W.I.L.D. Scholarship Recipients

scholarship

It is with great pleasure that I am announcing the first 2 W.I.L.D. Scholarship recipients, Gavrielle Thompson and Kedyn Sierra.

Going on this trip feels so right. I’m ready to soak up all the new knowledge, life lessons, and memories that are on its way. Not only am I stoked for this trip, but I’m overflowing with gratitude for this once in a lifetime opportunity. “ Gavrielle

“I’m excited to be participating on the 30 day NOLS expedition this summer. I hope this experience will give me the opportunity to get closer wildlife and witness breathtaking views. On a more personal note, I hope this chance to experience a new part of the world will give me a new perspective of people and culture.” Kedyn

N.O.L.S. as awarded them both a scholarship so that the funds raised during the W.I.L.D. campaign will go towards supporting these two incredible young people and attend the month-long sea kayaking wilderness camp in Alaska this summer.

“NOLS is excited to support both Kedyn Sierra and Gavrielle Thompson in attending their NOLS Alaska Sea Kayaking courses this summer of 2015. They have demonstrated exceptional merit, and we believe firmly that they will make excellent students this summer. The goal of the NOLS scholarship is to help support students who we believe will make influential and important leaders in their communities and future careers, and who otherwise would not be able to attend. We strongly believe in Kedyn and Gavrielle’s abilities, and are excited to get to know them better this summer.”

A huge thank you to ETC Trips for helping in the process of selection.

UPDATE

I am so proud of Kedyn Sierra, who, thanks to your contributions and support, spent a month sea kayaking with NOLS in Alaska last summer. Please WATCH the video and you will see how the power of nature has shaped this incredible young individual.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”” Dr. Seuss

Bruised & Battered

I often wonder how many expeditions, how many movies, how many books, how many genius ideas or how many dreams almost came to be but never saw the light of day. J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, one of the most successful stories ever written, saw her manuscript refused 12 times. During the five years it took to finish her first novel, between that day on the train when she imagined Harry’s character and that fateful day when finally her book was chosen by a very small publishing house – what motivated her to keep writing, against all logic and financial realities? What motivated her to keep presenting her book, rejection after rejection? She had no money. She lived off social security, saw herself as “the biggest failure”, her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child. What pushes people to give up any sense of security and stability for a quest that makes no sense to anybody other than themselves? What is it that they see, or feel, that is worth risking everything for? Even their relationships with cherished ones. They will lose friendships and money and instead rack up tons of debt, stress and worries. Morgan Spurlock had more than $200.000 in credit card debts before his movie “Super Size Me!” came out! They will have to constantly justify their choice to a world that doesn’t understand. Every day, they will face the judgement of their families, loved ones, and even strangers. Do they need to be crazy? Self centered? Egoistic? Masochistic? Loners? The odds that their efforts will come to fruition are minuscule, and, if by a miracle, they do succeed, they will arrive bruised, battered, and with a sense of disbelief. Having been refused and let down, broken and having fallen so many times, they have come to accept their struggle without ever imagining that making it was any longer possible. I remember reading the story of Edward W. Gillet who kayaked solo his way from San Diego to Hawaii. Within sight of his destination, sixty-three days after leaving the California coast, he was so beaten and disillusioned that he didn’t believe he had actually reached the islands until he literally felt the sand under his feet.

The world of exploration is filled with expeditions that saw their major source of funding disappear on the same week that they were scheduled to leave. Where do people get the energy to keep going? How do you keep believing, when everything you have worked so hard for is crumbling again and again? How do you stay optimistic when you are up to you neck? Or when do you decide that you have had enough? Some projects take one year, others ten years, but many more end up in a dusty corner, simply forgotten. So when do you decide that you have invested too much, lost too much and that it is time to throw the towel and give up?

The truth is that Dreamers can’t be explained. They defy the norms of logic. There is simply no way of making sense of what they do and why they do it. For them, it is an emotional quest, it is in their guts, and in their hearts. They don’t believe in something because of its potential to succeed. They believe in it because it is simply stronger than them. For every time they will fall, they will get up and continue, even if they die trying. They might be told that they have only a 0.001% chance of making it, yet they will discard the remaining 99,99% of improbabilities and hold on to that fraction of a possibility. As a matter of fact, Dreamers tend to think in a binary mode. There are no fractions or percentages, only yes or no, can or can’t. I can climb this mountain or I can’t. I will reach the pole or I won’t. I will survive or I will not. There are no in-betweens.

Sadly, in a world that has become ever more obsessed with numbers and statistics, all we want is to find ways to quantify dreams and determine their potential. Scientists, mathematicians and Hollywood spend millions every year working out the perfect equation that will predict success and minimize the losses. Banks and investors now solely rely on numbers and before you can count on a loan, their computer will have to approve the worthiness of the return. It is really sad to see that our society has come to put so much emphasis on the financial aspect of dreams. What happened to the mystical aspect of dreams? The possibility of breaking new grounds and new frontiers, just for the sake of it, without a dollar sign at the end? What happened to teaching our children the simple notion of following their intuition and to dream the impossible – the “Sky is the Limit”, we used to say! Having a financial return was never a requisite to dream. Why is it so today?

If some of the great explorers were to do today what they did in the past, would Hillary get his funding to climb Everest? Would Columbus get his boats to cross the Atlantic and discover the Americas? Would Scott and Amundsen find the necessary support to explore the South Pole? Would Armstrong have set foot on the moon? Maybe, but unlikely. I do agree that we need to keep in mind the financial aspect, but we have to be careful not to use it as the only measure with which Dreamers are valued.At the end of the day, I want to live in a world where dreams and ideas are encouraged and welcome even if it is only to give people hope and to teach the children that anything is possible!

“Our dreams disturb us because they refuse to pander to our fondest notions of ourselves.  The closer one looks, the more they seem to insist upon a challenging proposition: You must live truthfully.  Right now.  And always.  Few forces in life present, with an equal sense of inevitability, the bare-knuckle facts of who we are, and the demands of what we might become.” Marc Ian Barasch, Founder and Executive Director of the Green World Campaign

Dream Big & Dare to Fail, by friend and fellow explorer Julian Monroe Fisher

The Lack of Imagination

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. “ Henry David Thoreau

It was a beautiful winter day in the Alps. The sun was high, the mountains looked gigantic, the temperature was just right, and deep snow was everywhere. The parents were going to the village and I decided to stay behind with the kids. I figured I could take them out and go for a walk with the dog. We could also find a place and build a castle or dig a snow cave. The last thing I was worried about was to find something to do out there!

When I was a kid, winters were spent outside. The minute I would come back from school, I would slip into my big suit, put my hat, gloves and scarf on and hurry back to my tunnel. Our front yard would get so much snow, that with the cold, we would be able to dig our way into the heart of this tiny cold mountain and make ourselves a cave. My god did I spent so many hours in there! On weekends, we would venture into the woods to play hide and seek. Often, after tracking some animal prints for hours, re-enacting our own version of the Wild Kingdoms, we would reluctantly go back to the house, only to wait for the next morning and go out again. Of course we had television and computers, but playing games that originated from our fascinating imagination was always much more interesting. Whether alone or with others, there was never a shortage of ideas. And those snowball fights were epic!

What I experienced that weekend, though, was sad and tragic. There I was that morning, in the lobby, my jacket on, ready to smell the fresh mountain air. The kids were nowhere to be found. In fact one was at the computer, and the two others watched television. Nobody wanted to go out. Despite the bright sun blasting through the windows, each of them was staring hypnotically into their respective screens. I managed to pull away the one at the computer. The others, too entrenched and blasé gave no sign of even considering the outdoors.

Not even 30 minutes into our walk up the snowpath that I started having this feeling that the child was bored to death. While the dog was having the time of his life, barking at a small block of ice, picking it up and throwing it in the air, the child seemed lost. I took the lead and initiated the laborious task of building a hole. He was happy for no more than 20 minutes before finding himself bored again. Now not even an hour into our winter adventure that he told me that he wanted to go back. The minute that his boots were off and his jacket was on the floor, he went straight back to that computer and stayed there for hours.

What shocked me the most was not their short span of attention but their total lack of creating imaginary worlds. Children today don’t know what to do if it is not given to them. They don’t have the patience nor the ability to dig their way out of boredom. Living in an era of “Helicopter Parenting” everything is done for them. Their after-school schedules are so tightly organized that they don’t have anything to think about. So they move between school, structured activities, television and computer. And since imagination finds its energy when one is alone with his or her thoughts, children unfortunately have seldom time to develop it. As if this was not bad enough, “being alone” today in our culture, is something every one is trying to avoid, at any cost.

In her talk at Ted, “Connected but alone?”, Sherry Turkle talks about how we have come to see being alone as almost a disease or something that needs to be solved. So we solve it by inventing tools that give us the illusion of always being connected and therefore, never alone – social media sites, online video games, and of course the most obvious one, the smart phone. Solitude is such a taboo word that our incapacity of dealing with it pushes us to connect with anything simply to fill that void. When I was younger, these moments when I alone with my thoughts and dreams, when I was left to use my imagination, these were my favorites times. I have spent my entire life making sure never to loose them and to protect them. For me they are my most precious possession. They are my freedom.

Doing some research on the web, I found on Zen Habits… Breathe a post titled The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People. Interestingly enough, being alone is one of the most important aspect of creativity. Here are some quotes from the article:

Doing nothing has a way of synthesizing what is really important in my life and in my work and inspires me beyond measure. When I come back to work I am better equipped to weed out the non-essential stuff and focus on the things I most want to express creatively.” Ali Edwards

“When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.” Mozart

“On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.” Einstein

“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Kafka

“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” Tesla

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Picasso

There is also Richard Louv, author of the Last Child in the Woods, who often talks about the connection between nature and imagination. He argues that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally “scared children straight out of the woods and fields,” while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors “safe” regimented sports over imaginative play. Louv states that this Nature Deficit Disorder has a negative effect on everything from the attention span, stress, creativity, cognitive development, and children’s sense of wonder and connection to the earth.

We are robbing our children from the magic of childhood, turning them into young adults. And the consequences could not be more tragic. For a child, imagination is crucial for dealing with the realities of life. It is a safe world where one can process hard emotions. What else is Dr.Seuss if not a giant repertoire of crazy stories about the hardships of life. Kids need to develop their own “crazy” world. They need to find time where there is only thing left to do, which is to explore their imaginary potential. Let them believe in fairies and the impossible, because at the end of the day, this is where dreams are born.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. “ Michelangelo

Dreams

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”For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” Vincent Van Gogh

It is dark. Absence of colors. Black and white tones. Various shades of grey.  Daylight illuminates the world around us, but the night transforms everything into a monotone landscape. For a moment, I wonder, if actually this seemingly boring reality has a purpose. My eyes pan from left to right trying to find a destination. With no where to go, they are left with one choice – go up. And right there, I understand. We spend our days looking in front of us. Always trying to see what is coming. But the night belongs to dreams and there is only place you can find them – in the Stars. I am curious if this is why in Asia they write from top to bottom, as if to insinuate that everything in life starts with a Dream. My eyes are fixed on this black tapestry made of an incalculable amount of white pinholes. My pupils dilate trying to capture the gargantuesque size of the Universe.  Millions of specks of light, so distant from our planet than their location is measured by the number of years light takes to travel from them to us. Their sight reminds me of the infinite amount of possibilities our world holds. That we still know so little about Life. My thoughts of boredom are long gone now as I lay down on the sand, gazing at a world that is only reachable through my imagination, through my dreams.

Man has been looking at the stars for thousands of years. It has been a source of inspiration, a source of mystery, a source of faith, and a tool for orientation. It also has been a way for us to understand our relationship with Nature, and with Life. Ever since the dawn of humanity, the night sky and Nature have walked hand in hand. Through the ages, from all cultures, every time we raised our eyes to the night sky, we saw animals and mythical creatures. The Zodiac, invented more than 10 000 years ago, depicts our symbiosis with the Universe through images of animals. For centuries, constellations were named after Nature.  It is only in the 1700’s, at the early age of the Industrial Revolution, that we changed our relationship with the Stars. Frenchman Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, famous astronomer, broke all the rules and named all of his discoveries with man-made objects.

In a world where more than half of the population lives in cities, we tend to forget there is even a night sky. Our eyes barely rise above the horizon. Our sense of vertical is developed mainly around tall buildings. And if we do one day find our way to look passed the top of those skyscrapers, we find an almost white canvas with a few sparse bright dots. 

A night sky is a limitless source of creativity and fascination. Like painting by numbers, you trace imaginary lines from star to star, giving life to worlds that know no boundaries. Shooting stars and northern lights, props for magical stories. As much as we learn about the Universe in museum or on television, there is nothing like experiencing the sight of a night sky saturated with stars, the Milky Way casting shadows on the ground – it is overwhelming, it is humbly.

We need never to forget to look up. We need never to forget to dream.