When I began researching Africa, I knew I would be entering some dense jungle parts that required some vaccines.
Luckily I already had yellow fever from a previous long trip in South America, and since that is for life, I had one less needle to prick in me. However I still needed to update my typhoid, hepatitis A (maybe B & C), rabies and polio – yes, I guess polio made a come back. By the time I compared prices to a few US travel locations, I would be paying well past $500 for these. I find it absorb that we pay so much money into insurance and yet so much is considered optional.
That’s when I knew I would be getting all my medical needs in Europe, prior to entering the continent. like Africa, I always held Spain on a pedestal, and knew one day I would visit when my Spanish was a bit better. I had a couple friends living across the country so it seemed like the perfect time to take the trip.
I am so grateful for Alexander because without him, I wouldn’t have know where to make the appointment months ahead of time. Turn out free healthcare in a foreign country still beats traditional American standards.
The clinic was modern and full of people. While I had an appointment, I still found myself waiting for an hour. There could be worse things. also very grateful for my Spanish friend because there are so many medical terms I do not know in Spanish, and he is fluent in five languages. Surprisingly not a lot of people in Spain know English as their second language so it would have been extremely difficult for me to ask questions.
I brought my travel vaccine card from many years ago to help communicate what I had already from the past. Alex works in the medical field, so this was probably just a typical day for him. I however dislike hospitals very much. I’ve only had three doctors successfully draw blood from me, and I just get uncomfortable in the sanitized florescent lighting with them poking around on me.
When it came time to sit on the chair I approached with hesitation. I watched him wiping all the syringes and anticipated four shots in both my arms. I didn’t mind the first one, ironically the one he said would hurt the most, however the second, third and especially the fourth stung. I know this is completely normal to most people and I should just suck it up, but I hated every minute of it.
Alex seemed entertained by it all. At least one of us was. The doctor pricked me in both arms, but by the third shot I was very shocked that he started wiping my thigh with a prep pad. I was not expecting this, but before I could ask questions the next shot was delivered straight into my leg! I guess there is a first time for everything. The fourth may have been the worst and I squeaked with a little panic. I definitely caught a grin on Alexs’ face when it was finally over. The last surprise was when I went to pay, it was a shocking $48 for the entire visit!
We celebrated over wine and tapas, and more wine. As the night progressed my entire body felt stiff. My legs were especially sore as we got off the midnight train to his house just outside the city. Anyways that was my experience with Spanish healthcare and I would highly recommend getting your vaccines at a local clinic in Spain before you Travel south to Africa!
The first leg of the trip didn’t start so well. Catching a small cold a few days prior, my phone battery died upon entering the Denver Airport, and even lost flight reservation. Apparently they couldn’t locate my flight because the third party did not enter my birth date on the itinerary. While all the US counters and overseas airlines were closed after hours, luckily, I came early enough to sort over an hour long phone call.
Despite all the set backs so quickly, I know they are lessons for future check ins.
Had a long layover in NYC where I was able to take a much needed sleep at my friends apartment. She kindly gave me her keys while working as I surprised her with a matcha latte. I was so grateful for a quiet place to close my eyes. The white noise of construction outside pushed me into hours of sleep. Managed to squeeze in lunch with an old friend, but all I could stomach was ginger beer. I crawled back to her apartment couch where I slept for a couple more hours.
Realizing how rough the other half of this flight will probably be, I grabbed the subway back to JFK where I connected my next leg, Ponta Delgata. This little island located far off the coast of Portugal seemed like a beautiful place to call my final destination. While it was tempting, I went through customs, got my passport stamped and continued to my final flight into Spain.
The medicine was catching up to me and I felt delirious arriving into Barcelona. I was mildly surprised that I didn’t have to go through customs or get a stamp. I brushed off the idea that I illegally entered the country and was ready to dust off my Spanish. Navigating the train from the airport was challenging as it did not correlate to any of the previous maps I pulled up when I had Wi-Fi. Each time I asked for instructions, I would only recall the first part of what they said and would proceed to ask the next person. It was a constant game of breadcrumbs leading me to the next train, the next metro, the final bus.
I stumbled into my hostel around 2:30pm or whatever time it was in this foreign zone. Upon checking in I immediately went to my bed, took off my shoes, and without hesitation, proceeded to fall asleep for another many hours.
Awoke in the evening to unfamiliar voices out the window. The streets were alive and people were emerging from their dwellings. I decided it would be a good time to catch sunset at the Sagrada Familia Church. I’ve always been drawn to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His whimsical, oriental and gothic style challenges the world of engineering. I love the way he stays playful while introducing functional innovations in his building.
I returned to the Wi-Fi of the hostel to find ramen. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in over 72 hours and I had just enough of an appetite for a warm soup. The first spot was closed so I circled back to the hostel entrance to use the Wi-Fi to find another location. The second spot was sold out of ramen. I must have circled the neighborhood three times until I finally found a small Chinese den that served homemade noodles.
Five euros later I was walking down the bustling street, with the hint of my first smile. The night was young and I cradled the warm bowl of Togo noodles as if it was the only thing that mattered in the world. As far as I was concerned, in this moment it was. I had yet to invest in anything in this new place and had zero expectations aside from devouring this hot soup and waking up tomorrow morning with a fresh hope for the future.
It seems as if my life has been a series of rapidly falling dominoes since April. My grandmother passed (at the beautiful age of 96). I fell over my handlebars in a frazzled family state of affairs leading to a serious concussion. I created some healthy boundaries with my mother as I seek nothing but love. I quickly realized my jaw was still locked after weeks of trying to slowly move it open. I answered the door to a police officer who was delivering subpoena papers to my landlords upstairs. I spiraled into researching a better living solution. I requested three weeks off work not knowing where I would spend it. I contacted my dealer and impulsively put a lot of my savings into purchasing a practically new 2022 Van from across the state. I started packing my house in four days. I locked in a storage unit out west. I applied for a new PO Box.
I got out of Dodge. Aka the limbo I was stuck in for a year also known as Evergreen.
So this is my life in another universe. I wake up to the morning sun and walk around the woods with my cat. I spend the evenings riding my bike around the hills of Colorado looking for the next sign. I drift from mountain town to mountain town in question of my next permanent destination.
Every day is a new day, and I am so eager to live it all. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t die on impact that day months ago when my temple hit that rock going 25miles downhill with no helmet. Trust me, I always wear helmets and that is how frazzled I was that day.
If you are reading this, consider it some silly, small token that your current situation has landed upon. I am determined to find some privacy through this thing we like to call the internet. So if you found this post buried amongst all the other 58, well then I would say it’s meant to be.
It’s liberating going into repeats and actually finding more than a summit after each mountain. With each connection toward nature, not to mention the people along side this brutal insanity, I feel a step closer to something bigger than me. And with each hike now comes this familiar comfort that I am home and I don’t have to look any further.
Flash forward and it is Thanksgiving 2021. I just got off a plane to what feels like some other place in time. Either I am in some matrix that is simulated with yet another airport flight, or I am constantly out of place. Anyway, I AM GRATEFUL to be off that plane, and out of that airport full of sea-blob-staring, anxiety-ridden souls. Currently in the living room, distracted by Chip purring across my laptop begging for attention, something you can only appreciate from a furry friend.
I find it comforting that the mountains are the most reliable thing in my life.
Guess I still hate the holidays and this time of year. It comes around like clockwork and I always find myself packing and moving. Everything must go. HUGE BLOW OUT SALE. Wanted: new routine, new confidence, new love. I can’t help but feel bittersweet this time of year, not to mention so incredibly alone in this entire life-journey thing. Trying to find a more positive spin, but the truth remains that I am skeptical about a soulmate.
Back to Mount Sherman. If you even care to hear about this mountain. It is in fact my favorite little slice of 14ers that I introduce people to. It is close enough to the city that you won’t be exhausted driving and running on little sleep. It is the shortest of all the fourteeners, not to mention, considerably less vertical gain than the rest. Naturally, it is the mountain I chose for my friend Lisa, who is looking to get back out there!
Climbing Mount Sherman feels like climbing into the new year. Where am I even heading? Suppose I no longer care for the top – the views will be nice, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Yet I don’t think I particularly care for the bottom either – I know what awaits me when I return back to the city and am doubtful about how it serves me.
Nope, here right now, walking this snowcapped mountain in my mind, I choose to be optimistic curiosity and thankful for the people next to me, that are quietly going through their own little mental mountain. The howling wind is a great excuse to keep to ourselves as we trudge on. Even the success of summiting is short-lived in this cold, and we find ourselves enjoying the quicker hike down.
Anyway, what I’m really saying is that I know exactly where am I right now (if you only knew how much of a broken record it is), but equally feel lost. I would like to place this promise to myself into the metaverse. I want to, need to, promise to, spend a year actually taking care of myself for a change. I often take on too many humanitarian projects (often with the people closest to me) and wonder why I lose myself in helping them achieve greatness. I have given far too many years building up others who put my needs on the back-burner. Ultimately, I become frustrated and spontaneously rip the informal contract into tiny littles pieces. It may take some time, and hopefully the shortest of all seasonal changes, but I think I will reach this new height.
At least once a year, some unfortunate climber sends the local search & rescue office into full gear. It is actually crazy to see the data! Luckily, fate was kind to me as I embarked across climbing from Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle, otherwise known as one of the four Great Traverses in Colorado.
Backpacking into South Colony lakes was unreal. It felt like the world was closing in on me and I was safely protected within the bosom of this range. The Sangre de Cristos, and specifically Crestone mountains, have been very influential in my climbing experience. They have left me battered, afraid, hopeful, satisfied and all emotions in-between. The evening light rain showers welcomed me, refreshing me for the night ahead.
Awoke at 2am with more eager anticipation than usual, after-all, today I would climb my last first Colorado 14er. There was something bittersweet about knowing this will be the end of an era. However there was equally something comforting in the perspective of how far I’ve come throughout this journey.
Found company around 3am in the darkness of moonlight. The headlamps of two older men would shine yards away, and I knew we were both chasing the same thrill. We sling shot on the switch-backs, exchanging awkward hello again’s, and eventually resolved to just climb together as we were clearly able to keep up with each other.
Chris and Wade surprised me when they took out their ropes and harnesses going up the first summit, Crestone Peak. While I confidently hung behind, without a rope or care in the world, I found it useful to pick up some basic partner ropes skills while watching them climb the loose terrain. One does not simply climb these mountains.
The sun was breaking across the mountain range, and each peak greeted us with a soft, yellow smile. I was in awe of the rays of sun striking the side of the red gully. It was so inspiring that I needed to feel it. I spontaneously removed my approach shoes and climbed into the light. The rock was smooth and numbing, swallowing my stomach while I basked in the sun. I only recently starting removing my shoes at random points along the 14er hikes, simply to feel the earth, or rock, beneath me. Feels silly, but don’t knock it until you try it.
After the endless scramble of the red gully, we made the summit, just in time to watch the peaks light up. I typically don’t bring coffee past 13,000ft, however I really wanted all the cozy comforts to simultaneously stimulate my heart with emotion on this last climb. Made a cuppa and watched the sand dunes in the distance. From this vantage point, one could see all of the San Luis Valley, and if you squint just right, the mystical magic it held.
It was during our climb down and toward the traverse cairn that we began to see people. I typically prefer less people around for these more technical climbs, however I embraced everyone with the biggest grin. Practically hugging strangers on the mountain. Not really.
Anyway, we made our way across the rocky face of the traverse with one route in sight. The famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
I had no doubt in my mind that every mountain I climbed over the past two years has led me to this very moment. Fear subsided into ecstasy, and every bone in my body told me I was ready. A truly rare feeling for me to feel so certain about something, when life has always held so much doubt.
We made our way across the rocky face of the mountain with one route in sight. Then, finally, the famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
It began with a small class 5 move into this narrow bulge. Yes, I am aware as I am typing this how sexual mountain climbing can be. It is probably best that all the research led me to believe this 5.2 move would be the most difficult, and distract me from the later crux. I conquered it with ease, and felt like it would be smooth sailing after. There was an exposed, fun climb across a mini rib which allowed you to see the entire back west side of the mountain – it dropped down for over 4,000 terrifying feet.
Little did I know how steep the approaching 40 foot rock wall would be. The same rock wall that sits on the edge of this 4,000 drop ridge crest. This mountain crux is Crestone Needle’s way of slapping you one last time. You are merely 300 feet away from the summit, and if you can pass this one last, potentially fatal test, then you can enjoy the panoramic views. It is so fitting that there are 3 paths you can take up from this point. If it weren’t for the constant reminder of the breeze, I would have thought I was in a video game simulation.
I watched Wade go first, desperately wanting the ropes he has been utilizing this entire time. Chris followed, certainly intimidated, but with the safety net of knowing he was harnessed in. Matt and I looked at each other and he asked me which I would prefer, going third or last. I knew that he was a strong indoor climber, despite this being his first 14er climb of the season, however I wanted to know everybody was safely above me versus looking below in fear.
So I watched him accent upward, and quickly turn into a faint speck. I was at the final pitch, all alone with a racing heart. My hands reached above me, and chose the path less traveled. The far left route that would force me to see the entire backside of the mountain below. There are no words to describe this mental fuckery. I bit my lips with each hand hold, focusing on each rock. While my hands felt great, I kept having flashes to what would happen if/when my foot would slip beneath me. The hand holds weren’t large enough for my feet to find stability.
About half way up the climb I realized I was completely and utterly alone. Not even my helmet would protect me from the deadly fall should I mess up ONE move. The group was well into safety, as I tried my best not to look left, down or up for that matter. One rock at a time. Just one more rock.
My legs began to quiver and I had to stop to control my breathing. I was having flashbacks to the blizzard on the nearby mountain Kit Carson. I could see my death below me and had to ask myself how badly I wanted this life. Some of you can easily relate to this type 2 fun that shakes your bones and leaves you on another high afterwards.
My hands were beginning to lose circulation and I knew I had to climb on, for fear of my fingers losing grip. At one point I even attempted to call out to Matt. He obviously had no control, nor could really talk me out of this sticky situation. The only option I had was to climb up. So I did.
Eventually I reached the top of the ridge and held back tears – I imagine this is how someone cast away deep in the ocean would feel once reaching land after fearing for the end. Perhaps I’m being dramatic but this certainly was the bang I was looking to go out on.
I didn’t realize how great that final summit would feel. My final 58th mountain. Damn. I did all that. Too excited to eat my protein bar or drink water, I paraded around in a silly rainbow poncho – LIFE WAS GOOD.
Rah, rah, rah, I climbed down the other side of this mountain and made it safely to camp where I packed my things and lived happily ever after as a Colorado 14er Finisher.
Mylena’s passing at such a young age was a complete accident. It was well past midnight when the driver fell asleep at the wheel, losing both his sister and father in the same night. Once again, a complete accident that could happen to anybody. Perhaps if they hadn’t driven home through Beaumont, Texas they would have missed that section of the road altogether. Perhaps if they had one more cup of coffee or just pulled over before falling asleep. There are so many what-if’s that should never be dwelled upon.
I shifted my pain into the things that were present, establishing weekly phone calls with my dad to talk about life, ask him questions and lean on him. His father left him at an early age and he felt equipped to relate. The Christmas right after her passing I flew down to Texas, where I was able to have one of the best holidays of my life. December was always so depressing because it was a reminder of how I had to step up the year my mother left; cooking, helping buy gifts for everyone, someone had to help my poor old man pretend life was worth living after the news. Those may have been estranged years, however this year felt different. This year was simply full of laughter, and I even saw my dad smile. He had started dating again and I had never seen him so carefree, loving and silly. It was like the real man was buried all these years.
I will never understand why life threw me a serious curve ball as I was barely standing up again. His birthday rolled around in early February and I had this sense that I should be there. Caught up in finding another job before my contract ended, I decided to save the money, make him a birthday card and call him instead. He sounded distracted and I later figured why. He dreaded that year: it was the age in which his father passed. Two short weeks later, he would too.
I will spare the details of his death – the moment leading up to the heart attack was subtle and I feel remorse for not seeing the red flags in those final text messages. Each of us played a part, and all of his children carry the weight of wondering if they could have saved him. There are so many what-if’s that I can’t help but dwell on. What if I just flew down to see him one last time? What if my phone wasn’t on silent and I answered his last call? What if he was in pain and didn’t want to be alone?
Nobody tells you exactly how much you’re going to miss someone until they leave. I immediately canceled the rest of my contract and flew down to Texas. The four of were all dealing with it in our own way, and we were incredibly grateful that we at least had each other. I buried myself in sorting out his accounts and researching funeral homes to provide to the group. I can’t tell you how many homes cared more about profits and actually tried to take advantage of the grieving family. His brother, our uncle, was so kind during the process to step in and help the four of us, who were clearly not prepared for this sudden responsibility. When we finally found the right location, I met the funeral director in person, he claimed he was shocked to realize I was just a kid. The woman he spoke to on the phone was pictured to be in her brittle, cold fifties. I guess nobody tells you how grief ages the soul of those left behind.
I was no longer the same when I flew back to NYC. Everything was pointless and I lost my way again. I’m not sure how those months would have unraveled if it weren’t for the kindness of an old friend. He had personally reached out to all my friends, new and old, and asked them to mail a coin to my apartment in Harlem. This may sound silly, however he knew this was the conversation my father and I last had, about coins, and he also knew I had been collecting them from all the countries I visited. My heart filled with hope as random little coins flowed through my mailbox. It was a constant reminder of the people we touch and the memories forever carried with us.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my father. It will be over a decade soon. Hard to imagine I haven’t heard his voice for several years. Aside from the few live acoustic nights out in San Antonio. I regret never saving the voicemails on my old phone. I even picked up lucid dreaming to sneak conversations with him but can never form the sentences when I finally see him. Yet sometimes, when I listen carefully, I’ll hear a train whistle or see a big black bird, and hope it’s him.
I don’t care what the calendar says, Spring immediately follows February 27th. The sorrow of his life blooms into celebration of new life. My brother had a son recently, and man, Caden Scott is the spiting image of him. Throughout the years I’ve made a promise to myself to leave the decay in February; after paying him tribute I must soak up every minute of life. That is what he would want.
However it has taken me a long time to get to this place of peace. I couldn’t understand why life was so harsh as to give me the false hope of a fresh start. I was just getting to know my dad, and while the last six months of his life were spent in appreciation and humility, I was angry that it was cut so short. He had set each of us up to be frustratingly, independent people, yet we still had so much to learn from him. I finally understood why he was always teaching us to do it ourselves, because his father left him the same way.
It was this moment in my life in which my insides turned cold. Perhaps the city, with all the constant career and housing hurdles, was pushing me in this direction. I embraced the single-serving friends that came in and out of my life during this time, yet always kept a distance. We needed each other to distract ourselves from what really lied beneath. I’ll admit, there are a few close friends to this day that stuck with me, and I am grateful for the many happy memories. Yet there was a growing, unsettling pit in my stomach that infrequently woke me in the middle of the night.
Nobody tells you how grief changes the core of your being. I watched each of us children go through different stages and have noticed one thing in common. We don’t like to talk about it. It was too hard for me to just let go and accept he was gone. I was afraid to feel the raw emotions of love and couldn’t bear the idea of losing anyone again. Nobody was going to be let in.
I suppose we are all washed up on an island of our choosing. It is hard to let go of certain memories, and becomes easy to get carried away in the rip tide.
What started as a retreat to the familiar waters of the Caribbean, turned into the realization of a lifetime. I knew the basics of what I was signed up for – living off the basics on a boat for endless weeks, basically. I’ve been running through life, unsure of the destination or why I feel the need to be anywhere but in the moment. It became clear that my past was catching up to me, and for once, I didn’t know how to push it back.
To understand where I am going, I must first acknowledge where I have been. Yet, my journey has been a puzzle, and for someone so strategic in the real world, I throw caution to the wind when it comes to navigating through big life decisions. The heart knows just as much as the mind during the process.
New York City.
I could argue it started many countries and cities before this one, however for the sake of time I will begin here.
New York was never on my mind. Ever. I was perfectly content living a simple life, one in which I could connect with nature and curiosity. I had just spent two magical years in small towns across New Zealand and wanted the extreme opposite to compare. I flopped between Chicago and New York, ultimately deciding I would like the subway system of the east coast. I’ll admit, at this point in my early twenties I was beyond repair looking for a place to retreat; a place where animosity knows every concrete corner and far worse souls than yourself congregate. Self-hatred does not reside in this G–forsaken megapolis. The city knows how to turn a blind eye to all your past wrongs, past hurts, and past dreams.
Like all things in life, irony quickly stumbled upon my temporary doorstep. I had just hopped off the plane, breathed the filthy air of the Port Authority Terminal and sighed with relief. There may not have been much to my name, but man did I have all the guts and guile to replace it. During this first month I was so fortunate as to live on the couch of a kind stranger, an immigrant who single-handedly made his way through University of Texas in Austin. We were comrades from the start, understanding that life does not always deal a good hand, and it takes a certain character to pick up the game so early. Everything was new, chaotic and simultaneously stimulating.
Days turned into weeks when I first heard the news. Yet something deep in my stomach knew months prior when I visited her in Italy. I couldn’t understand why I cried leaving her at the train station and brushed off the departure. The news of her death would come as a shock and foreshadow. I was alone, without a job, without a home, and so far away from anybody who knew me. The news of my best friend’s sudden passing became a cold awakening to the fleeting world we live in. I was numb for an unknown period of time, walking the crowded streets every night with black tear-stained cheeks. The city took me into her enormous, shallow arms and allowed me to shamelessly and aimlessly figure out the meaning of life. Lana Del Rey sang me through endless hours of hot water baths, one of the few things that calmed me. It became clear that I was losing grip of who I was, and who I came here to be.
Truth be told, the only people who reached out was my best friend, Phillip, and my father. Everyone else in my life was going through their own ordeals at this particular chapter. My father came as a shock, because for the first twenty years of my life, we were disconnected. It was only until I returned to America that I felt like I finally had a father who was there. Prior to this part of my life, I didn’t know the man who was around. He was quiet, strict, and taught his children how to fend for themselves. It was during my time in New Zealand that his life (along with all my siblings) changed drastically. My mom left him for traveling nursing, they sold our childhood house, and even put down the family dog, the latter two without my knowledge. It appeared a lot changed during my two years away, but one thing was clear, my father was so full of love for his children and we finally saw it.
Life has a way of closing and opening doors. While I lost a dear friend who can never be replaced, I found a new one in my father. I didn’t know it at the time, but he loved his children more than words could express and made a point to check in on me during the rough months ahead. I would later find out that his search engine had my blog as a favorite and all the years of silence didn’t matter because he was supporting from afar.
Seasons changed and I learned to cope with death, distracted by the harsh reality of living in such a fast city. Winter brought an indescribable, soft surrender; despite the struggle between bar and temp office jobs, I found peace in watching my first snow storm. The fragility of time reminded me to live each moment. Despite the setbacks and shortcomings, this was my city and she took me in when I didn’t have a home.
Digitally illustrated poster of the Colorado 14ers. Provides rank, height and distance in one neat visual that brings some funk to your space. Question is, are you ready to conquer them all? ❂ Percentage of sale goes toward the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
✎29x12in. $50 Est. 2017 – these series are ever changing and reconstructing. Similar to the mountains we dwell in.