For many years, those dreams brewed restlessly within me. Eventually, I listened to my nagging inner voice and took the plunge to what would become one of the most significant experiences of my adult life. My journey led me from a small, quintessential New England town to Big Sky Country specifically; Glacier National Park.
Mother Nature smacked me in the face as I drove over the Galena summit and into the Sawtooth Valley. Snow-capped mountains replaced skyscrapers. Wide open spaces replaced sprawling suburbia. Meadows bursting with wildflowers replaced parking lots. Wildlife replaced people. That summer at the ranch changed me and the crew became my family.
My love affair with the American West began in 2009 with a cross country road trip after college. That summer, I traveled through 27 states and covered over 10,000 miles in six weeks with a friend in a car far too small for my 6’3″ frame. We visited seven national parks that summer and I was blown away.
Working at these two camps revealed my weaknesses to me more pointedly than I’d have cared for, but in the open I am able to eradicate them. They have made me a little slower to speak, a little quicker to listen, a little more appreciative. I leave this year with more experience, love, and some of the best friends a man can ask for.
Nightly bonfires, the absence of cellphone service, adventurous fellow millennials, and the hundreds of acres of trail and natural beauty had me showering less and living more. That rustic country experience further fueled the spirit of adventure that has me exploring the world and travel writing today.
Before jumping straight into a career, invest in yourself first so you can enter the workforce as a person who knows themselves deeper, who can understand and love people better, and as someone who has stepped out of comfort to embrace the wonderful unknown. This could be the summer where everything changes.
The second I got home, I went online and played my own version of CoolWorks adventure roulette. Did I want a job in the national parks? Or maybe specifically a gig on the water? Did I want something in hospitality and service industry? Or did I want to return to my non-profit roots? If I hit the international job filter, things got REALLY exciting.
Since that first season I have learned to ride horses working at a dude ranch in the Sonoran desert, learned to ski at a couple of resorts, sharpened my golf game in Vermont, salmon fished the Kenai River and Resurrection Bay, explored historic Mackinac Island, lived a couple hundred feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon, and enjoyed expansive Denali.
It was March 18th, 2014. I was sitting at my desk, pretending to be working on a spreadsheet, counting down the hours until 5:00. I was longingly staring at pictures of the mountains on my computer and applying for jobs on CoolWorks.com when I received a phone call from an unknown number. Relieved to have a chance to walk outside for a moment, I answered.