On the road with Dubai adventurer Fadi Hachicho
Words by Rob Chilton
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Increasingly frustrated with city life in Dubai, Hachicho quit his desk job to explore the great outdoors
He spoke to EDGAR about his change of direction and described his tearful ascent of Kilimanjaro, during which he had an epiphany that altered his life.
It’s better for my soul. If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d continue to do this job for free for the rest of my life. It’s a connection to people on another level and a feeling of belonging to a tribe. Outdoors I think you connect to people in a way you don’t in the city, you know? Stories come out, walls come down, there’s no mask when you’re outside.
Back in the day I was in the Scouts and my dad was an outdoorsy person who took us on camping trips. As I became a teenager I got disconnected to that world, I set up a rock metal band, grew my hair and met girls. At 18 I calmed down and went to university in Beirut – but my university years were kind of boring.
Right. I worked at an advertising agency and explored the country on a budget, taking buses or hitchhiking, just urban exploration. My job was demanding and I needed an escape from it. I couldn’t stand being in the city anymore, I felt it was a cycle of people looking for the next best thing. It wasn’t fulfilling for me anymore.
I did some 4x4 off-roading, which was my gateway to adventure in the UAE. I met different people in the outdoor community and somebody invited me to Oman for a three-day adventure. We camped, we did off-roading, we saw wadis, waterfalls, mountains and covered 1,200km in three days. That trip set my mind on fire. I went back to Dubai and started an adventure blog called Adventurati Nomad. People saw the blog and wanted to join in, it slowly became a proper club, going on trips every weekend. It was a passion that became an obsession and I started to fall behind at work. My bosses told me to go away and do some research and see if I could make the club work.
In 2015 I signed up to climb Kilimanjaro to see if I could handle the mental pressure and become a guide. If I succeeded I would be ready to take a leap of faith – that mountain was a metaphor for my life.
I went with my business partner Eby. I had doubts and was afraid to fail, but it was the most unique, crazy, emotional experience of my life. I had emotions I never felt before.
I learned my first lesson: eggs and hiking at high altitude don’t go well together! I was puking all the time.
We went to bed at 2pm to try and sleep before the ascent at 11pm but I couldn’t sleep. We ate spaghetti and meatballs and managed an hour’s sleep. We were anxious, nervous, excited, cold. I wanted to make my parents proud, I didn’t want to go home and tell people I had failed.
We woke up at 11pm and went out in the freezing cold, pitch black. We started hiking and I felt good, I thought: I can do this. But after two hours I became tired and nauseous, my water was frozen, my eyes were watering. I stopped and puked, our guide was freaked out. Two hours later, the same thing happened. Then I started to cry.
It triggered something inside me and I discovered something I didn’t know I had. I felt like I was going to explode. I let out the loudest coyote sound from deep inside my guts! I let it all out. Two seconds later every guide on the mountain replied with the same coyote sound. That triggered beast mode in me. I flipped. I started stomping my legs, like something from the movie 300. I think our guide thought I was having a panic attack.
I punched my friend Eby in the arm as hard as I could and we just walked. I could feel the vein in my neck pulsing, my heart rate was high. Nothing was going to stop me, I was going to make it. And for four hours I was walking and singing non-stop.
I was crying with joy, shouting and jumping, I felt like I was on top of the world. We saw an amazing sunrise of red, yellow and orange. It was a turning point for me. Three months later I resigned from my job and flew to Alaska to spend two months training to become a certified mountain guide.
Before Alaska, I wanted to do the seven summits and climb Everest. But when I came back from Alaska I couldn’t care less about all that stuff. I just wanted to experience life in the outdoors, share that passion and make a living from it.
You don’t climb a mountain, the mountain allows you to climb it. When you’re in these mighty mountains you feel small. You’re nothing but a speck in the universe, and it’s good to be brought back to that level as a human being.
Fadi Hachicho is the founder of Adventurati Guided Tours
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