Season 3: At play in the shadow of giants

Why does anyone do anything? That’s a hard enough question to ask someone who actually works for living. But those of us who make our way through life playing at the fringes of society really have to ask ourselves: What the hell am I doing here?

As a professional journalist my answer is pretty simple. My job is to ask that same question, with a little less incredulity, to other people whose work in world of adventure I deeply admire. I get to tell the stories of giants, men and women at the very top of their fields. Whether it s mountaineering, backcountry skiing, paragliding, BASE jumping, or mountain biking I get to shadow the lives of people pushing the envelope of human experience. All I have to do is be fair, honest and accurate. And with the help of new media partners like Venture I get to share these stories with a broad online audience through my blog and podcast series called the Joy Trip Project.

The JTP is an aggregate of news and information I collect in reporting on the business, art and culture of what I like to call the sustainable active lifestyle. Exciting people in our modern world push their bodies and minds to engage the wild places of the planet in joyful pursuit of adventure. And I tell their stories.  Venture is an adventure inspired web site operated by USAToday and they’ve graciously allowed me to occasionally post a few the stories you’ll find here to their social media content feed online. But rather than gear reviews, athlete profiles and expedition summaries I’ll take a slightly deeper look into the motivation behind the accomplishments of activists as well as explorers. Adventure is not limited to what Everest climber Peter Athans once called in an interview ” young kids throwing themselves off cliffs for taco money.” In my reporting, at play in the shadow of giants, I look to discover those people out there who dedicate their lives in adventure to not only exploring the unknown but toward the benefit of others.

As a filmmaker as well as a mountaineer Athans is helping to preserve the lost history of a Himalayan society. His film the Secrets of Shangri-La tells the story of an ancient culture that pre-dates the birth of Buddhism. But he also works to provide education to Nepalese children through the Magic Yeti Library. He trains guides in modern mountaineering skills at the Khumbu Climbing School. And he raises funds to treat blind people in the region through the Himalayan Cataract Project. Athans does all this inspired by his personal passion for adventure, but he’s motivated by a desire to make the world a better place through his active lifestyle.

My interest in reporting is not limited to the adrenaline inspired hi-jinx of the action ski movie or mountain film. Stories you’ll find at the JTP focus instead on the filmmakers themselves and the lessons they aim to share as their narratives unfold. I’ll introduce you to artists like Jeremy Collins who has blended his love of climbing to create incredible paintings and sculptures based on his travels. You’ll meet humanitarians like Greg Mortenson who turned a failed climb of K2 into a mission to build over 170 schools in the most remote regions of Pakistan. And we’ll also discover how BASE jumpers like Karina Hollekim can turn tragedy into triumph after a devastating fall with a failed parachute.

The ultimate goal of the Joy Trip Project is to create inspiring stories that encourage a few timid soles off the couch, to venture out of the house and on to adventures of their own. It s a journey to explore not necessarily the heights of distant mountains but rather the depths of the human spirit. I hope you enjoy the ride. -JEM

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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