Guest post by Lucy Maddox
“We like to think of ourselves as free-range humans” Jake tells me as we chat about his leap into ‘adventurepreneurship’.
Jake Denham and his best friend Kim Slade are the founders of Unknown Epic, a secret adventure company. They work out of other people’s offices and travel the world embarking on epic adventures with anyone who’s up for it.
“Our last adventure was called the Cascade Raid”, he said.
“Someone came to us and said, ‘have you ever seen the part in the Goonies where they slide down the natural water slides? I’ve always wanted to do that.
“So Kim and I scouted out the best places and ended up spending 3 days with this group of Goonies fans, jumping off waterfalls and sliding down natural slides in one of the most beautiful locations I have ever been.”
This wasn’t always his life though, and as he turns 30 this month, Jake reflects on what led him down this path.
“My grandad lived in Epping and so we spent a lot of time in Epping Forest as kids running around, building dens, burying log books and just letting our imaginations run wild”, Jake tells me.
“I think somewhere along the line I lost that childlike wonder and a couple of years ago I realised I wanted it back.”
Throughout his school years, Jake engaged in the most positive form of rebellion.
He shared: “I remember being told I couldn’t go to university because I was never in class and my grades weren’t good enough. The teacher was right, but I had this drive to prove her wrong, so I knuckled down, worked hard and got myself to university.”
He went from being “crap at art” to studying video game design and was later headhunted for a position as a 3D visualisation artist for a luxury yacht designer in Monaco.
Having shown how far hard work (and a slight desire to prove people wrong) can get you, Jake lead the glamorous party lifestyle in Monaco for nearly 4 years and achieved what was deemed to be a great success.
However, he eventually became dissatisfied with it all.
He explained: “After a couple of years I started to think it had all got a bit shallow, it wasn’t really making any sense.
“I felt I had started to become what people perceived me as because when I went home people would be like, ‘this is Jake, he designs yachts in Monaco’ and I started believing my own hype becoming ‘Jake the Yacht Designer from Monaco’ and losing any trace of ‘Jake Denham the kid in the woods’.
“Around this time my Grandad died and I started to look around and realise that I wasn’t really that happy so I had to ask myself, why am I doing this?
“I had no good answer.”
Jake’s ethos now is to “create rather than consume”, and it is an admirable ethos.
Having left Monaco, Jake is now based in Brighton and wears two hats teaching 3D design as part of his own 3D visualisation and rendering company, Luxury Visuals, and running his adventure company, Unknown Epic where he takes people to secret locations on amazing adventures.
He said: “There is so much to see, do and create, why spend all your time in a box? I can’t just sit there and play video games when I can make video games in virtual and in reality!”
Jake has now found his balance between being out in nature, uninterrupted by technology, through his adventures with Unknown Epic and being able to be part of the future of design and technology during an “exciting time in 3D and virtual reality”, through his freelance teaching and 3D rendering work with Luxury Visuals.
It is encouraging to hear of someone who has found not one, but two passions and is able to have them both be such a big part of their life.
“One day I am in the Alps on top of a mountain, completely disconnected from the digital world and the next I have a Virtual Reality headset on”, Jake said.
“I love them both, it’s all about balance.”
Jake tells us that to find what you love you simply have to try a lot of stuff and assures us that finding out what you don’t like is just as important as finding out what you do.
One of the most inspiring things about Jake is his determination to do things out of love, not fear, and he is trying to rid his life of most of his fears, whether that be a fear of spiders or of public speaking.
“There’s this thing where if someone says something and it makes me feel a little scared I have to go and do it. It’s like living out your nightmares so you realise they are worse in your head than in reality”, he explained.
“The edge of your comfort zone is where the real juice of life is.”
We asked Jake if he had any parting wisdom for us:
“Do you remember as a kid the utter awe of seeing something for the first time and being like, ‘Wow!’?
“Well, there’s a tonne of stuff you haven’t seen yet!”