The Dragon is incredibly proud of ODs continuing to reach for the sun and who, in doing so, have become hugely successful in their respective careers. From making a piece of history like Francesca Wilcox (OD 2013) to developing life-saving apps like Michael Dent (OD 2002), capturing snow leopards on camera like Dan O’Neil (OD 2005) to playing for England like Maia Bouchier (OD 2012) … Read on for the next feature in our Diversity of Dragons series, from Max Horsley (OD 1989) …
A Desire for Exploration
Max Horsley (OD 1989) | Hot Air Balloonist, Siem Reap
I would never have dreamed, as I walked, conkers in hand, marbles in pocket on my way to the Rink, kicking the autumnal leaves along the Bardwell Road, that my life would take me on the journey that it has and that one day I would sitting in my home just a stone’s throw from one of the wonders of the world – the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where I have set up the country’s first hot air ballooning business – writing this little update for the Dragon. But here I am, and it has been quite a journey.
Having never excelled in the classroom, but rather on the sports fields, I was never cut out for an office job. I did not last long at university and ended up selling Morgan sports cars in South Kensington before moving to Zermatt to be a ski guide. From there I headed to Zambia to work for a walking safari company. It was this experience in the South Luangwa national park, living amongst elephants, lions, hippos and buffalos, that I realized that there was a big, beautiful world out there to be explored.
“Dragon taught me that it is okay to take a risk, to dare to reach for the sun and give it a go …”
The Dragon definitely fostered my desire for exploration, be it the freedom they afforded us to wander the streets of Oxford or the Saturday evening films – Indiana Jones! – that we watched in School House. Following on from my African adventure I traveled through India and Thailand before moving to live in Seychelles for 3 years. Following this I returned to Asia, motorbiking through Bhutan, India, and Sri Lanka, before sneaking into Tibet and hitchhiking across the country in mid-winter (only to get myself mauled by a pack of Tibetan mastiffs and arrested in the far west of the plateau for being an “illegal alien”).
“My adventures have not been without their ups and downs”
During this journey, I also traveled the length and breadth of Myanmar (Burma) and was immediately captivated by its beauty and its people. Inspired, I found a job running a travel business in Yangon and for the next 12 years, I observed the historic opening of Myanmar to the world, experienced its enormous growth as a travel destination, and was witness to the tragedy of cyclone Nargis, which took the lives of 120,00 people. After building a cruise ship that sailed the mighty Irrawaddy River it was finally time to move on and I relocated to Cambodia in 2020, where I founded a hot air balloon business in Siem Reap.
My adventures have not been without their ups and downs. Be it off the coast of Madagascar aboard a sinking ferry in shark-infested waters, or caught in cyclone Nargis, which took the lives of 120,00 people in Myanmar, or laying in bed in Kathmandu when the terrifying earthquake struck in 2015, or being caught up in the middle of the ‘saffron revolution” in Myanmar in 2007. But the Dragon taught me that it is okay to take a risk, to dare to reach for the sun and give it a go … I have nothing but the fondest memories of my time at the school!
Let us know what you’ve been up to since your Dragon Days, we’d love to share your story.
Header Image: Sunrise over Cambodia by Max Horsley