A word of caution to undergrads, graduates and the currently employed: it’s never too late to discover yourself.
So says, Financial Aid Adviser Benjamin Lee, BC ’08 and MBA ’13, who is beginning a long awaited journey to 59 US National Parks – by motorcycle. He first caught the motorcycle bug in 2009, and has since bought five, often owning two at once.
After what he calls a “blur of work and graduate school,” Lee is taking a break to see America's treasures on his bike and hopefully learn a bit more about himself, too. The double eagle will blog about his trek whenever he can get Internet access, whether it is at a coffee shop in a small town or a patch of road. He has roughly planned most of his excursion – for the rest, he says he will “go with the flow.” In the first leg of the trip (Boston to LA), which will start on August 24, he will hit certain parks around certain dates. He has intentionally blocked off three weeks for California. He hopes to complete his second leg (LA to Boston) in the spring and his third leg (Boston to Alaska) in the summer of next year. Along the way, he will stay with friends or use couchsurfing.org and AirBNB.com.
An open trek
Lee will be riding solo through unfamiliar territory for an entire year. Although he will intersect with various friends along the way, he knows he will miss his friends and family at home, and perhaps a shower in his own bathroom.
“There certainly will be a lot of excitement from seeing the US and the National Parks and even in meeting new people,” he says. “Though I think eventually the novelty of it will begin to wear away and I’ll long for just a mundane, boring night with a close friend.”
Yet this adventure is exactly what he says he needs: to be completely removed from his environment to reflect, renew and re-energize for whatever the next phase of his life may be, whether it includes Boston College or not.
“I think what makes this experience so different is that it’s open ended. There is no end date,” he said. “For me this is more than a trip, it’s a complete shift in the way I’ll be living.”
Blazing a trail
Lee is not only making this journey for himself but for others as well. His blog will track his progress and perhaps inspire others to take the rides - or risks - they have always imagined.
“For me, I realize that my actions were driven by a fear of failure and, therefore, an aversion to risk," he said. "If you never take any real risk you stand little chance to fail. Though what I often forget is that if you take little risk there is little reward.”
For the blog, he has created an itemized report of his expenses as a model for future explorers like himself. The homepage for 59parks.com reads:
Stop waiting for life to happen and start living. This is me living: taking my motorcycle cross-country to visit all fifty-nine US National Parks. Come with me.
More than just a park
As to his fascination with the US National Parks, Lee finds there’s something larger than life about the them.
“I think it’s amazing that no matter who you are, be it Fortune 500 CEO or new born baby, that when you’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon you cannot help but feel small,” he says. “There is a grandness to all the National Parks, and nature in general, that puts things in perspective.”
He loves how the Parks represent something that is uniquely American. Within the 59 different Parks on his list, he will cross through arid desserts, arctic tundra, alpine mountains, prairie lands, underground caves, the tropics and everything in between. At the top of his list is Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah, commonly referred to as “New Jerusalem or heaven on earth.”
Lee hopes that his trip will provide a game plan for how to live the rest of his life.
“More than, ‘what should I do with my life?’ but ‘how should I be living my life?’ Yes, we can’t all spend our days playing games and having fun,” he said. “Even I will eventually have to get off the motorcycle.”
Follow his journey at 59parks.com
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Lee. Screenshots by Katie Levingston/Gavel Media.