A few years ago, one of my friends asked me a seemingly simple question: "You're always talking about how you want to be outside more -- why haven't you just tried to get a job that will let you do that?"
The truth was, I was already in the middle of a big career change. I began my professional life in the military. After deploying abroad and working as a military advisor, I decided I really liked living in other countries and working in new languages. So I decided to to make that permanent.
I applied to become a foreign service officer (aka diplomat) and spent almost ten years working on foreign policy, with most of that time spent in other countries. I loved it.
But we get older and life changes. My wife's career aspirations did not align well with my job's requirement that we move every few years. We had a baby girl, and I wanted my daughter to grow up close to her grandparents.
And there was that other thing -- the call of the mountains.
I have always loved the (to use the most all-encompassing phrase) Great Outdoors and from a young age spent hours wandering the trails of nearby forests. I was lucky to grow up in the Pacific Northwest where wilderness is never too far away. So when my wife and I decided to move back home to Portland, Oregon, I wasn't worried about missing the excitement of my old job. In fact, I couldn't wait to get back home and explore every nook and cranny of the northwestern wilderness. I had been gone too long.
I spent the next few years as a weekend warrior, often packing up my camping gear to spend a night or two in the mountains just outside of Portland. In my day job, I helped manage a fast-growing startup in healthcare tech. I was immersed in a digital world but pining for something else. After three years at the startup, it was time for me to set out on a new path.
That's when I started to think about the Mountyn Company. What could I do that would make put the Great Outdoors at the center of my effort?
I reached out to a fellow military veteran I held in high regard. BJ Balazs is a former Air Force SERE specialist (that's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). This is a special kind of person. For example, just one element of SERE training required BJ to live in the woods for six months. Later he trained with Air Force pararescue jumpers in emergency medicine, parachute jumps, and more. When it comes to knowledge about wilderness survival and handling high-stress situations, there is nobody more knowledgeable than BJ.
We started talking about what we could work on together. As we talked about our various outdoor activities, we realized how hard it had become to find quality physical maps. Some of our explorations took us far from the popular areas. BLM maps worked okay -- if you could find them. BJ and I loved our new smartphone mapping apps, but we knew better than to set out into the wilderness without a physical map as well.
So we decided to investigate how we might provide quality, custom, physical topographic maps for a low cost point. The more we looked into it, the more possible it seemed. Digital maps and paper maps both have strengths -- and we realized we might be able to combine those strengths. If we could build simple technical tools that allowed somebody to select their area of interest, and even upload their planned adventure data (trails, water sources, etc), then it would not be hard to print that map on specialized paper and deliver it to their door in just a few days.
It seems a little strange in today's world to focus on an "old-fashioned" product like physical maps. But we like to keep it old fashioned. Most of us go outside to escape the noise and hustle of everyday life. We wanted the Mountyn Company's products - and culture - to reflect the deep connection most of us feel when venturing into the Great Outdoors.
We also want to create a community of folks who appreciate this approach. If you're somebody who feels most at peace when you're outside, please sign up for our newsletter and join our community. Please leave a comment or reach out directly. You can always email me at email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you!