Who Is Yossi Ghinsberg?
Yossi Ghinsberg is perhaps best known for being lost and surviving alone in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon for three weeks in 1981.
He is now an author and motivational speaker based in Australia.
What Did He Experience In The Seemingly Endless Jungle?
For three weeks in 1981, Yossi Ghinsberg, an Israeli backpacker who was traveling through South America, survived drowning, venomous snakes, starvation and extreme pain.
His incredible story of survival, which he describes as miraculous was made into a documentary that’s been shown in 160 countries, and now his book, Lost in the Jungle, has been published in the UK.
Ghinsberg explains how he found himself in the jungle as a 22-year-old fresh from his military service in the Israeli navy.
"I was very naive. I wanted to be like the heroes of the books I read. That’s why I wanted to go to the jungle. I wasn’t interested in danger from the adrenaline aspect, I was more interested in the romance".
Four Adventurers From Four Different Countries
His travels took him to Bolivia, where he met a Swiss traveler called Marcus.
"It happened almost like a novel. The start of the story was when I met Marcus on a trip over a lake. Then there was Karl, an Austrian who was larger than life. I believe he picked me because of my naivety. He was experienced in jungle travel and told me about this great adventure we could have through the rainforest to discover a hidden tribe.
Eventually, there were four of us. Karl, Marcus, me and an American called Kevin. We formed a group. We were four different nationalities, four distinct cultures and four different personalities. We were set for a clash".
The Group Soon Split Up
And the "clash" wasn’t long in coming and it came after the group had been traveling through the rainforest for only a couple of weeks.
"The environment was harsh. There were tensions, the food was basic and we shot and ate monkeys, among other things. At first I was cursing myself for my stupidity and wanted to go back, but I adjusted.
However, the disagreements led to the group breaking up. We built a raft to travel down the river. It was dangerous and Karl who was acting as guide said it was too risky to go on and that we should continue on foot. I was ready to agree with him, until Kevin suggested the two of us carry on in the raft on our own. I was shocked but agreed out of loyalty and the bond we had.
Disaster struck when they lost control of the raft as it neared a huge waterfall. Kevin somehow scrambled to shore but Ghinsberg was thrown over the waterfall.
There were moments of great despair, but falling down that waterfall wasn’t one of them. It was a roller-coaster ride which lasted for 15 or 20 minutes. It was all I could do to keep my head above water. When I finally arrived on the shore, I had a moment of complete exhilaration that I had survived. A few seconds later came the first feeling of disaster and despair. Even then, I thought it would only be a few hours until we connected again. The toughest moment was after a few days, when I realized that I was completely alone".
Ghinsberg survived a late-night encounter with a jaguar by improvising a flame thrower. He set light to an insect-repellent spray. He ate fruit and raw eggs scavenged from jungle-chicken nests. After several days walking in the direction he imagined to be that of the nearest town, San Jose, he started to develop an inner confidence.
"I discovered my own power and then I didn’t want to give it up. I didn’t even want to be rescued any more. It was intoxicating".
But his optimism did not last.
"There was a terrible flood. I was almost drowned, and then on two occasions nearly sunk in a bog. The last week was the toughest because I was physically drained. I was just skin and bone. There was no food left to scavenge and I couldn’t walk because my feet were so bad. At one point, I shook a tree full of fire ants on my head just to have some pain to distract me from my aching feet so that I could continue to walk.
And then two ‘miraculous’ events happened. For two days I had the company of a girl. She appeared next to me. It was no less of a miracle if it was my imagination which had summoned her up, because it happened at the very moment I had broken down and given up".
The second miracle was his rescue.
"It is very difficult to see it as a coincidence. Kevin had found his way back to safety and he came with some Bolivians on a boat to find me. They had given up hope, but could not find anywhere to turn the boat around. They were forced upstream to land the boat. In the whole of the Amazon, the place they landed happened to the place where I had collapsed unconscious".
Marcus and Karl were never found and it is assumed they perished in the jungle, but Ghinsberg, who now tours the world talking about his experience, is still friends with Kevin.
"He was an American Catholic but a couple of years after the accident he met an Israeli girl. Now he is Jewish and lives on a kibbutz near Jerusalem".
Ghinsberg’s own Jewishness played its part in his survival. He says:
"My Uncle Nissim studied Kabbalah. Just before he died, he gave this tiny book, its pages yellow with age. He said it had special powers. I had a feeling that the book helped to keep me safe. My daughter is called Nissim after him".
Ultimately, Ghinsberg’s experience in the rainforest changed his life and that of many others too.
"I became a very simple person. The simple things are the most precious to me. I don’t ascribe much significance to the things I have now. That feeling of touching death has never left me".
A Motivational Speaker of Extraordinary Inspiration
Good motivational speakers have led an extraordinary life or, at one time or another, found themselves learning vital lessons from extraordinary circumstances.
They have had to call on reserves of courage, determination and self-belief in order to succeed and sometimes to simply survive.
But for a motivational speaker to go from good to truly great, for a speaker to be able to offer their audience an extraordinary experience, they must have the ability to dissect their life lessons and translate the knowledge into an entertaining and touching keynote that is relevant and accessible to a modern business audience.
And This Is Where Yossi Is Remarkable
Practical messages such as self belief, finding the strength to face unforeseen challenges and innovating to stay ahead of the pack are seamlessly interwoven into his stories.
Yossi has been booked by many of the world’s leading businesses and has shared the stage with speakers such as Bill Clinton and Richard Branson.
Audience members say Yossi leaves them with a lasting sense of being able to overcome any challenge and achieve anything they want.
Born: 1959, Tel Aviv, Israel
Spouse: Belinda Ghinsberg
Education: Tel Aviv University
Children: Nissim Ghinsberg, Mia Ghinsberg, Cayam Ghinsberg, Shalem Ghinsberg