Interview With Mike Fay

Explorer Mike Fay crossed Africa on foot and was attacked by elephants. Find out what he was like as a kid and what he likes to do for fun.

J. Michael Fay, conservationist and NG Explorer-in-Residence, has survived an elephant attack, contracted malaria, walked over 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) across central Africa, and completed an 11-month journey through the redwoods trekking another 1,800 miles (2,897 kilometers). Find out what he was like as a kid and what he does for fun.

When he was a child: 

"I grew up in Pasadena, California in this neighborhood with lots of kids called Hastings Ranch, which was in the foothills, adjacent to the San Gabriel Mountains wilderness area. …That was our playground, that vast wilderness behind the house, which was literally all the way to the Colorado River.

So I think that’s where I started wandering and I also had the good fortune of having an older brother, he was ten and I was like six, and he probably had friends that were 12 or 13. So we were just the rowdy kids out there doing our “Little Rascals” kind of thing."

JOB: Conservationist and NG Explorer-in-Residence

GREW UP IN: Pasadena, California

FAVORITE PASTIME AS A KID: Exploring the woods and building forts, and fly fishing when I moved to New Jersey.

HEROES: Henry David Thoreau and President Theodore Roosevelt

TYPICAL DAY: Walking somewhere and taking notes about animals or the environment. I have filled hundreds of notebooks.

FOR FUN: Walking is my favorite thing to do.

BEST ADVICE: Don’t listen to anyone when they tell you to do something different than what you want to do.

TRAVEL GEAR: Sandals, shorts, t-shirt, raincoat, and a backpack with a tent, lighter, GPS, notebook, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, pocket knife, and mosquito net in Africa.


HOW CAN KIDS HELP: Get outside and start thinking about natural resource management and how to replenish the natural resource capital that we have lost.