Mar 14, 2017
Editors Letter. Issue 13. Spring 2017.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” JRR Tolkien
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Gold paints Ushba. The autumn sunset washes color on the double-headed peak of rock and ice rising above the end of the valley. Remote, wild places uplift me, and wash away the fears I live with every day. I have many… but the biggest of all is that I’m always faking it. I call myself a climber, yet pulling on easy plastic moves draws throbbing pain in my left shoulder, the one with the torn rotator cuff (yes, torn while climbing four years ago). I’ve spent months of my youth living in the mountains, yet hiking twenty kilometers in the Caucasus one day leaves me with a limp, the iliotibial band on my right knee. An expanding arc of fire between skin and bone. My business card says CEO and Editor-in-Chief, yet I have no degrees in media, journalism, technology, finance or management.
As 2016 draws to a close, it’s been four long years since I embarked upon this adventure, which I began so naively then. Every day still feels like the first day of a startup, replete with all its chaos, heartbreak, moments of joy and exhilaration, deeply tempered by ever-present, constant fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, of every new step taken into the unknown, and behind it all, the biggest fear — that I don’t really know what I’m doing. In a sense it’s very true.
Everything I know today and practice in running this company, I’ve taught myself. Some from books, some from raw experiences, and much from people I’ve met along the journey of life. Yet at every step of the way, serendipitous encounters (or fate, if you will) have lead me by the hand and helped me make my own hero’s journey a hundred times over, if not yet a thousand.
From discovering the Nepalese Himalayas (with my parents at the age of four) to learning to rock climb (with Mohit Oberoi at 12) to understanding how to create a global adventure startup (with Mandip Soin and Susan Hunt) in the last few years, I have always depended on the help and guidance of mentors. Today, we have a new advisor in addition to the others. Olivier Fleurot, ex-CEO of the Financial Times, is helping us understand how to drive a growing media and travel company. Today, the cloud of thoughts that had always guided my actions have been crystallized into real words, a real purpose: “To become the leading and most trusted partner to educate, inspire and enable all peoples to enjoy, experience and protect wilderness”. That’s it. If you notice, we do not call ourselves a media business or a magazine, or an events company, or a digital platform. We are all of those things, yet none of those things.
As a business, we do whatever it takes that answers the above purpose. We have a strong new leadership team that believes firmly in what we’re doing and following this path. Every decision we take must answer this: does it fit in our purpose? Today, we have explicitly stated core values and beliefs. We believe in ecocentrism, not in humankind’s domination over nature. We believe in helping peoples’ skills. We believe that authentic content inspires and educates. We believe in integrity, quality and careful reasoned thinking. We believe that following our path will lead us to achieve what we always set out to do: build a successful profitable business while saving the planet. As I leave Svaneti in a small turboprop plane, Elbrus comes into view, just twenty kilometers behind Ushba, across the border. There are more adventures to come, more experiences, more to live. This is why I do this, despite the fear, embracing the unknown, and what is to come. For me, this is the meaning of life.