Becoming a Highlander

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Well here you are today. You’ve made it to this moment with all of your incredible experiences and life changing stories. How often do we take the time to think on the journey of life? As a college student I find myself constantly looking forward, but sometimes I find that I need to turn back to dust off an old part of me. I need to rediscover parts of me that I may have let fade into the blue glow of my laptop screen. As I became a graduate student I wanted to take the time to journey into myself, so taking a tip from Danny Kaye, it was time to travel.

Becoming a Radford University Highlander, I had no choice but to grab the nearest willing soul and head to the Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia to earn my new title. Highlands, in Scotland, originally referred to the place of the Gael’s. It was exciting to me to go because I come from an impressively Irish home. As we drove out to the southwest Virginia destination for the weekend I reflected back on my time living in the Adirondacks. It was just two months ago since I moved down here but so much has changed. In the “dacks” I had a weekly goal of seeing just how far away I could get from the nearest light bulb, a bright idea, in my opinion. I wanted to try that in my new home and luckily my partner was up for the adventure. Walking away from the car that Friday and stepping out into the highland country I could hear the wind cutting across the rolling peaks like bagpipes echoing across the land. I could feel the roots of my soul tapping into the earth beneath me with every step.

The journey began on Rhododendron Trail up to Wilburn Ridge where we spent much of the day exploring the hills and taking pictures. Still admittedly a bit plugged in, it felt good to be out backpacking again, feeling that weight of the bag with each step, zoning in and out of trail vision, talking about our class projects as we went along. There is always something incredible about stepping outside and this trip was no exception. Our conversation became more meaningful as it drifted toward true purpose and what life is for each of us. These are the shared experiences that Twitter and Facebook will never be able to even shake a stick at.


As we opened up on the trail, I realized I was losing touch with why I was pursing my master’s degree. Progress was pulling me in fast and this trip reminded me that I’m studying so I can help people find value in their lives and to help people realize their potential, not just to run analyses and add business value. Sure those things are important and critical to master, but I shouldn’t lose sight of my forest through the trees. Hiking along a smile came to my face because I got just what I came for. Nature and human connection, once again giving me the perspective I needed to turn on my own light bulb, ironically far away from all the electric ones.

As we continued on that weekend, I found that the highlands left me with a sense of opportunity and openness. The seemingly endless hills alive with wild ponies and littered with beautiful rock formations are truly inspiring. I even made friends with a young colt on the trip that couldn’t help but follow us along the trail until running into other backpackers on their way to adventure. It’s no wonder the Gaelic culture is so beautiful, I’m proud to be a part of it and grateful to be able to have a glimpse of a land similar to its origins right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


For my first blog, I wanted to share an example of what drives me to play outside in our backyard every chance I get. Maybe next time you’re out you can learn something you forgot along the way too. Now go outside and play!

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