Aleksander Solum
9 July 2024
Natalie Wang
9 July 2024

Pip Stewart

Adventurer finds inspiration after life-threatening disease in the Amazon

Pip giving a talk about her adventure through the Amazon in London in October 2018

Pip Stewart (MJ 2010) is a mom, adventurer, travel writer, motivational speaker, campaigner against a deadly neglected disease and budding children’s book author.

Her adventures started in 2009, when she quit a corporate job in London to pursue a Master’s in Journalism degree at the JMSC, moving to Hong Kong, a city she’d never visited before. 

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Pip said, as she reflected on how the JMSC helped launch her adventures in Asia. “Every JMSC instructor played a crucial role in shaping my career.”

After graduation, Pip joined TVB in Hong Kong as a reporter, but soon moved to Malaysia to freelance for the BBC, CNN, Forbes, Al Jazeera, and US-based ABC News. In 2013, Pip and her partner Charlie embarked on a 15,750-kilometer bike ride from Malaysia to London. It was a 13-month journey that took her to 26 countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Europe.

While on the road, she raised money for the mental health charity SANE, reporting her adventures on her personal blog posts-. She also sold multimedia stories to outlets like the BBC, CNN and the South China Morning Post. 

The road trip and reports landed Pip a job as adventure editor for Red Bull, the energy drink known for sponsoring extreme sports and adventures.

In 2016, she joined British explorer and filmmaker Reza Pakravan on an expedition across the Amazon rainforest. They produced Transamazonica, a documentary series highlighting the issue of deforestation in Peru and Brazil.

Two years later, she teamed up with fellow adventurers Laura Bingham and Ness Knight on a world-first, three-month expedition kayaking the Essequibo River, which flows through the Amazon jungle in Guyana, from source to sea.  

In 2021, she turned the experience into a 335-page book titled Life Lessons from the Amazon.

While trekking through the jungle in 2018, Pip contracted leishmaniasis, the second-deadliest parasitic disease after malaria. The disease, caused by a flesh-eating parasite, is identified by the World Health Organization as one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases.

Pip was lucky to have access to swift and aggressive chemotherapy after diagnosis, or the disease could have ravaged her face. Learning that the treatment wasn’t readily accessible to the disease-stricken indigenous community, Pip was shocked. “How little was known about it!” she said.

Pip started to use storytelling as a tool for raising awareness of the neglected disease and its impact on local communities. One of her most watched talks is “A Love Letter To A Flesh Eating Parasite,” a TEDx talk at Royal Tunbridge Wells in England in 2019. “From the bite of a sandfly, it became this huge driving force,” she said. “We need to bring this issue to public attention. Organizations like London’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and drugs for neglected diseases, need to be heard on a world stage. We need big pharmaceutical businesses to help.” 

Pip noticed she contracted leishmaniasis only after she returned to the UK

Today, Pip is a motivational speaker who shares her love of the outdoors, travel and sustainable living practices at conferences, festivals and events for environmentally conscious brands.  

A mom to a four-year-old girl and a one-year-old son, Pip is on a new mission: writing a series of children’s books that encourage family adventures and a love for nature. Her message is that parenting doesn’t have to mean the end of adventuring.

About her time at the JMSC, she recalled how lecturer Vaudine England taught her practical skills in freelancing and the importance of considering  “tax and money.” As part of the ABC News on Campus Project, director of the broadcasting program Jim Laurie provided real-world experiences by taking students on assignments to Vietnam and New York. 

Her advice for aspiring storytellers? Embrace the unknown. “With that comes a sense that you are looking at things with new and fresh eyes, which is quite powerful when it comes to storytelling,” Pip shares.

Pip's Podcast

Episode 157: Pip Stewart, Lessons From The Jungle — Monday, October 16, 2023