Category Archives: inspiration

Teaser for “Tom Sawyer on the Danube”

This is our official teaser for “Tom Sawyer on the Danube” the first adventure film from Xpedition.TV.

Last Summer…

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.

Read how TOM SAWYER came to be

Ric Gibbs

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Lindsey Van, champion in many ways

Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship
Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship

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.

The Magical Films of Seb Montaz

seb-montaz_balloon-highline_feb2014_640px

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.

skyliner Julien Millot
skyliner Julien Millot

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.

Alastair Humphreys

alastair_humphreys_portrait
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.

Island camp #microadventure, Feb 2013, photo by Alastair Humphreys
Island camp #microadventure, Feb 2013, photo by Alastair Humphreys

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.

#Microadventures

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.

starlight camping #microadventure photo by steven carmichael
starlight camping #microadventure photo by steven carmichael

… 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.

Be sure to check out Alastair’s blog. It’s spectacular.

Dave Cornthwaite’s 1000 Mile Expeditions

dave_cornthwaite_miguel_endara_9s

I love the Dave Cornthwaite story. It starts in 2005, when a 23 year old graphic designer walks off his job in London, grabs a skateboard and skates the length of Britain. A new life begins.

Expedition 1000

Expedition 1000 is Dave Cornthwaite’s ambitious plan to undertake 25 expeditions of at least 1000 miles, each using a different kind of non-motorized transport. Skateboards. Paddleboard. Bicycle. Swimming. Sailing. He’s got six under his belt so far and the stories just keep getting better.

Swim 1000

A few days ago, I came across this excellent short film about Dave’s “Swim 1000” expedition of 2012. This was a 1000 mile swim of the Missouri river undertaken for Coppafeel, the breast cancer charity. The journey began August 10th in Chamberlain, South Dakota and ended 58 days later in St. Louis, Missouri. But that’s not the real story.

The story he’s bringing you is the one captured by Miguel Endara, an advertising exec who befriended Dave and volunteered to capture his expedition. Did he ever! Here’s the film.

I think this is an exquisite little piece of filmmaking. Maybe because of his training, maybe because he was there with this extraordinary troupe, Miguel Endara skips past all the logistics and machinations that distract many adventure filmmakers and just gets to the heart of this journey. The people on it.

Swim 1000 Team photo by Miguel Endara
Swim 1000 Team photo by Miguel Endara

“It’s about the people,” Dave Cornthwaite avows. And so it is. Heartfelt, hypnotic, rich in character, this is seriously great filmmaking in a small package.

I defy anyone to watch this film and not wish they have been there to experience the journey. “I want to get to be an old man and look back and have a lifetime of memories and smile about them. And if I’m living in a tent, then I’m living in a tent.” Wise words. Can’t wait to see what Dave Cornthwaite does next.
Here’s his website.

Dave Cornthwaite & team at finish photo Miguel Endara
Dave Cornthwaite & team at finish of Swim 1000 photo Miguel Endara

On the road with Alan Watts

backroads of arizona, photo by ric gibbs
backroads of arizona, photo by ric gibbs
I found Alan Watts in the glove compartment of a ’69 Firebird. It was years ago, and I was on a long, rambling trek home from Gallina, New Mexico to Los Angeles. You can drive that distance in about 14 hours, but it took me nearly three weeks of wandering the back roads of the Navajo reservation, through Tierra Amarillo and Chaco Canyon and Window Rock.

Anyone who tells you, you can’t have a spiritual experience on a car trip, hasn’t been to the American Southwest. There’s a vastness to these landscapes. And a certain kind of meditation that settles over you when all the radio stations fade to static and the road stretches out like a baked black ribbon across the desert floor as far as the eye can see. Next gas 75 miles. And they friggin’ mean it.

Out there, you can see storms forming an hour in advance. Great rolling thunderheads colliding with one another and the dark wall of rain heading your direction. Time to take shelter.

Alan Watts
Alan Watts

It was on one of those afternoons, holed up on a ridge near Mexican Hat, that I discovered a homemade cassette tape in the glove compartment of my car. I hadn’t had the car long. Bought it for $500 off some kid in Pasadena because his parents were sick of it leaking oil in the driveway. It needed a rebuilt tranny and a coat of paint but that car was indestructible. Even with hail stones raining down on it. Hail in the desert. Just one of the surreal moments of that trip.

“Alan Watts” was all the tape said. I popped it in. And a thin, reedy, bemused voice came on, to tell me the meaning of life. Literally.

If you’ve never heard of Alan Watts – he died before most of our times – he was a thinker of extraordinary caliber. An explorer of the mind, you could say. And he got pretty far out there. An Episcopal priest who ditched the church and moved to Berkeley, Watts went WAY beyond introducing California to Buddhism. In the late 1950s, Watts was the counter culture. Without him and Timothy Leary and Fritz Perls dropping LSD and questioning the very makeup of a society, the ‘60s might never have happened. Theirs was the philosophical underpinning. Theirs was the first ascent on the mountain that would BE the 1960s.

As you listen to Alan Watts, you really are transported to moments of impossible clarity. An understanding of yourself and your place in the universe that is refreshingly different from everything we’ve been programmed to believe. I will not paraphrase. His books are in print. His lectures available, freely online (if you do a little looking) which is what he’d want, I’m sure. There’s even an Alan Watts podcast app, you can listen to in your car. As I did. Many summers ago as hail swept across the desert floor. And it seemed the perfect time… for a bit of enlightenment.

author Ric Gibbs at Bright Angel Pt. on the north rim of the canyon.
author Ric Gibbs at Bright Angel Pt. on the north rim of the canyon.

Thanks to “TragedyandHope” for editing this video. Thanks to Kraig Becker of the Adventure Blog for being the first to share it!

The BIL Conference

The BIL Conference is the red-headed step child to the TED Talks.
The BIL Conference is the red-headed step child to the TED Talks.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

One of my favorite online sources for Amazing Stuff is the TED Talks. I’ve seen so many brilliant thinkers, innovators, and explorers on TED, that when I heard about the BIL Conference (a kind of dubious step-child to TED) I immediately said, “I HAVE A TALK!”

And I do! It’s called:

“Risky Business: Why jumping off a cliff is safer than staying on your couch!”

Ric Gibbs is founder and chief adventurer at Xpedition.TV
Ric Gibbs is founder and chief adventurer at Xpedition.TV

It’s all about courage, exploration, and why most of us have the idea of risk, 180 degrees upside down.

Want to see it? Well, I want to give it! But speakers are only invited on stage by POPULAR VOTE.

So, I’m asking, I’m begging. Please go to BIL’s Speakers Page, find my talk and vote me onto the stage.

You don’t have to be in California to vote. Talks will be archived and shared. In the meantime… go do something amazing!

Living Impeccably

Julien Millot photo by Seb Montaz
Julien Millot photo by Seb Montaz

Living impeccably isn’t always obvious. Or easy. But when someone is doing it, we feel it. It doesn’t matter whether we fully understand what they do. It doesn’t even matter that we have a basis for comparison. We just know. It can be in sports. It can be in art. It can be in the way someone leads their life. We know it by how they hold themselves. By the confidence they exude. By the pride they take in their actions. And the generosity with which they share it.

Josh Dueck has won more medals since his paralyzing ski injury than ever before. photo: Hannah Johnson
Josh Dueck has won more medals since his paralyzing ski injury than ever before. photo: Hannah Johnson

Can you imagine being on a climbing team, 20,000 feet into the Himalayas, and not doing your best to set the next pitch? Can you imagine packing a parachute with anything less than absolute focus? Or approaching a class IV river rapids without every cell in your body coming alive with the challenge before you? You cannot.  These circumstances command you to be excellent. I think this is why adventurers share such a bond with each other. Sure, their personalities may clash, but there is a deeper bond of respect that forms when you are pursuing something brutally difficult, when you are all pushed to the limits of your capacity. And hold each others’ lives in your hands.

Pablo Picasso painted, sketched or sculpted nearly every day, from childhood until his death at 91.
Pablo Picasso painted, sketched or sculpted nearly every day, from childhood until his death at 91.

Am I advocating that we all live, pushing the red line, 24/7? Of course not. Our bodies would never sustain it. But I am advocating a commitment to be excellent, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Or to work tirelessly to change what we’re doing, until this is possible. Why? Because being less than excellent is a drain on our souls. It saps us. It steals our nourishment. We have bargained away our worth for pennies.

By contrast, we are nourished whenever we give our best. When we help someone. When we make a difference.  When we meet the challenge before us, without complaint. Unconvinced? Think back over your life to your proudest moment. An achievement of some sort, a kindness rendered. You know it already. You felt tall. You felt strong. You needed nothing more in that moment. That’s the nourishment we’re talking about. It came from being excellent. It came from giving everything.

Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women's ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP
Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women’s ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP

The excellence we’re talking about is not objective excellence. It is an inner excellence, born of giving your best. If you are giving your best, you fear no criticism. Does the Olympic gymnast scoff at the nine year old girl, who is just learning to pull her first handstand in the rings? Her body is wobbly, her form imperfect, she may never even compete professionally, but if that nine year old is committed? And determined? Giving 100%? No one can fail to see that. No one can withhold respect.

What no one respects is selfishness. And herein lies the two great poles of life. The great choice we face, in every moment. We can either be selfish, calibrating our every effort by its expected return to us. Or we can be self-less, giving freely, for the sheer joy of doing what we came here to do. Being excellent at something. Whatever that something is. We can be nourished by it, in ways more profound than we could ever know beforehand.

Gustavo Dudamel, courtesy LA Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, courtesy LA Philharmonic

indian sculptor (photo credit unknown)
indian sculptor (photo credit unknown)