Life is an adventure
“The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all…”
This is a quote I have lived by - I have always gone in search of adventures because it’s where I feel most alive.
The spirit of adventure has changed my life in so many ways – it has helped me to build businesses, meet brilliant people, stretch my mind, and discover new perspectives. Most importantly it has helped me discover my limits – and to go beyond them.
I have been fortunate to explore the world (and beyond) by balloons, boats and spaceships – but I always come home to quite a few questions from my grandchildren. Why did you do that? What happened? Did it hurt? Can I have a go?
From jumping off a building in Las Vegas to ballooning around the world to kitesurfing the English Channel – there are so many stories from over the years which bring a smile to people’s faces when I tell them.
I wanted to bring my experiences to life in a format that my grandkids could watch and share and hopefully be a little inspired to go off on their own adventures too. I hope their lives are filled with as many types of different experiences and adventures as possible (though hopefully, less near-death experiences). Here is the first animation in the series...
Over the Christmas holidays, I showed the short animations we have made about my adventures to my grandchildren. They loved watching and were bursting with questions afterwards. Hopefully the films inspire curiosity and a spirit of adventure in you too – whether you are young or young at heart.
Flying to space with Virgin Galactic
My grandkids are the only people in the world to know that I was once a good pirate dumped on an island by bad pirates. They are sworn to secrecy and have never told another soul! Just after I flew to space, seven-year-old Etta pulled me down to her and whispered in my ear: "Papa, you must be the only pirate ever to have gone to space!"
Flying to space with the remarkable crew onboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Unity fulfilled my childhood dream. It was an enormous team effort, standing on the shoulders of giants. The day marked one of the happiest and most memorable of my life, and this animation says it all.
Ballooning across the Atlantic
I’ve always lived by the idea that when you’re given a great opportunity in life, say yes and figure out how to do it later! The second adventure animation in this series recounts my very first ballooning expedition in 1987. I was invited to fly across the Atlantic in the biggest balloon every built with a brilliant balloonist called Per Lindstrand. I agreed to the challenge right away, but I had no idea how to fly a balloon! I had some quick-fire lessons and then followed a hair-raising but incredibly exciting adventure. We also became the first people to ever fly a hot-air balloon across the Atlantic Ocean. I’ll let the animation tell the rest of the story, and I hope it inspires you to say yes more often, and worry about the details later!
The Blue Riband
The greatest sailing award was The Blue Riband. The third animation in our series tells the story of how we tried to take on the toughest challenge on the seven seas in 1985.
It was the adventure of a lifetime, and I’ll never forget the radio call we received on the first night saying that Joan had given birth early and welcomed our son, Sam Branson into the world. I was devastated to miss the birth, but even more determined to make it to the finish line so I could be with my family. Things turned for the worst when we hit a big storm, and a huge wave ripped the hull.
Our boat, the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, began sinking and we had to quickly abandon ship. Thankfully, we were rescued to safety and I raced off to be with my family. As I held Sam for the first time – still soaking wet in my sailing clothes – I knew I was embarking on one of the greatest adventures of all.
Ballooning across the Pacific Ocean
Looking back on my ballooning expedition across the Pacific Ocean… I said I’d never try to break another hot-air balloon record again, but I’m easily persuaded when it comes to new adventures.
Disaster struck before we even took flight, and there were multiple points where I thought we wouldn’t make it. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but we finally made it to land… just 1000 miles off target! This was definitely a case of, “it’s more about the journey than the destination!”
Ballooning around the world
There’s nothing more thrilling than doing something that no-one has ever done before. This is what led me to try flying a hot-air balloon around the entire world – and I can’t believe I lived to tell the tale! I still think about the note I left to my children, Holly and Sam, which reminded them to live life to its absolute fullest and enjoy every minute of it. It’s advice I still remind myself of today.
Jumping off a building in Las Vegas
Jumping off a building in Las Vegas might be my most embarrassing memory to date – but I can’t help smiling when I think back on that very windy day! We were launching flights to Las Vegas, and the team wanted me to jump off the side of a building to mark the occasion. However, the wind was so strong and the building so tall, that I considered saying no for one of the first times in my life. Perhaps I should have listened to my instinct, because I ended up crashing into the building and splitting my tuxedo trousers on the way down. While it wasn’t smooth sailing, I’ve got no regrets - you’ve got to take a gamble or two in Vegas! Delighted we’re still flying – and have our new Virgin Hotels – in Vegas now.
Kitesurfing across the English Channel
My children inherited my great love for adventure, so I love roping them into all sorts of challenges. In 2012, Sam and I set off with some friends to try and break several world records for kitesurfing across the English Channel – which the French authorities weren’t very happy about. It took me two attempts and over 100 crashes to make the crossing, but I made it in the end. The feeling of elation when I reached the beach was a good reminder that when you fall down 100 times, get up 101!
A very close shave with the Sydney Harbour Bridge
This very close shave with the Sydney Harbour Bridge has to be one of my most memorable adventures to date. I felt like Peter Pan, flying through the sky while dangling from a helicopter, but my heart skipped more than one beat when I narrowly missed the bridge!
Hurricane Irma was such a devastating moment for the BVI. The islands were in ruins, but I’ll never forget the way everybody came together to help one another and deal with the destruction head on. It’s now been over four years since the hurricane struck, and the BVI has bounced back stronger than ever.
I hope you enjoy and get out there to try something new.