Sam Judd is the co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines an organisation dedicated to cleaning our oceans. He's a passionate surfer and diver whose adventures have taken him all over the world.
After finishing university, I bought a Kombi with a friend in the port of Valparaiso in Chile. We wanted to drive from South America to Canada, but we bought an absolute lemon and spent ages in mechanics' shops trying to fix it.
Finally, after we set off across the Andes towards Santiago, the engine caught fire. I had to smash a delicious bottle of red wine to put it out. It was also freezing cold, so we abandoned the van and hitchhiked to Santiago. With the van dream up in flames, we pooled our money and flew to the Galapagos Islands for surfing and diving.
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Cleaning up the Galapagos Islands
We'd been on the main island of San Cristobal for seven months when an old Kiwi guy turned up. Dave had a small backpack, an impressive handlebar moustache and swam in jeans. He was peculiar but we still put him up in our half-finished house full of stinkbugs and mosquitoes. Dave told us about a charity that paid fishermen to go out in their old fishing boats and clean beaches instead of catching fish. Because the Galapagos have very tight permit structures, it's expensive to go on official trips, so we volunteered.
We saw sharks, marine iguanas, manta rays and sunfish but we also saw tonnes of plastic choking this World Heritage site, where Charles Darwin found the inspiration for his Theory of Evolution. Because we were young and capable of lugging heavy bags over sharp volcanic rocks, we really got into it and over eight days, five of us removed 1.6 tonnes of rubbish.
When we got back to the main island, we were at the pub telling our friends all about it, and a group of us decided to do a clean up on San Cristobal.
Three days later, Christmas Eve 2007, I'm surfing when a 3m tiger shark bites me on the thigh. I came within an inch of losing my life. A friend helped me walk 1.5km across slippery rocks, then a ute transported me along dusty, gravel roads to the clinic.
Luckily I had a first aid kit. I'd carried it every day to surf those reefs and never used it before, but that day we used half of it. I was evacuated to Quito and spent nine days in the Hilton. My travel insurance offered to fly me home but I knew, if I did go I'd miss the ocean clean-up and let my mates down. Around 350 people joined us on that first clean-up and we removed 7.5 tonnes of rubbish. That was the first Sustainable Coastlines event.
Danger in Mexico
Three of us were travelling through Chiapas in Mexico, near the border of Guatemala. We'd been warned not to drive at night due to drug runners and robbers who smash holes in the road to pop people's tyres so they can rob you. But we went against that advice, and we were cruising along at night in our cheap rental when we hit a pothole. I was changing the tyre as fast as I could when I saw a torch coming through the jungle, someone was running towards us.
I knew they'd have a machete but more likely a gun. I smashed on the nuts, hurled the tools in the back seat, leapt in the car and floored it. We came so close to what could've been an absolute disaster.
In 2017 Sustainable Coastlines won the World Energy Globe Award for Sustainability and I was invited to Iran to collect it. After the awards ceremony, I explored the country, and I've never experienced such warm hospitality. Iranians are beautiful, amazing people. We climbed snowy mountains to watch the sunrise at Persepolis.
You can dive with whale sharks, go snowboarding and surfing. There are huge forests and lakes that no one ever talks about and I encourage people to visit.
One thing I hated, though - females aren't allowed to sing in public. We were at an underground rock concert and the band's singer was female. She had to hide out of sight and sing with a radio mic, because if government spies saw her, they'd have arrested her for singing in public.
Considering how we travel
Travel is important to gain a global perspective, but you have to think about how you can minimise your impact and add value to the place you're going; whether you make a donation or plant trees, there are lots of ways to give back.
It's also really important to understand how epic Aotearoa is, to learn about your own back yard before you take off on adventures.