Because of my cool job working with cool people, I get invited to cool events where I can meet even more cool people. Such was the case last night. I was invited to hear 2 very cool guest speakers: Piotr Pustelnik and Beata Pawlikowska.
[I will take a moment here to mention that the hostess of the evening was one of the coolest of all. She was really witty and clever and made the whole evening flow smoothly with a big dose of intelligent humor. Ms. Agata, thank you for the invitation.]
Piotr Pustelnik is a Polish alpine and high-altitude climber. He holds the Himalayan and Karakoram Crown otherwise known as the Eight-thousander. That means that he has reached the summit of all 14 mountains that reach an altitude of more than 8000 meters. This feat took Mr. Pustelnik 20 years starting in 1990 until 2010 when he reached the final summit at the age of 58. That has to be the definition of cool.
He talked about his many expeditions, the mountains that “like him” and the ones that don’t. He described some of his achievements and failures throughout the years and his motivations for continuing his climbing career. When I asked what pushed him to go on, from his first expedition to the second and from the second to the third and so on, Mr Pustelnik explained that “the first time is like no time” and with each time, we need to prove to ourselves that we can actually do it.
Beata Pawlikowska, as she describes herself on her business card, is a traveler, a journalist and a hunter. As she explained she is a hunter of experiences. And what many interesting experiences she has had! I don’t even know how to describe her career in just a few sentences because it seems she has done it all. Radio, television, journalism, publishing and of course traveling around the world, especially to her beloved jungle. The world according to this Blondynka is a very exciting place. (Blondyka is used in many of her book titles)
Ms. Pawlikowska talked a bit about her career and how she saved up for her first big trip abroad. She talked about the practicalities (or rather the impracticalities) of life in the jungle, at the same time one of the most beautiful and inhospitable places on the planet. She shared with us some of the dangerous, humorous, and rewarding experiences she has had through her travels and the conclusions she has drawn in her life.
I got the sense that Ms. Pawlikowska has got travel is in her blood and that podróż (travel) is her life. It seems that the challenges and isolation of the jungle have allowed Ms. Pawlikowska to get an insight into herself and our world that we, stuck in the daily grind, are unable to achieve. She describes the jungle as one place on our planet where we one can be truly oneself, where truth exists. This is in contrast to the lives we are used to where pozory (appearances) are such an important part of how we relate to each other, so much so that we may not really know or understand who we actually are. This collision of cultures and the subsequent culture shock that she describes works both ways – first when entering the jungle and then when returning to Poland, to civilization.
While it would be nice if we could all experience reaching the highest mountain summits or surviving months at a time in the jungle, we all know that it is just not going to happen. For some of us, that may be disappointing, but I look at it another way. I am on my podróż all the time, every minute of every day of my life is a wielka wyprawa (big expedition). I am climbing my mountain, facing new challenges, succeeding, failing and moving on, I hope, a bit wiser. My life is my podróż and at the moment, Poland is my jungle.
Where’s your jungle?