Me in front of Machupuchare '78
The mountains, whether they be the Rockies, the Alps, the Himalayas, or the Andes, are beautiful and dangerous and mysterious. I have have wandered and climbed in the mountains of New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Switzerland, and Nepal as well as the mountains in Colorado, at various points in my life. Climbing in the mountains is much like travel. Mountaineers learn about the hills but in another way they learn much about themselves as well.
There’s not much I’d rather do than sit in a darkened bar, sip cold beer, and listen to the story of someone who has been out there. Much of my motivation in life has been to have my own story, but I wanted it to be bigger and better. Initially I didn’t recognize my competitive desire. In fact, it took me years to understand my motivation; ironically the motivation was eventually lost in the doing—the experiencing. I forgot what I aspired to become—it happened naturally.
Humans are innately competitive. We compete in so many ways. Who has the better job, who is cooler, better looking, stronger, healthier, richer, and on and on. In the travel world I found the same thing, a sort of unspoken competition between people—and the one who has been the farthest, stayed the longest, and seen the most, is the winner. They are ahead in the travel game . . . at least this is what it seemed to me.
Sometime during high school in Nebraska in the early ‘60’s—and I don’t know if it was something I read, or if it was something I got from one of my teachers—but I remember promising myself that I wouldn’t wake up on a park bench one day, at 70 or 80 years old, thinking about what I could have, or should have done. I never forgot that promise to myself.
I loved to read and my favorite books then were science fiction and adventure stories—I longed to be the hero of my own life story, exploring jungles, climbing mountains, sailing oceans. And, I wanted to be the old, grizzled guy at the bar who had been there and done that. And I knew deep in my core that I couldn’t get this by staying in Nebraska.