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Archive for December, 2010 Line

A little obvious, a little too best-seller-y . . . a few things I thought upon being recommended to read “Three Cups of Tea” by a friend. But, it kept coming up and there was a copy lying around and there is this Christmas catalyzed reading binge to feed. So, I did it, AND, I am glad that I did. “Three Cups of Tea” tells the story of a pretty regular guy who is deep down a radical feminist and international bridge builder.

The subject of the book is also the co-author, regular guy Greg Mortenson teams up with journalist David Oliver Relin to tell his incredible life-story. Greg is raised in Tanzania by missionaries (the nice kind, who instead of getting pumped about conversions and soul-saving, get pumped about joint humanitarian efforts within the communities in which they live and work) but that is pretty uninteresting compared to what this type of upbringing gets Greg into in his late 30s and early 40s. “Three Cups of Tea” tells the story of a smart hard-working guy who takes a detour as a free-wheeling Bay Area super climber bum that leads him to try (and fail) to summit K2. Pretty cool. BUT, NOTHING compared to what this small failure leads to, he winds up in a tiny isolated Pakistani mountain village, sees little girls sitting outside in the wind teaching themselves to write using sticks and dirt and vows to come back and build a school.

And boy does he! The Maverick-y climber dude writes unanswered letters to Oprah Winfrey and other deep-pocketed types but ends of up gaining the interest of just one rich climber dude from Seattle and TADOWWW! He heads back to build the school. Everyone is stoked. BUT, this process takes years and ultimately results in Greg Mortenson growing into a sophisticated peace-building, money-raising, girl child educating, model American, super guy! It is AWESOME! He is TOTALLY inspirational, if I had read this book in high school my head would have blown off, I would have gotten like twenty tattoos of inspirational quotes from his Pakistan-y mentor and I would still be riding the “hey, people are truly very brave and universally deserving of LOVE” high. Now that I am a sage old thirty-year-old, the book nevertheless manages to inspire a great deal. In a world where not having the exact right carafe is disturbing, (my world) Mr. Mortenson’s tireless and dogged determination to provide opportunities for self-worth for young girls and boys and dealing with the real cause of the world’s problems . . .abject poverty is absolutely thrilling. As someone born and raised in the Wild West the book really drew me in with Greg Mortenson’s convention dodging ways and the his co-author tells the story in an engaging and sensitive way. Leaving in the USA it is hard to turn away from the negative depictions of the Muslim world, but this story steers very clear of any major doses of haterade going East to West or West to East. I’m not sure if it is Mr. Mortenson’s true nature or Relin’s telling of the stories and it is most likely a combination of the two but this book while being about politics and poverty and family, and overcoming all odds and all that touchy feel-y stuff is a REAL ADVENTURE BOOK. Dude is cool as a cucumber during a full-on kidnapping, being held hostage sitch, has similar NO BIG DEAL reactions to all kinds of tea parties with warlords, practically getting killed by landmines, walking into firefights, eating dirty sheeps brains or whatever and the general BADASSERY of riding around in the shadow of the second largest mountain on Earth all alone. He is a real adventure roll model with his learn on-the-go language skills and earnest desire to respect difference.

But, of course, this is all an oversimplification of this adventurer’s mission. If I were a full time adventure book reviewer I would focus more of my time and attention on developing a plethora of time-tested and well-worn analogies for climbing the mountains both within and without oneself, but since I am full time entrepreneur, I will just mention that when he set out to honor his deceased sister by leaving something of hers on top of a big mountain and failed, he found another MUCH BIGGER BADDER MOUNTAIN than K2 to prove himself on. Mortenson’s quest as an ultra-feminist, peace-loving, burly mountain man to build as many schools as possible for one of the most used and abused people’s on earth is one of those stories that can turn a dark day bright. Get to reading, this love-fest is over, I have to go write a proposal to try to get yet another awesome The Adventure School gig. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here’s some more info from Greg Mortenson’s organization, the Central Asia Institute. Through their work in creating and funding a diverse gamut of poverty combating programs like Scholarships, Women’s Centers, School buildings, Teachers, Public Health Programs and the like . .  Greg Mortenson and CAI have (from their website), “As of 2009, . . . successfully established 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 51,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education”. DAMN!!! WOWEE ZOWEE, that is a lot OF KIDS DUDES! All is right in the world. Go out there and do something nice for someone.


It is likely that the book “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” by Eric Newby has given me the wrong idea. I don’t want to end up with a fruit roll-up, wearing some Michael Kors hiking boots in the mountains of Afghanistan but something like that could happen if I take a cue from Mr. Newby and just set out on a grand jaunt overwhelmingly under-prepared but with a heart for ADVENTURE. The plot of “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” is just that, a former dress salesman and a small-time British diplomat decide, what the hell, let’s get into it and travel to Afghanistan and try to climb a mountain. The ‘hilarity’ that ensues is sometimes life-endangering, sometimes life-affirming, for our two protagonists, but is always a fresh snapshot into a region cloaked in mystery to your average Seattle-born party planner. An area that is know known to be the geographic center of population of the world, the Hindu Kush existed and was doing its majestic mountain thing long before Osama Bin Laden got kicked out of the Sudan and made the caves of the region his HQ. It is really nice to read this book because it is not told through a Cold War lens, Soviets aren’t mentioned, Mujahideen, Taliban, Al Qaeda are all equally non-existent. The real combatants that threaten our protagonists are cold toes, biting winds, lack of language skills, various “bathroom issues” and having only brought one book on the arduous journey, and The Hound of the Baskervilles at that. You should read this book if you want to make 2011 a year of adventure and hop on the Pacific Crest Trail or hit the open seas to sail around the world or something. “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” is number 16 in National Geographic’s list of the 100 greatest adventure books of all time, (I will be reviewing all 100 right here on the adventure blog, so settle in, gentle reader, this could take awhile). In crawling around on the internet I thought this was a really funny, brief, accurate synopsis that just happens to be the wikipedia ‘article’ about the book in its entirety: “In 1956, at the age of 36, Newby ended his London career in fashion and decided impulsively to travel to a remote corner of Afghanistan where no European had ventured for 50 years. He was ill-prepared and poorly-experienced, but Newby and his friend Hugh Carless vowed to climb Mir Samir, an unclimbed glacial peak in the Hindu Kush of 20,000 feet”. Newby is hilarious and they get into lots of jams and get out of them by lying, and just plain trusting to luck. The book investigates the loving and sometimes hating relationship between two friends who experience high-altitude dementia, dysentery and having to eat tinned soups together as well as the inspiration of the majestic and unparalleled beauty of one of the world’s most enchanting mountain ranges. They encounter a cast of fierce and kind characters and eat a lot of stolen fruit. The book is very English, but it is not overly colonial explorer/cultural rapist entitlement chic at all. Newby and Carless are just the type of adventurers your average citizen can hope to be, fearless-ish, excitable and willing to give anything the good old college try and trust that everyone is basically good. Stay tuned . . . I will be reviewing Three Cups of Tea and the Ra Expeditions next. Christmas is a great book-reading season and I am taking full advantage.


From all of us here at The Adventure School to all of you!


These are extremely overdue but I thought I should share them anyway. Here are a handful of pictures from my personal Thanksgiving table in Arizona this year.

I purchased:

  • two yards of burlap, a 12 pack of votives & 2 green candle sticks from Michaels
  • assorted squash from the Phoenix Farmer’s Market
  • colorful corn from the local grocery store

Everything else, we already had. This was insanely inexpensive, and understated!  I just LOVE Thanksgiving! Until next year…Enjoy!