Posted on March 18 2015
We're thrilled to have Megan Hine as this week's Wednesday Woman! Meg is a British adventurer, wilderness expedition leader and survival expert who is currently appearing on ITV's Mission Survive with Bear Grylls. She also acts as a consultant for private individuals and film crews around the world. Here's her story:
Newnham: Meg, what were you like as a kid and what did you aspire to be when you grew up?
Hine: One of my very first memories was standing with my nose stuck against a window at my grandmother's house in North Wales, and staring out across the bay at the moon path on the sea. I remember very clearly telling my grandmother that I was going to walk along it.
As a child, I was drawn to the outdoors and adventure - building dens in the garden, biking madly around the hills, climbing everything in sight. Eternally a free spirit, I constantly tested the boundaries to see what would happen. I also started walking at six months, so keen was I to explore the world. My mum said it was a nightmare, trying to keep me in one place was impossible.
In my teens I joined the military cadets and threw myself into any, and all, adventurous training I could get my hands on; ice climbing in Scotland, mountaineering in Wales, white water kayaking. I loved it all. I tried going down the ‘normal’ academic route in my sixth form, aiming to become a Marine Biologist but my restless nature kept pushing and instead I sat in class dreaming of the mountains. I eventually settled on the military as a career - something that could potentially tick my interests and then I discovered you could actually become an outdoor instructor and that was problem solved.
Newnham: What do you do now and who/what inspired you to follow this career path?
Hine: What I do encompasses various elements of the outdoor industry and has evolved over the years into something I feel very passionately about. As well as occasionally appearing in front of the camera, I am a safety and survival expert and consultant, working behind the scenes on many survival and adventure shows for channels such as Discovery, National Geographic, ITV etc.
I also guide bespoke expeditions all over the world. Clients get in touch with their crazy idea and I make it a reality for them. I love this - I have such an amazing bond with my clients and we have faced and overcome some incredible feats and world firsts together. What I love about my clients is that they do these expeditions for themselves, and their passion, not for the glory. This was not a career path I aimed for initially - I kind of fell into it but it feels so right. My clients inspire me every day and seeing them achieve their dreams makes every tough moment worthwhile.
Newnham: You're currently appearing in the TV programme Mission Survive, as expert and survival captain, what's the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
Hine: I think the hardest challenge I have faced is placing my femininity in relation to what I do. In my younger years I was always "one of the boys" and although I definitely recognised I was female and liked being female, everything I did was with the boys. Climbing, mountain biking, exploring, so rarely was there another girl present. It never bothered me or really entered my mind that it should be otherwise. I was always accepted for my ability, not ostracised for my sex.
Then a few years ago, I was getting quite a lot of comments along the lines of, "We’ve never met a woman who does your job" and, rather than taking this as a positive thing, I started doubting my own abilities and place. I longed to express myself as a woman but felt I wouldn’t be taken seriously in the male dominated world I exist in. What I discovered over the coming years though is that it doesn’t matter what your sex, race or background is, no matter who you are, you will come across people who don’t agree with your position or are jealous of what you have achieved. What matters is being true to yourself and getting on with your job and enjoying life. Eventually people will start to notice you and appreciate you for what you bring to the team and if not, well it’s time to work for someone who does.
Newnham: Bear Grylls has described you as “ ...stronger than 99%of the men I know, she’s incredible." What does it take to be mentally and physically prepared for the adventures you undertake?
Hine: Bear has always supported me as a valued member of his team and I am flattered that he said this! This may sound a little odd but mentally I don’t think too much about the upcoming adventure. Obviously elements need to be prepared and organised but I try to focus on the logistics, not the emotional side of the adventure.
I find thinking about something too much can give you false expectations and encourage self doubt, not only of yourself, but also of what may or may not happen. In the job I do I have to be so super reactive to keep my team or film crew safe so if I thought too much about what may happen or convinced myself that something will happen, I may then not be open minded enough to react.
I have survived for weeks on end in jungles and deserts with nothing but the clothes I stand up in, a machete or knife, and a medical pack whilst looking after other people. Looking after yourself when you haven’t eaten for weeks is one thing, having the mental grit to look after other people as well takes another level of determination and I cannot afford to question myself in any way or it may not just be my life on the line.
I guess my physical preparedness comes from ‘doing’. As my boyfriend Stani says, "Train as you fight". I am out there all the time; the outdoors is not just a hobby, it is my life, and my body has adapted over the years to be ready for whatever I throw at it.
Newnham: Having travelled so vastly, what's the biggest lesson you have learned from the women and children you have met?
Hine: Not to underestimate them.
Women of all cultures are so incredibly talented - juggling children, trapping small game, fixing the home, cooking, washing, full time jobs - they are the rock in their family. They may not be equal to their husbands in their society but they learn mechanisms in which to manipulate a situation for the best of their children.
Children are like sponges, the amount of information they retain about their environment and what is going on around them is incredible. Most children are also open minded to strangers and have not yet developed prejudices. On many jobs I have learnt just as much from the local children as I have the adults.
Newnham: What advice, if any, would you give a younger Meg?
Hine: I would take her by the hand, stand her on a paddle board and paddle the moon path with her. I would show her that no matter how bizarre or far fetched her dream is, there is a way to overcome the obstacles. Although it may not be exactly how she imagined the journey, being flexible and open minded will invite some amazing adventures along the way.