An Interview 37 North founder, Danny Collins
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Danny Collins left the Ozarks, diploma in hand, for the corporate bustle of New York City... four years later he came running right back brimming with a new passion for the outdoors he left behind. Now in Springfield, Mo, Collins brings back not only a newfound career, but a myriad of experiences spanning from the Bronx to the starlit skies above upstate New York to the steamy jungle paths of South America and back.
For Life in Motion, Jeremy Lux chats with 37 North founder and trail guide, Danny Collins on taking risks, work-life balance, and the joys of getting lost. Collins’ company 37 North, specializes in guided group hikes across the country.
"I always had a passion for the outdoors," says Collins who worked at an architecture firm in NYC right out of college where he did “the whole corporate thing” for four years, "So when I moved to New York," he continues, "my desire to get out of the huge city became the greatest thing that ever happened to me."
This desire propelled Collins to get his guide and wilderness first responder certifications just so he could leave the city and office behind for a moment. On Saturdays, he worked as a trail guide but for Collins it was more than just a weekend hobby; it was an outright escape.
He describes picking up hikers in the middle of Union Station then heading upstate to the state parks. Other destinations included New Hampshire, the Adirondacks, and even larger trips to Canada and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. If it was one thing for sure, Collins and his crew left the boroughs of New York behind for the scenic route.
Collins recalls a trip where he took two women from inner-city Bronx to upstate New York. He remembers how dazzled they were by the stars and scenery.
"We had a campfire and cooked some s'mores and just seeing their eyes light up because you can start a fire with your hands... I mean I think I did it with a match. But still, it was crazy," says Collins, "I just remember how special of a scenario that was for them and it just made me feel good to have played a part in that role."
But even with all the hiking and great outdoors, life in the city left Collins feeling drained. Much of the burden could be tacked to his job at the firm.
"It was stressful," admits Collins, "...nobody was working together even though the common goal was something that everybody wanted to achieve."
In comparison to his other job on the trails, Collins worked hard, picking up hikers at 7 am and not coming home until 9 pm (on his day off) ...but he felt so much happier doing it.
"It never felt like work," he says, "I had this click in my brain that just said 'wow this is where you need to go'."
Photo taken by: Sam Starr
The city was beginning to burn out Collins so he decided to leave. In fact, he just left the country altogether and headed to Ecuador to become an international tourist guide and be closer to his wife's family. If the Adirondacks were an escape then Collins was certainly in his element nestled in the Andes.
To date, Collins has visited 34 countries and with each new addition he learns something new about himself and humanity. He describes travel as a way to open one's eyes to the diversity of the world.
When Collins returned home from Ecuador, he took the life experiences and lessons learned abroad to found his trail company, 37 North.
"The goal is simple," says Collins, "it's to get more people out exploring."
He mentions how there are so many gorgeous places right under our noses and in our very backyards. Collins left the Ozarks for the big city and when he returned, he was "in shock to realize how truly beautiful this place is."
For his trips, Collins puts a focus on switching things up with different guides, trails, and activities. Founded in April 2018, 37 North is already showing signs of expanding with added guides and plans to include more local businesses. This includes partnership with local breweries, group guided meditations with local studios, as well as photography series trips.
Hikes usually start around 7:30-8 am and last until 5 pm and differ in challenge from newbies to seasoned adventurers. Collins mentions some hikers flying in from Florida just to see the greater Ozarks on a 37 North trip.
Photo taken by: Sam Starr
When talking about waiting for life's opportunities, Collin's advice is simple and to the point; don't.
"I was always sitting waiting for the right moment for the right thing to happen...I thought it was going to smack me in the face," says Collins "...but there's not gonna be the perfect time for anything."
For Collins, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take and though being an entrepreneur may not have the guarantees of a corporate job it has rewarded Collins with an unrivaled sense of freedom and satisfaction.
Collins' mantra is just as freewheeling and down-to-earth as the paths he travels on.
“I will tell you 100% I will not be where I’m imagining us in five years and I’m totally okay with that...that’s what entrepreneurship is about, just enjoying the ride.”
Life is just like any trail, you never know what lies ahead; your only option is to push forward.
"Just understand that the world's a great place with great people,” says Collins, “and it's so different than a small town in Missouri."
To learn more about Danny Collins, 37 North, or booking a trip, check out the company's website at 37northexpeditions.com or connect with them on Facebook or Instagram. And as always, you can hear Jeremy Lux's full interivew with Collins on the Life in Motion podcast available on iTunes.