All the adventures!

Here's me adventuring in King's Canyon National
Park in 2014... many years after learning how to have
the best adventure

A timeline of my adventures

The people who've known me for less than about seven years probably think I've always been crazy for adventures.  That is definitely not the case.

It actually started in 2007 while I was in college at the University of Akron studying Mechanical Engineering.  I was trying to decide what to do with the summer after my sophomore year, and I had couple of internship / job opportunities that I could have pursued (which would have been the normal thing to do after my second year of engineering school... but I guess I never quite did the normal thing...).  I heard about this research program I could do instead--a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).  It would take me to a different university (probably a "better" university, which I was all about at the time... although I'm now SO glad I got to go to the University of Akron!) for most of the summer to do graduate level research, and earn a little money doing it.  It didn't seem too crazy because it would prepare me and look great on a resume for grad school, which I had every intention of pursuing at the time, but I think a part of me knew something in my life had to change... to be knocked out of place a little so the rest of me could get on the right track. 

So I applied and was accepted to Clarkston University's REU program in Potsdam, NY to do research on the adhesive properties of the particles that make up pharmaceuticals (woohoo!! nano-particles!!).  I definitely learned some things about research, and about what grad school would be like, but I learned a whole lot more about myself and about life.  It was the first time I was truly away from family and friends and the sense of security that provides.  For the first time I was by myself in a new place where everyone around me was a total stranger. I had no choice but to dive in and I learned that I could make new friends and talk to new people, and it actually wasn't all that scary! I met people who go on 20 miles bike rides for fun (...if only I knew what was coming in my future...), I went canoe camping and watched for loons on beautiful secluded lakes, I saw and climbed a mountain for the first time.  I learned that there is so much more to see and experience in the world, and I gained the confidence I needed to go out and do it. 
One of my first real outdoor adventures with friends
on Lows Lake in upstate New York.

That summer was the start of the bigger, more passionate, and more lived life that I'm so grateful to have now.  The seven years between then and now were filled with adventures, both big and small, that continue to shape my world.  I want to list some of the big ones here, to share with anyone who might be looking for a little inspiration for their own big life, but more so I don't forget all these awesome stories I've been so blessed to live.  

2007 - New York

I spent the summer in upstate New York with the REU... and after that I came back to Akron and had the courage to do things like take a long weekend trip by myself to visit a friend in Washington D.C. and to go on white water rafting and backpacking trips sponsored by my school, even though none of my friends were going!  That probably sounds crazy--like, why would you NOT go on a free white water rafting trip??
Austa and I hiking (and pretending to be Asian tourists?)
in Rocky Mountain National Park.
But for me, this was a big change :-).

2008 - Colorado

I signed myself up for another REU--this time at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  It was the first time I ever crossed the Mississippi River, and I fell hopelessly in love with the west. I remember driving through eastern Colorado on my way to Boulder with my friend Leah, and almost crying when we realized that the clouds we were seeing on the horizon ahead of us were actually the snowcapped peaks of the rockies. Being in the enormous beauty of Colorado introduced me to the peace there is in knowing how small we are in this big world (and I've loved John Muir quotes ever since!).  I met my good friend Austa and we went on some of the coolest weekend road trips to the mountains in our backyard, to Utah, and Yellowstone--I wish I was blogging back then because the time we met the attendees of the Rainbow Gathering and the Polish guys who made techno music would have made for some pretty cool posts.  We hiked our first 14er (Grey's peak) together and nearly got ourselves lost in the Utah desert.  It was awesome.  Austa is one of those people seems to become instant friends with everyone she meets (such a beautiful gift!) and I learned so much and met some very cool people adventuring with her!
Canoeing with one of our new Polish friends.  No techno
music here though--just some awesome Tetons!

I was also assigned a pretty great research project this time around and spent my time between adventures studying the effects of climate change on the Indian Monsoon, and the subsequent effects those changes have on farmers (and people trying to eat) in India.  It was one of my first introductions to the idea that this engineering thing could maybe be used for some good too--and that idea is still calling me...

After my adventures in Colorado it no longer made sense to me to not take every awesome opportunity to travel and explore that came my way.  Before the fall semester started I took a crazy road trip around New England with my awesomely adventurous friends Chris, Dan and Dan, and finished out the year a week-long trip to Biloxi, MS to help with a Habitat for Humanity project.

2009 - China and Bikes

Thai chi in Shanghai.
This is the year when life started really getting BIG.  Sometime during the school year I decided to attend an informational session about a study tour of China and South Korea because... why not?  And of course I couldn't help but sign up.  Then my friend Chris told me about this guy he knew who started a cross-country bike ride to support some charity that he was involved with. I remember looking it up that evening, proceeding to read the entire Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure blog from the 2008 inaugural summer ride, and sending an email to the ride's leader, Ryan Iafigliola, asking how crazy it would be for someone who's never biked more than a few miles to sign up for the whole thing.

When I think back on that time in my life, I honestly can't fully remember what made me think I could and should take on these adventures--especially the Bike Adventure.  I had never, ever, considered myself an athlete, and not only would this trip require me to bicycle over 1,200 miles on a bike I didn't even have yet, but it would also require me to raise that much money for the the Fuller Center for Housing. The biking scared me, but doing that fundraising was terrifying.  I didn't exactly have a bunch of rich friends, and buying the bike and all the gear I was going to need was going to just about clean me out.  But, as I've continued to learn through all these adventures, if you're trying to do the right things for the right reasons things often seem to just work out (or at least the amazing people I'm blessed to be surrounded by always seem to swoop in the help out!).

You know... just chillin' at the Great Wall.
I am blessed.
China and Korea: You can read a little about my trip to China and Korea in my first ever blog post here (yes, there are no paragraphs, don't worry about it :-) ).  It was my first trip out of the country (not counting a visit with my family to Niagara Falls before you even needed a passport, of course) and it was an incredible, eye-opening, heart-opening, everything-opening experience.  For the first time I got to see how people who are very different from me live, feel what it's like to be surrounded by a new language, and again, continue to understand that I and all my problems are just a small part of this big world. One of the biggest things I've tried to take with me from this experience was the feeling of true calm during stressful situations that I could not control--I felt this a lot during this trip, which in part is definitely a luxury of being someone who's just along for the ride, but I also got to witness the mad skills of our leader and I've tried to take this experience with me through all the travel and leading I've done since!

The 2009 Bike Adventure map:
Benton Harbor, MI to Tallahassee, FL
Bike Adventure 2009 - Michigan to Florida: And my first Bike Adventure... there are so many things I could say!! But I'll keep it short because the things I learned here will probably show up in everything I write from here on out.  Basically it was, in fact, one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but I came away from it seeing totally new things in life.  I had a new perspective on faith, people, community, love, and I think I probably became an athlete (although my brain asked me to stop becoming one at least once every mile).

I was officially involved in a movement that would change my life in ways I could never imagine, and it might be impossible to fully describe how grateful I continue to be for that. I didn't write too much about the ride that year but you can read about the first couple of days here and here.

Who would've thought bikes (and some of the crazy people who ride them) would end up being so important in my life?

2010 - Graduation, Road Trip, Bike Adventure, Honduras, Haiti, and finally a "real job"

One of the many iconic places we visited on our road trip
... although as I'm sure others will tell you, this
one wasn't the most impressive :-).
As the end of college grew near and my peers were finding jobs and planning for their professional futures, I found myself delaying the onset of the "real world" and instead planning some epic adventures to celebrate what I thought might be my last free summer until retirement.

Crazy Road Trip: I started things off with a road trip I'd been dreaming up for months with my friend Jason.  Over the course of a month we visited most of the iconic national parks out west, a few big cities, and a few friends. I only managed to blog about the first 8 days of the trip, but basically it was a full month of beautiful places and the sort of freedom that only seems to come from road trips.  I'd recommend a good road trip to anyone!

Bike Adveture 2010 - Niagara Falls to Paw Paw, WV: Then I joined the beginning of the 2010 Bike Adventure which started in Niagara Falls, NY and finished in New Orleans, LA (I planned to ride for the first two weeks to Washington D.C.). I convinced a couple of my best friends, Abby and Leah, to join me and it was such a blessing to get to share the awesome adventure with them.  I know it also continues to inhabit a special place in their hearts--I wish everyone could have the Bike Adventure experience!  I also managed to fall off my bike near the end of my two weeks with the adventure and break a bone in my hand (amazingly, the only bone I've ever broken!). So I had to stop biking just outside of the metropolis of Paw Paw, WV and I learned that not all travel and adventures go perfectly as planned... but that's ok.  I have a pretty funny story (in retrospect of course) about the Paw Paw volunteer firefighters who responded to my "emergency" on the trail, and more importantly, I got to know an incredible young fella' named Brett who I've been seriously blessed have as a best friend ever since! We also biked through Ohio this year and my parent's were gracious enough to actually host the small team in their house.  It was very cool to get to give them a little taste of the adventure, and maybe a small understanding of why I do these crazy things :-).

Honduras with Engineers Without Borders: So, I didn't spend my whole college career adventuring.  I also did plenty of school work (which of course allowed me to actually graduate), and got involved in a few cool projects including Engineers without Borders. A group of a few other engineering students and I worked very hard to help a community called Guarizama in Honduras with a 

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