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Travel Talk with Cason Crane
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Travel Talk with Cason Crane
By: Jeremy Bryant

Far off the beaten path, high up in the Nepal Mountains Cason Crane climbs closer towards the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Cason is on a journey to raise money and awareness for The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention service for LGBTQ youth, in an initiative called The Rainbow Summits Project. We caught up with Cason on his mountain journey to talk travel.

What is the Rainbow Summits Project? (What inspired you to start this?)
What is your goal?

The Rainbow Summits Project is my initiative to raise funds and awareness
for The Trevor Project -- the United States' leading suicide prevention service
for LGBTQ youth -- by becoming the first openly gay person, and fifth youngest person ever, to climb the highest mountain on each continent, the fabled 'Seven Summits'. I also hope to inspire other young LGBTQ people to pursue their dreams, be they athletic, academic, artistic, or something totally unique!

Where are you currently? (How many mountains on your list have you already climbed?)

I am currently departing from Mt. Everest. I summited Mt Everest on May 21st, 2013 at 4:10am and so my team and I are now at Everest Base Camp in Nepal waiting to fly home. I've climbed many big and small mountains, but of the
'Seven Summits' (the highest mountain on each continent), I have climbed six successfully to date. I also attempted Denali (Mt. McKinley) last summer and
did not summit, so I am planning to return there this June and July. At that point,
if all goes well, I will be the first openly gay person to climb these seven massive mountains!

How many countries have you visited?

I've had the privilege of visiting over 70 countries. My parents value travel very highly and have instilled in me a similar passion for exploring the world and learning about foreign cultures. I love traveling!

What is your favorite part about traveling?

It's hard to explain my love of traveling, let alone pick a favorite aspect. I would have to say that I am an insatiable student of anything and everything, so it's natural that I would become obsessed with visiting new places and learning
all that I can about them: their history, their people, their language, their culture...everything! Specifically, I love interacting with local people wherever
I go. Though I'm not a great linguist, I do strive to communicate somehow
with the local residents of whichever place I am visiting because I find you
can learn the most through them.

Do you have a favorite destination? (Can you tell us why it's your favorite?)

Picking a favorite destination is like picking a favorite book -- impossible! I have managed to narrow down my favorite places to three different categories:
favorite place for history and culture, favorite place for relaxation and vacation,
and favorite place for adventure. My favorite destination for history and culture
is Egypt. I have an inexplicable fascination with the Arab world (I lived in the Middle East for a year after graduating high school in 2011!) and so it's natural that I would pick an Arab country for this category. Egypt has such a rich and varied history, and it has preserved its priceless treasures well. Though some might consider Egypt unsafe, I would urge them to keep it on their list of 'places to go' because there simply isn't another country like it in the world.

My favorite place to go for relaxation and vacation is Bali, Indonesia. Though
parts of it have gotten very touristy, Bali still offers 'the whole package': friendly people, interesting culture, great food, warm weather, and beautiful beaches. Normally, I can't stand "doing nothing" for more than a day, but in Bali, I could
"do nothing" for weeks!

Finally, my favorite destination for adventure is Queenstown, New Zealand.
When I first arrived in Queenstown, I was struck by the natural beauty of the surrounding lake and mountains. I'm a big Lord of the Rings fan, so it felt like
I was walking into Middle Earth! But I quickly discovered that Queenstown is much more than a pretty backdrop. Queenstown and the surrounding area provide skydiving, mountaineering, white-water rafting, mountain biking,
bungee jumping, jet skiing, hiking, and much, much more.

What do you pack when going on a mountain climbing adventure?

Packing for mountaineering is one aspect of the sport that sets it apart from almost any other. There is so much logistical preparation that needs to be
done before an expedition. In terms of my specific gear, that really depends on the mountain I am looking to climb. Some mountains, like Carstensz Pyramid
in Indonesia, are technical, warm, and wet, so you would forgo your down gear and instead bring lots of technical climbing equipment, like your harness, carabineers, jumar, rapel device, helmet, etc... in addition to your gore-tex rain gear and even mud boots for the trek in! Other mountains, like Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, aren't particularly technical, but are very, very cold (I'm talking -30...
on a good day!), so you would bring lots of warm, down layers. In reality, every mountaineer has a list of gear and clothing that suit them particularly well, and you adapt your list to the mountain and the expected conditions. Some things, however, I always bring. I always carry with me my St. Christopher's medallion and my notebook to keep a diary.

What's the best travel tip you know?

The best travel tip I know is to try new things. Traveling for me is all about learning and new experiences, so in my mind it's a total waste of time and
money to go someplace but stay in your comfort zone. Don't be surprised to
hear stories of me eating fried insects in Cambodia, trying on a traditional Korean (men's) dress in Seoul, learning the local dances in rural Russia,
or riding horseback through the plains of Mongolia. I'm always pushing
myself to follow this philosophy and expand my own set of experiences
and in so doing grow as a person.

What is one destination you'll never go back to? Why should we avoid it?

There isn't a destination I would never go back to. The world is constantly changing, and so I can't actually predict how a place will be in 1, 5, or 10 years. Sometimes this is positive, sometime negative. For example, one place I've always wanted to visit was Timbuktu, but based on what I've read in the news it sounds like many of the historic sites of this ancient city have been destroyed.

What's the best thing you've experienced from your travels?

I most value the relationships I have developed in my travels. Whether it is an improbable friendship with a local, or a chance meeting with anther traveller,
I find that these interactions often develop unexpected fruits and occasionally bloom into incredible bonds. Whether it's only five minutes of complete understanding across vast cultural and language barriers, or a lifelong relationship with a fellow nomadic soul, I am so thankful for all of these interactions. I have learned so much from the people I have met in my travels...much more than I could have gleaned from any book or discovered
in any museum. I have found that my experiences traveling have broadened
my perspective and truly given me an international view of the world that allows me to process information and connect with people on a deeper level. For all of this, I am forever indebted to my parents because without them I would not have the interest or the means of pursuing this passion.

If you could travel with anyone, who would it be? (Why?)

If I could travel the world with anyone, it would be Anderson Cooper. I find
his occupation as a journalist fascinating, and I have a deep respect for the knowledge and skills he has picked up in his years of experience. As a
journalist, he has developed a heightened social awareness that the vast majority of people -- myself included -- lack, and I would love to learn this
skill from him. For example, months before the Syrian civil war started, my
family took a roadtrip through South-Eastern Turkey and Syria. I am sure that Anderson, or someone with a similar background, would have been able to sense the underlying dissatisfaction and potential for unrest, but I was totally oblivious.

What's next for you?

I start college at Princeton University in September. I'm very excited for the new set of challenges and opportunities that this will bring, though I'm sad that I won't be able to travel or climb as much! I plan to study (surprise, surprise!) International Relations.

To follow along with Cason on his incredible journey, add him on twitter @casoncrane to stay abreast of his mountaineering progress and “Like” The Rainbow Summits Project on Facebook. To learn more about how you can contribute and help support The Rainbow Summits Project, visit http://rainbowsummits.org/

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