I recently listened to an episode of Dirtbag Diaries on which Brendan Leonard was featured. Brendan is the founder of Semi-Rad, a contributing editor at Climbing, Adventure Journal, and The Dirtbag Diaries, and his stories have been published in Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Men’s Journal, and more. Successful by any standard. But it wasn’t always that way, which was the subject of his talk on the podcast, and which led me to read his book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere.
Brendan was a light-hearted speaker, so the dark tone of the book surprised me. I expected a happy version of the “outdoors made me a better person,” story, but he digs a lot deeper than that, making for a richer, though more difficult read. This book is Brendan’s mea culpa to the world, a story of an alcoholic who found his way through writing and ultimately climbing.
Climbing isn’t a grand metaphor for anything in this book and it isn’t a flashy answer to all of Brendan’s problems. It is, however, a way for him to explore his motivations, control his fear and a way to replace his identity as an alcoholic with something else. As he writes at the end of the book, “[he is] finally identified by something I do instead of something I don’t do.“