Tom Allwright was climbing Mount Everest when everything went wrong. The moment would change his life forever.
The former Geelong Cats football player was a day from reaching his goal of Everest Base camp when he got a knock on the door of his hut at 3am.
His friend Matt, was in trouble.
“It was his roommate, saying that he was having a bit of trouble with his breathing,” Allwright said.
“Now if you’ve ever been to Everest, you know at 5000 metres altitude it’s naturally difficult to breathe – but you could see there was something really wrong with Matt.”
As the group started their descent, Allwright says Matt was conscious.
“He was funny, he was jovial, he still had a sense of character, but he was just having a bit of trouble breathing.”
After 30 minutes of trekking down the mountain, things took a turn for the worse.
“We started to progressively see his health decline,” Allwright said.
“We worked on him with oxygen but the helicopters couldn’t come because it was still dark, and they don’t fly in the Himalayas when it’s dark.”
“He passed away in my arms, as a result of altitude sickness.”
Stong bonds of friendship
Allwright and Matt met on the Kokoda trek. Although they had an almost 20-year age difference, they instantly connected.
“Kokoda is one of those places that is raw and emotional,” Allwright said.
“Place like that bring out things in you that you wouldn’t necessarily share with other people.
“Matt and I got along really well. And we certainly had a great bond, a great friendship that went past travel.”
Matt’s “confronting” death was the catalyst for Allwright to change his life.
“It didn’t just change what I did, it changed my approach to things and it changed how I deal with people,” Allwright said.
“You never know when your time’s up. Matt was a family man, he had two young daughters and an amazing wife, he’d come out from England, he was an executive – he had everything going.
“There was no reason for his time to be up but it was.”
Turning dreams into reality
As they trekked towards base camp Allwright and Matt had spoken about their plans for the future. They dreamed of creating a company that would take people around the world, to places they would never usually go, in luxury and safety.
“It certainly gave me the inspiration and the motivation to do what we discussed,” Allwright said.
“Matt and I spoke about the possibilities of being able to trek to Everest or the European Alps in luxury.
“And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since – taking people on incredible adventure experiences to remote parts of the world in luxury.”
Adventure AND luxury
Allwright founded Adventure Abroad, a luxury travel company that makes the obstacles for difficult destinations insignificant.
Before COVID hit, he organised a long lunch on the North Pole.
“We flew out of Norway and we essentially had to fly the kitchen, the chef, the guests and everything up,” Allwright said.
“And probably that was the moment where I thought this is exactly what I want to be doing.”
Adventure Abroad pushes the boundaries of adventure travel, but unlike other companies in the market, adventure doesn’t mean roughing it.
Allwright plans to make the long lunch an annual event, after the coronavirus pandemic has ended. He also has plans for a celebrity Tuk Tuk race through the Himalayas.
“We’ll also be doing something in Antarctica which is super exciting,” Allwright said.
His philosophy to travel is quite simple: push the boundaries, but make sure you’re comfortable.
“You have one life to live and be you’ve got to be really content with what that looks like.”