Civilian Strong Podcast with Adam Killam

Show Notes:

  • Lung cancer scare & how the idea for Civilian Strong came about
  • What you can expect from the podcast
  • The hunting trip that changed my perspective
  • The story of tackling the biggest cave in the world

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Full Transcript:

Welcome to the Civilian Strong podcast. The podcast for people who want to build stronger minds and stronger bodies, so they can live a life of adventure.

Hi, everybody. This is your host Adam Killam. And today on episode number one I wanted to tell you a quick story about how I came up with the idea for Civilian Strong and what the site and podcast are going to be about.

Cancer Scare

So what I’ll do is just kind of take a leap back in time here to last year 2015 around March. I ended getting some really scary news. I was ATVing in the deserts of Arizona, driving through mud and dirt. There had been a heavy rain so it was quite muddy out in the desert even though it was hot. And I ended up getting a lung infection which I found out later.

*The video above probably shows the exact moment I got a lunch infection. Note to self: wear a bandana over your mouth next time.

Atop Camel Back Mountain with my CIVILIAN STRONG co-host, Zac Killam

But what happened was when I came back to Vancouver here in Canada, the doctors checked me out, I was incredibly sick, and all the signs pointed to a diagnosis of lung cancer. They were 80% certain that that’s what was going on. And if you go online, I mean, for anyone who’s ever been infected by cancer, it’s a scary thing. My mother had it, as did my grandfather.

Being told you’re likely going to die completely sobers you up and really makes you contemplate life and how you’re living. The good news was that after about two weeks or three weeks of testing and waiting around, we finally figured out that I had, in fact, got a lung infection which is fairly common down in Arizona and also Palm Springs. After heavy rains, the dust blows up and… Anyway, that’s what happened.

Questioning Life

So the reason I mentioned the lung cancer scare, it’s something that really made me ponder what I was doing with my life. And made me question have I lived a good life, have I enjoyed myself, have I made any type of a difference, have I done the things I wanted to do?

And I answered all those questions with a yes. So it was an important experience for me because it made me realize that yeah, there are still goals that I wanted to achieve, things I wanted to do. But in large part I had done a lot of the stuff that I wanted to do. And I was becoming a person, a man that I had wanted to become. I wasn’t quite there yet, but if I had to go out…I would have no regrets. So it was a very important event that happened to me.

Remote Hunting Trip in the Rocky Mountains

Then later that year in October of 2015, something else happened. I ended up going on a hunting trip in the northwestern corner of British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains – one of the most beautiful trips I have ever gone on. But it was also one of the most difficult things I had done in years.

Just to give you an idea, I was overweight, I was out of shape. And I would end up spending two weeks out in the mountains hiking around 5 to 10 kilometers a day up and down the mountains where we were over 100 kilometers from civilization. I mean, there are no roads up there, there’s no dirt bikes or ATVs or anything like that. You either have to take a plane or a jet boat to get to the camp that we were at or you can take horses.

Just to give you an idea, it was an 18-hour drive. Then it was three and a half hours by boat, and then it was two hours on horseback. And then we were at the camp which was basically a canvas tent in the bottom of a valley. From there we would start our days at, you know, 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, you’d get up and spend the next, basically, the rest of the day hiking and looking for animals, and glassing, looking around.

Over the first 5 days we saw about 50 elk, 4 moose, and 12 caribou. It was so incredible to see such beautiful animals out in the wild. And then on day six, after being stressed out daily about seeing them or running into them, we finally saw five grizzlies. And one of them was up-close somewhere between 40-50 yards. It was absolutely incredible. Just mind boggling, like my heart almost stopped.

Me moments after coming face to face with my first Grizzly bear. Note how oddly appropriate the t-shirt was.

Unfortunately, the trip ended badly with an important work relationship going sour as a result of everyone on the trip just being completely exhausted and dead tired. We started to get onto each other’s nerves and things started to break down on the drive home (it was another 18 hours back).

The result of that trip was that I realized I was mentally, emotionally, and physically weak. And I needed to do a lot of work on myself. I wanted to become fit and strong again. And I wanted to develop the ability to take on tough challenges and adventures without experiencing the same kind of mental and emotional fatigue that I had experience.

Tackling Han Son Doon – the Biggest Cave in the World

Heading into 2016, I knew needed to change. I needed to get out of my day-to-day routine and environment, and immerse myself in a completely new world. And get to a new place mentally and emotionally, and clear the slate.

So along with two buddies, I packed up and headed to the remote jungles of Vietnam to climb, crawl, hike, and swim through the biggest cave in the world, Son Doong over five days and four nights. It was truly a life-changing experience and brought me, you know, peace of mind.

Doing some Kayaking in Phon Na before our epic caving adventure.
Inside Han Eng – the cave you travel through to get to Son Doon.
Standing in Doline #1 inside Son Doon. This was one of the most incredible moments of my life. The scenery inside the cave at this point was breathtaking.
Me and MR. CHOW!

On the way back from the caves, my buddy Craig and I, we decided to break away from the group. We wanted to push ourselves and we wanted to see if we could break a local record for tracking back from the caves through the jungle and up the side of the mountain back to the road in. So we took off with one of our guides, Bin. He came with us, left the group in the dust, and we set a super-fast pace.

And so we’re pushing hard through the jungle, it’s hot, it’s humid. And suddenly this idea came to me, I mean, here we were a group of civilians in a formally war torn area. Many people had died in the Vietnam War near where we were. In fact, we had used the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail to get into the path…or get to the path that leads out into the jungle that would eventually lead to the cave.

We were civilians from all walks of life, and we were on an epic adventure together, and we were strong. So the idea of Civilian Strong came to me. And the idea kind of stuck around. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that, you know, people today in increasing numbers are getting into CrossFit, they’re doing Spartan races. I just did my first one this past summer. They’re doing Tough Mudders, Tough Guy, and you know, all sorts of other extreme adventures.

Then I realized that today it’s no longer the military or elite athletes who are the only ones pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, people are, like everyday civilians are the ones that are now pushing the limits of what’s possible.

Everyday people with an uncommon desire to just go past the norm and kind of push themselves beyond what they thought possible. These are the people that are breaking a new ground. And it was then that I decided that I wanted to build my own strong body and strong mind. And I wanted to live a life of adventure. I knew that I wanted to do things like this cave adventure, like that hunting trip. And I wanted to be fit and I wanted to be mentally and emotionally strong, and be able to do these things and not break down. And that’s how Civilian Strong was born.

So I hope you’ll join me now and follow along. And I also hope that you’ll contribute to the community by e-mailing me or messaging me on Facebook and sharing with me and others your story and your adventures, the things you’re up to, the new things that you’re learning about pushing yourself and going past your limits. My hope is that together we’ll build a community of people who are building themselves up and living extraordinary lives and having extraordinary adventures. And that’s it. So join me for this journey and stay tuned for upcoming episodes. I’m gonna be interviewing people. I think we’re up to interesting things in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. And I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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