All things considered, just eight months ago I was a pretty standard guy graduating from college. Now a few things have changed. I mean, I am still pretty standard. I like pizza, wings, beer, and sports. I drive an old hand-me-down Saturn Ion that my parents were generous enough to let me drive since I was 16. I tend to eat and drink too much, curse like a sailor, and drive too fast. Hell, seems fairly status quo right? Fortunately enough for me, there are a few things in my life that set me apart from Joe Schmo. I am talking about a certain group of people, places, and events that have shaped my life and push me to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do by myself. My high school football coach Derek Leonard once said, “Life is about relationships.” and those words have guided me since I was just a kid in high school. Now here I am, just a kid wandering the real world, and those words still hold as much weight today as they did then.
It just so happens that the people in my corner are some of the best people here on this Earth. I have the best set of parents I could have wound up with. Ever since I can remember, my dad has always been my hero and biggest fan. Without him, I would not have fallen in love with nature and being outside. I would never have developed my sense of adventure, my love for fishing, paddling, and hiking, and most importantly I would not have had the inspiration to be where I am today.
The second half of this World Champion Parenting Tag Team is my beautiful mother. She really is the true blue American mom. We always had a hot meal at the table for supper, a ride where ever we needed to go, and someone to keep us focused. My mom happens to be one of the hardest working people I know and I try to emulate that trait as often as I can. My mother is strong, vibrant, and contagious. I love you guys.
Among my parents are many others who I love dearly and hold a special place in my heart forever. Of course these is my little brother Jack who is on his way to being one of the most successful people out there. Also among them are my best friends from home, from school, from places I have traveled, and their families that I have gotten the chance to grow close to. I hold on to precious words and memories from my coaches, some of my teachers growing up, ex girlfriends, mentors, and my favorite college professors. Every special person who I have let in to my life, now holds a spot forever and for that I am eternally grateful.
So that, in a nutshell of course, is where I was. A Midwestern boy, born and raised, graduating from a small private college on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Things happen quickly when you don’t want or expect them to. After spending four comfortable years with your best friends, you are suddenly turned onto your head and cast out into a large world of uncertainty. This is where I stood at that moment, with options ahead of me and a future to work towards. Where I went was my first step into a world that has forever changed my life.
It was just the day after graduation when I found myself stepping out of my car in scenic northern Wisconsin, just minutes away from the border to the upper peninsula of Michigan, to work for Wildman Adventure Resort as an adventure guide. What’s an adventure guide? Only the most badass job that exists! Imagine this. We get to lead trips every day that people spend their vacation doing, AND get paid for it! We specialized in everything adventure from class 4-5 white water through Pier’s Gorge to soaring through the trees on zip lines. The next four and a half months were some of the most exciting times of my life. I met a plethora of new people and found new challenges to overcome and conquer. We slept in tents, hammocks, a few cabins, and even an old Airstream trailer for the whole summer while we wasted away the days as river hippies. In between our games of trailer pong, rope swings, “fun runs”, stargazing, and endless adventuring, we all became a big family. The day I left Wildman I looked down the hill one more time at the raft barn and felt silly for ever wondering if I was going to fit in.
That is where I went and now here is where I am.
My newest adventure has taken me straight into the heart of the Everglades of south Florida. Here I get to work with Justin and Alli Shurr and their kayaking company aptly named “Shurr Adventures”. While rafting and zip lining are extremely exciting, my love for this job originates in a different way. Instead of pulling my guests from raging torrents of water, I am informing and guiding them through gator infested waters with an ample amount of captivating birds and plants. I even get to use some of my field biology skills from college (Thanks Dr. Coelho!). Working for Alli and Justin is a blessing and it is a great honor to be working in such a magical place.
So, without dragging this on more than I already have, that is a look at Where I was, Where I went, and Where I am now. The moral, if a story such as this one is worthy, seems much like a famous poem written by Robert Frost. Many times in your life, two roads will diverge in front of you. Both will seem quite suitable in that moment and it will be hard to decide which one to take. One though, will call to you just a little bit more. One road will be what others expect of you and the other will be what you see for yourself. These roads might even be heading to similar locations, but still, the adventure will not be quite the same for either. Follow your passions and dreams, become who YOU want to be regardless of how others measure success. Measure your success in your relationships with people, with your faith, and with yourself.
My advice? Take the road less traveled. I have, and it has made all the difference.