Fireside with Jonathan Ronzio

Fireside is part of the ModernPilgrim interview series. Take a break with us to learn more about someone who is making big things happen in the name of adventure. This week we talk to Jonathan Ronzio. Not only does he compete on NBC’s Spartan but he also runs Explore Inspired an invite-only expedition series and adventure travel blog. Let’s find out more…
-Alright, Jonathan! for people who may not know you yet give me the Twitter version of yourself.
Adventure athlete, filmmaker, entrepreneur, speaker, & life-business coach helping people escape the comfortability of the culture-scape and lead bolder lives.
-I think all travelers have a story as to what brought them to where they are now. What was your catalyst? Did you have a job you hated, felt like you weren’t getting enough out of life, etc.?
I spent 5 months studying abroad in New Zealand back in 2009 and it was the freedom I experienced in my adventures there that sent me down the path I’ve pursued since. I became addicted to travel and chasing the unconventional. I just wanted to keep going farther, higher, faster, harder. And then I landed a job with Old Spice, getting paid to travel to Switzerland and blog about my epic adventures in promoting a new product of theirs. That experience became the “holy s*** I can get paid for this!” moment.
-I understand you recently spent some time at sea. Tell me about your experience. How did that come about? How was it different from your other adventures?
I’m comfortable in the mountains, climbing rock and ice, or snowboarding. That’s where most of my trips take me. And granted, I do love the beach and I surf whenever I can find the time, but I had never been sailing. I saw on Facebook that my buddy Grant had just bought a small boat and so I messaged him simply saying, “when are we taking it out?” He only had it for a couple weeks and was still learning to sail himself when I flew down there to hit the seas with him! It was a crazy trip. We ended up anchored just off the shore of one of the Gulf’s Barrier Islands in the middle of a tornado warning. 4-5 foot waves, lightning storm, 60mph wind. I definitely gained a new respect for the ocean! But I would go again in a second. And I also learned it’s really good to be a rock climber on a sailboat. From the knots and rope work to climbing the mast to retrieve a lost jib line, the crossover skills helped a lot!
-What would you say your specialty is within the travel/adventure lifestyle world?
Comfortability with the uncomfortable and confidence in the unconfined.
-You have an eight hour day ahead of you on the trail, what one person, living or dead, would you invite with you?
Maybe Jack Kerouac? I think he’d be an interesting guy to go hiking with!
-What’s the scariest thing that has happened to you while traveling?
During my Between The Peaks expedition, around 21,000 feet up on Mt. Aconcagua, I dropped to my knees with chest pain and heart palpitations and began to experience some symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). That was frightening. But my buddies and I stayed level-headed and I descended back to our last high-camp where I felt alright. I rested through the day and later that evening descended even further to Camp Nido and was good to continue to basecamp by the next day. It was heart-wrenching in all meanings of the phrase, to turn back, but that’s important in the mountains. Knowing when to turn back.
-What’s one piece of gear that you never start an adventure without?
A good backpack is essential! Of course, it’s not the only piece of gear I’d bring on an adventure, an empty pack won’t get you too far, but it is the first thing I set aside when I’m getting ready to start one. Whether for a run, a short hike, or a multi-day backcountry trip, choosing the right pack to fit the right gear for the right activity is crucial! 
-What’s one piece of gear that may not be the most important but is something you love and always have?
A camera. It’s not necessary by any means for survival or success, but I always love to have one to document my adventures!
-What is your next travel goal?
On the short term agenda, I’m leaving in two days for a splitboard expedition on Mt. Rainier and climbing Kilimanjaro in July. More of a long-term goal? I’d love to hit all 7 continents by the time I’m 30. Africa this summer will make 5. Volunteering in Thailand for my honeymoon will make 6. And then there’s that little chunk of ice down south…
-Give one piece of advice for someone who is looking to expand their traveling horizons.
Take one big trip alone. If you’re nervous, go to a fairly safe country, and one with less of a language barrier like Iceland, New Zealand, Austrailia, but go alone. It’s amazing to travel with friends and family, but when you challenge yourself to travel without someone familiar to lean on, without a friend to sit with at the bar and talk to, you’re forced to go far outside your comfort zone and you’ll learn so much more about yourself in the process. The confidence that will come out of a solo trip like that is just invaluable!
And there you have it! A huge thank you to Jonathan for taking the time to talk with us.
To learn more about Jonathan Ronzio check out:

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