Jeff Fuchs - Himalayan Explorer and Author #findyouradventure
At kora, we are adventure seekers. We love to explore and travel - uncovering hidden gems as we go. In a world where a plane ticket can be bought so easily, it’s easy to push aside the adventures closer to home.
Who else has stumbled upon an amazing new hike, climbing spot or cycling route, right on their doorstep?
This month we’re exploring the meaning of adventure and what that looks like from person to person.
We’ll be interviewing a series of our favourite adventurers to find out their hidden gems, top tips for exploring and more.
Introducing Himalayan explorer, author, and long time friend of kora, Jeff Fuchs. Obsessed with the historical trade routes of the Himalayas, Jeff moved to the Yunnan region of China, to focus his research and escape the chaos of city living. Over the years he has become accustomed to a simple way of living, whilst learning the local languages and starting his own tea business.
kora was born in the Himalayas so it only felt right to include Jeff’s story in our #findyouradventure campaign. We hope you’re as inspired as we are.
How did you end up spending so much time in the Himalayas and what drew you to the region?
"The mountains drew me in and held me early in life, but some of the Himalayas’ cultural and historical elements drew me in as much as the physical spaces. When I moved there in the early 2000s, it felt like an anxiety-free welcome and embrace coming from the urban environments I had been living in. Yunnan itself (where I ended up living for over a decade), was like a narcotic for me. I rented a small wind and mouse-infested Tibetan home with little other than a few bricks of tea and a sleeping bag. The desire was to immerse in what was left of routes, study the language, chatting with elders whenever and wherever it suited, and step away from a bit of the nuttiness of cities.
"For years (and it continues), my focus has been the Himalayan trade routes and how they linked up (and didn’t), and this kept me content. Inevitably, one journey, pathway and story, would lead to another, which in turn led to others… and to getting lost. Documenting what’s left of them, and their disappearing narratives, all seemed to be easier done living close rather than in distant cities, where these tales and histories remained something more theoretical.
"In the mountains where l lived in northwestern Yunnan, I could trek out of my front door for a day or two and be upon a centuries old portion of the Tea Horse Road, where caravans ushered tea and commodities up onto the Tibetan Plateau. I could sip tea for hours by fireside in homes with elders who remember mule and yak caravans passing through. I couldn’t do much better than that for experiential research at the time.
"On the more ‘inner’ level, I’ve never found many other environments that could simultaneously welcome, sooth, stress, and stimulate me quite like the Himalayas."
Can you tell us your three key essential items when you are on a trek?
"Beyond the ‘givens’ of good, warm base layers and my very worn-in footwear…
"In no particular order:
- A Tibetan mala of sandalwood beads given as a gift by an old trader and worn around my neck. The man who gave it told me to keep it close when in the mountains and I do.
- Good stash of raw Puerh tea.
- A good ice axe - the amount of 'un-technical things that an axe can do on a journey is almost unlimited!"
"While the leaf was introduced to me in a household of Asian food influences by my father at a very young age, it was in Taiwan where the power of a well-made tea (and just as importantly), the custom and time of tea, took hold.
"When I’ve been wordlessly offered and served tea from homesteads that have little in the way of modern luxury, I’ve felt the same threads of warmth and thanks as I have when being served (or serving), a priceless offering from a rare harvest or collection. It is perhaps this understated and ‘simple’ aspect of tea that keeps it appealing to me; that it is as much about a kind of social connection one makes when sipping, as it is about a particular harvest or origin."
Our new campaign is all about finding your adventure closer to home, what has been your best discovery over the last 6 months?
"Not sure it counts as an adventure or a discovery exactly, but practicing and studying more breath work and incorporating this work into the everyday, not simply into training sessions. The idea that breath work can support and stimulate so much of the body and mind’s potential and functionality has been a wonderful (and free), little tonic during this last few months of uncertainty."
What would be your advice to someone who wants to go 'off the beaten track' to explore a new region?
"Research just enough, but not too much. I find that some of the magic of a place is sterilised when I read or research too deeply about it and start forming even mild opinions about what I think I might know.
"I usually issue myself a small challenge - that I will seek out some little interest particular to a region and study and learn what I can of it. For me it is often a tradition like “how tea is served locally?”, or how a place or dialect might be linked or connected to another space.
"Finally, engage with locals as much as possible to get their take on ideas and places and just getting out there. I’ve found little paradises that were never on any map or within any book, only after chatting with locals. 'Staying open to the world' is a kind of mantra, as difficult as that might seem at times."