Patrick Timm spent far too much of his life glued to a computer before realizing the real stuff behind the screen was much more interesting. Learning everything about the outdoors from scratch, he now adventures as much as possible; hiking, climbing and canyoning. He wants to help everyone get out of their comfort zones and into the outdoors and on adventures.
Tap tap tap.
I moved the mouse to the corner of the computer screen and stared. The world in front of me looked epic. Lush green pine forests with snow-capped mountains in the distance. A world in which my imagination could run wild with creativity.
I could do anything I wanted in this virtual world.
Another idea pops into my head. I carefully place another tree from the program where it looked like it was needed. There. That should do it, the finishing touch. The house looked wonderful with the rugged background of alpine wonders.
If you had told me 8 years ago that I would soon be exploring the wild outdoors, seeing places very few people ever get to experience, I would have scoffed. With no outdoor experience, having never wild camped or walked a trail, I was out of touch with the nature. Living in Australia, I had no clue about the snakes, plants or the terrain. My parents had bravely immigrated from Germany with its packed cities and urban landscapes. Unlike the locals, being outdoorsy was foreign to them coming from a big city. I hadn't even really been outside my home city of Brisbane. And besides, I was working on yet another game mod that would provide entertainment for thousands, why was there any reason to do anything else? These ‘mods’ were additions to games that gamers could use to enhance their gameplay. I had made a breakthrough at the time and had hundreds of thousands of gamers downloading my creative work of making homes, castles and tree houses for a popular game.
I remember sitting there, looking at the incredible scenery in the game, and it never occurred to me that places this beautiful existed and we could actually go there. I wasn't a very confident guy. Maybe that had something to do with it. I didn’t realise I could try anything. I was pouring hundreds of hours into this virtual world. In fact, with the software logging the hours, I spent 1137 hours on this one particular game alone!
Is it any wonder I wasn’t completely happy? The screen in front of me didn’t create experiences. It didn’t tell me how cold the snow is, or how tough it was to walk for endless hours. I always felt something was missing. And maybe I thought I could find it in world that doesn’t exist. Imagination creates a world as strong as reality.
But all that was about to change, and I had no idea the impact it would have.
A SURPRISE EMERGES FROM THE BUSHES
My girlfriend at the time had, not surprisingly, disliked the amount of time I spent on the computer. It was probably even the catalyst for our eventual breakup. With the need to get out of the house at least a few times, we found ourselves walking a popular track to a waterfall one day in late 2011. It was just a spur of the moment decision, I neither liked nor disliked it. As we made our way along the trail, I was taken by surprise when some hikers emerged from the side of the rainforest, back onto our track. They looked muddy, tired and by my reckoning, had probably been somewhere mysterious and far away. Their backpacks had years of wear, as did their clothes. My imagination kicked into gear and I envisioned lost valleys and deep caves that are hidden to the common trail walker. I was too shy to ask exactly where they had gone, but that had started a snowball of thoughts. What could be found when you get off the beaten path and head into the unknown? I always felt something stirring in me wanting to know what’s around the corner, down that hole or over the hill. At the time I was drawn to games that allowed me to explore, yet I could never grasp at what it was inside me, or how to express it.
Could anyone get out there and explore like that? My thinking wasn’t quite there yet, but was well on its way.
With the memory of the hikers in mind, I wanted to do another hike soon, and it wasn’t long before we tried another short track. What was happening to me? When I was outside, I didn't think about my games or the computer. In fact, I didn't think about much at all. And it was great!
I received a gift voucher for a guided abseiling trip a few months later. No doubt the short hikes inspired the perfect gift for me. A little nervous but equally excited, the abseiling trip would be my first foray into the vertical world. With skilled guides making me feel safe, I had more fun than I had experienced in a long time. I took note of the equipment and asked many questions.
Above them all was, “can anyone do this?”
Their responses were welcoming. Anyone can do it with some instruction, and it wasn't hard at all. Those ropes and knots looked complicated, but I wasn't put off. Coincidentally, another friend, unbeknownst to me, had started rock climbing and had been doing it for nearly a year. After my abseiling experience, he shared his story and invited me to try it. I arrived at our arranged meetup, a vertical cliff in the centre of Brisbane city. This cliff line was an old quarry where rock was mined for ballast on ships back in the day. For the local climbers in Brisbane, its perfect. Right on the river's edge, with parking at its base, it’s a climbing hangout for midweek practice after work or a serious session on the weekend. It was also perfect to take new people too, such as myself.
Donning my cumbersome trainers, I stood at the base and looked up, wondering if I could make it up there. It looked very high and the butterflies in my stomach started stirring. With reassurance from my friend, I scrambled and fumbled my way to the top of the climb. Being on ‘top rope’, that is, the rope running from belayer to the top through an anchor and then back to me, made it very safe and only a little scary. Falling meant only a small stretch of rope would be felt. It was completely safe. Though it was a simple climb, it had felt very satisfying to make it to the top. Each meter gained brought you and the climb more in focus. Nothing else mattered. Life's worries and stresses disappeared. I felt strong and confident.
This is what I had been missing!
NOW WE'RE IN BUSINESS!
I promptly went out the next day and bought the equipment I needed. Shoes, harness, helmet and a couple of accessories. I met up with my friend again and started climbing once a week. I quickly learned all those complicated knots and techniques. My friend, self-taught like many climbers, learned from books, Google, Youtube and friendly chats with experienced veterans. I was also amazed at how simple it was, common sense really. Keeping safe is the sole focus. Thinking about it now, hurtling down freeways at 100km/h in thin metal boxes seems much more dangerous. That’s not to say its accident free. Like any sport, mishaps occur, but at no rate higher than any other activity in the outdoors. This suited me well, as I get scared and anxious easily. Ironic, I know. Climbing seems like the worst sport to pursue for me.
As time went on I started lead climbing. This is where the true test occurs. Climbing is all about controlling your mental state. Something I seem to still be terrible at, but nonetheless try. Lead climbing involves clipping bolts with quickdraws (think carabiners) as you progress up. The bolts are already there, so all you have to do is clip them on your way past. If you fall on your way to the next one, you fall a bit more until the last bolt catches you. This means there's a bit more fear involved as you are actually falling, but only briefly.
Is it scary? Of course it is!
Is it safe? Yes.
Falling is done again and again as attempts are made. In fact, rock climbing is a sport of failure. We fail more than we succeed, and taking ‘falls’ is just part of the process. Like some great metaphor to life, climbing taught me that failing is ok. It just gets you closer on the next try.
And it’s not only the climbing that’s enjoyable. The whole experience is very rewarding. Sitting on a rock wall, the solitude while you and your partner swap turns as you go up is a significant part of feeling a connection with our environment. The texture of the rock, the grit of sand, that cool breeze or the distant view are all reminders to take it all in right now. There is no computer screen in front of your life. Experiences don’t happen in mouse clicks or under headphones. It’s out there, in the world around us. We talk about our houses as our homes, when really, the planet IS our home. Not some small parcel of dirt and concrete. The experience is enjoying the outdoors in whatever way we feel the best connection to it. Some walk or run, others bike or paddle, some even fly. To me, its exploring the vertical world, both up and down, from cliffs to caves.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
So from starting the journey six years ago, I’ve spent almost every weekend outside. Very rarely will I stay inside, and even the lashing rain doesn't stop me. In the years that followed, I started canyoning, my second passion, and explored the narrow twisting passages of rock, descending into the unknown. Like climbing in reverse, it also had its own wonders to explore. Seeing these amazing places and learning more than I ever could have staring at LED’s, going from computers to climbing opened my eyes to experiences that had in the past only lived in my imagination.
The change in me has now progressed to the point where, after finding myself on a computer at work for the past 2 years, I have decided to quit my job of 12 years, sell everything, and move to a place where outdoor adventures are so common, it’s seen as the way of life of an entire nation. The land of the ‘long white cloud’, New Zealand, will be my next destination, and maybe my next transformation. I have no idea what I will do or what life will be like. But I do know I’m going to be spending a lot of time outside, free to follow my passions, and not in front of a screen.
You can read more about Patrick and his adventures on his website or by following his social media: