Finding Nobody’s River: Time To Go

May 30

Leaving 2

by Amber Valenti


As we pack our bags and get on a plane tonight for the Nobody’s River expedition we begin the next leg of an already life altering journey.  It began as a simple daydream while I finished up my master’s degree in 2011, but it became so much more than we ever dreamed. We have loved harder, lost bigger and grown far beyond anything we could have imagined—and we have not even left the country yet.

I see clearly now that our original reasons for creating this project, while still true and present, represent only a fraction of our purpose.  Something much bigger than us unfolds every day. We exist as just one thread in this amazing web of love and life.

Through 2 years of toil, growth, and the devastating loss of a loved one in April we questioned why we are going on this journey over and over again. In the process we answered far bigger questions for ourselves. And the answers we’ve arrived at have certainly changed us forever.

Many of my friends in the adventure community talk about the difficulty of conveying to their loved ones what compels us to go do these things. To risk. To dare. To step outside the known.

I think the difficulty lies in our knowledge of all that is at stake each time we go. I saw this with perfect, painful clarity in the eyes of Zach Orman’s parents at his memorial earlier this month—a devastating grief I wish with all my heart I could erase. Zach was the long-time love and partner of our teammate Becca and one incredible, big-hearted, life-loving human being. He passed on unexpectedly on April 7th, less than 2 months ago, paragliding. He reminded us all in the most painful way imaginable of the ultimate risk—unspeakable loss.

As we head out today I sense how difficult our leaving feels for those who love us. Risk exists everywhere, but the unknown risks frighten us far more than the known.  How do I convey, in the face of love and fear, that the many risks of going are so much less than the risks of staying?

When I strip away the layers of ego, fear, ambition and any physical objectives, I understand that our Amur River journey, like all other external journeys, is ultimately about the inward ride. We go to live the questions our hearts ask of us.

This is our life’s work—to find out who we have been all along. And in doing so understand how the quiet whisper in our hearts can be transposed into whoops and hollers that transform the world around us.  How do we become so vulnerable as to be so strong, that we can shout our offering to the world and know that what we have to give is exactly what the world needs?

As we prepare to leave I keep coming back to the words of Ganga White.

What if religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If our prayer was our words?
What if the temple was the Earth?
If the forests were our church?
If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?
-Ganga White

I ask these questions too. I also think often about Zach Orman and his journey forward. Something my mind knows nothing about, but my heart can sometimes, almost grasp. I think of the sudden, overwhelming journey Becca gracefully undertook with the loss of her great love. I think of all those across the globe living and loving from the very center of their being at this moment. I think of the power of our expansive community and their loving intention. I think of all of the serendipity and synchronicity that transpired in recent months to bring us here. I think of 60 days sleeping under Siberian stars, Mongolian wildflowers, smiling children, Trans-Siberian train rides, and the sacred headwaters of the longest fully connected river any of us have ever seen. And I understand I have not that slightest idea where this path leads. But I trust it. Because I sense at the deepest level that we now stand just where we need to be, for reasons far bigger than us.


  • Yeeeeeehaw!Yeeeeeehaw!
  • The RiverThe River
  • All Great Explorers Have Mustaches, right?All Great Explorers Have Mustaches, right?
  • Our Soviet Military Topos for the TripOur Soviet Military Topos for the Trip
  • With us always, Zach OrmanWith us always, Zach Orman
  • Here we go...Here we go...

We wish you all love and courage on your own outward and inward journeys. Thank you to our families and amazing community. We love you all. We continue to keep Zach Orman and all the love and light he shared on this plane in our hearts as we journey on. 

Look for regular updates from our far eastern pilgrimage on our blog, Facebook page, and National Geographic Adventure’s website and Facebook page.

You can also find updates on the blogs and Facebook pages of our wonderful sponsors: NRS, Polartec, Eddie Bauer, Keen, Under Solen Media, Trak Kayaks, Remote Medical International, Goal Zero, Watershed Drybags, Probar, Girls at Play and Smith Optics.

  • Niki Nasser

    You brought me to tears, Amber. May all of you have a wonderful, brilliant journey through the macrocosm of our selves that the rivers are. All of my love.

    • fred dennis

      yes, well said Amber.

  • Jan Wigsten

    Welcome to Mongolia. Mr Hasaa will meet Krystle at Ulan Bator airport in about two hours to extend her visa here, as is Friday, And someone will meet you tomorrow as well. We had incredibly early precipitation (snow) over the Khan Khentii, why river is now very high.


  • LJ

    Four who were inspired, have now become the inspiration. Looking forward to learn about this vast wild stretch of nature along with the cultural transitions – the source of modern civilization, and other unique discoveries. Paddle on, with your smarts on! (&be safe)

  • Cara Maiolo

    Can’t wait to read your updates! Sending courage and strength and safe traveling love to you all!

  • Rodger Orman

    Very well written. Zach would want you all to go and have an Epic Journey.
    Have a great trip! You are all flying now. Enjoy Mongolia and the Amur River.
    Can’t wait to see the pictures.

  • Callie Davies

    Wonderful words- have an amazing adventure you four- I will keep you in my prayers for a safe, fun, breathtakingly epic journey :)

  • Peter Fong

    That was beautiful Amber. Wish I could be in Mongolia to watch the launch, but it will be fun to think of your team approaching the Pacific while we’re just starting our season. Looking forward to some posts from the river, Peter

  • maria naddeo

    prossima spedizione????