Roger Chao is an accomplished mountaineer, white water kayaker, caver, rock climber,polar expeditioner, backcountry skier, bike tourer, and hiker. He is also a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and Vice Chairman of the of the Australian and New Zealand Chapter of the Explorers Club.
In 2006 Roger was awarded the prestigious Young Adventurer of the Year medal by the Australian Geographic Society for leading a world first expedition in South-West Tasmania, and in 2007 he became the youngest person to cross the Greenland Icecap from East to West unsupported and unaided, facing temperatures below -40C and winds of over 150km/ph, towing a 100kg sled behind him to explore the effects of global warming in polar regions, for which he was elected as a member of the New York Explorers Club. He is now a member of the club’s executive committee.
In 2008, having completed a research project on the Inuit peoples of the Arctic regions, Roger was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. In 2010, he completed a 12-month expedition riding through Central Asia on a specially designed pedal powered recumbent quad bike, passing through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Xinjiang, towing a 200kg load and braving 60-degree deserts, minus 50 degree winters, and high altitude mountain passes.
Roger has also guided, trained and advised numerous clients on various world first expeditions (mountaineering, polar expeditions, kayaking, climbing, caving etc.) around the world. He was also chosen to be a part of the Vice Chancellors Elite Athlete Support Program at Monash University, and awarded a commendation for the Sir John Monash medal. He is also an Australia Day Ambassador for the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Currently working as a project coordinator reforming palliative care in residential aged care facilities, he has also had stints working at the Wilderness Society, as a volunteer with Bush Search and Rescue, as an environmental consultant, as a tutor for the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme, and as a social researcher on a longitudinal study of homelessness..
In his spare time, he also works as a motivational speaker and workshop presenter, on topics as varied as leadership and goal setting, to ecological footprint reduction and environmental awareness.
And breathe! So it's clear Roger knows his stuff, read on below for some more info about him. Roger has also kindly offered to provide some free mentoring and guidance to anyone looking for help in the world of adventure, so check our 'Ask Roger' page and get in touch with him directly.
What has been the greatest low point in all your expeditions? Finishing an expedition! Every time an expedition ends, it is both a sad but uplifting time, sad because all good things must come to an end, but uplifting as you can now use all the skills and knowledge you have gained from the expedition to give back to the rest of the world.
What is the inspiration behind all your expeditions? The beauty, hope and challenges I see in the world. These are what drive me to go out on expeditions, using them as vehicles for change, learning from them and using them to make a difference.
What is your greatest fear when out on an expedition? My greatest fear when out on an expedition is not having any fears left, losing all passion and motivation to act. They say that to be number one, train like number two. The person who is fearless is motivationless. The person who is fearless is probably foolishly ignorant, as there is never any instance where we should not be fearful at all. The moment you are fearless you know that you do not know enough, and have not prepared enough, for if you truly knew enough, you would be fearful, as you would know the limits of your knowledge. The greatest knowledge often not what you know, but knowing what it is that you do not know.
What is your favourite quote? There are those people today who live the same life, day in day out, predictable, risk free, dreamless, they are the harshest critics of those who strive to break free from this mundane existence. In this world, too many people are afraid to pursue the life they truly desire, too afraid of being criticised by others, too afraid of failing, too afraid of not knowing the way. However there are also those who choose to follow their dreams, those who choose to rebel, those who strive to be free, those who live. Stay true to yourself; break free from the chains of society and live. May you too have the strength and courage to pursue your dreams.
What is your most memorable moment of your career? My most memorable moment would be crossing a desert in mid-winter, lugging round massive ice blocks to melt each day for water, when all around you is sand, sun, and clear blue skies, and yet it is freezing.
What is your favourite part of the world to explore and why? Southwest Tasmania is by far my most favourite place in the world, it's in my own backyard (Australia), but yet is so rugged, beautiful, pristine, and unforgiving - just as nature intended.
What do you like best about expeditions? They are an excellent vehicle for education, engaging people who would otherwise not be engaged, on topics they would not otherwise become engaged in.
What do you miss most when doing field research or when on expedition? The smell of freshly baked bread!
You have seen many places and people that most Westerners do not even hear of. Can you mention a few highlights please? Some of these highlights include the very remote mountain villages in Tajikistan with very spectacular architecture (the mud brick houses, built into the surrounding trees), where people still spun wool by hand, and travelled by donkey. Other beautiful places included staying with semi-nomadic families in their Boz Oy's high up at 4000m in the summer pastures in Kyrgyzstan, where their nearest neighbouring family was over a hundred kilometres away. These families lived without electricity, telephone access, or any other forms of modern technology, in wool/felt tents with their animals. We also met up with some Sufi masters chanting themselves into a trance, which they said would turn their blood into plasma and allow them to travel through time, and a 103-year-old village healer who rubbed the soles of her feet all over the sick part of your body.
What do you do when the tough gets going? When the going gets tough, it is not a time for complacency and inaction. The tougher it gets, the more reason there is to try harder, to put more effort to getting out of this difficulty. Too many people give up far too soon, the body always gives out before the mind does. If the outdoors has taught me anything, it has been that you can always keep going, the moment you think you cannot go any further, you can, as being able to think this thought means there is something left in you still.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be? If I could be any animals, I would be a human being. Human beings are the most powerful animals in existence, we must be wary of the power to influence and change things that we possess, unharnessed power can leave havoc in its sway, and should not be unleashed without first seeing what its consequences are. Us humans are sometimes too lax in learning the consequences of our actions, often forgetting how something we think is so small and tiny and can have large repercussions. We humans are the animals with the highest capacity for creation or destruction, but with this power comes great responsibility.
What is your definition of an adventurer? An adventurer is anyone who lives life to the fullest, life is an adventure, every step of the way. We are constantly learning, making mistakes, taking risks, and making achievements, that is what an adventurer does, that is what life is. An adventurer is not a superman, it is not an elite athlete, it is a mindset, a drive to live, we can all be adventurers, as it is all in our mindset, not in our abilities.
Do you have any final words of advice for young adventurers? If you knew for certain that you were terminally ill, would you waste your remaining time alive, would you just go on living that same lifestyle you do today? Well guess what you do have a terminal illness – life. It is an inescapable fact that you will die one day. So get off your butt, and get moving.
Thanks again to Roger for his time and we strongly urge you to get in touch with him (see here) if you're looking for some guidance or inspiration.