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Explorer Spotlight: John Allen Chau

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of John Chau's recent death. John was an active contributor to our community of adventure travelers, sharing many wonderful adventures and photos from around the world. He was always kind and energetic, and he will be truly missed.
According to multiple reports, it appears John was killed while pursuing Christian missionary work off the coast of India. We had no prior knowledge of John’s intention to visit North Sentinel island and do not condone visiting prohibited areas or breaking local laws.

Our hearts go out to his family and everyone affected by this tragic event.

Name: John Chau | Age: 23 | Location: Vancouver, WA.

What’s your day job?
I'm kinda in-between jobs, but I coach soccer and work with a non-profit called More Than A Game where we use soccer to help bring normality back into the lives of refugee kids around the world. Back in May, I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I finished up a term with Americorps, worked a bit for a friend's company as their Social Media Marketing Analyst, and coached soccer. Then after a couple of my friends got married, I headed out west on a road trip to Cali, where I finished a NOLS W-EMT course, then traveled to Israel, led a trip into the North Cascades, and then went off to India for a few weeks and just now returned.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Haha I've got quite a few favorites - I definitely love camping, hiking, climbing, and fishing. I love to explore, so whether it's trekking through dense old growth forests near the Chilliwack River, finding a rumoured waterfall in the jungles of the Andamans, or just wandering around a city to get a feel for the vibes, I'm an explorer at heart.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
Growing up, I remember dusting off a massive tome in my dad's downstairs study titled Robinson Crusoe. After struggling my way to read it with early elementary school English, I started readingeasier kid-friendly books like Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, and Sign of the Beaver, the latter of which inspired my brother and I to paint our faces with wild blackberry juice and tramp through our backyard with bows and spears we created from sticks. Since then, the outdoors have been my home.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
There's a place about 45 minutes from my house that I love. It's called Table Mountain and I first hiked it with my friend back when I was on Christmas break during my university days. During that trip, we climbed above the low-lying winter clouds and it felt like we owned of the world. Definitely check it out if you're up for a (hard) adventure and you're in the Portland/Vancouver area. I posted about it on my blog.Haha as far as my favorite spot to get a beer after, anywhere that sells either ice cold Henry Weinhard's or Abita Root Beer.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
After some sketchy experiences, I never leave my ACR PLB or my Black Diamond Storm Headlamp at home.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Snickers bars. 248-250 calories of pure goodness, even when it becomes melted goodness.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
From movies nope, but I have a playlist that includes stuff from Angels & Airwaves, Yellowcard, Hillsong, U2, M83, Explosions in the Sky, and Bethel

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
Scariest most recently was down-climbing an almost dry (but still slippery) waterfall in the Cascades without protection (other than a helmet), and remembering my friend's cousin and his cousin's friend who passed away doing something similar several miles south of where I was a few years back. Scariest in my life was seeing a cougar about 70 metres away while on a section of the PCT last summer.Funniest...haha, it's funny now looking back on it, but when I was a little kid, my family went camping on the San Juan Islands in Washington. During that time of my life, I had a habit of eating wild things not meant for humans to eat, like bright red or stark white berries. Unfortunately during this trip, I ate many of such berries and, as a result, destroyed several sleeping bags that night. My family stopped going on camping trips after that.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
I don't really have one number one adventure partner-in-crime, but my buddy Patrick Mckee (who tries to adventure as much as he can when he's not living the adventure of life in the US Coast Guard), my college pals Seth Swank and Christian Vaughan, and my brother Brian Chau are the guys I call when adventure awaits. Adventurers like John Muir, Bruce Olson, and David Livingston inspire me to go travel and explore, and I definitely get my inspiration for life from Jesus.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
South Africa and India are my top so far, although the North Cascades in the USA are pretty dope as well.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
Going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India is on the top - there's so much to see and do there!

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This is in the North Cascades, taken near Mount Redoubt, looking southeast toward Bear Mountain (above). I was leading two of my friends (Seth and Christian) on a 14-day hiking and climbing trek and I took this picture the day after we had hiked up Bear Creek near the Chilliwack River on the way to Bear Lake. Unfortunately, there was so much brush along the creek that we had veered toward the north and starting climbing along the ridgeline. We had to bivvy, nestled among wild blueberries, that night and in the morning after climbing about 800 feet, we came to a nice spot above the treeline where I snapped this picture. We stayed here for about an hour just taking in the beauty all around us. Christian placed a call via a sat-phone for another resupply box to be sent to Ross Lake, we finished our snack break, and started traversing the slopes towards the distant peaks (on the left part of the picture). About an hour later, we came to that sketchy waterfall spot that I mentioned above in the scariest moments of my life, and I remember thinking about how strong the contrast was between the vibrant beauty and life seen in view seen in this picture and the stark potentiality of death lingering at every misstep, and how fragile life is, and how the pictures I was taking could have been the last I ever took - which leads to my personal motto...

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
Make the most of every good opportunity today because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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