I tore down the posters from my wall, moved out of a beautiful apartment four blocks from the beach, quit an amazing job that I had enjoyed for three years, packed up all of my belongings, put them into storage and traveled to South America for six months.
Why? I realized that life is short and I needed to live my passion. I had been climbing for the past eight years but I never was able to fully immerse myself in the sport because of other obligations. I had an amazing life, but for some reason it didn’t seem real to me—-something was missing.
I had become too comfortable. I needed something fresh and something different. There were parts of my life that I didn’t like and that I wanted to change. I knew the only way to change was to restart. So I decided to commit first and figure everything else out later. I said goodbye to beautiful, sunny Santa Monica and booked a flight to South America.
The plan was simple: Pack up all of my mountaineering geer and spend six months traveling and climbing throughout South America. I knew the only way to find myself was to get lost. I had no structure and no obligation. I cut the cord and took off.
I had a life-changing trip. It was filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I spent entire weeks worth of time vomiting out of both ends, I lost 15 pounds of weight from my already skinny body, I failed trying to climb my first two objectives, I was stuck in my tent in a horrific storm of negative 40 degrees and 100km winds. Most tragically, I had two friends die while climbing in the same mountain range.
But the tragedy pushed me to dig deep inside. It forced me to reflect on my own life and see how ephemeral and precious it is. It made me realize that life is about living now. I knew that some opportunities would only come once. So I seized the moment.
The remainder of the trip was filled with dreams to last a lifetime. Climbing 20,000 foot peaks in alpine style, technical ascents of 2,000 foot big walls high in the Andes, soloing an 18,500 glaciated mountain and journeying back to the US to climb the 3,000 foot granite monolith known as El Capitan - just to name a few.
I climbed all over the country stopping in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. Over the next six months I realized that life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them. I created life-long friendships and sacred bonds along the way. I didn’t know what I was missing until I stated doing the things I loved.
In the end, I realized that life is simple.
When I arrived back, small things began to confuse me like, what month is it again, why are people going to work, why can I note relate to my friends’ Facebook status updates, how is it possible to have one stick of toothpaste last six months, how do you say that in Spanish, why are stores closed on Sunday, what’s a siesta, what is that cow doing in the middle of the road and many other unanswered questions.
But I realized that continued travel opened my mind and heart to so many differing cultures. With everything realization comes remarkable insight into my life and others as well as amazing friendships and experiences.
If I never took the chance, I also never would have found love: she was sitting across from me at my local cafe and I was inspired to tell her she was beautiful. We are still together to this day.
I came back a changed man. I tossed my smart phone in the trash, stopped watching TV and moves, vowed to check email only twice per day, made sure not to work more than 40 hours each week. And always saved time to live life with passion. What’s your passion?