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The Live Unbound blog exists to inspire anyone who strives to discover what they are truly capable of achieving. 

Mountain Therapy

I’m standing on top of Ijen Volcano in Indonesia hoping that this surreal, pandora-like landscape will not only make me look cool on Instagram but also give me some sort of clarity.

Photo » @whereisyali

So I’m staring at the sun come up thinking, I would now like an answer to the question that is often in the forefront of my mind please. The question is a simple one – what future do I want to create for myself?

But when you’ve lost touch of yourself in a sea of open tabs and lucrative detours then the answer is not that simple.

As the clouds clear to reveal the turquoise lake below, any sort of insight is smothered by the need to capture this moment and… well… look cool on Instagram.

But there’s another reason why I’m not getting the inspiration I came for. It’s because this place was too easy to get to (well not that easy, a 3 hour night hike through the jungle) and if there’s anything I know well it’s that struggle creates meaning.

For example, when flying many people prefer the aisle seat even though the view from an airplane window can be incredibly beautiful at times. But let’s say they hiked five days for that view. Then it all of a sudden becomes the most wonderful thing they’ve ever seen.

So I know what I need – a real adventure.

I’ve been editing Reality TV the last four months, I’m so freaking hungry for it. And it’s all good because I’m about to get it in the form of a four day trek to the summit of Mt. Rinjani, Lombok. 

What you’re looking at is Lake Segara Anak (child of the sea), a 4.4 square mile lake inside the crater of a 12,200 ft (3700 m) Volcano. And yes, that’s another Volcano in the middle of the lake. Really? Yes, really.

Just a quick break down of the mission:

Day 1:

7:00 am hike 7 hours to the top of the crater / 8 miles (13 km) / 5000 ft (1525 m) elevation gain  

Day 2:

2:00 am hike 4 hours to the summit for sunrise / 4 miles (6.5 km) / 3600 ft (1,100 m) elevation gain

8:00 am hike 5 hours to the bottom of the lake / 7 miles (11 km) / 5600 ft (1700 m) elevation drop

Day 3:

9:00 am hike 3 hours to a different spot on top of the crater / 3 miles (4.8 km) / 2000 ft (610 m) elevation gain

1:00 pm hike 2 hours towards the base of the mountain / 2.5 miles (4 km) / 1000 ft (305 m) elevation drop

Day 4:

9:00 am hike 2 hours to the base of the mountain / 2.5 miles (4 km) / 1000 ft (305 m) elevation drop

I can’t wait!

I thought Mt. Bromo in Java would be a nice warm up but I’m quickly learning that it’s a bit of a tourist trap.

Photo » @whereisyali

The problem isn’t so much that people are asking me to take their photos (thanks selfie sticks), it’s that they want me in the photos. I’m a nice guy of course so I agree but I’m plotting out an escape plan.

I see a narrow path alongside the edge of the crater and without any hesitation, I head in that direction. There’s no one there except a German couple who tell me to be very careful if I attempt to walk all the way around the crater.

Photo » @whereisyali

An hour later I understand what they’re talking about.

The path is uncomfortably narrow and one side is a 60 degree slope ending in what I thought was lava but it’s just boring old sulfur. Either way I wanted an adventure and I’m definitely getting one.

Photo » @whereisyali

But the experience isn’t really the moment of clarity I was hoping for. Too much focus on keeping myself in the manageable risk zone and not going too far. I mean what’s up with the ground here?? It pretty much falls apart when you step on it. I have no idea what I’m doing in Volcano land. I need a guide.

It’s 5:30 am when Hamdi, the Reza Trekkers Rinjani guide knocks on my door yelling, “Are you ready for this?” Still half asleep and not really sure what’s happening I instinctively respond, “Hell ya I’m ready!” Then I realize I’m not ready at all and I’m late.

Three hours of intense hiking in and out of clouds later, I’m noticing that the porters are zooming past me. Which is pretty impressive considering that they’re barefoot and carrying 85 pounds (39 kg) of supplies.

Photo » @whereisyali

For real, I’m a bit baffled by this especially because some parts of the trail are borderline rock climbing. Hamdi tells me that he used to be a porter and on the first day of the job he cried. I think he was joking but maybe not.

He says they wear flip flops and sometimes hike barefoot because shoes are too heavy. Hmm… interesting. After my third fall of the day on the crumbling volcanic rock, I asked Hamdi if they ever slip. He gets all serious and looks at me straight in the eyes saying, “No, porters never fall.”

On hour five I'm covered in sweat, my legs are shaking and I start to wonder, “Why am I doing this?!” Then I turn the corner for a new incredible view.

Photo » @whereisyali

Oh ya, that’s why.

I don’t want to make it seem like this is some superhuman trek. Actually anyone fit can do this. But I will say that some parts are pretty grueling or what one local called Indonesian torture.

We finally make it to the crater rim where Alto, our porter, hands me a plate of fried bananas covered in chocolate and cheese.

As I take a bite out of this unexpectedly delicious Indonesian delicacy, I feel connected to my six year old self who insisted on putting chocolate spread on top of every meal.

Photo » @whereisyali

The clouds clear just in time to reveal a sunset so magical that I forget all about the mental struggle I had to endure to get there.

Photo » @whereisyali

I pass out for a couple hours before my alarm goes off at 1:30 am for one of those, where the hell am I, wake up moments. I unzip the tent to see countless stars not only above my head but also straight in front of me. I remember that I’m 8000 ft high on the edge of a Volcano crater in Indonesia.

Awesome!  

I strap on my trusty Forsake kicks and follow Hamdi into the darkness.

Three hours of zombie-like hiking later we reach the final mile which is an extremely steep, sand-like dirt ridge, 12,000 ft above normal, breathable air.

There’s that thought again – “Why!?”

But as painful as this is, I feel like some force has me hooked and is slowly reeling me up towards the peak.

Every couple of steps I look up at the Milky Way which is as visible as one of those long exposure photographs. I do a 360 while staring up at the sky, desperately trying to take it all in. I do this often while traveling – frantically scan the landscape as if I’m trying to catch a last glimpse before it disappears.

Then I realize that everything around me isn’t going anywhere and it’s me who will be disappearing. Hopefully after a long life but just in case it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll go happy because of experiences like this.

I’m actually thankful for this unsettling notion that there’s an end creeping up in the horizon. After all it’s this awareness that’s pulling me up the mountain.

It fuels this wild, one way ticket lifestyle of world and potential exploration. It reminds me to choose experiences over possessions, failure over regret and uncertainty over comfort.

In the exact moment the sun shows it’s first spec of light, we reach the summit. The Pyramid shaped shadow of Rinjani in the horizon stands next to Mt. Batur in Bali and the Gili Islands.

Photo » @whereisyali

The sunrise is over way too fast just like my 20s and it’s already time to begin the long journey down to the crater lake. I take the first step without having to ask myself, “Why?!”

Did someone slip a molly in my cheese banana? Because I’m feeling way too giddy right now considering it’s a five hour journey, 5600 ft down. And wait, is that a monkey??

Photo » @whereisyali

We descend further and further into an enchanted fairyland that I thought only existed in Disney movies.

Photo » @whereisyali

On the other side of that grass hill, I'm surprised to see a waterfall with hot spring pools on the bottom. Hamdi, that sneaky man, didn’t even tell me where he was taking me. I take a full shower with shampoo and soap under the waterfall. Whatever, I like to be clean, don’t judge!

We walk to a secluded spot on the lake where Alto has already set up the tents and is now fishing for our dinner.

Photo » @whereisyali

The clouds are covering the Volcano but Hamdi tells me that it’s about 500 ft (150 m) away. He says that a year ago he was at this spot when it erupted.

Photo » @hamditrekker

He couldn’t hike out because there was too much ash so overnight he got the lava show of a lifetime. I told him I wish I could have seen that and he said, “No you don’t. I cried.” Joking again? I’m really not sure.

As the sun sets we have Ikan Goreng (deep fried crispy fish) for dinner which tastes even better than the fancy Bali food I had a week earlier.

At 7 am I unzip my tent to see that the clouds have cleared and the Volcano is right in front of my face. Hamdi hands me a cup of Lombok coffee, I put on some Bon Iver and sink into some sort of trance-like euphoria.

Photo » @whereisyali

My mind clears. As if a massive delete button was hit on all the unworthy thoughts that dominate my thinking. In this emptiness, something is brewing. Slowly expanding into what I came here for – answers!

For the past couple years I’ve been on a mission to catch up to this 2.0 version of myself that creates the incredible work I know I’m capable of. I know because I’ve caught him before and he elevated me to new heights in record time. Giving me a taste of success and then disappearing.  

But in this moment, I can feel him here. I get hit with a flood of ideas for creative pursuits and an unshakable belief in my ability to see them through. I pull out my journal and try to write them all down. 

This leads to an important realization. In order to align with this higher self, I have to stop chasing and instead create an environment where he’d want to live.

I think of it as having a good signal. Four bars means that my mind is fully open to possibilities, I work in a peak state with maximum enjoyment. One bar means I’m going to need a lot of coffee just to produce something that I don’t really care about and I doubt anyone else will.

For example, I know that adventures which push me physically and mentally give a certain energy that running on a treadmill in LA fitness just doesn’t create.

As I write down other conditions that could trigger a good signal, I feel an urge to shut my brain down and go for a morning swim in the lake.

After all, I’m not chasing anything right now. I feel content. I’ve arrived somewhere.

Photo » @whereisyali

After spending some quality time with Lake Segara Anak, we hike up to the top of the crater and then down into the jungle.

I follow Alto on a detour to find a water pipe so we can refill our bottles. We finally find a thin pipe that runs for miles from a river up top to a small village below where it provides clean water for one hundred houses.

He detaches the tube to fill up the bottles and before attaching it back, I take another shower. I make a bold decision to not use shampoo today. Crazy I know but what can I say, I’m living on the edge.

Surrounded by curious monkeys, we set up the tents then have ramen for dinner. I go inside to relax but accidentally doze off and sleep like a baby until the morning.

We wake up early and complete the trek with an easy two hour hike down to the base of the mountain. I say goodbye to Alto and Hamdi who are still making fun of my ridiculous shower needs.

Feeling accomplished, I make my way to the south of Lombok where I can do nothing on the beach for a couple days.

Photo » @whereisyali

If any part of you is intrigued by doing a trek like this then you should absolutely book a ticket right now. Just be careful because if you’re anything like me, your automatic excuse generator might kick in saying things like – I’m not fit enough, too old, can’t sleep in tents, scared of heights, not now maybe next year… etc. etc.

If this happens, try telling this voice, “Sorry buddy. I’m gonna go ahead and do this one anyways.” It’ll make one more desperate attempt to stop you, “Wait! What about altitude sickness??” Just hit him with a calm, cool, “Nope. Sorry.”

Why? Because sometimes it feels like you become as tall as the mountains you choose to climb.

   - Yali

P.S. Whenever life's craziness causes anxiety, I just think of the Rinjani porters and I feel okay again. I used to think of my greatest accomplishments but this works much better.

Shapeless Future

Wrote this during the last 4 months of traveling »  

We create the path where our minds wander.

Where they go, our actions follow. What our actions create, or don’t create, is what our lives become. So I try to take the time to explore my landscape. To walk inside the boundaries that I built for myself.

I pass hill after hill of easily accomplished goals, built on shiny rewards that never seem to satisfy. I pass should haves holding hands with the perfect excuse for why they must remain in this land of missed opportunities. I follow them towards a landfill of ideas that were never executed and watch as they fall in like lemmings.

Staring at what might have worked turn into you’ll never know, I get a new type of worry – am I just moseying through my story without ever reaching the climax? The unfolding plot of my life is feeling a bit boring. Maybe I should stop reading this book and start a more interesting one.

I feel like my brain has no reception here. It can't receive the messages my heart is trying to send to it. I need to find a place with a better signal.

This thought sparks a flame casting just enough light to reveal a new trail. One that ends at the massive walls that surround this entire landscape.

The first step feels like a relief.

I don’t hate this place, it just got old. Like the repeat button got stuck on a song I used to like. I hear it all day everyday and now I’m just numb to it. I think of it as the familiar melody that protects me from the countless horrible songs that could play next if I hit shuffle.

As I get closer to the edge, I hear the echos of a new tune in the distance. I feel my curiosity taking over and a frenzied desire to go to the other side of the wall. To reach for something that I’m not sure I can grasp. To live where I’m breakable. Where I have less control, less comfort, less support but more passion, more surprise and more possibility.

Standing face to face with the wall I can see it’s made out of doubts, fears and insecurities. Held together by a need to preserve this psychological dome that protects me from having to feel these emotions.

This need is fading. And the more vulnerable I am, the weaker the wall becomes.

I lean down to read a tiny sticker on the edge of the wall – “Break in case of emergency”. A nice little reminder that I created these boundaries and therefor I have the ability to destroy them.

As this awareness sinks in, the walls begin to crumble. I can see lifes endless possibilities emerging on the other side. I know that it’s time to leave the hills behind and head for the mountains. It’s time to go beyond my will.

As I step over what was once an impenetrable wall, the pain in my stomach turns into a tingle. My entire being is awakened. I feel like I’m in the heart of a wild but surprisingly pleasant storm. Like unexpected torrential downpour on an unbearably hot day.

Looking at the mountains in the distance, I feel like I’m staring deep into someone’s eyes. It feels intimate and intense. Like behind the horizon there is something living and that something is staring back at me.

I can sense there is risk ahead. I wonder why am I here? Why not relax in the comfortable life that I built? I guess it’s because I know that what lies ahead holds the answers to much more important questions. Questions like, “what do I want to become?” and “am I capable of becoming that?”

My only plan is to avoid the urge to make a plan. I threw away my to-do list. I loosened my grip on life. I'm letting go of what I don’t believe in and grabbed a hold of what feels right. What makes my heart race and my eyes light up. I no longer feel guilty when I do nothing. And the tired notion that I’m falling short of something has finally left the forefront of my thinking.

My future is now shapeless.

Life is beginning to feel like a long boat ride in the middle of the ocean with no compass. Unanchored, always in movement, always in transition, completely detached from the invulnerability of a shore.

As answers slowly break into the locked portals in my mind, I feel certain about one thing – the quintessential future I’ve always been after would have never been as radiant and exciting as my current life.

Photos » @whereisyali

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Blown away by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows written by John Koenig. Can't remember the last time I've been this inspired! 

Liberosis

n. The desire to care less about things. To hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.

Mahpiohanzia

n. The disappointment of being unable to fly, unable to stretch out your arms and vault into the air igniting the fuel tank of unfulfilled desires you’ve been storing up since you were born.

Silience

n. The kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.

Photo by Josh Terada

Photo by Josh Terada

Quotes Of The Month

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you."

- Anne Lamott

"My challenge to you here, is to journey into a deeper intimacy with the world and your life without any promise of safety or guarantee of reward beyond the intrinsic value of full participation."

- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

"It’s easy to paint a picture in your head of what you think you want in life, but life most of the time never gives you the materials you need to create the masterpiece that you’ve created in your head. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with great people and good vibes. So, while you may not yet have a brush, you already have a palate full of brilliant and vibrant colors to paint with."

- Miguel Aguilar

New Live Unbound Film!

We believe in pushing yourself to be greater through what you love and doing whatever it takes to overcome mental and physical constraints. Once in awhile I come across a real life story that embodies this message. A story of falling madly in love with your dream. Then using that passion to overcome the massive obstacles that appear in the journey of realizing it. This is that story.

Based on Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld's book "Above All Else". 

This documentary was made possible by Frank Casares who believed in us and funded the project. We had a small crew of 5 people and shot on a RED epic, RED dragon, 5D Mark ii and the Inspire Copter. The biggest challenge was the slow motion skydiving scene which was filmed by Craig O’Brien. Those were shot on the RED dragon at 200 fps. Due to wind, we only had 4 jumps to make it happen but Craig and skydivers Brad Patterson and Dalten Kadow nailed it. Check out this nice review from Short of the Week for more info on the process :) 

Currently we’re searching for the next great story to tell. We encourage people to reach out to us if they have one or know somebody who does. 

Thanks for watching!

-Yali

July 2015

There's been a couple of exciting developments in Live Unbound world this month included a possible book deal with NationBuilder. After my TEDx talk I was approached by them to write my story and the first thing that popped into my head was – really?? But it’s not all that exciting. I mean maybe I got a good beginning but that’s about it. The second thought was – okay why don’t I make it more exciting by going out and living the story I’d want to write. Definitely an inspiring thought that is now steering me in the right direction.

The old me would have stuck with that first thought. I would have held on as tight as I could so I would feel okay with saying no to a potential opportunity. Nowadays I’m fully aware that I create the path where my mind wanders. I try to stay conscious of where it goes because once it finds the perfect limiting thought then I'll remember it forever. I re-visit it every time I need an excuse not to do something I know I must do. I have a lot of these types of thoughts that I can’t seem to let go of. You’d think it would be easy to move past them but they become a part of you. So needless to say I’m not trying to create new ones.

I think Cormac McCarthy said it best – “You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”

Other than that I’ve been taking on lots of client work (how we fund LU vids) and adventuring on weekends (documented on instagram: @whereisyali)

Follow your fears & respect the dash!

- Yali

Quotes of the month

"Our growth depends not on how many experiences we devour but on how many we digest."

- Ralph W. Sockman

And then there's the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

- Randy Komisar

"Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. I promise you, something great will come of it."

- Benjamin Mee

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

- E.B. White

Our New Video » 'Go Seek'

Here it is! Please share it!

-Yali

Myself, Eric Gillespie, Kylor Melton and Harmon Clarke took a road trip through Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Oljato Monument Valley and Lake Powell to shoot this. Shot on a RED epic, 5D mark iii, Inspire Copter and an iPhone (battery ran out on those graveyard shots...). Also we had a crazy moment in the middle of nowhere, deep inside the slots of Labyrinth Canyon we ran into Jay-Z!

Making these videos is always a challenge because we're operating at a bare minimum budget but we were lucky to have the support of Nectar Sunglasses and Forsake so make sure you check them out and show them some love :)

I got inspired to write the voice over in the video after visiting Da Poetry Lounge in West Hollywood and hearing some legendary spoken word pieces by people like Shane Koyczan. So I decided to give it a shot… Here is the transcript »

I want to go on a road trip with no plans

Play with my inner child

Take my heart off the leash and let it run wild

 

Have you ever drove past a hill on the side of the road

and had an urge to just stop and run up it?

Break the routine and just do something different

 

But instead you just keep on driving

looking back at your rear view at what could have been

I’m so tired of this feeling that the best is yet to come

the best is right here, right now

yes there’s what you need to do to make a living

but there’s also what you must do to feel alive

 

Go seek

because life is hidden and in adventure it can be found

because these pursuits are triggers for self-actualization, releasing my potential

because my body can only feel rested after it’s pushed, stretched and tested

because sometimes I feel like something is sleeping inside of me

deprived, just waiting to be revived

 

I need to be revitalized

I think that if I can spark this fire I can find the strength to reach higher

challenge myself in experiences I’ll never forget

and when I’m 80 years old on my rocking chair I’ll have no regrets

this is my calling, I’m all in

 

but it’s not just a desire, it’s my responsibility

because these places open up my eyes to  possibility

giving access to the limitless nature of our existence

distance from that voice in my head that says stop when I struggle to stay persistent

 

So I chase the version of me I want to be

stay on track by following the fear that holds me back

climbing up a setback, deep inside of what I lack

I’m stalling, running as fast as I can but feel like I’m crawling

I tell myself to take a break, relax

let what you lack be an empty crack

you don’t have to be whole to be intact

but I’m not very good at lying to myself

I know I need to catch that uncatchable self

I know that trying to be more than I am is who I am

I know that I’m in love with the never ending search

it’s my drive, my passion, my thirst

and it’s not because I’m never satisfied, it’s because I’m always satisfied

learning how to glide in this bumpy ride

this is my life commute

it’s not the pursuit of happiness

it’s the happiness of pursuit

 

I know that this trip will be over in a flash so I respect the dash

the gravestone dash between birth and death is my time

my time to explore, my time to live unbound.

MAY 2015

May has been one of the most incredible months of my life. I gave a TEDx talk then set off on an intense road trip to shoot Go Seek. There were many ups and downs but it's not an adventure until things start going wrong, you ditch the plan and go with the flow of wherever life wants to take you. 

Here is an excerpt from the video which will be out in a couple weeks » 

Chase the version of me I want to be, stay on track by following the fear that holds me back.

Climbing up a setback, deep inside of what I lack, I’m stalling, running as fast as I can but feel like I’m crawling.

I tell myself take a break, relax, let what you lack be an empty crack, you don’t have to be whole to be intact.

But I’m not very good at lying to myself, I know I need to catch that uncatchable self.

I know that trying to be more than I am is who I am, I know that I’m in love with the never ending search.

It’s my drive, my passion, my thirst.

And it’s not because I’m never satisfied, it’s because I’m always satisfied.

Untied, fully amplified, learning how to glide in this bumpy ride.

This is my life commute.

It’s not the pursuit of happiness it’s the happiness of pursuit.

Home

Once in a while I'll get an email that seems to communicate something incommunicable. Thanks Pierce Hunsaker for letting me share it!

For the past two years I have had no address, and the only four walls I owned were made of nylon. People called me a homeless man. They equate a home with a house, with microwave ovens and plumbing and television. But I never felt more at home than I did when I ended the eight years I spent in the city, living paycheck to paycheck, building a little security. Always desperate and not even knowing it. It took all those years of treading water to realize it and just one tiny step outside to break it. There was so much fear, paralyzing amounts of it, leading up to that first step. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done but only in looking from the other side of it can I see now how simple it really was.

I took my rent deposit, sold my things and fell off the map. I was terrified and alone and colder and wetter than I'd planned, but still happier than I'd ever been.

Photo by Pierce Hunsaker

Photo by Pierce Hunsaker

Real home is the world and the only way to own the world is to be truly and fully in it. I climbed thousands of pitches of trad, bathed in mountain creeks, built bonfires and highlines and found the most fantastical, radiant friendships; as if discovering human beings for the first time.

Then everything changed.

I fell rock climbing and decked from 40 feet, shattering my spine. That day I happened to be wearing a Live Unbound shirt, one of three shirts I had to my name. I remember the irony of it clearly as EMTs cut it to shreds off my body. Sometimes the things that bind us don't just come from the inside. Sometimes it seems like the world reaches out and tries to steal what little freedom we manage to carve for ourselves.

There is a Mexican proverb I read over and over again – "Quisieron enterrarnos, pero se les olvidó que somos semillas." – They tried to bury us but they forgot we were seeds.


I spent the following week in and out of consciousness, in and out of surgery, unable to eat or drink or even sit up. I am very lucky. By the thickness of a dime I wasn't paralyzed and doctors say I'll walk again. I have lived the majority of the months since flat on my back and all of it indoors. But despite the ceiling I've stared at every day and the bed and food and television, I have never felt more homeless.

I am going to find a way back home. 

Photo by Pierce Hunsaker

Photo by Pierce Hunsaker