Taking the Road Less Traveled

By: Tiffany Soukup, ’04, and Christopher Brader, ’04

I met my husband completely by surprise and in the most unlikely of places. We each belonged to the Wilderness Adventure Club at Buffalo State and, by chance, we happened to be paired up to carpool together for a mountain biking activity the club was going on.

Within our first four hours of meeting, we got into an intense debate over sports. I said cheerleading was a sport; Chris said it was not. It is an ongoing debate that has followed us the 13 years (and counting) we have been together, nine of those as a married couple.

What makes us unique alumni is not so much that we both received our bachelor’s degrees from the same college, but how we have chosen to live our lives since graduation. Early on we decided to take the road less traveled and live a life of adventure. We started our journey west when I finished my last semester of college on the National Student Exchange Program at Northern Arizona University.

A little jaunt north brought us to Denver, Colorado, where we were both accepted for an AmeriCorps program with the Mile High Youth Corps. Through the program, we each earned nearly $5,000 to help pay down our school loans. After that, we became wilderness therapy instructors with Second Nature in the Utah desert. We lived in a cheap apartment, ate a lot of pasta, and paid off all our remaining school loans in a year and a half.

From there, we have either lived, worked, or traveled in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Argentina, 10 African countries, and more. We have worked as baristas, cherry pickers, farmhands on a sheep and potato farm, park rangers with Vermont State Parks, and innkeepers at a remote lodge in a 27,000-acre forest. We’ve free-climbed to the tops of trees higher than Niagara Falls, dived with a dozen bull sharks at once, and hiked into remote jungles looking for tapirs and orangutans.

We are currently venturing around Southeast Asia as full-time travel bloggers, writers, and photographers. Through all these travels, we have been able to continue our professional development, grow our finances, and save for retirement as we carve out our own lifestyle design. It’s not always smooth sailing. We don’t always know exactly what we are doing or what will happen, but if we’re honest, who does? The one thing I do know is that I am driven to wake up and get out of bed every day to pursue this dream and life we are creating for ourselves and to share that with others.

Finishing college and earning a four-year degree was hard. Finding what motivates us, stepping up to challenges, and embracing the unknown is also hard. But if we don’t try to fill our lives full of passions and take risks, even if we might fall on our faces, we risk the greatest loss of all: a life gone by without fulfilling the role we were meant to play.

Every day I am thankful I found my life partner in a basement room at Buffalo State College. Together we are tackling the grand adventure called life. And for the record, cheerleading is a sport.