It’s been one week now since I scrambled up rocks with 3000 meter sheer drops; hiked up 35 degree snowy inclines, slipping and sliding all the way; skirted crevasses
partially hidden under loose snow; and clinged to rocky cliffs with my fingers and toes. As I prepared for my trip to Mont Blanc and all throughout the actual adventure I kept asking myself why the heck I was doing it. Deep down I knew there was a reason I had made my reservations to go on this perilous journey. There was a logic somewhere inside of me to do crazy things. Now that I’m back on solid ground in the midst of my children on the shores of the Nile, I think I understand why I do these things and why other people choose to do them as well.
- The Adrenaline Fix
It is painfully clear that I have become addicted to adrenaline. I have noticed that I am more emotionally satisfied all throughout the process of preparing for an adventure and engaging in one than I am when I don’t have an adventure in line on my short-term agenda. No matter how wound up I get before or during a climb, a dive, or what have you, that feeling is actually one that my body seems to crave. The adrenaline fix lasts for a maximum of two days after an adventure has ended. My body then starts to feel let down. My mind then immediately goes into planning mode to figure out how to get my next fix. I was smart enough to realize this before I went on my trip to Mont Blanc. I thus have a diving trip scheduled for next weekend and I now have an Egyptian hike scheduled with friends a month from now. These are small adrenaline fixes but they help. It’s my mind’s job now to plan for my next big adventure.
2. Giving a Semblance of Sanity to Everyday Life
I’ll bet I’m not the only person who feels that the fast-paced lives we live in the 21st Century can make one go crazy. Stress levels are constantly high as we struggle with careers (sometimes more than one job), children, and extended families. In a city like Cairo we do this in the midst of crazy 24-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic. After attempting to summit Mont Blanc and failing, I climbed the via ferrata: a sheer cliff equipped with cables and small metal foot and hand holds. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but kept asking out loud why people do crazy things like this. The person from our climbing group who was right behind me told me I’d know when we were done. The day after, I rejoined my mother, sister and children who were touring Italy together while I was climbing. Without getting into details that will surely upset family members (it really could be told as a hilarious story, though), let’s just say that I was suddenly immersed into family craziness. After doing something as crazy as climbing the via ferrata, the family craziness did not seem as crazy as it would have normally seemed to me. I realized that one reason I do crazy things is that it gives the rest of my crazy, stressful life a semblance of sanity by comparison.
3. To Meditate
Whether it’s putting one foot in front of the other to climb a mountain, feeling the rock carefully to get a strong hold, or breathing in and out regularly on a deep dive, crazy things require a degree of focus and concentration one does not experience in other facets of life. When I climb a mountain, the only thing on my mind is willing my right leg to rise, move forward a few inches, and settle on the ground followed by willing my left leg to then do the same. The result is a complete emptying of the mind except for that one repetitive motion. Crazy things are the soul’s equivalent of a colonic cleanse, so to speak.
4. To Admire God’s Creation
I am fed up with cities. I am downright, wholeheartedly fed up with them. They are for the most part ugly concrete jungles made by people who can only be described asmad cavemen who put no thought to aesthetics or quality of life. And with the McEra of globalization fully upon us, all cities look dreadfully alike. It is only when I get out of a city that my soul feels whole again. The wonders of God’s creation are still out there. You must travel far and wide to find them. You must risk your lives sometimes, battle 60km/hour winds, climb slippery slopes, and jump from airplanes, but they are out there, goshdarnit! And man oh man do they deserve the trouble it takes to get to them. No words can describe the beauty of God’s creation. No pictures can give them justice. No videos can transmit the sounds and smells of a mountain. It must be experienced to truly understand why people do crazy things to get to them.
5. Because It Is There
Vasyl Zhygalo, one of the Mont Blanc climbers in my group from the Ukraine, said that the reason he does crazy things is simply because it is there to be done. I think this is an advanced stage of craziness I have yet to reach. It is a stage when crazy activities become a normal part of one’s existence for a long period of time: “It’s there. I must do it.” It is a stage of craziness beyond the need for an adrenaline fix. It is when the adrenaline must dance through the veins continuously for one’s survival. It is when the eyes can no longer bear to behold concrete jungles and the ears cannot stand to hear the constant putt-putting of cars. It is when soul cleansing and meditation need to be done along a continuum and not just when circumstances allow. It is when our daily lives have become so insane that our only refuge is the sanity of doing crazy things.
Lovely post. Especially the last paragraph… and especially.. “when the adrenaline must dance through the veins continuously”
”Because I can” the reason for doing so many things, sane or insane.
I’m in utter awe of your attempt to climb Mont Blanc.
Been reading your stuff for a while (twitter and blog) and have wanted to connect with you. Not really a public forum person, so I’m kind of silent on that front, but would really really appreciate it if you could send me an email I can contact you on.
my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Very true, giving sanity to a crazy life. Good reasons.
And I couldn’t agree more about the cities as ugly man made jungles. I hate them.
You know, I think if I taste this adventurous life, I would find it hard to live with daily – horrible – life. I would really long to live in the wild. I already do. This modern life is so discouraging for many of our natural drives. We need to get a real life!
I am happy to read many of your blogs and I found you both as rational and religious infected by a travel virus like me. We met in Morocco and had planned about organising interreligious and intercultural tours. I am coming to Egypt, Jordan and Israel, our Holy Land. Also I am organsing trips to India!
Would like to reconnect with you once again.
with best regards