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“Losing My Religion” 5.7

I’ve relocated. Not just to a new apartment complex, or to a new neighborhood. It’s not even that I moved from one city to another. I’ve switched states altogether. I was craving something a bit different.

I wanted somewhere with a good outdoor recreation scene—I love the outdoors. Now, it’s not like there isn’t a lot of fantastic recreation in Eastern Washington … but there’s not a lot of job opportunities for a someone with zero experience already three years out of college. I know … I looked.

After my winter spent working 65 hours in my 4 day work week—and still barely scraping by—I wanted a higher wage. It was time to put that degree to use.

That is how I ended up in Utah. Salt Lake City offered me the job I was hoping for in the setting I dreamed of. And I’m actively trying to be a part of that setting.

That action is what took me to a rock climber’s social and impromptu instruction session this past week. It was when talking about anchors that our instructor let slip his AMGA status (American Mountain Guides Association) … and the fact that he had written the climbing guide books to two of the valleys most prominent recreational canyons.

We battered him with questions.

“What’s the most scared you’ve ever been?”

“Do you have any first ascents?”

“Which route name that you’ve given is your favorite?”

When a rock climber is the first to ascend a route he gets to name it. It turns out, our instructors favorite name he had given was “losing my religion.” He then told us the story of the first ascent, how on the second pitch his partner was climbing up a crack when he ran into a bush. There was no way around it—no good rock features outside of the crack. So his partner had to fight through, clawing and cussing and snapping off dead branches trying to drag him down. Of course, with the path clear, it was easier for our guide who breezed right through that section.

“So, do you guys know what that means?”

I had always assumed I did. However, when he asked, I knew I couldn’t explain it.

He offered a simple explanation, saying when someone was irritated, or about to be pushed over the edge, they might say of themselves they are losing their religion … as in, their next immediate action might contradict their moral understanding of themselves.

“But really, there’s a second meaning.”

By this time I had figured out how to explain my interpretation of this concept: I just thought of it as someone losing trust in their own belief, and perhaps even feeling they should let it go.

He went on: “To say you’ve lost your religion, well that’s like saying you’ve experienced something so profound, you don’t need it anymore. The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, right? Well imagine your religion is over here,” motioning to his right, “and imagine God is right in front of you.” He looked out in front of us, eyes focusing on nothing in particular. “Once you figure out how to draw that straight line, you don’t need this,” he said, gesturing back to his notion of religion hanging in the air to his right. “You don’t need that structure. So you lose it, because it no longer helps your experience with God.”

I was a bit dumbfounded … and suddenly aware of my adolescence. I’m not that young—but to hear the stark contrast in our interpretations was a bit disturbing to my ego.

Of course! Losing your religion isn’t about losing faith, but understanding it on a deeper level. It’s not about letting go of a belief, but letting go of the structures that contain it … the structures that imprison it.

I’ve been thinking about the most religious experiences of my own life, and I understood our guide’s definition to be true. Reflecting back, I see no structure there. Some instances were very chaotic actually—completely lacking structure. But in those moments I found a new depth of reality, a new depth of life.

“So which definition is the name based on?”

He smirked and looked to the sun as it fell to the western horizon. We were in a back yard perched above the city, at the foot of the mountain (as is most the city) looking out toward downtown Salt Lake City. The moment was serene.

Or SRENE (Strong, Redundant, Equalized, Not Extending), a rock climber’s acronym if ever I’ve seen one—one that is meant to guide the construction of anchors. But that’s just like a philosophizing rock climber isn’t it, to cram so much meaning into so little?

A fundamental condition of life …

Several weeks ago, I had been out hiking and had sat down and write. Looking up from my notebook—at the large outcrop across from me—I saw a group of friends trying to navigate their way to the top. I watched for several minutes as they tried several alternate routes, all of which got them no closer to the top.

Then—not accepting defeat, but rejecting it—they sat down on a spacious ledge and took in the view. I snapped a few pictures but one in particular was my favorite.

I’m not a graphic artist by any means, so I apologize for any shortcomings this image may have … but I hope you all enjoy it.

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Some Dreams Are Bigger Than Others

I spent this past winter living in a ski town nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I accepted a low paying job and moved out there to experience the ski bum lifestyle. I’ve been skiing and snowboarding most of my life, and previously had never spent a whole winter in the midst of the mountains. That was what I wanted to do.

So I became a lifty. Yup, I was one of those under-appreciated, underpaid, and under-stimulated (see video for demonstration) attendants that stands in the freezing weather all day and that you’ll see saving someone’s life on occasion … though we don’t make a big deal of it.

After a few weeks of working on the mountain, I decided a second job would be a good idea. After all, my credit card was still feeling the effects of Peru and my stint as a Junketeer. And, with my crappy mountain wage, there was no way to alleviate those effects without some added income.

Fast forward a few months. I’m working between 65 and 80 hours a week. But I was still clinging to the idea of the ski bum. I would work four 16-17 hour days in a row. C’mon, a ski bum needs at least a three day weekend right? But when the town got busy, I would work about 80 hours in 5 days.

This started to take a toll on my body. I eventually was using one of my days off just to rest and catch up on sleep. Then another large portion of another day would go toward preparing my meals for the upcoming week, because I definitely didn’t have any time to cook once I was into my work week. Snowboarding was being put on the back burner.

A friend pointed this out to me. She I said I was working too much. She was right. I moved to this town at the top of the Rockies so I could snowboard all winter … and I was blowing that. Yet, it didn’t feel wrong to me.

My response to her was, “Some dreams are bigger than others.”

Yes, I did want to be a ski bum for a winter, but my real dream is to travel. That sometimes comes with some financial obligations. So yes, I was working too many hours. But I wasn’t working that many hours for the fun of it. It was for my grander aspirations of travel.

Not only that, but me working didn’t violate that bigger dream. I was traveling in a sense. I had relocated to a new town, a new state. I was experiencing a new culture. And I was meeting all kinds of interesting people.

At my second job alone, I worked with people from all over the United states plus people from Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, and South Africa. I wasn’t going to get to know any of these people if I had spent all of my time snowboarding. So really, I was living my dream.

Dreams and goals are the best to have. But they might conflict occasionally, at which time you’ll need to decide which is more important to you. Which of you goals is the more desired goal? Which of your dreams is the bigger dream?

Don’t “search” for yourself … do this instead.

Almost a week ago, I posted this picture to my social networking profile.

From the top of the run where I strapped into my snowboard.

It’s caption read: “Post-work commute anyone?”

Barely more than a week before I took this photo, I relocated to Colorado to work at a mountain resort for the winter – not something I would’ve guessed was in the cards just a few months ago. But why not?

After riding the GDMBR and then taking part in the Mototaxi Junket, this move seems tame by comparison. But I still consider it to be an adventure. This was the first time I had moved to a different state, and to a place where I knew no one. Why not? That’s the spirit of adventure.

One of the people who commented on the photo said they loved that I was out there “looking for adventure while looking for [my]self … “

Yes, I am looking for adventure … that has become something of my modus operandi. However, this adventuring has nothing to do with “finding myself.” That was something I got out of my system some time ago.

See, finding yourself implies that you’re searching for something within yourself. Searching feels like an eliminatory process … a limiting process. And the word itself — “search” — has such a passivity to it, a desperation — like a failed attempt.

If the search was successful, people would speak in the past tense and say “found” or “discovered.” To search is just to continue the failure. This is why I’m not searching, but creating …

For me, adventuring has become the means by which I create myself. Intentionally doing something I’m not comfortable with is how I ensure I’m taking an an active role in my own personal development – thereby creating myself (and — I’d like to think — a pretty interesting life at the same time).

So … my recommendation: forget looking, searching, discovering (etc.) yourself. Just envision what you want to be and start creating yourself. You are an artist and your life has the potential to be your greatest work of art.

So yes, this winter is my current adventure … but instead of it being a way to find myself, it is instead the way in which I am creating myself.

Your life as a time lapse

Change … that’s the key.

I sat amidst some ruins — adjacent to the Inca trail —looking out over Machu Picchu, and hoping for a change. The cool stones pressed against my back provided some relief from the hot sun as my shade continued to shrink. My camera stood on the wall above me, with a bird’s-eye view. I was creating a time-lapse of the scenery and though the view was incredible, I didn’t have high hopes for the time-lapse — there just wasn’t enough change. The sun was too bright, the clouds moving too slowly. There was no change, the element that drives the time-lapse — if nothing in the frame changes, you’re just staring at a picture …

It occurred to me that life is the same. Our memory isn’t perfect, so all we’re left with at the end of our life is just single frames … single frames aligned in a sequence, just like a time-lapse. Think of looking back over your life though. If the single frames are all the same, wouldn’t you get bored with the video?

Change is what makes things interesting. Change is dynamic … Change is different … Change encourages growth … Change is adventurous … Change adds more interesting frames to our time-lapse.

This isn’t to say we should – or have to – make drastic changes. The whole appeal of time-lapse is seeing subtle changes sped up, presented to us more obviously, more noticeable. So if you think you can’t change, you’re wrong. A gradual change today might look like an immense change 20 years from now.

It’s all about your perspective and what you want your personal time-lapse to look like. So what kind of frames do you want to see in your time-lapse?

Updates … on surviving Peru!

Let me start with a big thanks … Thanks for hanging in there readers!

I know things slowed down a bit for the last few weeks, but life has been hectic. My latest adventure was definitely a part of the reason.

I was in Peru during the first 3 weeks of October for an event known as the Mototaxi Junket, an adventure race organized by The Adventurists. With 19 other teams, we raced Mototaxis (an awful piece of machinery) from the small beach town of Colan to Urubamba – a small town nestled in the Sacred Valley.

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It was a trip full of adventure, hardship, and unbelievable beauty. I don’t want to give too much away, because it is my intent to write about it in more detail later. Suffice it to say, it kept me busy and distracted me from this blog.

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Since my return to the states though, I’ve managed to make more progress on my recently released book, The Divide. It was published the day before I left for Peru, so it too has suffered much neglect … at least it’s marketing campaign has. But the situation there has improved.

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You can find The Divide now on:

Good Reads;

and for purchase on:

Amazon.

If you’re a reviewer interested in reading this book, contact me and I’ll see that you get a free copy of the ebook.

Until next time …

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