Tony Pandola.png

Tony Pandola

Tony, a friend for over a decade leads GeoEx's trips in Cuba. He’s often hard to track down as he is regularly digitally disconnected – you might find him harvesting tobacco for a month in the Cuban countryside, mountaineering in the Tetons, or writing on a friend’s ranch.

Tony’s simple ‘van’ lifestyle allows him to be open to spontaneous adventures. His ability to engage with and made deep connections with a wide variety of people allows him to float and thrive between many worlds.

What is your everyday magic?
For me, everyday magic lies in recognizing that everything in this world is as infinitely beautiful and fascinating as you’re willing to let it be. It is recognizing that every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be inhabited with your full presence and attention.

What strategy and tactics do you utilize to live your best life?
I try to remind myself of the temporary nature of life in general. I think it’s necessary to accept the inevitability of death before one can truly appreciate life. Doing so sets me free from fear—fear to try new things, to take risks, to put myself out there—because, ultimately, we have nothing to lose. 

I try to zoom waaay out as often as possible. I like holding my problems up to the cosmos, like, “I’m on a tiny molecule of a planet floating in the vastness of space amongst billions of galaxies and a great unknown… Is this current disappointment or setback really that big of a deal?” The answer is usually ‘no’. Such a grand perspective helps me keep my sense of humor intact, even during the hard times.

I try to be a perpetual student, to always be open to learning new things or being open to new perspectives. Instead of seeing my knowledge or capabilities as based in hard facts, I try to think of them as “my understanding thus far.”

I try to stay light and flexible by not accumulating a lot of ‘stuff.’ That way, when an unexpected or interesting opportunity arises, I’m that much more ready and able to jump in and see where it goes.

What are your top 3 tips for success?

  1. Make all of your decisions (everything from the minutiae to the stuff that feels ‘big’) with your heart instead of with your analytical brain. Your heart knows best. Your mind and your ego are very good at playing tricks on you.
  2. Pay attention: The world is filled with signs, patterns, and people to guide you. So talk to strangers, always be aware of your surroundings, and stay off your screens and devices as much as possible.
  3. Don’t be an asshole. (And be open to learning about the ways you have been unintentionally being an asshole… and be open to changing those ways you have been unintentionally being an asshole)

What book do you want to give everyone you know because you believe it has the power to change lives?
There are so many. Reading books in general has the power to change lives. I guess I'd say anything by Joseph Campbell, Craig Childs, Eckhart Tolle,, or Carl Sagan can help you put your life into universal and historical context, and make you feel connected to something greater than yourself.

About Tony
I engage with the world through mountaineering, dance, martial arts, literature, languages, travel-guiding, stargazing, road tripping, the art of conversation, dreams, writing, playing music, friendship, people-watching, bathing in frigid alpine streams, treating every experience like an epic adventure, living out of my 1995 Toyota Previa minivan, and far too many other things to name. My diet consists mostly of eggs, avocados, sourdough baguettes, and chocolate chip cookies; I have a two-year-old niece who is redefining my definition of love; I have impeccable cursive penmanship (though I hold my pen in a bizarre manner); I am surrounded by an insane amount of amazing and inspirational people in my life who I consider friends, and I would totally have a dog if the rest of my lifestyle allowed for it.

I identify as a storyteller, and while I can tell a hell of a story in person, I am currently working on getting better at sharing my stories through written word as a first-year MFA student in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.