Home might be halfway around the world for Belmont freshman Jim Mixon, but adventure is never too far away.
The 19-year-old multimedia productions major was born and raised in the Kenyan bush, a grassy wilderness where he discovered a daredevil nature and adrenaline addiction that would last him through his high school years and into college.
To date, Mixon has rafted the Nile at its mouth in Uganda, faced off against various wildlife–including buffalos, hyenas and lions–climbed Mt. Kenya and lived as an illegal immigrant in his own country, slipping across the border when his passport expired.
In one of his favorite adventures, he embarked on a solitary safari through a national park that brought him to a rural power station, the centerpiece of which was a 300-foot tall communications tower guarded by just a few men outside of Nairobi.
“I was like ‘Hey! Can I climb up that tower?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah man, I’ll take you there,’” he said.
Although the tower was an old and rusting collection of pipes and ladder rungs that shook in the wind, an undeterred Mixon made it to the top.
But that’s not where the story ends.
On the way back down from the power station and out of the park, Mixon flipped his car into the African foliage and totaled it–one of his proudest achievements to date.
“It was my rite of passage in African bush driving. Which is a legit thing, I promise you. Everyone has to roll their car at least once in the African wilderness, or you are not a man,” he said.
In another story, a young Mixon faced off against a full-grown giraffe while backpacking with friends through a national park.
“I’m like 30 feet from this 15-20 foot giraffe and he just kind of looks at me like, ‘What is this little beetle doing?’ And he kind of steps towards me and I book it the opposite direction,” Mixon said. “According to my friends, he only took a few steps, just kind of mock-charged me. That was arguably one of the most terrifying moments of my life. Among many.”
Some would call what he does crazy.
But for him, he said, the risk is what keeps him sane, taking the place of more harmful outlets, like drugs or drinking.
“Manufacturing physical risk is essential to the modern generations of Americans particularly. I just like creating adventure for myself in whatever form it takes,” he said.
Since he moved to Nashville, Mixon has had to tone down his stunts to conform to the new environment, getting his rush from exploring his new city instead. The same curiosity and daring that led him to adventure in Kenya leads him now to strange neighborhoods, to unknown woods, to wherever he can go by bike.
“If you just start biking, you never know where you’re going to end up, what neighborhoods you’re going to end up in. Whatever turn looks a little more dangerous, that’s the one I’ll go down,” he said. “I just try to get as into as rough of an area as I can; I enjoy that. I love talking to people down there and I think that it’s healthy to explore all of Nashville.”
Among his finds are an abandoned railroad bridge by the Cumberland River and a Jewish cemetery full of the remains of those who sought asylum in the U.S. during World War I.
“It’s out there. You just need to be willing to jump the fence,” he said.
When not exploring, Mixon also practices daily daredevilry, working– and stunting– at the rockwall in the Beaman Student Life Center, hiking and climbing in the tamer local wildernesses. He is also making plans to further explore the areas around Nashville in the warmer months with friend and fellow freshman Cameron Welke.
“I’ve yet to go on a full-out wilderness adventure with him. That’s in the works for someday soon,” Welke said. “Someday we’re going to go backpacking and get lost in the wilderness together.”
But just because Mixon has toned it down doesn’t mean he’s given up on adventure just yet.
There are plenty of columns on Belmont’s campus, and Mixon says they aren’t unclimbable.