- A passion for extreme experiences seems to be common among the world’s billionaires.
- Jeff Bezos is going to space, Larry Ellison races yachts, and Richard Branson kitesurfs.
- Jack Dorsey once did a 10-day silent meditation and only eats seven meals per week.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In just a few short weeks, Jeff Bezos will take the riskiest flight of his life, one that takes him 62 miles above Earth, right to the edge of space.
The soon-to-be-ex-Amazon CEO is something of an adventurer, what with his trips out to sea or to the bottom of caves. But that doesn’t exactly make him unique among his peers – in fact, a passion for extreme experiences seems to be a common trait among the world’s billionaires.
But while outer space appears to be the dominant source of fascination for the world’s most powerful people, there are plenty of other billionaires with extreme pursuits of their own.
While Bezos made his $200 billion fortune redefining retail, it seems his true passion lies in more extreme pursuits.
The Amazon CEO has spent his vacation time over the years on a range of unusual and, oftentimes exclusive pursuits: He went on a 50-mile horseback ride through West Texas alongside his father and his brother, Mark; he’s rappelled hundreds of feet down into dark caves, equipped with a harness and a headlamp; and he once spent three weeks at sea recovering pieces of the engine of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which took the first humans to the moon.
But in just a few weeks, Bezos will embark on his most extreme adventure yet: Taking an 11-minute flight to the edge of space onboard a Blue Origin spacecraft. Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of democratizing human spaceflight, and the trip on July 20 will be the culmination of a lifelong obsession with space.
Richard Branson is known for his outlandish stunts and his passion for space tourism.
Branson is known for daredevilish antics: He jumped off the Palms Casino in Las Vegas in 2007, he kitesurfed the English Channel in 2012 (an activity he’s also performed with a naked model on his back), and he became the first man to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a hot air balloon.
In 2011, he launched Virgin Oceanic with the goal of exploring the deepest parts of the world’s oceans, although that venture has since been scrapped.
Perhaps more ambitious than Branson’s underwater pursuits, however, are his goals for space tourism. His space venture, Virgin Galactic, is focused on suborbital tourism where passengers can pay $200,000 to $250,000 for a luxurious trip to space. (The company plans to start accepting passengers next year.)
Sergey Brin appears to be a fan of all manner of flying objects, including spaceships.
Brin, the Google cofounder worth $108 billion, has a passion for unusual aircraft. For the past four years, Brin has been working on a secretive airship company known as LTA Research and Exploration — “LTA” being short for “lighter than air.” The company got its start inside NASA’s Ames Research Center and is working to bring its vision of zero-emission aircrafts to life.
While the goal of Brin’s airships is to deliver humanitarian aid, the ship — similar to a Zeppelin or blimp — is also luxuriously appointed so it could serve as an “intercontinental air yacht” for Brin’s friends and family.
But it seems Brin is hoping to go higher than even a blimp can take him. In 2008, Brin invested $5 million in space tourism company Space Adventures. According to Forbes, the investment was also a deposit for a future spaceflight.
The company has completed several spaceflights with private citizens including Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi and Cirque Du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, but it’s unclear if and when Brin will embark on a trip of his own.
Paul Allen had a luxury submarine and a passion for underwater exploration.
Before Allen’s death in 2018 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he was the owner of a fleet of fabulous megayachts. But aboard those luxury yachts was something more exotic: submarines and underwater vehicles capable of diving hundreds of feet into the depths of the ocean.
“It turns out if you go 1,000 feet down in the ocean, it’s really dark, and the animals are really strange,” Allen told Geekwire in 2011. “But if you put on some Pink Floyd, it’s fantastic.”
The details of Allen’s yachts and submarine were something of a secret, with Fred Rodie, one of Allen’s boatbuilders, telling the Seattle Times in 2007 that he’s “not really supposed to talk about the sub, but it’s a fancy one, a mighty nice piece of work.”
Allen’s submarine, named Pagoo, was 40 feet long, cost $12 million to build, fit eight passengers and two crew members, and was capable of diving for up to eight hours, according to the Seattle Times and Allen’s website. The best part? It was actually yellow.
Allen was passionate about underwater exploration and used his fleet of yachts, subs, and underwater vehicles to help find long-lost artifacts, including the wreckage of multiple World War I and II battleships. He was also present for director James Cameron’s 2012 dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, according to Geekwire.
And, like many of his peers, Allen had space ambitions of his own. In 2011, he launched Stratolaunch Systems with the goal of building the world’s largest airplane in order to launch satellites and send humans to space.
Mark Zuckerberg prefers sports like electric surfing and bow-hunting.
While Mark Zuckerberg’s pursuits are more Earth-bound than some of his fellow billionaires, he has plenty of extreme pastimes of his own.
The Facebook CEO is a fan (and talented user of) the Lift Foils efoil, an electric surfboard that retails for $12,000. He’s been spotted aboard the unusual surfboard multiple times near his property on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and has posted videos of himself successfully navigating choppy waters.
Zuckerberg’s interests appear to extend to other outdoor pursuits: He recently posted videos of himself using a bow and arrows and throwing spears in what appeared to be hunting practice, and he once served Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey a goat he had killed as part of a 2011 challenge to only eat animals he killed himself.
Jack Dorsey meditates for hours each day and only eats dinner.
For Dorsey, a love of the extreme is much more inward focused. Rather than kitesurf or explore outer space, Dorsey fasts and participates in silent meditations.
In 2018, Dorsey spent his birthday in Myanmar doing a 10-day silent vipassana meditation. He described the experience on Twitter as “extremely painful”: He meditated from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day; wasn’t allowed to eat dinner, read, listen to music, or make eye contact with others; and ended up with 117 mosquito bites in a single night.
Since then, Dorsey has said he tries to meditate for two hours each day and eats only seven meals in a week — only dinner.
Larry Ellison has spent millions on yacht-racing and even founded his own racing league.
While Ellison has been passionate about sailing since his early 20s, he didn’t get serious about the sport until the 1990s, when he bought a 78-foot racing sailboat he called Sayonara. He started competing in races, winning world championships, once almost dying in a storm on Sydney Harbour.
He later began competing in the America’s Cup, an annual yacht race that takes place every three or four years. In 2010, Ellison and his crew won the race, with the then-65-year-old billionaire onboard.
Ellison has now spent hundreds of millions of dollars on his racing pursuits, won a second victory at the America’s Cup in 2013, and launched his own sailing league that was most recently valued at $200 million.