( ENSPIRE Man Code 101 ) Andrew Alexander King Uses Travel Opportunities To Provide Community Service To Local People
ENSPIRE Contributor: Naomi Stamps
Going on adventures and pushing the limits are two things that Andrew Alexander King is passionate about. He’s an explorer, climber, surfer, and free driver who’s preparing to climb the seven highest mountains and seven volcano peaks on each continent. If he accomplishes this unique challenge, he’ll be the first black adventurer to climb all 14 summits. While this is impressive, Andrew Alexander King is on a different mission. He wants to encourage diversity in outdoor activity and see more people like him exploring the world’s beauty. Besides this, he also wants to understand the struggles of the local people who live in the areas he visits to assist them better.
Andrew Alexander King says he created The Between Worlds Project to bring “positive change for tomorrow within nature while combating racism, sexism, climate change, and economic limitations.” This adventurer differs from others looking to break records. While some outdoor fanatics seek acknowledgment, awards, and media coverage, Andrew Alexander King is taking it a step further. Wherever he visits, he searches for nonprofits in need of resources and works with them to tackle issues affecting them (which is very inspiring).
Growing up in a crime-heavy section of Detroit, Andrew Alexander King had a village of people looking out for his well-being. Some of these people included his mother, grandparents, great-grandparents, and others in his community. He always has a strong passion for learning in school and discussed going to college. However, his experience of moving in with his grandparents taught him the value of discipline and exposed him to different cultures.
When he moved with his grandparents to Ewa Beach, Oahu, Andrew Alexander King was exposed to outdoor sports, like hiking and surfing. He then attended the University of Maine when he received a track and field scholarship. This led to him receiving a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science. He continued his passion for learning by attending graduate school at Lasell University for Integrated Marketing. His love for climbing grew there, and he devoted his extra time and energy to it. This adventurer continues to challenge himself to reach new heights and shows no signs of stopping.
ENSPIRE spoke with Andrew about his training and The Between Worlds Project.
As you’ve been training to climb 14 summits, what has surprised you about yourself?
That is a good question; what surprised me about myself recently is that I have found a deeper appreciation for life with each breath. I recently had an asthma attack when I arrived in Ecuador for volcano training, when I got to my lodge. I have had asthma for years and not many attacks as an adult.
Thanks to my training, from swimming 70 feet on one breath to learning to walk with ease at 16,000 feet after carrying 60 pounds, I learned that everything that seems hard and uncomfortable has a listen that will unlock a better part of you.
During that asthma attack, I took my meds and went into meditation to let my body do what it needed to do, while I realigned my heart and mind to trust that it would pass and leave me with a better sense of who I am in those tough moments.
It took a few days of healing, but it did, and that is what my training has taught me, that being human does not mean one is invincible but means one has the opportunity to learn deeply about how they evolve through the challenges that face them unexpectedly.
I didn’t expect to be in that deep of peace at that moment, so that was a surprise.
Tell us more about what inspired your creation of The Between Worlds Project and what it’s about.
We are all lottery tickets of life in this world; nobody is asked what race, gender, or country they want to be before being presented with life. My lottery ticket of life brought me out into a developed nation called the United States as an African American male with three siblings in a single mother household in Detroit, Michigan. When I was given the opportunity to live with my grandparents so that someone in our family tree could make it to college for the first time, that is when I started to step in between two different worlds. It did not become apparent to me until I traveled to Taiwan to climb Mount Jade.
At the time, I was climbing to find peace in nature, a place where I was not judged for what my skin looked like, but what I knew I could confidently contribute to society when the racism was removed.
During that time in Taiwan, in a mining town on the way to Mount Jade, I had hot chocolate in a tiny cafe. It was here that The Between Worlds Project idea was developed. As I spoke to the older woman who owns that cafe about where I was from, she said she wanted to visit America, and I said she should come anytime, but that statement was ignorance. Her lottery ticket of life was here in a tiny mining town in Taiwan. The opportunity to fly to America would be much more difficult than for me to come here as I pleased since I had the economic resources to do so, unlike where her lottery placed her in life.
From that conversation forward, I made core values and the project that I wouldn’t just climb, swim, surf, or dive in countries and use their resources without learning from nonprofits or individuals that combat sexism, racism, inequality, climate change, and economic barriers to break through that glass ceiling that holds them back from experience a world they deserve the opportunity see in their life.
So, The Between Worlds Project is that we all walk under a glass ceiling of life, how we see ourselves and how society sees and treats us, and if we were to break that glass ceiling and let others express and teach others of their issues, cultures, and experiences without judgment, so those with privilege listen, so we all can have the opportunity to choose to evolve with humanity on surpassing those issues that hold us back from of our true value that our species now and future generations deserves to feel in their lottery ticket of life.
So, climbing the highest volcano and mountain on each continent to stand with others on issues that impact humanity from sexism, racism, economic barriers to climate change, and not just one mountain is my Between Worlds Project. When I reach the final mountain, it will be someone else’s turn to tell their story of how they broke through glass ceilings so others could breathe.
Why do you feel there is a lack of diversity in outdoor sports/activities?
I feel that the reason for the lack of diversity in outdoor sports/activities is in part to three different layers.
- Access – If one does not have access to environments to explore their ability to feel free to participate in outside sports, then one will not be able to explore outside sports on a continuous basis.
- Opportunity – one must have the opportunity to take part in outside sports that are often represented by affluent communities that have funding access to the environments to grow stronger and marketable within those sports over time.
- Representation – If one does not see themselves in a place within the media on a continuous basis, psychologically wise one might have the unconscious basis to feel that they are not welcomed or should not be in the space.
Points for each:
Access – Minority youth of America who resides in metro cities are often trying to survive, whether from an economic or academic standard. Black, Asian, Brown, and Indigenous communities are often fighting for access at the bare minimum level that those from an affluent community do not have to hold space for since those from an affluent community are already accepted into those spaces based on how they are seen in society as the norm.
Opportunity – If minorities have to try harder than those from an affluent community to get access then, that means they have to be near perfect to get an opportunity and hold onto that opportunity since, just like access, it is rarely given or top of mind to brands or companies that recognize the journey that a minority had to endure to get access and then to be seen for a rare opportunity.
Representation – One can only be what they see on the media that they digest around them. As humans, we want to be what we see, from all sports, figures, movies, and stars to idols around us. Brands have not expanded on their portfolio for minority athletes in the outdoors space. Many outdoor brands market to their profit demographic, which are the affluent demographic that have access to those spaces and have the opportunity to wear their products because of the economic and social standards that allow it to be a norm. By doing this lopsided marketing it often falls flat with minorities that feel they should not have access or opportunity, but they are not represented by the ads they see from the brands, which contributes to a lack of diversity outside and a lack of confidence one might feel to explore the outside space as a minority.
When you attended high school in Germany, did you experience culture shock, or was the transition easy?
My grandparents let me travel with them early on in life. They wanted me to be just as cultured as educated in life. Book smart is half the equation; seeing someone as a human being and taking them for who they are and not what you want them to be was a mindset that made it an easy transition for me. I felt safer in Europe as an African American than at home in America.
How does your family feel about your involvement with outdoor sports/activities?
They give me the space and confidence to be beyond the glass ceilings that society tries to limit me to. Without them, I would have never made it outside. I’m the byproduct of the hard work from a single mother, disciplined and driven grandparents, a strong brother, uncles that showed up, and deep love from a great grandmother. So I just reflect back to them on the mountain or in the ocean on a wave what they gave me each day before I found the confidence they gave me.
Besides discipline and gaining exposure to different cultures, what other values do you apply to your life today?
Meditation and setting my intention of the day. Understanding a culture is a beautiful experience, understanding oneself is a fulfilling experience, so I pour out the cup of ego each day while staying present to hear and learn from those that know more than me, so I have the opportunity to meditate and grow to move forward with the positive and authentic intention that brings value to me and those I hope to help when they ask.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met thus far, and why?
I was in Malaysia heading to climb Kota Kinabalu, and it was my Uber driver’s birthday. After he drove me to see Batu Caves, I took him out to dinner for his birthday. He told me about his family and how he wanted to work in tech and make a living for his family to have a better life; he told me he learned English from watching Netflix. He showed me that lottery tickets of life are based on the value that one sees and feels within themselves. From there, you find others that see it in you as well and support it. We are still friends to this day. He works in tech now and is one of the most inspiring people, and we still laugh when I say it’s your birthday.
What keeps you grounded, and what do you do in your spare time when you’re not doing outdoor sports/activities?
On top of daily meditation, I write daily-poetry about what I feel and digest in life. It gives me a place to see my feelings on paper and read them back aloud with accountability for what I’m saying. But my true groundedness comes from gravity. My gravity is the group of people I surround myself with, from family to mentors to coaches. They are reflections of me, and when I feel that I am floating off course, I look at them, and that keeps grounded and keeps me going. I call them gravity, and they live in different parts of the world, but always in my heart and mind.
While it’s important to celebrate our accomplishments, Andrew Alexander King shows the importance of utilizing our resources and opportunities to help others. Seeking fame won’t help us to move others ahead, but giving back to the community does. He also shows that to succeed in our goals, we have to be self-motivated to see results. We will always remain stuck if we refuse to set goals, give in to the naysayers, and procrastinate.
Follow Andrew on Instagram.
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