On Sunday, I took the family over to a local library to hear John Huston speak. John is a professional polar explorer, the first American to reach the North Pole, unsupported, and has also completed expeditions to the South Pole, Greenland, and Ellesmere Island. While an instructor and sled dog trainer at the Voyageur Outward Bound School in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, exposed to stories about Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. This led to an interest and subsequent career in polar exploration. I had seen John at the Winter Outdoor Retailer Market (complete with sled puppies!), but couldn’t stop to meet him as I was on my way to another appointment. Serendipitous that he was giving this talk just several suburbs over.
John started off by introducing himself, giving some background, and immediately launching into Part 1 of his harrowing trek to the North Pole. He then deftly wove in other trips, his training, animals seen while exploring these remote regions. It’s not often someone can make endless days of misery seem appealing, but John did just that (though no one else in the family is chomping at the bit to get on an expedition with him anytime soon).
It is fascinating what it takes to plan, train, and raise funds for one of these epic trips. While physically difficult (imagine skiing across endless ice for months and eating basically one type of food twice a day for that same duration), John noted that the mental aspects are equally difficult, so many polar explorers emphasize the positive in order not to spiral into a trip-ending depression. Makes sense.
John was an engaging speaker, and he travels all over, speaking to corporate employees, youth groups, and the regular public. It’s a great outreach and lines up with his primary focus, using his exploits to get people (specifically kids) outdoors. Check out the Chicago Voyagers, an at-risk youth mentorship and wilderness program for teens from low income homes that he works with. If you get a chance to hear him speak, make time – it’s a good talk and inspired me to get outdoors more often than I’m doing now.