'Wildboy' Brando Yelavich Joins the VSSL Voyager Family!
We’re STOKED to welcome Brando Yelavich as an official VSSL Voyager! Brando has one of the most inspiring stories of transformation that we’ve come across. His crazy love for the outdoors and authenticity made him an obvious VSSL Voyager choice. We hope a passion for the outdoors rubs off on you as you read this conversation we had with new VSSL Voyager, Brando Yelavich.
TW: Your Instagram is packed with a ton of photos of you on epic adventures. But that wasn’t always the case. For folks who don’t know your background, can you fill them in on how you started living the life of an explorer?
BY: I grew up in New Zealand in the city of Auckland. My life was far from adventurous until I decided, at the age of 19, that I was going to walk around New Zealand. This journey took me 600 days and I became the first person in history to circumnavigate NZ. There was no turning back for me after that journey. I felt as though I had found my true path in life and I dedicated myself to becoming a full-time explorer.
TW: You’ve become an expert at living off of the land, but it was a steep learning curve. Can you tell the story of your first meal in the outdoors?
BY: The very first meal that I caught myself will haunt me forever. I managed to catch a seagull - I was stoked! I thought catching it would be the hard part, but I was very wrong. I had never been hunting before and I didn’t know the first thing about butchering an animal. I burnt the feathers off the carcass and then proceeded to cook the seagull without gutting it. I bit into the burnt outside and got a mouthful of raw seagull followed by watery intestine juices!
TW: It takes a lot of courage to make such a dramatic change in life. What inspired you to get off the couch and change the course of your life?
BY: The realization of the life that I had created. I was living off a benefit and treating myself, my friends and my family badly. I had no one to blame but myself, and to me, this meant I was the only one who could fix it.
TW: Your writing on Instagram is very raw and authentic. What are you hoping people get out of your stories?
BY: I just want to be able to be honest. I don’t want people to think I’m "living the dream" or don’t have normal day to day struggles, because I 100% do! Everyone has their own challenges and if I can at least be open and honest about mine, maybe it will help others address their own. Ultimately I want to inspire people to get out into nature and let it help them, whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
TW: You can’t always be on the road doing epic adventures. What does a day in the life of Brando look like when you’re at home?
BY: I am passionate about my adventures but I also love coming home to NZ. My partner, Ngaio, is based in a beach town called Hahei, this is where I call home. When I’m home, I’m working on editing my content from my latest trip and planning my next one! These trips I go on take a lot of organizing, constant emails, phone calls, video chats and business meetups. I am working on my Unimog, an army truck that has an old horse box welded on the back. Having the Unimog set up as a house truck is ideal for me as it means I can be transient and come and go on my expeditions without the stress of paying rent or having a property to look after. My day to day lifestyle is an active one. I am usually going horse riding or fishing with Ngaio, diving, kayaking, hiking or rock climbing with friends, taking our dog Kaya to the farm or walking her on the beach, and of course, working on the veggie garden!
TW: I’m sure that you’ve had a few close calls. Any that really stand out?
BY: During my trip around NZ, I had a very real experience. I got flipped out of my packraft and pinned against a river bank, unable to escape the power of the water I passed out! The last moments before I lost consciousness, I felt a shift within myself, a peace that I had never felt before, and that is something I will never forget.
TW: How has your relationship with the outdoors changed your perspective? Your purpose?
BY: I feel like the outdoors IS my purpose! Helping people get connected with nature and fall in love with the natural world, as humans we protect what we love, and we all know mother earth could do with a bit more love from people.
TW: You just finished a 70-day journey paddling around Vancouver Island. How did that trip stack up to others you’ve been on?
BY: Vancouver Island was such a different challenge for so many reasons. It was the first expedition I had been on with my partner Ngaio, which was awesome because she is what I miss the most when I go away. However, expedition life can be tough. I would say it pushed the limits of our relationship, ultimately making us stronger and absolutely stoked with what we were able to achieve together. Another significant factor with this trip was the elements. As we know the ocean is a hugely powerful thing, so weather, swell and conditions all played a huge part in our day to day, minute to minute life.
TW: We are stoked to have you on board as a VSSL Voyager. What was it about VSSL that made you want to join the Voyager family?
BY: I love the VSSL products. From the moment I got my hands on one, I’ve been taking it on every outdoor trip with me. The ease of the communication with VSSL was a huge contributing factor, as it feels personal and real, and I've really enjoyed learning more about the company, the team, and their ethics.
TW: Any advice for people in the VSSL community that are thinking about doing a longer outdoor trip?
BY: For long expeditions, accept that things won’t always go as planned. Be prepared to be unprepared. On our Vancouver Island trip in the first week, my phone smashed, solar panels stopped working, the satellite phone wouldn’t charge and our gas cooker didn’t want to cooperate. In the third week, both our boats broke and I had already used the repair kit on a hole, so I had to compromise using leftover resin and sand. If you accept that you will most likely have to improvise, be tolerant and be creative, it makes all the accidents, breakdowns and mishaps feel much more manageable.
TW: How can people best follow you along your journeys?
BY: The best way to follow what I’m up to with my day to day adventures would be Instagram, I try to document anything epic I do and share it on my stories. To keep in the loop with my big trips, subscribe to my website. That way you can receive any blogs or big updates via email.
TW: If that interview doesn’t fire you up, I’m not sure what will! Keep in touch with Brando’s adventures and as always, be prepared.
Todd and the VSSL Crew