Summer Wilderness Trip Story: Explore Austin CEO

Every year Explore Austin CEO, Mike Braeuer, travels with a team of Explorers on a week-long Summer Wilderness Trip. Mike believes that going on trips helps keep him more connected to the Explore Austin mission, even if that means riding 70 intense miles on a mountain bike in the summer heat. See below for Mike’s story about his 2016 trip in his own words. 
I too, took to the trail with a group of Explorers and Mentors to grown in my ACES Leadership, mentor and be mentored by others, and adventure together with good friends. What I saw and experienced inspired me and renewed my vision for how Explore Austin can change the world. Physically, the 70-mile bike trip was grueling... for everyone involved which, as you already know, makes for an even more challenging mental and emotional experience with the constant struggle to give into and ease the discomfort. Of course, that's where the breakthrough comes; when we dig deep and find inner-strength we didn't know we had. This is to say nothing of the team dynamics which often are the biggest challenge of all. This group really took care of each other and supported each other in ways that truly inspired me. Additionally, the annual "Spotlight" updates we did, surfaced many new significant life steps these young men took this last year. On top of the usual convos re breakups with girlfriends and struggles with parents and school, it was clear breakthrough and life-change was happening for each and every one of the Explorers before our very eyes.
I was especially moved by one of our Mentors, Steve, whose tough love for and dedication to J., an overweight 16-year old Explorer, helped inspire him to breakthrough barriers in his mind and ride longer, farther and faster than he imagined he could. J. cried tears of joy both at the summit (which he said he didn't think he would get to) and after he put his bike away for the last time on day 6. To him, the bike and the mountain he "conquered" (to use his word) where physical reminders of the emotional reality that he was strong and "CAN DO" anything he sets his mind to do. 
J. was just one of 15 young men on this trip, which was just one of 18 trips this summer, which was just one trip of these last of ten summers and countless more to come. If you're reading this, you're part of our Tribe. Thank you for helping to make J.'s story a reality and so many more untold stories of Explorers and Mentors overcoming obstacles like loneliness, depression, anxiety, fatherlessness, bullying, financial stress, and other struggles that come their way. Thanks to you and the rest of the Explore Austin family, J. and hundreds of other Explorers can face whatever challenges lie ahead and say with confidence, "I CAN."