The expedition is made up of three Minnesotans, with various outdoor and travel backgrounds. The walk will not only push us but will surely help us experience great growth as we work our way across Asia. Each with our personal motivations, we are united in our thirst for the adventure and challenge this expedition will bring.
Person: Paul "Pow-Pow" Ronan
Growing up in Minnesota you are surrounded by people who have an unrivaled love for everything outdoors. Throughout my teenage years, I met people, went on a few adventures, got into trouble, but always found myself walking back into the woods. After high school, I studied Outdoor Leadership which got me work ranging from leading horseback trips in Colorado to sea kayaking in Vietnam. In 2013 I moved to China where my time abroad has continued to teach me that there is more in me than I know. I've been balancing life in Minnesota and China ever since.
-My biggest fear is being tickled
-My favorite rapper is The Notorious B.I.G.
-Currently, I may be found practicing knots with my shoe laces
Purpose: My purpose for walking the Silk Road is woven into the idea that “Humanity has thrived most when connected across its far-flung habitats by exchanges of goods, ideas, arts, and people themselves.” - James A. Millward.
Person: Patrick Exe
I grew up outside the small town of Winona, Minnesota, USA. Outside this little town, I grew up outside! Climbing trees, building forts, catching frogs, sledding in the winter, and catching night crawlers (worms) in the spring rains. My family is very outdoorsy; at a young age I learned to fish, hunt, and appreciate nature for everything it offers. I also learned how to share this joy with my friends. Through this informal educator role, I realized what a deep appreciation I had for nature.
-My lucky item is my red hat. We've been friends since I was half a year old! Long story short, the elastic in it no longer works.
-My favorite activities are snowboarding, star-gazing, and playing pool.
-My future ambitions are to one day build my own house, and to put my green thumb to use growing an organic garden to eat. Maybe, even have a kid or two--goats, I mean. Not small humans, that's crazy talk.
Place: Born and raised in Winona, Minnesota.
In the summer of 2010, I started working for the Wisconsin Conservation Corps, and that fall I enrolled at Vermilion Community College in northern MN. I studied Outdoor Leadership and met Paul, Timb, and a bunch of other amazing, like-minded people. A couple of years later in Los Angeles, I worked in the Santa Monica Mountains as a naturalist, kindling my passion for outdoor education and traveling. Before I knew it, I found myself traveling around China as an outdoor adventure consultant.
Purpose: If there was one consistent thing that school offered me, it was the reinforcement about how big the world is. As I've begun to travel, I now realize I want to see the countryside’s and "forgotten" places more than all those big cities that everyone knows. I would like to see how different and similar everyone is, regardless of location on the globe. The walk is a tool for me to do this.
Person: Timb Mannuzza
Timb with a silent b, like climb or limb. I have a habit of always getting dirty. Whether it is rebuilding a road in the mountains of Tajikistan or digging to bedrock in the jungle. With a thirst for learning, I can intelligibly mispronounce words in a half dozen languages. I am usually found on the move with an inability to stay in a single place for long and having grown up traveling, I have always loved learning about other cultures first hand.
I have a strong aversion to pants and shaving, which is evident by the scraggly ice filled beard that hangs lopsided from my face in the winter.
-Weaknesses are heat, bugs and speed (anything above 15km/hr).
-Obsessed with Magic: The Gathering.
-Trained for two years to be able to eat spicy foods.
Place: Heart lies in Ely, Minnesota.
I rarely stay in a single place for long, often moving with the seasons and filing taxes for three states in a single year. Constantly working to see the world and I am especially attracted to desolation and empty places, devoid of others. Having visited over 35 countries, some of my favorite places to be are the north woods of Minnesota, a small farm in Sicily, the Gunnison Valley, a café in Turkey, a canyon in Utah, and deep in the jungle of Central America.
Purpose: I became an outdoor educator due to a love of teaching and an insatiable desire for adventure and exploration. This led me to Voyageur Outward Bound School. I learned quickly that work, although providing me with skills, would never fulfill my need for adventure. I will be walking for the immense challenge it represents, physically, mentally, logistically, and emotionally; to face the challenges of all sizes, foreseen and unforeseeable, tedious and exhausting, with steadiness and without yielding.
I value learning life-ways of others, and how different the obvious may be when seen through a different cultural lens.
Our support team is made up of talented and passionate individuals eager to be a part of something bigger, while still keeping at least one foot planted on the ground at home.
Person: Conner Keeffe
For me, life is at its best when I’m sitting in a canoe. Since my first real canoe trip at age 13, I’ve transitioned from being a passive guest in nature to being an active outdoor educator. I discovered the joys of experiential education in college and currently, continue teaching and facilitating in the wilderness with Outward Bound in Minnesota. Even when it’s not my job, I can’t help but teach people about trees or how to tie different knots!
I attended college at Loyola University Chicago, where I was able to feed my other passions of film and photography. Studying film was one of the most fun and overwhelming things I’ve ever committed myself to, but now I feel as comfortable expressing myself through light and color as I do through English. Creating art that tells a story is one of the most rewarding things imaginable.
Place: Be it natural wilderness or urban wilderness; the wild is where I feel most at home. Put me at either end of the spectrum, and I’ll find my way. South Minneapolis was home as a kid, but I would say I grew up in many different settings. The nature outside of Ely, Minnesota was a part of my life every summer since I was six, and I’ve been on the ski hill every winter from an even earlier age. I attended college in the urban jungle of Chicago, and have since then lived for almost two years in Uppsala, Sweden. Home has become a relative term for me, and at this point, I am comfortable calling even the tent I sleep in home.
Purpose: The greatest driving force behind what I do is my love for nature and the environment. Almost all issues in the world today are linked together like a giant spider web, which is why I believe creating a greater appreciation of our global community will help shape a more sustainable future. I am excited to play a part, however small, in creating cross-cultural understanding through images and storytelling with the Silk Walk.
Person: Katherine Davis
My hometown, Park City, UT, a place where the mountains meet the sky, is where I developed my deep appreciation for all the gifts being outside brings. And it was all the challenges of moving and studying at Southern Methodist University that helped me discover passion for communication and education.
Soon enough I found myself working at Voyageur Outward Bound School, a place that has allowed me to combine my passions and channel them in ways I never thought possible. These realizations sparked the pursuit of my masters at the University of Southern California, where I am learning more about how to transform data into action.
Place: Although Utah is my safe place, I have learned that home is about the people. I have sought out tight-knit communities for ten summers in the Sierra Nevada’s at Gold Arrow Camp and for ten days with the Taos Pueblo community. All these places have taught me that I can find a home no matter where I go.
Purpose: Walking has that extraordinary ability to share with the world our message and purpose — ourselves, in all its glory and pain. That is why the Silk Walk mission stood out to me, for its relevance and truth. This team is bursting with passion, personality, and adventure. I feel fortunate to be helping them share the narrative of this journey.
Person: Delaney Adrian
I live in a small mountain town in Colorado, USA. I am about to graduate with a BFA in Photography. My goals are to keep speaking and fighting for what I believe is right within my art, and in my daily life.
Purpose: I am invested in the Silk Walk not only because I want my friends to succeed in their goals, but also because I believe whatever they learn during the walk will have an effect on others understanding of the world. Which we desperately need in this time of conflict.
Person: Mark Carlson
I came to know the Silkwalkers as their Outdoor Leadership program instructor at Vermilion College in Ely, MN in 2012 or so. I’ll always remember hearing Paul tell me that OUTL1230 - Canoe Expedition was his first time not camping from a car, skiing with Patrick miles into the wilderness to check on students on winter solo, and Timb making a legendary instructional video called “Brown Tide: Why We Fight” for Outdoor Pursuits I (look it up on youtube). What the three of them have done since graduating VCC has been so rewarding to see and be a part of. Through their generosity, leadership, and vision I have been able to travel more myself and expose current students to places I never imagined traveling to.
Place: I’ve always quipped “why would you put 50 pounds on your back and walk when you can put it in a perfectly good canoe and paddle it around?” Evidently, the guys didn’t heed this. But then again, I’ve never taken on nearly as epic an expedition like the Silk Walk. Thanks to them, I’ve been to China three times and I fully plan to join them somewhere along their route. Until then, you can find me in the seat of a canoe or kayak, perched on a bicycle, or on skis.
Purpose: I’m told I serve as some sort of support person for the Silk Walk should they need me. Really though, I’m taking the lead from them, sitting back, and am awestruck by what this expedition means in scope and purpose. I’m sharing their journey with current students and as many people as I can in hope to inspire them to really see what’s possible in Outdoor Education and Expeditioning.
Because they're more than just sponsors.