Student says ‘get out and explore the world’

By: Matt LUERS – Chemical Engineering

Growing up in the Midwest, I’m all too familiar with the slower lifestyle that the general population leads.

Ever since coming to this university, I have been one of the many that have been sucked into the greatness of this campus. If anyone has ever had Dr. Miller as a professor, you know all too well about ‘The Dome’ our school offers. You walk onto campus and never want to leave.

Ever since I was a child though, I have felt there was much more to experience.

Two summers ago, I decided to take a chance and get away from urban life for a while.

I traveled out to Crested Butte, Colorado, with a roommate and a few friends for the summer. I worked as a river guide and had some of the best times of my life. The experience was so great that I decided to take it to the next level this past summer.

I began planning this summer trip last fall semester.

I knew I wanted to go out West and work as a river guide again, but I was unsure where.

After hours and hours of research, I finally settled on the outdoor Mecca of Bend, Oregon. For those of you that are unaware of this paradise, it’s a place of friendly people, great beer and an indefinite amount of outdoor activities from mountain biking, caving, canyoneering and even digging your own hot tub on the shore of a lake.

Due to the lack of available housing and personal funds, I decided that living in my car would be the best housing situation. When I told this idea to my friends and family, it was immediately dismissed and mocked. However, looking back on my time in Oregon, it will be an experience I’ll never forget and one I’ll tell my kids about some day.

Fast forward a few days past the blur of Daytona, and I’m driving 2,000 miles out West with a memory foam mattress topper in the backseat of my Nissan Altima (which, as a 6’4 guy, is not the easiest vehicle to live in).

I arrive without knowing a soul within a few hundred miles. Despite being a bit of an introvert, I was quickly welcomed into the green and friendly culture that is the state of Oregon.

The summer went more or less like this: wake up when the sun comes up, go whitewater rafting for 12 hours, come back and hang out with great friends and even better beer, then go to sleep when the sun goes down.

On my days off, exploring was always the best option.

Whether it was army crawling 50 feet through a shoulder-scrubbing crevice to get into a massive ice cave, repelling down and hiking between multiple waterfalls or biking from downtown to hundreds of miles of single track in the central Oregon forest, great times were never in short.

I know the idea of driving your home across the country where you don’t know anybody might seem like a daunting task, but this kind of trip will provide lifelong lessons and experiences.

I’ve never been able to just sit in a coffee shop wondering what I wanted to do during the day. I’d rather drive up to Canada for an impromptu downhill biking trip in Whistler.

For me, living in my car was an extremely humbling experience. With no plumbing or even the ability to easily roll over in your sleep, you learn a lot about how to live as a minimalist and realize that the world doesn’t, and will never, ever revolve around yourself.

I encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone like I did. The experience gave me memories that I’ll pass on to future generations and never forget.

So take on a cross-country challenge to explore and enjoy what our country has to offer, if you’re up to it.

You’ll find out things about yourself you never knew before, you’ll build character and become truly in tune with nature.

The lessons you’ll learn are worth more than you could imagine.

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