Meet Preet: This is What an Antarctic Explorer Looks Like!


Preet’s multifaceted career comes from her rebellious spirit and her need to push boundaries in every way, shape and form. She challenges herself mentally and physically through marathons, large scale exercises, personal adventures and much more. If you do not yet know who Preet is, she is a British army officer, physiotherapist, Nordic skier, ultra-marathon runner, endurance athlete, among other things!

Her multidimensional career makes her latest feat of exploring Antarctica for 45 days solo with no resupplies an adventure of a lifetime. I got the incredible opportunity to interview her around her decision to explore Antarctica, making her way through 700 miles of the most severe weather conditions in the world.

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I really enjoyed Preet’s first statement when I met her over a WhatsApp call about the “outdoors being for everyone, yet we still do not see a diverse group of individuals setting out on their own and exploring the unknown.” Preet provides insight about what that statement means to her.

It’s not that easy to go hiking when you don’t know anybody else that does that or know anybody that looks like you doing it. That relates to so many things, representation is so important. I’ve had young women tell me that they feel they can relate to me because I’m brown, they feel like they can do it because I’m doing it too. That is so powerful. I want to show that is ok to step outside of your norm, it is ok to break boundaries, we create our own normal. In Asian communities, we’re often discouraged from doing things that are out of the norm. I have been labelled the ‘rebel’ or ‘stubborn’ on many occasions because I want to pave my own path. Imagine what we could achieve if we are encouraged to push our boundaries. I really hope to inspire people to do just that, push their boundaries and believe in themselves.


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A post shared by Preet Chandi (@polarpreet)

Preet continued to walk me through her decision to join the British Army at a young age and how she did not tell her family about the decision initially. She talks in detail about the perspective she gained and how these experiences trained her for the future.

When we do things out of the norm, it is often those closest to us that hold us back. This could be because they’re scared or don’t know anything about it or they’re concerned about what others may think. I waited at least a week before telling my family I joined the Army and members of the family weren’t pleased. I haven’t looked back on this decision and since then my family have seen the breadth of opportunities I have had, my personal growth and how much I have accomplished so far.

I love being in the Army, the first time I went camping was when I joined. I learnt most of my outdoor skills throughout the military and the more I achieved, the more I realized I was capable of. Joining the Army as an Officer was once my glass ceiling but when I had achieved that, I just realized that I could achieve more. The Army has seen me in exercises and deployments all over the world, including Nepal, Kenya, Norway and South Sudan. My wide skill set has enabled me to work with other UN countries and support the COVID vaccination rollout.


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A post shared by Preet Chandi (@polarpreet)

I loved learning about Preet’s polar expedition to Greenland to train for her Antarctica mission. She talks in detail about the monetary efforts it took for her get this expedition off the ground as well as the hardships she faced throughout this journey and the grit it took to overcome the obstacles.

This was the toughest part of training I completed. It was difficult to get to Greenland because of the COVID restrictions; I was constantly checking travel restrictions. When it opened up for travel, I had a week to find a guide and get all of my kit and equipment together. After quarantining in Greenland, 3 flights, a helicopter and a boat, we finally made it to the start line. We navigated over crevasse fields for the first few days — I’ve never seen anything like it before. When we got to the snow, we put skis on and experienced all sorts of weather, we had rain, snow, whiteouts (very poor visibility) and storms where we were unable to travel. During the storm days, I would get out of the tent on my hands and knees, for my goggles to freeze up in seconds, and then spend a few hours trying to prevent the tent from being buried in the snow. This continued for a few days. Toward the end, we were running out of fuel and therefore had to ration it, my kit was wet and it was difficult to dry out inside the tent. It took a few days for the helicopter to get to us because of the weather conditions but it eventually came.

After getting off the ice, we had more delays. Our kit and equipment hadn’t arrived at the correct place our flight was cancelled so at one point I was in a small town trying to connect to WiFi and join the second year of my MSc online! I eventually made it back to the UK, still in my snow boots, because my kit with trainers was still somewhere in Greenland. I felt quite deflated but the next day, still decided to run London Marathon virtually on the patio. I didn’t have any trainers so I completed it in my Army boots and it took 7.5hrs. I’m glad I did it because it just shows even though I was mentally and physically tired, I was still able to do more and I try to remember that lesson.

This trip cost me all of my life savings and it took me over 6 months to pay the expedition off. I used most of my annual leave and it was hard. But I have no regrets, I learnt so much and I wouldn’t be ready to go to Antarctica if I hadn’t done this trip.


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A post shared by Preet Chandi (@polarpreet)

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Antarctica is one of the coldest, driest and windiest continents on Earth without anyone living there permanently. I wanted to get to the bottom of Preet’s fascination with Antarctica and what her internal compass is for exploring the unknown and pushing her boundaries. Preet elaborated on what it means to her to be able to explore Antarctica.

I feel incredibly privileged to be going to Antarctica. I didn’t know very much about the continent up until 2.5 years ago, I didn’t grow up reading about polar explorers or even know how I would go about starting an expedition there. But that is ok, because if I can do something so far out of my comfort zone, hopefully it will inspire others to do the same. They don’t have to do an Antarctic expedition (but let me know if you do want to, I’d love to help!), but it can be anything, pushing out of your comfort zone is scary but also incredibly rewarding. Just take that first step.

There is something fascinating about pushing our mental and physical boundaries. How often do we reach our limit, how do we know how far we can push ourselves. I haven’t reached my limit yet. Antarctica is a fascinating place, it is the coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent on Earth. There are only a few female adventurers that have completed a solo, unsupported trek on this continent. It is time to add some more names, diversity and to make history. If successful, I will be the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition on the continent.


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A post shared by Preet Chandi (@polarpreet)

We concluded our conversation with Preet talking in detail about what she will be taking to Antarctica, how she will be tracked and what she hopes to see during her expedition.

I will be taking all of my kit and equipment that weighs around 90kg on the 700 mile expedition. The main weight is the food and fuel so the bulk will get lighter as I get closer to the South Pole. The other kit I’m taking will be all of my communication equipment, which includes satellite phones and GPS systems. Every 24hrs I will send my live location and if you head on my website, there will be a map and you can see how far I have gone each day (this will go live as soon as I start — around 21 Nov.). Other bits of kit include my cooking system, a tools and repair kit, spare clothing, additional layers and my tent!

Sadly, I won’t be seeing any penguins on my route and I’m unlikely to see any other people until I reach the last degree. I’ll be working in nautical miles out there and will be travelling south in degrees of latitude towards the South Pole. The South Pole is 90 degrees south and I will start at 80 degrees south (so I will travel 10 degrees in total). Each degree is split into 60 nautical miles. The last degree is often a guided expedition so I may see some people in that last bit.

The other milestone (apart from the South Pole itself), is Thiel’s Corner. There is a runway and fuel depot there for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE). This will be my half way point and I should be able to see Thiel mountains from there too. It is always nice to be able to see something on the horizon that you are heading toward (when visibility is good!)


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A post shared by Preet Chandi (@polarpreet)

Preet hopes to combat the perception of what an explorer looks like and hopes for more individuals to truly showcase themselves by exploring what really calls out to them. Her experiences of being in the British army as well as her personal expeditions truly showcase an individual hungry for adventure. To follow Preet’s Antarctic expedition click here:
Instagram will also be updated daily.

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Introducing Vaksana: Guyana’s First Sustainable Women’s Retreat

Menakshi Babulall

Sustainable development practices can be utilized as a model for addressing gender inequities worldwide. Empowering women with the resources to gain opportunities, learn skills and collaborate in a safe and welcoming environment is crucial to women’s growth and development as individuals. 

After witnessing the first-hand effects of gender-based violence growing up in Guyana, Menakshi Babulall founded the Canadian nonprofit A Different View Project (ADVP) to promote and implement sustainable development methods across Guyanese communities. Vaksana, which means “nourishing/refreshing” in Sanskrit, is a branch of ADVP exclusively aimed at developing Guyana’s first eco-friendly women’s retreat center.  The retreat will offer wellness activities, training services, regenerative farming and community outreach programs. 

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Babulall was inspired by Guyana’s rich rugged beauty as a child. Her dual passion for preserving the environment and aiding underserved communities contributed to her studying International Development at Toronto’s York University before launching a public service career.  This eventually led her focus back to Guyana. Babulall talks to BG about her journey as the founder of ADVP, the progress of Vaksana and her perspective on sustainable and ethical charity work.

How and when did you create ADVP? 

“ADVP was founded in 2016 with the vision of empowering communities and fostering sustainable development. The idea stemmed from my desire to create an organization that could address pressing social and environmental issues through innovative and collaborative approaches. One thing that fills me with immense pride is ADVP’s unique ability to bring together diverse stakeholders, including those from the diaspora, to create impactful projects that make a tangible difference in people’s lives while also providing them with an opportunity to connect with their homeland.”

ADVP has worked on projects within Guyana’s fertile Pomeroon-Supenaam region, a vast expanse of hills and villages that dot the Essequibo Coast. Past projects include building a centralized outdoor recreation space for families and facilitating peer tutoring groups for children affected by COVID-related school closures. They also engage with the children of Queenstown Village through storytelling and interactive activities to nurture their passion for the environment. Overall, the focus of ADVP’s projects is geared toward education and sustainability while developing meaningful and positive relationships with the local community. 

Babulall’s remigration to Guyana during the pandemic to oversee Vaksana was a humbling experience. Living in rural Guyana allowed her to witness the benefits that wellness and eco-tourism can bring to a community, but also highlighted entrenched socio-economic struggles. It heightened her senses of resilience, adaptability and empathy; all key facets she believed essential to an effective leader. She soon realized the importance of cementing Vaksana as a catalyst for positive change in the region, particularly as a safe haven for women and gender non-conforming individuals who may face discrimination.

Explain the concept behind Vaksana

“The idea of Vaksana was born out of extensive research and a deep-rooted passion for creating a transformative space that combines wellness, eco-tourism and community development. The journey began with a vision to create a place where individuals could experience holistic well-being, connect with nature and promote sustainable living.

Vaksana’s foundation is built on three essential elements: tourism, community outreach and regenerative farming/agriculture. These elements were thoughtfully chosen to ensure a holistic approach to personal growth, community empowerment and environmental stewardship. By integrating these pillars, Vaksana becomes a powerful force for positive impact, both within the retreat center and the wider community.”

Vaksana is an ode to Babulall’s Indian heritage that was originally displaced and irrevocably transformed upon arrival to the Caribbean. Like its namesake, individuals have the opportunity to reclaim and reinvigorate themselves. Future plans for Vaksana include a kitchen/restaurant alongside sustainable farming, a workshop/training facility and a multipurpose room offering wellness classes such as meditation and yoga in consultation with a behavioral psychologist and holistic therapist. Collaborations with local businesses and partnership with the University of Guyana ensures that Guyanese citizens are actively involved in every aspect of the project, providing employment opportunities and allowing them to take on leadership roles.

What is the current progress of Vaksana, and where do you hope to see the project in one year? 

“As of now, Vaksana is in an exciting phase of planning and development. We have made significant strides in securing the land and are eagerly awaiting the approval of the lease for our carefully chosen site. Our dedicated team is diligently working on the architectural design and construction plans to bring our vision to life.

In one year, we envision Vaksana having completed its initial construction phase, with the retreat center standing proudly amidst the natural beauty of Guyana. We anticipate being fully prepared to open our doors and welcome our first guests to experience the transformative journey that Vaksana offers.”

Babulall believes in transparency regarding the difficulties faced with running a non-governmental organization. She has overcome several obstacles such as limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles by seeking collaborations, leveraging available resources and engaging in open dialogue with members of the community.

When asked about the misconceptions of running an NGO, she replied, “Many NGOs actually strive for financial independence by implementing income-generating initiatives and fostering partnerships that create long-term sustainability. Another misconception is that NGOs are not as efficient or effective as for-profit organizations. In reality, NGOs often have lower administrative costs and are driven by a strong sense of purpose and commitment.” 

She also disagreed with the belief that NGOs only focus on aid/handouts and says, “Many NGOs prioritize community-driven development approaches, working with local stakeholders to identify their needs/strengths and supporting capacity-building initiatives that enable communities to thrive independently.”

By debunking these perceptions, NGOs such as ADVP can continue to attract like-minded individuals to participate in the diverse work they undertake to address social challenges and advance a more equitable future.

How would you suggest those get involved in ethical public sector/charity work?

“I would recommend starting by identifying your passions and areas of interest. Research and connect with organizations that align with your values and goals. Volunteer your time, skills or resources to make a tangible impact. Stay informed about social and environmental issues and advocate for positive change. Collaboration and learning from others in the field are also crucial for personal and professional growth.”

What is your ultimate goal and future plans for ADVP and Vaksana?

“My ultimate goal is to continue building ADVP as a leading organization in sustainable community development, promoting social and environmental justice. With Vaksana, we aim to establish a renowned wellness and eco-retreat center that serves as a model for sustainable tourism, community empowerment and holistic well-being. We envision expanding our impact, fostering collaborations and creating positive change at both local and global levels.”

Guyana’s raw and authentic lifestyle has left a profound impact on Babullal as an individual and a leader. While embarking on the Vaksana project has not been without roadblocks, she is grateful to have gained the strength to confront difficult realities head-on in hopes of creating a safe place for individuals to learn and flourish. She has found contentment in the beauty of Guyana’s lush surroundings and hopes that others find its premise rejuvenating and inspirational. 

To learn more about ADVP visit their website here or follow them on Instagram.

To donate to the Vaksana project, visit their GoFundMe page.

Featured Image: Menakshi Babulall | Photo Courtesy of Menakshi Babulall

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