As a child, Levison Wood used to beg his father to go walking in the hills. “It was never enough,” says the author, photographer and explorer, who has since visited some of the most remote parts of the world on foot and walked the length of the Nile and Central America. “Travelling this way lets you go off the beaten track and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.” We got the Clinique for Men #BehindTheFace ambassador to take time out of his travels to talk about wanderlust—and how he fits skin care into his itinerant lifestyle.
The Wink: How do you define exploration?
Levison Wood: Exploration is quite a difficult thing to define in this day and age. You’ve got digital maps, which you can zoom in on all the way anywhere in the world. But it’s not really about that. We know what the world looks like, it’s about sharing that journey of discovery with other people that don’t necessarily have the ability to go and see those places firsthand. No matter how close you zoom in, there are some things you’ll never see unless you are there.
TW: What is it about exploration that you love so much?
LW: It’s not about putting flags in a map anymore. It’s a journey of discovery for me, but I’ve got the ability to share that journey with other people, so it’s about hopefully inspiring other people to take up and champion causes, whether that’s conservation, climate change or promoting the rights of forgotten peoples.
TW: What advice would you give to someone who sees what you’re doing and wants to plan their own adventure?
LW: I’d definitely say that you don’t have to go off on a four month journey to have an adventure. Make the time, even if it’s just going away for a weekend. A lot of people put off travelling and it just never happens - you have to force yourself to prioritise and make it as important as other parts of your life. And remember that anywhere can be exciting to explore, it’s all about what you make of it.
TW: What’s the perfect photograph for you?
LW: The perfect photograph captures somebody’s spirit, heart and shows the story through their eyes.
TW: When you’re travelling, do you get judged based on your appearance?
LW: First impressions count for everything, people make assumptions and judgments based on what you look like. I try to meet people on their own terms. That means I travel on foot, I don’t carry expensive things and I try to do what the local people do in their own communities. It allows me to have genuine, authentic interactions with people and find out what their stories are.
TW: What’s in your bag when you travel?
LW: I can only carry what I can carry on my back, and if I’m walking 25 miles a day, that’s not very much. I’ve got my water bladder, pocketknife, compass, my survival bag and all the things that are going to keep me alive day to day. But, I also carry the little luxuries in life: I’ve got my SPF 50 for when I’m crossing the desert.
TW: Is skin care important to you?
LW: I spend a lot of time in jungles, rainforests, mountains and deserts, and I’m always exposed to the elements. So I take care of my skin by wearing SPF and making sure I don’t get sunburned. Another main step is remaining hydrated, so that you don’t look weathered too soon. A moisturiser like Clinique For Men 2-in-1 Skin Hydrator + Beard Conditioner even softens what’s under the facial hair.
TW: What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a trip?
LW: Have a shower, have a shave, go for a haircut then make some tea (Earl Grey, strong, with milk) and toast (always with butter and marmite).
TW: How does your grooming regime change when you’re at home compared to when you’re on a trip?
LW: I tend to use the same core products (SPF, moisturiser and beard conditioner), but I definitely spend more time on my regime. There’s little better than a long, hot shower at home after sleeping in a ditch by the side of a desert!
TW: Tell us about an unusual local grooming tradition you’ve picked up on your travels.
LW: In South Sudan, the Mundari tribe cover themselves in cow dung ash - in the absence of products, they have to use something to keep the sun off their skin and prevent sunburn. It also works to keep mosquitoes away.
TW: Where is the most memorable place you visited on your most recent expedition to Central America?
LW: I loved Nicaragua, it was such a beautiful place with great volcanoes that you could get really up close and personal with.
TW: Where are your favourite places to walk or visit in the UK?
LW: I always like going back home to see my parents, they live on the edge of the Peak District which is really beautiful and perfect for a long Boxing Day walk.
TW: What do you define as personal success?
LW: Being able to look back and realise that I’ve made more decisions based on not being scared, than being scared.
TW: What makes you authentic?
LW: I’m doing what I love. I’m doing what I’m passionate about and that’s having the freedom to explore the world and take risks.
TW: The name of the campaign is #BehindTheFace. What’s a preconception that people have about you?
LW: I think people assume that I camp in my own garden in a tent and eat bugs for a living. I do actually have a bit of a normal life when I go home. Even if it’s just for a couple of months a year.
Portrait: Chad Griffith | Behind the Scenes Photos: Kike Besada Fernandez | Words: Didi Gluck