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What I've Learned, | May 09, 2018

Michael Waterford, seasoned adventurer

Michael offers advice to thrill-seekers delving into the great outdoors.

Photo by Shady Pines Media

Michael Waterford, 32, helps students plan their overseas adventures through Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs' international programs office and organized The Mountain Folk Adventure in Bloomington. He calls himself a Bloomerang, because although his endeavors span the globe, he always returns home. He’s gone on adventures in Europe and Asia and paddled the Mississippi River.

Waterford shares what he’s learned about exploring the world alfresco style. 

 Styles of adventure can change.

I was in love with the business model of the Mongel Rally, a “rag tag bunch of adventurers” I motorcycled with in Mongolia. With that in mind, I started my own company, the Mountain Folk, to implement this style of adventure in the States. Running down the center of the United States is this massive, 2,500-mile adventure. I always wanted to paddle the Mississippi river, so I chose that next.

 You have to know your limits are and how to push them.

I crawled out of the Mississippi in Arkansas, where my partner quit. I bought a car and began to segment-paddle. I would drive a bit, hitch-hike my way back to the canoe, then paddle that distance until I met my goal for the day.

 If everything’s hunky dory, it’s not much of an adventure.

It’s always discouraging when an expedition fails, but now that I’m older, it doesn’t break my heart as much. This past summer, I attempted the solo speed record of the Mississippi. My support team quit after two weeks. That was heartbreaking because it was completely out of my control. They wanted a vacation, not an adventure.

Adversity can bring out your best.

People get tired, and they don’t want to push through the hard parts. It’s not glamourous while you’re doing it, but you look back and say, “That was incredible.” Anything that is truly difficult, not just an adventure, but in life, really brings out the best and worst in people.

 You have to expect that your plans will change and embrace that.

A river angel I met along the Mississippi helped me understand that everyone’s trip is different. Everyone has hardships, and yours will just be yours. Don’t stress the things that go wrong because, generally, if nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong.


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