I fancy myself an adventure traveler, but the truth is that compared to those serious adventure guys – the fellas who shave at 6 am and have full beards by noon – I don’t know *%$# about how to get from point A to point B. What a bummer to find this out after 28 years of running an adventure travel company.
Though I’ve tracked mountain gorillas in central Africa, spent long days searching for remote, unnamed grizzly bear rivers in British Columbia, and helped develop ecotourism destinations on the coast of Namibia, after one week in the mountains with Olaf Malver I found out that regardless of my experience, I still don’t know how to travel.
Many of our readers know Olaf, our “CEO” (Chief Exploratory Officer) who has a PhD in biochemistry, speaks seven languages, and also happens to have an international law degree. Olaf has achieved many of our planet’s nature-travel “firsts”: he is the first man to circumnavigate South Georgia Island in a kayak, for example, a feat I couldn’t fathom in a million years (which is about how long it would take me to circle that island in a kayak!)
After some meetings in Torino last week I had the chance to join Olaf in traversing Northern Italy’s spectacular Dolomiti Range, one of our planet’s most beautiful places, a seemingly endless massif of snowy peaks, limestone spires and alpine glaciers.
Each morning we donned winter gear and skis and packs and headed out, with dozens of route options in front of us. Olaf would wave his cracked fingers over well-worn lines on a torn-up map, then point to a massive stone mountain and mumble its name (I didn’t say he spoke those languages well!) and mention that we will circle it. He would then fold the map and ski off, with the rest of us chasing his 1985 faded red backpack far ahead of us. This didn’t bother me much, since I had confidence that if I’d just follow him, we’d get where we needed to go. But some of the others in the group wanted to actually know where we were and where we were going, so they asked questions.
It was then that I learned the secret to successful adventure travel, and that is, “Shut up and go!”
I mean, who has time for silly questions about how to get there when the route itself is so beautiful. The truth is that I didn’t care how we got there; I didn’t even care if we got there. Hell, I didn’t even know where “there” was! I spent my days shaking my head at the stunning beauty of the region, sliding into another awe-inducing valley or shadowed canyon, or making our way to the top of another skyscraping peak.
For the first time in my life I did simply “shut up and go.” And that, for me, is a wonderful way to travel.