We're so grateful to be telling our story and encouraging others to strive for a lifestyle based on sustainable living and nature oriented experiences.
Meet our Company Founders Shantel & Rami Abdel
Alter Experiences LLC is the result of an ever-evolving dream, very different from the busy modern day world. It’s a vision of a simpler place where life is basic, beautiful & in resonance with nature. This dream inspired our lifestyle & business approach.
We're grateful for this opportunity to be setting some exciting new hospitality trends in Southern California tourism.
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My wife Shantel bought a beautiful leather bound notebook when we started operations in the Cleveland National Forest. As part of her many personal touches on the operation, she wanted to create a guest book for our visiting glampers. She's always had a way with design and creating the most comfortable and beautiful spaces. She gets all the credit for creating our signature glamping experience.
We dedicated the first pages of our guestbook with our personal story, in the middle of all the excitement during our initial days under permit at Cleveland National Forest, Laguna Mountain.
Although I loved the idea, I hadn't put pen to paper in a very long time. Shantel seemed to have no problem with it as elegant as her handwriting is, but it was going to be pencil with a fat eraser for me.
This circumstance really got me thinking for some reason and led to a whole chain of other thoughts that turned into this little story.
I find it very unfortunate at times that the art of writing is lost to me today, like so many other things gone obsolete during my short lifetime on earth. What was once a mighty instrument of knowledge and enlightenment is now somewhat of a relic. Or at least to me it's become. An artifact like so many others before it, rendered useless at the onset of the typewriter to keyboard and eventually the touch-screen.
I do vividly remember the feeling of a #2 pencil in my hand as I learned the art of writing cursive in elementary school. One of my first memories of the English language and creative expression. Those days seem so long gone.
Aside from a signature here and there every so often, I no longer ever write by hand. The process feels so alien to me now as I attempted a write up of this little story. I actually typed up this entire dialogue on my laptop before even attempting to give it a go by hand.
It does makes me kind of sad thinking about it, but I guess those are the cycles of life and technological progression. Or so we're told under our capitalist mantras. Out with the old, in with the new. Destroy the past, create the future.
I feel myself getting old and often wonder when I’ll be rendered obsolete at our current pace of acceleration.
At times I tell myself that things will change. I hope they do. I like the idea that we’ll go back to a time more in tune with the natural cycles of the earth. A time when old age denoted wisdom, when technology wasn’t so pervasive, when men were righteous leaders, when matriarchy was revered, when nature was our guide.
Was life on earth ever like that? I’d like to believe so. It’s this thought that keeps me going at times. But who knows anything really. At 35 years old, that’s one of the very few things that I am absolutely sure of.
It’s been somewhat of a nostalgic experience - the smell and feel of a leather bound notebook in my hands and to fill its empty pages with good old fashioned lead.
I admit that this short narrative took some time to piece together. Its discombobulated sentences stubbornly gnawed at me all the while many guests came and went. Dozens of unique visitors from distant backgrounds and places, come and gone. A series of wasted engagement opportunities in the ripple of events we'd created to bring you this one of a kind experience. A missing link in our chain. It really bothered me.
I wanted to know and hear each and every visitor story. And only in the way that a written note from the soul could tell it. I wanted to know why?
Of all the places to be on this beautiful planet we call earth, why did you come here? What circumstances brought you to this sacred mountain?
I often ask myself that question and ponder on the collective events, people, circumstances and forces that compelled me to hand-write these words, in this here notebook, on this remote mountain, for you to be reading at this very moment.
It wasn’t the first time where unbearable life circumstances compelled me to pack up and head to the most remote uninhabited area I could find. I guess you could say that was my typical reaction when things went wrong. It had never really mattered to me before, but for some reason, reflecting on my 5th life exodus was slightly concerning me now. Would I ever find home?
As the months and my life on this mountain went on, I found my answer and slowly came to realize something so much greater.
In the beautiful solitude and silence of this sky island, I was gradually overcome by a growing sense of so much inner peace and healing. I started becoming aware of a universal presence in nature, which I can only describe as the unconditional love you'd feel from a mother. That feeling grew stronger every passing day. It felt very much like a nurturing archetypal force, finally manifesting itself to me after a lifetime of subtle but obvious clues all around me.
All along, I started seeing many synchronicities in nature that were personal to me. Signs, symbols, patterns, number sequences, all of which reaffirmed my crazy life decisions and unorthodox life approach.
At 33 years old, on the 33 degree parallel, a stone throw away from the Valley of the Sun where I was born, I was finally coming to closure with the man I am today.
I was able to finally see things in myself that needed to change. I was able to forgive myself and to forgive all those who I'd perceived wronged me. I finally came to closure with deep traumas that I’d been carrying from the time I was a child.
The process went on for months and the emotions were overwhelming. Parts of me felt like they were dying and needed to die. There was pain and I cried a lot. It felt so good. It felt so liberating. The more I learned to let go, the more I was overcome with a new found purpose and conviction on my path to sustainable living. Every waking moment of the day reaffirmed this to me. Even the stars at night.
Yet she’d been there all along. All throughout my life. Undeniably there at every turn. Such a beautifully subtle revelation slowly manifesting to uninitiated eyes. Gaia - our womb and mother earth.
We made our exodus to the mountain on January of 2016 during one of the most severe winter storms the region had seen in recent years. We could’ve waited as my wife had suggested, but I insisted on making the move as soon as we closed escrow.
The fateful day finally came and we made our way up the mountain on the ridge-line where our property is located. I remember we had a hell of a time getting our recently purchased trailer situated with this massive winter storm right on us. We had such wonderful neighbors that came to our aid and made us feel so at home those first few days.
We settled in for the first night and woke up to a snow spectacle the next morning like I’d never seen before. The green mountains around me had turned white overnight under a good 6 inches of fresh snowfall. It was my first ever experience waking up to that much snow, let alone in a place like my hometown of San Diego. It was such an incredible sight to me and gave me a new found appreciation for the uniqueness of Southern California's rich bio-diversity.
We weren’t exactly prepared that first winter. We had to learn a few lessons the hard way about life on the mountain under those severe winter conditions. Regardless, it was such beautiful chaos and I still get that child-like like excitement and wonderment every time it snows up here. Shantel and I still often joke that we came with the storm.
We finally found home and home for us will always be in nature. It’s our natural habitat. We're children of the forest.
What I love most about nature are the moments of absolute silence. I love seeing a dark sky full of stars and the milky way with the naked eye. I love the fractals in nature that are so soothing to the eyes. I love, the at times, chaotic and non-linear nature of it all (no pun intended).
I loved the process of downsizing and embracing a minimalist lifestyle. I learned a lot about off-grid living, sustainability and more nature oriented lifestyles.
It took time, patience, a lot of struggling, months of uncertainty and a leap of faith into the unknown to finally be where we are it today. The transition took mental and physical preparation and after 2 years of searching, we finally came upon a beautiful little gem of a property that had barely survived the Cedar fire in 2003. The property had once housed an a-frame that burned to ashes during that tragic fire, along with many other properties on this mountain, which are yet to recover from that devastating tragedy.
Looking over at Middle Peak from our property even now is a constant reminder of how delicate and precious these resources are. It’s a constant reminder of our responsibility as environmental stewards of San Diego’s last frontier.
This community is still suffering and recovering from that tragedy in many ways, along with many other environmental and socio-economic challenges now facing this region.
I can’t help but reflect on the story of the phoenix, which rises even stronger out of the ashes.
It’s February 1st, 2019 today and we’re now coming on our 3rd winter on the mountain. I am happy to say that their is still so much excitement in the air at what the future holds.
These days, I wake up every morning to the absolute silence and serenity of the mountains. I hear the serenade of birds and get to see a variety of wildlife every day. I watch the beauty of fall with all its changing colors and the transition from summer to winter. My days are spent staring at horizons that go on forever. I watch the mutating colors of the setting sun turning into the darkest of nights, spell-binding us under the glowing lights of our infinite milky way.
I hope these words inspire you and that your stay with us is as magical as could be. I pray that you never lose hope and that you never stop dreaming. I hope you’ll aspire towards a world full of love and healing.