Dear Drewbie: What Mount Everest and a Phish concert teach us about life, travel and finding your comfort zone |

Dear Drewbie: What Mount Everest and a Phish concert teach us about life, travel and finding your comfort zone

Drew Mikita
Dear Drewbie

As Summit County locals, we love our home, but we sure love our adventures, too.

Whether it is a quick overnight road trip to chase the gnar or a flight to some exotic destination, we love to explore the world. Some trips push our comfort zone, and that can be scary, dangerous and have consequences. Other trips are designed for vegging out in your comfort zone. Travel can create memories, change our lives and touch our souls. It’s good to push a bit and grow from your experiences and, best of all, come back to the place we all love: Summit County.

I took two trips recently. They were polar opposites: the first a month in Nepal to run the Everest Marathon and trek with my wife, the second an impromptu road trip with a buddy to see Phish play at the Columbia River Gorge.

Nepal, Molly’s dream trip. Phish, my journey. While these trips might seem like complete contraries of one another, the similarities are astoundingly present, awesome and, hopefully, hilarious.

To Nepal

Nepal is a spiritual world like nowhere else, surrounded by mountains that dwarf the Rockies and populated by people who are so kind and genuine, with a love for nature rivaled by no one.

When arriving at base camp, a member of group, Paul, was literally overcome with emotion. He fell to his knees and wept, making me appreciate the enormity of that place — so humbling, so beautiful, so breathtaking and mystical.

While this was not my specific dream, it was life changing, incredible and transcendent. Embracing the inscrutability of the Khumbu Valley while standing at the feet of The Mother (Mount Everest) is absolutely indescribable. No person could possibly be unaffected by the energy of Himalayas, and I am forever changed.

To the Gorge

When arriving at the Colombia River Gorge to see Phish, I felt like a giggling hippie in a utopian musical wonder world. The legends who have played there, the spirituality — “The Mother” of concert venues — and I was there, in first row of the pit nonetheless. The shows were outrageous, truly unforgettable experiences, with the Gorge in the background and a perfect sunset. It was a perfectly phantastic weekend. (I can feel people throwing things at me through their devices as I compare Phish and Mount Everest. Deservedly so, I should say.)

Beyond the comfort zone

They’re worlds apart, literally and figuratively, yet these two adventures involved people who were most in their comfort zones and those who were not in their comfort zones. I am lucky to be chameleon-ish — I feel comfortable in just about any situation that involves being outside, cool people, beers, local food and adventure. Nepal pushed my comfort zone in the perfect way; a Phish Phestival is my comfort zone.

Here is a survival guide for many of the common comfort zone-pushing situations you may encounter while traveling, as evidenced through my Nepal and Phish travels.


Nepal: Bathroom is Nepalese for “sketchy bucket teetering on an icy-glacial-rock death trap.” At basecamp, I thought I was going to die in the toilet tent.

Phish Festival: Bathrooms can be used for just about anything: the obvious, sex, drugs, sleeping, etc. Knocking before entering the Porta Potties is probably a good call. Poop early before things get really nasty.

Survival tip: Always bring TP and baby wipes with you, everywhere. Hold your breath and think happy thoughts. Be quick. Just accept that people are going to see you “make nature” at some point.


Nepal: The food in Nepal was amazing: simple, basic and to the point, very fresh and organic. Going local is great, but it did result in stomach parasites for us (whoops). I still wouldn’t trade the local experiences for anything.

Phish Festival: You can get all kinds of hippie cuisine at a festival. Some is delicious and healthy, some is the perfect, greasy, hangover-curing yumminess I crave. You can probably get parasites here, too … just being honest.

Survival tip: Enjoy local cuisine and immerse yourself in the experience. Be wary that eating bad food can be fatal! Also, having some good snacks is key: jerky, energy bars, candy, etc. (You know your necessities).


Nepal: Our guide told us we needed to stay hydrated. I listened, probably to excess, and stayed hydrated. I had no problems with altitude or dehydration. We saw many others struggle.

Phish Festival: I met a girl in the bathroom line who had done far too many illicit somethings. I told her she needed water. She slurringly said, “Water is always the answer.” It sure is, especially when “experimenting.”

Survival tip: Have a reusable water bottle with you. Also, know cleanliness of the water. If you are unsure, plastic water bottles (or boiled or purified water) is best practice.

Finding a leader

Nepal: Lucky for us, in Nepal we had a leader, Ricky, whom I trusted completely with everything. He was intelligent, articulate, experienced, fun, knowledgeable and a true leader. Following him felt like a newborn duck following its mother — instincts. The dude is the man, and he led us ducklings perfectly.

Phish Festival: If you are by yourself, or in a small group, having someone on top of things — tickets, show time, meeting points, venue traditions and customs — will save stress and confusion. At a festival, this person needs to be uber-fun and want to have an outstanding time, safely.

Survival tip: Someone who knows their away is the best. Trust this person with your life and fun times. The kindness of strangers is impressive, and a smile goes a long way. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Remember all this when someone is on an adventure to Summit County and asks you for guidance.

Social comparisons

Nepal: Many people in Nepal survive off food they grow and live in very modest homes. Yet, as a whole, they are very happy, satisfied and spiritual. For many, surviving is their job.

Phish Festival: Many of these people “tour” for a living, but not for work. They just follow the tour. Some are homeless, jobless and simply living. They’re free-spirited hippies having copious amounts of fun.

Survival tip: It is not a terrible thing to compare yourself and life to others occasionally. Just keep things in perspective and remember: You live your life and are you. Be the best you that you can be, regardless of comparison. Learn from those who are different.

The smell

Nepal: Smelly hikers, yak dung and unique foods.

Phish Festival: Smelly hippies, cannabis and unique foods.

Survival tip: Our memory is closely tied to scent, so breathe it all in.

The drugs

Nepal: Weed, hash and other mystery substances.

Phish Festival: Anything, everything and more.

Survival tip: Know what you are getting into, and never take drugs from strangers, kids.

Rituals and lingo

Nepal: Prayers, trails songs, fun dances and serious mountain nerd jibberish about approaches, routes and weather.

Phish Festival: WILLLLLSSOOOON! Plus sing-alongs, weird audience roleplay dances and aimless predictions about set openers or encores.

Survival tip: Even if you don’t know what’s going on, just smile and enjoy the moment. Ask a “local” for advice on how to participate. Respect the traditions.


Nepal: Layers, insulated everything and the highest quality gear you can afford for your safety and welfare. Base camp was cold — we needed our gear.

Phish Festival: Some sort of inside joke T-shirt, tie-dye and comfy clothes. Shirts, shoes, bras, costumes and pants are all optional. If it’s fun and comfortable, it’s “All Hood.”

Survival tip: Know the weather and local customs, and always be prepared for the weather to change — or for an impromptu mud-wrestling pit to break out.

Items for purchase

Nepal: You can buy the necessities, snacks, drinks, TP, souvenirs, etc. However, prices go up as you go up in elevation. Be prepared and barter your way down.

Phish Festival: All things hippie. The closer to the show, the more you pay. Bartering is also commonplace.

Survival tip: Support the local economies. Respectfully barter: know when to walk away and when to cave. You are on vacation, so don’t complain about prices.

Lines and crowds

Nepal: On the trail, in the cities, at bathrooms and showers, in traffic, photo opps.

Phish Festival: Traffic, bathrooms, showers, the entrance, the pit, food vendors.

Survival tip: Be patient. That means slow down and enjoy the event — we rush too much.


Nepal: Wrappers, water bottles, bags, oxygen canisters.

Phish Festival: Joints, food, beer bottles, nitrous canisters.

Survival tip: Clean up after yourself and, yes, even others. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

The people

Nepal: As a whole, the people are patient, genuine, compassionate and spiritual.

Phish Festival: Most are fun, kind, accepting, light-hearted and spiritual.

Survival tip: People are different. There are great people all over the world, and there are sketchy people all over the world. Mimic the behavior you want to see.

No matter where your travels take you, follow this guide to help you survive leaving your comfort zone while pursuing travels. Have fun, be open-minded and non-judgmental and have as memorable a time as possible while being respectful and courteous. You represent America and Summit County, so do it well.

And remember: Regardless of your comfort zone, you get to come home to my favorite place on earth, Summit County!

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