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Off-Duty Confidential: Mike Off The Map

Guest Contributor Interview …  by PocketRangerBlog

While some of us struggle to scale faux rock walls, Michael Restivo is gripping boulders and overcoming mountains. The climber-cum-blogger calls South Florida home, but you’re just as likely to spot him  exiting a hostel in Utah, setting up camp at the base of Mt. Everest or volunteering in Nepal than you are in the Sunshine State . Pinning the adventurer down for a short Q&A was no easy task! Where in the world is Mike this week? You’ll have to read on to find out. Be sure to check out his blog, Mike off the Map for the full scoop.

Mike with his trusty, travel keepsake at Namche Bazaar, Nepal.

I started blogging because… I have a passion for travel and adventure. The idea behind Mike Off The Map doesn’t serve only as a chronicle of my travels or a forum to show off where I’ve been. It’s intended as a site to inspire people of my age to pursue low-cost travel, volunteer abroad, and embrace an outdoors lifestyle.

My ideal adventure is… anywhere where I’m leaving my comfort zone and my familiar world even if for a day. It involves interaction with local cultures through language, dialogue, and cuisine, and always includes good friends and reliable teammates.

Five things you’ll always find in my backpack: 

  1. My Smartphone– I’ve heard the call from more traditional outdoorsmen who abhor all technology in the outside but I beg to differ. The Smartphone provides instant flight information, GPS, trail guides and reviews, and music for companionship on those long flights and road-trips.
  2. Books– I always try to carry a guidebook in my bag. Not as a roadmap, but for suggestions about trails or neat little restaurants in the nearest town. But I also carry books with narratives about the place I’m in. In the Himalayas I regaled myself in the stories written by other climbers, or books detailing the lives of Sherpas. A good book brings an extra dimension and perspective into the place you are travelling through.
  3. An Emergency Kit– It’s the invaluable addition to any outdoorsman’s backpack. No matter how short of a time you are out in the open, there is always the possibility that something could go terribly wrong.  It is the quintessential addition to any backpack.
  4. An Extra Pair of Shoes– When going through rough terrain, hiking boots are more than adequate to hold up to the abuse of the land. But hiking boots can be rough and uncomfortable for extremely long period. It’s always wise to bring along an extra pair of comfortable sandals or sneakers that are lightweight, comfortable to lounge in, and let your tired feet breathe.
  5. Baby wipes – Since some hikers can go for days without seeing any sign of civilization or a shower, biodegradable baby wipes can be the great cleaner for the trekkers on the go.
Conquering the Summit of Fisher Towers, Moab Utah.

The biggest physical obstacle I’ve ever encountered while climbing was
On Ancient Art, a route on Fisher Towers, just outside of Moab, Utah, during my first true outdoor vertical climb. The second pitch (the distance between the last anchor and the next belay point) included a chimney, a divot inside of the tower in which a climber must lift themselves with hands on both sides, as if scaling the inside of a confined chimney. Covering this chimney was a very large boulder, overhanging the pitch and separating me from my partner. By the time I got to the boulder, I was physically and mentally exhausted; therefore I struggled to pull myself up and over. For 20 minutes, I would plant my feet onto either side and grasp the small hand holds while straining to find a reasonable grip on the smooth surface over the top of the boulder. Communicating between my partner and I was nearly impossible, even when yelling at the top of my lungs because of the great distance between us. After another quarter-hour of trying to pull myself up, I noticed that just a couple of feet above me, the rope had become caught on a rock and become unreasonably tight. I tugged on the rope and felt a comforting slack giving me a better sense of maneuverability. With my new sense of freedom of movement, I blindly arched my cracked, bruised fingers over the top of the boulder and found a secure crack. With a loud strain in my voice, I kicked my feet over and triumphantly pulled myself up and over the overhang, and back into the wide-open spaces.

The biggest mental obstacle of climbing happens when… the will to keep going when your body is telling you to turn back. My first experience with this was my first climb up Kala Patthar at five a.m., after a night of heavy snowfall. I was already exhausted from 10 days of near constant uphill reaching the nearby Everest Base Camp—and forcing my way up the slick ice and snow is where there’s a constant see-saw effect with the mind about turning back, or pushing forward and moving up. Luckily for us, the conditions that morning were extremely favorable, and the biggest triumph was ignoring the negative thoughts and telling my body to move ahead to the summit.

The one thing that keeps me going is… A positive attitude and the promise of a new discovery and a great view keep me motivated and excited. It could be making my way up a high peak, or roaming the hidden alleys of a small Italian town, searching for a hidden artwork or historical object, having a sound mind and positive spirit is half the adventure. Just the anticipation and the excitement of the flight to somewhere far away from home, make the journey already memorable.

I’d recommend Pocket Ranger® to fellow climbers because…
Pocket Ranger® is an awesome way to find hidden climbing and bouldering spots. It also gives information about campgrounds, special events in the park, lets people know where exactly you are with GPS locaters and, most importantly, weather updates. It’s a valuable tool for climbers who want to find new routes or a quick bouldering session.

The most breathtaking view can be seen from…
The summit of Poon Hill in central Nepal (10,489 ft) at dawn. Hiking out from the lakeside tourist town of Pokhara, we set out on a 4-day trek to the little hillside town of Ghorepani. Our trekking team hiked through dense forests and steep inclines before catching sight of the colorful prayer flags fluttering madly in the morning breeze. As we took our final steps towards the peak, the majestic Annapurna range slowly revealed itself as if someone had lifted a curtain off the stage. With a freshly powdered snowfall, the morning sun made the colors shimmer in shades of yellow and pink. The perfect triangular summit of Machapuchare, the sacred, virgin, unclimbed peak, paired perfectly with Annapurna I and II, to the east, their windblown summits blasting snow into the morning air. A four-day trek separated with stays in fantastic little tea houses, and moderately intensive hike up the actual ridge before ending the adventure lounging in the natural hot springs of Tatopani. It’s a highly recommended walk.

Mt. Everest Base Camp!

Someday I hope to climb…
Mt. Everest. Seeing Everest in the famed IMAX film was the reason I wanted to start climbing, however it’s a long way off. I would like to gain experience, climbing Aconcagua in Argentina, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Sometime in the near future I’d like to return to Moab and climb the monumental Castleton Tower.

There’s an indescribable feeling when…
 One is able to get away from the dense air of the city and breathe the deep, clean, fresh air of the country. What get’s me to smile are the aromas. When all you breathe is fresh, clean, pure air, that’s when you’re truly removed from the world.

Keepsake or memento I picked up along your travels that I treasure most…
In 2007, I bought a canvas messenger bag at a market in Florence, Italy. Five years later it has become my quintessential travel bag. It’s been to the ancient palaces Istanbul, throughout the Italian countryside, and all the way to Everest Base Camp. It has been my school bag, and my unique travel companion, bearing the unique scars and stains from 1,000 different stories. Of course it’s not without its faults, and its age has began to show in the form of broken zippers and various tears, yet until the sad day that it is no longer repairable, it is my most treasured item.

The best part about travel is…
The misadventure. It’s those moments when things don’t go exactly as planned and there’s a great story behind it. I’ve had my share from having a paragliders’ pilot start speaking on his cell phone mid-flight 2,000 feet in the air, or being chased by an irate yak.
But my favorite story was the day I decided to explore the small town of Cortona, the small Tuscan town made famous by Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun. The town sits on top of a very large hill; a testament to it’s medieval past. Unfortunately, the train station is at the very bottom of that hill. Not realizing it’s obvious topographical difference, I looked around and saw no transport to the town besides the obvious car or scooter. So I began to walk the winding two-kilometer winding road up the hillside. The walk itself was nothing less than spectacular, as I took in the panoramic Tuscan countryside and passed by a 12th century church. About halfway up, legs burning, shirt now three-quarters open in the late afternoon June sun, both my trusty water bottles ran dry. Trudging up the hill and repeating a series of increasingly creative curse words, I arrived into town an hour and a half after having arrived at the train station. Walking into the main piazza, the town square, I sat down on a bench to regain myself.
As I slowly got my bearings together, there, staring me right in the face, as if it was laughing at my poor torture of climbing up that hill, was the official train station bus, going back down to pick up the next group of passengers who were probably laughing at the American in Converse sneakers pushing his way up the hill. I sat on that bench, munched on my gelato, and realized it was going to take a bottle and a half of excellent wine to come to terms with that bus.

The best advice I ever received was…From my first climbing instructor. When I started climbing I was energetic, nervous, and oh so extremely jumpy. His advice couldn’t have been more simple: “Slow down, breathe, take time off, and don’t think about the summit.”

From there, climbing was no longer about needing to make it to the top, it was a slow and steady dance where every move was calculated and every step was slowly and carefully taken. Challenging myself, even if it meant turning away from the summit, was just as important as the ultimate goal.

Few people would know that I… Although my hobbies include hanging off a thin rope 500 feet in the air, I have a debilitating fear of all things roller coasters. Maybe it’s the sudden drops or the quick out of control feeling that bothers me, but I’ve never been a huge fan.

My goals for 2012… In 2012, I want Mike Off The Map to be an inspiration for young travelers seeking an active outdoor life. I have some exciting trips coming up including climbing Mt. Rainier in May. I want to continue training as a climber and pass on my passion to others. After my upcoming graduation, I would like to continue to explore my creative avenues and seriously explore my travel and my writing as a craft. My other adventures are yet as of unplanned, even though I am in a constant thought process of where I’d like to go or what I’d like to do next. I can only promise it’s going to be a very exciting next few months.

Bests:

  • Gear – My Petzl Corax Harness, it’s a lightweight, durable harness that can be used for rock climbing or mountaineering.
  • Outdoor snack – Beef jerky and Snickers bars. Beef jerky is the ultimate source of protein/energy on a long hike or climb. When I was on the Everest trek, I loaded up on Snickers bars, it provided a much needed caloric boost, energy, and sugar to keep me moving, as well as being a sweet, familiar taste to the mundane that I was eating on the trail.
  • Place I’ve traveled to –At first glance I’d have to be biased towards Italy, since my family and friends are there, and I spent a majority of my life there. However, I fell in love with Nepal, had my heart stolen in Japan, and I had the time of my life in Moab.
  • Outdoor apps – The North Face trailhead app is a great resource for everything from bike routes to hiking trails, giving accurate elevation and distance information. The Kayak.com app is great for finding flights on the go and affordable hotels.
  • Outdoor soundtrack – My outdoor soundtrack is simply the natural sounds of the world. When I’m outside, my mind and my ears are always in the environment as it should be.

Posted February 29, 2012 by pocketranger in Ask It – Reposted March 5, 2012 by MiamiRealEstateCafe.com   The Restivo Team at EWM Realtors International… Finding you that special somewhere that you’ll want to come home to!

 

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