Wadi Rum Sunset

A Look Back at #TryingStuffinJordan

It’s one thing to write a post as soon as you get back from a life-changing, completely eye opening vacation/experience/location/all above, it’s another to write a ‘review’ 4 months later.

When I got back from my trip to the Kingdom of Jordan with Columbia Sportswear, I could not put into words the things I saw, felt, experienced, and lived. I failed to do, what I claim to do best. But can you blame me?

It was more than anything I could have imagined. Outside of Mexican resort towns, I had never left the U.S. Including Mexico, I had never left North America. I grew up, went to college, and live in areas that are predominantly white. As such, the religion is mostly Christianity as well. Despite those things, I still consider myself a fairly cultured individual and keep up on world affairs. However, reading BBC or Al Jazeera from my couch, living near the cultural hub of Minneapolis, MN for 6 years, still did not prepare me for a first hand experience.

I was so blown away by the generosity and joy the people of Jordan display every day that I wrote a post while we were still on the trip:

Young Jordanian Girl

A Cultural Awakening: The People of Jordan

The Secrecy of #TryingStuff with Columbia

On top of all the new personal experiences, there’s also the ever-present height of anticipation. When you try stuff with Columbia Sportswear, you have no idea of what comes next. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but this is how we were told to prepare for the entire trip:

Here’s some gear and clothing; pack it in this duffle; bring this bag; here’s your plane tickets; show up to the airport on time. See you in Jordan.

Yeah, ok!

It didn’t get much better once we arrived. We had no idea what was going on from day to day until dinner the previous day or breakfast the day of. And then it was basically, “we may or may not be getting wet. You may or may not want board shorts. You may or may not want your PowerDrains.” Or, “Today might be dry. You should consider the regular shoes.”

C’mon, MAN!

Can you imagine? All the anticipation, all the treasures Jordan has to offer, and all you can do is sit and wonder? We were never disappointed when we’d arrive at a destination. Every single day was one jaw dropping experience after another.

And I think this is why keeping everything a secret is so important and so awesome. It prevents you from looking past one day’s experience and onto the next. It forces you to live in the moment and take everything in. Because you have no idea what comes next, there’s no need to occupy your mind with anything else.

Admittedly (and very obviously if you read my site), I’m not a huge fan of hiking. I mean, I’ll do it, especially when we’re hiking through The Lost City of Petra, one of the Wonders of the World, with 11 of my best friends in the world, but it’s still not something I’d be like, “hey, let’s go to Jordan so we can go hiking!” If I knew we were going to the Red Sea the day after hiking in Petra, I can guarantee I’d be thinking about the sea instead of enjoying my time learning about the ancient history of Petra.

Without knowing that, without knowing anything, you truly get to live the moment.

Our Jordanian Guide: Mohammad

Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.
Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.

It’s one thing to get on a tour bus and listen to someone that has done the same tours over and over and over again to a bunch of senior citizens going to the local casino, it’s another to have someone that appears rejuvenated every single day he comes to work. There was never a time I didn’t see a smile on this guy’s face. If there wasn’t a smile, it’s probably because he was building up to the punchline of a joke.

There was no history question he couldn’t answer, and there was never anything we couldn’t do (inside the laws, of course). If there was something we wanted, chances were good, Mohammad could make it happen.

One of my favorite memories of the trip, and possibly the best day of the trip (possibly) was the last full one. Justin and I were giving interviews and the rest of the group went swimming up a slot canyon. We had to stay back so Mohammad took the two of us and Jeff (a badass slow-mo cameraman) up to the waterfall himself. I can’t remember the last time I saw 3 grown adults acting liking such children. We were jumping, splashing, swimming, smiling, and laughing for the entire trip up the canyon. It was a bittersweet end to the entire trip. Without him, who knows if it would have turned out the same.

Mujib Biosphere

The OmniFamily

I know you’ve heard me talk about this before, after I got back from Park City for the original Season 4 #OmniTen trip, and those feelings only strengthened. I absolutely loved getting to know better the nine other people with me.

When we were in Park City, it was a zoo. There were 30-something of us running around, partying, and acting like morons. It was really hard to spend quality time with people to get to know them. I was there a couple of days earlier with my Season 4 posse so I did know Seth, Beth, and Andrew already when we got to the airport in Chicago. Heather and I live close to each other and have hung out on other Colorado trips so this gave me the opportunity to bond with Jon, Casey, Erika, Caleb, and Justin.

Of course, I not only extend this designation to all #OmniTen, but also to all of the Columbia people that made this happen like Mark, Daniel, Scott, and the rest of their teams that we haven’t met.

And there’s new people too! The film crew that followed us around tirelessly easily put in double or triple the miles and double or triple the hours. These guys weren’t just faceless film crew, walking around like android props, but actual, real people with stories of their own. I know, right?! It was a blast hanging out and getting to know all of them.

 

Dead Sea

Four Months Later…

If you remember, I started this post talking about not being able to aptly describe the experience as soon as I got back. And here’s why I think a ‘review’ 4 months later might have even more value than the knee-jerk reaction:

After the initial exuberance wears off, after you forget the tiny little details, after you forget about the exact daily itinerary, what’s left?

What’s left is what truly stuck with you. What’s left is the important stuff. What’s left are the things that you’re going to tell people for the rest of your life.

Here’s what’s left for me:

Everything I mentioned above: the Jordanian people, our guide, the #OmniFamily, our film crew.

I remember seeing the sun rise over Amman.

Sunrise over Amman, Jordan

I remember seeing Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan from a single point in the Red Sea.

Red Sea Sunset

 

I remember sleeping under the stars at Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum Sunset

 

I remember walking into the most breathtaking and picturesque hotel I’ve ever seen or been in, and it was 100% off the grid. Feynan Ecolodge:

©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin
©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin

I remember floating in the Dead Sea.

©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going
©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going

I remember spectacular slot canyons and more nature than I had ever expected.

Slot canyon

I remember giant burial tombs for kings and MASSIVE stone architecture in Petra.

Petra Cathedral

I remember camels.Wadi Rum Camel Ride

This trip will forever hold a place in my heart. Right before we left, I put up a Facebook status: “I may never return from this.” And I don’t think I have. Since we’ve gotten back, I’ve focused my time around freelancing. I’ve focused my money around #VanLife. I’ve took control of my life, and it’s time to start living it to the fullest. This trip provided the insight and motivation to make these things happen. I was right. There is no coming back.

Thank you, Columbia Sportswear, and thank you, everyone in the Kingdom of Jordan.

Wadi Rum Sunset

Visit Jordan – Wadi Rum: Mars on Earth

I feel bad that I haven’t written more about my trip to Jordan quite yet. I’ve continued to post pictures of our journey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep the stoke for this amazing country high. It’s just, spring time in Colorado is magical. It’s not too hot; it’s not too cold; and there aren’t any bugs. We have unicorns prancing from rainbow to rainbow, and pleasant little mountain nymphs playing their flutes.

Kidding. I’m just going through my annual re-fall in love with climbing thing where that’s all I think about every waking moment. And if I’m not thinking about it, I’m actually doing it. Also, camping. Mostly camping and climbing together all of the times.

Anyways, I was going through my Jordan pictures again (because that’s what I do nearly every other day it seems), and I saw the ones from visiting Wadi Rum. If you have no other reason to visit Jordan than Wadi Rum, you’re not doing it wrong. I could spend weeks just in this area alone. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, with it’s seemingly flat, powdery sand and MASSIVE sandstone features appearing out of nowhere, for no reason. It was Mars on Earth. And quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Wadi Rum Sunset

The sandstone was endless. You could spend a hundred lifetimes climbing here. And never make a dent. You could get lost ducking in and out of the various canyons of this 280 sq. mile reserve without a guide very easily. Though, that might be your intent. And I wouldn’t blame you.

There’s something freeing here. I can’t quite describe it. Maybe because this land was settled 10,000 years ago. And I can imagine probably looks the same.

Wadi Rum Hiking

The local Bedouin guides and hosts were some of the friendliest people we met the entire time in Jordan. They started playing pranks and jokes nearly as soon as we showed up. After they served the bottomless glass of tea, that is. We weren’t exactly roughing it, despite being in the middle of nowhere.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Tea

After tea time, I made friends and decided to partake in some traditional hookah.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Hosts

By this time, everyone was exploring. There were so many wonderful things to see. But while I enjoyed a comfort of the tea and the relaxation of the hookah, I was enamored by the sounds.

That soon wore off, and it was time for my own exploring. It didn’t take long to find everyone playing on the rocks above our camp site for the night. It wasn’t hard to understand why. I witnessed the most awe-inspiring sunset I have ever seen.

Wadi Rum Sunset

After that magical scene, it was finally time for a traditional Bedouin dinner. Our lamb and chicken were buried in the sand with hot coals and left to roast for hours while we were out playing in the desert all day. When it was time to eat, the meat was succulent, tender, and moist. Afterwards, our hosts started playing and singing more music. It wasn’t long until they were dancing. And then we were dancing. Not as Americans, but as the Bedouins.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Food

As the evening dwindled away, we watched Shaboola roast, grind, and brew fresh Arabic coffee with cardamom. And of course, more tea and hookah around the fire. The night ended perfectly with several of us deciding to sleep under the stars instead of in the tent. We stayed up just a bit later with our hosts and had a memorable time with more jokes and laughter that went on into the night.

The next morning was undeniably bittersweet. We weren’t ready to leave yet. But with Columbia running the show, you know it’s only going to get better.

We didn’t have breakfast at the camp, but yes, we did have more tea before we set off on our camel ride back to the bus.

Wadi Rum Bedouin Tea

Wadi Rum Camel Ride

I don’t know if my camel was a male or female, but I like to think it was a female. She was very loving and willing to get to know me, which is more than I can say for my real dating life.

Wadi Rum Camel Ride

And that’s Wadi Rum as best as I can put it. The whole Jordan experience is too surreal for words, much less the best part of it. I purposely wanted to say as little as possible and let the pictures and sounds do the talking for me. This is one place I will never forget and will absolutely be coming back. The climbing community is growing here rapidly with many developed routes and areas already, and as I said earlier, there is no lack of new exploration to be had. I highly suggest you do.

 

Favorite Columbia Gear While Traveling Jordan

I know, I know, you’re probably alllll waiting with abated breath to read about my experiences in Jordan, but my laptop has died and I can’t bring myself to post about the trip without my pictures to help tell the story. So for now, I’m going to steal from the other #OmniTen on this less than emotional topic.

Putting it to the Test

Over the course of the 11 days we were visiting the Kingdom of Jordan, we thoroughly used and abused our Columbia gear. We hiked and swam through miles of slot canyons. We toured the Lost City of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and ancient Roman, Greek, and Aramaic ruins. We rode camels. We scrambled up rocks. We spent time in two major seas of the world. And we dressed up nicely for Five-star restaurants. (Have I mentioned how diverse Jordan is?)

We floated. We walked. We ran. We climbed. We slid. We swam. It was cold. It was hot. It was wet. It was sunny. It was cloudy.

And everything mostly held up well. (That will be separate post.) I was really impressed by all of the gear, but a few things stood out more than others. Sometimes for fashion, sometimes for function, sometimes for both.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Bahama Vent PFG boat shoes

These have become my go-to shoes for daily life. They’re vented incredibly well and help prevent sweaty feet. They’re loafers so they just slip on and off but still manage to stay on your feet while walking. This is important in your day to day travels so you don’t step on broken glass, rusty nails, and dog poop with your bare feet. That’s a free pro-tip.

The one downside is that if you wear them without socks, in a boating or other shorts-wearing activity, they do hold onto the stank a little more than I’d like. Nevertheless, that fact isn’t stopping me from listing them as part of my favorites.

Here is one of Seth’s photos of Caleb rocking the Bahama PFGs while mingling with the local children. They were pretty fascinated by the drone, but lesbi-honest, so were we all. The entire trip.

Bahama Vent PFG

Performance Zero Arm Sleeves with Omni-Freeze Technology

I tried these out a couple weeks before going to Jordan while mountain biking in Moab and Fruita. They worked great then, and they worked great hiking in slot canyons and Petra too.

It takes a decent amount of glisten (sweat) to activate the Omni-Freeze, but once it is, you can really feel it working. I think the Omni-Freeze probably works here better than anywhere else on your body because of how tight it fits against your skin. This makes having big gunz even more important. Or I guess you could just buy the size according to your arms. Either way.

The other main reason I love the arm sleeves is that I don’t have to cake on the sunscreen. They have UPF 50 protection so you can put them on before or after you’ve gotten your daily allotment of mocha skin inducing UV rays. They even look way cool like an NBA player, with or without a shirt.

I was like, this Cathedral thing in Petra is pretty cool. Let me do a handstand real quick. (You can also see them in my Saying ‘NO’ to TryingStuff post.)

DCIM100GOPRO

Royce Peak Pant

These pants are pretty amazing. Mostly, a lot amazing. They fall into the same category as the Bahama Vent shoes: perfectly functional for outdoors, look great for urban wear.

I mostly used them for the latter on this trip whenever we’d go out to a fancy restaurant. Because we had absolutely no idea what we’d be doing every day, I never wanted to risk getting stuck in pants if we were going to be active in the desert. However, before I left for Jordan, I wore them hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and when I climbed the First Flatiron in Boulder.

Not only do they fit better than any designer jean I’ve ever worn, but they are incredibly functional for outdoor use. I’ma buy at least one more pair.

Casey grabbed this one of Justin wearing his Royce Pants atop his noble steed. I’m pretty sure camels are considered steeds.

Royce

Zero Rules Short

I saved the best for last. When I got these in my box of goodies, I was a little leery but equally excited. They have a built-in [Omni-Freeze] liner so I assumed these were swimming trunks. Most shorts I wear come down to mid-knee or possibly below, but these fit well above there. I was like, “sweet! Short-shorts!!” But I also knew that might make me a little uncomfortable in the fashion department. They also have the weight of the super awkward, really short, I-can’t-believe-people-actually-wear-them running shorts most often seen on middle-aged men that think they’re still going to win the Boston Marathon.

Turns out, I kinda like ’em that short. At least for hiking and swimming. The liner makes sure everything stays where it’s supposed to, and since it’s made from Omni-Freeze fabric, we came up with a lot of really great slogans. Think: cold sensations and the family jewels. I’m sure you can come up with something.

The best part about these is that they really increase your tan above an oft neglected area these days above your knee. I’m fairly certain that’s the first thing people notice in the summer. AmIright?

They give Seth the power to backflips into the Red Sea. Otherwise I’m sure that wouldn’t be possible. (Also, don’t be afraid to follow me on Instagram. I swear I post cool stuff there too.)

 

 

Now, go #BuyStuff. In the meantime, I’m staving of jet lag.

Cultural Awakening: The People of Jordan

As I sit here and wait for my day to start in 30 min. to go hike in the lost city of Petra, I thought I'd try preface my trip to Jordan with Columbia Sportswear. I don't know how many posts I'll end up writing about Jordan, but this topic needs to be mentioned exclusively from everything else we've done, or will do. To me, I think this may be one of the HUGEST misconceptions about Jordan, and I want to do my part to set the record straight.

“The Middle East (Near East) is not one big country.”

Westerners, myself included, tend to lump all countries in the Near/Middle East together as if they were one big dysfunctional family. This is exactly what I thought.

“What's the difference between Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or Israel?”

Sure, different countries, different rulers, different religions, but in the end, “it's all same but different.”

 

After having been in Jordan for just 6 days, the people of Jordan have completely blown me away and made me realize this region truly is individualistic.

In Amman, I felt completely safe walking down the street at night. In Jerash, we were constantly bombarded by Jordanian children eager to get their pictures taken. In the downtown market, I got countless smiles and thumbs-ups for wearing the Jordanian scarf. The people have been nothing but amazing. Always smiling. Always willing to try speak in English. Always ready to accommodate as best as they can.

I was also not sure what to expect in terms of the presence of religion in the day-to-day interactions with the Jordanians. This has less to do with Jordanians, and more to do with me never experiencing an Islamic culture. I'm quite aware of the stereotypes people of the U.S. hold of Muslims, and I absolutely did not bring any of those biases with me. And yet, I am elated those stereotypes are all completely based of a few terrible examples.

The people here are simply just people. People that love their country. People trying to make a living. Happy. And incredibly welcoming.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise has been the smiling faces and nonstop humor. Our tour guide, all of our hosts, vendors, and even random people we talk to in the market all try to make us laugh. They all have stories (including running around naked if you encounter a hyena). They all have experiences. They all want to share them with you. And in the end, it doesn't matter what language you speak or what God you believe in. The people of Jordan, are truly amazing.

 

Mountain Biking Slick Rock Trail

Saying ‘No’ to #TryingStuff

Ahhhh, gotchya, didn’t I?!?! I’m so tricky.

The title is accurate, but it’s only half finished. Let me go ahead and complete that for you so you can stop guessing.

Saying ‘No’ to #TryingStuff is the absolute best way to ensure a boring life.

Mountain Biking Moab

Over the past four weeks, I’ve noticed my ability to say no  to new experiences have been setting records for all-time lows. I didn’t always finish what I started, but turn down new experiences? Nay. Never. Nuh-uh.

Attempt first trad lead in Indian Creek? Check.

Climb the First Flatiron? Yup

Mountain bike some classic lines in Moab and Fruita? MmmmHhhmmmm

Being told to pencil in a heli-skiing trip in Alaska next year? Done.

Go to a hockey game? Tell me why I wouldn’t.

In just five days (5!!), I will be heading to the Kingdom of Jordan with Columbia Sportswear and nine other fantastic humans from the #OmniTen crew (as well as a film crew and people from the Jordanian Tourism Board). I will be exposed to so many new experiences, I can’t imagine turning down a single one: new culture, new people, new landscape, new food, so much new food, new animals, and new food. I’m holding my breath for toasted scorpions even though I have no idea if they’re available. I just want to try them, and we’re short on fresh scorpions in Boulder.

Saying no to trying stuff is unfathomable to me. If you have the means, the ability, the support, the equipment, the finances, the whatever you need in order to perform whatever that stuff happens to be, but don’t, we are on completely different wavelengths. When I was told I was nominated as an alternate because Patrick had conflicting plans, I was asked if I could get the time off of work. I am so averse to saying no to new experiences that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t get the time off. Because I was going to take it regardless of the consequences. I can work in a cubicle for the rest of my life. A trip to Jordan may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

During an interview for the documentary, Pedro, the director (or at least I think that’s his title, aside from pretty rad guy) asked if I was nervous about anything, or if there was anything I wasn’t looking forward to. I just said, “no.” And then there was awkward silence. I’m really good at awkward.

Whatever they plan to throw at us in Jordan, I’m ready. Whether it’s snorkeling, scuba diving, riding camels, rappelling into slot canyons, eating food we’re not used to…I don’t care what it is. I want it all.

I want to experience life, and saying no  to trying stuff does not accomplish that goal.

Jordan is a pretty monumental event in my life; it’s the first time I’m leaving North America, but I hold everyday events in the same regard. See above about a hockey game. I DON’T EVEN WATCH HOCKEY! Sure, that’s not worth losing my job, but it was on a Saturday afternoon. Why would you ever turn something like that down?? Do people do that?!?!