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Northland Challenge 2016: American Spirit

Oct 04, 2016

1 week to go...

Preparations for the 2016 Northland Challenge are being finalized. This year’s Challenge has been a long time in coming. As I have traveled for Northland and participated in Challenges in other parts of the world, a recurring theme is “you guys are different.” I sometimes understand this to mean “you Americans” are “eedjets” or “naive” or “narrow-minded.” However, it more often seems to mean “I can’t believe you just did that” or “we could never do that” or “you are a bunch of cowboys.”

This last impression is one popularized by old western movies and tv shows, reinforced by the Reagan years, and glorified by the Silicon Valley.

I don’t believe there is much truth to this stereotype of Americans as Cowboys abroad, but I thought it would be a fun premise for the Northland Challenge 2016. What would it take for someone to travel over hundreds of miles of desolate landscape on foot or horseback? Why would someone leave home, to pan for gold in the Sierras? or prospect for oil in the desert? or act in a movie? or turn sand into computers? or electrons into intangible wares?

It seems surviving the American Southwest with little more than a paper map, a Jeep and some boots might have something to do with it. So, in a week’s time, we will begin a journey to better understand the American psyche.