An interview with Russ Malkin & Charley Speed - 'Adventure or Luxury'
Posted on December 18 2017
Adventure or Luxury is a new 6-episode TV series on some of the world’s most exciting destinations, uncovering the best each location has to offer to both luxury aficionados and adrenaline junkies alike.Presented by Russ Malkin, experienced television adventurer, and Charley Speed, award-winning model, the two are chalk and cheese when it comes to travel. Russ is an all-out explorer and thrill-seeker but Charley feels at home basking in luxury. Both of them are fans of Billingham bags and we caught up with them as they returned from filming to ask a few questions!
Russ Malkin (left) & Charley Speed (right) with an old Billingham 550 (far left) and new Billingham Weekender bag (centre)
Who came up with the idea for ‘Adventure or Luxury'? What was the inspiration behind the show?
Russ: The idea for Adventure or Luxury came from Charley Speed and I working with Daniel Sharp on his magazine, Lusso, and with a creative director called Andres Reynaga, when we travelled through Europe doing a story for the magazine about fast cars and motorbikes. It dawned on us that this could actually make a great TV series, and that was where the idea of ‘Adventure or Luxury’ was born.
The Billingham Weekender bag on Russ & Charley's trip in Thailand
Can you describe a little bit about the series, and who it will appeal to?
Charley: I think because our series doesn’t focus on one particular aspect of a destination, it should appeal to a wide range of people. It’s fun to live vicariously through other people’s experiences, especially if one hasn’t been to a given destination before. In Adventure or Luxury, I focus on the luxury experiences a given destination has to offer, like luxury resorts, fine dining, superyachts and fast cars. Russ takes me on the more adventurous experiences such as rock climbing, abseiling, off-road motorcycling and camping out in the jungle. We hope that our new series will inspire people to get out there and try something new, while showing some of the best experiences a given destination has to offer!
Russ: I produced a show last year with Prince Harry, following him around the rugged terrain of Lesotho, a small country within South Africa, filming all the good work he's doing for children there. I loved seeing how he was so passionate. I really admire him and was very proud to have worked with him. I think that it demonstrated to me that the shows that we make are inspirational, and that's what I'd like to think that people could get from Adventure or Luxury: that they see us exploring the world doing adventures in certain ways and think, “well actually I could do that and I could do an adventure my way”. Adventure doesn't mean to say that you have to be climbing the Matterhorn and eating bugs! It just means that you actually get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ll remember for the rest of your life, so for me an overnight train journey is equally as valid as climbing Everest for the right reasons, for the right person. I think the show will appeal to those people who would like to travel in a way that works for them, and perhaps those who truly like a bit of both adventure and luxury.
Early wake-up call - Russ Malkin with his Billingham Weekender in the jungle.
You have very different experience and backgrounds. Can you each give us some details about your lives and careers so far?
Charley: I was scouted for a modelling competition when I was just 15 years old. I was very fortunate to have the right ‘look’ at the right time and went on to lead a very successful modelling career, which entailed lots of travelling around the world from a very early age. Working in the crazy world of high fashion for huge global brands one gets treated to some amazing experiences, beautiful locations, amazing hotels and a certain way of travelling. I’ve been extremely lucky. I subsequently went on to work in various productions for television, film and even stage, and have been fortunate to keep my career going thus far. I’ve also been a lifelong petrol head, and this, and our previous series Road Rivals, as well my editorial contributions to luxury magazine Lusso, have enabled me to realise some of my automotive dreams.
Russ: My background is working with the likes of Ewan McGregor on the Long Way Round and Long Way Down series, which was very inspirational and showed me so much of the world, and cemented my love for the idea of adventure travel combined with making a living. It’s particularly centred around motorcycles, but I just love getting out into nature and having a thrilling experience and a challenge. The idea of heading out as a kid on bicycles playing around in forests and actually generally having fun stayed with me all my life, and I never think we should lose that sense of fun or challenge. For instance, I was contacted a few years ago and asked if it was possible to produce a show with David Beckham playing seven football match es on seven continents in seven days. What a challenge and my biggest to date! One of the world’s biggest names playing in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, the temples of Nepal, deserts of Djibouti, the barrios of Buenos Aires and on the ice shelves of Antarctica... and we at Big Earth, my production company, did it!! Very, very proud of those people who pulled together against adversity and made it happen. It was also a lesson in surrounding yourself with good, positive people who are like-minded. We are all on our own life journey and should be allowed to flourish in our own way... be mindful of who you travel and spend time with.
Charley Speed sunbathing with Billingham Weekender bag.
What is the format of each episode? Tell us what we can look forward to seeing!
Charley: Each episode generally has four experiences - two luxury and two adventure - where Russ and I share our different ways of travelling and what we like to do when we get there. It can get a little competitive at times but it’s all good fun!
Russ: I show Charley my adventures and Charley then shows me his luxury style of travel, and we compare and contrast, but I think people would like to have a bit of both on their ultimate holiday. So, I think for that reason, the format… the juxtaposition of jungles, climbing, diving and motorcycling contrasting with spas, fine dining, Lamborghinis and luxury yachts… it just works.
Russ Malkin with his Billingham Weekender bag.
Which destination did you find the most fascinating and which the most challenging?
Charley: The most challenging was definitely camping out in Khao Sok national park, which is essentially a jungle! It was a long trek in with our Billinghams loaded full of heavy gear (and lots of water). The setting up of the camp and building a fire was fun, but after such a long day and the humidity sapping our energy, we were exhausted and nobody managed to get any sleep. It was very uncomfortable! The abseiling really had an impact on me. I’ve never done anything like that before and it certainly takes a bit of courage to put complete faith in what appears to be a small piece of rope, and take those first steps off a ledge with nothing but a steep drop and craggy rocks to break your fall. However, once down I really wanted to have another go!
Russ: I think the most challenging had to be the off-road riding. We were on two Triumph 800cc adventure bikes, which were great when riding around Bangkok and up in the hills around Pattaya, but by the time we finished the off-road adventure, we had been riding in high humidity for three hours with our full wet weather gear on. I was sweating so much I became dehydrated and light headed. We hadn’t really drunk enough water and we both just crashed out! Not literally - just laid on the ground in a quiet spot trying to let heat out... nothing to do with me not being fit enough… honestly! Great ride though…
Russ Malkin & Charley Speed wading through a river crossing with their Billingham Weekenders.
You took along a number of Billingham bags on the trip, including the new Weekender model. How did they stand up to your gruelling schedule? What did you like about them?
Charley: We were shooting and travelling non-stop and the Billingham bags were brilliant. I like them because they’re tough, extremely practical and I think they’re really classy in an understated way. Timeless style.
"Timeless Style" Charley Speed with his Billingham Weekender bag.
Russ, we believe you have owned a number of Billingham bags. Tell us why you chose Billingham to protect your equipment, and what you look for in a bag.
Russ: My particular interest with regard to Billingham is that I've used a Billingham bag now for more than 20 years. The reason I like it is that it's just very comfortable on the shoulder, and it can contain a lot of materials that are essential for travelling. My particular bag has lots space and compartments and pockets. I can compartmentalise everything that I need for travelling and I know exactly where everything is from a spare T-shirt and notebook to my camera. Each pocket has a different purpose for me and I know it sounds a bit fussy, but it does mean I can just pick up that bag and go. Everything that I need to survive is in that bag! Sunglasses, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, battery chargers, etc! It's actually all in there and it's ready to go! We actually used the Weekender model on this particular trip, and again that was great because Billingham bags are stylish as well as practical. So the idea that you can take it into a jungle but then you can use it to check into a five-star hotel is something that works for me. They are really well made and I think that they just work for me. It's something that people should consider, because having a bag ready to go and something that actually becomes part of you is essential and reassuring.
Russ Malkin's old Billingham 550 bag (left)
Do you have any funny stories about the filming you can share?
Charley: Doing an impromptu ‘Cribs’ review of our overnight train to Chiang Mai was funny. I have it on good authority that it’s made the final cut!
Russ: I think the funny stories from this trip are actually peppered throughout the show: Charley and I hanging out on a crazy adventure across Thailand, doing things out of our comfort zone... watch the show and decide!
Their collection of Billingham Weekenders while filming Adventure or Luxury.
Where can the series be viewed, and when does it start?
Charley: The first episode launches on Christmas Eve, 24th December, at 9pm on Showcase (Sky 212, Freesat 161) and is also available for free, online, at adventureorluxury.com in 4K at the same time. [Now also available on Amazon UK Prime Video ]
Charley Speed and his Billingham Hadley Small camera bag (Sage FibreNyte and Chocolate Leather colour combination)
What’s next for Adventure or Luxury?
Charley: We’re currently talking with various destinations, who are keen for us to come and explore the best adventure and luxury experiences they have to offer. Watch this space!
Russ: I think both Charley and I love travelling, and so I don’t mind where we go next so long as it has the right mix for great adventures and satisfies Charley’s luxury needs. But riding bikes, diving, camping, cycling in epic scenery is just an exciting thought, don’t you think?
Charley Speed and Russ Malkin with their Billingham Weekenders in Thailand.
Adventure or Luxury can be followed on social media at:
The presenters can be followed at:
YouTube: Russ Malkin Adventures
About Adventure or Luxury
Adventure or Luxury is a Big Earth and SWR Media co-production. Led by its founder and creative director, Russ Malkin, Big Earth Productions is first and foremost a TV production company that takes on ambitious projects for clients around the world. Known around the world for the legendary motorbike adventure series, ‘Long Way Round, Long Way Down’, and ‘Race to Dakar’, Big Earth has gained a reputation over the past 20 years for running exciting and innovative projects.