#FBF: Followback Friday is a weekly interview series where we get real with some of our favorite travel influencers. We want to learn what makes them tick, their best tips and tricks, and share stories of (mis)adventures from the road.
Plenty of iExplore readers will recognize JJ Yosh as the modern mountain man with the amazing backcountry photo tips, but that's not all we want you to know about him. The adventure filmmaker has had a love affair with the outdoors for as long as he can remember. It's one of the reasons why the TV host and actor started his company, Higher Earth Entertainment, back in 2006. Its mission: to raise awareness about environmental causes through a series of thrilling adventures. It’s a project that has allowed JJ to criss-cross the globe in search of the best outdoor experiences, fueling his passions for both travel and the environment. We caught up with him to learn more about his insane adventures, how he trained his cat to join him, and how you too can learn to become more eco-conscious in your travels as well.
You love spending time exploring nature. When did you first fall in love with the outdoors and how did you get exposed to mountain climbing?
The outdoors has always been true to my heart. Interesting enough I would say my love for nature blossomed when I raised aquatic plants in fish tanks. I would spend hours staring at these underwater gardens, imagining myself swimming with the fish through the aquatic utopia.
How many mountains have you climbed? Any particular favorites?
Answering how many mountains I’ve climbed is like answering how many all you can eat buffets i’ve gone to, and the short response is a lot. The mountains feed my soul just as food feeds my body. I try to climb a couple mountains a week, many on repeat. My favorite mountain I’ve climbed though were the 20,000 feet plus Bolivian Andes. There is something so majestic and spectacular about being 20,000 feet on a massive glaciated landscape with nothing but mounds of sugar white for days.
Mountain climbing aside, what are your top five travel adventures so far?
My top adventures are as follows:
- Havasu Falls, Arizona backpacking trip
- Mount Hood, Oregon Backpacking Trip
- Split Mountain mountaineering trip in California
- Desolation Wilderness, Tahoe Backpacking Trip
- Squamish Climbing Trip in British Columbia
You have a pint-sized companion that follows you on most of your outdoor adventures: your cat Simon! How did you train him to love the outdoors as much as you? Does he come along for all of your adventures?
Simon is the furry love of my life. Naturally, Simon was born a mountain cat. The trick with getting Simon to handle the rugged adventures was starting him as a newborn kitten. It’s all he knows. The important thing to realize when training a cat — cats are solitary animals that look at you as a stupid big cat while dogs are pack animals that look at you as their alpha dog. So if you want a cat to do tricks and hike with you on a leash, you have to earn a cat’s respect. I give Simon a huge amount of attention and love, and I truly see him as my equal. I bring Simon backpacking, camping, and even on climbing trips. It’s becoming hard to leave the house without bringing Simon with me now.
When did you realize you could combine your love of film, nature, and travel?
In my early teens I realized that I wanted to help the earth, but I didn't know exactly how. Then in my second year of college, I had an opportunity to lead an outdoors club. I remember so clearly the first time I lead a group of students in the wilderness, the transformation that swept over me. In the outdoors I was anyone — ageless, raceless, timeless, a creature of the earth. In that moment my calling was revealed, I would help the world by inspiring others to get outside. During the next couple of years, I would film our excursions, and edit together videos that encouraged more people to join the club and get outside. When I graduated, I didn’t want the outdoor club experience to end, so the idea of combining film and the outdoors ignited. The idea was simple — create media to inspire, empower and educate people about the environment.
Can you tell us more about your latest project, Ancient Tomorrow?Ancient Tomorrow is a docu-hybrid movie following the real story of my team of investigators around the world to piece together an ancient power plant theory. The movie explores the idea that the pyramids of Giza and other pyramids around the world might be part of an elaborate ancient power grid that once fueled a giant global metropolis. The movie is now available to watch on Vimeo and Amazon.
You’re a huge advocate for an eco-friendly lifestyle. Do you have any tips for people as they travel?
As someone who travels a lot, I’ve picked up a lot of small ways to travel more eco-friendly. Some of my favorites for traveling more eco-friendly are the following: bring a coffee mug that can be easily filled up at coffee shops and double as a cup for drinking anything, travel with plastic grocery bags — which can be used for trash, carrying dirty clothes or anything else you can imagine, bring a portable water filter bottle — saves money on water bottles, and you can be sure to have clean water anywhere.
What motivates you to continue traveling, exploring, and moving?
The outdoors is something unbelievably special. Maybe it’s the experience of sleeping under the stars or eating dinner amidst a beautiful vista, or waking up to a stunning sunrise from my tent — or all of those experiences that make me yearn for more adventures. I believe strongly that movement is life. I am fortunate to live a life that affords me the ability to get up and go on travels on a whim. I think for me I am my happiest when I am exploring and traveling to a new outdoor location, and it’s that inspiring feeling that keeps getting me back outside.
Where are you planning to go next?
I have a couple ideas for trips spinning around my head right now from a tropical getaway to Costa Rica and Thailand to an adventurous trek across Iceland, but nothing is set in stone yet. You can often find me deciding to go across the world on a week’s notice, so you never know. One thing is for sure that each weekend I get outside in my local Colorado and Utah mountains. The beauty of living in the Colorado Rockies is the endless amount of adventures just waiting to be unleashed.