Matthew Eakin, mountaineer & founder of Himalayan Schoolies, shares how he found his path to creating a leading and innovative provider of Schoolies tours in the Himalayas.
In this interview, Matt shares how all the pieces fell together, through a combination of adventure and passion, to create the now leading alternative to Post-school celebrations for teenagers around the world.
Like most of us, after finishing high school Matt wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do. He looked around and saw many of his friends heading straight to university. One thing he was certain about however was he needed adventure. This included an urge to get out and explore the world. Following this curiosity and taking a year to travel was just the start of the many adventures to come for Matt.
From this point he explained, "I was hooked”! But not necessarily only hooked on travel, more by the perspective that this experience gave him. Matt described that he was “taken away by the privilege and perspective that comes with the opportunity of developing a worldly view.” Matt went on to say, “After having the opportunity to develop a broadened world view I remember strongly wanting others to be able to experience this same awakening that I had the privilege of.”
While a gap year can truly fly, and many people might travel to one continent alone during this time - Matt definitely made the most of his time and saw as much as possible. He explored all corners of the globe – with his adventure stretching from months spent in a USA summer camp, to exploring South America and then across to Europe.
And of all of the stories and voyages he shared, it was a moment he spoke of in Dublin that really struck me. Partly because I could relate, and partly because it highlighted what Matt himself felt that he'd gained most from his gap year experience - a new look on life whether, we like it or not.
Matt recalled that late in his travels, he found himself in Dublin with all of his funds dried up. Depleted to the point where he found himself in McDonald’s asking (or perhaps more accurately begging) a staff member if they could spare some free food. He lucked out with a thickshake. In the middle of winter! Not ideal. But Matt isn't the type to be ungrateful. So with a frozen drink in hand he continued on his way, managing to find his feet by reaching out to friends abroad.
Matt shared this story - not in a sad way, but as a point that highlighted those times that strengthen us. The moments that really teach us the rawness of life. The reality of that big world out there. These moments he explained, “Are the things that open our eyes to all that is”.
He shared his view about the paradox of moments like this; At the time they don’t necessarily appear to be enjoyable but after the event, they are reflected upon often as the great memories and moments of the trip or adventure.
Once Matt had returned to Australia, he followed an inner feeling that university should be part of his path. Matt jokingly laughed as he said, ‘I lost my way and became a lawyer’. The years that followed saw Matt establish his way to a very successful and fulfilling career in tax. Matt insisted that without the clarity of his year abroad he would not have found this stimulating degree and career.
Alongside his studies and work, Matt continued with his endurance sports. Being sponsored by ASICS and climbing many mountains (bigger than most of us will ever see), and running many kilometres (more than most of us will ever run combined) before the stars aligned pushing Matt into his current direction.
As the years had passed and Matt followed his passion of mountaineering, he had several people reach out and ask for help to achieve their expedition dreams. And as those awesome tales of when a hobby meets job go - this demand grew to Matt running a mountaineering business dividing his time between Sydney and Nepal.
It was not long after this, that Matt’s mum who had been linked in with Rotary Association mentioned their interest in collaborating with Matt to support youth. At this point Matt knew that merging these factors would be the creation of something great! The stars had aligned, and it was only now that he could connect all of the dots from the past.
As I chatted with Matt just before he was about to set off on another adventure - I was particularly interested in understanding what it was for him that kept him going back to climb those mountains. He explained, “It’s not about reaching the top or achieving any one thing, for me the journey is the destination. It’s about being in that state, that moment that can’t be replicated.” Matt's reply left no doubt in my mind for his passion and enjoyment of the work he does today.
The conversation finished with asking Matt to share a message that he’d pass on to school-leavers today. Matt replied – “Start. Whatever it is. Don’t fucking worry what other people think. Choose your journey. Start when you’re not ready. When you don’t have the money. When you’re not sure. When the people around you are telling you you’re stupid. Just start.”
Matt’s next objective was to summit Manaslu, 8,163m. I can report that Matt summited on 27th September at 6.15am. Despite a brief hospital visit Matt assures me he is safe and ready for the next adventure.
To contact Himalayan Schoolies and start your adventure click here.