Profession in the Outdoors

Each year more and more people are finding their way back to the great outdoors. Many go to adventure and explore the wilderness. And, they make the most out of whatever free time they can scramble together. Some may catch the outdoor bug on a thru hike or a vacation near wild lands. Seemingly unable to forget the relationship they have come to create.

But what leads many people to take this outdoor relationship to the next level? The desire to become an outdoor professional, to take on an outdoor internship? What motivates an individual to take the path from weekend warrior to fully immersing themselves into the Alaskan wilds?

Transitioning into the Outdoors

To answer these questions we touch base with the crew at MICA Guides, located in Glacier View, AK, only a couple hours drive from Anchorage. This locally owned and operated company specializes in teaching and supporting new guides in an outdoor internship role. Each summer season the company opens new slots for dozens of interns. The company offers guidance and training to build skills in the assistant outdoor guide role and/or the logistics team.

With over 20 years of experience and expertise in the outdoors, MICA ice climbing guides provides the perfect hands-on learning experience. Additionally, they partner with local companies to make the learning space seem held only by the imagination. All this happens with the help of lifelong experts and senior team members to guide the new generations coming in.

A Lifestyle in Guiding

Coming into an outdoor company with little to no skills often means taking on an internship role. In these positions novices can learn, build skills, and find exactly where they want to fit into the outdoor industry. At MICA, guides find themselves paired with a mentor. This way they have a go-to person amongst the growing community.

MICA Guides is known for their commitment to providing top of the industry safety standards and creating memorable experiences in the outdoors of Alaska. Specifically, exploring the Matanuska Glacier and having fun while doing it. Each person has a title, but everyone falls into the whole of the community.

Why the Outside?

Guiding and working in the outdoors is a job unlike many others. This is a work place that home is often a tent or camper, in remote wilderness areas, and involves a lot of communal cooperation. Not to mention, the sheer necessity of being able to effectively communicate for the success of individuals and community alike. Sounds like quite the lifestyle right? So just who exactly is being drawn to these more ‘wild’ lives and why?

Outdoor Community

people making marshmallows on a fire

These three wind down their long day by a bonfire.

It is more often than not when I listen to former and current guides that many reflect on the joy of community. This is not to say it is perfect in form. Rather, the simplicity of being connected to others who are able to be empathic to the lives shared in a communal space. People are more quick to take notice of things that are ‘off’ and address them at an interpersonal level.

Many times this outdoor community easily connects those going through similar experiences and thus provides a sort of organic support. A visceral empathy of sorts. Especially when it comes to learning the ropes, figuratively and literally. Many senior guides can provide guidance, rooted from personal experience.

The summer starts with fumbling conversations and awkward hellos and turn into a completely different life. Group dinners blossom, teams take on daily chores together, and before you know it, the group bonding experience is in full bloom. The days are long and filled with lots of skill building and learning so the reprieve of coming together at various points in the day seems to be essential.

Finding Space in the Outdoors

Community is a large pull when it comes to the outdoor industry and outdoor internship. It’s become a center point for many to keep coming back year after year to learn more and grow. Another aspect that seems to be pulling folks in from all over is finding a role in the outdoors. This environment brings out exactly where your boundaries are and feel into where you would like to grow.

Many interns and senior guides have started their journey to the ‘Last Frontier’ from a variety of pathways. Some have been geared since childhood to go play in the mud for profession. Others, had been on the degree pathway and were abruptly diverted by an epic outdoor experience. A good handful of people exude their love from NOLS courses in their adolescence and the desire to grow into their own style of outdoor leadership.

Handling Conflict

A group kayaking blackstone bay

A group of interns gets exposed to the Prince William Sound by sea kayak.

With epic views, hands-on activities, and a thriving community it’s hard to imagine there ever being conflict. Alas, the outdoor world is not without struggle. The expansive spaces of glaciers, mountain wilderness, and coast sides, often puts you face to face with both internal and external dilemmas.

A couple interns and senior guides reflect on when the got to their first ‘I’m not sure I can do this’ moment. And the process and realization that a successful outcome is about adapting and problem solving. Even in relationships with self and team, this holds true to cultivating the communication skills necessary for growth. Noticing that the small steps are very important to a long journey.

Where Did They Come From, Where Did They Go

man plays guitar in front of mountains

A wild ice climber seen on the land playing guitar in the Matanuska Valley.

An outdoor internship is typically filled with young folks, in the peak of their 20’s. They arrive inspired from areas near public lands that they enjoyed in their youth. Others come from cities with little green space, once left and followed to a forest floor, they feel the draw to go further into.

As education and exposure get introduced further into formal learning applications, many arrive in far off landscapes. Although many young people frequent this route there are more and more people reevaluating their careers and taking on the wilderness later on. This is a world opening to birds of many feathers.

The summer and fall are filled with new knowledge within the scope of an outdoor internship. The people who fill them decide how and where they will take these new found skills. Some are inspired to take on divergencies of their original plans after one summer. Handfuls realize that this is their perfect fit, for now. And that staying in Alaska with an outdoor community is what helps them fulfill their goals and helps them grow. Teaching future generations the lessons they have learned.

It could be the draw of the midnight sun, the prospect of commuting to work by helicopter, the challenge that Alaska presents, or a multitude of reasons. Something that is an absolute, once you step into Alaska and fall into the wilderness, you are bound to change. No matter what pathway you took in.