After an intense 300 days surviving alone on a deserted island, it didn’t take long for Xavier Rosset to dream up his next big adventure. The local ex-professional snowboarder is now taking on his biggest challenge to date – to fly around the world in an ultralight aircraft…
Xavier Rosset exudes adventure. Growing up in Verbier, Xavier naturally excelled at snowboarding. During his professional career, he spent six years hurtling himself down the steep face of the Bec des Rosses in the Verbier Extreme earning second place in 2005. For most people this would be adventure enough, but for Xavier it was only the start of his journey. With the ability to make his wildest dreams into reality, Xavier took himself out of his comfort zone in the mountains to spend 300 days alone on an island on with only a Swiss army knife and a machete. After 14 months of preparation he travelled 22,000km from Verbier to set up home on a deserted Pacific island. He completed the challenge after enduring months of mental and physical challenges, only to come home and dream up an even bigger expedition – to fly around the world aboard a 230kg pendular microlight. With his flying machine, he is en route to cross five continents, 50 countries covering a distance of 80,000 kilometres around the world, traversing over Central America’s tropical forest and across the Himalayas and Greenland.
VL: How did you adapt to life back in Verbier after your time on the island?
Xavier: My return from the island in 2009 went really well. I came back to a familiar world which I really appreciated. I had left Verbier temporarily to live a human adventure and to escape the consumer driven society, which, I must admit, gives me great liberties as a freeride instructor.
One of the richest feelings I had upon my return after 300 days on an island was to have been able to give my family a hug and to be able to converse with people other than myself.
VL: What inspired you to undertake this challenge?
Xavier: The ‘FlyTheWorld’ (FTW) expedition holds many values in common with my own previous island expedition. During my 300 days, I explored a semi-tropical jungle on foot as well as myself. With FTW, I am merely broadening my horizons. I am leaving on a pendular microlight to discover our planet, from a geological as well as a human perspectives. The idea is to show a positive side of the best things about our planet through two minute videos, photos and a documentary, which will be distributed at the end of the expedition, in three years from now. Optimists like pessimists, are contagious. I prefer to be part of the former category and to share my completed life adventures in order to showcase our planet’s beauty.
VL: You left Switzerland in July after months of preparation – how has the trip been to date?
Xavier :The expedition is progressing at its own rhythm, it has already travelled 15,000km flying over 13 countries in 120 days. This has entailed an enormous number of unforeseen events: weather, technical (flight authorizations/stays for which solutions always have to be found.) The huge obstacle of obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia meant that we had to plan a new itinerary, which would take us to South Africa, initially. The countries I flew over provided the FTW with absolutely incredible landscapes. It’s crazy how perception of our planet changes when we observe it from above.
VL: A few weeks into your stay on the Island you questioned if you’d be able to stay for the whole 300 days, how are you feeling about this trip so far?
Xavier: The biggest challenge of my 300-day adventure was the solitude and the voluntary isolation. The Fly The World expedition has enabled me to meet people from all walks of life and I am constantly encountering fascinating cultures This has enabled me to learn a lot about others as well as about myself. A little disappointing maybe is to not really be free to fly over certain countries as I please. I have to follow regulated itineraries which strongly limit my discoveries by air.
VL: Which part of the trip are you looking forward to most?
Xavier : The expedition is flying over so many countries, it is difficult to predict what I’m going to discover and get excited about in advance, which is good because this gives me room for manoeuvre. The American continent – north and south – promises wonderful encounters and breathtaking scenery; Asia also…. Flying over Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe at 3500 metres, will remain engraved in my memory. I flew over it on an August Saturday morning at dawn, when the winds were calmest. I took my machine up to 3’950 metres for more than an hour, flying over the six craters of this ambassador of the depths of the earth.
VL: When you stayed on the Island for 300 days, loneliness was one of the biggest challenges – what has been your biggest obstacle so far?
Xavier: Probably at the end of September, when I was flying over South Sudan, I had to change course due to weather conditions. From the moment I landed in this war-torn country, an avalanche of problems arose, which became more and more important, up until the moment I was investigated by the country’s armed forces. I am obliged to keep secret the days following my arrest, but I wish to thank the Swiss Embassy which immediately put procedures into place in order to clarify and resolve the problem as soon as possible. On October 7, just as I was about to leave south Sudan, another major problem came about: a storm damaged the wing and blades of my aircraft which meant it was not in flying condition. I had to get it out of the country in order for it to undergo repairs. This was done via a cargo airplane flying to Uganda. I also had to buy all my video material again which had mysteriously vanished during my stay.
VL: How do you motivate yourself when your determination waivers?
Xavier: I am a naturally positive person, so I always find a positive point in everything that happens to me. It’s all about perception. I find it much more enrichening to see the positive – solutions – rather than focusing on a problem and complaining about it. Everything that happens, planned or unforeseen, is part of the expedition and it is important to be open to everything and ready…
VL: Where do you plan to spend Christmas this year?
Xavier: The expedition is divided into three seasons. This will allow me to come back to Verbier during the winter to work as a freeride instructor and thereby earn some money which will be re-invested into the expedition from next spring. This will also enable me to find new partners for the FTW. The microlight will spend four months in a hangar somewhere in the world awaiting my return for the next FlyTheWorld chapter. I will therefore spend Christmas surrounded by my family, sharing stories of my adventures and listening to theirs.
VL: How can people follow your adventure?
Xavier: The expedition is as interactive as possible. Everyone can follow its progress online via a tracker which is on the microlight. Videos and photos are posted regularly on social media.
Instagram : fly_the_world
Before the departure of this expedition discovering the world, few people thought that this Bagnard ‘mountain man’ would be taking off to discover our planet on his aircraft. Now is the time to join this adventure as partners and as supporters in order to give him the necessary wings so he is able to continue this positive exploration.