Five Projects of Which I’m Proud and Where I’m Headed Next
Today, I’m celebrating five years in business. It’s been half a decade of hustling to make it work, of traveling around the U.S. and Canada learning from every last community I visit, and of pinching myself that this is the work that I do. It’s sometimes frustrating and is almost always fulfilling.
I’ve been reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Strangely enough, I’ve had exactly 30 coaching clients and 30 consulting clients.
Twelve of my consulting clients have returned for repeat business, which is perhaps the most important number for me. It signifies that something’s working and that I offer a unique value that keeps them coming back for collaborations.
In this time of business reflection, I’ve decided to share some insights on five of my favorite projects (five projects for five years in business makes for a good reflection, right?):
Panel Discussions on Women and the Outdoors
This spring, I dreamt up and went on to host two Women’s History Month programs for Rivers of Steel. Both were focused on exploring the legacy of women in the outdoors and how women today are impacted by time spent outside. We also explored current efforts related to conservation and recreation. It was such a joy to facilitate these discussions among some remarkable women. These programs stand out for me because we created a space for a conversation that wasn’t otherwise taking place, we heard from some up-and-coming influencers (as well as some who’ve been at it for a while), and our speakers related their personal stories in such an authentic way.
Atlantic Canada Best Practice Mission Trips
During my time in nonprofit work I built relationships with trail and tourism folks in Atlantic Canada and was delighted when they asked me to organize and host best practice mission trips in 2014 and 2016. Together, we visited small businesses and local leaders along the Great Allegheny Passage, C&O Canal Towpath, and Appalachian Trail. The benefits of trails are universal, as are the challenges. Connecting leaders here and leaders there for dialogue and learning was absolutely one of my career highlights. By the time that I hosted the 2016 trip, I had taken a course on experiential travel and was able to layer in components that allowed trip participants to experience the heritage and culture of regions we visited. They were learning about trail towns and also connecting at a deeper, more engaging level.
Rebel Rebel Float Trip
Take a mash up of David Bowie tunes, craft spirits, kayaking, and Whiskey Rebellion history and you have Rebel Rebel Float Trip. I planned and hosted the themed paddle for the Mon River Towns Program. The trip was inspired by a Minnesota float in which a play unfolded along the river. We adapted to fit the regional history of southwestern Pennsylvania (with a “David Bowie twist”) to arrive at Rebel Rebel. This event gave me the opportunity to use what I learned about experiential travel while taking the Edge of the Wedge course in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2016.
The result was much greater than a 30-person kayaking trip. Instead, we provided a memorable, one-of-a-kind river experience. Not only this, but a quarter of participants surveyed were first-time kayakers, and nearly 90 percent hadn’t been on the Monongahela River previous to the trip. One of the goals was to get new people to the water, and the event’s unique theme did just that.
Trail Towns Research for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)
RTC is a go-to national entity when it comes to rail-trails, so when they asked me to use my knowledge of trail towns to research the various established programs I was all in. It was fun to be able to “download” about a decade’s worth of learnings and to share what I know about how the model is being applied in different places. Another thing that I loved about the project was that the RTC team agreed to meet off site in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We had a strategy session that was very much influenced by the decision to retreat to a trail community. Overlapping with the research (but not actually part of the project) was the opportunity to facilitate a panel of trail town administrators from throughout the U.S. and Lebanon during the 2017 International Trails Symposium. Both the research and being in the presence of those who are running their own trail community programs were invigorating endeavors that demonstrate the power of the Trail Town model.
Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) Tourism Strategy and Implementation
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has engaged me over the last several years related to this bold project to complete and connect over 1,400 miles of trails. In 2016, I developed a tourism strategy for the coalition, and every year since I’ve hosted conversations aimed at better preparing communities to receive trail users. I’ve also written a number of “Trail Trip” visitor itineraries to direct people to open sections of trail and attractions along the way. My favorite trail trip among these? The Crafty, Bike-y Garden-Filled Towpath Getaway. I researched that one with my aunt last fall and came away with so much appreciation for that part of Ohio (and got to spend some quality time with my aunt).
Tying it all Together
I have to tell you–it was really hard to try to select just five projects. There have been so many others that I’ve been proud to be part of.
The ability bring people together for shared experiences (and shared learning) continues to show up as a driver for me. It’s why I was so thrilled to do most of the projects detailed here. And it’s why I love hosting trainings and workshops in general. Whether it’s a trail town training in Kentucky, a regional workshop and grant competition in southern Ontario, or a “Spark a Flame” session for a women’s business retreat, there’s a magic to seeing people learn and discover together–and then to plan a path forward.
As for my own path forward, I’m on track to continue with the kinds of projects shared here…some for my consulting clients and others intended for those who are interested in my nature-based coaching (keep an eye out for coaching-style retreats and workshops this fall and winter). In the meantime, I’d like to express a heartfelt thank you to all who’ve entrusted me as their coach or consultant over the last five years. It’s been an absolute pleasure!