A couple weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk to a middle school journalism class on my work as a freelance writer. It was a time not only that I got to reflect on my past and development, but to inspire a group of extremely bright children to follow their passion in a way that’s innovative and dynamic. While today’s post is about my story, this is for the children of Edison Park in Miami, Florida, in hopes that it will help them find their voice in an ever-changing journalism world.
How do you define your passion?
Are you a hiker, climber, skier, and mountaineer? Or do you simply wrap them under “adventurer” and “outdoor enthusiast”?
What experience and what at what level of mastery are you allowed to proclaim that title?
A few days before Christmas, I was in a Seattle coffee shop with my friend, Beth (of 3 Up Adventures) and a question came up that I hadn’t thought of before:
What am I?
I consider myself a climber overall because I’ve put passion and knowledge into my practice. Do I have the right to call myself an “alpinist” if I haven’t achieved the mastery of the sport but I put my whole heart into my development?
This isn’t about assigning a name or a title. An adventurer is “a person who enjoys or seeks adventure.” This about using outdoor experiences to define one-selfs abilities and passions.
So what is in a name?
To everyone who supported Mike Off The Map in 2014, thank you for your support, for the readership, for making these adventures and these experiences real. We’ve already started planning big for the next year, and in the next few months, I’ll be announcing several big surprises and a “secret project” that I aim to fulfill next summer. Keep dreaming and keep living big.
I was only 15 minutes from the summit. That’s what those two other guys we had passed had told me. In the faint distance, between a swirling hurricane of ice, the wind knocking me off my feet, and my ice axe disappearing into an abyss of endless powder, was the summit ridge. But I knew our location was the end of the line. In my head, I was terrified. I couldn’t see how far I was from careening off the edge of the trail, but I was putting all my might forward to persevere. That’s when our climb leader made the call:
We’re turning around.
I felt the judgmental eyes of my teammates, the ones who had been going strong, and here I am. The rookie. The one that ended our climb. That was story of my first attempt on Rainier in May of 2012. It was my first brush with what is an unfortunate, but necessary consequence of our work.
Failure is what no-one likes to talk about. The stories people love are about the successes, not the “almost made it”. While we live to fight another day, those lost moments, those last steps, and those small factors that can make or break an objective will drive an adventurer mad with passion and wanting. We have to fail in order to move forward. While I love talking about majestic windswept summits, smiles from the top, and celebratory moments, I’m going to explore the other side. The stories that have to be heard. The failures.
If there is one item in my closet that I cherish above all others, its my collection of puffy jackets. Whether I’m on a cold belay ledge, snowshoeing through the backcountry, or commuting to work on cold, short, November Seattle days, my puffys keep me toasty and dry all day long.
When the North Face told us they were sending their Thermoball Jacket to take on the last of the seasons high mountain adventures, I was stoked. It’s a jacket that so far I had only heard good things about, and as we traversed a long, windy ridge in Central Washington, it held up to its reputation.
What makes the Thermoball such a coveted piece of my collection?
On October 28, 2011, sitting in the library during a class break in my university, I launched Mike Off The Map. When I first started writing, it was meant to be a chronicle of my adventures and my travels. It was a simple travel blog that I didn’t think anyone would read and would be lost a few months later in a sea of experienced and professional bloggers.
When I started writing, I never thought about how much potential it had. I didn’t realize at the time that the site would lead me to some of my closest friends, or that instead of just typing out ideas for adventures, it would be the reason that I travel and explore. It’s taken me from a glacier in Alaska, the depths of the Everglades, and the summit of Rainier, sometimes if only to go looking for a story. In the end, and most importantly, I never imagined it would inspire others, to the point where I could be recognized in the middle of the Utah desert.
Mike Off The Map has defined my life.
I could sit here and recount how I found my voice, or how the blog encouraged my move to the Northwest, or the evolution from a Southeast boy who’d been climbing just over a year, to living a dream life of travel and adventure.
But I’m not good at patting myself on the back.
Instead I want to say thank you. Thank you to the outdoor writers, adventurers, and travel bloggers, who accepted me into the community. Thank you to my friends and my editors who gave me the opportunity to hone my craft, allowed me to post articles, and sent me biting critiques so that I’m forced to challenge myself and look always take my writing one step further. Thank you to the wonderful companies who I’ve had the honor of working with, and for lending me the gear to always search for wilder places and push my dreams forward. Finally, thank you to the readers. Thank you for coming to my site, sharing my stories, and encouraging the search for adventure, no matter where it is.
I don’t write on the site for myself anymore. I write it with a mission in mind: We’re all capable of looking for adventure and pushing our comfort zone to its limit. The world is meant for exploring, whether its in the mountains, on the trail, across the river, or on the faces of cliffs. Put words into motion, dream big, and travel far.
Thank you again for your undying support.