My Pilgramage

As I once told one of my old co-workers, we are all geeks.

Just as he did at the time, I am sure there are some who are offended by this sweeping statement, and the negative connotations that are usually associated with the word, geek. My old co-worker told me that there was no way he could be a geek because he was too athletic to be one. He demonstrated this by showing off the various college football t-shirts that he owned and talking non-stop about the history and the importance of the SEC. This outward display of his passion for college football just proved my point; he just first needed to realize what a geek is.

A geek is someone who is so insanely passionate about something that he or she will obsess over it, and know everything there is to know about that one subject. This is usually displayed in the media by those who attend Comicon every year to debate which is the better series Star Wars or Star Trek. But this passion does not only need to be reserved for the ones who enjoy science fiction and fantasy. There are food geeks, and there are fashion geeks. Probably, one of the biggest contingencies of geeks out there are the ones who obsess over sports. There is nothing wrong about this. These people should be proud of the fact that they have a passion for something because if they did not, it would mean that they were a hollow people waiting for some form of inspiration to give them a reason for living. At the same time, they shouldn’t claim that they are superior to other people because they don’t want to admit that what their passion is makes them a geek. They geek out as much as the stereotypical geek as portrayed in the media.

Considering that I believe that every person holds this pension for geekdom within themselves, I can’t exclude myself. There are a few things that I geek out on, but one of the biggest ones is The Lord of the Rings. I am a huge fan of that story. In fact, the whole history of Middle Earth has been a passion of mine ever since I first saw the Rankin Bass version of The Hobbit when I was in first grade, and I had nightmares that Gollum was going to come and gobble me during my sleep. At the same time, I was always fascinated by the character. When Peter Jackson released the movies, it was a dream come true for me because here was one of my favorite stories coming to life on the big screen. I had some reservations about it: would they be able to create a believable Sméagol, would they make sure to stay original to the text, and most importantly, where would they find a location that demonstrated to me what the world of Middle Earth actually looked like in my mind?

At the time, I knew that there was a country called New Zealand. Beyond that, all I knew was that the people who had visited it considered it beautiful, and if I ever had a chance to go visit during my lifetime, I should do so. I always had it in the back of my mind that I would make it there someday, but it wasn’t until I saw the scenery in the movies that I knew that I needed to make this one of my life goals. It was the place I always imagined while reading the novels here it was on earth. The only problem was it would require a lot of effort to make this trip a reality, and it wasn’t until I moved to South Korea that this effort would be minimized to the point where I would be a fool if I didn’t take the opportunity to visit and fulfil one of my greatest desires, visit Middle Earth.

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So this Winter Break, I boarded a jet plane to travel to the other side of the world, and see the wonders that New Zealand held. I would search for the locations that had been made famous from the movie and see first hand what it was like to travel through Middle Earth to destroy to one true ring. This had become more than a quest for me; it had become a pilgrimage. It would be a religious moment. I would be able to witness first hand what the vision of Tolkien was supposed to look like much like the pilgrims Chaucer wrote about in his most famous work as they traveled to the site of that famous martyr they respected so much. It threw me off even more when I encountered a Canterbury while traveling around the country, but this wasn’t about the bones of that holy saint, Thomas a Becket, but instead about the spiritual connection I had come to make with the land of the elves, and orcs, and most importantly hobbits.

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In fact, my first stop on this trip was to the small town of Matamata which held a small farm just outside of its jurisdiction. This location was used by Peter Jackson to create Hobbiton. If you have never been there, it is a magical place that transports you to the Shire. There are hobbit holes all over the place, and they were built as if they were intended for halflings to live in because the top of the doors would barely come up to my hips. The amount of detail that went into making this place look real was intense. Small coats would hang on the edge of small plows leaning against tiny wheelbarrows. You would be able to look into the windows of some of these places and see small vases next to small wheels of cheese. There was even the party tree placed in a huge field next to a babbling stream. The whole place made you feel as if the hobbits would come out at any moment and eye you suspiciously as an invader to their peaceful land. There was even a bridge over the river next to Sandyman’s Mill that led you to the Green Dragon. And yes you could go inside and order a drink and sit next to the fire that was built out of tiny blocks of chopped wood.

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I was in pure heaven. Here I was, less than twenty-four hours out of Seoul with an ale in my hand and the summer sun shining right out a circular hobbit door. The fire was only there for effect because we really didn’t need it. The best part was the place that Peter Jackson had picked to create this reality was on a sheep farm, so it had that pastoral setting I always thought of when reading the stories. There was a connection with nature there where these little people were able to live n harmony with their surroundings instead of trying to control it. There were no combustible engines except for the one that brought us from the gift shop to this other world. If I was half my size, I would have taken up residence in this place and would have been one with the hobbits.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and they loaded us back on the tour bus to take us off the farm and back to the reality of life. Luckily, I was in the place where they created Middle Earth, so wherever I turned there was another reference to The Lord of the Rings. We spent some time searching out these spots, and sometimes re-enacting some of the scenes. Yes, I hid behind the root of a tree pretending that there was a Nazgul on the other side hunting for the one ring. And of course I made it down to Wellington.

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Wellington is most famous for the home to the Weta Cave. This is the special effects department that Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor created for all their various projects. It is one of the leading production companies in the world and it is situated in this small town on the southern coast of the northern island. These two not only work on their own productions, but they are called by many other directors to make other fantasy worlds come to life. They designed the weapons and aliens for District 9. They imagined the world of Krampus. Most famously, they put together the tall blue aliens that inhabited James Cameron’s Avatar. This was a place that I needed to visit, and it is not where you would expect it to be.

In order to get there, you have to get on a bus as it takes you over Mount Victoria to a small suburb on the other side. When the bus drops you off, you have to stroll through streets that look more like where you grandmother would live rather than the place where they would hide a major movie studio. In fact, when you get there, you find out that the Weta Cave actually belongs to one of these houses you were passing.

There were a few other people on the bus that were looking for the Weta Cave when we got on, and we all instantly became friends on our search for this magical place. We kept on scanning the horizon for some sign that we were getting close to the place, and we knew we were there when we heard from one of our group scream out in joy, “Look, Trolls!”

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Yes, that is how you know you are in the right place. Peter Jackson took the life sized models that he used for Tom, William and Bert and placed them in front of the Weta Cave. It is a little disturbing because it is right across the street from an elementary school, and there are probably a bunch of kids attending that school that have nightmares every night because of these statues. There were some kids that obviously didn’t care. One Chinese couple brought their toddler who ran between the three of them with a huge smile on his face as if these were something he would see on a regular basis. The rest of the tourists didn’t seem to care much either as they walked around the three trolls and had their pictures with them in various poses of terror and humor. For me, it was just another one of those moments that let me know that I had found a concrete connection to one of the stories I have loved more than any other in my life.

The tour was a lot of fun too. We got to play around with various props from the original movies such as battle axes, mythril, and prosthetic limbs that were used to make the different inhabitants of Middle Earth look as if they belong there. We got to view other items too, such as aliens weapons from District 9, Hellboy’s gun, and the snowman from Krampus. It was like being in movie making heaven even though the room was really small, and you would expect something more from such a big player in the movie making industry. I got to learn a lot about the production of special effects and props and it made me want to pick up a camera and start to make movies of my own. So if any of you who are reading this have a half a million dollars lying around could you lend it to me. I’ll make you a really good movie.

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The creations of Peter Jackson weren’t the only things that excited me on our trip. We found ourselves in the back country of New Zealand which there happens to be a lot of. At every turn there were more moments from the movies. It didn’t only happen on staged sets. This is Franz Josef Glacier; you can see it peeking out from underneath the clouds on top of the mountain. This was a set in itself. Peter Jackson used this location for the lighting of the beacons. It wasn’t his first choice either but the summer they were filming was extremely dry and there were fire bans all over the place. He had to use this place instead because he was allowed to light huge bonfires on the tips of these mountains. I could sit there and point out the peaks that the fire were being lit from, but something strange happened to me here. I stopped paying attention to the reference to The Lord of the Rings and started to pay attention to New Zealand. My propensity to my geekdom was causing me to miss something quite amazing. I didn’t need this obsession of mine to make this place incredible because the place was pretty amazing on its own terms.

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The landscape jutted out of the ocean in such a dramatic fashion that I needed to quit worrying about where Frodo would be on his journey, and start marveling at the natural landscape that surrounded me. There were opportunities for my own personal adventures here that I didn’t need to worry about the epic voyage of a couple of hobbits; I could make my own memories of the place.

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When I started to look at New Zealand for what New Zealand had to offer, a whole new perspective started to carve itself from the landscape. There was blue sky with fresh air just waiting to be sucked deeply into my lungs. There were some of the most dramatic mountains I had ever seen, and remember that I come from Colorado, and have spent considerable time in the Pacific Northwest and the Swiss Alps. There were river of the most beautiful icy blue coming directly from glaciers that were carving the newest sets of fjords many people this world have not enjoyed yet. It was a young land still being shaped by mother nature, and was so far off the beaten path that humanity hadn’t destroyed its beauty with its own mark. The lessons we had learned from all the other places of the world were being implemented here to make this one of the last and purest frontiers left on Earth.

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But the view would dramatically shift as I traveled along its highways. In the morning, I would be shivering next to blocks of ice floating down frozen rivers, then travel through pastoral lands filled with sheep and the occasional farmhouse, to find myself on a pristine beach soaking up the sun of the day. Even the beaches were something I had not witnessed before. The volcanic rock that made up these islands left behind a soft, fine dark sand that is not associated with beaches, and since the ocean in this area wasn’t being littered with gasoline extract of thousands of ships, the water was the clearest blue that begged to be jumped into. Of course, I didn’t do it because I was far enough south of the border to know that the water would be freezing, but it was still nice enough to dip my toes in before strolling down these amazing beaches.

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Because man had eventually learned to respect mother nature and let her thrive, many animals come to the place to enjoy moments of their lives. Rocky extensions of the shores would be covered with seals as they ate, mated, and raised families. It wasn’t always that way down here as they were hunted almost to extinction at one time, but man quickly learned its mistake, and made adjustments to live in harmony with nature instead of always trying to control it. It was this decision made by the Maori that allowed this little corner of the world to thrive before it was touched by Western thought.

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The changes in landscape didn’t only happen when I moved from inland to the coast either. There would be dramatic shifts when I moved from beach to beach. Where one beach would be filled with dark sand and my lonely thoughts, another would be covered in all types of trees giving it a feeling of a tropical rainforest rather than a cold water beach.

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And then there were the beaches that the people sought out to relax on. They were usually in a small coves that allowed the water to warm up a little more. Many people would dip their toes into this water, and the more adventuresome person would actually venture into the water to take a swim. The landscape made the beach even more impressive allowing me never to tire of the views.

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Sometimes the coast wouldn’t even allow for a place to pull out a beach blanket and enjoy the view. Rather, rocky cliffs would constantly be giving way to the waves crashing into them. It would develop into fantastic sculptures that only mother nature could create, and only man could decipher. Natural formed bridges would allow people to cross from one section of these sculptures to another part while watching the wave create a smaller bay right underneath it.

The landscape of New Zealand had so enthralled me by this point that I had stopped searching for every little hint of The Lord of the Rings. In fact if I had turned just a little to my left of the land bridge pictured up above, I would have seen another set used in the movies, and even though it was still interesting, it was this tiny bay carved into the hills of the coast that captured my imagination. I was starting to become enchanted with this land, and my original purpose was getting lost among everything I was experiencing.

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The people with their quirky sense of humor were wonderful to visit. At first, it threw me off because they were overly friendly and I was coming from a place where this wasn’t natural, but I quickly accepted it and enjoyed every moment of it. There were also funny little gems along the side of the road that forced you to laugh when you saw them. Before you even realized what it was you actually saw, you would be further down the highway laughing out loud about the way the people of New Zealand could make you laugh without even having to interact with them. Items like this sign or a construction of a Gary Larson cow would instantly put a smile on my face. It made the time I got to spend here even more enjoyable.

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If that wasn’t enough, the towns that were scattered throughout the country all held their own special charm. A small town would give you the feeling of living in the old west as it shop fronts would maintain a rustic design. Just off the beaten path from here was a river in which you could actually dig up part of the bank and sluice through the dirt to try to find some of the gold that was there. It wasn’t that unusual of a thing to do either because there were a bunch of people who were doing it.

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There were even some mountain communities that reminded me of the ones I left behind in Colorado. During the summer months, this town offered many exciting opportunities such as mountain biking, and bungee jumping; the latter of which, I found out, was invented in this small mountain town and then spread throughout the rest of the world. Though I did not partake in either of these activities here, it did not stop me from hiking around the hills and even riding a couple of luges down a cement track laid on one of the hillsides.

I could just imagine this place during the winter as well. It would still have that cozy feel that I experienced when I was there, except it would be covered in a blanket of white instead of the green canopy. People wouldn’t be walking around in shorts and t-shirts while carrying around skateboards, but instead, would have snowboards under their arms as they trudge off towards the slopes in their heavy coats and snow pants. It was the tourist destination that you always expect when you are on vacation, but with split personalities that you won’t get to experience unless you go back in a different season.

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And even though they might be modest compared to other places within the world, New Zealand even had its share of large cities. Even these places were very livable, and seeped in culture. Of course, if you still want that thrill, you can bungee jump off of the needle in the middle of town.

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Hidden within all of this is an indigenous culture that is rich in history and unique among all of the cultures of the world. Though it is believed that the Maori people originate from Tahiti, it still had been removed from those people long enough to create its own art, its own philosophy, and its own spirituality. This was a culture that was embraced by the people who moved here from Western Civilization; instead of them trying to take over the culture. A lot of this was probably due to the fact that it was the last part of the world that the European countries ever found, and some of the first people to land here, such as Cook, could see the mistakes that had been made in other places that were colonized that he didn’t want to make the same ones down here. It allowed the cultures to eventually live in harmony with one another, and not to let the Maori culture to get blended with the European one and eventually disappear. This history, though short, is very rich and should be looked at more often in history classrooms across the world, but won’t be because of the fact that New Zealand is so far away from any other country.

All of the richness of this faraway land was revealed to me throughout the course of my travels, and I might have missed it due to one of my passions. Though I would often say that you should never let anybody put you down for that thing that makes you a geek, I am now able to say to not let that passion consume you. For if you do, you will be a lot like Sméagol hiding out under the Misty Mountains content with what will come your way. You need to make it out of that cave every once in a while and experience different things. Don’t let that passion leave you because it is a part of who you are, but let other people’s passions into your heart as well.

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The voyage that you take might surprise you and what you find will become unexpected. It is what makes life worth living. Though my pilgrimage originally started out as an exploration of a great passion of mine, it turned into something even greater than I would have expected. It was for this reason that this will always be one of my favorite trips.

But don’t worry, I still got to see Mt. Doom!

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Camping Korean Style

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Dictionary.com defines Taoism as “the philosophical system evolved by Lao-tzu and Chang-Tzu, advocating a life of complete simplicity and naturalness and of noninterference with the course of natural events, in order to attain a happy existence in harmony with the Tao.” (Taoism) Basically Tao literally translates into English as the way or the path.

Being a professed Transcendentalist, this idea appealed to me as I made my move to Korea. It conjured up images of a society that blended together with nature to create a new harmony between these two opposing forces. I was told of hiking trails in the hills surrounding the city of Seoul that within seconds would make you feel like you were out of the city. Tales of a community that enjoyed the outdoors was regaled to me on numerous occasion before I took the flight over. I was going to a country that loved skiing, hiking, and camping. How could I not look forward to this. Even in one of the largest cities in the world, I would be able to find nirvana just by walking out my front door and finding peace among the trees that surrounded me. Even though there is some truth what was explained to me, what I built up in my minds rarely lives up to that expectation.

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I had the chance to go on a “camping” trip with people I work with at my school. It was suppose to be an opportunity for us to gather together in a remote part of South Korea, and celebrate the holiday with the people who have become our family out here. The head of the experiential education program set up a place for us for this adventure. It wasn’t necessarily camping because she had rented out a whole pension for those who had signed up. It was located in a beautiful part of the country called Peyongchang. The pension itself is a series of cabin like rooms that overlooks an amazing river and is close to a cave that you can explore next to some wonderful hiking trails. It wasn’t exactly my idea of camping but then again it was cold outside so there would haven’t been as many people willing to come if they had to spend the night in tents. The first snowfall of the season confirmed their beliefs that this was the way to go.

The pension rooms definitely lived up to the concept of Taoism. There was not a lot added to the room and we were given the bear minimum in order to make ourselves comfortable. There was a thin pad you unrolled on the hard floor to sleep on. They also provided you with a pillow and a comforter to keep you warm. The small kitchen had one electric burner, and one gas one. They did supply us with a canister of propane, even though we never used it. They did give us enough plates, chopsticks and spoons for four people. Luckily, we had five people sharing the room, but we made it work. The whole layout required us to get very comfortable with each other and there is some to say about that.

It still wasn’t roughing it. Some of the others who came along might have thought that it was truly out in the wilderness because there was no Wi-Fi connection which for a younger generation would be like going back to the dark ages, but once again this was something that I really appreciated. It forced all of us to take those extra steps to talk with each other instead of hiding within our electronic devices.

It still wasn’t this connection with nature that I was hoping for or used to. I wanted the feeling that I had gotten away from signs of humanity and could enjoy the natural way of things. How was I able to be in harmony with Tao if wherever I looked there was some sign of human interaction? Even on hikes up in the hills behind the pension, it was hard to escape from these signs.

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Now I have been on many hikes during my lifetime in the mountains of Colorado, and I have run into cairns many times on these hikes. They were small stacks of stones to help guide you on your hike so you wouldn’t get lost. I know that they would be considered signs of human interaction, but they are easy to ignore as soon as you find them because they will blend back into the environment.

The cairns I ran into on the hillsides of Korea were a little different. They weren’t stacks of five or six rocks to help guide your way, but instead a large stack of stones that obviously took more than five minutes to put together. In fact this labor of love looked more like an archway welcoming you to the rest of the trail rather than a few guiding markers. It was impressive to look at, but it instantly reminded me of the fact that I was now in one of the most heavily populated areas of the world. As I have mentioned before, it might be because I have been spoiled by growing up in Colorado and have been able to experience those moments of extreme solitude that when I see a sight like this I automatically think of those moments and wonder why the rest of the world can’t preserve the nature that is around them instead of trying to enhance it.

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Does it make me antisocial to want to have these moments where I enjoy the world for myself? Would you claim that I am being selfish for not wanting to share it with anybody else? Do I expect to find comfort in only what nature has to offer me instead of what mankind can prove it can do? I think back to Taoism and revel in the fact that the way cannot be perceived the same for everyone. There should be no guidance along the path because only I can find the revelation for myself. The paths that I found in the hills of Korea contradicted this idea in my mind’s eye.

I voyaged back down to the pension and this idea that Korea had about camping disappointed me a little bit. I know that not every culture tries to experience things in the same way and they have their own take on things, but still I couldn’t help to think that maybe, somehow, Korea had gotten it wrong in this case. The connection with and the struggle against nature is what camping should be about and not this moment where you go out there to relax in it and enhance it. I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it though because I only had a short break off from work and one of my favorite holiday traditions was asking for my attention.

That night the folks from my school gathered together in a large hall in the pension and everybody brought a couple of dishes to share. We gathered around the table, stuffing our faces with the traditional fare as well as some new items that were brought from people from other cultures. We shared stories, we laughed, and eventually somebody brought out a guitar and we sang together. It wasn’t a new experience for me, but I felt at that moment a joy I hadn’t felt in many years. It was the same joy I used to feel on Thanksgiving Day when I gathered with my extensive family, a feeling of love and kindness. Glasses were raised and for the first time out here in Korea, I felt like I belonged to something greater. It was euphoric. It was a collection of individuals brought together to create something special that would endure forever. It was in harmony with everything around me, and yet I could feel that it was always there to begin with. Maybe it was the Tao that I was searching for in the first place.

I came to a realization that day that when looking for what is important in life, I shouldn’t look for what I expect to find because what that is never truly existed. Instead I should take in what is given to me and enjoy it for what it is worth. That is the place where I will find something special, and I need quit searching for it. Maybe that is what is meant by finding the way. So even though camping in Korea is nothing like what I am used to, I am still able to find a new truth through the experience that I wasn’t able to find before. Maybe instead of looking for the power of nature, I should start to look for a way that I can live in harmony with it. Even though nature’s beauty has a lot to offer, like a thousand rocks brought together, and fifty strangers gathered, there can be an enhancement to that beauty that makes it a greater marvel than what it started out being.

“Taoism.” Dictionary.com. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Company. 5 December 2015 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/taoism

The Changing Seasons

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I have been really lucky in life. Not everybody gets the opportunity to grow up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Colorado. But I was one of the few people that can say that I have been able to enjoy all my life the warm summers in the magnificent Rocky Mountains, the snowy winters landscapes, and the joy that you get to feel as you get to see life come back during the spring months.

Even though I enjoyed all of these moments year after year, there was one time of the year when Colorado could not claim the beauty that makes it so memorable, and that is in the fall. Yes, there is that short window of time during late September and early October where you can enjoy the golden splendor of the aspens changing, but this is a short window, and afterwards there is not much to see until the winter snows come. Everything just turns an ugly shade of brown, and trees are nothing more than bare sticks poking out of the ground. It is not the spectacular vision you get the rest of the year in Colorado. In fact, there were a few times when my in-laws came out to visit Christine and me during the Thanksgiving holiday, and I was embarrassed to say that this barren landscape was actually the place that I convinced their daughter to move to. I would always try to explain to them that Colorado does not look like this all year long, and I could see them shaking their heads in agreement, but their eyes told a different story.

While growing up, I had heard about these wonderful places where autumn existed. During my elementary school days, the teachers would have us cut up different kinds of leafs with colorful construction paper so we could decorate the room with them. They would try to tell us that in other parts of the world this is the what autumn looks like. I would hear about the pilgrimages people would take to New England so they could look at the foliage out there, and I would wish I could some day experience the same beauty, but after every passing November, I would forget about that wish as the first snows of winter would collect on the ground. It wasn’t until this fall that I was able to experience the gradual change in the weather and see the color explosion that comes with this season.

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Recently, I was able to make it out of Seoul to go on a research and development trip for an experiential education experience that the school I work for is planning for my 10th grade students. We headed out to a camp called Boramwon to see what it had to offer. There was an adventure course, mountain bikes, and archery, but the thing that impressed me the most was the four mile hike that I took through the craggy hills surrounding the camp. It was a beautiful hike that allowed many opportunities to see the countryside of South Korea. The most amazing thing was seeing all of the different colors of fall. For the first time of my life, I was able to see bright reds, yellows, and oranges as they blended together with the usual greens of the pine trees.  I was blown away by the spectacle, and I realized what it means to experience fall colors. If ever you plan to make a trip out to South Korea and you don’t want to spend your time in the confines of Seoul, autumn is the time to come. The weather is mild and pleasant. The air is crisp, rejuvenating you every time you take a deep breath. Most importantly, it is the most beautiful time of the year I have seen while living out in South Korea, and it has been by far, the best autumn I have ever experienced.

Make the World Your Destination

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I was standing by myself in the warm water off the beach in Koh Samui, a tropical island in the southern part of Thailand, and I was contemplating the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Some might wonder why I would be thinking about such a deep subject, and the only answer I would be able to give those people is 42. Some would understand that answer, they would just ask me what the question would be. For those that would scratch their head at the answer 42, I would have to refer them to Douglas Adam’s masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that story, a group of intergalactic mice create a computer to determine what is the answer to life, the universe and everything and they are told 42. Of course, they were disappointed in the answer, and the computer told them in order to understand the answer to life, the universe and everything, they must first know the question. In order to find out the question, they created another computer they name Earth.

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Now, I know you are wondering why somebody who is standing in the warm water of the Bay of Siam on the edge of fall would be thinking about such a thing. Well, it was because I was presented with the number 42 earlier that day as I was traveling on a short boat trip through the Marine National Park of Thailand. While partaking on this tour, I was able to visit secluded beaches, hike up to a private lagoon, watch sea life while I snorkeled in the clear water over a protected choral reef, and watch flying fish and dolphins while I kayaked around the islands where they filmed the movie, The Man with Golden Gun. I was also told on that trip that there are a total of 42 protected islands located in the Marine National Park of Thailand. The coincidence was uncanny. How could I not stop and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Maybe I could come up with the all important question, and we will would all be better off for my having discovered it.

That’s when it hit me, the question. Here I stood on the edge of southeast Asia with the question that gave meaning to life, the universe and everything.  Of course, according to the book, this would be the exact moment that the Vogons would come down to blow up the Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway, so I looked up in the sky to make sure my life wouldn’t instantly end. No big spaceships were there ready to blow up everything that I knew, and I could rest assured that the knowledge I now possessed allowed me to reach an epiphany of what it means to live life.

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But what does all this mean? Many wise, old men will tell you that life is not about the destination, but instead about the journey. If we are always worried about what the destination is like then we won’t enjoy the moments that we have in getting to that place. Everything we have placed in the destination will be lost to us, and we will have missed something more important along the way. But the problem I have with that philosophy is when the destination is like this:

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This is what I had to wake up to every morning I spent on the island of Koh Samui. If you close enough out in the water you can see the speck of me standing out there contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. My destination was a villa I rented with five other friends. It was really hard to do anything but relax at this place. Every morning, I could walk out the back door and see the ocean waves gently crash against the beach that was only a mere walk away from where I was enjoying my coffee. If I wanted to go stand in the middle of the ocean to ponder the greater mysteries of life, I could do it without hesitation and not have anything holding me back. I could take a nap on an outdoor bed while the gentle fall breeze gently whispered me to sleep. A few houses down from our place was a restaurant where I could enjoy some delicious Thai cuisine or an adult beverage. What was there not to like about this place? This destination rocked. I was in paradise, and enjoying every minute of it. Maybe life was about the destination and those many old, wise men had gotten it wrong all those years.

This got me thinking about my life so far, and how lucky I had been. I have had some amazing experiences, and have seen some incredible things. I have been able to do it on a shoe-string budget and the only cost has been I have had to discard a few superfluous luxuries along the way. But I wouldn’t give up all of my experiences for all the luxuries the world had to offer. Some of my experiences were great like the beach on Koh Samui, and some of them were crazy stories such as my tuk tuk ride in Bangkok. But I came to the realization that the bad moments are just as important as the good ones and sometimes tell the better stories.

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One day on this trip while in Bangkok, my companions and I went to visit the Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace, two of the bigger tourist sites the city has to offer. We started at the Wat Pho where we wandered the expansive grounds, and got to look at the Reclining Buddha. It was fun to do the touristy thing for awhile, but rain clouds started to roll in and we wanted to figure out a way to get to our next stop, the Grand Palace. We innocently asked a man dressed in tour guide garb if he could point us in the right direction, and he proceeded to tell us all about the other wonderful sights the city had to offer. He asked a lot of personal questions which is common for people in southeast Asia with their belief in Confucianism so we gave up that both couples had been married for at least a couple years. It seemed like the polite thing to do while he secured two dry tuk tuks for us to take on our citywide excursion.

Basically a tuk tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle that can be used to transport passengers through Bangkok. The rule of thumb when using this form of transportation is to determine a destination and a price before you leave, all of which we did with the help of our new friend. We went to our first destination spot which was the Smiling Buddha, our friend telling us that it was only open one day every month which happened to be the day we were in the town. How could we not go on this journey? We only had one day to enjoy Buddha’s smile. Also, if we took a picture of us smiling along with him, we would receive good luck for the year. The place was neat when we got there, but it didn’t take us long to observe the Smiling Buddha before we wanted to move on to our next destination. The group was out by the tuk tuks again within ten minutes. One of the drivers had to run to the bathroom while we waited for his return at a bus stop.

This is when we met our next “friend.” He told us about how he was going to visit the coast the next week to give his new wife a honeymoon that they weren’t able to go on yet even though had been married for a couple of years. This wasn’t his first wife either. He had lost her to the devastating tsunami that hit the coast of Thailand ten years earlier. The pain was immense, and he regretted the fact that he never showered his first wife with expensive gifts to show her how much he loved her. One such gift he wished he could give her was his new wedding ring that he kept showing us. It had a blue sapphire which he told us could only be found in Thailand.

After talking to this guy for awhile, our driver finally returned from the bathroom. It took him awhile so I suspected he had some serious business to attend to while we talked to our new “friend.” We loaded up into the tuk tuks thinking we were going to be taken to a market where we could get some good Thai food. They did take us to a market but not one where we could buy food. It was a jewelry store with an upstairs room that had a tailor. It suddenly became clear what this trip was really about. We were not being looked after from friendly Thai people, but instead we had been given a long commercial in the hopes that we would buy a product from somebody who had a difficult time getting people to his store. I get it. This is what capitalism is all about. I definitely went on a journey and the destination was not what I had envisioned it to be. Luckily, we left the shop after spending only a couple of minutes there, and the tuk tuks took us to our original destination, the Grand Palace.

The part of my experience left a bad taste in my mouth, but as that bitterness faded, I could look back at the tuk tuk trip with fresh eyes. Even though it just happened to me recently, I can laugh at the moment. It has now become a joke among my friends I shared the experience. It made life meaningful. This will be just another story I will add to my repertoire as I sit around a table with friends. I have many of these stories to tell, but why am I the lucky one to have all these stories while other people do not have the same experiences?

This was one of the things I pondered while standing just off the shore in Koh Samui. Not everyone I have met in my life have lived such a mundane existence. I have listened to wonderful tales from many people about their experiences. Some people have had more of these stories than others. The people who I have recently met with my new position at an international school for the most part are some who have more experiences to share than others. What do these people have in common with me that give them such great experiences? The answer was pretty obvious. They were world travelers. They go and see all this world has to offer, and now see different perspectives because of this. They were always on the journey. The path was always in front of them.

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The best part about these world travelers is they are no longer on a journey because wherever they are, they have already arrived. They have made the world their destination. They can quit worrying about where the journey is going to take them, and just live in the moment. They can begin to soak up all the world has to offer.

You would think that this would make people jealous of world travelers because they have not been given the same opportunities. They can’t wake up some morning and find themselves a mere feet from a beach on a tropical island. But I think they can. It take just an adjustment of perspective. Make the world your destination. This way you can quit worrying about that pesky journey all those  old, wise men have told you about throughout your life, and you can start to enjoy your life for what it has to offer in that moment.

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Partake in the bounty placed on the table in front of you.

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Take the time to enjoy that piece of art you’ve always wanted to examine closer.

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And most importantly, when given the opportunity, dance.

All these thoughts rambled through my head as I pondered the question to life, the universe, and everything, and some of you might want me to share that question with you so you can make sense out of the number 42. But I am not going to. You need to find your own body of warm, salty water to stand in so you can let these thoughts bounce around your head. You will probably come to the same solution that I did on that fateful day, and when you do you will have finally arrived.

Fare Thee Well

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This story starts a year and a half ago with my best friend, Bear. He was a great dog, and he went on many adventures with my wife and me. We loved him very much. This was, until like all of our furry friends must eventually do, he passed away. It was a devastating blow to us and even though this happened a year ago last February, there still isn’t a day that goes by when I think about his smiling face, his joy of walks and chasing squirrels, and his love of food. Like all animals, there were some things he did that annoyed me, but now these are the things I miss the most.

Even though this story starts with the passing of Bear, it is not about him. This was just the catalyst that caused Christine and me to make a life-changing decision. As I have mentioned before, Christine and I love to travel the world. It is a lot of fun to see other cultures, but when you visit a place you are not really experiencing everything that the place has to offer. You are not really absorbing yourself in the culture and you come home knowing something new about the world, but you still feel like you are missing something. The only way to truly experience a culture is to go and live in that country. This is something Christine and I always talked about doing some day. We are both in education and we knew that there were many great opportunities overseas. There was only one thing stopping us from doing it, Bear.

There was no way we would have left Bear behind. He meant too much to us. We couldn’t take him with us either. Too often in these overseas excursions, the country won’t allow you to have your dog with your right away. In many countries, they will quarantine your pet for up to six months before you can enjoy their company again. I couldn’t do this to Bear. He would have been miserable living in a cage while Christine and I were free to roam the world around us. We were happy to enjoy Bear in Colorado while keeping the idea of working overseas in the back of our minds. This was until he passed away. Then this dream of ours started to grow again. We could now look for jobs overseas, and this is exactly what we did.

The process for looking for teaching jobs overseas is long and complicated and I won’t bore you with the details. But in February, Christine and I were able to land positions at Korea International School in Seoul. This started the process of saying goodbye to our loved ones.

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It is a scary prospect letting go of everything that you have become familiar with, but in life, you really don’t live unless you do this from time to time. This is exactly what Christine and I did. Just as the wise Transcendentalist stated we simplified, simplified, simplified. I had been preaching this message to my students for years, but I never knew how liberating the process of doing this was. Of course, the process of simplifying is complicated. It takes a lot to get rid of the big things in your life, but at the same time it shows you how much junk you truly own. We had two garage sales and sold both of our cars and our house.

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It was the most liberating experience in my life. You never realize how much your possessions own you instead of the other way around until you get rid of them all. A house needs constant care. Things fall apart, and grass continues to grow. Even though you would love to let it go, society won’t let you do that because it does not conform to the expectations of people they have created. A car is the same thing. We put too much stock into these things believing that we can not live without them. Even though, at times, they make life easier and bring us closer together, they are constantly demanding our attention. They want you to clean them, both on the inside and the outside. They scream for gas at least once a week, and if that wasn’t enough, you do have to take time out of your busy schedule to maintain them. Even though it was hard to give these creature comforts up, each time we did, a weight lifted off our shoulders that we never knew was there. We were happier people without all of these possessions possessing us.

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As the process continued, we found that everything we needed fit into a couple of bags and a few boxes. In fact, before we sold off our last car, we were able to load everything in the back of our Subaru Outback to travel across and do the thing that was more important than the accumulation of things, seeing the ones that we loved so we could say, “Fare thee well.”

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I was raised in Colorado, and this is where Christine and I had lived together for the past thirteen years. It was hard to say goodbye because this is what I’ve always known. Even though I have lived a couple of times in California, I don’t have any memories of that place. All of my experiences have taken place in one of the most beautiful states within the U.S.A.

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It is where my family lives.

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It is where my friends are.

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It is where I have worked my whole life.

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It was not going to be easy to say goodbye. I know I will miss many aspects of living on the Front Range. I will no longer be able to find west by searching for the outline of the mountains. I will no longer be able to go on extended hikes through some of the greatest terrain that this world has to offer. I won’t be able to ski through the powdery slopes of the Rocky Mountains. I won’t be able to order a Mountain Pie at Beau Jo’s. I won’t be able to stuff myself with the cholesterol packed burgers at Crave. I won’t be able to find green chili to smother my burrito with. I won’t be able to cheer on my Broncos with my friends on a Sunday afternoon. There are a lot of things I will miss from my hometown.

Then why would I leave it? Because I find danger in complacency. Yes, all of these things made me comfortable and I was happy within this feeling. But if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone, I would never grow as a person. I would have stopped at that moment in my life where I had a two car garage attached to a house that slowly filled itself up a little more every year. I really do believe that we need to purge every once in a while in our lives and go find some place that makes us struggle a little bit. This is how we grow as people. If we find ourselves in a comfortable position we are no longer living.

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Of course, not everybody feels the same way that I do. Some people have a hard time with change because it requires them to visit the unknown. Not every change goes smoothly. Sometimes it is a big mistake that you wish you never took the risk on, but sometimes it takes you to a place that is better than any you have ever experienced before. But you can’t take the unwilling on the voyage that you go on, and you need to respect their decision to stay where they are at. At the same time, I couldn’t just leave without saying goodbye. This is why Christine and I took the trip across the country to say goodbye. Otherwise, we would have the same problem with the ones we loved that Cooper has now.

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Yes, Cooper is another dog. He is the loyal companion of Christine’s parents who live in Portland. His best friend in the world was Bear. They had a mutual respect for each other, and Bear was one of the few dogs that Cooper would go out and play with. This was probably because they had spent a lot of time together. Christine and I would go out and spend a month with her parents every summer. This is one of the perks of being in the education field, and Bear was able to benefit from it. Cooper loved having another dog in the house with him, and Bear got to believe that he was the alpha dog by being around Cooper. It was a match made in Heaven.

The problem came when we visited Cooper the next summer after Bear had passed. Cooper came running out of the house to greet us after we had arrived. He jumped all over us and then started looking behind us. It was the greatest greeting we had ever received from him, and at first we couldn’t understand why. Then it hit us as he looked in our car and all around our baggage. Cooper was looking for Bear. It was the one friend that he always felt comfortable with.

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But Cooper’s problem is humanity’s problem. We are all looking for that moment that makes us comfortable. It is a nice feeling to be comfortable with the ones we are with, but reality is that we can’t always find ourselves in that position. If we expect ourselves to always be comfortable then in fact we will never be able to achieve that high standard of living. The fact that we can’t achieve this in our lives will make us feel uncomfortable all the time. This is what happens with Cooper. There are very few people, and even fewer dogs he can find companionship with. He always comes across as being a little nervous, and any small change to his environment will set off nervous ticks within him. This constant alert feeling never allows him to unwind and enjoy the world he is in. He needs everything to be perfect before he can let himself go and just enjoy the moment.

We can learn something from this behavior. We need to quit finding that perfect place of true comfort and instead try to find comfort in the uncomfortable situations. I am trying to take it even further by no longer searching for the comfortable situation, but instead the one that makes me uncomfortable. This will allow me to explore the world that we live in, and recognize that my culture is not the only one there is. It is a humbling experience to do this, and I will learn not only a lot about myself, but also the people who I meet along the way. I will learn about their beliefs, passions, and cultures. This new perspective on life has been inspiring over the last couple of months and I am excited to see where it takes me.

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It leaves a lot of questions about my daily routine. The way I used to organize my day in the past has been destroyed, and I have been searching for a new routine. I will admit that sometimes I fall back into my old one, but the way my life is structured now, this is not always possible. The world looks different now because of it. The little things that I would have missed in the past become spectacular and I find myself looking at the world as a whole.

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My Fare Thee Well travels took me to San Francisco where I got to spend a few days taking in the sights. I have been here before so many of the touristy areas I had been to earlier. I needed to find new little corners of the city that I had not seen before. Because my mission was to find these nooks, I was able to discover a beach that I never knew existed. Of course, I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge before. It is impossible to go to San Francisco and not find this landmark, but I always stood at the doorstep of this marvel and tried to find the best way to take a picture of its magnificence. It is impossible to do from the tiny park that most cars stop at before they make the trek across the bridge. But in my wanderings I was able to see the view that you find on all of the postcards. If you want to see this view, you have to go to the North Beach. I wandered there by mistake because I was looking for the Presidio. It was a place I heard about on my last trip to the city by the bay, but I had never seen it. I’m glad that I went in search for it because I would not have experienced this view with the fresh salt water air filling up my lungs if I had not taken that chance.

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Of course some of the places remained the same as the last time I saw them. It might have been a different set of tourists taking pictures of Lumbar Street, but the principle remained the same. The cars lined up to take their turns winding down the street, and the people who watched wondered what it would be like to live on such a spectacle.

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Other places put me in the uncomfortable situation that I had been looking for. I took a short trip over the Bay Bridge to watch a baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum. Some people might wonder why that would be an uncomfortable situation, but the folks from Denver know that this is walking into the lion’s den. It would have been a little more dangerous if I had worn my Bronco’s gear, but I wanted to return to my bed at the hostel that night, so I elected to wear a green and gold t-shirt, and blend in by buying an A’s baseball cap as soon as I got there. I almost wish I had taken that chance because it would have made for a more interesting experience.

I had gotten a ticket in the cheapest seats I could find, the bleachers. I didn’t know that this is where the craziest A’s fans gathered to watch a game. One of my goals in life is to see a baseball game in every stadium, and even though I have only been to five stadiums so far, I would have to say that the Oakland A’s fans are the most passionate about their team. I know I have caused some people to stand up and puff up their chests to prove me wrong, but keep in mind I have 25 stadiums to still go. When I saw the game, the A’s were at the bottom of their division, and still they had a lot of people at the stadium. Where I was sitting, they had brought flags to wave, they had cheers that they performed, and the camaraderie among the people had me believe that they were about to win the World Series. I just sat back and enjoyed the whole experience.

This brings me to the man who took that chance that I didn’t take. The Oakland A’s were playing the Kansas City Royals that night. With the Royals being in the World Series last year, fans started to emerge from every corner of the United States. One such fan decided to attend the game that night, and he was determined to show every person in the bleacher section what a fan he was. In a sea of green and gold stood this lone person wearing white and blue. He was even bold enough to jump up among those in attendance as he cheered for his team loudly. It didn’t help that his team was winning the game. There were many A’s fans who wanted to take this guy behind a shed and beat him until his face matched the color of his hat. The amazing thing was he was able to overcome this adversity and endure himself to those around him. By the end of the game, he had become friends with those around him, and it added a little fun to the game. The fans now had a person that could fuel a rivalry for them and spark their competitive nature. He was able to create a moment, not only for himself, but also for all those who attended the game by willing to feel uncomfortable for a while.

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I learned a lot from that Kansas City fan. We need to take those chances in our lives. Though the path through the woods may be daunting, we don’t know what we will find around the corner, but we need to be up for that challenge. We might run into a crazed group of fans that wish to pummel us, or we could find that moment in nature we weren’t expecting to find.

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The further we walk away from our door, the more we experience. The people that are willing to do this are the interesting people that you meet in life. They are the ones who have adventures all the time and these are the ones whose lifestyle you covet. You wonder why these same kind of adventures do not present themselves to you, but the thing is, you too can have these adventures. It is all a matter of choice.

Are you the type of person who has to have their cell phones with them at all times? Is your greatest desire to make it home so you can continue to participate in the video game you haven’t finished playing yet, or to continue watching the television show you are binge watching on Netflix? Do you need to spend your weekends making sure that your home is clean in case some visitor decides to drop by? If you said yes to any or all of these questions, then you are probably one of those people who find themselves jealous of others who happen to have strange things happen to them. You need to quit worrying about these small things so much and go outside of your house to see what adventures you might find.

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There is a whole world out there to explore, but it takes those first steps out of your door before you can go out and find what the world has to offer. But this is not enough. You need to sometimes take a right when you usually take a left. Try new things and it will make your life more rewarding. At first the large things will present themselves to you.

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Then you’ll find places that you never knew existed.

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If you keep on looking and following this philosophy, you will start to see the small things pop up, and every moment will become one of joy because you will be experiencing something new every time you go out your door.

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Even though this is a story about saying goodbye to the ones we love, it is also a story of saying hello to a new adventure. It is time for a change in my life, and if I am going to make a change, I am going to make sure that it is so big that it will be a remarkable milestone I will always look back upon with great fondness. I will miss Colorado and all of the people and terrain that makes it a wonderful place to live. I will also miss all of the people and places that make Oregon such a wonderful place to visit every summer. But I cannot continue to do the same thing all the time. I will come back again next summer to revisit these people and places, but for now I need to go in search of an adventure.

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I also miss Bear every day, and the smallest things remind me of his smiling face.

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But I am also grateful for the opportunity that his passing has given me. It is time that Christine and I go off to Korea to teach students there and learn about the way they see the world. For those we leave behind, collect those stories so when we meet again we can tell them to each other and laugh and enjoy the moment that we are given. Until then, Fare Thee Well, and have an amazing year. I know that I will.

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Moab, Utah

For the last eight years I have worked for Frontier High School, an alternative high school in  Elizabeth, Colorado. It is a school determined to bring back the joy of education to those who have been disillusioned by the traditional methods of teaching in a culture that is more interested in testing students rather than educating them. I have been proud of the fact that this small staff at this school has been able to turn around the lives of kids who other schools have written off as trouble-makers, or unable to reach. I’m not saying that every educator out there is so callous as to dismiss one of their students, but there are enough of them out there to not care about any individual that causes disruption in their classroom. These educators would rather ignore these students in need than give them the time needed so they could obtain a proper education. For the most part these students end up at my school, or schools like mine. They find themselves there for various reasons: drugs, gangs, struggles in learning, disruptive home lives, poverty, or bullying for various reasons of teenage awkwardness. Frontier High School is there to give these kids a chance.

There are many things that this school does to bring these kids into the fold of lifelong learners. The one that I enjoyed the most during my tenure there was the experiential education program. This program allowed students to learn by getting out of the classroom and seeing the world around them. Moments like this bring learning to life. I have been on a lot of these trips during my time there. I went skiing on the slopes of Colorado, explored the caves in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and hiked the less traveled paths of Yellowstone National Park with my students. Each time I went on one of these adventures I learned just as much about the history of our nation and the way the world works as my students did. They were experiences that they will always be able to take with them, and in the process I was able to make great academic relationships with my students and show them a way to a more promising future. It has been a rewarding experience, and sometimes I wonder who got more out of the experience, them or me. My last trip there was to the beauty of Moab, Utah.

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Our voyage on this trip took us to many exciting places. We went to two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and a canoe trip down the Colorado River. The first day was an eight mile loop through the slick rock that is Canyonlands National Park. We learned about the formation of these canyons while running into the wildlife that found a home in this desolate place. There were many lizards scurrying over the same rocks that we were, and when we looked in the sky, we saw hawks soaring to hunt these same lizards. The students learned about the power of the desert as the sun sweltered in the sky, and we sweated under the exposure of its brutal landscape. Luckily, we were there in early June, so it was only in the nineties. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in August when temperatures reach well over the one-hundred degree mark. It was a little bit of a challenge for my fellow teacher, Jed, and me, but it was more of a challenge for some of our students who have never been on an exposition like this before.

The next day was spent on the Colorado River. Even though we were given lessons on eddies, strainers, and how to navigate through them in a canoe, we were given an unexpected lesson in physics. One of our members of the trip backed out a couple of days before we left, so we were left with a  odd number. We had arranged with the rental company, Moab Rafting, for ten people in five canoes, so they had prepared that many for us. Once again luck was on our side, or so we thought. One of the canoes they pulled out was smaller, so one person could navigate the river with it. Jed,  being the more skilled, opted to take the canoe down the river by himself. We quickly learned our mistake in letting him alone in a boat. His weight lifted the front of the boat out of water, and we quickly experienced a headwind right before heading into the canyon. The four boats with two passengers moved swiftly down the river, whereas he lagged behind. Quickly, Jed and his boat became a tiny dot on the horizon. This is where the kids’ problem solving skills came into play. The other four canoes formed a barge and waited for him to catch up. When he was finally with us, we tied the end of his boat to one of ours and guided him down the stream. It still wasn’t as fast as the other boats, but he no longer lagged so far behind that we were scared of losing him completely.

Even with all of the difficulty we experienced as we made our way down the Colorado River, the fact that recent rains had pushed its limits to the highest banks and gave power to its current, we arrived at the pullout an hour ahead of schedule. We spent a little time enjoying lunch and then joined another group of students that took turns leaping off an outcrop of rock into a deeper part of the river. The water was refreshing and it was the perfect activity for a hot, sunny day.

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The day wasn’t over when we completed our river excursion. Across the road from the pullout was a trail head.  We returned later that evening to take this short hike. It was enjoyable in the cool of the early evening and we were able to see our first natural arch. These majestic sculptures are created after years of being punished by the elements. Rains and winds carve out these arches to last decades and centuries, but they are a part of a constantly changing landscape subjected to the whims of nature. Even though I could probably come back ten years later and still see this same arch, it is not a guarantee. There are always stories of arches who have lost their battles to time, and eventually this one will too. All we can do is enjoy their beauty while they last and search for the new ones as the elements give them their unique characteristics.

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Arches National Park has the largest collection of these arches. They are all over the place, and many small hikes crowded with tourists from around the world took us to the more iconic ones on our last full day on this trip. Delicate Arch is the most well known of the arches. From a slightly different angle than this picture, one can see the image emblazoned on the license plates of many Utah cars. It is one of the more unique arches that we found in the park. Most times, the arches are attached to cliffs that are a part of the whole weathering process, but Delicate Arch is out there by itself, attached to nothing. Even though the mile-and-a-half hike to see this landmark is strenuous, it doesn’t stop tourists gathering around the natural amphitheater surrounding this structure and spending time watching people take their turns standing on the platform under the arch to get their picture taken. It was fun to watch the different poses that people attempted as they tried to balance themselves against the wind.

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Even though there are a lot of educational opportunities that the students experience as we travel to the different sites on each of our trips, one of the greatest experiences that happens is the bonding an individual creates between the fellow students and the teachers. This usually happens at the campsites. Yes, the students learn about camping, conservation, outdoor cooking, and how to start a fire during their stays at these campsites, but they also laugh as they play various games and enjoy the friendly banter that can only be enjoyed around a campfire. I learned a couple of new activities on this trip such as Extreme Spoons, and the roasting of Starbursts (quite a delicacy if you have never tried it), but the game that brought out the most laughter and the biggest challenge among the kids was Chubby Bunny. This is usually played while waiting to make smores. The contestants take a marshmallow and stuff it into their mouths without chewing it. They must say the phrase, “I am a Chubby Bunny” in order to continue. The contestants take turns stuffing these fluffy treats into the maw until only one of them is able to utter the phrase as their mouths are overflowing with marshmallows. The record on this trip was nine marshmallows held by Jed. Even though the kids lost to a teacher, it created a wonderful moment that the students will take with them for the rest of their lives.

This trip to Moab, Utah will be placed among the top trips that I have taken with Frontier High School. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to a place that allowed me to grow as a teacher and be able to see the importance that education holds in our society. Even though I will not be returning to Frontier High School next year, I will always be a soaring eagle, and I will look back at these trips with fond memories. It is a program that I hope will continue in the future because not only is it a great learning opportunity for these kids, but it also gives them a chance at a future because it shows them that there is a whole world out there for them to connect with. It is programs like the experiential education program at Frontier High School that should be implemented in more schools across America. They would show disenfranchised students that there is more to education than books and tests. If you find one of these programs in your local school districts make sure that it survives because it is so essential to so many students out there.