Adventurer, Speaker, Author, and Guide
Photograph by Michael Christopher Brown, National Geographic
Photograph by Andrew Skurka
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island
Current City: Boulder, Colorado
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to make a fortune on Wall Street. I was in high school in the late 1990s, when the stock market and the technology industry was going crazy, so this seemed like a good track to get on.
How did you get started in your field of work?
I'd always loved the outdoors as a kid. My friends and I explored the swamps in my hometown, rode our mountain bikes anywhere we could find trails, and drove up to New Hampshire at least once during the summer to climb Mount Washington. But it wasn't until college that I really started getting into the outdoors. During my first two summers in college I worked at a high adventure summer camp in western North Carolina, and during the third summer I hiked the Appalachian Trail. There was no turning back after that.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to nature?
Relationships are the most important things in life, specifically relationships with nature, others, and self. My long-distance trips are excellent in enhancing these relationships. They've given me a comprehensive firsthand education about natural features and systems. They've helped me bond with others through shared purpose and adversity. And they've given me an identity, self-confidence, and a reason to wake up in the morning.
What's a normal day like for you?
I have two different types of lives: my field life and my civilian life. When I'm in the field, I move for 14-16 hours per day, with very few breaks. I don't move fast necessarily, but my pace is very steady and sustainable. When I'm in civilization, I spend my days like most do: working. For me, that may mean giving presentations (or traveling to them), writing a book, or buying groceries for an upcoming guided trip.
Do you have a hero?
I admire a lot of people but I wouldn't say that I have a hero.
What has been your favorite experience in the field? The most challenging?
My trips are intentionally hard-they are designed to tap both my physical and mental limits. The best moments usually come when I'm at those limits, when I'm thoroughly exhausted and can no longer keep my "game face" on. During my last big trip, this happened in the Yukon Arctic when I stumbled on the migration trail of the Porcupine caribou herd. I felt like I was tapping into their energy and was sharing their narrow focus in life: move, eat, sleep, move, eat, sleep.
What are your other passions?
I'm an avid runner, with my biggest accomplishment being a second-place finish at the Leadville 100, a 100-mile running race in Colorado that I completed in 18 hours, 17 minutes.
What do you do in your free time?
I haven't had much free time in the last few years. Last year I planned and completed a major expedition, and this year I wrote a book and started a guiding business. I can sleep when I'm dead.
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Follow @andrewskurka on Twitter
Inside National Geographic Magazine
Nobody had ever done it before: Hike, ski, and raft 4,679 miles through eight national parks, dozens of mountain ranges, and the length of the Yukon territory. Then along came Andrew Skurka.
In Their Words
Relationships are the most important things in life, specifically relationships with nature, others, and self.
Andrew Skurka talks about how he became a long-distance solo hiker.
Whether you're planning a day hike or a month-long excursion, Skurka's latest book can help.
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