives. Adventure can genuinely make you a better person and of all the people I’ve visited on New Lives… (16 or 17 individuals around the world), every single one of them has become a better person. They’ve all been able to overcome personal demons.”