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Explore the Unknown, in all its forms

“In memories we are rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in his splendor, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man…”
– Sir Ernest Shackleton

McFails Cave in upstate New York. This was an especially challenging caving trip.

Preparing for my wedding next month and a new corporate job have kept me away from this blog for too long, but I am now back for good. And I shall commence my return to blogging with a look back at the reasons why I chose to pursue other activities outside the realm of the vertical.
My first foray into this life of adventure began 6 years ago when I walked into the South Austin Rock Gym. At that moment, I found my purpose. The next day, I drove to REI and bought myself a pair of rock shoes and a chalk bag. From there, ropes, webbing, carabiners and all the necessary climbing gear inevitably followed.
Soon I progressed from the 50-foot rock faces of the Austin area to the mountains of Alaska. Climbing on rock, ice or mountains became my life. The epic feats of mountaineering legends like Reinhold Messner, Hermann Buhl and Jurek Kukuczka inspired me to find my own greatness on the high peaks. I knew that I too could redefine the possible on Himalayan giants and Patagonian towers. But then, something happened and I found myself at a crossroad.
A friend of mine, Chris Bailey, introduced me to mountain biking. As with climbing, it too became a significant part of my weekly routine. I felt a distinct sense of freedom from pedaling into a temperate breeze, encompassed by orange skies, or even the contrasting violence of crashing down a rocky slope. At least twice a week, instead of climbing, I spent my time navigating the trails of Walnut Creek and riding up to Lake Georgetown.
Another friend of mine, Alex Cummins, then suggested we give scuba diving a shot. I thought to myself, why not? I saved up and got my open water certification. This meant less time and less money devoted to climbing. But it also meant a new experience. A glimpse into a bizarre world. An unmatched, unequal journey of mankind’s interaction with other forms of life.
There was no turning back. Since then, I have leapt out of airplanes (resulting in three fractured bones), paddled of a 14-foot waterfall, crawled on my back beneath the surface of the earth through 40 degree water with nothing more than an inch of airspace to breathe, dragged a 150+ pound sled across the frozen Minnesotan landscape, walked through a leper colony, rode in the back of a 7 ton truck with an M16 rifle in a sandstorm that painted the skies an eerie apocalyptic red, and I have lived through the most intense ordeal yet: nine 10-year-old girls screaming, laughing and dancing all night at my little cousins birthday party.
Each new experience pushed me outside my comfort zone in different ways. Every time I advanced into unfamiliar territory, I shattered one more preconceived limit within myself.
It became clear to me that although I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for those who chose to devote themselves to the perfection of a single pursuit, that would not be my path. I may never climb all 14 of the 8,000-meter peaks or immortalize myself in climbing history, but I do plan on engaging with all the world’s exhibits. I shall continue my search for the human spirit, but in a manner that forces me to face every fear across every terrain.
The planet and the life that exists within it have too much to offer for me to focus the entirety of my being on one endeavor. All I have to do is scroll through the photos on national geographic to remind myself of this reality: the world is not small, it is grand and immeasurable. It stretches far beyond the confines of any map that attempts to impose boundaries on it. Infinite encounters with people and places lay in waiting for each individual to explore, regardless of how many may have been there in the past. In one lifetime, I would be lucky to cover even one inch.
And so, with passion and humility I venture out into the awe-inspiring immensity of planet earth to find “the naked soul of man.”

“AKSHAY WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT FEAR” – CAL NEWPORT

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Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences
and find the positive side of our lives. ~ The Dalai Lama