Continuously embarking on dangerous expeditions for his work, Aldo Kane leads an adrenaline-fuelled lifestyle. However, as he tells Happiful, a sense of calm and appreciation is always available to you when you learn to live in the moment
I’ve caught Aldo Kane in a rare moment of quiet. He’s back home, in London, in the middle of a round of interviews and photoshoots, before preparing for his next exciting expedition to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
As a former Royal Marine sniper and current-day TV adventurer, explorer and presenter, Aldo is used to spending long periods away from the UK, exploring the world. In the past two years alone, he completed a world record-breaking row from Portugal to Venezuela with Team Essence and long-time pal Jason Fox, spent three months in South America filming Meet The Drug Lords: Inside The Real Narcos for Channel 4, worked with Steve Backshall on Undiscovered Worlds, had two stints in active volcanoes for Expedition Volcano, and worked on National Geographic’s One Strange Rock with Will Smith – and the list of adventures goes on.
To say that Aldo has experience of negotiating extreme and hostile situations, both on and off camera, is an understatement.
“I’ve been living like this since I was 16,” he says, referring to when he went into the armed forces. “Although I’ve probably been in more hardcore and high octane situations since I left the Marines.”
I can only imagine...
With physical strength and a high state of awareness being so hugely important for Aldo’s work, it’s hard to picture what he does in his downtime, away from the cameras and pulse-racing activities.
“I always need to be mentally and physically fit for the next stint, whatever that might be, so when I’ve got two weeks off between jobs I’m not sitting around eating donuts!” Aldo laughs.
“I’m in the gym, doing crossfit training, because my body needs to be prepared to run away from danger, to escape, fight, whatever is needed in the moment, and my brain needs to be ready and working together with my body to help me achieve that.”
This marriage of mental and physical is a recurring theme as we chat, along with Aldo’s love of the outdoors. “The most important thing for me, mentally,” he adds, “is being outside and being active. It’s so crucial to get out in nature at least once a day. It’s there for everyone, and it’s free.”
Despite the breathtaking, far-flung locations Aldo has filmed in, he still finds that it’s the UK’s capital where he regularly gets the most benefit from open air exercise – as it’s the place where he doesn’t have to be “hard-wired into the environment”, as he does on location.
Whether it’s living in solitary confinement, without access to sunlight or other people, or facing life-changing situations with dangerous criminals, I imagine this mental aspect of Aldo’s work could take more of a toll on him than the physical demands. How does he deal with the permanent extreme focus required to ensure the safety of himself, and others, when working?
That to me is mindfulness. Being in the moment, soaking it up and learning from it
“When I go into a new situation, I am initially hypervigilant. I am aware of everything, the surroundings, people, potential issues – all of the things that I need to be thinking about,” Aldo says simply. “You need to be aware of all elements of risk – but then you have to put that to the back of your head. But when something does happen, you’ve done all that thinking and planning in advance, so you’re not in a panic mode.”
It’s hard to reconcile Aldo’s lightness of approach, and his calm nature, with the projects he undertakes. However, it’s clear that working on his mental strength as much as his physical state is vital to him. Practising mindfulness plays a major role in this, although it’s not a term that Aldo was aware of until a couple of years ago, even though it was a presence in his everyday life.
“Looking back, mindfulness is something I’ve practised for a long time. When I was still young and in the Marines, I used to lead expeditions and take groups of students across the world. I remember sitting on top of a waterfall in Guyana with about 15 kids who just weren’t interested in being there.
“I asked them to sit with their legs dangling over the edge of the waterfall, close their eyes and imagine they were back at school, worrying about exams. Then, that they hadn’t received the grades they wanted, or were finding it hard to get work. I asked their future selves to think back to this beautiful, wonderful moment and wish they were here again. Then I told them to open their eyes, look out and really appreciate the experience.
“That to me is mindfulness. Being in the moment, soaking it up and learning from it.”
Cherishing the moment is equally important when it comes to his romantic relationship. “I appreciate my fiancée Anna,” he smiles. “We spend a lot of time apart. She’s a producer, and we’ve had times where I’ve been away for months and have two days at home, and then she’ll be away for three weeks, but those two days we have together are so special, and so full of everything you would want to have.”
The pair won’t have long to wait until another very special day, with their wedding planned for September this year. Yet while they’re in the middle of organising their nuptials, they still have no less than five working trips between them in the months before their wedding.
Aldo doesn’t seem at all fazed by this, but then wedding planning must be an enjoyable exercise for someone who has been used to negotiating the extreme challenges he has.
When it comes to these challenges, Aldo is aware of the importance of monitoring his own mental health and resilience. After leaving the Marines, he proactively sought counselling to ensure that his experiences in the Services didn’t come back to impact him negatively later on in life.
And now? “I make sure I exercise, I keep my brain busy, I talk to people who understand my situation.”
Aldo is consistently quick to point out the positives in his life, after speaking about some of the more testing times he’s endured, including his time in West Africa in the middle of the Ebola crisis. “With the travelling I do, I come back and it can be wonderful to just see green grass, or walk into a shop and just be able to buy something…
“My perspective is that, generally, living in the UK, and in particular London, you have more opportunity than probably 95% of the rest of the world. Anna and I are good at not complaining, because we’ve seen those other life experiences.”
As our conversation ends, I am left with the sense that Aldo is someone who has seen the very worst that human and mother nature can offer, but he’s also a person who remains dedicated to seeing the beauty in life, who embraces movement and strength, and celebrates his connection to other people.
Aldo truly knows what it means to appreciate each moment, and live for the here and now – something we can all do, in our own way, every day.
This July, Aldo will front the BBC2 Horizon documentary ‘Britain’s Next Air Disaster? Drones’, and will appear alongside Steve Backshall in ‘Expedition’ on Dave.
Follow Aldo on Instagram @aldokane