The World According to Bonita Norris

On 17 May 2010, Bonita Norris became the youngest British woman to climb Mount Everest. Here she shares her take on the world of travel

6 mins

Mountain/ocean/jungle/desert which are you?

Mountains. I am scared of the sea, I don’t like creepy crawlies and I don’t like the heat.

First great travel experience?

As a teenager I was inspired by the infamous journey of the aspiring doctor, Ernesto Guevara. When I was 18 I travelled from Buenos Aires to Machu Picchu, following his route through Bolivia. It was my ‘coming of age trip’.

What was your favourite journey?

One night at university I stood on a table in a pub garden and drunkenly announced I was going to Paris. A friend stood up, shook my hand and agreed to go with me.

A whirlwind four days in Paris – one night in the most expensive hotel, the rest in quaint guest houses. We gate crashed art gallery parties, drank free champagne and danced on the cobbled streets of the Rive Gauche. We partied with buskers and homeless people, with international students and a French glam rock band. We didn’t visit a single tourist sight. We then flew to Bergerac to stay with my friend’s family in their converted barn, cycled around old French villages and ate fantastic home cooked food.

Ten days later I landed on the train platform back at uni and it seemed like a whole lifetime had passed. I was broke and exhausted but it was the holiday of a lifetime as we were living each day with no idea where we would end up.

Top five places worldwide?

Everest base camp, Nepal; Cuzco, Peru; North Wales; The Lakes; Chamonix, Rhone Alps.

Special place to stay?

Sonam’s Lodge in Pangboche village in Nepal. Nima is a great host and PJ does a mean meat curry dahl baat.

Three items you always pack?

There’s no single item that I ‘can’t live without’. I guess I would struggle without my passport and contact lenses though.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

My stamp from Camp Barneo at 89 degrees North on the Arctic sea-ice is pretty novel!

Passport stamp you'd most like to have?

Coveting passport stamps is a bit sad, isn’t it? Though, I would love to visit Sudan as I wrote my dissertation about the country.

Guilty travel pleasure?

The mini bar!

Window or aisle?

Aisle. Quick escape!

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

Lara Croft, but she’s not real...

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best meal: a bacon bap from the Rugg Estate road-side van on the way back from a weekend of climbing in North Wales. Worst meal is probably something I’ve eaten in Africa.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Most disappointing is the Caribbean, I can’t do the ‘laid back’ way of life. I like things to just get done – which is probably why I enjoyed travelling around Norway with their Scandinavian efficiency. The Caribbean just makes me stressed!

The UK and its rugged coastline, rolling mountains and beautiful countryside constantly surprises me and makes me feel so lucky to have such a beautiful world on my door step.

Where do you NOT want to go?


Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Captain Robert Falcon Scott has always been a great inspiration and reason for me to want to go to cold places and suffer lots.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?


Labi Saffris' Something Inside so Strong was, for some reason, in my head as I walked into Manaslu base camp in 2009. It was my first 8,000m peak and I was terrified of the unknown – I think I sung it to myself to try and build strength.

Two years later I was the speaker at a prize-giving ceremony for a primary school at a Church in East London. The children stood up and sang that same song and suddenly I was back – walking towards the biggest mountain I had ever seen, I had tears in my eyes. I had come full circle.

What do you read?

I don’t read much when I’m away – for me, travelling is the time to drink tea and chat for hours with the odd people that you’ve been thrown together with for that period of time.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

The Sherpas who helped me down from the south summit to camp 4 on Everest – I owe them my life, and am so thankful for their willingness to help.

What's the most impressive/useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

None. I’m terrible.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Not a habit as such, but I get terrible motion sickness.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

I often tell stories of Shackleton and Scott when I think a team mate is having a particularly bad time – it works, the stories are so rousing that you’d have to be a robot not to be moved.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

In Pangboche village in Nepal. I stayed there with my friends Rob and Fi before our summit attempt on Everest. I woke up every morning with this excitement in my belly and knew how lucky I was to be there.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

Probably my old kit bags... It’s not a nice smell!

Given a choice, what era would you travel in?

I would have like to have travelled through Tibet and Nepal when they were still hidden Kingdoms.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London, Paris and Chamonix – the perfect mix of luxury, chic and exhilaration!

Want to find out more about Bonita Norris' adventures? Join her and other adventurers, explorers and travellers from around-the-world at Night of Adventure.

Each speaker is limited to just 20 slides to accompany their worldwide tales. The challenge is that each slide will automatically scroll forward after just 20 seconds. With this unusual and challenging presentation format, once the talks begin there is no stopping or going back, the audience must be ready to be swept from adventure to adventure!

To find out more about Bonita's expeditions check out her website.

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