How Ray Zahab Turned Life Challenges into Adventure Expeditions

Ray Zahab Podcast


In inspiring episode 13 of the Adventure Diaries hosted by Chris Watson, Ray Zahab shares his incredible transformation from a pack-a-day smoker to a celebrated ultra-endurance athlete.

This episode not only discusses the physical feats Ray Zahab has accomplished but also explores the profound personal growth and the educational missions he has embarked on.

Here’s a glimpse into Ray’s journey and the profound insights he offers to anyone looking for motivation to overcome their limits.

Ray Zahab Is Guest on Adventure Diaries Podcast Episode 13
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From Unhealthy Lifestyle To Running The Sahara

Ray Zahab’s life was on a quite different trajectory until his late twenties. A heavy smoker and a regular partier, Ray lived a life many would consider fun but hardly healthy or driven. It wasn’t until he approached his thirtieth birthday that he began to feel a lack of fulfillment, prompting a drastic lifestyle change inspired by his brother, a passionate ice climber and outdoor enthusiast.

Ray describes his transformation vividly, “I went from having pretty much zero passion in my life, treating my body as horribly as one possibly could. And then, a 180-degree shift over a few years… By the early two thousands, I’m racing mountain bikes all over the world, I’m adventure racing, and then I pick up ultra running in 2004 and I win my first ultra marathon.”

The First Ultra-Marathon and Beyond

The turning point for Ray came when he entered the Yukon Arctic Ultra, his first-ever footrace, which he won. This victory was not just about crossing the finish line but about shattering his mental barriers and redefining what he thought was possible. “How could I feel so invincible at the end yet in so much pain at the beginning of that race?” he reflects during the podcast. This experience set him on a path of running and later, conceptualizing and participating in extreme expeditions across some of the most challenging environments on Earth.

Educational Expeditions with a Cause

Beyond personal achievements, Ray’s adventures have a broader purpose. After crossing the Sahara Desert, he was inspired to start his own charity, Impossible to Possible. The organization aims to provide young people between the ages of 16 and 21 with the opportunity to undertake their own expeditions around the world at no cost. “Our youth ambassadors run from one dinosaur dig site out in the desert to another, learning about the history of dinosaurs in that region,” Ray shares, highlighting the educational aspect of these journeys.

Sharing the Extreme with the World

Ray’s story is not just about the physical extremes but about using these challenges as a platform to educate and inspire. Through live websites, students worldwide can track his expeditions, view videos, and photos he posts via satellite, making the remote and inaccessible parts of the world a bit more reachable.

Episode Takeaways

  • Ray Zahab transformed his life from being a two-pack-a-day smoker to an ultra-endurance adventurer.
  • He has completed epic expeditions across deserts and to the South Pole, setting world records along the way.
  • Ray is the founder of the charity Impossible to Possible, which takes young people on educational expeditions around the world.
  • His expeditions have raised awareness and funding for water projects in North Africa.
  • Education is a key focus of Ray’s charity work, providing young people with learning opportunities through expeditions. A typical day on an expedition involves waking up early, having breakfast, packing up camp, and going all day with breaks for lunch (except in extreme cold conditions).
  • Setting up camp in the Arctic is critical for survival, while desert expeditions require different gear to handle extreme heat.
  • Team dynamics are crucial on expeditions, with the ability to work well together and overcome disagreements being essential.
  • Despite facing challenges and incidents, Ray focuses on the positive aspects of his expeditions and appreciates the opportunity to explore amazing places.
  • Ray encourages everyone to pursue their own adventures and make the most of their lives, whether it’s exploring far-off places or discovering the wonders in their own backyard.
  • Supporting outdoor advocacy groups and organizations that provide opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors is a worthy cause to pay it forward.

Call To Adventure

  • Ray’s suggestion: “I would say, you know, I have a guiding company, Kapik1, it’s called, and I’ve been taking clients, you know, all over the world on different expeditions, but the two places that seem to fascinate them the most are when I take them to Baffin Island or the Atacama Desert, they love being there.”
  • Visit KapiK1 Expedition Company – KapiK1 Canada and International

Pay It Forward

  • Ray’s advice: “I think that in the world that we live in and the times that we live in, I think giving young people the opportunity to have experiences and to learn in the outdoors is critically important. So I would say in your own community, there are outdoor advocacy, there’s outdoor groups that give young people an opportunity to explore.”


A Life Transformed

Ray Zahab’s story is a testament to the power of transformation and the human spirit’s capacity to push beyond perceived limits. From choosing a healthier lifestyle, to battling cancer, to transcending the toughest terrains on the planet, Ray’s journey encourages us all to rethink what’s possible in our own lives.

As Ray Zahab’s and Chris Watson’s conversation in The Adventure Diaries podcast reveals, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — sometimes, that step is away from a pack of cigarettes and towards the outdoors

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