I love adventures.
Adventures take you to unexpected places, and they change your life in unexpected ways. This website is an adventure. Getting an MBA was an adventure. Walking from Canada to Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail was an adventure. All the adventures I’ve had–and all the people I’ve met along the way–made me into who I am now. This is a thing for which I’m ridiculously grateful.
However, I started out as poorly-socialized introvert. My comic lack of people skills and inability to relate to others made me a target for painful jokes and mockery. In other words, middle school was a low-point in my life. Even as an adult, I once had myself evaluated for Asperger’s Syndrome because I was having so much trouble with social situations.
I was definitely a late bloomer.
When Did All This Start Changing?
It begins with the Boy Scouts. I have had mixed feelings about them because I’m gay, and the national scouting organization has been slow to move away from a stance on homosexuality that I’m not comfortable with. Yet because of scouting I learned to love wilderness, nature, and roughing it under the stars. I was also introduced to the Appalachian Trail in the mid 1990’s.
The idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail stuck in my head, and in 2001, after graduating with a from the University of Florida, I hiked almost half the trail. Thus started my long-distance hiking obsession. I learned a ton of life lessons on the trail, including how to solve problems using just the contents of my backpack and the knowledge in my head, and how to push myself physically.
I began to realize that I was capable of more than I had thought. When I began my hike, I honestly expected to quit after a few days due to a history of knee pain, and being a completely out of shape and wimpy nerd. Yet I made it almost 900 miles from the starting point at Springer Mountain in Georgia to Harper’s Ferry in Virginia. I returned in 2004 to finish the rest of the trail, and this lesson about self-imposed limits has followed me through life. I have learned it more than once, and it goes deeper each time.
Burning Man Enters the Picture
In 2005, a friend of mine asked if I would like to go to Burning Man. He had helped me come to terms with being gay, so I trusted him and said yes, although all I had heard about Burning Man was that it was a counter-culture desert gathering of hippies and artists in a remote corner of Nevada.
And now I’ve been back five times: 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2014.
Of course it’s a fantastic party, and probably everything you’ve read, think, or fear about the event is true. But that’s what has drawn me back. Instead, it was the painful but valuable lessons I learned about myself at Burning Man. I met people who were completely unphased by my nerdy weirdness. They pulled me out of my shell, and Burning Man became the first place I was experience being comfortable in my own skin. Now I’m mostly comfortable being myself almost everywhere I go, but it started in the Black Rock desert.
More Travel, and More Long-Distance Hiking
In 2006 I spent over three months backpacking across China. In 2010 I walked from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trial, and in 2013 I did another border-to-border hike, going from Canada back to Mexico on the Continental Divide.