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Chicago adventurers nominated by National Geographic

Photo of Dave and Amy Freeman courtesy of Bryan Hansel
Photo of Dave and Amy Freeman courtesy of Bryan Hansel
Bryan Hansel

This column has followed the adventures of Chicagoland's own Dave and Amy Freeman on their amazing North American Odyssey for over three years. Even though the epic journey is over, their exploits are not. Otherwise known as the Wilderness Classroom, earlier this year they completed an impressive 11,000 mile trip around North America kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and dog sledding.

They finished in Key West, Florida after departing from Seattle, Washington on Earth Day 2010. They just received the exciting word that they have been nominated as adventurers of the year by National Geographic.

Related: Wilderness Classroom leaves on Earth Day for an adventure of a lifetime

On National Geographic’s website, they describe the classification as:

For nine years, National Geographic has combed the globe to find the Adventurers of the Year, each selected for his or her extraordinary achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism. This year, we picked people who embody the spirit of adventure in diverse ways—a sky runner reinventing the rules; a skier re-imagining his backyard; a climber seeking the hardest routes; a solo woman walking across the globe; a pair of veterans creating community where it's needed most; and five more incredible feats.

The great thing about the Wilderness Classroom is their journey exemplified all of the traits indicated by National Geographic in determining who is worthy of the nomination. There is no one that has explored the world more deeply over the last three years than the Wilderness Classroom. With over 11,000 miles under their belt including a kayak trip up the Northwest Passage, dog sledding across Canada’s immense Northwest Territories, and kayaking through the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the entire East Coast, it would be hard to find anyone with more exploration feathers in their caps.

Related: Wilderness Classroom halfway done with their 11,700 mile adventure

The North American Odyssey was one long adventure sport for Dave and Amy. Adventure sports are what most people do on an occasional weekend or for their vacation. For three years Dave and Amy lived and breathed adventure sports as it was as important to them as walking. It was their mode of transportation around the continent.

The whole reason for the adventure was to raise awareness to our wild places and to protect our waterways. Dave and Amy tried and succeeded in getting this message to our children through interactive technology that allowed hundreds of thousands of school children to follow along with their journey and interact through interesting and well thought out lesson plans.

Related: The Wilderness Classroom teaches children adventure travel problem solving skills

While the Wilderness Classroom is not a humanitarian endeavor, if you have followed them or heard them talk, it is evident that they are humanitarians. In our critical situation with climate change, the most humanitarian effort one can make is to raise awareness to the delicate state of our planet. You could make an argument that the Wilderness Classroom is saving future lives.

I have not looked at the other candidates for the nomination. I am sure they are all just as worthy, but I doubt any of the other contenders rank so high in all of the four categories listed by National Geographic. Therefore, my vote is for the Wilderness Classroom, and I think yours should be too. You can vote once a day through January 31, 2014 by clicking here.

Lead photo courtesy of Bryan Hansel

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