When I was a kid, I dreamed of adventure and was captivated by stories of heroes who reached alien places. As I grew up, I was told that was all just fantasy. Older people who claimed wisdom convinced me to spend my time doing things that were not interesting, things that I had to force myself to do.
One thing I am very proud of is that I didn’t quit, and now I can say that I tried their way and am certain of my decision. Three years ago, against the advice of everyone I knew, I left my job and my career to start a company that made it possible for me to follow my dreams. I started to travel the world and made it my goal to make that my living. It has been the most challenging journey of my life, and by far the most rewarding.
Tell us about your current project
Myself and a team of experienced river guides from the Northern Territories of Canada will set out to paddle down 280 miles of the Little and South Nahanni Rivers through Nahanni national park. As the first-ever UNESCO World Heritage site, this park remains as wild as the day it was discovered. The Nahanni River runs through four canyons that reach 3,300 feet in depth and culminate in Virginia Falls; nearly twice the height of Niagara Falls. Because UNESCO regulations prevent construction, the team will complete the journey completely unassisted in one of the most remote territories of the world.
What inspired you to begin this expedition?
I was inspired by the famous book Dangerous River: Adventure on the Nahanni by R. M. Patterson. Our expedition will revisit many of its iconic locations 90 years later.
What do you hope to learn or teach from this experience?
My entire life I was told that adventure was fictional and that work was meant to be unpleasant. One day it just didn’t make sense to me anymore; to be doing something I don’t want to, get treated poorly because of inexperience, and schedule the same vacation time and drive in traffic at the same time as every other poor person convinced of the same. I realized that unless I actually went after what I dreamed of doing, there was no way I was ever going to get close to doing it. Work was just set up that way – you could literally count the days to your promotion, your next raise, and count your “vacation time” – if you weren’t working it anyway.
What I want to show people is that this is possible. It is not easy by any means, but to pursue your passion and make that your life’s mission… It gives you purpose, it makes you fight and you find that fire in you that makes you get up again and again in the face of increasing challenges. It makes you feel alive. And it doesn’t matter how far I get, I want to show people that I’m doing this and they can too. I’m no one special, I’m just some guy who spent his entire life in the classroom. I thought that my life was over and that at the point I was in life there was no way I would ever get to do this, and here I am. One of the most incredible things that has happened as a result of this journey is the touching messages I receive. I have gotten unsolicited thank yous, encouragement, and heartfelt confessions of people who are inspired by what I do. I thank them all individually because I feel like I’m not just doing this for myself, but I am doing this for every person who is watching me. I started to save all those messages and in the most trying times I read them and I feel like I am not just one guy but an army of people.
What would be your advice to someone that wants to take on their own larger-than-life challenge?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are capable of. People set limits on themselves all the time and they feel that everyone else is bound all the same. That is not so, every time that someone tells you you can’t do something, it’s just them projecting – they are telling themselves that they can’t do that thing. I like to say that people who tell you that you can’t do something have trouble spelling the word “I.”
Who is your favorite explorer or adventurer?
I look up to anyone that has ventured beyond their own comfort zone. It is easy to name people that have set human records as the first people to do something, but we forget to include people who broke their own records and faced their own worst fears.
I like to focus on my present journey. One thing I have learned in life is that plans are great, but they are seldom useful since life doesn’t like to follow any rules. I have found that an open mind, an ability to adapt to a situation, and a positive attitude makes for the best experience of this short time we have as conscious beings in this blip of time.
Thanks much to Milo for this time! His expedition is coming up fast – June 18th – and I wish him much luck and safe travels.