NOLS Course: Spring Semester in the Rockies, 2004
Wilderness Medicine Certification: Wilderness First Responder
NOLS Instructor Since: 2008
In 2004, Matthew Copeland’s life needed a change. In his seventh year of living in Washington D.C., working in the business side of the high-tech industry, he decided he’d had enough. He wanted to pursue something he was really passionate about. “One day I realized I didn’t want do it for another year or another 40 years, recalls Matthew. “So I quit, took a Spring Semester in the Rockies and the rest, is history.”
Over the next 89 days, Matthew would gain knowledge in wilderness medicine, canyoneering, river travel, climbing and horse packing. Out in the field, able to gain a fresh perspective on life, he immersed himself in the experience.
He recalls a particularly eventful day that brought him to exactly where he wanted to be. On Easter, during his NOLS semester, while navigating the first big rapid of the Green River, an oar rig snagged on a rock, and dumped its passengers and course gear into the swiftly moving river. Everything except for a tent was rescued, but somehow the “dry-bags” packed with course gear, did not live up to their name.
Exhausted and wet, Matthew and his course mates crammed 5 people into each 4-person tent, and squirmed into soggy sleeping bags as a night rain began to fall. Completely soaked, Matthew lay with his feet sticking out of the tent—the only way he could fit. “All I could do was smile. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I couldn’t have been happier,” he recalls.
At 28, Matthew admits he was a bit apprehensive in heading out into the field with course mates as young as 17. However, he found this to be an incredibly refreshing experience. “It provided me with the opportunity to mentor, teach and give my course mates a different perspective based on where I was coming from,” recalls Matthew. “And, in return, they were able to do the same.”
After his NOLS Semester, Matthew spent several months exploring the American West, before accepting a position as the supervisor for the NOLS Bus, a 36-foot bus powered by recycled vegetable oil and solar power. For the next 10 months, He would travel the nation educating hundreds of people about alternative energy and renewable resources, all while spreading the word of NOLS.
“The great group of people attracted me to NOLS,” comments Matthew. “I spent seven years doing something that at the end of the day I didn’t really care about. On the bus, I had the ability to communicate a message I was passionate about and really enjoyed it. And, I was able to see some amazing country.”
Matthew has been the Marketing Manager since summer 2005. He continues to pour his efforts into NOLS and multiply his contributions to the greater good.
In July 2008, Matthew fulfilled a dream, his dream to become a NOLS Instructor. Following a 35-day NOLS Instructor Course, he is anxious to share his knowledge and passion with students from all walks of life. He is excited to expand from instructing wilderness backpacking courses into the climbing and sailing programs.
“I believe in our mission, I share our stated values, and I’m immeasurably proud to be a part of this community,” comments Matthew.