Why Traveling Is Just Like Rock Climbing

When I was unemployed, out of boredom I decided to join the local climbing gym and attend their rock climbing class. And I was immediately hooked. I told Jack, ‘You WILL like this climbing thing. You should try this…’ the rest is history.

We started climbing regularly, both indoors and outdoors. After awhile I started noticing similarities between climbing and traveling.

Both activities require tons of time and preparation and usually more money than we can afford.

Other reasons why traveling is just like rock climbing:

1. It looks more dangerous and reckless than it actually is

Waiting to climb, Cathedral Peak, Yosemite
We waited for 3 hours to see if the weather would improve. We ended up canceling the climb due to the cloud cover.

Is it safe? Aren’t you afraid of (____)? Isn’t it dangerous?

It depends.

If we climb while we’re drunk with 10 year old equipment that’s been laying around in a pool of battery acid — no, it’s not safe. As a matter of fact, it’s very dangerous. And yes, we’ll be very afraid of (____).

But with proper equipment, knowledge and a big dose of common sense, climbing like traveling, can be safe.

The key is to only do things that you’re comfortable with. Nobody is forcing you to do an overhanging route with a high probability of decking…. Just like nobody’s forcing you to sneak into Tibet without proper permit or buy illegal drugs in Singapore.

It’s your choice. Use common sense. And look after each other.

2. Common sense is your best friend

It doesn’t matter how new and how top-notch your equipments are, you can’t succeed without plenty of common sense. Do you know that most climbing accidents happen not from equipment failure but from human errors?

Climbing Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park
Double and triple checked the knot -- Cathedral Peak, California

Double check your equipment, and view your surrounding.

Does the route look dodgy? Are the bolts rusty and loose?

Is that thunder carrying cloud I see up ahead beyond this lightning-attracting granite I’m about to climb?

Even if it’s the route you’ve been dreaming of for years, if it looks unsafe, leave the ego behind and climb something else…

3. It’s not for everyone

Lost on a climbing route
Lost on a climbing route

Some people are happy to have their feet firmly planted on the ground, just like some people are content working desk jobs and living in suburbia.

And that’s completely fine.

Sometimes I envy them as I’m hanging on for dear life, scaring myself shitless on a route that seems to go nowhere. You might think they’re missing out on something great, and it’s natural to try to convince them that hey, this is fun.

You want to shout out, ‘EVERYBODY! Hanging on at the end of the rope 400 ft off the ground with bleeding fingertips is FUN!’

No wonder they look at you like you’re crazy — and in a way, they might be right.

4. Plenty of tips flying around, but not all of them will work for you

Climbing community is a very supportive community. People give each other betas (tips on how to solve a route) and cheer each other on a climb.

But in the end it’s your own judgment whether or not to trust the advices/tips that have been given. Tips given for a male who’s 5’11” in height will not work for wee 5 foot-tall me. Different body sizes require different techniques.

There’s no one single right way to do things.

Take all the advices that are out there with a grain of salt and find out which ones will for for you.

5. You get to go to beautiful places and meet interesting people

That’s what I love about climbing and traveling in general. You can’t NOT meet people. Well, you can… you’ve just got to try really hard.

Climbing in Pinnacles National Monument, California
Climbing in Pinnacles National Monument, California

Maybe that’s why we’re drawn to these two activities — beautiful scenery, local cultures, and meeting people who share the same passion as you do. Although every now and then you do get to meet them ‘bad apples’ of the community.

They’re still interesting in their own way, of course.

6. Do what’s fun for YOU, not what others say is fun

I’m not the bravest or the most competitive climber. I love top roping. I hate leading… I really do. I don’t find it fun. Others have tried to tell me that to be a proper climber, I have to be comfortable with falling or leading…

I used to force myself to listen to the advises of these much better climber, then I realised that I’ve stopped having fun. It’s just not fun anymore… Now, I don’t care about ‘must-do’ activities — I will do what’s fun for me.

Climbers and travelers can be pretty very passionate about what they do and fail to realise that not everyone shares their passion. Some see climbing as a fun ‘first-date’ activity, others see it as a serious hobby, and there are those who’ve turned it into a full time job. But the most important thing is to have fun.

A quote from an old-time climber I read somewhere says,

‘Those who have the most fun, win’

And I agree.

7. The journey there can be the most ‘epic’ part.

You can get to the top of many routes by walking from the other side of the cliff. So why bother climbing it? The view’s the same doesn’t matter how you get there.

But it’s just not as fun, isn’t it? So what if you got a little loss on the way? What if it gets a little scary getting up there?

The getting-there part makes for a much more interesting story.


Between the two of us, Jack is the much more avid (and better) climber than I am while travel has always been more of my passion. But considering the similarities between them, it’s not a big surprise that we manage to combine our interests together.

We’re going back and forth on whether to take our gear with us on our trip upcoming RTW trip. The opportunity is tempting. But what do we do with our stuff when we’re in… say, flat Mongolia?

Have you ever rock climbed before? Do you agree that they share similar concerns? Should we take our gear with us?

11 Replies to “Why Traveling Is Just Like Rock Climbing”

  1. Nice post. I be taught something more difficult on totally different blogs everyday. It can always be stimulating to learn content material from other writers and practice a little bit one thing from their store. I’d prefer to make use of some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a hyperlink in your internet blog. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, never really thought of them both the same way before but reading this really does make me think how similar they both are.

    It also really makes me want to go rock-climbing again as I haven't had a chance to do it in years (any free money I have always goes towards travelling – even though I live a two-minute walk away from the local rock-climbing place)

    I'd say you should probably leave your gear – I imagine most places that you're able to go climbing will have plenty of places to rent it and will most likely work out a lot cheaper than paying extra luggage fees and save a lot of bother on carrying it around and finding places to store it. You could always do a little research into the places you plan on climbing and see if they have anywhere you can rent equipment from nearby.

  3. I say take your gear! You can always leave it in a hotel or airport if its heavy and you can't lug it around…I did this in Bangkok before heading to Nepal to climb…though I just alpine climb- no nerve for those 400 foot rock faces!

  4. Great take on travel and the analogy to rock climbing. I am sure there are many metaphors out there like this but great that you used what is familiar to you. And all it took was unemployment to come up a new hobby and this great post! 🙂

    Got to agree about travel – safety, having fun, and only doing what you want is key!

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  6. I love this post. We used to climb a lot but as we started traveling more, the climbing went by the wayside. We have good friends traveling right now with all their gear. If climbing is your number one priority, I suggest taking it. but it is a lot of weight as well. You can always leave it at a guest house when you are traveling. We made the mistake of taking scuba gear with us through Central America. We were there strictly to dive, but soon found ourselves interested in other things and it weighed us down. We ended up leaving it at places as we explored different areas but we were limited because we always had to come back to where we left our gear. we decided that renting as we go would have been a better option. But then again, tell a hard core diver or climber to go without gear and they would look at you like you are from Mars! It is up to you on how much you want to climb on your RTW. Make sure you go to Railay in Thailand and Yangzou in China. They are amazing destinations!

  7. Great post….love it! I can totally see the parallels you've described. I'm not sure about taking your equipment. I don't think I'd want to be weighed down. Maybe you can find a place to rent from that's reputable, etc. Then you can travel light. Either way, enjoy!

  8. I've always wanted to try rock climbing but felt so intimidated by it. After reading your post, I don't know why I let a big of a challenge stop me. Making the decision to leave everything behind and set off for the world was probably the hardest thing I ever did and I've proven that I CAN do it! Why not give rock climbing a try now? Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  9. That's a tough call on whether or not to take stuff. Chances are you'll be able to rent it while on the road? At times we wish we could have taken our golf clubs… =)

    Great post guys! Wish I could say we've tried rock climbing…perhaps someday!

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