This is our official teaser for “Tom Sawyer on the Danube” the first adventure film from Xpedition.TV.
While we were running our first adventure film competition, a curious little film came in. It was a short hitchhiking venture from Istanbul, home to the UK. Nothing remarkable, I can hear you saying, people hitch all the time. Yet there was something refreshing about it that caught my eye. And maybe the fact that these two trekkers were unremarkable was the whole attraction.
They were me (age 24). They were probably you. They were embarked upon that moment of guileless discovery and wide-eyed faith in the goodness of humans that occurs just after college, when potential of the world seems so limitless. It’s the reason “Before Sunrise” was a good movie. And watching them, the question that occurred to me – why do we ever allow ourselves to lose that openness to life? And do we really have to?
Tom Sawyer on the Danube
Months later, having befriended these young adventurers, an opportunity arose for me to make something out of the 700+ video files its filmmaker Jamie Bowlby-Whiting had amassed in his drop box. By that time, he and Leah had begun a brand new, much more ambitious trek from England to Asia. Without spoiling a thing, I can tell you that little of it worked out according to plan. But that’s kind of the point. That, and the deeper personal odysseys they both went on, traveling and coming to know each other. Falling in love, as people do, when life – like the world around them – seems so open.
The Full Film
Will be released soon. We have some last minute polishing to do and some festivals to see about. But it won’t be long and we think you’ll really enjoy seeing what happens. After all, they are you. They are me. Or they are at least who many of us would be – if we held open that window of possibility, just a little bit longer.
There are winners, and there are champions. And today – the very first day that women ski jumpers have ever competed in the Olympics – seems like the perfect day to single out a champion.
“My goal is to make the Olympic team, for girls,” declared ski jumper Lindsey Van in a tv interview back in 1996. She was eleven. It would be 18 more years – until today, February 11, 2014 – that it took her dream to materialize.
Not just 18 years of training. But 18 years of – quite literally MAKING the team. As in creating it. Lobbying the Olympic Committee for it. Fighting for it in courts and in public. Willing it into being. And although Lindsey didn’t win the medal we were all hoping for her, those women who did, owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her tireless fight on their behalf.
[Today’s winners were Carina Vogt of Germany; Daniel Iraschkostotz of Austria; Coline Mattel of France].
Not many of us probably even realized that women ski jumpers were excluded from Olympic competition by officials who considered the sport “too dangerous” for women. Even though the women were competing neck-in-neck with men in world championships since 2006, when the International Ski Federation allowed them in. And decades before that on slopes all over the world.
A 2011 documentary “Ready to Fly” by William Kerig, captures this struggle. It’s a brilliant film, one of the most moving stories I saw at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, where it won top awards.
In 2009, Lindsey won her Gold Medal at the World Ski Championships at Liberec, CZE and held the North American record for distance (94 meters) until this year.
She was the favorite heading into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but of course – there was no ski jumping for women in Vancouver. And there wouldn’t have been any women’s ski jumping today if Lindsey and her teammates hadn’t filed suit against the Olympic committee. It was a victory hard won. And bittersweet for Lindsey, whose best chance at gold was four years ago, not today at age 29.
But if anyone can claim victory, if anyone can be called “champion” for her sport and has cause to hold her head high when other women accept their medals, it’s this petite skier from Salt Lake City who fought to make today’s Olympic competition possible – when everyone told her to go away.
As if we needed any more reason to love this filmmaker, Seb Montaz delivers this extraordinary vision of possibility. He and his crew of gravity defying “skyliners” decide to try highlining between two hot air balloons. Has anyone else done this? Are you kidding?! Has anyone else even IMAGINED it? Don’t think so. But that’s the magic of this crew. They are that rare combination of artist, explorer, prankster and storyteller. And no one else is doing anything like them. Here’s their newly released short film that lays out exactly what we mean:
As if you couldn’t tell, this gang LOVES what they do. They love pushing the limits. They love flying, they love falling. Where else would you see someone raise such applause and laughter by falling from a highline thousands of feet in the air? It’s expected. It’s encouraged. When you’re living this far out on the ledge of life – failure simply means that you’re doing your job. Could anyone be more ALIVE than this group? It’s hard to imagine.
If you’re not familiar with the films of Seb Montaz, you’re in for a treat. Beginning with the award winning “I Believe I Can Fly,” they are probably the most captivating adventure cinema out there. And not just for the aerial stunts. Seb is much more of a filmmaker than that. He captures character. He tells deep stories of loss and redemption. “One Step Beyond” and “Summits of My Life” are personal favorites that offer profound insights and healing by those who have dared and failed and dared again.
NOTE: you can find ALL of Seb’s films on his website and you should buy every one of them! For the price of a Starbucks latte, you’ll be supporting an amazing filmmaker and a real force for exploration. And the films are amazing. This is true indy cinema. It doesn’t get more independent that this. Or more extraordinary.
The Skyliners are: Julien Millot, Tancrede Melet, Antoine Moineville, Sebastien Brugalla, Freddy Montigny, Anicet Leone, and Sébastien Montaz-Rosset.
“Some jobs just turn out harder than you expected.” This was the sentiment echoed by all three of our judges, over the weeks we have screened and re-screened these awesome shorts.
Not only were there a ton of great films to choose from – and thank you ALL who participated – but there was huge variety within each category, making choices even harder. Truthfully, they could have all competed under the “Most Inspiring” banner, because they were! And it was humbling to see that much talent unspool.
But, decisions can’t be postponed any longer so….
MOST INSPIRING ADVENTURE SHORT – “SWIM 1000” by Miguel Endara & Dave Cornthwaite.
MOST SURPRISING ADVENTURE SHORT – “SHUNPO” by Steven Briand /Burayan Prods.
Even though there are only 3 categories and 3 prizes to award, some films simply could NOT be left out. So we’ve added some “Special Honors” for films that really distinguished themselves. They don’t win any gear this time, but please check them out. These filmmakers are ones to watch going forward.
Please check out this post from Jayme Moye (National Geographic Adventure Blog) about our friend Shannon Galpin…
“From high atop the Shomali Plain north of Kabul, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Shannon Galpin lets go of the brake levers. She aims her bike straight down the deserted road through the flatlands. Four young Afghan women—members of the country’s first female bike race team—do the same. As the small peloton picks up speed, headscarves come loose and stream out from beneath helmets like ribbons, like flags…”
I got a phone call from Ray Zahab yesterday. He was at the airport, getting ready to board a plane for Asia and a 2,300km run across the most Gobi Desert. “Expedition Gobi” is just the latest, ambitious expedition from Ray, who has already run the Sahara at its widest point (some 7,500 km) back in 2007. And the arctic. And served as expedition leader for youth expeditions to Africa and the Andes.
Why does a man do such things? For an idea. And the inspiration this idea brings to the world. Ray’s idea is quite simple: most the things we tell ourselves are impossible, are in fact, quite possible. A simple, revolutionary idea. And I don’t use that word often. But how else do you describe someone’s dauntless commitment to proving that we are wrong about our limitations. And wrong to limit ourselves.
Ray’s organization is called “Impossible2Possible” (i2P) And he’s the first one to point out, “this is not about running. This is about human spirit. This is about that desire in all of us to achieve something in our lives, but also… to want to make a difference in the lives of others.”
The way Ray Zahab makes a difference is by taking teenage explorers with him. Not talking about it. Doing it with them. Taking them past their limitations and showing them they are more powerful than they think. Having been a volunteer teacher for at risk teens in Los Angeles for a couple of years, I can tell you, this is no small gift. This is a gift that gives for a lifetime. Every teen if full of self doubt. Hell most adults still are. So if you can take them through that, to what may be the first big success in their lives… that is a thing worth doing.
So let’s all send some good wishes to @RayZahab and Kevin Lin this week. Seriously. They start this weekend. Let them hear from you as they #RunGobi. It’s important. Someone out there is doing something amazing. And we are all lifted by it.
There’s nothing like a Brit for adventure, when he really gets going. I first noticed Alastair Humphreys when National Geographic nominated him as one of their Adventurers of the Year in 2012. Back then, he was fresh off rowing across the Atlantic with 3 other guys and I thought, well, that’s pretty damn ambitious. I didn’t grasp the half of it. This was a man who had already bicycled 46,000 miles around the world.
As we do more and more to build Xpedition.TV online, I would notice Alastair’s name popping up in more and more places. Walking across India. Cycling Hadrian’s wall in Britain. Canoeing the Yukon, swimming the Thames, instigating #microadventures on twitter (don’t laugh, he’s got something there). In fact, if you’re in the UK and happen to see a troupe of paste-white Brits plunging into an ice cold lake, mid February, and or hear the shrieks of 10 C water on bare skin – you can be pretty sure who is behind it.
One part Marco Polo, one part merry prankster, it’s pretty hard to get your arms around ALL of the adventurers Alastair Humphreys gets up to. Let alone the ones he inspires in others. Part of his charm is that he seems to be everywhere. Like fellow Brit Dave Cornthwaite – he seems to say yes more. Seems to eat life with a big spoon. Which for me, is the hallmark of a true adventurer. He’s able to do it anywhere. With an appetite that seems to grow with each bite.
But let’s talk about this idea of microadventurers. Throw a hashtag in front of it, and #microadventure is your password to a expansive online community of people who don’t have time to walk across India. But who – nevertheless – head out for all kinds of short, highly creative battery-charges in the outdoors. Weekend adventures, mid week adventures, overnight odysseys – what’s new about that? Nothing much, you could argue. But you’d be missing the point. And you’d be missing the challenge and the community.
What I love about twitter (a platform I used to shun) is that seemingly overnight, a term can be coined for a thing we love but had no way of finding out about who was doing it with us. And yet… one little # symbol and here we all are, pushing our passion forward like the oarsmen of a great boat. The HMS Microadventure, if you will. With rowers on every continent.
Paddle boarding in Nicaragua, pack rafting, bike & pack rafting…
… you get the idea. Real people busting out of their boxes, doing some pretty awesome stuff in short bursts of time. And you shouldn’t be surprised to find this trending its way into your corner of the world. Because this simple hashtag becomes your invitation and your challenge.
What have you done lately to break your routine? To surprise yourself? To bring yourself alive? To “push the refresh button” as Alastair likes to call it.
Don’t get me wrong, here at Xpedition.TV, we are all about the big adventures. But we also get pretty damned excited when people find creative ways to span the distance and pull the tribe together for a little support and inspiration.
Bravo, Alastair Humphreys. Thank you for being such a brazen big soul on the planet. And such an outstanding catalyst for the rest of us.
Boy, once the adventure bug bites, it really bites some people. Enter two Irishmen, David Burns and Maghnus Collins, mates from college who at age 23 decided to undertake a great adventure before settling into the workaday world.
The idea, hatched on a whim, was to bicycle home to Ireland from Cape Town, South Africa. It was a journey of eleven months and 17,500 km. That was in 2009 and – if you can believe it – wasn’t even their most ambitious project.
Just weeks ago, on January 17th David and Maghnus completed their epic “Silk Roads to Shanghai” journey, from Istanbul to Shanghai, biking, running, and kayaking some 14,000 km across the heart (and Himalayas) of Asia.
I WISH I had had my cameras along for this one, guys. But I doubt I’d have been able to keep up. After bicycling 8,500 km across 3 deserts and most of India to Nepal (stage 1) our boys ran another 1,000 km (40 per day) across the Tibetan plateau into China (stage 2) before embarking on a 3rd and final stage, kayaking some 6,500 km down the Yangtze River to Shanghai. Woof!
Apparently, the Yangtze in northern China is so remote, they went 17 days without seeing another human. Bears awaited them on the river banks, birds of prey took the occasional swoop at them and some of the rapids were so wild they weren’t sure they had ever been run by man before. At one point Maghnus lost his kayak with all his provisions and pursued it for 3 days before losing it over a falls after a desperate, last ditch swim to catch it.
The fact that these two men scraped by on the equivalent of ￡2.50 per day, while delivering more than ￡33,500 in donations to Self Help Africa makes them even more heroic in my book. (As its name implies, the charity’s mission is to empower rural Africa to achieve economic independence). Between all their adventures, David and Maghnus have delivered ￡80,000 to the charity so far, a remarkable gift from two simple guys with bikes and kayaks.
Yet beyond the feat itself, I find myself particularly moved by this blog post by Maghnus. He wrote it just shy of finishing their journey, on a day when – as anyone who has traveled can tell you – you begin to grasp for meaning and perspective before re-entering the world as you know it.
The question of “why” remains, quietly persistent. And so, three years after first asking myself the question at a similar stage of an expedition I find myself again asking why? Then, as now, I cannot see past six simple words I heard somewhere on the roads, lanes and tracks of Africa, the Middle East and Europe; Not things, but men and women. The value and worth of this journey if any exist, exist only because of people. They exist in the help of friends and family who saw some themselves or valued us enough to back our judgement. They are substantiated by the truly worthwhile and priceless works of a charity who’s creed belies the term. They reside in mothers who encouraged us to continue when every shred of their being wanted us to stop. They can be seen in fathers who made a mockery of the term ‘unsupported’ expedition. Hopefully some can be seen in the eyes of children who saw us passing and maybe saw a few new possibilities themselves. More still lies in the deeds of countless strangers who paused to share a wave or a roof. Why do I do this? Because of the people.
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It’s a great blog and I highly recommend diving into it. Most of us will never undertake a journey of this magnitude and there are pearls of wisdom there to be gleaned.
There is also a charity ball honoring their return this month in Dublin. As usual, proceeds will go to Self Help Africa. I’m sure it will be an amazing bash and one hell of an occasion for story telling, so if you are anywhere close – get there!