One of the most amazing things to happen to my life because of climbing is the travel, exploration, and experience of new places, culture, people. It is intoxicating, and with each new place visited, with each new friend made on the other side of the world, I am left wanting more. It’s all that I want, really – to climb and have these new experiences. Generally, after returning from one trip, I already have another planned, and if not, it is never too long before I start planning one. I think that a natural part of the human condition is to, at some point, subscribe to the notion that ‘more is better,’ whatever it may be – more money, more stuff, more fame, more travel. As my friend Andrew Bisharat likes to say, “If one beer means fun, than 2 beers means twice as much fun. And, 4? …and…and…and…” The question – ‘Is more better?’ – is one that every single person must confront, some do it consciously, others subconsciously. By whatever means, it is a part of life, because at its root is the search for happiness.
Kirov, Russia. 'Just one more' shot of vodka in Russia after the final Ice World Cup
Despite her best efforts and careful guidance, my mother can explain through her observation of my life that I am stubborn and impulsive and ambitious. Unfortunately sometimes these things trump sensibility. And so, this was the realization while in Europe just few weeks ago. I travelled there with 2 goals – to (1) buy a van to permanently have in Europe, and (2) to climb. I, of course, accomplished both as any stubborn, ambitious person would, but it took a toll. It was the so-called straw that broke the camel's back. By the end, I was deeply homesick, desiring familiar surroundings and people. For someone that almost never feels this way and almost always feels at ‘home’ wherever I am, it was a very difficult time. Generally while travelling there is a healthy balance between experiencing new (foreign) things, and considering old (familiar) things. Nearing the end of my most recent travel, the balance had been heavily swayed toward thinking about and desiring the latter. I was very simply unhappy.
Munich, Germany. Base camp in Europe - 2000 Fiat Ducato.
This year I have been home about 10 weeks, 10 of almost 33 at this very moment. I know for a fact that other friends and colleagues at The North Face have been at home less than I. It's a part of the deal, a part of the passion and commitment to climbing and the greater outdoor industry. ‘Normal’ people usually respond, “I don’t feel bad for you,” or sarcastically “Poor you! You get to travel all over the world and climb. It really must be difficult.” I have been overseas – Russia, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland – for a total of 3 months already this year. Since, January 1, I have been to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Michigan, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California. I own a van on 2 different continents now. I have climbed too many days to count, and at so many different areas. I am not writing to complain, or to brag. I am simply writing to share part of my life, part of the joys and pains. It is not any better or worse than anyone else, just different. Some people envy what I have, I envy what other’s have - The grass is so damn green everywhere but here. The lesson, the reality, is that we should all try to be happy with what we have. As the cliche and commonplace idea, it's easy to comprehend, but to live and enact the idea is the true test. This is what I came to understand more completely just a few short weeks ago.I shouldn’t go travelling because I think that happiness is on the next trip, or in the next country, or around the next corner. Happiness is right here and now. The equation: More = Better = Happiness is not universally and absolutely true. There is a point of saturation when even Andrew knows, having that one more beer actually means having less fun. But, we only know that, because we’ve learned the hard way, and honestly it’s the only way that I’ll have it.
View of Riva del Garda, Italy from the crag Narango
View of Ginzling, Austria from the crag Bergstation
I have been back home for just a few days now, and I have had such strong, positive feelings of my presence of place - Just simply happy to be right here. I am trying hard to keep the feeling alive and present and available. So, here’s to ‘home’ and to happiness, and to learning the hard way. Here’s to thinking about what we have, and to cultivating gratitude. Here’s to being balanced in ambition and desire to have more or different things. Good luck,