The silverhaired set is demonstrating its spirit and spunkiness, wit and wisdom lately. And we’re into it – perhaps in part because we aspire to be like them one day. One example is Fernie resident and adventurer Jon Turk. Here’s his story.
In the Winter 2010-11 issue of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine, regular contributor Chantal Tranchemontagne wrote about how, here in the Kootenays, we have our very own special contingency of folks who have lived full adventure lives; they savour every ride and slide, seizing their passions with determination and humility. She interviewed some of our wise, fun-lovin’ Kootenay elders about raging gracefully and one of them was Jon Turk.
Jon Turk was born in Cumberland, Maryland. A professional adventurer, he has dogsledded across Baffin Island, skied backcountry peaks in Uzbekistan and sailed from Japan to Alaska, among other feats. He is also the author of three books and a National Geographic award-winning scientist. Now in his early seventies, Chantal sat with him to glean his advice for life. Here’s what he had to say:
My parents had great expectations for me. My father was a professor and my mother was a psychologist. They expected, as the normal course of events, that I would become some sort of scientist, professional or intellectual. I went trudging along in that direction very diligently and obediently with a few side trips like, you know, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Around 25, I had this opening of awareness where I realized that wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be a chemist. I never really looked back.
I’m an adventurer and I push myself because it’s in my genetic makeup. It’s who I am. I am really happy where I am. I’m 65 and making $11,000 a year. Lots of my friends are all set up in their big houses. I look at that and think, “Oh well.”
If I followed my own advice, I’d be a lot more together than I am now. I’m human. I stumble.
I know what I do is dangerous. The trick is to look at the next two seconds and ask yourself, “Am I in danger now?” If the answer is “no,” then don’t bother being afraid.
Everybody makes stupid mistakes. But what happened in the past is in the past. One of the wonderful things about adventure is that it forces you to save your strength and your mental energy. Beating yourself on the head for doing something stupid five minutes ago is so counterproductive that you could die. Get rid of those emotions and live in the moment.
My first piece of advice to a young adventurer would be to keep your expenses low. The second is to follow who you are. Look inside yourself and strip away your ego and society’s expectations. Once you decide what your passions are, pursue those at all cost. Go for it. If I followed my own advice, I’d be a lot more together than I am now. I’m human. I stumble.
The secret to staying young is to look at young people. Young people are passionate. Old people are sometimes grumpy. Which would you rather be? I think passionate is more fun myself. Wrinkles are irrelevant.