Saying yes has got me into a lot of trouble over the years. I find it hard to turn down a new adventure or experience and love giving everything a go. In Finding My Virginity, I revealed my 75 close shaves – though I had to update the paperback to 76 after Hurricane Irma hit the BVI and I had a near miss with a bathtub flying through the air and landing where I had earlier been sat.
It was great fun to sit down with LADBible recently and talk them through some of the very close calls that stand out to me.
The challenge I was most scared of was when we were crossing the Pacific in a hot air balloon. We lost half our fuel when full tanks dropped as we jettisoned empty fuel. We thought we would run out of fuel halfway across the Pacific. Basically we knew we were going to die – we were travelling about 80mph – the only way we would survive is if we could average 180mph. The final chance we had was to try and get into the core of the jet stream. Luckily the strong winds saved us from crashing into the Pacific.
The second very close call I told them about was when I gave skydiving a go for the first time. There are two cords, one that opens the parachute and one that gets rid of it. I pulled the wrong cord by mistake. I was falling through the air towards the ground when an instructor managed to yank my spare ripcord.
The third close shave was when I was doing cycling training for the Virgin Strive Challenge when I crashed my bike. I was coming down a hill on Virgin Gorda and there was sleeping policeman in the middle of the road and I hit it and went over my handlebars. My assistant had been away but coincidentally she came around the corner of the road to find me lying spread-eagled on the road.
I’m often asked if these close shaves make me want to calm down and relax a bit. But I’m now 68 and have just completed the Virgin Strive Challenge – where we hiked, biked and kayaked across Sardinia before climbing Europe’s biggest mountain Mont Blanc. It was incredible pushing myself to my absolute limits once again and seeing what my body is still capable of (far more than I could have imagined – I felt 25 again!). The more you push yourself to achieve, the more you want to do.
When I look back over the full list of 75 close shaves (you’ll have to get hold of the book to read them all), I can’t help but think that it doesn’t matter how much you plan and prepare, life sometimes just has other ideas – and it often makes a much better story when it all goes wrong.