Plenary conference: Matthieu Tordeur, adventurer

H1- Plenary conference: Meeting with Matthieu Tordeur, adventurer

Matthieu Tordeur spoke at the plenary conference of Les Assises de la Sécurité et des Systèmes d’Information in Monaco in October. The 27-year-old explorer, member of the Société des explorateurs français (SEF), has returned from a 51-day trek through the Antarctic between November 2018 and January 2019.

In ten years, Matthieu Tordeur has explored over 90 countries by bicycle, in a Renault 4L, on foot, skiing, kayaking and hitch-hiking. He fell in love with exploration between his studies at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and his Master’s studies in International Security; first during summers, then professionally with partners.

H2- "Specialist in nothing"

Trained in the climate, terrorism and geography, Matthew Tordeur explores remote territories using a variety of means, sometimes to get from point A to point B, more often with a specific goal, such as crossing the Sahara on foot or by electric bike. Following the contour of a mountain or river, the young explorer might decide to join up with others, as he did during his trip around the world, with a partner in a Renault 4L.

To make his passion useful, he has used funds from banking and insurance partners to discover some 50 micro-entrepreneurs around the world and offer them financial support. In all, he has offered assistance to 150 entrepreneurs. This experience, which lasted a year, was the subject of a book and a film. 

To select his mode of transport after deciding on the destination, Matthieu Tordeur studies the geographical characteristics of his route in a concern for safety. That’s why he prefers skis for polar areas.

Novelty can also be an argument. So, Matthieu decided to paddle up the Seine River in a kayak. Bicycles are the mode of transportation most conducive to meeting people. "A bike is a humble tool. Just put on the brake and you can talk to someone,” he explains.


H2- Preparation for his Antarctic journey and preventing possible obstacles

Matthieu admires historic South Pole explorers and dreamed of exploring the Antarctic some day. Preparations for the trip took between four and five years, a prevention period essential to guarantee his safety. It included four sleigh training sessions in a polar environment, as well as practice setting up tents in strong winds while wearing mittens.

Sponsored by explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, Matthieu Tordeur sought resources from the SEF, since TripAdvisor and Guide du Routard don’t offer travel advice for the South Pole! Sporting challenges were also part of his preparation with a Marathon of Sands and an Iron Man competition, for example.

H3- Risk as a stimulant

How do you know when you’re ready for such an expedition and be sure you will be safe? How do you anticipate and prevent the risks inherent to this type of operation? "You can never be 100% ready," explains Tordeur. The risk is always present, but it can be mitigated. This is the concept of acceptable risk: you tolerate some risks and refuse others to guarantee safety.

Material preparation reduces the risk. Food and equipment are tested in polar conditions, and all equipment must have a dual purpose. Safety processes are under control. Added to all this, the absence of chance: for example, the route has already been explored and areas with crevices have been geolocated. These checks are part of the reinsurance process.


H3- Even adventures can insured

It was easy for Matthieu Tordeur to get insurance. That’s because a scientific team is established in Antarctica for three months a year. This group assumes the risk and take necessary safety means to limit accidents, drawing the explorer’s route, for example.

The explorer also has two satellite phones, a GoPro, a compass and a GPS. Despite the trip’s adventurous nature, contractual protection is possible for such an event.

In addition, geopolitical security is real. "I’m lucky I carry a French passport, because it’s not difficult to get a visa," explains Matthieu Tordeur, adding "The world also seems kinder than the news would suggest". Even travelling to an area unfamiliar with tourists is feasible, and local inhabitants are pleased to meet travellers. The only limit that Matthieu has set is areas of conflict, and those where technical control is absent.


H3- Mental preparation to handle unforeseen events

This type of project demands "30% legs and 70% mental preparation," Matthieu explains. In the Antarctic, abnormal heat in the western zone caused humidity and soft snow 30 to 40 centimetres deep making it difficult to travel by sled and jeopardizing the driver’s safety. Matthieu had to adapt and believes he met the challenge. He is one of just two explorers out of seven who completed the expedition.

While all of them had the physical capacities to complete the route, only two won the mental battle. Matthieu Tordeur explains that he focussed on small victories, hour by hour, without thinking about the final goal in order to continue to advance, during short sessions on skis. For him, it’s important not to think about what we cannot control (the soft snow that bogged him down, for example). You have to focus on action.


H3- Preparing for solitude

Fascinated by this area of the globe, Matthieu Tordeur considers that this region is still new to exploration. The Antarctic exerts a real attraction over him. Although he’s not a solitary person, Matthieu Tordeur wanted to experience solitude at a key time of his life, to discover "the luxury of having 50 days to myself with no messages, no phone, no commitments and no appointments". However, at the same time, he couldn’t remain wrapped up in his own head to avoid forgetting the constraints of the environment he was exploring.

At the end of his conference, Matthieu Tordeur explained that the abilities he developed during his expedition and the preparation methods can easily be transposed to the world of business, especially in the area of computer security.