Month: October 2015
I was sitting in the airport, trying to get comfortable between the rigid, metal armrests of the connected chairs, watching the bustle of frantic travellers trying to catch their flights. I sighed, settling into a position with my legs dangling over my large backpack that was propped against my seat. We had been waiting in the airport for hours, and I was more than jealous of the people boarding their planes and taking off for their summer vacations. But that’s the chance you take when you fly standby.
Marshall and I were at the bottom of the standby list, and, after waiting an entire day at the airport and getting our hopes up, we were only let down by missing the three planes we were trying to get on. The outcome was pretty clear. Amsterdam was too popular of a destination for us to try to get there on this particular weekend.
We could’ve given up right then and there. I mean, what were we supposed to do? Our plan was to go to Amsterdam and meet up with our friends in Prague a couple of days later, but this giant wrench of missing flight after flight made it seem like any hope of getting to Europe was a lost cause.
We stayed optimistic though. That’s what you have to do. There’s always going to be something that goes wrong with any plan. Murphy’s Law, right? In the end, strict plans and tight schedules cause more stress than they’re worth. Adventures, travelling, it’s supposed to be fun. When something goes wrong, don’t fight it. Roll with it.
That night Marshall and I did some research. We looked up other flights and alternate destinations, and we found one whose airlines were practically empty. By 9 AM the next day we were taking off into the rising sun, watching the cars and people shrink into ants beneath us, headed off toward the Atlantic, on our way to Zurich, Switzerland.
We had no clue about anything in Switzerland. My grandparents had been there a few times, but other than that, we had no advice and no plan to go off of. No hostels reserved, no activities on the itinerary, but we were excited about it. That’s the mindset you need. There’s something freeing about arriving in a foreign country and figuring things out for yourself. We went to the tourist office in the train station to find a hostel, we talked to locals to find out what the best, off-the-beaten-path things were to do, and we met people in our hostel and listened to stories of their travels, gathering ideas about where we wanted to go next.
We had no plan, but we figured it out. We were okay. And Switzerland ended up being our favorite place in Europe.
When we got to Zurich we walked around the beautiful, cobble-stoned city, admiring the green-blue river that ran through its center. We stumbled into a medieval festival that apparently happens only one weekend every three years. We ordered incredible food in mangled Dutch, mainly just pointing and hoping for the best.
That night we took a train to Lucerne because we heard it was pretty and offered some good hiking. By the next day we were trekking up a mountainside, hiking into the clouds (literally) through six thousand feet of elevation change. We were joined by a girl staying in our hostel, a solo traveller from Canada with whom we shared stories and an unforgettable day on Mount Pilatus. Our views on the way up were of green fields, dusted yellow with dandelions, and of Lake Lucerne, its crystal blue surface shimmering in the sun. We were surrounded by snowy peaks towering above us and by old-fashioned towns stretching below us.
The next day we hopped on a train to Interlaken, a town nestled in Lauterbrunnen Valley and known for its adventures. Interlaken was the most breath-taking place I’ve ever seen. The valley was lined on either side by slate gray cliffs, their edges steep and jagged. Waterfalls burst from their tops and cascaded down their sides; they were so high that the water turned to mist before it hit the ground.
That’s what I’ve learned about going on adventures. Having a strict plan can be stressful; it can ruin a trip. But, by straying from your plan, you never know what you might stumble across, may it be a triannual festival or an incredible person or an awe-inspiring view. Face obstacles one at a time and don’t let them get you down. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, I would’ve never had the chance to if everything in my plans went accordingly.
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see where it takes you.
Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
My most memorable experiences have been the ones that require me to breach my comfort zone. After three weeks in China with my study abroad group, I landed in the Bangkok International airport, by myself, at 11:30 PM local time. It was time to embark on the second leg of my trip to Asia; the leg that I planned exclusively for the sake of my own adventure. I took a surprisingly cheap taxi ride to a hotel in Bangkok where I would spend the night. After a solid five hours of sleep I met a group of strangers in the lobby. One of these strangers, a Thai woman named Saii, would be guiding me and the others into the mountains of Northern Thailand in two days time.
After a half-day in Bangkok and about fifteen hours on a sleeper train, my company of curious travelers and I landed in the city of Chang Mai. We were in Northern Thailand now and would spend one more night in a hotel before venturing into the jungle. Early the next morning we boarded the barely furbished beds of the pickup trucks that would take us to the trailhead. We made two stops on our 2-hour hey ride into the mountains. Our first stop was at a market where everyone was encouraged to explore the stores for any last minute essentials. Our second stop was at a waterfall where everyone was encouraged to cool off and take cool pics. Our final stop would be the edge of the jungle.
The pickup trucks carried us high into the mountains to a trail that descended into the village where we would spend the night. The journey to the trailhead itself was an exhausting one, but the group shot into the jungle with feverish enthusiasm nonetheless. The trail presented an array of sights and sounds the likes of which none of us had seen before. There were oddly shaped trees being climbed by thick vines with intensely green leaves. The scene went on in greater detail for miles all around, and I found it all to be astounding. Our camera phones could do no justice to what our eyes captured around every corner, but everyone attempted to snap a digital memento at some point. While the endless views of foliage covered mountains never lost their appeal entirely, it didn’t take more than a few miles of hiking in the Thai summer climate for them to lose just a bit of their novelty. Needless to say this hike was a bit of a challenge, but upon emerging from the jungle my spirit was entirely reinvigorated.
What I saw was one of the quaint villages of the Karen tribe. Here my companions and I would rest for the night before embarking on the second leg of our trek. At first, it seemed like the only village inhabitants were animals. There were pigs, cows, dogs, chickens, and oxen… at least I think they were oxen. It wasn’t until I attempted to take a picture of a pig that I noticed a human inhabitant. I instantly recognized the bizarre nature of the interaction between this person and myself. I was visiting her village on vacation from the United States, somewhere she will almost certainly never go. In fact, she may never go south of Chang Mai. I wondered how she really felt about these foreign people coming into her village week after week. Are the tourists a total nuisance to her or does she appreciate a chance to share her way of life in order to stimulate her local economy? I wasn’t exactly sure what to think, but I was grateful for the experience that her and her village were allotting me.
Once the group settled into the wooden sleeping hut, we were summoned to the dinner table where we rolled the spring rolls that would be served with our dinner. The spring rolls were great and all, but the curry concoction that our trail guides whipped up really knocked my socks off. I really don’t know how these guys did it. There are two Krogers, a Publix, and a Piggly Wiggly all within 3 miles of my house, yet I’ve never cooked anything half as good as what I ate out in the Thai jungle. I’m not saying I’m a bad cook either; these guys are just culinary geniuses. After dinner, we gathered round the fire to play some traditional Karen Tribe games. All you needed to play any of these games was a few sticks, but let me tell you, these people are clever. What they did with their imaginations and a few sticks baffled all us westerners to the point of hilarity. We were consistently stumped by the creative yet straightforward ways that the Karen people think. It was clear that the Karen tribe had been sheltered from the overcomplicated ways of the western world.
After two nights in two different villages, another sweltering trek, and a bamboo raft trip, we were extracted by the trusty ole pickup trucks and taken back to society. My entire time in Thailand was priceless in every sense of the word, but my favorite part of the trip was undoubtedly the two nights I spent with the Karen tribe. While my surroundings and accommodations were far from what I was used to, I can confidently say that I had some of the most memorable and joyous days of my life out there in the jungle. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier that I went on an adventure even though no one I knew could go with me. I now know that the only limit to that adventure was my initiative, but I would have never known if I hadn’t breached my comfort zone.
UGA grad Todd Campbell went to San Francisco to work at a music festival this last August. When he realized he could take public transportation to Yosemite, he said, what the heck! Why not go hike 50 miles out there?! That’s just what he did, and here’s what he had to say about his experience:
What made you want to visit Yosemite?
I went to California to work Outsidelands Music Festival. Once I found out I could take public transport to Yosemite, I knew I had to go. I had taken a family trip there before, but they weren’t hikers. I wanted to experience more than driving your car through the park. I wanted to have an in-depth Yosemite experience.
Do you have any past experience taking a trip like this?
No, not quite like this. I did one overnight hiking trip through the University of Georgia Outdoor Recreation Club. We went to Blood Mountain. It was 5 miles in and out. That was in fall of 2014. They showed me the ropes and taught me about some of the essentials for taking an overnight hiking trip.
How did you prepare for this trip to Yosemite?
I had a hiking bag already and bought other things off of amazon. Actually the “frequently bought together” feature on amazon was pretty helpful in in my thought process about what supplies I needed. Also, the Yosemite website let me know what supplies I needed and regulations I needed to follow. Anyone will tell you that you’ll need a bear can for your food if your camping in Yosemite. It’s a requirement.
What resources were most helpful for you?
The Yosemite website with maps, trailheads, and distances of all the trails. I bought the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of Yosemite, and it was a necessity. Also, when I called the reservation office to reserve my wilderness permit, I spoke to a park ranger that gave me the low-down. I had originally planned on going through Hetchetchy, but the ranger advised against that route because of the triple digit temperatures. He proceeded to help me hammer out some of the important details of my trip. I came with a vague idea, and he steered me into a rock solid itinerary. Rangers are a great resource if you can get ahold of them.
What was something that you were unprepared for once you got out there?
At some point I almost lost the trail. It just kind of disappeared into a dried up waterbed. I proceeded to try different directions in search of the trail while always returning to a safe spot on the trail that I had come in on. After a few attempts I found my way, but the experience was slightly startling. There aren’t many people out there, and there’s no cell service. If you get lost, you might be screwed.
What was the most difficult part of this trip for you?
Nevada falls on the last day, which spanned Little Yosemite valley to the valley floor. I left from Sunrise at about 10,000ft and hiked down to 5,000ft. I thought it would be easy going down hill, but it was not. I was physically exhausted and my feet were torn up pretty badly. I couldn’t stop, though. I still had to get down the hill and back to civilization.
Does any moment from this trip stand out to you in particular?
I camped at a place called Sunrise, and when the sun rose, I understood where it got the name. It reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings. The campsite is up in the rocks above a big meadow and looked like Helms Deep or something. The best part-the sun beamed right in my face to wake me up in the morning. Ken Lakes was also picaresque. I felt wonderfully secluded lounging in my hammock there by the windy lake.
How did your time in Yosemite change your outlook moving forward?
When I was in the forest I could really focus on myself. There was a lot of time to think about my own life. You get back out into the city, and there is so much hustle and bustle (“noise” I like to call it) so you can’t focus on yourself. My time here gave me the tools to understand my quiet place so well that I can even construct in my mind. Habits like shopping, fiddling with my phone, and biting my nails happen because I’m not really paying attention to myself, but in the forest, all I think about is myself, my journey, and my mantras. Also, I saw a fox, and I take that as a sign of good things to come.
Are you planning any more trips in the future?
Well, I’m going to the Maker Faire in NYC to present “Solar Harness” a wearable solar powered phone charger that I’m inventing, but other outdoor adventures are sure to come. I’m always looking for opportunities to test my wearable prototype.
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Being in love with the outdoors can make an adventurer eager to share the experience with others. I remember when I went hiking at Raven Cliff Falls a few months ago. It was just mother nature and me.
NO SOCIAL MEDIA
This hike is a long shady trail with a beautiful waterfall at the end. It is without a doubt one of my favorite day hikes.
Once I had returned from Raven Cliff Falls I did what any person would do: Text my friends, post photos on Instagram, and even blog about it on Vestigo.co. Usually then that is when my friends contact me to invite themselves on the next trip I take. Of course I accepted the request. I mean who would not want their friends to journey on amazing trails with them. I had just witnessed nature at an amazing level so the least I can do is bring them along. Right???
It was the next trip to the Cloudland Canyon State Park that I made an adventurers discovery. I brought 4 friends along that I had never been camping or hiking with before. I expected it to be a new experience for them
I was wrong….
We were about 20 minutes into a hike up to a cave located within the park. Everything was perfect. There was a slight breeze, no mosquitos in sight, and on this day the park was not packed. This is the perfect hiking conditions. Until I looked behind at my group of friends and noticed something that made me livid.
THEY WERE ALL ON THEIR PHONES.
The trip that I planned and was enjoying was being taken over by technology and social media. One friend would be on Instagram while the other would be texting his/her bud. This is not what being outdoors is supposed to be about. It was then that I noticed that they are 2 types of people that go outdoors:
When you are on your phone you are literally ignoring mother nature, and missing out on the surroundings. Based on a recent survey, Americans like to camp in order to reduce stress, reconnect with nature, and to spend more time with family and friends. However at the same time the most wanted amenity at campgrounds is free Wifi.
Among roughly 3,000 people surveyed for the Kampgrounds of America study, a preference for free Wi-Fi ranks even higher than a desire for safety lighting, cabins, and campground stores with food and gear for purchase. It’s still not quite as important as “clean and well-maintained bathhouses/restrooms,” which 50% of the survey respondents cited as an important campground amenity, making it the most popular choice. But free Wi-Fi is valued by 19% of the respondents, putting it just behind the second-most widely shared concern of campers, which is whether a campsite is “kid-friendly.”
I don’t use technology in order to gain a deeper relationship with the world. It is such a distraction to what we are there for. I noticed that dropping the phone allowed me to see things that I normally wouldn’t even catch. Believe it or not you cannot multi task while enjoying the outdoors. It only makes sense. We were hiking up one of the most beautiful trails in Georgia. It just turns out that at the time my friends preferred scrolling and like Instagram photos. It was upsetting.
Once you are able to disregard the Wi-Fi and turn off your phones, then you will have an entirely new experience with the world around you. I encourage you to try it. Whether you adventure out and hike or you go and kayak…its better without social media. Don’t worry you can post those photos and text your friends after. Friends reconnect…. Families bond…YOU ENJOY!
If you are the 100% outdoor engaged adventurer and you would love to connect with more adventurers like you then you definitely need to check out Vestigo.co. Even if you are not quite fully there, there are so many eager outdoor enthusiasts just like you that would love a group to experience the outdoors to the fullest. So get out there and Empower You Outdoors.
Yoga? Do I really need it?
Yoga. Just hearing that used to make me cringe. As a young athletic male, I had never wanted to practice yoga. LIKE NEVER! I would often picture myself stretched like a human pretzel. That is a no-go. However, after giving it one shot my entire perspective changed. I learned for myself all the benefits that practicing yoga has and how it affected me. I am 100% sure that if you are unsure about this stretching thing then YOGA to try this. Did you see what I did there?
It all started when I walked into my neighborhood gym. They’re always classes going on but I was concerned about hitting my chest and arms…like all men are. To the left I could see that the yoga class was offering free hour sessions. After hearing that I brushed the idea from my head. I asked myself:
“You’re not flexible”
“Yoga is for girls”
“Its so boring”
Boyyyyyyy was I completely wrong. What I am about to say will probably be new to guys. But Yoga will make you way stronger thank you are now. Practicing yoga is so important and can help you relax, stretch, and find peace with yourself.
I am not flexible at all. In fact I would consider it my weakness. I would often skip workout stretches and that mistake came and bit me in the butt. Immediately once I entered the room I started stretching.
We performed many different exercises and stretches. I felt as if my muscles were being relaxed and stretched and it felt unexpectedly good. When we workout we constantly are cycling working out different parts of the body. I noticed that yoga allowed for those parts to be stretched and relaxed. My body was able to send more blood to those muscles and relax and heal them way faster. Yoga uses techniques to lengthen, stretch and relax muscles while simultaneously working with your breath. So pretty much I was healing my body while resting and breathing.
After the exercise we entered a period of deep meditation. I was instructed to lie down and breathe in and out. It may sound weird but I felt my stress slowly release from my body. I emptied my mind and just breathed. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
I learned that these are the benefits of practicing Yoga.
After the session was complete I was extremely relieved. Not just from the stress but my muscles were extremely relaxed. My posture and breathing was improved. Over time as I continued practicing yoga I can say proudly that my flexibility has improved incredibly. Everyone can feel accepted and included and, unlike other sports or classes that focus on niche clients, yoga tends to have open arms. Give it a shot today. Head over to Vestigo and connect with local yoga instructors and get twisted. You will definitely see me in one of those sessions.