Oh, the places you'll go

Oh, the places you'll go


Monday, December 4, 2017

Lessons Learned During a Year Abroad

At some point or another, we have all thought about quitting everything and starting a new life elsewhere. At the very least, we have considered going somewhere for an extended period of time to get away from our current realities. Some of us have done it and some of us have not had the capability to do it, but we may always wonder what if we had. There are reasonable dependencies that will not allow for extended travel as we get older; health, kids, mortgage, bills, family, school, work, etc. How many of these could have been diverted at a younger age in order to move away for a brief period in order to embrace new experiences and immerse ourselves in a vast world we will only ever majorly get to experience virtually? What would we learn? Who would we meet? How much would really change about us, our loved ones, or what we leave behind?

Here are a few lessons I have learned from living abroad for a year:

1. When you have a relationship, it's not about you:

Whether it be a friendship, family, or s/o, the bond is developed by putting yourself aside. This can be hard to accomplish because there are expectations, conditionality's, lifestyle differences and personal goals in relationships. If you are going to have any kind of a strong relationship, put yourself aside, as long as you both do that, it will flourish.

2. Meeting people is easy for anyone:

Almost everyone wants to be met by others. The trick is to just be friendly but not overbearing. Ask questions but don't get too personal at first. Don't talk about yourself unless you're asked a question. You will meet some people who only love to talk without listening, but you won't have to deal with that convo for very long if they never ask you any questions. Keep meeting people until you find the right people for dialogue.

3. Don't be afraid of what you don't understand:

Embrace it. Be inquisitive. Inquire information. Ask questions. Try to learn more about said culture, topic, or event. This is how you become a world citizen.

4. When you make a choice, that is your path. Why regret?:

It's funny we can regret decisions made but what if we did the opposite? We could regret that too. Don't regret a decision. It's something you wanted at one time. You have no idea if the outcome of the opposite decision would have been satisfying. Live your life with no ragrets.

5. Even a 5 can pull a 10:

I've witness some amazing things in the past year, but one of the more amazing things was when my average friend pulled a very attractive foreign woman. How? Maybe it was the accent, or his deodorant. None of us really know. But maybe it was something else, maybe some things just aren't normal or meant to be explained with rational thought. Maybe it goes to show that normal can be destroyed by one weird night in small Italian towns. Not everything needs a reason, some things just happen.

6. Millions of problems in the world... You cannot solve them all:

Accept it. You cannot control the world's problems. What you can control is your outlook and your impact on them. Fix yourself and you fix a problem in the world. Michael Jackson telling us that if we want to make the world a better place, we need to look in the mirror, was the most everlasting message we could hear. Focus your efforts inward. Imagine the impact.

7. What you are searching for is internal:

You can go all around the world searching for something you can't describe. If you can't describe it, how can you expect to find it? We tend to believe that if we just keep looking for this mystical meaning, it will appear. The trick is defining meaning. What gives YOU meaning? That's what you are looking for. That answer is internal. The tool to discovering meaning is introspection. Reflect. 

8. Comfort is the enemy of growth:

This has been a self evident lesson throughout the history of humankind. First explorers would have never discovered new lands without embracing that curiosity and fear of the unknown. First inventors would have never created anything useful without attempting something they did not fully understand. If anyone expects to grow, they must live comfortably outside of their comfort zones by embracing that which scares them.

9. If you want great, sacrifice good: 

The good of the moment is so very tempting and easy to absorb and take in. The problem is that if you accept good of the moment, you will sacrifice the great of appreciation. In this instant gratification life we live, it is easy to be taken away by moments or opportunities that are just good. The more we accept the good moment, the less likely we are to appreciate the great ones. Sacrifice the good for great.

10. Chapters in life consist of transcending mindsets:

The discovery of neuroplasticity tells us that learning continues until death or disability. By knowing this, we can accept things we cannot change and move past them towards a mindset that continues to propel us forward. When you move past stale and old mindsets that set you back, you transcend into a new way of looking at life, leaving an old chapter behind, learning from it, and moving ever consciously into a new chapter. Don't get stuck on an old chapter, continue reading your journey forward.

These are just a few short lessons I have learned and considered on this adventure of travel and exploration. This adventure is one chapter in a long and rewarding book. The beauty in reading books, is not the beginning or the end, but it is the journey along the way. The journey of the book is where the appreciation, the lessons, the adventure, and the greatness of the story will always remain. Continue to fill your journey with adventure! What content have you filled your book with? What content will you choose to fill it with from here on out? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being Alone is OK

Recently I met a nice attractive female who I planned to go on a date with. We arranged a day to go walk her bosses puppies on a trail. The day came and I was feeling "too tired" after a day of festing, so I took a rain check. A few days later, when we were supposed to go, I ditched again after work. We rescheduled. That day came around and I felt no desire to go on a date with this individual. Not because she isn't a good potential mate/date, but because I am in no stable place to date at this time. In a few months, I will be moving away and I will have to say goodbye to another good girl. I would rather not waste my time or hers. It is better for me to stay completely single and selfish focusing on myself until I am in a place where I can provide for a mate.

I imagine many millennial's may have similar experiences. Comment below.

Looking Back

I have consistently dated girls since I was about 16-17 years old. Around that age I discovered that my physical appearance was very important in attracting females. I became "popular" because I stayed physically fit, oh and my parents would go out of town so I would throw parties. Yay for utility friendships. I realize now that I attracted females, but I was never seriously trying to date, sometimes I just fell into it because the women were the pursuers. In doing so, I ended up breaking a lot of hearts and never being satisfied with a potential mate because I didn't really know what the hell I was doing. Even when I was consistently dating, I always felt that something was missing. What was it? I ask that in retrospect in order to understand and reflect on the situation.

I now realize that I was what was missing. I never truly engaged who I was dating. I was not present in all of the relationships I pursued. I was only half in/ half out on most of my relationships. Up until a particular one happened and I was totally involved. I actually felt true feelings for an organic relationship and I was so confused, because feelings are confusing if you have never had them for someone and then you realize BAM, you love someone. It is strange. Well, long story short; I really fucked that one up. Not only did I crush the girl I was involved with, but I was absolutely devastated. I never even got to say those three little words. Looking back, it wasn't that serious of a mistake, but I definitely could have done something different, like not told the truth, right? Just kidding, I may do some messed up things sometimes, but you won't catch me lying about them. A realistic change would be to not consume as much alcohol as I did and the problem is solved.

I am over this girl, and she is currently happily married. I am very happy for her. From that moment in life until the past few years, I have been completely hard on and critical of myself. Often times, this critical analysis is projected onto others and I hold them to the same standards I hold myself, and this is not at all fair. I make it very difficult for myself to develop organic relationships because I am hard on myself. I have recently learned to relax this standard, but old habits die hard. It is a work in progress.

During this time from my first heart break to recent years, I would bring some girls close enough to shut them down hard because I was lonely and I felt as if I had someone in my life then I would feel better about the past heartbreak. I never took the time to assess myself and the actual situation at hand. So I continued to try to bring girls just close enough, but not too close because I did not want to, for lack of better words, fuck shit up.

So, can you guess what happened?

I brought a few girls close. And you could say I fucked shit up. With every single one. Maybe not completely, but for the most part, my insecurities rubbed off on them and I ruined a potentially blossoming relationship because I never took the time to do some introspection and provide clarity as to why I act the way I act. I never took the time to truly provide myself with crucial alone time that would allow me to live without confusing feelings and discover what I am truly made of in order to provide more for someone else.

The most recent relationship I was in started off shortly after the one I ruined due to a bad decision, and it was a roller coaster from the start. We were on and off, up and down, stop and go. All because of me. I was the runner, her, the chaser. I was never satisfied and she just wanted me. Our love started off toxic from the beginning and it was because I was insecure. Insecure because I never understood why I was insecure. Insecure because I never took the time to reflect on mistakes and understand what I needed to do to ensure it would never happen again. I simply jumped into something that made me feel wanted and comfortable. Ultimately, our relationship ended after years of being on and off. After years of some good times, but also years of heartbreak and disappointment at my hand. After years of destroying each other. After years of repeating the same things over and over and feeling absolutely insane. But isn't that what love is? Am I being hard on myself? Maybe a little, but looking back, I fucking sucked, but I had found a girl who always put up with my insecurities out of pure desire for my happiness and she enabled me from advancing past this insecurity because she never held me accountable for my actions, so I would do like any addict does and repeat them, over and over again. I literally had to physically leave home in order to stop the downward spiral and toxic cycle that was us. I had to remove myself from her life if I wanted her to be happy because for whatever reason, I was not capable. Sometimes love just isn't enough in order to make a relationship work. Then comes the cliché question; what is love?

Looking Present

Flash forward to age 28, I am realizing it is okay to take time, date no one, and be truly alone. Of course friendships are welcomed and encouraged, but dating is no longer a necessity. By doing this, I am able to discover more about myself without feeling the need to have a mate in order to feel complete in life. It is okay to be alone. In doing so, an individual can be an individual. You can learn an abundance of information about yourself by not having a S/O in your life. I am not saying that dating is bad at all. I find it very fun and entertaining. I am saying that if you are wondering why it never works out with someone, or you just aren't satisfied with anyone or you are insecure about something, then it would benefit you to take a few months to find out what you can do on your own. I encourage things like reflection and understanding, writing, going on a solo trip, living abroad, getting into nature, putting your phone down, reading more, getting in touch with old friends, spending time with your family, getting in the best shape of your life, developing new hobbies, developing a morning routine, advancing in your career, volunteering, setting challenges for yourself, learning about your family history, learning new habits, learning how to fix something that breaks, etc. I could go on and on. But, when you start to do things on your own, and get away from toxic relationships (that you or others have caused), you begin to see them for what they were; a lesson. A lesson that teaches you the most valuable life lessons. Life lessons that hurt to think about, hurt to realize, but the hurt allows for healing and moving on. You might even find yourself stumbling across this mythical "soul mate" that many people believe exists. I am slightly skeptical.

Looking Forward

Now where does one go when they realize they need to be alone for a while? What is there to live for if not for someone else? How about the short and obvious answer; yourself. Get away from others. Meet new people. Embarrass yourself. Learn more. BE SELFISH! I encourage being selfish when you are alone and discovering more about yourself. This selfishness will allow you to take time learning more, when you learn more, you are actually building yourself up for your future. Not only are you building your future day in and day out with grinding life lessons, but you are creating space for your future potential mate. You are allowing yourself to understand your capabilities so you know what you are capable of providing for someone in the future. You are discovering what you want in your life, and what you are willing to compromise in order to provide for that mate. By being selfish now, you are creating space to be selfless later.

I had a friend ask me recently, "But, don't you want to get married?"

To which I responded, "If I get married, then I get married and have a family, if not then I travel more and help people in need." Either way is a win-win.

This is the chapter of my life where I am completely fine with being alone. I am discovering a plethora of information about myself. I am learning how to organize it in order to use it for my future. I am learning what I love to do. I am attempting to do things I have never done before. I am putting my ego aside and admitting I do not know it all, but I want to learn more. I want to learn more for myself, and for the future I am creating space for. I know sometimes it is a struggle, but there is strength in the discovery. Strength in the struggle...and low key, I am loving every minute of it.

One last thing: I encourage you to never settle. Compromise is good, but never ever EVER settle.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Unchained; Climbing to the Top of Germany

Do I have a death wish? Maybe.

"You're crazy." "That's stupid." "How dumb." "It looked beautiful though." Are all comments I heard when I told the story. Some people think I am a little insane, and I admit, I am. But in reality and opposition to a death wish, I am simply looking for ways to feel alive.

I reached the summit of 4 gruesome mountains in the past 2 days via challenging/risky routes and I have never felt more exhilarated, blissful, or ecstatic. Was it dangerous? Hell yes, and the adrenaline rush was worth every minute.

Mom, don't read this.

I climbed the tallest mountain in Germany via a Kettersteig Level C route without a harness (This essentially means you should have a harness and plan on chaining in in order to have insurance, otherwise a slip most likely means bye-bye). Trust me, this wasn't the plan, but I lived and I discovered a new German friend and hobby.
Hell Valley
I arrived at the end of the no gear hiking part of Hell Valley, aka Hollental, at 12:30pm. This is the part where you go from hiking to mountaineering. The part that separates the men from the boys. So to say. I noticed a young man staring up at the mountain assessing the situation, which was my full intention for the day. I just wanted to do a little hike, get some pics, and head back down, since I didn't have a harness.

They say a man doesn't really know what he is made of until he is thrown in the ring and tested out. Or maybe they don't say that and I made it up, either way, I was about to discover a lot more about my capabilities.

I began chatting with the young Ukrainian and I come to find out he didn't have a harness either and he just wanted to see if he might be able to head up to the Zugspitze this way. We both sat and stared up for what seemed like a very long time. We watched as little specks of people moved their way up, clipped in, clipped in, moved over, clip out, clip out, clip in, clip in, move, repeat. Until they got to a point where we could no longer see them. As they disappear, another man, roughly my age, in a bro tank comes up from behind us and starts talking to us. He realizes I'm American and begins chatting us up in English, as he puts on his harness.

"Is this route really difficult?" I ask.
"Well, it depends on your endurance and level of skill." He replies.

Obvious common answer I could have told myself. I would soon learn this guy's name to be Rob, and he didn't fully prepare for this adventure either, only his lack of preparation was minuscule compared to mine.

"Well, good luck." He says as he takes off up the ladder that scales straight up the mountainside. He's super fast too, hooking in and out and moving vertically to a section that takes him horizontally across the mountain, standing on nothing but an edge and holding onto a steel cable.

Now I had never done a hike or climb like this, so I admit I was incredibly intimidated as I stared up at him and the mountain. It looked so fun though, and I knew it would be incredibly easy with a harness and I would basically fly up the mountain.

"Are you going to do it?" Asks the Ukrainian.
"Well, I didn't come this far to turn back." I reply. We both laugh, easing the tension.

Now I realize I have to go, but if I do, this is the point of no return. I have no idea how difficult this gets. I know I am very physically capable and my endurance is through the roof, but not having that safety net could be crucial to success.

I begin up the ladder.

Rob clipping in and out across the mountainside

After you get up the ladder and over a horizontal part, you come to a mountainside that has these steel pegs protruding from the mountain as you grip the steel cable and shimmy over. Slipping here would certainly mean a long tumble to the afterlife. Although it was pretty natural and easy to me, I always had it in my mind that I needed to concentrate and not get too confident.

Me getting cocky before a harder part came
After you get pass this part, you continue on and upwards. The cables are sometimes there and sometimes not as you pass over giant boulder and scramble up hill sides. I thought the worst part was behind me, but I was incredibly and sorely mistaken.
After about an hour of hiking and scrambling, I reach a waterfall area where Rob is taking pictures. No idea how long he was there but he is about to leave as I am finishing a handful of trail mix.

"Where's the Ukrainian?" He asks.

We both laugh. Suddenly I realize I left him way back there but I knew he made it across the mountainside. Rob and I start chatting a bit about random things and we both admit we don't know how difficult this gets but we proceed on. The thrill of the unknown compels us forward as we continue our ascent toward a giant glacier.

I admit I am in very good shape, but Rob's pace is incredibly fast. My heart is beating, my legs are burning, sweat is dripping and still I proceed and push on, refusing to request him to stop since we technically aren't hiking together anyways, but we sort of are.I let him borrow one of my hiking poles and he retorted with saying he always had too much pride to give them a shot, after 30 minutes, he admitted he liked it. I would soon come to find out Rob is a marathon runner, and then it was obvious why his endurance was so fast. We arrive at the glacier at 3:00pm.

We are hiking on a giant glacier but the most frozen part is straight ahead.
Notice the snow and ice from the glacier going up the mountain. The incline was insanely steep. We take a short rest here. As I am pulling out my crampons (these spikes that go around your boots to make it easier to walk on ice) Rob says he doesn't have any. I give him the same weary look he gave me when I told him I didn't have a harness. He reassures me it will be fine and he will get up the glacier.

As we are eating trail mix and sipping water, we notice the couple in front of us with a lot of gear. They look like they are about to hike Everest. Rob and I glance at each other and snicker at how much gear they have. Are we vastly under prepared or are they over prepared? All I brought was hiking poles, a helmet, crampons, and food. They brought a rescue team with a 100 foot rope and all!

We pass the couple and begin our way up. The trek up is a grueling and slow process. One foot forward, then the other, inching along as you barely get anywhere. The couple we passed eventually overtakes us and passes us and then we get to a point where Rob can't move. He tries to go up, but without crampons, he slips back down. He has 2 choices: give up and attempt to slide back down or try to continue struggling upward, which is not working. The couple, that we somewhat mocked, stops and asks Rob if he is okay. Rob says no he can't move. The mountain man German guy whips out his 100 ft rope and throws it to Rob and latches it to his waste and essentially pulls Rob the rest of the way up the freakin glacier. How much irony is this! We would laugh very hard at this later on.

Rob waiting on the mountain rope man
As we reach the end of the glacier. We laugh with mountain man and his S/O, then I notice there is no trail, just a steel cable going straight up the mountain for 25 feet. Oh, great, I think. It is at this very moment I ask myself, "What the f*$k have you gotten yourself into?"

"I don't have a harness." I say to mountain man and his S/O.
Rob clipping in and heading across the mountain ledge
"WHAT!" Says the woman.

She turns, says some things in German to mountain man to which I translate as "Wow, what a day, one of them doesn't have crampons, and the other idiot has no harness!" They laugh, Rob laughs, I laugh but I am not laughing because it's funny.

"Are you a good climber?" Asks mountain man. I shrug my shoulders and mutter something meaning 'We are about to find out'.

I begin up the mountainside. In order to begin this part you put your legs on the mountain and pull yourself up the mountain by the cable. You get to a part where you shimmy over horizontally and across a boulder while, like earlier, holding onto the cable as your feet are barely on a mountain ledge. The picture to the right will give you an idea of how the next 2 hours went.

About an hour into complete focus on my next move, I look down. Mistake. My hands get clammy, my heart starts pumping, my mind starts racing, my thoughts go wild and I curse myself for how much an idiot I am. I am going to die on this mountain because of a bad choice to be risky and adventurous. An anxiety attack right now would mean death.

Breathe. 10 seconds goes by, and another voice emerges.

"Would you shut the hell up? You are on a mountain and falling is imminent death, you got yourself into this situation because you love adventure. Now get yourself out. You know you are strong and this is a challenge but if it wasn't challenging then it wouldn't be rewarding. Now shut your mind down, focus on the present moment and take each step carefully as you ascend to the top of this mountain." I relax and focus. At one point I hooked my elbow in tight and snapped a selfie:
Good decision selfie
We go as slow as we need up each mountain edge. Grab, pull, step, move hand, grab, pull, step, move hand, repeat. Slowly moving up, we have been able to see the peak since the glacier, but now it looks in good view as we edge closer. Each move testing my body and pushing my mental capability to the max. If I live, then I am going to purchase a harness.

After what seems like an eternity of exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping adventure, we summit at 5:30pm! And of course, we have a beer at the top... and it tastes like sweet sweet heaven poured into a fine crystal glass ball that tells me the future is bright and tastes like gold.
Tallest point in Germany
Honestly, I would not have done this if Rob had not come by when he did. I was prepared to turn around and live to fight another day, but something compelled me to push forward. He had mentioned it was a "C-level Klettersteig", which means it's intermediate. The scale goes from A-G. I wanted a challenge, and I found one, even though I was stubborn, stupid, dumb, risky, idiotic, and whatever you want to call it, I rose to the occasion and discovered what I was made of. We both learned that maybe we should prepare a bit better next time. I wonder now though, would I have appreciated it as much if my life wasn't on the line for it? Needless to say, I believe I found a new hobby.

Rob and I decided to get a beer when we finished, and we made plans to go for another Klettersteig hike the very next day. It was only an A-B level, but it was along the Karwendel mountain range ridge that runs between the Austrian/Germany border. It was no less challenging and an absolutely satisfying and stunning adventure. I see more Klettersteig hikes in the near future. Stay tuned.
Germany Side

Austria Side
On the ridge/border