This is a guest post by RLT alum Chris Bremner, now a screenwriter in Los Angeles.
EXT. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED – DAY
JIM, 50’s?, a weathered former guide turned CEO, makes his way over to a circle in his gray crocs, takes a seat with a GRUNT, smiles with his piercing blue eyes at his wife…
DONNA, 30’s?, beautiful, motherly but tough, his co-CEO…
They’re joining their family in a field thick with pollen somewhere near Larkspur, CO.
By family, we’re not just talking kids, BEN, CALLIE, and EMMA, but the wider family they’ve always cultivated…
In this case, we’re talking GUIDES, trip leaders, maybe 50 some-odd ridiculously educated, idealistic but level headed risk managers, who are getting ready to expand that RLT family for the summer to hundreds, (are there thousands yet? I don’t know, it’s been too long).
INT. BEVERLY HILLS (FANCIER THAN IT SOUNDS) – APT – NIGHT
I used to sit in that circle as a guide (middle of the road in terms of education and ideals, but risk-manager par excellence)…did so in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006…prior to that, I was one of those participants, ‘98, ‘99, ‘00…
I don’t have to look those dates up. I just know them, they’re such a massive part of me…I calculate around 497 nights spent sleeping outside under my lucky stars beside these people or because of them.
I haven’t worked for the company in a while now, but I’m still part of the family, Jim and Donna were at my wedding two years ago, and The Road Less Traveled will always be a tremendous part of my private experience, a lens, a gold standard to measure worth-whileness in all life experience.
Donna, Jim and I trade e-mails, we stay in touch a little, I know not as much as any of us would like, but life gets busy. Earlier in the year, Donna and I traded emails about me writing something about my time with the company, as I’ve done a few times in years past.
And though my heart was willing, when I sat down to write, it had been too long, I didn’t have any good ideas, anything new to say about this part of my teens and early 20’s…not at the moment.
But like all our richest experiences, it’s only a matter of time before they return to us, and shed new light on their import in our personal history.
The somewhat bizarre format here is reflective of my chosen occupation, screenwriting, which I’ve been at for five years now.
It’s unnecessary to say, Hollywood is a tough business. It takes a tenacity, that while I think I did possess innately, was definitely developed by the Road Less Traveled. Tenacity, risk analysis, group management a deep capacity for and experience with being at peace…Spanish language skills, travel skills, cooking, glacier navigation, botany…sure, there’s a lot that RLT did for my character and my skill set. I got them there, or developed them there, and I’m grateful.
However, as I’m getting older (I just turned 30), there’s no question that what RLT gave me more than anything was a tremendous well of worthwhile experience, genuine, fully- lived, and totally original.
As a writer, I’m always looking for my most vivid and compelling experiences as source material. And I just sold my first TV show based on that experience. It’s not a show about The Road Less Traveled (though stand by), or teenagers in the wilderness, or me in the wilderness, but there’s no question that so many of its compelling details draw directly from the summers I spent as part of this organization. Yet again, RLT experience took a central place for me. And it’s not the first time such experience has paid off, just the latest. I wrote my college essay about a summer with RLT too.
Of course, this bottomless well, its true benefits are hardly limited to my writing. And while I’m not walking the corporate title anymore, I do find that The Road Less Traveled follows me through all my life, offering insight around every bend. I smile to imagine the light it will shed on experiences ahead, especially when it comes time to build a small family of my own, on a model I was introduced to in a field filled with pollen a long time ago.
Chris Bremner grew up in St. Louis, but spent his summers traveling the world with The Road Less Traveled, as a participant, later as an intern, and finally as a trip leader. He went to Brown University, and graduated in 2006 with a degree in history. He led our staff training, and continued to lead trips through 2007. He has lived in Los Angeles since 2008, and is a comedy screen and television writer there. He got married in 2011, and his wife Sarah is also in the business. Currently, Chris has a cable show in development, is an associate producer on a movie he worked on that will premier in 2015, and the entertainment business generally keeps him too busy. But he loves to get back to the wilderness when he can, a passion and respite The Road Less Traveled engendered in him for so many years. He recently climbed Mt. Shasta in California, and is looking forward to his next chance to get back to the mountains.
Campfire image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.