Loyal Mehnert, founder of The Everyday Journeyman, is cosponsoring tonight’s Boswell Book Company event at 7:00 PM with Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling new memoir, Wild. If you’re interested in having your own wild adventure to write about, you need to know about Loyal Mehnert and the work that he does. Here’s my interview with him.
What is adventure travel? When I first came up with the idea of travelanthropy in 2007, it was based around the idea of life-changing adventure travel for everyday people. It’s about stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself. You don’t necessarily have to fly across oceans to experience adventure travel in a foreign country, there are plenty of options here in America. Go long distance hiking out west, scuba dive in Florida, go cycling across The Rockies. The most important thing is to make the commitment and take that first step.
What is The Everyday Journeyman and what does the organization do? As The Everyday Journeyman, I partner with non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and use adventure travel as a fundraising tool. Over the years, we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity through projects like hikes along the Appalachian Trail and Camino de Santiago, and road rallies across Europe and Africa. We’re already lining up travelanthropic projects for 2013 and beyond to Haiti, New Zealand, Siberia, South America, and Mongolia.
How has adventure travel transformed your life? I’m a firm believer that you don’t truly know yourself until you’re stripped bare of all comforts and forced to do something as simple as hike in the rain. There was a period on the Appalachian Trail charity hike where it rained non-stop for nearly a week. Under normal circumstances you’d find shelter from the rain. But when you’re out there in the woods and you know you have 15 miles to go, you can’t stop and dwell on your misery. You dig deep and get it done. You cry and moan about it later of course but in the moment, you find strength you didn’t know you had. It’s a great feeling.
How has adventure travel transformed the life of those you know? Looking at it in terms of international travel, I’ve seen people’s entire worldview change in an instant because of treks to Haiti and Vietnam and India. So often we’re wrapped up in the minutiae of Facebook status updates and workplace gossip and 24 hour news cycles. But once you’re in a place like Port-au-Prince and witnessing daily live and death struggles, your life takes on a different meaning. Little things don’t matter as much. Often adventure travel starts a chain reaction that changes your entire life.
Do you have any books or resources to recommend on adventure travel? As a travelanthropist and as a writer, I’m always searching for inspiration. In addition to Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, there’s another great memoir about hiking the PCT, Dan White’s The Cactus Eaters. I think Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild is one of the best books ever written about the highs and lows of adventure travel. I tend to stay away from guide books. Guide books are for tourists, not adventure travelers. Obviously the internet and social media is a great resource for networking and planning your next great adventure.
Tell us about the Hike for Hope–and how we can get involved. The Hike for Hope which kicks off May 31st is a 1200 mile charity hike across 4 countries and 5 long distance trails, including some of the most remote and majestic trails in Europe. I’m partnering this summer with the Catalyst Foundation, an organization I volunteered with last Fall while cycling across the central highlands of Vietnam. Catalyst rescues children who are living in poverty and are at risk for human trafficking. Our goal is to raise $20,000 this summer which would provide schooling, food, and safety for 80 kids. There’s still time to register to join the hike, you can find more info on the official Hike for Hope Facebook page. You can also join us in spirit and donate online.
Bio: Milwaukee’s Loyal Mehnert (The Everyday Journeyman) has made it his life mission to give back to those less fortunate through adventure travel. Loyal’s work as a travelanthropist has taken him to over twenty-five countries on five continents, and he has been recognized by People Magazine, Major League Baseball, and Outside Magazine for his adventurous approaching to volunteering and fundraising. Named one of 2011’s “Top 20 Young Nonprofit Leaders in America,” Loyal is launching the 1200 mile Hike for Hope this summer to raise money and awareness for the Catalyst Foundation and the fight against child trafficking. For more information please visit www.crowdrise.com/HFH2012. You can also reach Loyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.