At 19,000 feet on Mt. Chimborazo it was hard for me to breathe. Cold, dizzy, and nauseous, I fought my way, hour after hour, up the icy ridge toward the summit of one of the highest volcanoes on earth. Isolated by the vast, dark expanse of the predawn night, I felt as though I had climbed right out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Soon the snow stopped falling and the clouds retreated as the bitter, cold wind stormed, cutting across my face like a knife. Shivering and exhausted, even my mind began to go numb. I felt like a machine with only enough mental strength to command my legs to keep moving. With the first glow of dawn the harsh, unforgiving landscape began to take shape. My only comfort was the knowledge that soon the sun would rise and with its warmth bring life back to my frozen limbs. Soon I would reach the top and then I could turn around. Nothing else mattered.
Perhaps one of the most impactful questions I have taken the time to consider in my life is why I do the things that I do. For much of my adult life I chased after “adventures” like this one with high hopes of attaining a sense of purpose, achievement and satisfaction. I have sailed across oceans, climbed mountains, trekked through remote jungles, explored ancient cities, and rubbed shoulders with the richest and poorest of the world only to often return unsatisfied and longing for something more.
Lonely, cold and tired that dawn on Chimborazo I began to really consider the motives behind my insatiable lust for adventure and what could possibly drive me to risk my life for something as trivial as reaching the top of a mountain countless others had already climbed. I was fooling myself to believe it was just “for the fun of it” or simply, as Everest explorer George Mallory once said, “because it is there”. In truth, I was mostly driven by an insecure need to be admired, to feed the all-consuming flames of my pride, to maintain my self-made image as “Taylor, the adventurer”. It was not the places or the experiences in themselves that failed to satisfy my deepest longings but the self-centered pursuit of my own glory and a desire to be recognized. This sobering realization brought a subtle shift that has drastically altered the course of my life, certainly for the better.
As I think back on all my wandering adventures, of all the moments when I felt most alive, when I experienced real joy, I have come to realize that it is not the great deeds done or the beautiful places, but the people along the way that have made all the difference. I have discovered that wholeness does not come from our great accomplishments, from wealth, power or the praises of men but from meaningful relationships built on shared experiences with the people that we choose to love.
Even the most miserable circumstances have the potential to become great, even laughable memories when they are shared with a good friend. I have come to believe that true, lasting joy only comes as we selflessly choose to pour ourselves out, as we give generously of our time and resources, and as we use our unique talents and passions to create beautiful, memorable experiences for the benefit of those around us. Meaningful relationships are where the real adventures begin.
By: Taylor Abeel
Taylor Abeel is an an adventurer and outdoorsman, a friend to all and a stranger to none! He lives to explore and discover new things whether it be the subtle taste of Nelson hops in a local craft brew or a remote mountain top on the other side of the world. He strives to take risks, get dirty, play outside often, love liberally, give generously and seek out the good and beautiful in everything and everyone! Follow his link to learn more about Taylor and his work.