Things I Fear: Part 1 – Hunger

[Note: The following was written prior to July 15, but I have saved some of my thoughts for postings while I am out of reach of the internet.  Thanks to Cris for helping me out.]
As I mentioned in a previous post, I began the 28-Day Field Course at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School on July 15.  I am extremely excited about this because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  
Nonetheless, there are certain things that I fear.  I am a person who loves a lot of things.  However, if I were to make a list of all the things I love in this world and then remove all of the people from that list, the remainder would be about 96% food, drink, and coffee.  (Yes, coffee gets its own category.) 
If you know me at all or if you’ve paid any attention to this blog, you’ve probably noticed that my decisions in life are often dictated by food, drink, and coffee.  I even have a category on this blog entitled Deliciousness.  When you think about it though, an obsession about the deliciousness of food assumes the ready availability of food.  This will not be the case for the next month.  According to the course website, during the first phase after orientation there is “no food except what you find.”  Hmm. 
I have never been truly hungry in my life.  I get grumpy when I’m 15 minutes past my usual meal times.  I have vivid memories of the two times I actually missed a meal.  
With this in mind, I recently came across the following passage from The Hunger Games:
What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the push of a button?  How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by?
During the following month, I will have to live in a world with no produce section, no meat and dairy section, no beer imported from Belgium, and above all, no coffee house.  
One of my goals for this year was to consciously practice boldness in order to enhance my ability to savor the deliciousness of life, in all its forms.  This means acknowledging fears and proceeding in spite of those fears.  Over 28 days in the recesses of the Rocky Mountains, I will face my fear of hunger in order to access the deliciousness of finding my own sustenance.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Pre-Game Jitters

Tomorrow I start the 28-day Field Course at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School in southern Utah. At the moment, I’m sitting in a motel thinking about it and I have to admit, I’m pretty nervous about it.

Here’s a breakdown of the course:

– Ultra-light travel through Southern Utah’s mountains, mesas, and canyons with little more than a blanket, a poncho, and a knife
– No tents, sleeping bags, stoves, or backpacks, and definitely no watches, radios, or cellphones
– The goal is to learn to ‘live in the now’
– Learn the skills of Ancestral Puebloan cultures

On the first phase of the course, no food is allowed except what you find. In later phases, more food is provided but is intentionally restricted to be consistent with a philosophy of using only what you need. There are phases that include hiking 15-30 miles a day. In another phase, they will teach me “animal processing” including slaughter and how to use every part of the animal’s body. Then they leave me alone out there for a period of time to put my new skills to the test.

And here I am, worried about whether I can pass their fitness test so they’ll let me do all this.

Over the next four weeks I will have no access to the internet, among other things. I have asked Cris to periodically post some of my thoughts about this course. She may also update you on her progress in Brazil and Costa Rica, if she feels the urge.

See you out there!

(Taken from

100 Days of Sabwavique


It’s been 100 days (more or less) of this Sabwavique experiment, and it’s time for a midterm review and a preview of what’s ahead.

As I write this post we are finishing the European portion of the program. It has been a bit aimless and winding, as it was meant to be. It has also been good training for the rest of the Sabwavique. To summarize, it has included:

(1) Paris / Stuck in Paris due to air traiff controller strike;
(2) Camino de Santiago, i.e., 800km of walking across the north of Spain in 35-40 days and passing through more towns than I could ever remember;
(3) Impromptu trip to Germany for John to visit friends made on the Camino, including Hanover, Hamburg, Sylt, and Berlin;
(4) Backpacking around Athens, Santorini, and Crete, featuring epic hikes and sleeping out on the beach on Crete;
(5) 3+ weeks in Portugal, including touring around with John’s parents and godparents, and 2 weeks of stay in Porto while John took language classes;
(6) Belgium beer tour with Cris’s mom, including Brussels, Tournai, Brugge, and various countryside breweries/abbies/restaurants;
(7) Scotland and England wandering, including Edinbourgh, Glasgow, Mull, Iona, Ulva, Oban, York, Newbury, London (still with Cris’s mom).

As a result of these experiences, I can now say:
– I can order coffee the way I like it in 7 different European countries;
– I have rented and driven cars in 5 of those countries, including that whole left side of the road thing;
– Americans have mastered the art of breakfast but failed to export this mastery.

Two of the biggest lessons for us going forward are: (a) it is hard to avoid tourism while traveling; and (b) we must avoid tourism. The best experiences we’ve had thus far have been the more in-depth and unusual experiences, such as the Camino de Santiago and backpacking around Crete. Part of the original idea was to do the kinds of things you just can’t do on the average vacation.

To that end, the next stage of the Sabwavique is as follows:

I go to Utah for 28 days of survival skills training at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School starting next week. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s cool because I will learn to rely minimal resources. Also, the wilderness has always been a place of rejuvenation and spirituality for me, so I’m looking forward to that. I will provide more explanation in the coming days, but if you’re interested, check out the description of the 28-day field course at

Meanwhile, Cris will head to Brazil to organize and then conduct a training conference for leaders of support groups for people with family members suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This is one of Cris’s true passions and something she became intimately familiar with as the marketing director of Clearview Treatment Center. She’s doing this on a strictly volunteer basis because she’s seen the amazing impact that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can have on patients with BPD and their family members. After that, she heads to Montezuma, Costa Rica to spend about 4 weeks at La Escuela del Sol (which was founded by a friend of ours from the MBA program) to work on her yoga, scuba diving, surfing, and fire dancing. That’s right, fire dancing. For more on that check out their website at

After that, we join back up in California to spend some quality time with my brother, his wife, and their three awesome little dudes. Then, we will attend Burning Man up in the far reaches of Nevada before heading off to southeast Asia for more international roaming.

So, a hundred days in and it’s looking great. I’m going to close it out with a few words from Cris (unedited stream of consciousness, I swear):

“In summary, the countryside of Spain looks exactly like the countryside of France, the countryside of Belgium, and the coutryside of the UK. Edinbourgh is the Athens of the north, Mull is the Crete of the north, and York is the Brugge of the UK. Paris, London, Lisbon, and Santorini are still unbeatable but something must be done about the mounds of tourists. Please go somewhere else in your next vacation. Oh, forgot about one, Iona is the Santiago of the north. Ah, something needs to be said about the Portugal. The song for Portugal is: ‘Church, church, church, port wine.’ This of course was derivated from the Camino Rap, which is: ‘Wheat, wheat, wheat, little town.’ In summary, I like beer, I like wine, and I like cafe con leche.”


So long, Europe.

So, Scotland Really is Special…


Okay, I’ll admit it. Cris and I came to Scotland because we didn’t check the whole Europe visa thing until after we bought our tickets. So, when we checked it out, the UK seemed like the most viable option for dealing with the fact that our flights out were about 10 days over the 90-day limit. Fine, we said, we’ll just spend some time getting to know the Scottish side of life. This seemed nice since my grandmother always claimed a direct link to the MacQuarrie clan. Plus, I own a modernized version of a kilt with the MacQuarrie tartan (see:, so I’m totally Scottish.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that fired up about this part of the trip. I wasn’t going to be able to play golf, we didn’t have a reason to include Scotland other than bad planning, and it was going to be expensive. The good news, however, was that in the spirit of my brilliant wife, we didn’t plan it beyond a couple days. That gave us the flexibility to follow our urge, once we had arrived, to check out the Isles of Mull, Iona, and Ulva.

Several people had mentioned that the Isle of Iona was a special place, or as they say, a “thin” place – in the sense that there is a thin layer separating the material and the spiritual. As for the Isle of Ulva, it was the seat of the MacQuarrie clan. To get to either one you must first take the ferry to the Isle of Mull. So it seemed obvious that we’d go to Mull, spend a night there, and figure out later if we wanted to go to Iona or Ulva first.

In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, Iona did not disappoint. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the place. The best I can suggest is that you imagine watching the sun set over the sea on the western horizon at 9:30pm. Then, while the sun is still setting at 10:30pm, you turn for a moment to the eastern horizon and a bright full moon is rising above the sea on that side. The feeling is something like that. No pictures could really capture this, but here’s our best effort:






The next day, we drove across to the other side of Mull to the “ferry” that takes you to Ulva. The ferry is just a guy with a little motor boat. He crosses the one-minute distance from Ulva to Mull to pick you up only when you move the white panel to expose the red panel, like so:



Ulva was another place I’d like to visit again. It’s almost hard to imagine that a whole clan, among other kinds of tribes throughout history, inhabited this tiny island. I can, however, imagine camping here, which is more or less what entire communities did throughout the milennia. Again, it felt like a “thin” place, and I wish I had more time to explore the place that the Vikings who would become the MacQuarries called “Ullfur”, their word for Wolf Island.