By: Gemma Galvan
When the Explore Austin program was founded, my brother was one of the first children to participate. Every year he would come home from his Summer Wilderness Trips and talk nonstop about his outdoor adventures in Colorado. Year after year, I would listen to every word. He shared about the impossibly tall mountains he climbed and the treacherous rivers where he white-water rafted. The best part was when he described the landscape; he would say it was like a painting.
It will come as no surprise that I set off to Colorado as soon as I could. With $200 in my pocket, I drove sixteen hours in my friend’s old beat-up car. I had never driven in snow or put tire chains on a car, and I would soon learn how severely underdressed I was for the weather. But none of that crossed my mind. My only thought, at the time, was how I was finally going to see the place my brother had told me so much about.
I spent the first two days braving a dangerous winter storm on my adventure. Reaching down deep, I pushed my body farther than I could have imagined, climbing my first ever mountain. And I finally witnessed the picturesque landscape my brother had tried his best to convey to me. It was the most challenging but amazing thing I had ever done. I decided I wouldn’t stop there; I wanted to see what else I had in me.
We always talk about the rippling effects this organization has on the community. A drop is all it takes, right? Well, brace yourselves because here comes the wave. Explore Austin has changed my brother’s life and, in doing so, mine. My brother is an alumnus of Explore Austin. He has attended countless excursions and makes up part of its leadership as the organization’s youngest board member. Because of the love for nature my brother developed in Explore Austin, I overlooked Colorado Springs at the top of the city’s second-highest pike. I kayaked across the frozen water of Resurrection Bay in Alaska. I explored the ancient stone dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. I rode horseback along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean.
Every time I returned from an adventure, I surveyed the challenging aspects of my life and thought, “I’ve trekked from Red Dot to the Rio Grande. How hard could this be?” I took that confidence with me when applying to my first company. I used the same courage to land my current position as a DevOps Sr. Team Lead at Accenture. It will be the same confidence and courage I will use to build my future with my soon-to-be husband. And I will be able to pass these traits on to my children someday.
Though it may not be obvious, I owe so much to Explore Austin. Its efforts echo further than you may ever be able to see. We are changing lives countless lives – one adventure at a time.