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TV Adventurer Levison Wood Interview

This TV Adventurer Explains Why Getting Sunburned in the Army Can Cost You Your Wages

If you've seen any of Levison Wood's TV series or read any of the associated books, you may wonder if this fearless adventurer and former British army captain is the right choice for a male grooming campaign. After all, when he's risking his life walking through some of the most dangerous areas of Central America or trekking the Himalayas with minimal supplies, surely moisturizing isn't a top priority?

But as it turns out, even a man who thinks nothing of clambering into a cave full of vampire bats understands the importance of looking his best and looking after himself. Levison spoke on the phone to POPSUGAR, and explained that his discipline comes from somewhere unexpected: his army background.

"If you get sunburned and you're then ineffective at doing your job, whose fault is that? It's the individual."
"Back in my days in the army, it was actually a fineable offense if you got a sunburn. You could be fined a month's wages for getting sunburned. If you get sunburn, it's ultimately your fault for not putting sun cream on. And actually if you get sunburned and you're then ineffective at doing your job, whose fault is that? It's the individual. I take that forward with what I'm doing now, I've got no excuses not to, especially when I've got a brand like Clinique supporting me. I think it's important to set that example."

Levison is currently working with Clinique For Men on its #BehindTheFace campaign, which partners up inspirational men with the products that best suit their needs. So what was it that attracted him to the campaign?

"The parts of the world that I go to, whether it be jungles, deserts, most recently walking through Central America, you're often in places where you don't necessarily have access to fresh water or facilities to keep yourself in good trim. So what that means is I'm often with a beard, and it's important to keep it hygienic for a start, but also obviously doing stuff for TV you don't want to look too scruffy, so I try and keep myself properly groomed. That's where Clinique comes in."

For Lev, it comes as no surprise that his product is multipurpose: the 2 in 1 Skin Hydrator & Beard Conditioner. Lev's beard has had a surprisingly memorable role in his TV adventures: In Walking the Nile, he explained the need to shave before heading into Egypt in order to minimize any issues with the "incredibly suspicious" authorities. In Walking the Americas, he had a memorable shave on the side of the road in Panama.

"It's little encounters like that which make these journeys such good fun."
"We were walking down the road, approaching Panama City, and I was thinking 'the beard's getting a bit big' and I was thinking about getting a trim once we got to the city anyway, and by sheer coincidence, literally as I was talking about this with my guide, we spotted this guy shaving his wife's hair with some clippers. Alberto [Lev's guide] had been taking the mick out of my beard for a while, so he just literally walked up to this guy and said 'do you fancy giving my mate a shave?' You know, it's little encounters like that which make these journeys such good fun, and you just get stuck in . . . this guy was clearly not a professional barber by any stretch of the imagination but he didn't do a terrible job!"

Clearly when he's traveling, Lev's access to grooming products is limited and his focus is on protection. But how about when he's back in the UK, writing, touring, or making TV and radio appearances? Does his regimen step up a notch?

"When I'm back I probably shave more than when I'm away! I do generally take care of myself a bit more, at the end of the day I'm at the stage now where I'm not getting any younger, and it's important to take care of your skin for a start. I've realized having traveled, I'm exposed to the elements a lot and it's important to look after your skin. That is a priority. Moisturizing and applying SPF, you have to make it a priority. I think a lot of guys don't necessarily do that and I think it's important to try to set a bit of an example. It's not something that's a luxury, actually, it should be as important."

So what does he have to say to guys who still believe that skin care is "for girls" and believe they don't need to make an effort?

"It's not vanity; it's about looking after yourself as you would in other facets of your life."
"For a start, if you don't look after yourself you're going to look a lot older and a lot more weathered than you need to be. It's not vanity; it's about looking after yourself as you would in other facets of your life. Skin care is just as important. It's not just for girls; it's actually something that we should all be doing."

Getting back into a daily grooming routine is just part of the job of adapting back to the daily grind after months on an expedition. For Lev, the first thing he does on returning home is indulge in some creature comforts.

"It's the little things in life. It's having a nice shower, it's making yourself a cup of tea . . . just the fact that you can turn the tap on and have a drink of water, it's quite amazing how easily you forget that that's available, and it's quite overwhelming at times. It's nice just to relax, chill out, even if it's just a couple of days while I re-engage my brain into fast-paced living and London life."

Unfortunately, there's little time to relax before the work continues.

"I think people just think that I walk and then come home and put my feet up for six months and don't do anything in between! The misconception is that actually these things take a lot of planning both before and after, and there's a bit more to it than meets the eye."

Indeed, when he's not writing or making appearances, most of Lev's time is taken up with planning his next trip.

"You can usually take the length of the expedition, and that's the bare minimum for planning. So if you're going to be there for four months, you need to do four months planning. If you're going over nine months, you need to do nine months planning . . . the Nile expedition was two years of planning, the Americas six months of planning."

But even with all that planning, you can't be prepared for the surprises that life will throw at you. There have been some well-documented dramatic events during Lev's expeditions, but it was the smaller moments we wanted to hear about, the things we perhaps missed on TV. Lev explained some of the surprising memories that he brought back from his trip across Central America.

"I was bumping into people from Nepal and Bangladesh in the jungles in places like Costa Rica and Nicaragua; that's not stuff you hear about on the news."
"There were a couple of things that stood out for me in the Americas. One was the scale of movement and migration of people through that region. We hear about Trump's wall, and I don't want to make this political at all, but you hear about Mexicans trying to get into the States, but what you don't really hear about is the thousands and thousands of people from all around the world who're trying to get into the States, and they all plan it through Central America. I was bumping into people from Nepal and Bangladesh in the jungles in places like Costa Rica and Nicaragua; that's not stuff you hear about on the news. That was fascinating for me.

"And then, being a bit of a history buff, I was just intrigued by the stories about the ancient Mayans. We were discovering pyramids in the middle of the jungle that didn't even have names . . . that was remarkable. You can still go and uncover those things."

Though he couldn't tell us too much about his next adventure, Lev does promise us that it will be worth tuning in for. "It will be just as exciting if not more than the other ones; it's going to be a good one." It'll also take the emphasis slightly off purely walking. "It's going to include a fair bit of walking, but not exclusively. That's all I can say, I'm afraid!"

Image Source: Courtesy of Clinique
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