Impact

People Make the Places

Words and photos by Chris Brinlee Jr.

Two years ago, I decided that I had had enough of the cubicle life—so I quit my job, sold my things, moved out of my apartment, and embarked on a journey around the world. Since then, my travels have led me to Iceland, Nepal, Alberta, India, Cambodia, Kenya, Alaska, Chamonix, and countless other places in between. The continued adventure has been nothing short of incredible—but along the way I have learned that so often it’s the people who make each place so unforgettable.

While I have had the pleasure of meeting many amazing people throughout the world, certain individuals have been incredibly inspiring to me. I’d like to take this opportunity to share them with you.

Glen Plake // Chamonix, France

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A lot of skiers probably grew up with posters of the mohawk-clad Glen Plake plastered across their bedroom walls. The guy is a legend and practically invented the discipline of steep skiing—tackling line after line that most people would deem crazy, if not impossible. But for Glen, anything is possible.

Now he and his wife Kimberly split their time between Mammoth and Chamonix; I had the pleasure of spending a few days with them exploring their adopted home, which is nestled in below Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

In light of Nepal’s recent earthquakes, Glen and Kim realized that there were no skiing guides in Nepal—despite the immeasurable amount of time that Nepali climbing guides spend in the alpine. So, they set out to change that. In 2015, they hosted their first alpine touring clinic for a handful of locals—teaching them how to ski tour at 5,000m above sea level.

What’s the significance of skiing for these climbing guides? Well, it’s much faster and much more efficient than walking—which reduces the amount of time that the guides have to spend traveling in high-risk areas. Less time in high-risk areas directly equates to less probability of being caught in a bad situation. The program was a huge success; they’re returning this year to go teach even more old dogs some new tricks.

Hannah Reyes Morales // Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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I had the opportunity to spend some time with Hannah Reyes Morales in her adopted home of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Hannah relocated there from Manila a few years ago. There she has grown and thrived as a photographer—tackling tough topics like human trafficking, poaching, and war crimes against Cambodian women—for outlets like National Geographic, Time, and The Wall Street Journal.

Don’t be deceived by her soft looks—Hannah’s thoughtful and often poignant documentary work is the result of immersion in situations and environments that few would find comfortable.

Marek Michalik & Filip Plach // Reykjavik, Iceland

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Just three weeks after leaving the U.S. behind, my adventure partner and I found ourselves hitchhiking east through Iceland in the pouring rain. After we went as far as we could with the help from strangers, Daniel and I resorted to taking the next day’s only bus further east still.

While Daniel and I huddled below an awning at the back of the service station that we had camped behind the night before, a tall lanky dude and a contrastingly short guy—both wearing giant fur-lined parkas—walked up, lit a cigarette, and just started talking to us. Later we would find out that they aspired to grow “traveling beards” like mine; that’s why they randomly struck up a conversation.

Filip and Marek had left their hometown in the Czech Republic immediately after graduating high school a few months earlier, and spent the summer working at a guesthouse in Iceland. Afterward, they hit the road; when Daniel and I met them, they had just finished up a month of exploring and shooting around the island for their project, “The Wildness Production,” and were heading back to Reykjavik to work through the winter.

Friendships were quickly struck; many of my fondest memories from Iceland were while in their company. At just 18 years old, Filip and Marek had so much foresight into their own lives and had boldly chosen to travel down a path so different from that of their peers—choosing to fully immerse themselves in life, instead of simply scraping the surface.

Mike Horn // Château-d’Oex, Switzerland

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Mike Horn has been called the world’s “greatest living explorer.” What does it take to earn that title? Well, to kick things off, he traveled down the entire length of the Amazon—more than 4,000 miles—solo, living off the land, in six months. Then he circumnavigated the earth along the equator—hiking overland and sailing over water. Then he spent two years circumnavigating all 12,000 miles of the arctic circle, solo, without motorized transport. Shall we keep going?

After that, he and Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland became the first people to travel to the North Pole without motorized transport, during winter, in total darkness—oftentimes crawling on paper-thin ice. During his break from the “big expeditions,” he went over to the Himalayas and climbed a few 8,000m peaks—without supplemental oxygen.

All of that badassery can be conveyed through a single handshake with Mike—where he may unintentionally break your hand. I discovered that last part for myself during a trip to Alberta, where we pushed a couple of G-Wagons to the limit, ice climbed with Will Gadd (who is legendary in his own right), and generally just got rowdy in the Rockies.

While Mike’s explorations are inspiring in their own right, his environmental work is worth writing home about, too. After the completion of his sailing expedition yacht, The Pangea, he embarked on a three-year trip around the globe—inviting dozens of exceptional youth from every continent to join him along the way. On each leg of the journey, they collected samples for research and experiments related to a variety of environmental topics ranging from glaciers to altitude.

Simon Carriere // Pokhara, Nepal

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Simon Carriere came to know of me on my first trip to Nepal after he spent an afternoon with my travel partner at the time (while I was busy pecking away on the keyboard at a cafe in Pokhara), but it wasn’t until I returned to Nepal 10 months later when we finally met.

Simon had been in Nepal ever since, and was on the ground when the earthquakes hit. He quickly set up a site called “Help Nepal” and with it raised enough money to send four jeeps, a relief team of 10, along with over 10 tons of food, temporary shelters, and thousands of dollars in medical supplies and equipment to Gorkha—the epicenter of the disaster.

Since then, he’s launched two projects in Nepal: Kites Workshop—which trains local people as artisans and ethically employs them to produce sustainable products. And Amplified Whispers—which gives voices to the voiceless through a variety of media, on topics that are relevant for those being heard.

Whether he’s climbing around the world or writing from the road, Cotopaxi ambassador Chris Brinlee, Jr. can’t stay put for long. Follow his adventures on Instagram and Snapchat.

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