IMG_3774I write this with a full and happy heart.  A grateful heart that has beat in some amazing places and kept me alive long enough for just one more epic sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, just one more dip in the tropical waters or dinner with good friends in a place I am not familiar.

I am just wrapping up the first phase of one of the biggest trips of my life.  As I have previously outlined in a post titled 35 for 35, I am traveling North America for the remainder of 2017.  I am exploring 35 National Parks this year alone.  With my last visit to the Dry Tortugas, (yes it’s a National Park) I have 32 left to go.   The purpose of this blog is not to brag, but to inspire!

There is something magical about exploring the unknown.  Something happens deep inside and if we are in tune with our bodies and our brain we can pick up on this.  Have you ever been somewhere that was unplanned, risky or downright scary while traveling or exploring?  Do you remember that feeling that went surging through your body and brain, giving you goose bumps as it kicked your mind’s ass?  That feeling is the “wow I cannot believe I am witness to this” or the “Shit, I cannot believe I just got through that.”  That is the feeling that reminds you just how alive you really are.  In the next paragraph I am going to share something with you that should leave you reaching for a bottle of water, your favorite pair of hiking boots and the car keys….

You do not have to climb a mountain in a far away land to get that surging ‘wow’ feeling.  You just need to be shaken out of your dull week-long routine.  When is the last time you dropped something important and went hiking?  Woke up extra early when you were stupid tired, just to catch the sunrise?  Took the kids or significant other to the woods instead of the mall?

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach – Key West FL

We all want things to be perfect before we go do something.  We want to have a plan and be prepared.  We want perfect weather and everything to line up.  While a plan is always the safer route, sometimes you need to leave it behind.  Sometimes a simple trail hike (even one you have done ten times before) can be better with no plans and less than ideal conditions.  Example:

A few nights ago around 1am, my friend and I explored a mangrove forest in the Florida Keys with a cheap dull flashlight between the two of us. We decided to hike to the point where the muck and the mangroves make it impassable and then climb a huge tree to get a good view of the bay/reef that we knew was just beyond.  This is far from crazy and really not even that risky.  But as I began stepping through tidal muck, squeezing between mangrove trees and then climbing a large tree with slippery feet and only glimpses of light from my buddies head lamp, my mind reminded me to be extra careful with my footwork and hold each branch extra tight (as the wind began to sway the entire tree.)  I just kept climbing because, it really sounds worse than it was that night.  Getting closer….  I reached the top branch of the tree (or, as my buddy Matt calls it, the perch.)  I secured my last foot placement of the climb and looked up.  Wait for it….. The moon was shining bright over the bay, the wind rocking me back and forth on the branch.  I was just above the treetops of the dense mangrove forest and the stars were reflecting over the ocean.  The salty air swayed me forward on my branch and I looked down, realizing that I was actually out over the water.  Boom….  it hit me like the ground would have, had I fallen.  This was a moment when I felt completely alive.  A huge wave of peace rushed over my body, fighting the other wave of thoughts that had just kicked my mind’s ass.  I was beyond content, disconnected from the world and completely caught up in that moment.  I had no sense of time and didn’t even care that my buddy (the one with the light) had already begun climbing back down the tree.  It was a perfect moment that filled my heart with serenity and gratitude.  It was a simple climb: up a tree at night, with a friend, that shook my mind into a frenzy of thoughts.  It was a “wake up you dummy- you are alive, soak this in as it doesn’t happen every day” moment for my brain and it was just what I needed.

The point of that story is this, YOU do not have to be on an epic quest across the continent like I am in order to experiance this amazing realization.  You simply have to venture out of your routine, out of your comfort zone, out into conditions that aren’t perfect, out with friends that you miss in your every day life.  So put your busy life on hold for 2 hours.  Unpug from your cellphone and social media, pick a spot you haven’t been and go for a hike or a bike ride or paddle.  Live your life NOW!  Don’t wait for that trip that’s months away.   To feel ALIVE, all you have to do is EXPLORE.

Thank you for reading this, I know it got a little long.  I hope that you are seeking life out at every opportunity and cherishing the moments you have with friends, family and nature!  #goexplore

Parting Shot:

The half hour after the sun has set is my favorite.  This shot was taken at the end of a Time Lapse looking out over the 7 Mile Bridge.  Shot with my Canon T5i and a 10-18 W/A Lense

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