Words By: Emily Martin

Photos By: Emiliano Granado

Why is it that we think being in the outdoors only consists of visiting designated locations such as national parks? Or lavish trips to amazing landscapes?

Mikhail believes in challenging preconceptions about what exactly the ‘great outdoors’ is and creating opportunities for people to enter nature as they are.

For Mikhail, New York City, where he was raised, is the most beautiful place he has ever been. It’s where he feels most free. Free because it’s always changing. Because this shifting environment offers the potential to try new things and empowers learning, mistakes, growth.

New York City has hundreds of parks filled with nature. From freshwater marshes to hiking trails and wooded forests. There’s an abundance of awe-inspiring opportunities to get lost in nature right in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. But most people don’t know about them. Or how easily accessible they are. Or that they offer a door to Outer Peace.

Mikhail wishes to expose these environments. To create an awareness. A yearning. To open up accessibility to nature, so that more people can enjoy it. Fight for it. Value it.

And he seeks to eliminate the numerous barriers blocking the way. Barriers such as the lack of mentorship, cost or absence of community.

Mikhail is driven by this understanding of the importance of community. Of having a home base. And the knowledge that “we all want to feel understood and welcome.” Our community gives us this group of people that understand us. When you can see yourself reflected in individuals actively participating in the outdoors, you too feel invested, welcomed, like you belong.

So, after witnessing an absence of coloured communities in the climbing gym, Mikhail co-founded Brothers of Climbing. His goal was to bring diversity and representation to the rock climbing community. To help people of colour feel welcome as they enter the sport.

“I think the biggest way to communicate the power of the outdoors to communities is really to just get them in the outdoors. Because once something becomes real, once something becomes tangible, then you can think about the benefits.”

This is why Mikhail strives to open the door to nature. In his experience, people shy away from going outdoors because they don’t know what to expect. They may be scared, nervous or overwhelmed. Feel out of place.

Mikhail believes some of the biggest problems currently dividing civilizations stem from a lack of understanding. For him, even though we may be differentiated by our race, gender or beliefs, a lot of our issues are the same.

Take climate change. It faces us all whether we acknowledge it or not and the most effective response is to come together. Take a coordinated response. Think communally. But there’s a lack of desire to learn about one another, even though there’s so much at stake.

As a society we remain segregated by greed and individual gains. And it is this which makes humanity the biggest threat to the world. Our own worst enemy. We put others in captivity and destroy the habitats we live in. And as humans we like to think the world spins just for us, but nature existed first. It’s a part of us. And when we die, we are absorbed back into its welcoming embrace.

There are many lessons nature can teach us. We gain true perspective by visiting a forest that’s been living for hundreds of years and surrounding ourselves by trees that have outlived the average human lifespan a couple of times. Humbling moments that foster deep gratitude.

For Mikhail his father’s death cultivated a new found appreciation for life. Precipitated an awakening. A realization that being healthy shouldn’t be taken for granted or wasted. An awareness that life is finite and we should be thankful for every minute that ticks by.

So, let’s not squander the gift we have in simply being alive. Let’s go outside. Explore as a community. Shed ourselves of life’s distractions. Abandon greed and materialism and focus instead on life, relationships, nature. For this is truly how we can come together.

How we can find Outer Peace.