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The coat off my back

I was recently in Hong Kong, on January 24, to be specific. It was the coldest day in Hong Kong since 1957. Although I felt unfortunate to be here on this day, as an Explorer, I’ve learned that the line between fortune and misfortune can be deceptive. Walking outside, chilled to the bone with no foul-weather gear and sporting an uncovered head, I had no option but to keep an open mind.

It’s usually in the 60s or 70s this time of year. I come to Hong Kong often and I was not prepared for temperatures in the 30s. The day before I had done my Hong Kong morning run in my running shorts, just like at home, where it was cool but not freezing cold.

This day I wasn’t running at all, I was just huddling, trying to stay warm. But I had already made plans to meet up with a friend later, my fellow adventurer and explorer Rob Lilwell. Rob is known for bicycling from Siberia to London and also for walking across China. During the summer of 2015 he and his wife Christine rode a tandem bike across the United States.

We were scheduled to meet at their home on one of the small islands of Hong Kong. When I got off the S.S. Frigid Ferry, Rob was there waiting for me. He immediately took the coat off his back and put it on me. It was the first warmth I had felt that entire day.

A few days later when we met up again it was still cold. I returned the coat he had kindly given me earlier, and he gave me yet another coat. It was the one he wore during his trek across China’s Gobi desert.

What stood out to me in this exchange? When leading an Expedition, Explorers will do what is necessary, even at personal expense to get to the desired discovery. Sometimes that means taking the coat off their back to help someone else on the expedition. I could imagine Shackleton doing this with one of his

crewmembers in Antarctica while stranded on the ice flow. It’s choices like “giving the coat off your back” that keep expeditions together, keep everyone on the same team working together toward the desired discovery.

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