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It is always refreshing to find people who share our ways of thinking, of seeing the world, and feel it. It gives us a feeling of not being alone doing what many people call “Crazy things”. People who have quit their jobs to be volunteers in Africa, dropped out school to start their own company, young people who leave home without knowing where to go or what they will do to survive. All of them have been called crazy. Always asked to myself what leads us to follow these paths? What drives us out of our comfort zone? Why we leave the house?
Ben Saunders became the youngest person to explore the North Pole alone over the Arctic Ocean in 2004. And in these 10 minutes TEDtalk he found the perfect words to describe what most “crazy people” feel (and often tried to explain with frustration to the people who are waiting at home). Perhaps these are the words you need to hear to get out in the world.
Ben started his speech with a little story about George Mallory Lee, a missing climber in 1942 while trying to climb Mount Everest. He responded in a very particular way the question: “Why climbing Mount Everest?”
“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this: What is the use of climbing Mt. Everest? And my answer must at once be, it is no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation, but otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, and not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. So it is no use. If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy, and joy, after all, is the end of life. We don’t live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means, and that is what life is for.”
Of course I never tried to climb Mount Everest, or crossed the North Pole on foot, but leaving home to live in another country is quite an adventure and walking into the unknown, and as anyone who has already made one of these “crazy things” you know that not everything is joy as George said. Difficult times are always on the horizon. Panic and fear will seize you in different situations, you´ll have butterflies in your stomach wondering what will happen the next minute, so then, why we like to expose ourselves to these situations?
Like Ben, I believe that despite the difficult and negative moments of each adventure, there will always be a situation, a moment, a person or an event that will make your trip a “unique experience.”
For Ben, was to see how the cover of Arctic sea ice broke up, moved and froze repeatedly during his walk. Something he describes thus:
“No one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the views, the vistas, that I saw for 10 weeks. And that, I guess, is probably the finest argument for leaving the house. I can try to tell you what it was like, but you’ll never know what it was like, and the more I try to explain that I felt lonely, I was the only human being in 5.4 million square-miles, it was cold, nearly minus 75 with windchill on a bad day, the more words fall short, and I’m unable to do it justice. And it seems to me, therefore, that the doing, you know, to try to experience, to engage, to endeavor, rather than to watch and to wonder, that’s where the real mean of life is to be found, the juice that we can suck out of our hours and days.”
You may have tried to explain to your family and friends how was that backpack trip that you did through Latin America or the months that you lived in a small town in Europe, isn´t? I believe you understand what Ben is talking about. Traveling is a personal experience, as well as the changes that happen inside of you are unique. You will hardly find someone who can understand 100% how you life changed after those trips.
Thus, people will continue to call you “crazy”, and questioning about your decisions about changing will come, as well as he said: “Our lives today are safer and more comfortable than ever. Certainly there is not much incentive for explorers now”. So, why we bother leaving the house and being part of that bunch of “crazy people”?
I like to believe that people like us, are ambitious and dreamy and not “nonconformist “, as people have called me repeatedly. When things start to get calm and quiet, we need a new challenge, a new adventure, even though we know it will be difficult, that not everything will work out.
Only travelers know: the greatest reward of these challenges is learning and accelerated growth. Something that Ben summarize at the end of his talk:
“…And yet, if I’ve learned anything in nearly 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it is that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and from challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown. In life, we all have tempests to ride and poles to walk to, and I think metaphorically speaking, at least, we could all benefit from getting outside the house a little more often, if only we could summon up the courage. I certainly would implore you to open the door just a little bit and take a look at what’s outside”
I take the words of Ben as mine and I hope that with this, you gather the courage you need to open the door of your house and get out of your comfort zone.
Here is the complete video.