What is your name? Jonathan Ronzio
How old are you? 25
Where do you live? Boston, MA, USA
What is your day job?
I’m an adventurist, writer, filmmaker, and musician – and also currently heading up brand journalism initiatives at the marketing studio Cramer. Busy days!
Could you provide a bit of background about yourself?
For a decade I worked alongside my brother growing a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. I've played music across the US, climbed mountains and backpacked through 4 continents, made an award-winning adventure documentary, and even launched brand of coffee. When I can follow my dreams and make a difference in other people's lives, I'm happy.
How did you get into adventures and expeditions? What inspired you to start?
I’ve always felt connected to the outdoors and was a passionate skier/snowboarder growing up. Though it wasn’t until college that I started really hiking and then subsequently climbing. I was around 20 when going hiking and camping with friends a couple times a year, shifted to climbing and going out on backcountry excursions a couple times a month.
What was your turning point or “aha moment” that made you crazy about adventuring?
Studying abroad in New Zealand. I spent 5 months there exploring and getting into every heart pumping adrenaline-fueled activity the country had to offer. I capped off my time in the South Island hitch hiking around alone for a week and I think it was that experience that gave me the confidence to seek adventure and not comfort.
What would you say has been your greatest adventure or challenge to date?
My documentary film project Between The Peaks. In 2011 I was graduating college and not ready for the office. Instead, I found a way to combine my passions for travel and climbing with my studies in environmental science and marketing, and wrap it all up with my background in video production. The idea was to climb 2 of the Seven Summits (Aconcagua and Denali) and spend 4-6 months traveling between them volunteering in every country my friends and I would pass. We spent 2 years planning and training for the trip and in 2013 bought 1-way tickets to Chile. Now, 2 years later we finally released the film and I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished and the project’s potential to inspire others to follow their dreams and make a difference.
What has been the most memorable moment so far?
We bought a truck in Chile, and after a month a half of traveling and climbing we made it to the border of Peru. But they wouldn’t let us in. Apparently we got the truck’s paperwork wrong, and that left us stranded in a Chilean border town, living out of our tent and trying to sell our truck on the beach for 2 weeks. It was a crazy set back, for both time and money, but looking back it was one of the best times of the whole trip.
What have been the greatest rewards?
It was beyond incredible working with the organizations we did along the way. Like in Honduras we were able to give over 40 pairs of shoes to children at the local school in the valley of Zambrano. KEEN Footwear had shipped the shoes down to meet us there, and it was a truly heart warming experience to give them out. Aside from the volunteering, it felt pretty amazing to win best documentary feature at Mountain Film Festival out in Mammoth, California a few weeks back and even better to hear how much people love the film and are inspired by our trip now that it’s released to the public!
Do you raise money for any causes or charities through your challenges? If so, why these ones?
For Between The Peaks, we volunteered with an organization in each country we traveled through but did not directly do fund-raising for them. Though hopefully with the exposure from our film some of these small projects will get some more enthusiastic volunteers!
Describe your philanthropy - how do you engage with the causes?
I like to work hands on, feet on the ground, learning about the cultures, the people, and the places. And I enjoy working on a variety of both environmental and humanitarian initiatives.
Have you started your own philanthropic venture (a charity/a social enterprise etc)?
What has been the toughest challenge in supporting your cause or fundraising and how have you overcome it?
The entirety of the Between The Peaks journey was the toughest part of supporting the causes! Not just the long-term non-stop traveling, but also the 2 years of planning to just get down there and the 2 years of post-production to get the message ready to share. I think the only way to overcome a challenge of this magnitude is to break it down step by step. When you look at a mountain from a distance it can look impossible. But once you’re there, the incremental obstacles are not as daunting and step-by-step you get to the top. That’s how I approach expedition planning, business ventures, and life in general.
If your adventures have taken you to foreign destinations, has seeing how the locals live inspired you to fundraise for a certain cause?
Living and working alongside the locals in foreign destination hasn’t necessarily sparked the fundraising bug for me but it has certainly energized the drive to continue to seek opportunities to volunteer while traveling and do my part to inspire others to rethink their adventures and explore more purposefully.
Did it inspire you to give back locally, and leave an impact where you go, rather than funnelling the money back home?
I absolutely always want to leave an impact in the places I go. All I want to bring back are the experiences that allow me to continue learning, growing, and working to inspire.
How in your view can adventure travel inspire a new generation of changemakers and philanthropists?
In my experience, adventure travel is the absolute best way to not only learn about the places you go, but also learn about yourself. It is that infectious drive to continue pushing your own limits and learning through travel that often time leads to the most remarkable revelations about self and society, the world and your place in it, and how you can make a difference.
What was your life like before getting into adventuring and what is it like now?
I think the biggest change in my everyday life has been in how I allocate my time. It’s in my priorities. Before I became an adventure travel addict I definitely focused a lot more on my music career. I still write, record, and play when I can, but the new tracks and shows are few and far between now unfortunately. It’s a shame because my travels provide such incredible inspiration for new material and I’m always writing, but it’s simply hard to find the time between traveling to give the music the attention it deserves.
What have you learned about yourself and the world through your experiences?
This will of course sound cliché but they have really taught me how small the world is and how much more I still have to explore. It’s unfathomable to me that some people are content living their whole lives in one place, when just an 8-hour flight can take you almost everywhere in the world. It’s when you leave home that makes coming home even sweeter.
How has your “adventure philanthropy” helped you in your day job or everyday life?
It’s definitely given me a lot to talk about! For those out there who are not the entrepreneurial type, go get involved with some adventure philanthropy initiatives for a while abroad and no one else has a chance against you in a job interview!
How do you think adventures and expeditions could help others?
It is my firm belief that the adventurous, the daring, and the bold, are the ones who change the world. And you can’t change the world until you change yourself. Adventures do that to you.
What advice would you give to others who want to follow your lead?
You just have to say fuck it. You can find a million reasons to not go chase some crazy adventure that takes you half way around the world, but the one reason to go that’s better? You will never wonder, “what if?”
If money was no object, what would your career and life look like over the next 10 years?
If I can continue to travel and explore the world while inspiring others to do the same, I’ll be happy.
What adventure are you planning next?
Alaska. We need to cap off the Between The Peaks project by climbing Denali. Right now it’s looking that will be a short-film of its own.