A Life of Adventure and Discovery

Global Citizen magazine presents an exclusive interview with renowned explorer Mike Horn, delving into the depths of his adventurous spirit, his partnership with Panerai, and his impactful environmental initiatives

What sparked your passion for exploration, and how did your dual upbringing in Switzerland and South Africa contribute to shaping your adventurous spirit?

My passion for exploration was sparked by a childhood surrounded by wild nature in South Africa. In my late twenties, I then left South Africa and made Switzerland my new home. This is where I developed a strong attraction to the cold and winter sports. Today, I’d say, my exposure to both Swiss and South African cultures has taught me the importance of adaptability and finding common ground between seemingly different perspectives. Regardless of cultural background, there’s a universal thread connecting people to nature, and this shared connection forms the basis of my explorations.

As Panerai’s ambassador for over two decades, how has your partnership with the brand influenced your approach to adventure and the way you share your experiences with the world?

Over the span of two decades as Panerai’s ambassador, my collaboration with the brand has profoundly shaped my approach to adventure. Panerai’s unwavering commitment to precision and robustness seamlessly aligns with my requirement for dependable tools. When I find myself stuck in adverse situations, whether I’m navigating the ocean, hiking in the middle of nowhere or climbing a glacier, it all comes down to durability, legibility and practicality and Panerai provides all of the above in their watches. Moreover, the brand’s consistent support has not only fortified my expeditions but has also empowered me to share these enriching experiences as well as my own projects with a global audience.

What is the Panerai watch you are attached to the most and what experiences have you shared with it?

It’s truly challenging to pick one, as each holds a special meaning, a reminiscence of truly unique moments. However, I would highlight the Luminor Arktos PAM00092 — the first watch codesigned with Panerai. Its specific engineering for extreme cold and polar magnetic fields made it an invaluable companion during my Arctic expeditions. Another timepiece worth mentioning is the Luminor Submersible Pole2Pole PAM00719, my loyal partner during the successful 2019 North Pole crossing. It marked the culmination of an intense 3-year-long adventure, my final big expedition, and Panerai stood as my steadfast companion, offering unwavering support throughout.

Your upcoming project, “WHAT’S LEFT – Expedition (2023 – 2027)”, is a long-term endeavor. Can you provide insights into what motivated you to embark on this four-year journey, the significance of revisiting specific places from your career and how the brand has enriched this journey?

The motivation behind my WHAT’S LEFT expedition is deeply rooted in the desire to revisit pivotal locations from my career, creating a narrative that transcends time. It’s a personal reflection that I wanted to share with the world of how climate change is affecting the very places that have shaped my adventures, raising awareness about the environmental shifts we’re witnessing and urging people to take action. Panerai, with its enduring support and provision of essential tools, has enhanced the expedition’s richness and contributed significantly to its success over the four-year journey. The long-standing partnership not only fortifies the expedition but also amplifies its impact, spreading a stronger message and gaining more visibility, thanks to Panerai’s steadfast support.

“PANGAEA X – Environmental Youth Program” is a commendable initiative. What inspired you to create this program, and how do you envision it impacting the mindset of the next generation when it comes to environmental awareness and action?

I launched Pangaea X driven by the vibrant energy of a generation eager to take initiative and contribute to positive change. Witnessing countless messages from youth expressing their desire to make a difference but lacking guidance, we established Pangaea X as a platform to encourage, inspire and support the next generation. This initiative provides hands-on experiences and knowledge, fostering a sense of responsibility and environmental appreciation. Pangaea X shapes young minds into advocates for conservation, aligning with my key lesson for youth: believe, stay disciplined and commit to personal and environmental projects.

In your role as the embodiment of the Modern Hero, how do you believe your global escapades and storytelling contribute to stirring a desire in people to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the unknown?

What I try to convey through my global escapades is to inspire individuals to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the unknown. By sharing my adventures and the challenges overcome during my expeditions, I aim at igniting a sense of resilience, desire for exploration and self-discovery and, ultimately, of self-belief. Through storytelling, I seek to convey that true growth and extraordinary experiences often lie beyond the familiar, encouraging others to overcome hesitations and embark on their own transformative journeys.

Have you had the opportunity to participate in one of Panerai’s signature Experiences? If so, how have you been able to enrich it and share your knowledge?

I had the privilege of participating in one of Panerai’s signature Experiences, dedicated to the Submersible Ecopangaea Tourbillon GMT. During this unique opportunity, I led a trip to Svalbard, exploring the remoteness of the region in winter through various activities that aimed at challenging participants and pushing them out of their comfort zones while exposing them to raw, unpolluted nature. Through my role in leading and making the seemingly inaccessible accessible, I hoped to demonstrate that we all possess the capability to push our limits.

Throughout your career, you’ve pushed the boundaries of both mental and physical endurance. How do you overcome challenges and setbacks during your expeditions, and what lessons have you learned from these experiences? Has the brand been able to provide you with dedicated essential tools to enhance your journeys?

In navigating the challenges of both mental and physical extremes throughout my career, I’ve learned to embrace setbacks with adaptability and patience. Panerai, with its precision and durability, has been more than a tool; it’s a trusted companion that enhances my journeys. Their dedication to crafting reliable timepieces mirrors my commitment to pushing boundaries, making every expedition a personal triumph. After 20 years together, Panerai has always been present during my achievements, like a second family, and it would almost feel strange not to wear one of their watches in those moments.

Your adventures inspire others to dream big. Can you share a specific moment or encounter from your explorations that had a profound impact on you and made you realise the transformative power of your journeys?

The encounters with locals throughout my journeys have undeniably opened my eyes to the world’s richness and diversity. Yet, what fuels my ability to dream bigger is the daily commitment to discipline. Waking up each morning with a sense of purpose, relying on discipline to push through challenges, creates a virtuous cycle. The more I engage, the greater the aspirations become. It’s a continuous loop – the more I see, the more I want to see, and the more I do, the more I want to do. Discipline becomes the driving force that propels me forward in this perpetual journey of exploration and discovery.

As you revisit meaningful and wild places during the “WHAT’S LEFT” expedition, what do you hope to discover and how do you anticipate this journey will contribute to your legacy as an explorer?

In the WHAT’S LEFT expedition, I want to discover new things in familiar places, making my legacy as an explorer richer. I aim to show how our planet’s beauty is always changing. This journey is personal, a way to thank nature as I near the end of my career. It’s like passing a torch, recognising the shared journey with the next generation. Even as exploration changes, my passion for discovery remains strong.

How do you balance the thrill of adventure with a sense of responsibility, especially regarding environmental conservation, in your expeditions?

Balancing the excitement of adventure with a strong sense of responsibility, especially for the environment, is crucial to me. It means being mindful of every step I take in nature, minimising my impact, and respecting the local ecosystems. In my expeditions, the thrill of the journey always goes hand in hand with a deep commitment to preserving the beauty and balance of the environments I explore.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the impact of your storytelling and content on individuals, and how do you see your role in continuing to ignite the spirit of exploration within others?

In the future, I hope my stories inspire others to explore and embrace the unknown. My goal is to share not just the excitement but also the lessons from my journeys. I see my role as igniting a spirit of exploration, encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones, connecting with the world and, most importantly, respecting environments and appreciating diverse cultures. Ultimately, I want my experiences to inspire personal growth and a deeper understanding of our world and its beauty and possibilities.