The picture above is me wading into a random river on day 2 of 6 hiking over 100 mi on the Appalachian trail. I jumped in way over my head. I’ve never hiked with a backpack, never mind up and down mountains for 10 hours a day, never slept alone in the woods, never drank water from streams, and never carried all the food I’ll need for a week on my back. It was hard. My body hurt at the end of day one. My ankles swole up like balloons and screamed at me to stop with nearly every step.
It was great.
My original plan, pre-covid, was a week long silent retreat at the Zen center; also a beautiful struggle every time I do it. I finally accepted the fact that the Zen center was not going to open up for sesshin this year and I desperately needed a media free week in silence, but why choose pain?
I’ll give you 4 reasons:
WE KNOW THINGS BY THEIR OPPOSITES
My Uncle once asked me, “If given the option to spare your children from ever experiencing pain, would you choose this for them?”
I answered with an immediate “No” replying, “how could they ever know joy if they didn’t know pain?” This points towards one of the reasons I like to do hard things. In the picture above I am joyously rinsing my skin in a river. I don’t usually get excited about rivers. After a mere 48 hours without a shower, without washing my hands, after sleeping outside in my own filth, covered in sweat with my muscles aching, the joy of being refreshed and clean is almost overwhelming. Jumping into that river was bliss. The cold water of the river reminded me just how comfortable my life at home is every single day. I take hot showers for granted. I take sinks for granted. I take my bed for granted.
In the image above I am preparing to spend the day hiking in the rain. I take the roof over my head for granted. I take hot meals for granted. I take the safety of sleeping without bears and coyotes circling my tent (yup, happened two nights in a row) for granted. Most of all, I take the company of others for granted.
I practice GRATITUDE daily, but there is plenty of privilege that I overlook. Doing hard things shines a light on just how much I have going for me every day. Carrying everything you need to live on your back for a week and hiking in the woods has beautiful elements as well, but mostly it was a challenge. It is simple and hard and exponentially less comfortable than life indoors. You don’t get to wash your hands after going to the bathroom. You don’t get to adjust the temperature on the thermostat. You are not safe from poison ivy (I got it) bugs (bit me), rodents (attacked my food), coyotes (surrounded me) or bears. Yes, I enjoy roughing it, but mostly I appreciate the way it reminds me just how little I need to survive and how much extra I have in my life to be grateful for.
TO KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Most of us leave A LOT on the table. At the end of the day, how often do you feel that you gave all you could possibly have given? When you do feel this way, isn’t going to bed the best? If you rarely feel this way, how much regret do you imagine you will have at the end of your life? Have you read that Top 5 Regrets of the Dying list? It’s not failure that stings, it is the things we never tried that haunt us at the end. Dreams unfulfilled become nightmares. Knowing you have more to give is one of the most exquisite pains that emerges at the higher stages of personal development. This is what self-actualization is all about.
If you don’t test your limits then you don’t know what you are capable of. If you don’t know what you are capable of then I guarantee you that you are selling yourself short on a near daily basis. Most of us don’t spend enough time outside of our comfort zones to really know how strong we are and how resourceful we might be under pressure. I like to do things specifically because I don’t know how to do them. It may seem completely unrelated to the rest of your life to do something hard like an endurance challenge, but the confidence you build in yourself translates into all realms.
TO PUSH YOUR LIMITS
I don’t just seek my limits just to find out where they are. I seek limits because I know that when I touch them….they move. It is one thing to find a limit, it is another to accept it. I believe that every boundary I see in my life is negotiable.
What happens if you conceptualize every skill to be more like a muscle than a bone? Muscles grow strong when you stress them and limber when you stretch them. They are anti–fragile. You can lose bone, but as an adult, what you see is essentially the most you will ever get. Bones are ‘use it or lose it’, but muscles adapt to the challenge they face.
Many people see skills as bones. They seek to discover where they have “natural talent” and avoid the places where they don’t. This is the definition of a fixed mindset. Well guess what? The research is in. There is no such thing as natural talent. We have natural curiosities. No one can explain why we like what we like. Some feel drawn to art and others to engineering. But if we can sustain effort, especially if we engage deliberate practice, in any area, improvement is inevitable.
The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. Take whatever talent you have now, multiply it by the effort you are willing to put in and this gives you the skill you end up with. Mastery is asymptotic. There is always more to learn.
This is also true for your self confidence. Think of it like stretching. Right now you have a range of motion that feels accessible. Within this range you are comfortable. If you go too far too fast then you can easily pull a muscle. You have to be careful when you push. Blow past your limit and panic sets in. Anxiety is real. But if you can find your edge, lean into it, take deep belly breaths, and hang out there, your edge begins to expand. If you can’t touch your toes it’s because you don’t try (and fail) often enough. If you are afraid to speak publicly it’s because you don’t try often enough. When you play with your limits they change.
TO BUILD GRIT
I suspect that nothing correlates with success in life more than grit. Too much stress can break you, but too little leaves us weak and full of self doubt. I have coached the adult children of billionaires on multiple occasions. We all know what they have going for them, I’m not asking you to pity them, but they are illuminating when it comes to illustrating one simple point. Being coddled makes us fragile.
When we have things done for us, we tend to doubt whether or not we could do them for ourselves. If you never have to cook, clean, study without a tutor, pay for a meal, or rely on yourself to overcome scary and challenging situations, then you tend to assume your limits are far smaller than what they really are. Don’t get me wrong, each of these people was brilliant and full of amazing potential. Most of them just have a hard time believing it. If you are protected from experiencing discomfort you tend to assume that little things will break you. They won’t, but thinking about it won’t help. You must be tested.
Nowadays many of us are coddled by our parents. In a culture where everybody gets a participation medal, where rights of passage barely exist, it can be hard to know what would happen if you were truly in danger and had no one to rely on but yourself. This doesn’t mean be reckless. I take measured risks. I’m no pioneer. I don’t consider myself to be all that brave. I felt relatively safe on the AT because I know that so many other people have been there before. My growth mindset tells me that if others have done something then, if I am willing to struggle, so can I. My belief in the power of grit makes me smile when I get stuck, keep moving when I have doubt, and seek out new challenges when I feel stagnant.
Grit works like a muscle as well. I love sitting on the beach with a book for a while, but I love adventure a lot more. I want a life that is meaningful more than I want a life that is comfortable. I want to experience diversity more than I want certainty. And when it comes to my life having the impact that I dream it can have I know that I am going to have to be WAY outside of my comfort zone to get there.
Ooooh….This is a good one
If you have been following my journey over the past 10 years you might have noticed that the way I identify myself professionally has morphed and evolved. How I work with clients has largely stayed the same, but my title has not. Depending on how people find me, they think of me as being one type of coach or another.
I am a Life Coach. This always seemed like the catch-all. I started out as a Holistic Health Coach, but only worked that before my sabbatical. If you search on Yelp I rank in the top 3 for both Life and Career Coaches in NYC. So many think of me primarily as a Career Coach. Over the past couple of years the growing majority of my clients became CEO’s and other executives. When they refer me to a colleague running their own company they hire me as an Executive Coach (first new page on my website in a while!). All of this was actually expected and is basically par for the course. It’s a kooky unregulated industry. My most recent titles I did not anticipate. Things are getting weirder.
Because I insist that my clients be open to discussing and working with all areas of their life it is hard to predict where things will lead, but I always assumed it would all fit within the “life” realm….until recently. Witness the birth of Death Coaching!
My client D.S. Moss created a podcast called The Adventures of Memento Mori. Memento Mori translates as Remember to Die. The idea is that, through contemplating impermanence one might really start living. This journey has led us through some truly strange and beautiful explorations, and now, in the last two episodes, to Peru, where he offers his ego up to the plant medicine of the local shaman. Believe it or not, this is not the first time I have been an Ayahuasca Coach, but it is the first time I can take you along!
This is work that gets my juices flowing. Who AM I? What lurks in the depths of my shadows? How do I kill my ego? All of the big philosophical questions smash head on into heroic doses of psychedelics in the final episodes of this absolutely brilliant podcast. Every week he explores death and our relationship to it through a new lens. I believe I am in the first episode, the last two, and maybe one more. The whole podcast is worth the journey. The last episode of the first season (episode #14) where the ayahuasca ceremonies actually happen, is particularly bewitching. Listen with headphones if you can. He really captures the sounds of the ceremony space. It brought me right back to my first ceremonies in Brazil.
Cory Richardson was named National Geographics Explorer of the Year in 2012. This is a great accomplishment. Now imagine what happens when this type of adventurer is an AMAZING photographer. Lucky for us, we don’t have to. The video below gives us a gorgeous glimpse into Richards work.
You can see more of his work on his website here: www.coryrichards.com
This man is AMAZING! Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE
There are so many amazing men in this video I almost don’t know who to feature in this post. Clearly all the skateboarders involved deserve recognition, but I think what really drew me in to this clip was the camera work, the editing and just the overall vibe and energy of it. Sebastian-Linda.de, the remarkable filmmaker, gets the credit for this.
This man is AMAZING! Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE
This first video is “The Journey of the Beasts” – It is the longest, but is the one that turned me on.
The Epic & the Beasts
The Revenge of the Beasts
Are you a fast walker? A slow walker?
What does this tell you about your mind?
I was working with a client the other day when the conversation turned to his gate. He has been tracking down the source of his knee pain for quite some time. Recently, through work with a chiropractor and a structural integrationist he has been made aware of some basic distortions in his posture and the way that he walks that are contributing to his pain. Let’s call him Carl.
Carl is a fast walker. Carl lives in NYC and is well aware of the crowd. Carl charges forward and walks right past most others on the sidewalk. I am a lot like Carl. Occasionally I stroll, leisurely taking in the sites, but most of the time I am a man on a mission. I have somewhere to be and it is not here.
This is where consciousness comes into the equation. This is why the mind has a lot to do with how you walk.
Years ago I read the book “Slowness” by Milan Kundera. I love Milan Kundera. His insights into the inner workings of the human experience help him to create the most illuminating characters. I often put down his novels with a beautiful new appreciation for a subconscious process or previously unexplored habit. There is a scene in slowness, perhaps right at the beginning (it has been many years) that describes one of the characters walking away from something that just happened. Kundera focuses on the speed at which this character is walking. He points out that a key to understanding a persons relationship to what just happened is the speed at which they are walking.
Imagine yourself in the middle of giving a really embarrassing speech in front of a crowd of people. Pretend that for whatever reason this talk is just not going well. Your confidence is sapped. Feel the embarrassment in your body as you struggle to wrap up and get off stage. Do you want to hang out and mingle with the audience or do you want to leave quickly? Now walk away from that place and head somewhere completely different. Head to the comfort of your home. How are you walking?
I’ll bet you are walking fast. You want a distance between you and that place. More importantly, you want to move away from the feeling of being in that place. Kundera suggests that we walk quickly when we want to forget. It is as if moving faster might not only move us farther away physically, it might also speed up our metabolism and help clear these negative feelings from our system.
Now imagine the opposite. You have spent the night in your new lovers arms. Most likely in their bed. This night was bliss. You felt full, you felt seen, you felt respected and desired, you felt satisfied. You and your lover get up in the morning, kiss goodbye and you walk out the door. How are you walking now?
I’ll bet you are barely moving. You want to linger. You want this experience to last. Savoring a moment will cause one to walk slowly. The last thing you want is to have another experience too soon, to shake these feelings from your body. Letting too much in too quickly might just crowd out the sweetness that you just tasted.
The speed at which we walk is not only tied to the past. It is also tied to the future. Excited to get somewhere? You are walking quickly of course. Dreading a meeting? I’ll bet you are a bit slower.
But what does a nice, moderate pace communicate? What consciousness, what mood, is cultivated by walking at a pace that is not too slow and not too fast? What lies between a desire to leave the past and a desire to stay in the past? Between a desire to be in the future and a desire to avoid what is coming next?
Equanimity is one word for the complete acceptance of what is. It is a term often used to describe the state of mind that a life of meditation will cultivate. With equanimity comes deep joyful breathing and a lightness about all that has passed and all that is to come. Equanimity is a composure that even the most difficult situations can not disturb. Equanimity is not physical stillness, but it can feel like a stillness in ones thoughts. In many ways it is tied to being in a state of FLOW.
Our body follows our mind, but our mind also follows our body. It is a chicken or egg cycle that we can impact from either side of the equation. Change your mind and your body will react. Change your body and your consciousness shifts. You likely know that I am a huge fan of using Breathing Exercises to shift your mind and your subconsciously controlled body systems (such as heart rate and digestion). Another, perhaps more easily tapped resource is the way that you walk.
Try this today. Next time you are walking somewhere notice the speed at which you are walking. Now notice your mind. Play with the speed. Try walking extra slow. Do you feel resistance? Can you enjoy where you are? Are you thinking about the past? Does your mind go to the future? Can you feel your feet hit the ground? Can you smell the air? Do you hear birds? Cars? Other people breathing? Can you hear your own breath. The speed at which you walk connects with the contents of your mind. It connects directly with your ability to connect with The Power of Now.
This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
More on my adventures with The Hostel Life
Today we had to get up extra early to meet with a guide who was going to take us out in his open air truck to look for more game. Long before sunrise or breakfast we climbed out of our tents and quietly made our way out into the park.
Having gotten so lucky the day before and seeing a pride of lions we were all half thinking that we were already as lucky as we could get. Arrogantly, the other half of each of us was eager to see much more. Elephants and a leopard were on top of our wish-list today. Elephants we expected to see sooner or later. Leopards on the other hand are much more rare, camouflaged and shy. Most everyone we spoke with said that we should not expect to see one on our trip. Demanding the extraordinary while in this remarkable country we set out amongst the giraffe waiting for the sun to come up.
We then spent the next few hours driving around underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the park is amazing and we saw many animals, from hyaena to blue wildebeast to snakes to giraffes and zebras. Oh how quickly the conditioned mind gets jaded. Then, suddenly, our guide stopped the truck and pointed into the brush along the side of the road. At first I saw nothing and wondered what type of pigeon he might have spotted. How wrong I was! Right there, sitting under the cover of a few branches, right on on the road, was a leopard!
We inched the truck forward ever closer until we were within feet of this massively powerful and jaw droppingly beautiful creature. He/she seemed somewhat indifferent to our presence until we tried to get within 10 or so yards. At this point the big cat got up and walked a short ways into the brush. We followed along for some time hoping to see the leopard walk out into open and cross the road. A couple of times she came close, but then turned back into the woods. In all we probably had 10-15 minutes with this magnificent creature.
After that we called it a day and headed back to the camp. Along the way we saw an adorable group of mongoose hanging out around a sign. It’s hard to believe that these cute little ferret like animals are some of the best snake hunters in the world. We were just minutes away from our camp when suddenly our truck changed directions. Our guide had spotted something he couldn’t let us miss. The Black Rhinoceros is currently classified as critically endagered. Their existence here on earth is in jeopardy. Most will never see one, and our children may not even have the chance should we let them go extinct. None the less, here one was, chomping away on some plants right in front of us.
These animals are huge. With their massive bodies and that huge horn protruding out from its head I really felt like I was looking at a dinosaur. Although completely vegatarian this beast can easily weigh over a ton and is know to be rather aggressive. The thought of all that weight charging horns first is enough to give anyone pause. We kept a safe enough distance, but got plenty close to get a sense of just how enormous this grey, mud covered creature really is. Yet another rare opportunity offered to us here at Etosha National Park.
After that we headed to breakfast letting everyone we saw know just how lucky we had been. That left one burning desire in the group. We wanted to see elephants. We talked to a number of people on the staff of the park and figured out that our best bet was not to look along the southern road that heads straight west through the park below the main lake, but to drive north up another road. We got the name of a promising watering hole and headed out in that direction.
Wouldn’t you know it, luck shined upon us once again. Immediately upon our arrival at the watering hole we spotted a large group of elephants hanging out, drinking water, covering themselves with dirt and having a grand old time. There were young children alongside adults all enjoying the fresh water on this warm summer day.
We spent the rest of the day driving around the park marveling at the vast open spaces teaming with life large and small. Here we were having yet another storybook day in Namibia.
More on my adventures with The Hostel Life
Today we woke up early at the Treesleeper camp, ate breakfast, said goodbye to our new friend Moses and got on the road to head NorthWest to Etosha National Park. We were told that the opportunities to see game in their natural surroundings were many at Etosha, but no one could have prepared us for just how many different animals we would see in such a short time. After roughly an hour and fifteen minutes on mostly dirt roads we pulled up to the gate and headed into the park. Less than two minutes later, just driving up the driveway to Namutoni camp we saw a group of zebras crossing the road and then minutes later our first of many giraffe sightings. Seeing this massive animals cross right in front of our truck stopped us dead in our tracks with smiles on everyones face. After that we pulled into Namutoni to do a little shopping at the gift store, find our campsite and pitch our tents
Once we were all set up at the campground we got back in the truck and headed out to find some watering holes and see what animals were out. Watering holes are where all of the animals must go eventually to get a drink and cool off in the hot Namibian sunshine. Before we even got to the first one we came across a large group of zebras. Adults and children walked around on both sides of the road eating, playing and even getting into the occasional playful tussle.
After that we saw springbok, buffalo, red hartebeest, african storks, mongoose and a large group of giraffe hanging out drinking around the watering hole. It seemed like we couldn’t drive more than a few feet without running into some new animal that none of us had ever seen before in our life. The opportunity to see wildlife at Etosha is far beyond my wildest expectations.
After spending an hour or so shooting video and stills and just marveling mouths agape at the many animals we decided that it was time to get back to our camps. The footage that we are getting here is gorgeous. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. We could shoot all day and into the night, but the weather was starting to worry us. The sky in Namibia is massive. In Windhoek we were at 1660M (5440 feet) altitude so the clouds seemed very close directly above, but due to the flat landscape we could also see for many miles in every direction. Here at Etosha it was very hot and sunny directly above us, but there were storms brewing off in the distance and they seemed to be moving in our direction. Seeing all of the lightning and distant rain we thought about our tents with the windows open and decided to call it a day hoping that tomorrow we would see some of the big cats or any of the other ‘big five’. The big five in Africa refers to the five most dangerous animals, but also the five that most who come hope to get a glimpse of. They are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo. We got a distant look at a buffalo, but were yet to see any of the others. The leopard is an elusive animal with great camouflage and a reluctance to be near humans. The rest seemed possible to spot, but seeing a lion would be a real treat for me.
We headed back along the dirt roads in our 4×4 pickup truck when we noticed a couple of other vehicles pulled over to the side of the road as if they were looking at something. We pulled alongside and asked a safari guide what they were looking at. He said that there was a lion in the bush. We looked for a few minutes, saw nothing and then headed on down the road. Evan, our Director of Photography, then said that he just barely saw a lion really far back under a tree behind us. We drove for another half a minute contemplating getting stuck in a massive thunder storm and coming home to wet sleeping bags before deciding that we had to turn around and press out luck. I couldn’t be happier that we did.
It took a while, but eventually we too spotted a lion off in the trees. At first I shot a picture of her ears and then two eyes came into view. This was it, an actual wild lion less than 50 feet from our truck. I was firing off photos thrilled to get the smallest bit of fur on film. What happened next I never would have imagined possible. First one lion came forward out of the trees walking right towards our vehicle. ‘Was this safe?’ I wondered as I hung out the window to get a clear shot? Next thing I know I see a little cub, then another, then another. They were bouncing around playfully tackling one another moving closer and closer to our vehicle. It wasn’t long before they were out in the street right right in front of us Mom and Dad keeping a watchful eye on both them and us all the while.
We must have hung out with the lion pride of an hour inching along the road following them back towards the watering hole in awe of just how beautiful and peaceful this family seemed. At times it really seemed as if mom and dad were showing off their family for us. They certainly didn’t see us as a threat or show any desire to be anything other than friendly towards us. It wasn’t until the very last minute before we knew the park was to close that we decided to leave the lions to their wild Namibian home.
Today we woke up early at the Cheetah Conservation Fund to get breakfast before heading to the ‘Cheetah Run’. We weren’t really sure what that term meant, but all of the staff at the CCF had a certain glimmer in their eye when they mentioned it to us. It turns out that this was to be one of those amazing, once in a lifetime experiences that really could not happen anywhere else in the world. Thank you Namibia.
The people at the CCF are world leading experts when it comes to cheetahs. They are quite often developing the standards of practice that those working with cheetahs internationally will reference and/or adopt. When it comes to the small percentage of cheetahs that the CCF houses in captivity it became quickly apparent to the staff that without exercise the cheetah’s health would decline. Sound familiar? Seeing as no one has invented a cheetah treadmill or opened up Gold’s Gym for cats it fell to them to create a stimulus that would arouse a cheetahs hunting instinct and get them running in a somewhat controlled manner. Considering that cheetahs run faster than any other animal with a top speed of over 70 miles/hr (110 km/hr) this wasn’t quite as simple as throwing a tennis ball and asking them to fetch.
If you’ve ever seen dogs running at the track you might have noticed that there is a little mechanical bunny that races around the track ahead of them. The people at CCF developed a cable system that has a motor in the center. There is a series of pulleys which the cable runs around as it weaves its way throughout a field creating a 300 meter (1,000ft) course for them to run. They then attached a rag to the cable. Since cheetahs are natural born hunters the movement of the rag is enough to trigger their hunting instincts. The cheetahs see this rag and take off full sprint after it.
We were set up mere feet away from the cable waiting for these high speed balls of claw and fur to come racing towards us. At times we stood just past a pulley so that the cheetahs would come racing directly towards us turning after the rag in a cloud of dirt narrowly missing us as we stood still and trusting knowing full well that should their attention turn from the rag to our shirt the mood of the day would change rather quickly. Clearly we stayed as still as we could.
I got some of the most amazing photos I have ever taken. There is nothing quite like a cheetah being right in front of your face running at full speed. I don’t think many get so close and walk around grinning the way we all were afterwards. Luckily these particular cheetahs are the most tame ones at CCF. After they were all tired out from running faster than most non-highway drivers they were tired, well fed and content to be approached. We got to pet the cheetahs and take a few pictures with them. A big thanks to the entire staff at the Cheetah Conservation Fund for their amazing hospitality. Dr. Laurie Marker’s love for and vast knowledge of this amazing animal came through in every moment. We are truly blessed to have been able to spend this time with her and these animals.
After a very full morning we got back into our rental and on the road heading to TreeSleeper Camp in Tsintsabis roughly 162 miles (260 km) from the CCF. After letting me get my rally on speeding down the dirt road sliding through mud puddles Evan took back over driving on the left hand side of the road. 3.5 hours later we pulled up to the camp. We were greeted by Moses and shown to our campsite where we were to pitch tents that they provided and sleep up in a platform in the trees. The San are the local bush people in the region. Throughout the years they became experts at sleeping in trees in order to stay safe from lions, cheetahs and other predators. We get to experience this way of life first hand. Luckily these more modern campgrounds have electricity and hot water provided by solar power.
After we got our tents setup it was off to the communal fire pit to see some traditional San shamanic dance cermonies. Mehdy even got to dance with the men for one song dancing in a circle around the campfire till sweat dripped from his face. He just couldn’t keep up with the San people who often dance late into the night celebrating an event in someones life.
After the dancing it was back to our tents and quickly to sleep. Another amazing day in this spectacular southern African country. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us.
Mehdy reached out recently. Since I am taking a 1 year sabbatical and can once again travel he invited me to come shoot another show with The Hostel Life. This time we went to Namibia. I arrived in NYC today to spend some time with my love before heading back to the mountain in North Carolina. My responsibilities on the show are photography and sound, but I also wrote a few blogs detailing what happened a few days. Here’s my blog on Day2.
THE HOSTEL LIFE: NAMIBIA – CHEETAH MEET AND GREET
By Devin Martin – Photography and Sound
Today we left the Cardboard Box Hostel in Windhoek in our rental truck and headed North towards The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) outside Otjiwarango. It was about 163 miles (262km) door to door. The last 29 miles (47km) are a dirt road that ends right at the CCF’s gate. We were heading to the CCF to meet up with Dr. Laurie Marker, arguably the world’s leading expert on Cheetahs. There are roughly 10-12 thousand cheetahs left in the entire world. Namibia has 3-4,000, or one third, of the world’s population. Dr. Marker, originally from the United States, moved to Namibia to study the cheetah. She is co-founder and director of the CCF. The Conservation Fund is mecca for studying cheetah behavior and helping modern people to live in peace with these amazing animals. The CCF is open to the public and also houses a number of interns and volunteers doing research.
Immediately upon our arrival we were rushed into the facility for feeding time. A few of the younger, rescued cheetahs that are not able to roam wild are fed meat in a bowl. Our first glimpse of these rather large cats was teeth out chomping on big hunks of meat. Their beauty and their power were immediately apparent. I couldn’t wait to see them up close and without a fence between us. Luckily we wouldn’t have to wait too long.
Dr. Marker greeted us at the feeding and gave us a quick tour of the facility. We got to see the veterinary clinic while surgery was being performed on a dog that got in the way of a warthog’s tusk. The injury was worse than originally expected and they had to stay with the pup throughout the night, but she was doing much better come morning. We saw goats being milked (they make their own goat cheese on site), fed baby goats from a bottle, fed their little puppies bowls of puppy chow and marveled at the wild warthogs and other animals running around the property. If we had any doubts that yes, we are in Africa, they were dashed at the CCF.
After seeing the rest of the animals it was time to get in an open-air truck with our guide, Charles, and go visit the cheetahs out in the bush. We managed to track down five cheetahs. Our guide had a bag of meat that he uses to lure them closer to the truck and we got amazingly close. Some of the photos I got one would assume required a really long lens as the cheetahs face fills the entire frame. I was mostly using a 50mm lens (comparable to the human eye), they were just that close. These animals are considered ‘retired’. They have spent a lot of time with people, but don’t let that fool you, they are all wild animals. I can’t keep track of the number of times my little house cat, Agape, has gotten feisty and drawn blood. Without the proper respect these animals could certainly do a lot of damage. Luckily they all seemed to be well fed and happy.
As late afternoon came we went on a game drive with Dr. Marker, Dr. Bruce Brewer and a few of the interns working at the facility. We drove out into the 20,000 acre bush looking for wild game. We saw Kudu, Warthogs, Springbok, Red HarteBeest, a number of birds and a very unexpected Aardwolf that the whole staff of CCF was excited to get a glimpse of. We were hoping for a leopard but haven’t gotten lucky there yet. Hopefully when we head north to Etosha National Park we will see lions, leopards, and elephants. Personally, I can’t wait to see another baboon. We saw one perched on a post along the road outside of the airport and haven’t seen one since.
Tomorrow we start the day with a cheetah run. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds like they will be exercising the cheetahs by prodding their hunting instincts and we will get to stand a few feet away as they come running by at full speed. Considering that they are the fastest animal on land this should be amazing to witness.
After Panama City the audience voted that we head to Baranquilla, Colombia. This was the only real option in my mind as Baranquilla is said to have the 2nd biggest Carnival celebration after Rio De Janero, Brazil. That, combined with the fact that we ended up getting hooked up with press passes made this an amazing place to be.
A big part of Carnival is the parades. With press passes we got bussed to the route and then set loose on the parade route. We could literally walk down the middle of the street and the dancers would just work around us…or with us. Anthony and I ran around with Mehdy getting drunk and shooting video all day. I got some amazing photos. Check em out here. And check out the video below featuring The Emergence track To Die By These Kisses. (now available on iTunes)
After Baranquilla we went to the cute little beach front town called Santa Marta. This video is pretty mellow. It features a track of mine called ‘drift’ that I put out on the Gods Own Drunk CD a few years back. (also available on iTunes)
After Santa Marta we were off to Bucaramanga and then to San Gil and finally Bogota. San Gil is known for adventure sports. It’s a really cool little city nestled in the mountains. Anthony was still sick for most of this shoot, so the video below I shot, directed and edited; with Anthony yelling keyboard shortcuts to me across the room. I now know Final Cut Pro!!! (somewhat)
First we went white water rafting. I jumped in a boat with three guides. Mehdy and some friends we met along the way jumped in another. We would go through the rapids ahead of them and then immediately direct the boat into some rocks on the side of the river. I would jump out of the boat, scramble up the boulders on the shoulder of the river and set up the camera to shoot Mehdy’s boat as it came through the rapids. Crazy, hectic and way too much fun.
The next day we went para-sailing. If I had less to do I probably would have been scared out of my mind. As it was I remember getting all geared up in the para-sailing outfit as well as with the HD video camera and my still camera. Next thing I know I’m filming Mehdy’s takeoff and then people are telling me to ‘RUN!!’ off of the cliff in front of me…..and then I was flying. The guides did a some swirling diving stunts and really showed us around. I had Mehdy hooked up with a wireless lavalier microphone and I was wearing a headset, so you can hear me screaming to him at one point and him talking back through his mic.
You’ll also notice what appears to be Mehdy swearing a lot in this video. Mehdy doesn’t really swear that much. He does have a problem with the word little though. It became Anthony’s mission as director to stop him from saying this. Any time we were looking at anything impressive or of stature Mehdy would say it was little. At times Anthony would carry around a handful of rocks to throw or a stick to hit him with every time he said it. Without Anthony there I had too many other things to worry about. But when Mehdy described the massive cliff that we were about to run off of as little, I couldn’t let it slide. So I bleeped out all of his little’s in this video.
Check out more of the pictures and videos on Facebook and YouTube. All but two pieces of the music that you here in the 15 or so videos we released is written, performed and/or produced by me. Maria Mulata contributed one song for the San Gil video above and the percussion you hear under the la Brisa Loca hostel walk through is something I recorded during one of the parades in Baranquilla.
All in all this was a wonderful, stressful, beautiful, weird, sickening, inspiring, erotic jaunt.
I hope to do it again some time.