Sunday, February 8, 2015

Being Outdoorsy and 180 Degrees South

I've never considered myself an outdoorsy person. I'm not a fan of bugs, I'm allergic to pollen, and the last time I went camping was back in junior high with a friend's family (and even then it was in an RV). My brother has always been the outdoorsy one. He inherited my dad's love of the outdoors and I inherited my mom's love of electricity and running water. I don't think anyone believes I could survive going on my own adventure, especially me, and that's exactly why I want to. I want to be tough enough to stop letting all the little things get to me and start enjoying what's outside my window. I don't want to be afraid of the world.

For about a year now I've increasingly felt this desire to be more "outdoorsy." I don't exactly know what I mean by that other than being someone who enjoys spending time outside. My eyes are set on anything that has to do with going on an adventure; traveling, getting out of my comfort zone and going out into nature, whether that's hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, or just going out for a nice bike ride in the fresh air.

Lately I feel like my soul has been craving mountains. I close my eyes and all I can see are trees and lakes settled below giant rock faces. Snow topped natural masterpieces demanding attention from those below. This is not something I've thought of my entire life. Mountains aren't a dream that I've been chasing and climbing for years, but a more recent pull. Suddenly, everywhere I look are pictures of nature like I've never seen it before. Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram seem to all at once be flooded with beautiful rock formations. I'm jealous that everyone else seems to have answered the mountains when they've called. I wish I had been able to appreciate it more when I was ten on our family vacation across the northern United States.

While searching through Netflix last week I found a movie called 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless. The film follows Jeff Johnson on the trip of his life to Patagonia, Chile. A trip that was inspired by Doug Tompkins and Yvon Chouinard's adventure there in 1968. I could not get over how beautiful the film was. Watching the movie didn't satisfy my cravings for mountains, but only left me wanting more. If you're looking for the definition of outdoorsy, I think this is where you'd find it. The movie was a feast for the eyes, as well as a history lesson. Listening to the two men speak about the land and their beliefs on people's role in nature preservation, was very inspiring. I learned from chats with my great grandma that there's nothing better than listening to the ideas of individuals who have been around longer than you. Those people have experienced the world from a different angle and can offer all sorts of wisdom. The film didn't come off, like some documentaries do, as a propaganda campaign that's forcing it's ideas on you. Instead I felt like I was sitting down with these men having a relaxed conversation about their lives and philosophies.

"In response to people who say you can't go back. Well what happens when you get to the cliff? Do you take one step forward or do you make a 180 degree turn and take... one step forward? Which way are you going? Which is progress?" - Doug Tompkins

I often joke about running away to live in a cabin in the woods. Sometimes the world gets overwhelming and I get frustrated with how much we rely on technology. There's nothing that makes me more upset than meeting up with friends only to have them play around on their phone the entire time. I'm sure there's been times I've depended on my phone or computer a little too much, but for the most part I try to stay away from those things when I can actually talk to people. I figure there's no way I'd survive more than a week in the woods on my own, but a girl can dream. On the other hand, these men from 180 Degrees South live their lives in the pursuit of experiencing nature. They've spent their years not necessarily in the pursuit of growing a business, but developing connections with people and the earth.

Doug Tompkins, co-founder of North Face, was the epitome of 180 Degrees South. After doing more research, I found out that Tompkins took his own 180 degree turn when he sold North Face back in 1969 and later when he left the business world for good in the late 1980's. He was concerned with the environmental impact of the fashion industry and decided he no longer wanted to be a part of it. From there Tompkins purchased land for Conservacion Patagonica where he and his wife now live and work full time. Doug Tompkins has completely dedicated his life to preserving what he loves the most. You have to really admire someone who changes their entire life based on their beliefs. It takes real integrity and strength to follow through with those plans.

In the film there seemed to be a noticeable difference in the personalities of Tompkins and Chouinard. Here's two men who have the same type of goals but are going about it on different ends of the spectrum. Although the movie focuses on both men, it really didn't go into as much detail about Chouinard's side. Johnson talked a lot about Tompkin's preservation projects, but didn't talk about the work that Chouinard has put into growing a responsible company and promoting conscious consumerism. While researching more information on Yvon Chouinard I was really inspired by the way he runs Patagonia and his dedication to the education of other companies. Yvon Chouinard has kept Patagonia on the cutting edge of environmental responsibility. In a large sense Chouinard seems to be running his company against typical business advice, from dedicating catalog space to field notes to encouraging customers not to buy his products.

Although the two men are different they both live by example. They follow their intuition and protect what they love. The movie brought up a lot of questions, but mostly it got me thinking about what is important to me. What do I love enough to protect? Maybe I've never considered myself to be outdoorsy but I have always loved nature. I live in this city that is surrounded by water and natural beauty. I want to be able to appreciate the outside environment as much as possible before anything destroys it.

"A friend once told me that the best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn't even think to ask." - Jeff Johnson

Doug Tompkins, Yvon Chouinard, and the other people featured in 180 Degrees South seem to all do what they want instead of just talk about doing it. Sometimes I feel like I'm hitting on the same issues over and over again. I want to do something or to be a certain way so much that I forget to look at all the little things I'm doing to get myself there. I'm too impatient and forget that the end goal isn't the only thing that matters. If I already love nature and spend more and more time outside, then doesn't that mean I'm already outdoorsy? Life isn't about a label as much as it is about acting in a way that supports your beliefs. For the time being, I will just continue to venture outside as much as possible, try new things when I want to, and make decisions with environmental sustainability in mind.


*Besides the movie, I found a lot of information on Tompkin's and Chouinard's respective wikipedia pages. As far as the pictures are concerned, most of them are not mine. The ones I found have the source links. Hopefully one of these days I will be able to photograph the mountains myself.

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