Archive | August, 2017

My Lowas

26 Aug

My Lowas

“The most alive is the wildest.” – HDT

After eight years, six continents, and hundreds and hundreds of miles, my hiking boots finally gave up the ghost.

The death of my Lowas was a little like losing a close friend. We’ve had so many memorable adventures. We hiked the Inca Trail, stalked lions in Botswana, tiptoed knife-edge ridge lines in Hawaii, walked on the Zuidersee Works, traipsed through Australia, climbed mountains in Korea, dangled off the south rim of Big Bend at sunset, almost died in a freak summer storm in the Alps, and tread dozens of wild places across the United States.

Thinking back fondly on these expeditions and the people I shared them with allows me to relive those experiences in my mind: the secret bottle of cabernet stashed in the bottom of my pack, picking fruit off the tree for a meal, catching salmon by the boatload, the lone little goat with a bell around its neck encountered high up on a ridgeline, finally making it to the summit, and too many amazing sunsets to count. There were laughs and tears as well: trying to start a fire with no matches, running out of water, a curious skunk, a cocktail party in the African bush, a collapsed tent or two, being charged by a Kodiak bear, rain, wind, snow, more than a few bumps, bruises and blisters, and one severely broken ankle.

My old Lowas took me to the wild places. They were my passport to nature and took me away from the over-civilized people that populate my day-to-day life. My boots took me to the mountains where I drew my strength and satisfied myself that there was meaning to be found in the woods. Who can look at wonderful nature and not be prompted to wonder more? There are answers on the mountaintop.

My grief will abate. I’ve already begun to get to know a new pair of Lowa hikers. The relationship is still stiff and uncomfortable, but I am committed to making it work. Over time, I expect the bond to grow and for our relationship to become easy and supple. There is no telling what adventures await us just over that yonder hill. There are many, many more miles to go.

 

A timely quote for you to consider. It’s as if he were right here with us today.

“Short-sighted men, who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Bored and Brilliant

21 Aug

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“Saturdays, holidays, easy afternoons, lazy days, sunny days, nothing much to do.”

Our individual creativity is under attack from our hyper-connected, over-scheduled, over-stimulated way of life. Research shows that problem-solving and critical thinking require letting our minds wander where they may. Breakthrough ideas are not likely to result from thinking hard about a subject. Think about nothing and see what happens.

Planned downtime is not just for resting the body and recharging the spirit, it is also great for the brain. We need time to process inputs and make sense of the flood of data that comes our way. “Bored and brilliant” is the new mantra of the creative class.

I’ve got three simple pieces of advice for becoming a more innovative thinker.

The simplest and most powerful thing you can do to increase your creativity is to stop using your phone as an alarm clock. When the first thing we do each day is grab our phone, it creates an overwhelming urge to check and see what messages arrived overnight.

When we do this our brain starts unconsciously and unproductively working on the problems of the day. Even if you try to push those small thoughts out of the way, they creep back in. Unless you go to bed before 9 pm, or are heavily invested in Asian stock markets, it is unlikely that anything earth-shattering happened while you were asleep. Those Instagram pics of Australian models on the beach will still be there an hour later.

By keeping your phone out of the bedroom, you can give yourself thirty to sixty minutes each morning to reflect, daydream, and think deep thoughts. This way, you will not be involuntarily thinking about the minor problems of the day while you are in the shower or making coffee. Your brain will be free to wander without the distractions of email. An early morning walk without your phone is another great way to start a creative day.

My second piece of advice is to turn off all notifications on your phone, tablet and laptop. Why do we knowingly let other people interrupt and interfere with our cognitive processes? Consume inputs on your own terms. Do not let email devour day. Set aside specific blocks of time to disposition the items in your multiple inboxes.

Get a screen time tracker and set limits on the number of times a day you pick up your phone. The “You’ve got mail” notice may be the single biggest contributor to destroying your creative capabilities. Recapturing them is a more urgent matter than your friend’s less-than-insightful missive on the latest Game of Thrones episode. Most of your incoming messages are bullshit. Read them if you wish, but do it on your own terms.

Lastly, we should celebrate the deliberate act of doing nothing. We do not need to constantly be entertained. Make the snooze button your friend. There is nothing wrong with a relaxing morning spent lounging around actually savoring a cup of coffee. There will be plenty of time to catch up on your shows later in the day. Mindfulness is a sound practice that requires quiet contemplation of the task at hand. For a few hours each week you should make doing nothing a priority task and see what happens.

Technology and culture are driving us to be less creative in our day-to-day thinking. We may be extremely productive, but we are not terribly effective. Try these few simple tricks and see if they don’t change your way of thinking. Research suggests that you’ll be better off – and you are less likely to encounter a spoiler before you get around to watching that last episode of The Bachelor.

Live Large Takes Kauai

13 Aug

IMG_8771“A life-changing week of experiences.”

“Pushing me outside my comfort zone.”

“Getting to know amazing new friends.”

This is what I heard from the incredibly impressive group of intrepid explorers that joined me in Kauai for a week of adventure. A Live Large trip to Hawaii is a little different than your typical tropical beach vacation. We journeyed beyond the edges way out in nature.

IMG_8900The experience left me both exhausted and exhilarated (and a little sore.) The week was action packed including spending the day on a secluded beach with a beautiful fresh water waterfall, enjoying an amazing variety of local cuisine (including poi and mass quantities of poke and pina coladas), learning to do the hukilau hula at a luau, climbing mountains, swimming in a queen’s bath, and picking fruit, flowers and avocados right off the trees in the yard.

IMG_9154We even got to go surfing with a pro and everyone in the group caught on easily. There is no risk that any of us are going to be asked to star in a sequel to Blue Crush, but we all now understand what it means to feel “stoked.” The surfing high lasted all afternoon.

The highlight of the trip was a three-day backpacking and camping excursion into one of the remote uninhabited valleys on the Na Pali coast. Some members of the team spent weeks dreading the eleven-mile hike along a treacherous trail that hugs the coast with 800-foot drop-offs. For those with a fear of heights, this was the “pushing way outside the comfort zone” part of the trip. The 4,000 feet of total elevation gain made the trek arduous but the reward was something out of a fantastic dream.IMG_9658

The Kalalau Valley was settled by Hawaiians close to 1,000 years ago and was finally abandoned in the late nineteenth century. The evidence of this early civilization remains in the form of terraces, heiaus (ancient Hawaiian places of worship), and fruit trees.

IMG_9542We hiked all over the valley, tried an old swing we found tied high up in a tree, played and showered in waterfalls, explored sea caves, ate exotic fruit off the trees, practiced yoga on a heiau at dusk, watched one of the most unbelievable sunsets of our lives, and learned a lot about the island, its history and its culture. We also learned a lot about each other.IMG_9626

It was a magical few days I will never forget with a group of people that I am proud to call new friends – my growing Live Large family. The hike out of the valley was tough, but our packs were lighter and we had a bottle of homemade passion fruit champagne waiting for us at the end of the trail.

It has been a couple of weeks now and the valley is still tugging at my subconscious – calling me back. Kalalau is a spiritual place with a powerful force. You cannot truly experience it without being affected in some way.

The Live Large Manifesto encourages us to “say yes and go.” I am so glad that I did. My time on island with this group is a true highlight of my life. We did it right and we can’t wait to do it again. This is a life experience worthy of a place in anyone’s collection.IMG_9734

 

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