When you meet people who are just as passionate about travel or the outdoors, have a sense of adventure, and have an insatiable curiosity like you do, it raises a connection. There are so many different people and personalities that have inspired themselves and maybe even inspired others to get out there… including a young man named Christopher.
I created this interview series called From _____ to One World on this blog site because I want to get to know other people who have changed their life in one way or another to pursue what they love most: adventure. But in a box, this will explain it all:
From Christopher To One World
Meet Christopher Guevara, a young man who only dreamt of being a pilot one day and a man invested in truly exploring the outdoors and taking a chance at wild adventures, including trying a few taboo dishes of animals you wouldn’t think of ingesting. But, Christopher was really into his adventures that it risked him from further pursuing his life-long dream to be a pilot at the time. He was severely injured from a hiking accident as he broke his legs and suffered a concussion.
Christopher did not let his injuries define what would come of him next. He let the healing do its work no matter how long it took him. It was one of the hardest experiences he had to endure in his 20s, but Christopher’s story can allow us to understand how much we shouldn’t take our bodies, strength, and adventure experiences for granted.
He’s a reminder to us that no matter what challenges we have to face, including being hurt physically through accidents, we do not need to give up all that we have loved and desired. We can always find a way to get back to those things we hold endearingly close to our hearts… and dreams. We are all expected to go through many ups and downs with our lives but sometimes, life has a funny way of putting us in our timing.
Life is short, and there’s a big world out there that’s calling on us to explore it!Christopher Guevara
Let’s hear from Christopher himself to learn about his story.
1. Tell us about yourself. What is your occupation as of now?
My name is Christopher Guevara. I’m 24 years old and currently live in southern New Jersey. I graduated last year from Rutgers University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering with an Aerospace concentration. Since then, I’ve been working for Toyota during the day and occasionally doing photography work in my spare time.
I love hiking and the outdoors, which is how I became acquainted with Gabby and this website. I also enjoy auto racing, eating and watch collecting, all of which collectively drain whatever money I make at work.
2. How long have you been hiking for and what made you want to get into the outdoors, specifically on the activity of hiking?
I’ve been hiking since I was a little kid. My parents got me to join the Boy Scouts when I was in elementary school, and I stuck with the program through high school, eventually reaching the highest rank of Eagle Scout. I’ve been on countless hiking and backpacking trips through the BSA, and once I graduated high school and moved on to college, I planned out my own trips as well.
One of my favorite trips that I took with the scouts was a weeklong trek through the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” in Maine on the Appalachian Trail. We were dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the supplies we packed in our bags (All 45 pounds of it in my case). We covered around 40-50 miles over the course of the extended weekend, all of which culminated with climbing Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. With the same group, I also hiked the Presidential Peaks in New Hampshire, and “spelunked” in West Virginia.
In recent years I’ve made it a point to hike everywhere I go, from Snæfellsjökull National Park in Iceland to the peak of the Serenity Bowl in Breckenridge, Colorado.
3. Your dream occupation is to become a pilot. What made you interested in becoming one and what kind of pilot do you want to pursue being?
I’ve had a love of flying and airplanes for as long as I can remember. Even as young as 5, I would look up to the sky, and turn to my parents proclaiming, “Look! That’s a Boeing 747-400! You can tell it’s a -400 series because it has wingtips while the older 747’s don’t!” to which my parents usually laughed and responded with “Why don’t you memorize your multiplication tables this well?”
In 2001, my family travelled to Japan to visit my aunt who was living in Tokyo at the time. During the flight, the crew invited me up to the cockpit of the Continental Airlines Boeing 777 to meet the pilots and take a look around. I can still remember sitting in the first officer’s seat, and looking around in amazement that something this complicated can so easily defy gravity and soar above the clouds. When we were on the ground, the Captain let me put my hands on the control yoke and throttle levers, and turned on the advanced avionics, so it really felt like I was flying!
It was at that point that I decided that when I grew up I wanted to become a commercial airline pilot. Ever since that day, I’ve been an aviation geek through and through. In fifth grade, my language arts teacher let us choose books to read and then present a report on what we read to the class. Everyone else did reports on books like Artemis Fowl, or whatever else we were reading in the early 2000’s. I did my report on a book documenting a series of Boeing 737 crashes in the early 1990’s due to a servo issue in the aircrafts’ flight control systems. Yeah, my teacher had a lot of questions after I presented that as a fifth-grader.
4. Now, tell me about that time you went hiking once and what happened and how that pain affected your body and life?
My fifth year at college I spent working on my senior design project, I’d completed all the other required classes for my graduation. In early May of 2018, I’d just completed and presented my project, and after a hard year of nonstop design and manufacturing, I felt like I needed a day to myself to relax and clear my head. On May 11th, I was off from work for the day and the weather was gorgeous, so I decided to take a solo hike on Mt Tammany in northern New Jersey.
It was a Friday and that coming Sunday, I was due to walk at my college graduation ceremony. I’d done this hike multiple times before, and I knew that I’d have cell phone service for most of the hike, so I wasn’t worried about doing the climb alone. I don’t remember falling since I smacked my head on the way down, but the couple behind me on the trail described hearing an “Oh shit” followed by a snap.
I had fallen 20 feet in a rock field towards the top of the mountain. I didn’t feel much pain at first, but when I tried getting up, I knew something was really wrong with my left leg. A couple of passing hikers who happened to be physical therapists helped me make a splint, and the kind couple who were behind me on the trail helped me try and walk down. It soon became apparent that I was in real trouble; I started losing spatial awareness and got really dizzy from the whack on the head that I took on my way down.
Furthermore, the adrenaline from my fall had started to wear off, so the pain in my leg was becoming unbearable to walk on. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be making it down on my own, so we called 911. Three rescue squads and countless state and park police showed up and carried me off the mountain in a basket stretcher. I was taken to Lehigh Valley Emergency Room in Pennsylvania, and after a long evening of scans and tests, the news was “broken” to me.
I had spiral fractures, busted ligaments, and a concussion. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital on my own two feet. It took 12 weeks and two surgeries to get back on my own two feet. Needless to say, it was a rough and painful summer. I couldn’t work, couldn’t drive, and barely left the house. I had to turn down a job opportunity in Washington DC because I wasn’t able to relocate or start when they needed me. It was a real depressing period in my life, and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for helping me through it in every way possible.
5. Because of what happened, it affected your opportunity to go to flight school. How hard was this on you and how did you try to come to accept not being able to do your dream during this time?
I took my first discovery flight in 2016 and made it a goal of mine to start flight school after I graduated from college. Unfortunately, my hiking accident two days before graduation put an immediate stop to those plans. To fly an airplane, you use your legs to operate a set of pedals, which control the rudder, brakes, and steering of the aircraft on the ground. Since I couldn’t put weight on my left leg for over 12 weeks, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to start school as I had originally planned.
After those 12 weeks were up, I had to put off starting school again because I had to relearn how to walk. I tried to push myself to get back on my feet as soon as I could, but unfortunately, it took time to regain strength in my left leg, which after 12 weeks of being completely immobile, looked like a toothpick. During this recovery phase, lots of different factors were pushing me forward: from being able to drive my manual transmission Acura, to showering, standing up, and of course, being able to fly again.
It was difficult to accept that I had to put my life on hold, but I had light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, because I knew that I would eventually be able to recover and get on with my life. It’s now been a year and a half, and I’m almost fully recovered, so I’m hoping that I can close this chapter of my life and move on to the next one!
6. Can you give a hiker some tips on how to stay safe and avoid getting into the same accident you endured?
I was extremely lucky when I fell on Mt. Tammany last year. If I landed on my head or chest, my injuries would’ve been much more severe. If there hadn’t been anyone behind me on the trail, I might not have made it off the mountain. If I didn’t have a cell phone signal, I wouldn’t have been able to call for help. Someone was definitely looking out for me that day because it could’ve ended on a much worse note. I definitely learned a lot and hope that anyone reading this won’t ever make the same mistakes that I did.
First off, I learned to always bring someone with you on the trail. Hiking is more fun with others anyways, and if anything goes wrong, having someone who can get help when you can’t is invaluable. Also, no matter how many times you’ve completed a trail or how easy it looks, always treat it with respect. Take your time on the difficult sections, have the proper equipment, and always plan for the worst. And finally, don’t take anything for granted.
After my injury, it really made me think about how I take my health and well-being for granted. The simple tasks of climbing stairs or taking a shower were suddenly very arduous tasks to complete. I never once in my 23 years, leading up to that point, had thanked my lucky stars that I could do such menial tasks without burden. Stay humble and appreciate what you have, because you never know when you might end up losing it.
7. Flying seems to be your passion and so is hiking. If you have finally been initiated the license to become a pilot, will you avoid hiking overall after this to be guaranteed you’ll be safe and to keep continuing your career?
I have many different hobbies that I’m involved in to varying degrees. Everything from flying and hiking to auto racing and racing photography. Each of these hobbies carries some risk that could possibly further affect my future career goals. Anything from another hiking fall to getting injured in a car accident on the track could potentially end my aspirations of being an airline pilot. However, these hobbies really are as important to me as my dream of flying.
As such, I can’t see myself giving up hiking in the future unless it’s required to maintain my employment. If anything, I’m more fired up than ever to explore more and go further while I still can. Granted one can’t be completely reckless in their pursuit of their hobbies. I’m definitely going to be taking it easy mountain climbing from now on, but I definitely don’t plan on stopping! Life is short, and there’s a big world out there that’s calling on us to explore it!
8. What are your next goals or future plans?
Now that I’m back on my feet and pretty much back to 100%, the time has come to start my flight training. I’m currently in the process of getting my First Class medical certification from the FAA, which will authorize me to fly commercial aircraft. Once my medical gets approved, it’s time to apply for flight schools! It’s almost like applying for colleges again because I have to fill out questionnaires, research the different selections of programs, provide references, and consider the financial viability of each choice.
Once I get accepted into an academy, it’ll likely take 3-4 years to get all my certifications and flight hours before I can join an airline. It’s a long road ahead and definitely one filled with countless challenges, but if it’s in the pursuit of my childhood dream, then I’m willing to fight through it. No matter what life throws at me next, the sky isn’t going to be my limit. It’s what I’m going to call home.
9. You went to Taiwan for a few weeks. I saw that you were eating a couple of random dishes there on Snapchat and a couple of them were animals you wouldn’t think of trying… what were those dishes and what was your favorite?
Yup, I sure did! I went back to visit my family in Taiwan for the first time in 23 years this past September, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. When I travel, I like to explore and be adventurous, not only with my hiking and whatnot but with what I eat. Granted, it’s difficult for me to eat abroad as I was diagnosed last year with Celiac Disease. This means that I have to adhere to a strict gluten free diet, which when you’re travelling in a country like Taiwan, makes things pretty challenging.
Nonetheless, I was able to find a lot of new and interesting dishes I’ve never tried before! In Kaohsiung, one of my relatives had me try shark fin soup, and jello made with ground turtle shell. The highlight of the “interesting” food was when my uncle took me to “Snake Alley” in Taipei, and we had snake soup, and then shots with snake blood, bile, and venom. In case you were wondering, I can report back that the snake itself tasted like a dry piece of chicken with millions of bones in it.
They were all delicious in their own way, but all the weird foods that I ate were absolutely overshadowed by the fresh seafood. All in all, my trip to Taiwan was no different than any other trip I’ve taken. I absolutely ate my way through it.
If you or anyone you know would like to share their life-changing story where adventure inspired them, please contact me here.