On Wandering + Wayfinding

The Sound of Waking up Before Your Alarm Clock

I awoke at 5:56, been beating the clock for weeks. Why?

One. It’s probably because the bed is uncomfortable, a couch conversion that dips in the middle and barely fits my anything but tall frame. I go to sleep laying lengthwise and wake up diagonally, splayed.

Two. Maybe it’s the light flickering on from across the street, the automatic front entrance luminescence–that alien spaceship open-hatch beaming out into the night. 

Three. It’s a bad dream. Eventually, I’ll lay my head back on the damp salty pillow. 

I’m envious of the people who can remember theirs. The good ones. They talk of outlandish tales and I sit gripped pondering the Jungian symbolism.

I do my dreaming in the day. They consist of places to see, mountains to climb, of the woman I’d like to do it all with. 

I try not to wake up early from these. Sometimes life beeps and bleeps and reality catches up with you.




Next week is February 14th. 

That’s seven days.

You know how many girlfriends I’ve had, to bring chocolate and flowers to on this day of sugar hearts and Hershey kisses? 

Zero. 

Cupid’s slacking. 

Or maybe slow. Though, I met my last two girlfriends in the week between Valentine’s Day and my birthday. Will this year make it three in a row?

Periods also come in threes. Ellipses twinkling the continuation of, a break in the story so… to be continued, Beau.




“Do you like spending time alone?,” she asked.

“I do. I have a lot of practice with it.” I said.

I’ve spent 9.5 of my 12 adult years single. But who’s counting.

In two weeks I’ll be 31.

I’ve got an average of 48 years left to live.

Numbers. 

Numbers, numbers, numbers. 

I wonder if maybe I look hard enough I can find a pattern in them all. There is one common denominator. 




Math used to be fun.

Then life made it into a practical matter of quarterly reviews, your income statement, and if you really can afford that vacation you’ve always wanted to take.

I had to learn to like math again. To understand it means you can play the odds.

I figure life is a lottery, except we don’t really know the rules, and the house didn’t stack the game in their favor. Well they did, sorta.

Anyway, you take your chances in a 79 year average lifespan–look for the opportunities with upside, minimize your exposure, bet big on the things you believe in–and bask in the favor of Fortune once or twice.

In the end, math tells you things like we all approach zero over time. History is a fine complementary subject, if you’re curious.

An any rate, while you’re marked 1 and not 0, the key is to keep playing the game. Or something like that.




Illustration by Pete Lloyd


I don’t know much. But I’m good at parroting other people’s words.

A wise man once said that the life you live is a combination of the here and now and a fantasy for how you thought it all would be. 

Analyze any of your disappointments and you’ll see it’s the discrepancy between what you’d hoped for and what is.

A scientist enumerated that love comes in all forms, and that’s the beauty and difficulty of it.

A drunk said you should find what you love and let it kill you.

A preacher said to do great things. And if you can’t do that to do little things in a great way.

A climber said the real problem is that you think you have all this time. When you don’t.

A psychologist said that the health of our world is dependent on the integrity of the individual.

Well hoot, Japhy, what’s it all mean?

Maybe it’s that your life matters and you get too few spins of the roulette wheel. Maybe it’s that you should roll that damn ball for as long as ya can. Because you want to play, and not be a spectator, aye?




“Beep-beep!”

That your alarm clock going off?



Feature photo source: A Reciprocating Saw

Travel Writing Scholarship, Climbing Grants, Epic Road Trips. Oh My.

And tips on pitching.

This week features a bunch of opportunities to fuel your next adventure (which make great stories, of course). There’s a fantastic feature on Bernd Heinrich, a leading naturalist, data about the economic might of climbers, and a charming little cartoon. Enjoy!



Opportunities

World Nomad’s 2019 Travel Writing Scholarship

aka a 14-day travel writing trip for “3 aspiring travel writers to go on assignment in Portugal and be mentored by professional travel writer and contributor to The New York Times, Tim Neville.” This looks like an incredible opportunity.

Also, be sure to read “The Art of Travel Writing”, a free travel writing how to by Tim, which I’ve found to be immensely useful.

Photo source: American Alpine Club


AAC’s Live Your Dream Grant

You don’t have to be a professional climber or pursuing a FA to win this climbing grant. All you need is a clear goal and the aim to level up your skills. Grants are awarded from $200-$1,000.

The purpose of this grant is to support and promote unforgettable experiences for climbers—to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.


The Epic Road

Stay Wild magazine is offering to fund your next road trip. They are offering funds and goods to make your auto-powered jaunt a reality.




What I’m Reading

nature

A return to nature, your nature

Bernd Heinrich is a leading naturalist and one of history’s fastest ultramarathoners. Now 77, he’s settled in the backwoods of Maine with a wood stove and in his natural habitat.

The author writes, “We live in an age that affords little time and space for communing with nature. We’re busy. Our days are fragmented. But Bernd has dug in his heels against this collective drift. He has recognized where he wants to be in old age and settled in, with purpose. “ (emphasis added by newsletter curator)

“A naturalist,” he e-mailed me, “is one who still has the habit of trying to see the connections of how the world works. She does not go by say-so, by faith, or by theory. So we don’t get lost in harebrained dreams or computer programs taken for reality. We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate.


Real artists have day jobs.

Because it’s hard to pay your way solely from your art. That’s the game we play. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, or that you can’t make art because you damn well want to. And who knows, maybe some day you will be able to live solely off your art.

“Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”


Climbers are a major economic force

We know the outdoor industry is a contributing economic force to be reckoned. In 2016, the outdoor recreation economy contributed 2 percent ($373.7 billion!) of the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Climbers are making their impact in hyper-local areas around popular crags that normally wouldn’t get much traffic, like Chattanooga or the Red.

The economic-impact study found that visiting climbers (not including residents, whose spending is considered part of the regular economy) spent $6.96 million in Hamilton County during the 2015/16 fall and winter season…

These numbers put dollars made from climbers on par with revenue from major special events held in Chattanooga, another boon for area tourism. Held in late summer every year, Ironman Chattanooga brings in $10 million, with the race occurring in one weekend and many of the participants staying up to 10 days.




On Pitching Stories




For the Feel Goods




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Out There / In Here, vol. 2

Feature photo source: Outside Magazine

Where to Get Cheap Mountaineering Gear: The Beg, Borrow, and Steal List

Series: How to Start Mountaineering Cheaply




“The mountains are calling, and I must go [cheaply].” *

– John Muir


Mountaineering is an expensive sport. And I’m poor. 

Or that was the excuse I told myself. Have you ever wanted to try something but gave up before you really got going?

Some excuse or another always seems to pop up: It’s not practical, you don’t have the time, you might look like an idiot. You know the drill.

Frankly, the prospect of exuberant cost has held me back for years. Buying all brand new gear, just for the essentials (boots, crampons, ice axe, puffy, hard shell top and bottom, gloves), you could easily clear $1,500 by purchasing top-of-the-line products. 

So I hemmed and hawed and let the sticker shock stop me. It became an exaggerated impediment, like making a Mont Blanc of a molehill, and I needed to recalibrate this mental hurdle in order to move forward.

This past year I got into sports climbing (and progressively bought a harness, draws, a rope,) and realized what everyone else already knew: You should build your kit over time.

And also, you can do this the expensive way, or the “keep an eye out for deals” way.

Photo source: elvesandmagic

What was different between climbing and mountaineering?

Honestly, I just started climbing and got hooked.

Now, because gear has been a crux, this post will focus on ways to get gear cheaply. 

We’ll talk about what gear you need in a future post. And yes, I recognize that focusing on gear first is starting out of order. Bear with me.

In the end, this will be a series about “How To Start Mountaineering Cheaply” covering topics such as scoping out beginner-friendly mountains, affordable guides and courses, requisite skills, training, and more.

Let’s take the first step towards our high-altitude goal.




Photo source: wer.ena

Beg & Borrow

The best place to start is to have friends that mountaineer.

Shit out of luck on that front? Join local mountaineering clubs or seek out forums like Mountain Project to partner up. The clubs might have a gear depot (university programs typically do), and people who are into the sport likely have extras of things.

You can also rent equipment (better to spend $100 for two days of rental gear to try things out before dropping the big dollars).

North America

American Alpine Club
Established in 1902, the AAC is the premiere high-altitude outdoor club in the U.S. Membership provides discounts at major retailers and brands (such as Outdoor Research, Rab, and Backcountry), at climbing gyms, and guide services. With an introductory membership cost of $45, this is bound to pay for itself in no time.

The Mountaineers (PNW)
A nonprofit outdoor community of 13,000+ active members in the Pacific Northwest. They offer trips, courses, events, and have lodges. They are the publishers of the renowned, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.

Mazamas (PNW)
A nonprofit mountaineering education organization based in Portland, Oregon. They were “founded in 1894 on the summit of Mt. Hood,” and offer outdoor education and organized activities for every skill and fitness level.

Colorado Mountain Club
There are over 15 regional clubs that offer ways to meet potential partners through courses and group events.

Appalachian Mountain Club (East Coast)
Founded in 1876, the AMC manages the well known trails of America’s Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions (such as the Appalachian Trail). They have ample member-led events that make it easy to get outside and meet partners.

Mountain Project Partner Forum (U.S.)
There are 21,626 climbers in the Partner Finder as of this post. Search away, reach out, post and do your darndest to be charming.

Europe

I’ll save my breath here.

The Chamois Mountaineering Club (UK): They have compiled an extensive list of over 439 mountaineering clubs from across Europe and beyond.

(Is that cheating?)




Photo source: rirofal

Steal*

*In the, “it’s so cheap it’s like stealing” sense.

Used gear

Because there are plenty of enthusiasts who use their stuff a handful of times and never again. Conserve people, conserve!

Mountain Project: For Sale / For Free / Want to Buy Forum
MP is a U.S.-centric resource for finding routes and partners, sharing beta, and selling used gear. Used climbing shoes seem to be overpriced for some reason, but most other equipment tends to offer deals.

MEC Gear Swap
MEC is a retail co-operative (with over 5 million members!) based in Canada. They are kind of like the Canadian REI with a used gear section.

OutdoorGearLab ebay Store
The OutdoorGearLab’s mission is to create world’s best outdoor gear reviews. They are my favorite resource for gear reviews because they aim to be truly objective by avoiding the conflict of interest that comes with receiving free gear. Instead, they buy everything they test, and then put it up for sale on ebay.

Outdoor Gear Exchange (Burlington, VT)
Gearx offers an online discount outlet and has an extensive used gear section in their physical store (most of which is consignment). 

Outdoor Gear Exchange UK (Facebook group)
Mostly U.S. focused and a grab bag of gear. You have to search for deals but they are there. 

Backpacking Gear Flea Market (Facebook group)
The largest used gear exchange group in the UK.


Outdoor Gear Exchange (Burlington, VT)
Gearx offers an online discount outlet and has an extensive used gear section in their physical store (most of which is consignment). 

Outdoor Gear Exchange UK (Facebook group)
Mostly U.S. focused and a grab bag of gear. You have to search for deals but they are there. 

Backpacking Gear Flea Market (Facebook group)
The largest used gear exchange group in the UK.

Pro-tip: “I found most people sold their stuff at the end of the season, so you can get good deals then if you don’t mind it sitting in the cupboard till the next winter comes round like I did.” – u/connor2210 on reddit




Steeply Discounted

(WeighMyRack searches from a long list of retailers to source the best deals)

WeighMyRack
This should probably be your first stop when you start searching. They began because “we were super frustrated researching gear and sick of getting suckered into buying the ‘on sale” gear,’” Their frustration is your gain.

CamelCamelCamel
An easy to use, price tracking tool that provides price drop alerts and price history for products sold by Amazon. Unfortunately, they had a major “uh-oh” recently and their database server had three hard drives fail. Major catastrophe. It is unclear when the will be back online (but it is worth bookmarking for if/when they get back online) 😦

Backcountry.com
A major online retailer in the U.S. It’s best to wait for their bi-annual sales in February and August. This is usually accompanied by free shipping for orders over a certain amount.

Sierra Trading Post 
Free shipping when you sign up for their newsletter, which often includes coupons.

REI Outlet
If you poke around you can find some good deals in the 50% off section. On occasion they offer 70% off promotions and send 20% off coupons to members.

Pro-tip: A Super Duper List of Gear you can buy on Amazon
u/Jickled on reddit has compiled a fantastic list of gear you can buy at affordable prices. Many of the tips and gear configurations are well thought out “hacks,” such as using 3 season boots with a waterproof outer and boot liners for your (lower-altitude) mountaineering excursions. Well done, sir.




Manufacturer Outlets and Physical Retailer Sales

REI Garage Sale
The somewhat legendary sales–in which it is not uncommon for people to show up hours early–occur at the discretion of each store, but generally about once a month. Items are priced to sell and all sales are final. This is only available to members, but you can usually just buy your membership at checkout ($20). It is best to have a plan.

Pro-tip: “Best time to grab winter stuff though, is around July. Lots of warehouse sales from La Sportiva (check out their factory store), Scarpa, Sea to Summit, etc.” – Long Ranger on Mountain Project




Photo source: natebbrown

Bonus Option – Be in College

College Outside
The organization was started to help more students get outside. One of the perks is special discounts on outdoor gear.

Extra Bonus Option – Prodeals

I first learned of prodeals while attending Outdoor Retailer as a buyer for The Grommet.*

For personal reasons, I was scoping out the backpack section and started talking to Osprey. I was hoping to buy a showpiece bag for cheap during the closing hours of the show. That didn’t turn out, but the rep gave me a prodeal code which let me buy a bag online at ~10% below wholesale price (the price manufacturers sell their gear to retailers). In other words, about 60% off retail. In other other words, cheap.

Anywho, there are a variety of ways to qualify for prodeals. You can be a mountain guide, a ski patrol, an outdoor educator, an active member of the military, a fire and rescue professional, and many more options.

ExpertVoice and OutdoorProlink are options to try and access prodeals.

*(As an aside, the best way I’ve found to get cheap gear was to get free gear; The companies would give us their product to test, and usually let us keep it too. Jackpot).



*Author’s note: “Cheaply” added in, but Mr. Muir did walk from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico (A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf) with little more than a small backpack, a wool blanket, the bible, and a walking stick.


Feature photo source: amanda.be




On Breaking into the World of Freelance Writing

Let’s kick it (off)

Hey everyone,

This is a weekly round-up of stories about adventure and reflection, action and meditation, awe and all the rest.

There is a mix of personal story, adventurous narratives, engrossing news, humor pieces, and poetry—all with the aim to inspire action and contemplation.

In the words of Kurt Hahn:

“There exists within everyone a grand passion, an outlandish thirst for adventure, a desire to live boldly and vividly through the journey of life.”

Go find it and live it.




What I’m Reading

“I don’t think you should ever have to tell anybody how good you are at anything.”

A fantastic-artistic video about Ned Feehally, who struggles with the self-promotional aspect of today’s media-driven landscape. He is one of a few climbers who have flashed V14.

Alas that is the world we live in. And to be frank, social prestige isn’t anything new. Of course, the paradox is that here he is as the main feature of the video.

“Under a Sheffield house lies a head high cellar featuring steep plywood and sculpted wooden holds. It is the training venue of Ned Feehally, climber and co-founder of Beastmaker. He is a member of an elite group of climbers to have flashed V14. This is a film about his mindset, motivations and what it takes to be one of the strongest climbers in the world.”




The selfishness of adventure?

“The idea that adventure is a good thing—that is a proposition that needs to be critically examined.

How do we know it’s a good thing?

I think it’s a good thing because it’s dictated my life.

I also recognize what it’s cost me and I don’t mean in just in terms of friends dying, but in aspects of my own character I never fully developed because adventure is ultimately selfish.” – David Roberts

(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)

This is a tension I grapple with. There are activities that you love to do, that make you feel the most alive. Inherently, these may be selfish acts.

The alternative is surely not to not pursue these. We are here to live, after all. I do believe we should all be so lucky to find things that make us sing for joy.

Perhaps the key is in the recognition of the selfishness, and then to actively welcome others into finding their own pursuits (worth being selfish over).




In Bosnia, a father’s grief swells into an antigovernment movement

In stark contrast to adventure writing, Davor Dragicevic is putting his life on the line for the sake of his deceased son. David, 21, was found dead in a creek last March, and the official explanation was that he had been “a drug addict and a thief, and had killed himself or been murdered by a criminal gang.”

Mr. Dragicevic didn’t buy it.

“He started a one-man protest movement that has grown into the largest antigovernment demonstration in Bosnia in decades.”

Davor is a Bosnian waiter in a cafe, not an adventure seeker.




In case you missed it: Pictures of the Super Blood Wolf Moon

“When the central part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, covers the moon, the only light that reaches the lunar surface has been filtered through Earth’s atmosphere, which strips out the blue wavelengths and casts the moon in a red glow.”




On breaking into the world of freelance writing

This interview with Abigail Wise, the Online Editor for Outside Magazine, is jam-packed with advice. I’ve started implementing some of her tips in my own pitches (holler at me Climbing Magazine!).

It’s the freelancer’s job to get to really know the publication, know what we are looking for, and then bring an idea to me. A fresh idea.

The basics can be summarized as such:

What can a freelancer do to stand out from the pack, and to make themselves more useful to you? 

  1. A great pitch email
  2. Show me you read our publication
  3. Explain your story format
  4. Provide photographs




A fun idea: Take a surprise trip

You only learn about the destination 24 hours in advance.

“In their 2018 Travel Trends Report, Ford Motor Company found that 52 percent of U.S. travelers said they enjoy getting lost and spontaneously discovering hidden restaurants and shops to create unique memories when they travel.”

Pack Up and Go organizes everything for you, from accommodation to recommendations of what to do. It’s sort of like a spontaneous trip with bumper lanes. Go figure.

I once had a friend who would get drunk and buy himself plane tickets to random places. If you wanna have a go, Kayak makes it easy to find destinations you can afford. Though, I prefer skiplagged or skyscanner to find really good deals.




What would you do if you knew you would be blind by 40?

Emilia Wint faces just that dilemma. This is her turning point:

“In the fall of 2015 I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa… a degenerative retinal disorder. Imagine a vignette photograph with blurred edges. With RP, the edges of your vision gradually get fuzzier and fuzzier, slowly closing in and getting darker…

I’ve committed to spending my time with extreme intentionality. I structure my life around experiencing as much as I can and doing all the things now which I may not be able to do later.” – Emilia Wint

(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)

What’s the turning point in your life?




Other Bits

Events to get amped for:

  • Feb. 8-10: US National Toboggan Championships. “The tension of competition thickens the air. The smell of wax pierces your nose, as a complete set of Abominable Coneheads saunters by with their sled. It’s February in Camden, Maine, which can only mean one thing: the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, bitches!”
  • The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe to Get You Stoked for 2019. Need some inspiration for where to climb this year? I’ve organized a list of fun climbing festivals to help you sort it out.



Quotes:

“Even sweetness can scratch the throat, grandma said, so stir the sugar well.” – Ocean Vuong in “Notebook Fragments



Books I’m reading:

  • The Ascent of Nanda Devi: I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it by H.W. Tilman
  • Kurt Hahn’s Schools & Legacy by Martin Flavin




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Out There / In Here, vol. 1

Header image source: The Project Magazine

The Day I Learned My Cousin Is a Professional Climber

I learned a few things that day.

Like how someone can hum with crystal glass vibrancy–the kind you can hear and feel.

Or how a gleam in their eye is gonna stick to you like burdock burrs after a hike in the woods. There’s no escaping it.

That’s how it was, talking with him about climbing. 

Beer at the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile. Photo source: Gardiner Liquid Mercantile


Perhaps my memory is faulty. If it is, I blame the craft beer.

We’d already drank two glasses each and they caused his cheeks to flush and my speech to slur slightly. It was summer in the Hudson Valley and the days were simple and long. Perspiration dribbled down our foreheads and the glass flutes.

We were sitting outside the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile talking about growing up and family. He was raised in Long Island and had longed to get away from the cramped quarters of that thin slice of land. 

He went to school at SUNY New Paltz and fell hard for climbing and mountain biking and his girlfriend. I can’t remember if he chose the school based off proximity to the Shawangunks. My memory is a bit hazy, like I said.

So the story goes, he climbed throughout college learning the trade of trad on the cliffs outside of town. Now he was the manager at the local climbing gym. “The Danager,” as the high school staff called him. 

This is where I sunk my teeth into climbing for the first time. That I do remember.

I hadn’t lived in a climber’s town before and wouldn’t have come through New Paltz if it wasn’t for the farm.

But there I was and I needed an outlet from the manual labor. The idea of climbing had been like a splinter in my brain, lodged in there from somewhere unrecognized long ago. I had wanted to try it yet never did. I started going to the gym, hence I met Dan.

As the season progressed, I fell into a rhythm and started climbing 3-4x per week. Mostly in the gym, go figure. It was like falling in love and the excitement of climbing got me through some damn drawn out days of hoeing and weeding.

I learned that the area had a long history: From Fritz Wiessner and Hans Krauss establishing lines in the 1930s and ’40s to a Nobel Prize winner coming up from Manhattan to set routes on the weekends (i.e., Shockley’s Ceiling, for William Shockley, a complicated character known equally for his racist ideas as his contribution to the semiconductor) to Lynn Hill’s first ascent of Vandals, which ushered in a wave of 5.13 climbs on the East Coast. 

More recently, Andy Salo, the almost Gunks lifer and local superhero had just completed the first ascent of Bro-Zone, a 5.14b extension, and the hardest route in the area.

On the other hand, it’s a quiet hippy-dip college town with plenty else going on. If you didn’t look for it, you could easily miss that this was a place pro climbers move to for their craft.

Dan asked why I was here in New Paltz.

I told him I had wanted to try farming for years, that I used to be in startups but wanted to pursue things that felt more right for me going forward. 

We clinked glasses to celebrate doing what moves you. As he raised his hand, I could see into his glass where his finger should have been.

Inside the bar of the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile. Photo source: Gardiner Liquid Mercantile


He asked if I knew anyone in the area. 

I said not really, that my cousin lived here, but we weren’t that close.

“He’s sort a of semi-pro climber, actually,” I added.

“Who is your cousin?,” he asked.

“Andy Salo.”

Your cousin is AaaannDDDDYYY SAAAAlllOOOOO?!?!” He practically fell out of his chair.

“I mean, he’s sponsored by like La Sportiva. He’s not semi, dude, he’s pro. He’s like a local legend.” 

His eyes were teacup saucer wide. His voice rose a few octaves and he emphasized the “d”, “y”, and the “a”,“o”. Bingo was his name-o.

I knew Andy had been sponsored but never really paid attention to the brands. The whole idea of him living out of a truck for years, traveling around and climbing, seemed alien. It didn’t fit into my world view when I was younger. I guess I kinda ignored it, chalked it up to frivolous vagabonding. Still, there was an element of intrigue that I couldn’t shake.

Was he the source of the sliver?

To be honest, I wasn’t close with Andy and wouldn’t see him my whole time in New Paltz. 

Well there was one instance when I’m pretty sure he walked past the cafe I was sitting in. But you get the point.

He had always struck me as aloof, a “my way or the highway” kinda guy. He certainly marched to the beat of his own drum, and I often felt I wasn’t welcome to join his parade when our families got together for the holidays or that one summer vacation in Colorado.

Maybe it was because I was young and we didn’t share a lot in common back in the day. Maybe it was because he was a “step-“cousin; we didn’t grow up together and haven’t had the chance to get to know each other much. 

My impression softened when I learned about his feats, from someone else

Andy and I spoke at my sister’s wedding–his cousin–in September. It was probably the longest chat we’ve had to date.

I learned that Andy is a pretty humble guy, and that his motivations are driven as much by climbing as the history of a place. (He studied geology in college because, “it seemed the least terrible” thing to major in, which is his way of saying he likes history. That’s my take anyway). 

We talked about the pursuit of what interests you (and the sometimes friction against societal pressure). We like to think we are all going after what we want, but in practice that’s not true. Andy certainly has beat that drum a bit harder than most.

Like the quartz conglomerate cliffs of the Shawangunk Ridge, there’s more layers to my cousin than I could see at first glance.

Before we parted, he invited me to go climbing with him.

After we finished our beers, Dan packed up and headed out.

I stayed to enjoy the last rays and ponder: What was my judgement of Andy really about? 

Often, the things that trouble us about another is a reflection of our own desires or behavior.

Certainly, I’ve felt a tension towards devoting myself to one thing. That singular focus appealed to me. Was I jealous of him for actually doing it? Was I projecting my own “my way or the highway” nature unfairly onto Andy? Maybe.

The last seven years had been spent in startups and at one point I thought that would be my shtick. Yet, here I was working on a farm gaining a pointedly new perspective. 

I wondered about unfair judgements I have cast on other people.

Sunset over the Gunks. Photo by the author


All that summer I had been grappling with what to do (for a career, in life, etc.). 

By the end of the season there was just one clear-ambiguous thought: I wanted to keep gaining a broader perspective of the world. 

In rare moments when I let myself dream–without all that bullshit of what’s practical or not– what I really wanted to do was to travel through Europe for the next year. 

I wanted to climb more. I wanted to learn mountaineering. I wanted to write.

A round of cheers brought me to. Their clanging glasses clamored about in my ear.

I got up and walked back to the farm in the setting sun, a burdock burr was stuck to my pant leg.


Header Image: Andy Salo sending Bro-Zone, the hardest route in the Gunks. Photo source: Whitney Boland




The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe to Get You Stoked for 2019

Climbing trips are one of the perks of the sport: You get to go to beautiful destinations, nosh on new terrain, and hang out with friends.

Sometimes the hardest part can be choosing where to go. I mean, 8a.nu lists over 3,000 crags around the world.

Well, my friend, let me offer a heuristic: Plan your 2019 travels around The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe!

Each festival offers “climbing and…” a little something extra:

Climbing and… neon Lyrca and fresh terry headbands. Check!
Climbing and… developing lines in a post-communist country. Check!!
Climbing and… partying with 700 other people in one of the most stunning places on earth. Check!!!

Doesn’t really work if you can still read the digits… Photo source: Reader’s Digest


I’m not saying only go to climbing festivals…

But I am saying you might want to put your credit card on ice now because it will be hard not to sign up for the lot.

Without further adieu, read on for The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe.



February

Photo source: Morten Johansen

La Sportiva Rjukan Icefestival

Ice climbing reigns supreme in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which boasts 170 waterfalls (frozen in winter, of course).

This festival is packed with learning workshops covering topics such as an introduction to randonee skiing (or as the Norweigans would say, “topptur”), avalanche awareness, steep skiing technique, alpine climbing and winter aid climbing, drytooling, and much, much more.

Facebook Page / Registration

Additional Information:

  • Date: February 8 – 10.
  • Cost: Varies by activity.
  • Food: Available in town.
  • Accommodation: Stay in town.
  • What to Bring: Ice climbing equipment.
  • How to Get There: The closest major airport is in Oslo. Car is easiest, or you can take a bus (~4.5 hours).


Check out the cave climbing starting at 3:12!


Ísklifurfestival ÍSALP (Ísalp‘s Ice Climbing Festival) – Iceland

The Icelandic Alpine Club‘s annual event visits popular and remote ice climbing spots across the country. In 2018, they climbed at Breiðdalur and Berufjörður in the east, which ÍSALP described as “the least explored quarter of Iceland.” These festivals offer the opportunity to climb classic lines and forge new ones.

Please note: The weather has been warm this season and ice formation has been poor. The organizers may not be able to hold the event this year.

Event website (2018) / ÍSALP (Organizer)

Additional Information:

  • Date: February 14 – 16.
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Food: Breakfast and Dinner offered by hut. Bring additional food.
  • Accommodation: Mountain hut.
  • What to Bring: Mountaineering equipment.
  • How to Get There: Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport is the main international and domestic hub in the country.




March

Climb and slackline high above this gorgeous terrain. Photo source: JoSiTo


Turkish Highline Carnival – Turkey

Though not exclusively a climbing festival, the 7th international highline meeting takes place in Geyikbayiri, one of the premiere locales in the Mediterranean (over 1,300 climbing routes ranging from 5a to 8c+).

The festival is 8 days long and will be rigged up with 20 highlines from 15 to 100+ meters long (woo wee!). All of the lines are within walking distance of the camps; Once you get yourself to Geyik all you have to do is step out the door of your dorm (or tent, or guesthouse) and you’ll be mere minutes from climbing.

Remember: Bring a costume — it’s a CARNIVAL after all!

Links: Facebook Page /FAQ

Additional Information:

  • Date: March 2 – 9
  • Cost: Suggested donation of 25 EUR / 29 USD.
    Food: The closest village, Akdamlar, has several markets to stock up on produce, meat, and other foods. Hitchhiking is commonly practiced here.
  • Accommodation: There are plenty of campsites and bungalows for rent. I’ve personally stayed at the Flying Goat and would recommend them. Wild camping is strictly forbidden.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 80m rope.
  • How to Get There: There are cheap flights to Antalya. Transfers from the airport can be arranged with the camps. Car rentals are cheap at the airport. More information here.




April

Climb in one of Europe’s premier crags. Photo source: Up-Climbing


Paklenica International Climbers Meeting – Croatia

Paklenica is considered one of the top European climbing destinations. With over 600 routes the limestone cliffs of the Velebit Mountain range offer routes from 40m single pitch to big wall up to 350m long.

Photo source: Climb-Europe

Heading into its 20th year, this festival features unique challenges including the Big Wall Speed Climbing, a Kid’s Speed competition, the “From Dawn to Dusk” climbing marathon, and the Paklenica Film Festival, an amateur films showing about, what else, climbing.

Need a rest day? There are over 150 km of hiking and trail running paths.

Links: Event website (2018) /Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: April 26 – 28
  • Cost: Park entrance is 2.6 EUR / 3 USD and 7 EUR / 8 USD.
  • Accommodation: A variety of camps are available in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Located about 46 km/ 28.5 mi from Zadar.




Calgary ‘88 (7A+, V7). Hundreds of boulders to explore. Photo Source: Tomaz Bradesko


Prilep Boulder Fest – Macedonia

Tucked away in the south of Macedonia, Prilep is the fourth largest city in the country (with just over 70,000 inhabitants). The Boulder Fest itself is entering its ninth year, and the event has grown in attendance as has the number of new lines.

Complete with a new guidebook, feast on over 400 projects (or go about setting new ones). The area is quickly becoming one of the premiere bouldering destinations and was one of the sites for the Petzl RocTrip through Eastern Europe in 2014. Expect crimpy holds on sharp granite.

Links: Event organizerPrilep Bouldering / Facebook Page (2018)

Map of Macedonia. Photo source: Prilep Bouldering

Additional Information:

  • Date: April 26 – 28
  • Cost: 5 EUR / 5.75 USD
  • Accommodation: Camping or stay in town.
  • What to Bring: A crash pad!
  • How to Get There: Skopje is the closest major city (about 130km away). You can take a bus or train to Prilep.




May

Jaw-dropping beauty in Albania. Photo source: Patagonia


Albanian Climbing Festival – Albania

Help develop climbing in Albania!

Albania is a small mountainous coastal country lying on the Adriadic Sea, north of Greece and south of Montenegro and Kosovo. Climbing is young here and this festival — celebrating its fourth iteration — was started to develop the community and showcase the country’s potential. For perspective, the first climbing gym in the country was opened in 2012 and according to the article, “Five years ago, one could have counted nearly every rock-climbing-Albanian on two hands.” Things are changing.

The festival moves around in order to show off the best that Albania has to offer from locales like Gjipe, Përmet and Bovilla. Many of these places are remote, have stunning natural beauty, and limited economic investment for the villages. Through the promotion of adventure tourism, the organizers hope to empower small local businesses and communities.

Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5a – 8b+, from single pitch (12 – 35m) to big walls. All the money from the festival fee goes to equip new routes. And for your money you will get a guidebook, swag, yoga, and a party on the beach.

Oh, and Adam Ondra climbed here in 2018.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page / Climbing Albania

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 3 – 5
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD.
  • Food: Bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping on the beach!
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope .
  • How to Get There: Tirana has an international airport. Take a bus to the festival.




The stickers are nice, but the climbing is fantastic.

Integrowanie Przez Wspinanie (Integration Through Climbing) – Poland

Poland’s biggest climbing festival takes place in the Będkowska Valley, less than 20km north-west of Kraków. The setting is fantastic, simply wake up at the campground and walk 100m down the road to start climbing. There are dozens of crags and hundreds of routes all within a 30 minute walk.

At the festival you’ll find workshops for beginners and advanced climbers, extreme rope games, climbing competitions, mountain running, and a focus on activities for children this year. There’s a great guidebook you can pick up at the E-Pamir Mountain Shop in Krakow or use the super helpful online topo repo, Portal Górski.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page / Additional information on climbing in Poland here and here

Camping right at the base of this lovely multi-pitch. Photo source: Gory Online

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 23 – 26
  • Cost: 21 EUR / 24 USD
  • Food: Eat at the campground or bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping at Brandysówka. I’ve personally stayed here before and loved it.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 60m rope.
  • How to Get There: Closest airports are Kraków and Katowice. 20-30 minutes by car from Kraków, about an hour by bus.




Hard to beat the view. Photo source: Dolorock Climbingfestival


Dolorock Climbingfestival – Italy

2019 will mark the seventh year for the event organized by the Alta Pusteria climbing club, Gamatzn. The festival takes place in the Landro Valley, which combines natural beauty and rock climbing history as the area has been under development since the 1980s. The Höhlenstein valley sits near the famous Three Peaks (Tre Cime), some of the most photographed mountains in the world.

The Redpoint Fight is a competition for fun and personal challenge. Climbers are awarded points for their five hardest routes, based on criteria such as on-sighting, flashing and redpointing. There are four categories for competitors: Youth (under 18, F+M); Professionals (F+M); 50+; Amateurs, with awards for each. Yoga, kids climbing, dancing and talks round out the festivities.

Grades here range from 3 to 8c+ and consist of slab, flat wall and overhang climbing. The length of routes vary between 8 and 35 meters.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 24 – 26
  • Cost: 25 – 40 EUR / 29 – 46 USD (depending on when you register).
  • Food: Restaurants nearby.
  • Accommodation: Free camping.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Closest airports are Innsbruck to the north, Venice and Verona to the south. Plenty of transport options listed here.




The Legends of Lycra live on


King of Kanzi – Austria

This Lake Faak festival is all about celebrating the joy of climbing in some sweet, sweet spandex style and flashy terry headbands. A nod to history, the 5th edition celebrates the Lycra tights and colourful outfits worn by the early climbers in the area in the ’80’s.

These crags offer over 300 routes, which means you’ll get to sample plenty during the 8 hour climbing marathon as you try and earn as many points as you can. Kings and Queens will be crowned at the evening party, and awards will be given to the team with the most routes complete and team with the hardest route (among other awards). Of course, the place is buzzing with the one question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the “Golden Lycra Award”?!?!? (The trophy for the best outfit.)

Other features include: Climbing workshops with Alex Megos’ Coaches, acro yoga, via ferrata hiking, bouldering, slacklining and talks by professional climbers.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / UKClimbing

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 30 – June 2
  • Cost: 69 EUR / 79 USD (Early Bird Ticket).
  • Food: Grocery stores in the area but they close at 6.50pm.
  • Accommodation: Hotels and apartments in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: The closest airports are in Salzburg and Ljubljana (just over the border). Hire a car as crags are spread out.




Check out the featureful terrain!


Pecka Rock Climbing Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

May is reserved for the oldest sports climbing festival in B&H. Held at the largest collection of rock routes in the country, Pecka features “a kingdom of the pockets” and fantastic local food. This is a combo event, teaming up with the Forest Party, the Forest Cinema, and the Pecka Outdoor Festival.

Enjoy more than 120 routes from 5a to 8b, with lengths between 15 and 35 meters. For the low price of 15 EUR, receive a printed guidebook and a Pecka Rock Climbing shirt. The event organizers like to keep things simple: “Come, climb and have fun!”

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (2018)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (May 18 – 20 in 2018)
  • Cost: 15 EUR / 17 USD
  • Food: Not provided. There is a shop ~5km away, on the way to the camp. Possible to buy local goods like bread, kajmak, eggs, rakija and meals in the village (5 minutes walking from the campsite).
  • Accommodation: A camping place is reserved with your registration. There is no electricity (but you can charge devices in the village).
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Fly into Zagreb and rent a car. You can get a bus from Sarajevo. More details on the event website.




August

Welcoming multiple generations of trad climbers. Photo source: UKClimbing


Women’s Trad Festival (WTF) – UK

Last year tickets sold out in 180 seconds, or faster than Glastonbury, according to event organizers.

Heading into their 4th year, the festival aims to promote participation in climbing and encourage a community of support. Their stated aims are: To help beginners transition from indoor to outdoor climbing; facilitate women in outdoor leadership; and to create a network of female climbers

In 2018, they had 200 participants from as young as 8 to over 60 years old. Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never climbed before!

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: August 2 – 4
  • Cost: Ticket release date being announced soon.
  • Accommodation: Information coming soon (location changes each year).
  • What to Bring: Trad rack (if you have it).
  • How to Get There: Information coming soon (location changes each year).




September

Thousands of boulder problems at your finger tips!


Women’s Bouldering Festival in Fontainebleau – France

2018 marked the first year for this festival at the world’s premier bouldering destination.

The event has the expressed mission to, “be a platform that allows female climbers to meet likeminded individuals in our sport” and to promote the idea of sustainable recreation.

The festival feature workshops on route-setting (by setters on the French National team!), forest conservation, morning yoga and afternoon parkour sessions, evening talks, and a focus on mentorship. And of course, best-in-class climbing. Attendees last year included the likes of Caroline Sinno, who has done multiple 8B (V13) ascents, and Alice Hafer, a former Blokfest champion.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon.
  • Cost: 75 EUR / 88 USD.
  • Route-Setting Workshop: 50 EUR / 59 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping (price included in cost of ticket).
  • What to Bring: Crashpad, yoga mat, camping gear.
  • How to Get There: Only 55.5 km/34.5 miles from Paris. Take a train or rent a car.




The over-hanging route at 5:27 looks fun. Check out the varied rock face at 6:49


Herculane Climbing Open – Romania

Herculane was a Petzl Rock Trip 2014 stop which has put this crag on the world stage. It’s still off-the-beaten track but good enough climbing for Adam Ondra to visit in 2018, and free the first 9a in Romania.

In other words, if you’re looking for high-quality climbing (Cerna Valley has hosted the National Rock Climbing Championship) and economical value, all without the hordes, you’ve found your place. 2019 will offer up the 17th edition of this festival with three days of climbing and 30 designated routes for the competition. Movies, yoga, and celebration are in store for the off-wall hours.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:




Make your mark in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo source: Drill & Chill


Drill & Chill Climbing And Highlining Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Who knew Bosnia and Herzegovina had such a strong climbing culture?! This marks the second festival from B&H on the list.

Join in to make your mark (literally) with ten days of bolting, climbing, and highlining. Organized by Climbing club Extreme Banja Luka, they set out to “playfully combat the status quo.” If you like to travel and climb off the beaten paths, Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a diverse landscape of forested mountains and an abundance of untamed limestone

Last year the festival focused on the development of the Tijesno canyon, which is nestled in alpine terrain and offers a plethora of multi-pitch climbing.

Please note: Be aware of anti-government tension in Banja Luka as protests have swelled to over 40,000 people at times. It won’t stop me from attending, but something to consider.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (Usually in September).
  • Cost: 5 days package: 30 EUR / 34.50 USD. 6+ day package: 50 EUR / 57 USD (climbing guide and t-shirt included in price).
  • Food: Nightly dinner for 3 EUR/3.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: The camp includes electricity, water, shower, toilets. Basic private accommodation can be arranged. Village house option.
  • What to Bring: Everything you need for bolting.
  • How to Get There: Fly to Zagreb or Split then take a bus to Banja Luka. More travel details on event website.




October

The production value of that video! And Kalymnos looks pretty swell too…


Kalymnos International Climbing Festival – Greece

The Gods shine bright on this rock climbing Adonis of crag and sea.

(Just don’t piss off Poseidon or he’ll blow you straight back to Troy — where the climbing isn’t quite as nice.)

Today, the island has over 2,500 sport routes on Mediterranean limestone. The majority of the routes are single pitch, around 20 to 30m, with some 3-5 pitch climbs as well. You won’t be able to cover it all during the three day festival, naturally. Like laying eyes on Helen, you may find yourself drooling uncontrollably… at the anchors staring out at the breathtaking blue Aegean.

The festival features a Climbing Rally, clinics, the chance to chat with pros, deep water soloing, traditional Greek dancing lessons and, of course, parties.

In the words of Rock and Ice, “The search for climbing paradise ends at the greek isle of Kalymnos” (Feb 2001).

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / More Climbing Information

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 5 – 7 in 2018).
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Accommodation: A variety of hotels and guesthouses are available in each village.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Easiest to fly to Kos (via Athens) then take a ferry over.





Reiff Climbing Festival – UK

Perched in the North West Highlands of Scotland this festival offers some of the best scenery and landscapes in the UK — plus pure dead brilliant climbing!

Organized by Hamlet Mountaineering, they cater to all your Scottish needs: Salt water, clean lines and a pub two minutes on from the campsite. Workshops are offered for those who want to improve their skills or deepen your understanding (and appreciation) of the sport you love with the “Geology for Climbers” talk. Want some evening entertainment? Rope up in your Highland dress for the Saturday night Ceilidh with accordion accompaniment.

Other activities include a half-marathon, kayaking and yoga. Gie it laldy!

Stellar trad lines and ocean spray. Photo source: Hamlet Mountaineering

Links: Event Website (2018) / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 12 – 14 in 2018).
  • Cost: £45 / 58 USD (covers 3 nights camping at Port a Bhaigh Campsite and a Ceilidh ticket for the dance on Saturday night).
  • Food: Grocery shop in Achiltibuie.
  • Add-Ons: Workshops range from £30 – £90/38.50 – 115.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: Ask the organizers for what you’ll need in your trad rack. There are top ropes set up for beginners.
  • How to Get There: Details can be found here.




November

Salivating. Climbing shown at 1:45


San Vito Climbing Festival – Italy

Four days in Mediterranean sun. In November? Yes, please. The tenth edition just wrapped up, for what has become a hallmark event in Sicily, Italy and around Europe. The festival features big names, big sponsors, and big crowds (hundreds of people attend) in this idyllic setting of beach, history, and climbing.

Activities include the “Baby speed climb” (for 6-10 year olds) and the main draw, the “Crazy Idea Boulder Event” where competitors can go against national athletes. For non-climbers there is mountain biking, trail running, slacklining (including a 160m line), stunning beaches, and the opportunity to test new gear, in addition to film screenings, live music, and social hours. Of course, if you want more climbing there are over 600 routes in the area.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (English)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD (covers camping for 3 nights and t-shirt).
  • Crazy Idea Boulder Contest Participation Cost: 25 EUR/29 USD.
  • Accommodation: Timbuktu Hostel. Camping at El Bahira, La Pineta. A whole list of options on the website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Cheap flights to Palermo. Rent a car or take a bus to San Vito.




Alex Megos approved. “The landscape looks amazing.” Indeed.


Leonidio Climbing Festival – Greece

Can you name the three most popular crags in Europe for 2018?

If 8a.nu’s Tick List is the be-all-end-all, we have 1) Frankenjura, 2) Kalymnos, and rounding in to form, 3) Leonidio (which saw more ascents in 2018 than the beloved Rodellar, Arco and Railay Beach combined).

Just three hours south of Athens, Leonidio is sheltered along the Peloponnese coastline and surrounded by red and grey cliffs that keep temperatures warm and wind down, making it an idyllic winter climbing destination.

The festival itself is only entering its fourth year, yet attendance skyrocketed with over 700 participants in 2018. Come to enjoy more than 1,000 routes from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 250m high, ranging from 5a to 9a.

You can also steep yourself in history by visiting the Unesco World Heritage sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, which are just over an hour away.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / New Climbing Guide

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food: 2 small supermarkets in town, many bakeries, bodegas, and plenty of restaurants.
  • Accommodation: A comprehensive list can be found on the Climb Leonidio website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15+ quickdraws and an 80m rope (you can get by with 60m).
  • How to Get There: The best option is to fly to Athens and then rent a car. There are options to take a bus.




May the Stoke Shine Brightly on Your 2019!

Hopefully you found the list useful (and even signed up for one or two!).

If you have been to one of these events or are planning on attending, I’d be keen to hear about your experience.

Any festivals that we missed?


Please note: The aim wasn’t to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on interesting festivals. I was hoping for more ice climbing and from places like Scandinavia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. And nothing for Spain? Really?!

If you have any festivals to add, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.




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An Expedition for Life: Why I’m Volunteering with Outward Bound Romania

Wish me luck, Tabby urged. 

She looked at me with the composure that comes from hours of practice and a tinge of anxiety. It was the big day after all.

You don’t need it, you’ve got this, I encouraged. She smiled and walked on stage.

When I first met Tabby six months before, she was a self-assured, albeit timid public speaker. You could sense her strength of character, she just needed a little guidance and support.

She nailed the pitch and went on to raise $50,000 to build her company, Ghalani

Tabby was a special one, but her story rings true for the 60 young entrepreneurs we worked with that year. 

Startup Weekend and the formation of Zazu, The Smartest Damn Alarm Clock (Photo source:facebook.com/getZazu/)

You never know until you try

Sometimes we just need an opportunity to find out what we’re capable of. Sometimes a small experience can change the trajectory of a life

If I can pin-point one moment when things really shifted for me, it was participating in a Startup Weekend in Boston in 2010. A friend dragged me to it. I didn’t really know what startups were. We ended up taking 3rd place (and bought Indian food with our winnings).

*That video makes me cringe. But hey, the memories*

Since then I’ve been lucky to have some wide-ranging experiences, from teaching entrepreneurship in Ghana to working on a farm to growing a venture-backed startup.

This exposure has taught me one simple truth: You only learn by interacting with the world.

… And you never know where you might end up. Okay, two truths.

Gordonstoun students on an expedition in the 1980s. (Photo source: americanradioworks.org/segments/kurt-hahn-expeditionary-learning/)

Training through the sea

In large part, my thinking around education has been shaped by Kurt Hahn, the Founder of Outward Bound (OB). 

He promoted the concept of “expeditionary learning”, a model of education-by-doing and self-discovery.

His story is interesting in its own right. I’ll share a truncated version below:

Kurt Hahn was a German Jew who spoke out against the rise of Hitler. At the time, he was the founder and headmaster of the Salem School, and he made his stance clear in a letter to alumni:

“Salem cannot remain neutral. I ask the members of the Salem Union who are active in S. A. or S. S. to break with Salem or break with Hitler.”

Salem School focused on character development and Hahn led by example.

He was jailed, naturally.

Only through the appeal by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was he released and promptly expelled. He then made his way to Britain where he trained young British seamen who were performing poorly in the war.

His educational model is captured in the quote, “less training for the sea than through the sea.” 

He called the program “Outward Bound”, which is the nautical term to describe a ship leaving the safety of its harbor to head for the open seas.

Artist: Norman Rockwell, American (1894 – 1978)
Title: Outward Bound
Year: circa 1973

The call to action

Today, OB offers over 1,000 expedition-based programs and focuses on personal development. They work with cohorts from struggling youth to veterans to those interested in developing wilderness skills, and more. 

I first learned about OB in university while researching leadership and educational training. Their structure for experiential learning was so different (and more interesting) than my experience in class. I enjoyed science labs because they had an integrative function, but my greatest education about science came from my coops (internships) working in real biotech labs. 

When I came to entrepreneurship, I knew this wasn’t something you could download from a book, you had to go through the gauntlet. So I did.

Outward Bound Romania training program. (Photo source:facebook.com/outwardbound.ro/)

Which brings me to today

I’m committed to giving more of myself in 2019 so I wanted to find a way to use my strength (marketing) to support an organization with an important mission.

OB offers a model for education that I believe in and which has played a formative role in my own growth — without ever participating in their programming (yet!). Go figure.

As luck would have it, Outward Bound Romania had an opening so here I am in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely).

I’m about to wrap up my first week and am excited to hit the “open sea” with the crew.