Now intrepid Craig Mathieson, described as Scotland's greatest living explorer, has achieved something the likes of David Livingstone and Sir Henry Morton Stanley never did.
The 44-year-old has been appointed the first explorer in residence in the 129-year history of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS).
The adventurer will formally accept the role this week before launching his own development school for budding explorers.
Mr Mathieson, of Bo'ness, West Lothian, described the award as a childhood dream come true, having been devoted to Arctic exploration for more than 30 years.
He said: "All I ever wanted to be was an explorer so this is very much a childhood dream that has came to fruition.
"When I was 16 I remember seeing my guidance teacher about career options. The advice I was given was that being an explorer is not on the list of options, but I could join the council because that would get me outside.
"I cannot put into words just how proud I am and very much look forward to a long and positive partnership with the RSGS as I continue the pursuit of Polar exploration, world geography and scientific research."
Mr Mathieson's expedition to the South Pole took place in 2006 and he also climbed previously-unscaled peaks in the most remote areas of Greenland.
He has spent a month kayaking in the country where he delivered laptops to Inuit schools in a bid to establish educational links with children in his hometown.
However, Mr Mathieson insists the most important part of his various trips has been to take inexperienced youngsters along with them in the hope of re-igniting their stagnant ambitions.
He said: "In all my expeditions, I have always had a strong educational element, tying in with schools across Scotland to improve their understanding of world geography as well as inspiring young people to achieve their own aspirations one day.
"It's really for the kids who have given up," he added. "At 14 or 15 they've already decided in their head they're not going to achieve much at all. When you speak to them, you realise some of these kids have zero confidence. If you ask if they'll ever achieve anything like that, it's always: 'no, absolutely no way'."
Mr Mathieson described the youngsters he had met on school visits as 'tremendous kids' whose eyes light up when they tell him about his adventures.
He added: "They don't have any ambitions because they're just going to accept their lot in life. It's those kids I want to concentrate on."
Mr Mathieson is looking to lead the first graduates of his explorer school on an Arctic expedition in the near future. He insists all those involved in the project will be able to return to their communities with greater focus and determination, and hopes their experience will help to inspire fellow youngsters.
"They're going to be offered a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said. "But it's really what these kids do when they get back from the expedition.
"I want them to give back to their community - to give back to their peers. So instead of some old 'beardy' guy going around schools trying to motivate them, it's far more powerful if you can get a 16-year-old girl to go in and inspire her peers."