All in outside: Once you’re in, you’re in

They are paddlers, runners, climbers, hikers, swimmers, bicycle riders, skiers, backpackers and cavers. They do yoga, mud runs, duathlons, triathlons, marathons and aerobics. They are teachers, coaches, social workers, wood workers, business people, doctors, lawyers, engineers, park rangers, non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs. They are Mountain Challenge alumni, and they are changing the world.

At Mountain Challenge, once you’re, in you’re in. Over the next several weeks, we will bring you inspiring stories of folks who have adopted the “all in” mindset and how it has influenced their lives.

One example is Lindsay O’Neal, a recent Maryville College graduate.

“I woke up one morning and found myself standing on a porch, listening to Howler monkeys, eating beans, eggs, rice and fresh fruit for breakfast, and then [was] dragged off to a hummingbird garden in Costa Rica.”

For her, that moment encompassed her entire Mountain Challenge experience.

“[It] taught me the power of Pura Vida and how to live and enjoy the most pure life possible,” she said.
Her life-changing trip to Costa Rica in May of 2013 was the pinnacle of four years at Mountain Challenge as a Mountain Challenge Fellowship recipient. From the beginning of her freshman year, O’Neal said she was enthusiastic about working with people and playing outside, but she did not fully understand the influence of Mountain Challenge on her personal life until later in her undergraduate career.

As she grew increasingly passionate about the outdoors, the importance of fitness and the integration of the two, O’Neal found herself rethinking her original plan to attend medical school after graduation. By the time she entered the fall of her senior year, O’Neal came to realize that the skills she obtained by working at Mountain Challenge gave her the abilities and confidence to pursue a different career that would synthesize her loves of science and people.

Now a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, O’Neal gives credit to Mountain Challenge for guiding her ambitions.

“Mountain Challenge influenced this decision by showing me I have the ability to teach almost anyone anything from the wisdom of a tennis ball named Wilson, to a very windy ridge, to how dangling 59.5 feet in the air is like climbing out of a swimming pool.”

Perhaps, though, among all the valuable knowledge she gained as a staff member at Mountain Challenge was the importance and positive influence of fitness. O’Neal is now an avid runner, hiker and occasional rock climber, all hobbies she picked up during her time at Mountain Challenge.

From a tepid pre-med student to an aspiring biochemistry professor, Mountain Challenge alumna Lindsey O’Neal will be the first to boast about the outdoor company’s meaningful impact on her personal and professional lives:

“Mountain Challenge gave me the ability to be a leader. I was taught how to speak to every kind of group imaginable, and I was taught how to handle stressful situations,” O’Neal said. “Mountain Challenge also instilled in me the confidence I needed to get through four years of undergrad, as well as chase after a seemingly impossible task: the PhD.”

In the meantime, she can be expected to be found playing outside somewhere.

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