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Summer 2006 Issue
    Cover Article
    Message from the Editors
    NOLS Expedition Behavior: From Conception to Mantra
    Wild Side of Medicine: Blisters
    Advocates or Educators--and What's the Difference?
    A Noble Cause
    Q&A with John Gans, NOLS Executive Director
    Backcountry Safety Tips
    Mexico's Big Drops: A NOLS Tradition
    Uncommon Trails
    Recipe Box: App-Saroka Crisp
    This Job's a Trip
    Day 82 of 77: Lessons Learned from a NOLS Course
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This Job's a Trip
By Joanne Kuntz

Whitewater guiding on the Snake River, fighting fires, performing circus stunts, saving lives off the coast of Hawaii. Have you ever considered a new profession? For NOLS Yukon grad, Andrew Boston, it was mushing dogs in Alaska, and his whim recently turned into a reality…a reality TV show that is.

“This might be right up your alley,” said an email from a friend who sent Boston the details about the Travel Channel’s casting call for their reality series, “This Job’s a Trip.” The show features two people every episode getting the chance to live their dream jobs and, of course, given a little healthy competition after they learn the tricks of their new trade. In a suit all day, working in sales with law firms and lawyers in the greater Philadelphia area, Boston was eager for his next adventure when that message dropped into his inbox.

From his office in Pennsylvania to dog sledding in Alaska, Andrew Boston is taking his NOLS lessons to heart.

“A lot of wanting to participate in this comes from my background with NOLS,” claims the 24-year-old, “and loving to do different things, things off the cuff.” So with a daunting 2,000 other applicants, Boston applied to the Travel Channel and as the cast was whittled down to 200 and then to 10, he made each cut. Before he could say “mush,” he was in Alaska for a week to learn to race a dogsled.

The refreshing thing about “This Job’s a Trip” is that instead of worrying about being voted off an island, contestants have the unique opportunity to be mentored and to practice new skills. Boston’s time in Alaska started with simply riding in a dogsled and learning from those in the industry. “They put me in a sled and took me for about a 15-mile jaunt,” he explains. “And I was given the Michael Jordan of dog sled racers as a mentor, Vern Halter of Dream a Dream Dog Farm in Willow, who is very well-known in Alaska for running the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.”

The second step was to attach the sled to snowmobiles to teach Boston how to steer. “Me learning to hold on to the sled was their main goal,” he quips. “I took a lot of serious spills.” Third, his sled was attached to the dog team, but Vern was in another sled being pulled behind him as backup. Then, finally, he was controlling the sled and dogs all by himself. “I actually fell off the first time I ran with the dogs alone. Next thing I knew I was on the back of a snowmobile, whipping through the woods and we didn’t catch up with the dogs for almost two kilometers.”

After these basic lessons, he was pitted against another contestant in a race that consisted of a total of 25 miles by dogsled with a midway point of unhitching the dogs from the sled, boiling two gallons of water, feeding the dogs, and putting on snowshoes for a 200-yard dash. Even though his competitor had earned a head start from earlier time trial events, Boston still prevailed. And in lieu of the one million dollars other cutthroat reality series use to tempt their contestants, Boston walked away from this experience with something you can’t put a price on.

“I felt I walked away from the show with learning how to do something I never dreamed I would learn how to do. And I came out of it with such an appreciation for the energy associated with dogsled racing. The freedom of movement in that type of environment without a snowmobile and seeing how hard these animals work also gave me a new-found appreciation for the dogs,” he says.

Boston even seems to describe the dogs as the ideal course mates. “There was one time on my NOLS course when we were canoeing 70-miles on flat river. You really have to motivate when you’re going that distance on flat water. Encouraging the dogs was the same thing as motivating your course mates, but you never hear a word of sarcasm out of them and they never quit on you.”

His NOLS course also prepared him for the wilderness elements of dogsled racing. “The skills I transferred most from NOLS to this were managing the cold and the elements, navigation, and teamwork. Unlike the camera crew who had virtually no outdoor experience, nothing phased me out there.”

To catch Boston on the tube, tune in to the Travel Channel on Thursday nights at 8 pm this July for his episode of “This Job’s a Trip”. Look for the guy in his NOLS Yukon t-shirt, a guy who won’t settle for just a week vacation in Vegas. Then start dreaming about you want to be when you grow up.

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