Adventure: How Far Is Too Far?

You love a new adventure. But would you jump out of a helium balloon from high up in the stratosphere?

That is exactly what daredevil Felix Baumgartner hopes to accomplish today if the weather would just cooperate. Seems a little risky, right?

While “Fearless Felix” is no stranger to big jumps, his mission does beg an important question: When it comes to the pursuit of adventure, how far is too far? Is there a limit to what  you will attempt?

Consider the details that go into jumping out of what basically amounts to one of those cheap rice paper floor lanterns your wife always seems to bring home from Target:

“Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner will undertake a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and make a record-breaking freefall jump in the attempt to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour), while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.”

A stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet! A 690 mph freefall! Certainly no small feat.

Also, consider the following conditions which could easily take Felix’s life:

“…any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 21 Celsius below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as ‘boiling blood.’ He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.

To answer the question how far is too far, well, that is entirely up to you. People may find you a tad insane if you willingly choose to hurl yourself out of a helium balloon wearing a space suit.

And the thought of “boiling blood” probably prevents most of us from going forward. But you know what? If you want to go bigger than anybody has ever gone before, do it. Who cares what the “normal,” “sane” people say.

Just think of the stories “Fearless Felix” will tell.

There is one very important catch, though: Always consider your safety and your skill level. Always!

Watch the whole thing live in the video below. And don’t worry. Organizers said “there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.” Oh boy. Good luck up there, Felix.


Where’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ever Stayed?

My answer to that question: The Kings Canyon Lodge.

You can say a lot about the Kings Canyon Lodge—rustic, basic, pleasant, old fashioned, kitschy—all of which would be true. Perhaps the most accurate description of the Kings Canyon Lodge is this: plain ol’ weird.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with weird.  My wife and I regularly seek it out when we’re on the road.  But this place…man, this place is on a different level of weird.

I mean no disrespect to the family who owns the lodge.  They seem like nice people. Really, they do.

We stormed into the lodge wet and cold after a weekend in the rain/snow. Things seemed a tad off from the get-go, but we’re easy-going folks. We shot a few rounds of pool with busted sticks, drank cheap beer, listened to fellow traveler’s tales. We watched on as a minor dispute erupted over a kitchen bill. A creepy picture of George W. Bush stood guard over the bar.

Eventually we retired for the evening, where we were serenaded by the proprietors in the adjoining room singing church hymns long into the night.

The whole experience was 100% weird. Would we go back? I see no reason why not.

So tell me, my fellow adventurous traveler, where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever stayed?

What It Takes to Survive a Tedious Slog

You have 5 miles left. All uphill. Every corner you turn you’re sure is your last. The end must be near. You have to be getting close. Just a few more switchbacks.

Your legs are shot. Your knees feel like somebody bashed them with a baseball bat. Your ankles aren’t any better.

You hate life.

You’re over the scenery. It was nice and awe-inspiring and blah blah blah 16 miles ago at the start. Now it’s just annoying. And the heat. Don’t even mention the heat. You haven’t been this over-heated since you pulled an all-night dance party at your buddy’s wedding.

You top out to a point you’re absolutely sure is your final destination, and guess what? You still have 4 miles left. Mama Nature thinks you’re an idiot.

How will you ever survive this tedious slog?

I’ve got a few words for you.

Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

Those 3 words will get you through anything. If you can imagine a beautiful bounty of bacon, beer and pizza at the end of your long, dusty, and irritating trail, you’re golden.
You will survive your tedious slog. I personally guarantee it.

Now I understand bacon, beer and pizza may not be available the moment you get off the trail. This is perfectly acceptable. Clean up a little, put deodorant on (or don’t, up to you), head to the nearest town. Somebody, somewhere, is serving bacon, beer and pizza.

BBP is magical inspiration, and not just for hikers. I’ve stood at the end of marathon routes and listened to lean, anorexic runners scream at nobody in particular “where’s my beer and pizza!?” They forgot about the bacon, but you get the point.

Try it next time you get hoodwinked into spending multiple days out in the wilderness, hiking over extremely difficult terrain.

There is a (bacon, beer and pizza) light at the end of the tunnel.

Mmmm…Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

One important tip, though: Don’t start dreaming about BBP right from the get-go. You’ll be a blubbering lunatic halfway through. This I can also guarantee.

Tempting Fear: Inside The Mind of an Extreme Skier

I could discuss the topic of extreme sports psychology at length (for more on that, check out my post “Thrill seeking: crazy, or a transcendental pursuit?”).

So I’m always excited when I hear about movies like “Tempting Fear.” Swedish extreme skier and alpinist Andreas Fransson is the main subject of the movie. And while this isn’t an extreme sports psychology film project per se, viewers are offered an inside look into the mind of an athlete who routinely risks his life for big adventure payoffs.

“Only by defying society’s expectations can you find the true uncertainty that defines adventure.” — Andreas Fransson

I’ll let the filmmakers sum it up.

“What makes Andreas most intriguing are his thoughtful musings on meaning from a life on the edge—a willingness to enter mental spaces that few have ever experienced.

“In Tempting Fear, Sweden’s soft-spoken Adventurer of the Year explores a place in which fear overwhelms all emotions, playing both friend and enemy in a pas de deux where death lies just one misstep away.”

Tempting Fear is coming to a Mountain Film Festival near you in October.

8 Travel-Related Jams for the Weekend

I’ve been inadvertently jamming to a few travel-related songs this week. Clearly it’s a sign to pack my bags and hit the long, dusty road. A wise traveler can’t go on ignoring such obvious signs. The universe works in mysterious ways, as you are well aware.

Thing is, most of these songs aren’t necessarily about traveling. They just mention mileage, or Greyhound buses, or being a long way from home, or what have you. I said wise traveler, which we all know I am not.

Still, it’s a sign, damn it!

I do have one travel-related question for you. Which headphones do you use when you’re on the road? Just curious. Me? Sony Noise Canceling MDR-NC7. They’re foldable. And they come with a sweet pouch.

Anyway, enjoy the tunes. Happy Friday. And maybe even Happy Travels.

“Five Thousand Miles,” Zigitros

“Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean,” Waylon Jennings

“Long Way Home,” Old Friend Band

“Jamaica,” Theme Park

“Venice,” The Lighthouse and The Whaler

“East,” Last Japan

“Shades of Funk,” Kill Paris

And finally…

“San Pedro,” Mogwai

8 Adventure Lessons I Learned From the Tao Te Ching

Let me just start by admitting I’m not especially skilled in the interpretation of esoteric texts. I do, however, find beauty, peacefulness and wisdom throughout such classic texts as the Tao Te Ching.

If you’ve never read or even heard of the Tao Te Ching, start with the basics here. In the meantime, let’s dive right into eight adventure lessons I learned from this important piece of work.

1. What you want to overcome, you must first of all submit to.

With adventure comes fear. Fear of whitewater. Fear of flying. Fear of heights. Fear of water buffalo.

To me, fear is something you must submit to if you want to move forward. And damn, can it be difficult to overcome at times! Keep pushing on, though.

Fear is important. Harness it properly and your adventures become that much better.

2. If you pour all your energy into one thing, you’re sure to harm the rest of your being.

It’s probably safe to say we work too much. Or spend too much time running errands. Or studying. Or paying bills. Or break dancing. Such is life.

Do yourself a small favor. Save a little bit of that energy for adventure. This passage encourages you to cut loose from time to time. Put your adventure pants on.

3. If you’re not always wanting, you can be at peace.

A true adventurer is not always wanting. Rather, he/she is experiencing what is readily available and offered. Adventure is a thousand times more awesome if you can just live in the moment.

4. If you’re not always trying to be someone, you can be who you really are.

It’s important to just be yourself in life. The same is true when you choose your adventures. Hey, it’s your journey. Don’t let some knucklehead (like me) tell you what you should and should not be pursuing.

Let your adventure heroes inspire you. Don’t let their adventures become an exact blueprint.

5. A great thing done is never perfect—but that doesn’t mean it fails: it does what it is.

So you went for a long trip, had your share of fun, but experienced quite a few setbacks and disappointments? Your trip wasn’t perfect. Bummer, right?

Not really. No trip is perfect. No adventure goes exactly as planned. Oftentimes setbacks are the most memorable part of any adventure.

6. It’s always the person who thinks things are easy that finds them the hardest in the end.

I recently read a blog post about the Inca Trail. In the comments, a first-time hiker shared his experience taking on the longest possible route. He thought it’d be “easy.” Props to him for going for it!

What struck me as odd was the amount of complaining in his comment. In short, he got his ass kicked, and was none too pleased about it. Somebody should’ve told him how difficult it would be, he claimed.

Sheesh. Somebody should’ve told him good adventures are rarely easy! I’d avoid going in with this guy’s attitude.

7. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

Chances are likely you’ve seen this one used for inspirational purposes on Facebook. I still love it for its simplistic message.

Whatever adventure you’re holding off on for whatever reason, take the first step. Start now.

8. The kind of person who always insists on his way of seeing things can never learn anything from anyone.

This one is especially true if you’ve ever traveled with anyone who won’t stop talking for just one minute to listen to another opinion. It’s frustrating, to say the least. Adventures have been ruined because of it.

OK, I’ll stop acting like some Taoist sage and let you guys share your thoughts.

Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway!?

Who do you think you are!? Somebody who can dream big, save a little bit of money, go out and live an action-packed life? Gimmee a break.

You and I both know those adventures are for other people. People sponsored by big outdoor companies with big ad budgets. Athletes. Superstars. The best of the best.

You’re no athlete. You’re no superstar.

Stop dreaming. Go to work. Put your head down. Be content living vicariously through people whose lifestyle you envy.

It makes sense, really. Some of us are destined to see it all, do it all, tell it all. The rest of us—the vast majority of us—well, we’re just stuck in a never-ending routine, counting the days until the weekend. And besides, the older we get, the less likely anything big and exciting will ever happen to us.

Am I right?

Absolutely not. You know that, despite me being a smartass.

Why, then, do so many of us get tricked into thinking along those lines? Trust me, I do it, too. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it, even those superstar adventure athletes.

It’s such a limiting approach. “I would love to live a life like that, but…”

But what? There has to be a way to defeat it. Any ideas?

Adventure Milestones: Why You Need Them, And How To Reach Them

Do you really think a long-distance thru-hiker just woke up one day and hit the trail? Doubtful. No, many, many miles of hiking and backpacking were logged in before the thru-hike even commenced.

Mr. Hiker’s long walk started with setting adventure milestones. “Today I hike 3 miles, next year, 2,650.”

Say you’ve never been backpacking before, but you get this crazy idea to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. By all means, go for it. But you’ll probably want to actually try hiking and backpacking first, right? Then you’ll be able to gauge how far you can go in a single day, what to expect in certain situations, how to pack properly, who might make a suitable hiking partner, and so on.

Think of adventure milestones as goal setting. Or a check list, of sorts.

When you’re setting your milestones, start from the bottom, work your way up. Wanna sail around the world but never stepped on a boat? Buddy up with someone with experience, or take a class. Wanna dive the sweetest spots on Earth, but never even snorkeled? Again, take a class. You get the idea.

Basically, you have to start somewhere. You should set insane adventure goals, but you’ll thank yourself later if you ease your way in.

Personally, I want to do something huge. And it involves tons of time, money, and effort. I’m not the most experienced in this department, but I’m getting there. When the day comes for my wife and I to travel around the world, I’ll be happy I set milestones.

What about you? What kind of milestones are you aiming at?

Is Adventure Possible in the City?

A lot of times when I think about adventure, it’s usually in the context of being outdoors. But after spending just one day in New York City recently, I’m starting to rethink my adventure parameters.

Is it possible to find the same amount of adventure (maybe even more?) in an urban environment as you could find out in the woods?

The short answer to that question is yes, of course. You can find adventure anywhere. And I think it largely depends on how you define adventure.

As for my own abbreviated definition, adventure usually involves some sort of unexpectedness, a certain degree of thrill and uneasiness, and most importantly, fun.

I’ve been to my fair share of big cities, but man, New York seems to have an abundance of just about everything! In one day I ate awesome Indian food and some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. I hit up the landmark deli Katz’s, and was pleasantly amused with the decor, the history, and the plate of pickles they bring out.

I visited an amazing 9/11 memorial, rode the subway at rush hour, walked all over the place, and even got cut off by a nun driving into the Holland Tunnel from Jersey City. All sorts of adventures, and I hardly scratched the surface!

So what about you? Can you find adventure just about everywhere, whether you’re in the woods or in the city? Or are cities just places to live?

4 Reasons To Hate Adventure, and How To Get Over It

Don’t get me wrong, most of us love a good adventure. But sometimes there are reasons to hate adventure. I’ll give you four examples today, and offer solutions on how to fix them.

1. Fear & Anxiety

Adventure is largely about the perpetual pursuit of pushing your limits, always aiming your sights on the next big rush. Sometimes in the middle of doing this you realize you’re in too deep, and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is exactly when fear and anxiety sets in, two dreadful and common feelings found in adventure.

It’s happened to me many times. I only got a few hours of sleep one night on my last whitewater trip because I already got my ass kicked twice by the river and we were headed into a remote wilderness section called Adrenaline Ally in the morning. No backing out. Sweet dreams, right?

The Fix: Focus on what you can control. In my whitewater example, I made sure I ate a good breakfast, stayed hydrated, and laid off the beer until we were done with Adrenaline Ally. You better believe I immediately cracked open a cold one afterwards, though.

2. One-Upsmanship

The next guy is always going to attempt to one-up you, whether you’re in the field or swapping stories at the bar. It’s a fact of life in the adventure community, and sometimes it’s just plain annoying.

This exchange is enjoyable when two parties are sharing valuable information, but it’s irritating when your adventure accomplishments are constantly belittled. “You bungee jumped at an amusement park? Weak sauce, bro. I BASE jumped off El Capitan.”

The Fix: Easy. Ignore the competitive one-upper and move on. Or one-up them with unrealistic tales. “You BASE jumped off El Capitan? LOL! I sailed around the world on the backs of killer whales, surviving on box jellyfish along the way.” If they try to top that, you know they’re full of shit.

3. Bucket Lists

Bucket lists. I don’t mind them, necessarily. It makes sense, wanting to jot down every last adventurous thing you can think of and then feeling satisfied when you cross items off your list.

I just think the concept has been blown out of proportion. 100,001 “must-do” activities on your bucket list? Really? To me, it’s a slightly rigid, inflexible approach to adventure.

The Fix: Hear about something cool you’d like to try, and then make arrangements to try it as soon as you can. This works best for those of you with a “go with the flow” mentality. Hardcore list makers? Not so much.

4. Gear

Gear can be a touchy subject. There will be times when you are made to feel inadequate because you can’t afford top of the line equipment. The dude at the shop is just doing his job when he suggests the thousand dollar upgrade. The twerp on the trail is just doing his job when he talks down on your cheap tent.

The Fix: Go with what works best for you. Always. Experiment with different set-ups. If a piece of gear fails, dump it. It’s OK to have different set-ups for different scenarios. And it’s more economically feasible to amass your gear collection over time, rather than going all out right from the get-go.

Now stop being a hater and go do something fun today.