As described in the Willie Nelson song “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, I’ve had “things” for all-things ranching since an early age.
While other girls were playing with Barbies and wearing tutus, I spent my time tending a Breyer horse herd and clambering around in fringed cowboy boots. There was always only one thing I wanted to grow up to be: a cowgirl. Not a poufy hair rodeo queen cowgirl (I ended up doing that briefly, due to my need for scholarships), but a real-life, cowpoke with land, cattle, and horses to her name.
Hence, one of the first places I’d longed to see since we received orders to move to Kansas was the legendary Wild West town of Dodge City.
The fateful day of freedom has arrived – you’ve graduated college.
Peddling your bachelor’s degree, you carefully survey the selection of traditional post-grad opportunities and you find yourself saying, “WTF?”
Don’t worry – you’re not the only new grad that’s perceived the 9-to-5 as a slow death wish. It’s not for everybody.
So what’s fresh young talent to do when traditional positions just don’t cut it?
Here are three non-traditional post-grad options for the adventurous new grad:
What states come to mind when you think “snow skiing”?
Colorado, Montana, Wyoming?
Yeah, those are home to my top ski destinations.
What about South Dakota? Did you know there was skiing just outside of Sioux Falls?
Turns out, there’s a lot more to South Dakota than just the Badlands, Wall Drugs, and historic mining towns like the ultimate Wild West destination – Deadwood, SD.
Just outside of Sioux Falls, a publically-owned ski area – Great Bear Recreation Park – offers super budget-friendly snow sports with over a dozen runs, three lifts, and none of the typical Rocky Mountain crowd congestion.
Chase County, Kansas is one of my favorite places on earth.
It tops the list of places I’d like to live.
While it may not look like much according to its Census Bureau stats (less than 3,000 people, miles away from the closest grocery store, terrible cell reception, almost no infrastructure), Chase County is a community with a whole lot of heart.
Hailed as one of the crown jewels of the picturesque Flint Hills, Chase County’s strategically situated as a quiet hamlet along the Flint Hills Scenic Byway (K-177), nestled up against the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and its impressive buffalo herds. Chase County has a ton of history, a gorgeous Courthouse, and lots of unique cultural events (ever heard of the Symphony in the Flint Hills? It’s amazing.).
The Cardinals and the Gateway Arch.
Those are the only two things I knew about St. Louis, Missouri before last weekend.
Considered by many to be just another Midwestern flyover city, St. Louis has been a drive-thru destination for me for the past few years, always a good place to take a quick fifteen leg stretch on a long road trip. But this year, things were different. St. Louis no longer a pit stop, but a holiday destination. We were heading to the Gateway of the West, and we were ready to have some good ol’ fashioned Midwestern fun.
Time to get my TripAdvisor on.
Here’s a few of the St. Louis highlights we hit on our holiday travels:
The “mini-mountains” running through Missouri and Arkansas, known for their unique cultural contributions, picturesque landscapes, and rural identity.
Admittedly, the majority of my Ozark exposure came from binging on Netflix’s Ozark series (loved it!) and watching Jason Hawk and family on the History Channel’s Mountain Man series.
My husband grew up spending summer vacations in the little Arkansas Ozark town of Hardy (population 754), canoeing, listening to folk music, and indulging in all-you-can-eat pancakes. His fond memories of summers spent on the Spring River piqued my interest in the non-televised Ozark community.
While it’s kind of an out of the way destination (you caught the “rural identity” mention, right?), we finally found ourselves in the vicinity of Hardy on a recent road trip and made plans to stretch our traveler’s legs in the hills and springs that surround the quaint mountain town.
Oxford, Mississippi has always held a special place in my heart.
My husband graduated from the University of Mississippi, also known as “Ole Miss”, located in the heart of Oxford, and we spent the majority of our very short (courtesy of Uncle Sam) dating relationship attending concerts, jogging the trails, and frequenting the local watering holes around Ole Miss.
While the military has taken us many places both in the United States and abroad, Oxford is one of the few places that offers that oh-so-elusive feeling of “home”. Connecting with old friends, enjoying Oxford’s infamous southern cuisine, and getting into the spirit of whatever university athletic event is schedule always leaves me flooded with memories of our pre-war life.
This October, my husband and I had the opportunity to schedule our should-be-annual Oxford trip for Ole Miss Homecoming Week, which meant football, tailgating, and catching up with fellow University of Mississippi alum.
Weston, Missouri is a charming historic town located just a few miles outside of the Kansas City metro area.
I first became acquainted with Weston when my family was stationed at FT Leavenworth. Seeking a running route that didn’t include outlines of the massive federal prison, I’d asked local for recommendations from my new neighbors. Weston – a neighboring community – was among the top recs by local yokels, followed by additional directions to Weston’s mouthwatering restaurants and winery to refuel following a long stretch.
While Weston is small, with a population of under 2,000 people, its historic downtown district, neighboring state park, u-pick orchards, and multiple breweries, distilleries, and wineries make it a definite must-see for anyone visiting the Kansas City area.
Can you believe that summer is almost over?
Technically, my summer came to an end with the first day of fall semester classes. I went from riding horses every day to lecturing college students on business and technology. The annual change from a life in cowboy boots to sensible pumps is always a little drastic. I’m still getting saddle time in the afternoons and evenings, just spending most of my mornings discussing economic trends and marketing strategies.
Summer 2017 wasn’t exactly an awesome season for me thanks to unexpected surgeries, moving, and other not-so-glam events. I initially didn’t think the season warranted its very own blog post; however, jotting down a few of the highlights has reminded me that headlining summers don’t have to include Caribbean cruises and blowout weddings. Some – like this past summer – involve some pretty cool, albeit not-so-Instagram-worthy events that shape the year that follows.
So, as we usher in the autumn breath of color changes, football games, and harvest season, here’s five highlights from the Summer of 2017:
This post is brought to you on behalf of Reward Volunteers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring organization.
Immediately following my high school graduation, I bought a one-way ticket to Beijing, China.
I’d only been on an airplane once and had never traveled internationally before, so this travel excursion was quite the adventure. I learned enough Mandarin to greet others, say “Yes” and “No”, and communicate about basic navigation. I’d received a slew-full of additional vaccines from my county health department, and leafed through a few travel books on China’s capital province. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew it was going to be exciting.
Seeking a more meaningful experience than my peer’s Greek rush weeks, I decided to spend the summer volunteering at two poorly-funded orphanages located a few hours outside of the capital city. I was still pretty clueless at this time about what I wanted to do with my life and whether or not I wanted to go to college. I hoped this summer of philanthropy would provide me some direction. Maybe I’d realize the nonprofit sector would be a good fit for me, or I’d make some international relief work contacts; either way, I wanted to help others and understaffed orphanages on the other side of the world seemed like a good place to start.