Before beginning a treacherous ski trip up the Axel Heilberg glacier in Antarctica, Akshay Nanavati made an unusual discovery. He found a simple tin can with a note left inside from Roald Amundsen, the great explorer who was the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen left this note inside a cairn so that others would know he made it to his now-famous destination if he died.
Seeing Amundsen’s tin can led Nanavati to reflect on the great men before him.
“As I thought about these men, I smiled,” he said. “I smiled that such men walked this earth. I felt blessed to have come across their tales of great daring and immense, almost unbelievable courage. I am better for having gotten a glimpse into their lives. The spirit of these men lived on far beyond their bodies.”
The spirit of these men clearly lives on in Nanavati himself, who has pioneered a philosophy of overcoming fear by embracing it.
Akshay Nanavati’s Service to America
No stranger to suffering and physical challenge, Nanavati survived seven months of dangerous duty with the United States Marines in Iraq. Before being deployed, he suffered the devastating loss of his best friend, who was in the same unit as him.
Upon returning home, Nanavati struggled with survivor’s guilt, knowing that many brave women and men had not outlived their tours of duty. Battling depression, addiction, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD, a common disorder that affects approximately eight million American adults, he armed himself with a new arsenal of weapons. He turned to the study of neuroscience, psychology, and spirituality to achieve his ultimate goal of inner peace.
His inner struggle resulted in a new path to health and happiness that he calls “Fearvana.” Feeling called to use his experience of overcoming fear and past trauma to help others, he turned his philosophy into a book by the same name.
“Fearvana is the revolutionary science of how to turn fear into health, wealth, and happiness,” he explained. Thanks to his new philosophy, Akshay has not only found a path to inner peace but discovered the motivation to accomplish things that few humans in history have dared to attempt.
Akshay Nanavati Overcomes Fear: The Antarctic Expedition
Once Nanavati discovered the power in pursuing a worthy struggle, he never looked back. He has made it his habit to shatter self-imposed limitations and achieve extraordinary goals.
The latest challenge he chose to undertake, and one that had the potential to land him in the history books, was an expedition to the treacherous Axel Heilberg glacier.
In November 2021, Nanavati and three other explorers set out along the same route taken by Roald Amundsen on his groundbreaking expedition. Taking somewhere between 30 to 40 days to complete and requiring uncommon endurance, the climb to the South Pole hosts the coldest, driest, and windiest weather on the planet. Between April to September of 2021, the average temperature was below negative 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nanavati and his team reached the top of Axel Heiberg Glacier, exactly 110 years to the day that Roald Amundsen attained the South Pole. On that day, Nanavati became one of only 26 people ever to ski up to the Axel Heilberg glacier, the route Amundsen used to reach the South Pole. Unlike Nanavati and his team, who pulled their own sleds, many of those who came before used dogs.
Nanavati experienced severe frostbite and was forced to evacuate to safety before reaching the South Pole itself. Yet he remained philosophical as he reflected on the legendary endurance of explorers of the past.
“I almost certainly won’t lose the flesh from the bottom of my feet and then have to keep walking over 100 miles to survive as Douglas Mawson did,” he said as he focused on maintaining a positive outlook on his condition.
Akshay Nanavati’s Next Test of Endurance: 10 Days in Darkness
Nanavati views this trip to the South Pole as a warmup for what is to come. On a never-ending path of healing and growth, he has already selected his next challenge. In May, he will spend ten full days in complete darkness, silence, and isolation to encourage heightened spiritual mental states.
“The same spirit of the heroes and legends of the past lives inside each of us,” he explained. “Suffering is the crucible that allows it to awaken. But this spirit doesn’t rise to the surface on its own. We must make the conscious choice to revive it from its comfort-induced dormancy.”
He has also made plans for another trip to Antarctica, where he intends to complete an expedition the likes of which no human being has ever accomplished. This challenge will push past historic boundaries of what explorers can do.
“When I return to the captivity of the ice, I know there will be a moment when Antarctica demands more of me than I have to give,” he said. “At that moment, I will kindle the flames of the spirits from explorers of the past and rise from the fire, unbroken.”