Photo: Sarah Lee
Whether she’s surfing off the coast of Hawaii, testing her survival skills in a Maldivian jungle, or shredding pow in the Swiss Alps, there are a few constants in Alison Teal’s life. She loves nature, she’s concerned about the future of the planet and she’s determined to do something about it.
It all began in 1985, when Alison made her debut into the world on the floor of a small log cabin during a snowstorm in Eldora, Colorado. Since then, she has traveled to more than 40 countries, usually with her adventure photographer parents. (Her first trek was up 20,945′-foot Ausangate in the Andes when she was just two months old.) Over the years, she has gained a deep understanding of customs and cultures and learned important survival skills along the way.
In 2013, she put those skills to the test when she appeared on the Discovery Channel’s "Naked and Afraid." She survived 21 days on a deserted island and scored the highest PSR (primitive survival rating) of the season. They asked her back for the reunion, but she said no, deciding to use her heightened publicity for a greater good.
A USC film school alum, Alison started a production company dedicated to raising awareness about environmental issues. Through her film series, Alison's Adventures, she strives to shed light on problems that affect the earth by connecting with locals and immersing herself in their world. With an always-upbeat attitude, quick wit and insatiable thirst for eco-adventure, her message is brought to life through her love of sport (usually surfing) and set amongst the backdrop of some the world’s most beautiful - and often remote - locales.
Alison plays the "Leaf Game" with a pod of pals in Hawaii.
It wasn’t easy, but we were able to pin Alison down for a quick chat about where she’s been, where she’s going and what’s next in her life of perpetual motion.
1. Your incredible on-the-go lifestyle has caught the attention of Time Magazine which dubbed you the “Female Indiana Jones” and the Huffington Post, which referred to you as a "Real Life Tarzan Child" and the “Oprah of Adventure.” What’s one place you’ve never been and really want to go?
Egypt! Because I'm not a true Indiana Jones until I've ridden my camel with my pink surfboard up to the Sphinx and said "aloha!" I studied Egyptology at UC Berkeley and I've always been fascinated by the culture and architecture.
2. If you had to pick just one, what is your most memorable travel experience or destination?
One of my most memorable moments was in 2008 in Peru when I teamed up with a pro surfer named 'Octopus' for an adventure down the desolate coastline. While searching for a secret surf break we discovered an ancient burial in the sand dunes, as the pre-Incans buried their elite at the top of the dunes near the ocean. Inside there was a mummy who had been buried with his possessions for the afterlife, including a solid gold nose piece in the form of a surfer and a carved wooden paddle inlaid with precious stones. I learned that the pre-Incans were actually the first documented surfers using handmade reed "boats" called the cabillito de tortora and wooden paddles over 3,000 years ago.
3. You have played a part in educating about many important causes including the environment, climate change, animal welfare - to name a few. Are there any specific initiatives or organizations that you are most passionate about?
I’m not really an “organization” type of girl. I’m more focused on the impact we can have on a person-by-person basis. I think it’s amazing how you can change one life and it will have a ripple effect and change many - like with school kids for example. In my film series, I teach them not only how to better their planet, but also their community: to recycle, to eat healthy, to live sustainably.
I truly believe children are our future. If we start now and educate them about issues that affect our environment and encourage them to get involved, it will have a tremendous impact down the road.
A rude awakening: Alison explores "Trash Island" in the Maldives. Photo: Caters News Agency
4. You (and your family) really do live sustainably. You eat locally sourced, natural food; you opt for "human-powered" modes of transport whenever possible, your dad uses vegetable grease to fuel his car... What is one thing everyone can start (or stop) doing now to make a positive change in the world?
Every time you open something or use something, think to yourself, “Where does something come from and where is it going?" Because there is no such thing as throwing something away.
Also we REALLY need to love each other and the earth - because if we do that, we will organically respect and take care of what we love.
And of course, eat lots of dark chocolate - it just makes life better!
5. You had a very unique childhood. How did it shape the woman you have become and where do you see yourself in the future?
Growing up, my parents and I were always on the go. I experienced a 'homeless version of home-schooling’ - getting lessons from my parents in some of the most random locations, like in a tent on Mt. Everest or during a camel safari in the Rajasthan desert.
We set up a home-base on the Big Island of Hawaii in a “grass hut” that we built by hand. We still live there to this day. I always thought the grass was greener in “normal” kids' lives and I yearned for the "American Dream." Now I love adventure and travel and the newness of standing on a mountain where no one has ever stood or feeling the sea breeze whip through my hair on a big wave. Being in nature and traveling makes me feel alive. I love meeting new people, seeing new things, and creating an ever-growing global ohana. My dream is to be an inspiration for people to live THEIR dream. I have big shoes to fill with my wild parental units, but I hope to one day have an epic family of my own that loves the world as much as I do and will continue to be a voice for our planet by passing on the stories that so many cultures around the world have passed on to me about survival, sustainability, success and happiness. It’s a small world after all.
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