NEW YORK — Alex Bellini has a wife and two daughters.
That doesn’t seem all that unusual until one realizes what Bellini does for a living: he’s a solo explorer whose adventures include rowing 6,835 miles across the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean over 227 days; doing the same across the Pacific Ocean for 11,000-plus miles in 294 days; walking across Alaska pulling a sled, and running across the Sahara Desert as well as the United States.
His most recent adventure was in January when he skied across the Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
The adventurer, who is also a motivational speaker and mental coach, was outfitted for his glacier trip by Paul & Shark. Last weekend, Bellini was in New York to show off the consumer version of the outfits that are just hitting stores. The -40 capsule consists of two technical jackets, ski pants and a Polar fleece that were inspired by Bellini’s adventure.
Crossing Vatnajökull wasn’t the longest adventure by far, but it had its share of challenges.
“Even though it was only 13 days long, so compared to the others it’s quite short, it provided incredible experiences,” he said. That includes falling into a crevasse from which he had to rescue himself, and surviving hurricane-force winds that threatened his “tiny, lightweight tent” — and his life.
Bellini survived the trek, but the experience also opened up a conversation on an issue much larger than his own adventures.
“In the last two or three years, I started getting interested in global warning and climate change,” he said. “The Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe, but it will not survive the next century. That gives me a sense of urgency. I wanted to show people what a big glacier looks like. My daughters’ daughters will not have a chance to witness this glacier so I wanted to do it before it was too late.”
This same urgency will be on full view during Bellini’s next adventure when he plans on crossing the largest island in Norway. But on this adventure, he won’t be completely alone. He plans to be accompanied by a dog whose job it will be to protect him from polar bears. “There are more polar bears than inhabitants on this island so I need someone to deal with the eventuality of an encounter,” he said.
He may also take along a videographer/photograph to document the trek.
“When I rowed across the Pacific, I had such rough weather, I wasn’t ready to click on the camera so I lost the opportunity to show people the real adventure,” he said. “So I want to focus on my journey and have someone to switch on the camera and show people what crossing the island looks like.”
Years ago, an adventurer could make do with handheld devices, “but with social media, newspapers and magazines, they want professional-quality material. Otherwise my story won’t be published and if I don’t have my story published, it’s as if I don’t exist. I exist and I want to tell this story because it provides people something to reflect on.”
Bellini expects the adventure to start in February or March of next year and take 40 to 60 days, depending upon the weather.
And like his trek across the Vatnajökull, Bellini expects that Paul & Shark will outfit him for the mission, too.
Although not known for its apparel designed for extreme temperatures — its logo is a shark and its heritage is in yachting — Bellini said “Paul & Shark was the right partner because it allowed me to design and develop clothing for this crossing.”
“There are brands more into the environment, but I needed someone brave enough to start from zero and try to understand what I was looking for. I needed something specifically designed and made for the environment in Iceland. When we started talking, even though they didn’t have knowledge of polar regions, they had good materials and they were intelligent people, which is what filled the gap.”
Bellini, who is still in school studying psychology, has been a fan of nature since he was a child growing up in the Italian Alps.
“My first experience with sports was with downhill skiing. I practiced that for 12 years, until I was 18 and moved to Milan where I pursued my academic pathway,” he said. He was studying accounting and realized halfway through that to be “happy and fulfilled in life,” he needed to chart another path.
“So I looked around and tried to connect to the inner part of myself: what should I do to make my life a success? Ever since I was born I had a sense of belonging with nature, so I asked nature, what should I do in my life to be fulfilled, and the answer was that I had to immerse myself in the environment. And that was when I started doing adventures.”
This path has helped Bellini have a better understanding of himself and life in general.
“Adventure helps me understand and develop coping strategies, not only for adventures but everyday life,” he said. “It can have educational value — it teaches you resilience, perseverance, dealing with feelings of success and failure.”
But Bellini knows that while he’s often solo on his adventure missions, he couldn’t live his life alone.
“It’s not a one-man show,” he said. “It’s a family show. My family is my superpower. Sometimes I don’t feel the strength to go on or the courage to push forward, but then I connect with [my wife] by phone or just have the image of my family waiting at home and it gives me the superpower that sometimes I need.”
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