How and when did you become a member of ASW?
Johan Nilson: I became a member pretty early. I think in the beginning of 2004.
As someone who is always on the move, how do you use ASW and what’s your favorite site feature?
JN: I travel often. One time I counted 14 flights in 19 days. So my favorite part is the forum. Everywhere I go, I meet up with people from ASW.
I visited Sydney in 2005 and my friends were out of town, so I asked on the forum if ‘somebody was in town’. That week I had dinners and lunches everyday with all kinds of interesting people.
You just completed the world’s first ‘Climate Neutral’ Everest expedition. What exactly does that involve and how does it compare to regular expeditions?
JN: It basically means that I calculate all my pollutions on Everest and then reinvest that in other climate neutral projects. Mount Everest is such a magical mountain. It hurts my soul to see it so polluted.
In September you will become President of Everest Summiteers’ Association. What does that honor involve?
JN: The Nepalese government gives this honor to one person per major country and my job is to keep a high security level.
Tell us about your next big adventure.
JN: My next adventure is unfortunately not in an ASW area – Antarctica. I will climb the highest peak on the continent and close the circle in a project I call ‘Seven Summits Climate Neutral’. I will then work on a big coffee table book (something like the book, The World From Above).
Tell us about your most exhilarating moment on an expedition?
JN: There are so many. One moment was when I was living with the cannibal tribes in Papua New Guinea. Another one is when I kayaked from Stockholm to Africa and I had a shark attacking my kayak. Standing on the summit of the world is also a great feeling, but I must say that having a Grizzly walking around my tent in Alaska was not my cup of tea.
Your scariest moment?
JN: Having big rocks falling around my head when I was hanging on a wall of ice on Everest!
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about Everest.
JN: Most people don’t know that Everest is a very holy mountain in the Buddhist religion and that you must respect the Lama’s wish if you want to be a guest on Mt Everest. They decide the date when you are allowed to start the climb.
Many people just go there and climb because they think it’s a cool thing. You have to be one with the mountain and she will protect you – that is the Sherpa’s philosophy.
You are ambassador for Princess Madeleine of Sweden’s Min Stora Dag (Make A Wish Foundation). What does the foundation do?
JN: The foundation is helping sick children by trying to fulfill their dreams and wishes; it can be meeting a pop star, driving a fast car or swimming with dolphins. I brought the flag to the summit of Mt Everest and I also donated a sacred stone from the summit to the foundation. This stone is, according to the legend, supposed to help people with sicknesses etc. I will now travel around Sweden and give lectures at hospitals and bring the stone to the children. But there are so many people who are working with this foundation, including many people from ASW.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
JN: I lecture a lot for companies all over the world and sometimes people come up to me after a few years and say that I’ve helped them to change their life. If I can help one single person to make a right decision or to be motivated enough to quit something bad – then all the pain, cold and long nights were worth it.
What is your greatest vice?
JN: Well, it is both good and bad, I guess – I never give up!
What makes you happiest?
JN: Love… and when I come up with a really good idea.
Where is your favorite travel destination?
JN: After 100 countries on seven continents, that is a tough one! But I do love Paris. Tengboche Monastery on 4000 m in Nepal is a peaceful place and Soho House in NY has great drinks. What do you want me to say? It depends on what I am doing there and whom I’m with.
What are your top five hotels?
JN: Ok, let’s see. The Carlyle in NY (Art Deco suite), Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, La Residencia on Mallorca, Amankila in Bali and The Hempel in London. But I cannot really say that they are the best. But I like them a lot and I often go there.
What is your favorite restaurant?
JN: Cipriani in NY is good for networking, Alain Ducasse in Paris has good food. But there is nothing like the Sherpa Bakery on 5300 meters on Mount Everest.
What is your favorite museum or gallery?
JN: The Met in NY and Louvre in Paris. But also I love Rome and The Vatican. The whole city is really an artwork.
What is your favorite beach?
JN: No, I’m not gonna say Nikki Beach. The Sipadan beach in Borneo is great. Aman Nusa is nice. But the beaches in Puerto Rico must be some of my favorites.
What film has had the greatest effect on you? Why?
JN: I loved Forrest Gump. He shows that everything is possible. But Cinema Paradiso is also a beautiful one… Léon, Nikita, Meet Joe Black, The Godfather. There are so many…
What is your favorite book?
JN: I loved Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi . Interesting! Also A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking was good. Others are Siddharta (by Herman Hesse), Snow Leopard (by Peter Matthiessen) and Mio, My Mio (a Swedish book by Astrid Lindgren).
What is your favorite ski resort?
JN: Chamonix. You have everything there; climbing, skiing, mountaineering and biking. St Moritz is good too.
What cause is closest to your heart? Why?
JN: The climate change. We have really changed the possibilities for life here on Earth, but we can also change it back. We just have to revalue what is important for us.
What’s one thing you would like to change about yourself?
JN: My friends might consider my spending account to big. But I love the good life and to live it to the full.
Which artist do you admire most?
JN: Artist or person? An artist I admire is Bono for his environmental work. In terms of musical influence, then Lenny Kravitz has an interesting music style. I am a piano player myself so I must say that Keith Jarrett is a big influence.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
JN: Kayaking across the Mediterranean, flying a boat to Morocco, hiking across Alaska, biking 82 km/h down a mountain, sailing over the Atlantic, climbing Mount Everest… I don’t know where to start? I don’t think it’s crazy, but people do not often agree!
Who is your favorite historical figure?
JN: I love Thor Heyerdahl. Others I admire are Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus and Amundsen. Richard Branson is not historical yet, but he is someone I admire as well!
What upsets you the most?
JN: When people give up even before they give it a try!
What is your favorite bar?
JN: Sea Lounge in Monaco. Bistro Jarl in Stockholm is also nice.
What gadget can’t you live without?
JN: I don’t know about gadgets, but my Steinway (grand piano) is very important to me.
Other things that I always carry on expeditions are my Anoto digital pen with bluetooth technology and my Sat phone.
What are you most afraid of?
JN: Snakes and sharks (I know, I’m in the wrong business).
What’s your favorite drink?
JN: Fresh orange juice
What are your top 3 songs on your iPod right now?
JN: ‘Because’ (Beatles), ‘Brain’ (Nerd) and ‘Wish you were here’ (Pink Floyd)
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—- Laura Jakobovits