10 Aug 2015 Finding Freedom in the Utah Desert
I remember thinking it was crazy to be driving 1971 miles for a job I might not even want nor be offered. My husband and I had loaded up our Saturn station wagon and were driving cross country from New York to Utah for a six day job interview. We were applying to be Wilderness Therapy Instructors.
Prior to applying and being invited out for the interview, I had never heard of wilderness therapy. I found myself heading into the Utah desert to sleep under a tarp for six nights in sub-zero temperatures. Although I did not know it at the time, this decision lead me to discover what freedom meant to me.
I had never been to Utah. I had no degree in therapy. I had no experience being a guide. Six days went by of little sleep, confusion, some fun, frustration and cold. My sleeping bag definitely was not warm enough for the negative 10 degree F temperatures and I shivered away each night. In the end we were each offered the job and accepted. I worked as a wilderness therapy instructor for a year and half and it changed my life. The job led me down a path to freedom in two ways. On one hand it allowed me to achieve financial independence as both my husband and I were able to pay off all our school loan debt. But more importantly, I learned that freedom is a state of mind.
In wilderness therapy we worked with youth who were at some of their lowest points in life, often battling addictions and extreme behavioral probles. One of the books most of the students and staff read was Viktor Frankol’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor was in the Nazi concentration camps and survived unimaginable horrors. Throughout his stay he never gave up hope and scribbled away writing what became the basis for logotheraphy and his book which went on to become one of the ten most influential books in the United States selling over 10 million copies and was translated into over 24 languages. Viktor concluded that, “…the meaning of life is found in every moment of living…that psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also the freedom of choice he always had even in severe suffering.”
As I have worked and traveled around the world, I have seen those who seem to have it all be miserable and those who appear to have nothing be happy. What I have taken from these observations and Victor’s book is that it doesn’t necessarily matter your circumstances, it matters your attitude and how you choose to view the world around you. Your mind can be your worst enemy and hold you captive or your mind can free you. One always has the choice to focus on the positive and put forth good work into the world.
When I reflect on my life and the direction I want to take it, I rarely include thoughts of all the bad things that have happened to me. I include them only enough to recognize the situations that enabled them to exist in the first place and make sure I do everything in my power not to let them happen again. In my travel life this has looked like arriving to New Zealand and realizing I had no idea where the hostel was that I booked. This was my first big move abroad and I will never forget walking in circles carrying all my bags in the rain trying to find someone who knew where ‘Epsom’ was. Or when Chris and I waited until the last minute to buy train tickets in Paris and almost missed our international flight. Or when we never booked any lodging in advance during European holidays thinking, ‘Hey, let’s wing it!’
For reasons still revealing themselves, I find myself with the privilege of many freedoms. On a daily basis I strive to take this opportunity and grow my natural strengths and talents. I hope to find ways to inspire others to discover what drives them, even if it takes them the rest of their life to do so. As Viktor said, “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
I will use my freedom to my best, always.
About Author: Tiffany Soukup is an adventurer, writer and photographer. In the spur of the moment she moved out to Wyoming to live on the floor next to a washer and dryer and has never looked back since. Her and her husband Chris have been moving around the world since 2004. You can follow their stories at www.vagabondway.net.
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