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Monday
Jan092012

180 Degrees

“Someone who is now long dead once wrote: the world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page. What no one tells you is that the book is no easy read. There’s one thing that I can say, whatever it is that you are looking for—beauty, salvation, enlightenment, danger, or just to disappear—this will only be a fraction of what you find. I’m just trying to read the whole book.”
-Sipping Jet streams

Sometimes I just want to walk away from it all; shattering the mold that deftly defines the upward path that my middle class, suburban, upbringing silently pressures me to subscribe to.  Having spent the better part of the last five years living in bi-annual lifestyle contradictions in various locations around the world, I have found myself with copious amounts of time to ponder the following question: What moments in my young life have truly made me feel alive? Frequent bouts of boredom, contrasted with the dangerous trappings of nation building conflicts, and overexposure to extreme poverty tend to manufacture these types of self reflected musings. The contradictions are evident on my mental bookshelf of “life plans” with “Plan A: Intellectual Pursuits and Fiscal Security” living right next to “Plan B: Buy a Sailboat and Head South”. 

My occupationally induced periods of self reflection have led me to conclude that the answers to my question, in my mind, are the moments infused with a travel induced sense of adventure. I have come to find the same type of “alive” feeling rolling down the streets of a Baghdad slum as I have cliff jumping on the Italian Riviera. Call it man’s inherent, soulful curiosity for all that this world has to offer, but nothing makes me feel more alive than a loose plan, a new destination, or the life experience that getting intimately close to another’s culture provides. Good, bad, and the ugly. Maybe this is why I so often feel the pull of the family, love, and relationships that this life has so fortunately brought my way, in direct competition with the urge to strap a surfboard to a beat up van, and navigate the Pan American Highway to its end 6,000 miles south of San Francisco.

Yet this is exactly what best friends Yvon Chouinard, and Doug Tompkins, of Patagonia and The North Face fame did in a 1968 expedition of un-surfed coastlines and untouched mountain ranges to the Patagonia region of Chile. In 1999, Jeff Johnson, a young adventurer from California discovered the previously lost footage of their trip and spent the next decade dreaming of following in their footsteps. In 2007, Jeff put his life on hold to fulfill this dream. Hitching a ride on a boat sailing south from Mexico to Patagonia, Jeff gets temporarily ship wrecked off the coast of Easter Island where him and the crew proceed to spend their days surfing and repairing the broken mast. Eventually making it to Chile, Jeff links up with Chouinard and Tompkins in an attempt to re-create their ascent of Cerro Corcovado.  

All of this is chronicled in the documentary film, “180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless”.

The documentary’s main message is intended to be a cautionary tale of the effects modern man is having on naturally raw areas such as Patagonia, as well as Chouinard and Tompkins efforts to preserve it. However, what “180 Degrees South” serves to remind and inspire in me is to continue striving to fill my life with those experiences that make me feel “alive”. We all have our obligations to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, however I urge you to watch “180 Degrees South” and break the mold. Imagine a year of adventures envisioned in your own sense of the word's meaning. With each passing mile, you will trade Tweets, texts, tea parties, occupations and all the background noise of modern America for a renewed sense of life and the satisfaction that comes with attempting to “read the whole book”.

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