Actualizing the Vision – The ALIVE Experience
Surrounded by a life of extravagance, Zark Fatah, a successful businessman, realized that his seven-day-a-week work habit was not providing him with the spiritual sustenance that he needed and craved. From those roots, the ALIVE experience was created.
After years of 14-hour workdays, seven days a week, renaissance man and visionary Zark Fatah chose to divest himself of his successful restaurant and nightclub ventures in order to actualize his true vision — one that encapsulates living life simply and to the fullest. Once known as a man around town, Fatah was named KA Magazine’s Best of Canada 2010 pick for best promoter and innovator.
Today, however, what defines Fatah, founder of the ALIVE Experience, transformational travel experiences, is the healing, restorative power that can be found in vulnerability, empathy and compassion. The intention of the ALIVE Experience is to create transformation through experiential learning. The context of the adventure activities is centred on how a person navigates through life, taking the focus off the attainment of material assets and centring it instead on living a well-balanced, healthy life. Fatah’s message in a talk he gives entitled “How to Be a Successful Human” compares the fast-paced life of today’s world that leaves so many spiritually bankrupt against the backdrop of giving back through positive life contributions.
Q. What defines you as a person today, compared to the person you were five years ago?
A. Less defines me today than ever before. I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am; whereas before, my car, my watch, my social status were how I defined my identity. Today, I am proud to be defined by my values, purpose and contribution to others.
Q. What makes the ALIVE Experience stand out when compared to other travel adventure companies in the world?
A. The diversity of our programming and the curation of experiences are what make our trips truly unique. Our programming is designed with the intention of creating transformation through experiential learning. For example, teaching someone to surf isn’t about getting them up on the board, so they can enjoy the rush of the moment. We teach surfing from the context of how we choose to navigate through life. Like the strong ocean waves — some are big, and some are small. We can fight our way through them, or we can learn to take the waves one at a time and flow and adjust with each one. You begin to understand the rhythm of the ocean, and when the time is right, you seize the opportunity and catch your wave. You can’t stop the waves in life, but you can learn how to ride them.
Q. What would you say to someone who tells you they envy your courage and freedom?
A. I hear this quite often lately. My answer is that they, too, can enjoy the freedom I have as soon as they decide to let go of the things holding them back from living the life of their dreams. People hold on to things they think are so important and necessary. What they don’t realize is that many of the things they are holding on to are actually in the way of them having what they truly want. I closed [the restaurant] Blowfish and lost $1 million to live my dream. This is the price I chose to pay, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Q. How do you define living life to the fullest?
A. What this means to me is waking up and feeling excited about who you are and what you do. It means having a dream or a vision for your future and taking the necessary steps to making it a reality. It also means being a contribution to others. There is nothing in life more fulfilling than knowing you have the ability to positively impact the people in your life. Lastly, it means having fun and enjoying the simple pleasures of life — laugh, dance, eat the dessert.
Q. What makes you sad?
A. I don’t like to see or hear about people suffering. I’ve lost a few friends this year to cancer, a drug overdose and suicide. I believe all of these deaths stemmed from mental health issues. Too many people bottle up what they’re dealing with, too scared or ashamed to share what’s really going on with them. Inevitably, these issues surface, and the repercussions can be fatal.
The damage we’re causing to our planet, the way we treat our animals and how we’re polluting the oceans [also] make me very sad. I believe we are on a direct course to a major catastrophe due to people’s ignorance and others’ greed. We need to all take responsibility and educate ourselves on what’s happening and what we can do to help. Our planet can only withstand so much abuse and destruction before it equalizes itself, and we will be the ones to suffer the most.
Q. What are some of the things you have learned about yourself and others since you embarked on this journey?
A. I’ve learned that I’m enough and that I make a difference for others. These past six months, living here in the jungle, have taught me a lot about myself. I understand what it means to be grounded now. I’ve learned being happy is actually quite easy, and we have the ability to choose this. We complicate our lives and set unnecessary expectations for ourselves, while in pursuit of the next possession, accomplishment or short-lived pleasurable jaunt. This robs us of our free time and happiness. Living a simple, calm life here in Costa Rica has shown me how little I need to have so much free time and happiness.
Q. What is your definition of success?
A. Last year, I shared a talk at Haste and Hustle titled “How to Be a Successful Human.” I felt this was an important message to share with the audience of 2,500 millennials. I know many people who are considered to be very successful, both professionally and financially; however, they are completely bankrupt and failing in other important aspects of life. I define success by living a well- balanced, healthy life. This means having deeply connected relationships, starting with the relationship you have with yourself. Accept and love who you are. Everything in life is so much easier when you do. Stay active, eat well, get your rest. Listen to your body and take care of it. Without health, you have nothing. Be adventurous and keep learning. Have fun and enjoy the simple things in life.
Don’t stress and work yourself to an early death, worrying about getting rich and having a bigger car or house. All the things you sacrifice on your way to the top are the things you’ll wish you could have again. Give back, be a contribution to others. You will feel a deep feeling of gratitude and fulfillment that’s more meaningful than any possession, title or partner. These are some of the key elements I believe help you to be a successful human.
Q. What are some mindful practices you share with people on the ALIVE Experience?
A. We start most days with a 60-minute yoga practice, followed by a 20-minute guided meditation. We also encourage people to take a digital detox and stay off their devices as much as possible during the trip. It’s important for them to be present and disconnect from their busy lives back home, so they can reflect and reconnect with themselves. We also provide journals that are used throughout the trip that help our guests set some goals, document the knowledge they learn and create an accountability structure with other guests. The journal also helps them with continuing the morning and evening routines we teach them that involve expressing gratitude and setting daily intentions.
“Today, I am proud to be defined by my values, purpose and contribution to others”
Q. Meditation — what can you share with our readers about its importance and how it guides us on our destined path?
A. Starting your day with meditation helps set the tone of how your day is going to go. Rather than turning on your cellphone and staring at your screen right when you wake up, give yourself 20 minutes to be present and let your mind wake up at its own pace. This creates a calming sense of peace and bliss you can carry with you throughout the day.
Meditation requires practice and is often misunderstood; however, once you get in the routine of starting your day with this 20-minute practice, it can truly change your life. You will develop greater clarity, you will feel grounded and calm. This will help with anxiety and stress, which is often how many people feel after they wake up and start getting bombarded with emails. Meditation allows us to connect to our higher consciousness and tune in to our own intuition. When we can quiet our minds and allow our true self to speak, we have access to what we have always known, but have forgotten along the way.
Q. What are some transformations you have witnessed in some of your guests?
A. I’ve had guests arrive in a state of anxiety, dealing with insomnia, and within a few days totally transform to a calm, relaxed state, sleeping with ease throughout the night. I’ve had a guest who [had previously] tried taking his own life tell me our trip reminded him what it felt like to be happy again and that life can be beautiful. His words were, “This trip was a game-changer for me.” I’ve even had guests who have gone home and quit the job they dreaded, so they can finally move forward and start their own business. I love following up with all my guests months after to see how their lives have changed since the ALIVE Experience. It is so beautiful to hear them share how it’s positively impacted them all.
Q. What are some life lessons you wish to teach people who join you on your journey?
A. The first and most important lesson is to love and accept yourself for who you are. We need to be forgiving of ourselves and trust we are where we are supposed to be on our journey. None of us are perfect, and we are all trying to figure out this thing called life. Secondly, assume you know nothing and be open-minded to trying new things. You are not going to transform your life being the same person you’ve already been.
Be open and share, ask for help and offer your support. Life-changing transitions are hard as hell, and the only way to get through is with the loving support of people around you. There is great power in vulnerability, empathy and compassion.
Integrity, this is often a word that feels forgotten. You must be fully committed to the change you want to make in your life if you want the results. This is going to require you to live and operate from a very high level of discipline and focus.
Q: What lesson or life philosophy have you learned from your dad?
A. I spent two weeks with my dad over Christmas. My parents came to visit me over the holidays. I never thought I would say this, but I am becoming more like my dad as I get older. I now understand why he likes his solitude and is so content living a simple life. My dad doesn’t try to be anything or anyone other than who he is. He fully accepts himself for who he is and takes full ownership of his human flaws.
Q. What movie, book and song are your favourites?
A. I love What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams. This movie beautifully tells the story that true love is eternal and that love can overcome anything, including darkness and death.
I have so many books that I love. One I read recently that I really enjoyed is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. This is one book I feel is absolutely essential for people to read. I believe we would be living on a different planet if this book were mandatory reading in schools. Lately, I’ve been listening to “You and Me” from rose ave. by You+Me (Dallas Green and Pink). I’m in a new relationship with an amazing woman, and the lyrics of this song really resonate for me. It reminds me of what a partnership can be like.
WRITTEN BY CECE M. SCOTT
INTERVIEW BY MICHELLE ZERILLO-SOSA