Airplane Mode: the Connection in Disconnecting

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sacrifices I make to feed my adventure lifestyle, in particular about giving up depth of relationship in one place to move on to somewhere new. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many friends who are like family literally all over the globe—so lucky sometimes it takes my breath away. It runs deepest in Montana, the place I called home for ten years before landing in Revelstoke.

I miss my relationships there, that have been built over shared histories: grad school, weddings, babies, breakups, fighting for good things in the world, glasses of wine that turn into empty bottles, long nights at our favorite breweries—and epic river trips, backpacking missions, ski trips, and endless adventures together.

But I traded the immediate presence of those relationships in my life for the shininess of a new place with new adventures and challenges—with the greatest challenge sometimes being developing new relationships to fill the void left by the distance of the established ones.

So when Leah Evans invited me to her inaugural Airplane Mode Camp in the Purcells, I thought of it as another new adventure in a ridiculously beautiful place, another plus on the balance of the scales of leaving my family of friends in Missoula.

Leah presented the goal of Airplane Mode as connection: to ourselves, to each other, and to nature. It was a radical experiment to bring thirteen total strangers together with self-discovery, tuning in to the mountains, and comedy–with Leah, our other hiking guide Madeleine Martin-Preney, and local comedienne Katie Burrell leading us like a flock of oblivious ducklings into the heart of it. None of us knew what to expect. And none of us expected what happened.

Within the first eight hours, we’d bared our souls to each other under Madeleine’s straight-to-the-heart techniques and code words like “green zone” (comfortable like your favorite hoody), “yellow zone” (pushing the edge of comfort like an aggressive ski turn where you may or may not bail spectacularly), and “red zone” (so far from comfort it sounds like air raid sirens going off in your head).

She passed the torch to Leah, who introduced us to the paradise that is the Purcells and its towering landmarks, endless wildflowers, and ridge-top expeditions that left us breathless. Through it all, Katie had us laughing in those fits that leave your stomach hurting, the kind that you don’t care if you’re snorting or cackling because it’s so real and no one else cares either.

And suddenly, we were closer to each other in the space of four days than to some people we’ve known for years.

Wilderness sends a relationship deep right off the bat. Time moves slowly and a day feels like a week feels like a month. And in disconnecting from our smartphones and computers and headphones, we connect to ourselves and our companions on a true and profound level. In our increasingly digital age, a tired body, a quiet mind, and good friends with whom to watch the sun set on a sublime day might be as close as we come to grace.

As we said our goodbyes on the fourth day with promises to reunite over ski trips and birthday parties this winter, it was possible to imagine that it wouldn’t take another ten years to create that depth of relationship here that I’d left behind in Montana. It might just take some epic backcountry missions, a radical willingness to open up, and a hell of a lot of laughter.



2 thoughts on “Airplane Mode: the Connection in Disconnecting

  1. Pingback: The Pull of the Yellow Zone | Directional Detour

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