Based in Sydney, Australia, Brian Freeman is often referred to as one of Australia’s finest adventurers, and with good reason. In recent decades, Brian is one of Australia’s most accomplished adventurers and unquestionably one of the world’s top adventurers of the moment. In comparison, most endurance athletes and adventurers have traditionally specialised in one discipline like altitude mountain climbing, long-distance kayaking, desert and jungle running, survival experiences, or endurance swimming. However, Brian Freeman of Brisbane stands out as someone who has achieved them all and has excelled in every discipline he has ever attempted.
Brian Freeman holds several world records and “firsts” in adventure endurance events. For example, Brian is the only person to walk, run and kayak to and from Australia’s four cardinal extremes (north to south and east to west of this vast continent – literally thousands of kilometres); in addition, he has walked Australia’s Simpson Desert twice; crossed the Kokoda Trail in Papua and New Guinea no less than 59 times, including holding the record for the fastest ever crossing of this difficult 96-kilometre jungle journey.
He has swam the famed Melbourne RIP; and being the sole person to run from Australia’s northernmost point to its southernmost point, he kayaked in winter, without the support of a boat across the notorious Bass Strait, a journey of 6000 plus kilometres over 85 days. Brian holds the honor of being the only person to have conquered this journey, and the four cardinal extremes of Australia, under full human power. Amongst climbing other high-altitude mountains of the world, he is also a summiteer on Mount Everest.
While setting records left and right over the past few decades on all aspects of endurance, Brian Freeman has also become a sought-after private guide and adventure leader. He has had the pleasure of taking many of Australia’s professional and sporting elite on private adventure programs all over the globe. With his combined bundle of exceptional experience, safety record, and success rates, he is unrivaled private adventure guiding.
Brian Freeman has also gone on to write two books and is currently working on a third. Alongside these publications, Brian is also a frequent international keynote speaker, earning 15 standing ovations in many of his past presentations. Some of his riveting talks include stories from the literal top of the world, on the peak of Mount Everest. He keeps audiences of all sizes enthralled with his tales of bravery and adventure. His enthusiastic audience members include past and present Prime Ministers and Governor Generals. Brian Freeman’s feats of endurance are extraordinary, in part because he does plan many of them and undertakes them alone, many times surviving without support.
Some of his other achievements include receiving the Australian Geographic Society’s ‘Spirit of Adventure Award’ in 2016, the Australian Army Active Service Medal, the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) Medal, and the Australian Defence Medal for his military accomplishments.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I was fortunate to undertake many adventures in my time in the Australian Regular Army; this included formal qualifications and training in adventure disciplines such as climbing, survival, roping, parachuting and a variety of other valuable skills. This certainly created my love of adventure, gave me the skills and qualifications I have today and this coupled with my now many decades of experience lead to me developing and leading privately guided adventure programs all over the world.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am certainly an avid member of the 5am Club! I like to be up early, leaving the house for some form of training – be that my own training or training with clients of mine for upcoming adventures. I have a tendency to set myself goals that make me train; for example, I am not a great swimmer so I set a goal to swim the English Channel. Hence, i started a couple a couple of years ago as the worst swimmer in the squad (in fact I had to train for six months just to get into the slowest lane in the squad). It was nice being the coached and not the coach for a change. I will knock that channel over sometime in the next two years …
The rest of my days are spent catching up with clients online, on Zoom or Teams or in person. I spend time working on future adventures for my clients, do the normal day to day business requirements (the books and the like) and make time for friends and family. I like my home so I try to improve it or make it nicer by just adding one thing or buying one small thing for it every week. I am single and live alone, I am neat so I like to go out or go away and come home to how I left it. If i get bored I go for a walk, drop in on friends or hit the pool. I have to say I do have great days every day.
Oh, and the other thing I do is sometimes I wake in the early hours and just have an urge to get on the office computer (I have a home office) and just work on a project or an idea. Sometimes I get my best work done in these hours. I have a friend who is a best selling author in Australia, I think now over 30 books. He is same, he wakes in the early hours and often says this is when his best writing is done …
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am a big thinker and also a prolific people watcher. I often see, read or do adventures all over the globe. I like to think ‘how could you do this better or make this what is already a good journey just so much better’. I like to create programs that are unique, adventures that you just cannot ‘buy off the shelf’ … I believe the real skill to a successful program is the combination of the location (a mountain, a unique landscape or the like) and myself and my team working to our skill sets to make the adventure a purely ‘once in a lifetime experience’. I want my clients to take away what I call ‘a dinner party story’ – that being when next they are at a dinner party talking about their experience everyone at the table is ‘wow, tell me more, that is amazing …’.
I would rather see my clients do one great adventure with me every two years than one or two a year.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People are waking up to experiences over holidays. They are realising the value of difference. The rapid increase in experiential or adventure based holidays is exciting. People are electing to have a real go at something they have always wanted to do. Set a goal and go for it, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Go and do one of the great walks of the world (email me, I will tell you where to go). Go and a climb a mountain, even a small one, it is still a mountain (email me I will tell which one to climb, I will even climb it with you).
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I really do not see myself as an entrepreneur, moreso someone with a passion for adventure, a skill set and a lot of experience in delivering safe and wonderful experiences. I do appreciate that the skills I have in this area are rare and therefore valuable.
Having said that, I want to sit on my rocking chair one day as an old man and think quietly, ‘wow, I really actually did all that’ …
What advice would you give your younger self?
Choose exactly the life you already have, don’t let anyone at anytime talk you out of it. I had 17 cents when I walked 5500 kilometres across Australia on my own. I made it and it was one of the best journeys and times of my life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You can climb that mountain, in fact you can climb any mountain. I have seen and led people with some terrible physical disabilities climb mountains, swim oceans, walk difficult treks (with no legs, yes no legs – they crawled). I took an 89 year old man who was legally blind across one of the hardest walks in world a couple of years ago. He was just plain awesome. I led the first female above the knee to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa also. The rest of us, we are able bodied so we have no excuses …
Any of us really can lead a life of adventure and make a good living doing what others need to take holidays for. There is an ever increasing market in experiential and adventure based holidays. People really want to ‘do something’ on their holidays as opposed to laying around a pool …
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I will keep this answer short so it sinks in – Adventure holidays and experiences, especially with your children.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Client service and very safe adventure programs. Build programs that are not ‘off the shelf’ and if a client tells you ‘i have always wanted to do this but do not know where to start’ then train them, prepare them and lead them every step, stroke or paddle of the way.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Everest 2014 and 2015 and I there. Both times the mountain closed due to extreme tragedy. A huge icefall in 2014 and a massive earthquake in 2015. Many climbers were killed in both years. Summiting in 2016 had a somber feeling after witnessing the enormous loss of life in the previous two years. Adventure is by definition ‘a journey of uncertain outcome’.
Having said that, this is extreme adventure and it has its risks. I chose those risks; you do not have to. Adventure has many levels and can be found in almost any environment. Camping, walking, trekking, rafting or kayaking a river. It is all out there and 99% of it is safe and fun.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Choose a lifestyle business that actually helps people and get all the skills, qualifications and experience you can. Make yourself the very best at it. Then keep your business small and boutique. Good clients will want to learn from you. Then grow and DO NOT remove yourself from the delivery of the programs (it is easier to find a CEO or Administrative Staff than an excellent adventure leader. Your clients will accept you charging more and staying in a delivery role.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new band for my adventure watch … and, a new blow-up pillow for adventures, and a new pot-plant for my house (all were around $100 each).
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
A satellite tracking device that shows my location on the ground 24 hours a day. It includes local time, temperature, elevation and speed. My clients’ families love it as they can check in and see the progress and location of loved ones when they are away with me. In 2015 it recorded that i had actually climbed the equivalent distance to outer space and back and, you cannot argue the data … I often get to the end of the year and go ‘wow, I covered that much distance …’ when I speak at conferences the audiences are blown away with the data …
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Jamling Norgay ‘Touching my Fathers Soul’ – Jamling is a close friend and his Father was Tenzing Norgay, the first to summit Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary.
What is your favorite quote?
Winston Churchill ‘if you are going through hell, keep going …’ this gets me through tough times on mountains or big events when things are getting hard and a little uncomfortable …. It is also a nice antidote for tough times in life, we all have them at some point.
- Do not let others talk you out of your dreams.
- Make a plan, be flexible with it and go for it …
- Be a really good person.
- If you are going through hell ‘keep going’ …
- Finally, you are NEVER too old (Google Bill Burke 8 Summits)
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.