NOLS taught me two of life’s most valuable lessons: humility and gratitude.
On my course, I couldn’t climb the 5.10 crack in Joshua Tree National Park, although my knuckles were bloodied and my fingertips were raw from the attempt. I couldn’t carry my equal share of weight after throwing out my back in the Wind River Range, burdening my teammates by adding more mass to their already 70-pound packs.
I couldn’t keep a smile on my face after 10 hours of trekking sun-beaten and cotton-mouthed with thirst through the unforgiving Sonoran Desert KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.
Those experiences taught me to appreciate the simplest of blessings—a warm beverage to ease the chill of an early morning, a dry bed to relax my tired muscles under a star filled sky, the overwhelming beauty of a sunset, and the privilege of sitting on the soft earth to enjoy it free of stress and worry.
Living in Vietnam as a teacher continues to humble me daily. It has broadened my perspective on gratitude, while providing me with the opportunity and responsibility to teach these lessons to 300 Vietnamese elementary school students.
As I walk through my Vietnamese neighborhood in District 7, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, instead of peering into oversized homes with families absorbed in technology, I gaze at the families eating dinner on their kitchen/living-room/bedroom floor. I witness brothers laboring to make their quota of shoes by hand, and women in their pajamas cooking delicious $0.50 bowls of soup for their neighbors 365 days a year.
Despite their lack of material wealth, they are content with life’s necessities and rich in humble gratitude.
I see it in the weathered smiles shining on their faces. I feel it when I watch my Bhan Mi lady prepare my breakfast with pride, and I am grateful for it as I wait for the shirtless old man to fix my motorbike tire on the side of the road.
Every day, I am most humbled by the fact that as a 35-year-old-teacher, I will always be a student.
My goal in life is to do what I love, to climb and explore as much and for as long as I can. My goal as an educator is to inspire others to discover their passions and empower them to pursue them with courageous resilience.
I want my students to live for opportunities that challenge them with anxious excitement rather than appease them with stagnant comfort. I encourage them to search for the good in one another rather than the bad. I teach them to care for our beautiful Earth, which continues to provide despite how much we take. I hope that they will always be motivated by love rather than fear.
As the esteemed Eddie Vedder once said, “Time is long and life is short. Begin to live while you still can.”
About the Author: Scott is a 35-year-old kid who loves to play outside. His spirit animal is the bighorn sheep, his favorite tree is the bristlecone pine, and he loves the smell of granite. He has an identical twin brother with an awesome 2-year-old-son, he loves his wife and best friend Neyda, and he is a constant student and teacher. Scott is a Wilderness First Responder (WMI) and has completed two NOLS courses: Outdoor Educator in the Southwest and 30-Day Rock Climbing in the Wind River Range. Scott makes his living as a naturalist, guide, and outdoor education/physical education teacher. You can follow him on Instagram as thetravelingnaturalist.