Chris Dare just finished climbing the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro. In addition to being an avid mountain climber hoping to climb the highest mountains on each continent, he’s also a long distance runner, scuba instructor, a skydiver and a full time dentistry student at UBC. He has also served with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, where he was awarded a Chief of Defence Staff Commendation for his work there. How does he make it all work? Recently, he talked to the Terry Project’s Marion Benkaiouche about his upcoming TEDx Terry Talk.
Q. Chris—you talk a lot about achievement and motivation. What I’d like to know is—how did you decide what you wanted to do? What sparks your ideas? For instance, you talk about deciding one day to become a dentist, even though you didn’t have the pre-requisites. What I’d like to know is what sparked your interest in dentistry?
A. I think from, I’d say, my mid-teens I was always looking for different ways I could improve myself. I’ve never really settled on just maintaining the current status. However, instead of just trying for better marks in school or becoming a better athlete, I was more interested in the types of activities that were outside of the norm. For example, when I was younger I really wanted to learn how to fly. So, I joined Air Cadets and after a couple years I got my glider license. I liked the outdoors so I became a wilderness survival instructor. For these kind of bigger things, I would have to forfeit my summer vacation to go off and do this in different places. So while my friends back home were just having fun during the summer, I would always be studying and working hard to meet my goals.
Dentistry was a little bit of the same. Partly it was my desire to improve myself through more learning and education but it was mainly due to my family. I really only briefly touch on my reasons for Dentistry in my talk but it was my mom that gave me the idea and motivated me towards dentistry. You see, I was prepping for my deployment to Afghanistan and so my parents came to Quebec City to visit to see me one last time because I headed over. We were just talking casually when she mentioned that she needed a lot of dental work to restore one side of her mouth. She was missing enough teeth that she couldn’t chew on her right side. It was making eating her favourite food less enjoyable and was really making her sad. Unfortunately, dentistry is expensive, and the cost to restore her teeth was beyond her current finances. I felt kind of helpless. I mean, she was telling me her problems and there was nothing I could do to solve them. It was then that dentistry came into my mind. I decided I would change the course of my life to one day be able to help her.
That was the Spring 2009. So it took me almost 2.5 years to get into dental school because of the prerequisites I had to do part-time while in Afghanistan and afterwards in Canada. I could have easily failed. My application could have not been strong enough, the courses I was taking not acceptable or whatnot. That 2.5 years of work could have gone into the garbage. But somehow, it all worked out. I did work really hard to make myself eligible for 2011 but I also know that my classmates worked really hard as well. Sometimes just a little luck doesn’t hurt either.
Q. How do you prepare for a climb? Physically, mentally, equipment-wise?
A. I train year round for long distance running so I think that keeps both my physical condition top notch as well as my mental toughness. I think the mental toughness part of it is often forgotten when people think about running. For me, it’s all about not letting your mind give up. After the first kilometer, all I want to do is go back home and sit on the couch. It takes a lot to continue pushing your body forward despite being tired, out of breath and have aching muscles.
When I have a mountain climb coming up, I’ll modify my training a bit to include some long hikes in the backcountry with a loaded pack. During the school week, it’s nearly impossible to fit 3-6 hours of loaded trekking in, so I continue with my runs during the week. On the weekends, I’ll hit up Garibaldi or Mt Seymour with my pack full of jugs of water, snowshoes or skis and just go. Often I’ll bring friends along (of course they don’t have weighted packs!) to both show them what the outdoors is all about and for the company. I enjoy showing my friends what is possible outside of city-life. What type of stuff they too can accomplish.
Q. What was your transition to civilian and student life was like after spending time in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces?
A. I think the biggest thing I get out of everything I do, is the ability to handle stress and tough situations. I’ve been pretty close to getting seriously injured or even death a couple of times so normal everyday pressure really doesn’t phase me too much. I mean, when I encounter school pressure because of homework, deadlines or whatever, I know that it could always be worse, so I’m happy that I’m actually not at that point. I guess it really just comes from experience that people acquire by getting older and wiser. We all look back onto things that we think were difficult times but in the end, wasn’t that bad. I just might have had an accelerated learning curve because of the things that I do.
Q. What made you to start blogging and sharing your experiences? Did something one of your friends tell you strike you in a particular way, a side comment? When and how?
A. I started blogging because I like to share with people my experiences so they can better themselves as well. Like I said before, I like to bring people out with me and show them how they too can enjoy the different activities that I enjoy. I think, most of the time, people just don’t know what’s out there. So I’ll show them. I’ve never had anyone that’s gone on an adventure with me, whether it be a day long thing or a week long event, and been unhappy in the end. That’s why I like to get instructor ratings in a lot of a stuff I do, scuba and first aid for example. You’ll notice most of my blog is little fun things and adventures everyone can do or tips on training/gear. It’s written, not with me in mind, but for others.
Be sure to check out Chris’s talk at the TEDx Terry Talks on November 2nd, at the Life Sciences Institute, UBC. For ticket information, please visit: http://bit.ly/1aioyd0