Today we celebrate the birthday of Yellowstone National Park. Established as the worlds first national park in 1872, Yellowstone set the precedent for land preservation and became an iconic symbol of the American West. Today with more than 4 million visitors a year the parks front country isn’t near as wild as it used to be, but get off the roads and popular trails and you’ll experience a landscape full of biodiversity and dynamic natural systems, unaltered by humans and eons in the making.
Yellowstone will always hold a special place in my heart, as it set a personal precedent as well. Years ago I took a road trip out to the park with a group of friends. At the time I was on a pretty predictable path, common to a lot of guys in my demographic. I wasn’t really into school and didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I went the community college route. The studies didn’t really interest me and I was kind of stumbling along, found a job with long term potential and had everyone telling me to start working toward my retirement. I was 21 years old, and people expected me to settle in and buckle down.
Everything changed for me on that trip, however. My soul was stirred with exploration of wild places. A light bulb went off and I knew there was more to life than working for a pension. I wanted to see new sights. I wanted to find new adventures. I didn’t want to live a life chasing financial security, I wanted one that gave me a story to tell.
After the visit I returned to work and immediately put in my two week notice. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences since then, and while I’m at a point now where a little more financial stability would be nice, I look back with no regrets. Had I not chosen the path less traveled I would have missed out on so much, and the dreamer in me may have long fallen silent instead of restlessly plotting adventures still to come.