Ignoring the judgment from others, outdoor enthusiast enrols in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership
“I love highway driving,” says Michael Doyle-Baker,19, as he makes his way towards the Rocky Mountains. The snow has melted as the warm weather constantly persists despite the winter month of March. The summer wind roars past with windows down, music pumping through the bass.
“I just love being by myself, in my car and just driving to somewhere,” he shouts over the music. The road winds around corners as overpasses speed over us. The mountains approach with a touch of snow.
Equipped with his parents’ Jeep Wrangler he turns off the Kananaskis highway onto a dirt road.
Unlike a lot of his peers, Doyle-Baker lives for nature. Equipped with his film camera and his hiking boots, he regularly makes trips to the Rocky Mountains, sometimes for days at a time. Doyle-Baker is an aspiring wilderness guide in training. Still awaiting possible acceptance for his desired degree in Bachelor of Health and Physical Education with a major in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership at Mount Royal University (MRU) in September 2015.
But he’s lost. Unknowing of the severity of wind outside he opens the Jeep door. It is almost blown off the hinges by a gust of wind.
“We shouldn’t have come out here today. Now I don’t want to go home and study,” Doyle-Baker says as we stumble down the hiking trail. The wind is vicious, constantly blowing him off his feet. Finally, the lake comes into view. The glistening blue surface ripples with the wind gusts. Fluffy clouds subtly blanket the sky. The potency of the green grass lights up his eyes, it seems a little early in the year for such colours.
Photo by Hannah Willinger
Doyle-Baker pulls out his film camera and begins to document the scenery around him. His mustache is resilient against the wind, standing its ground firm in place and shape. His glasses rest on top of his Patagonia hat wrapped in cheetah print duck tape.
Doyle-Baker has certainly experienced the world more than the average 19-year-old, having traveled to Iceland, China, Cambodia and many landmarks in Canada.
He was born and raised in Calgary with two other siblings, all brothers, Doyle-Baker being the middle child. His father works in oil and gas while his mother teaches at the University of Calgary. It seems like wilderness guiding would be the last career Doyle-Baker would choose. Graduating from West Island College in 2014, most students immediately enrolled in university programs leading to professions like engineering, law school or med school. But instead, Doyle-Baker embraces the outdoor hippy lifestyle.
“It’s a really new field in Alberta and I’m not stuck inside all the time. I thrive outside; I’m calm, less aggressive and can be myself. But I get judged a lot for wanting this. It was going to be the military or nothing just because it’s active.”
As Doyle-Baker thrives in the outdoors he tries to find jobs that include the outdoors and physical activity. He currently works as ski coach for Banff Alpine Racers in the winter. He then works as a camp counselor for Camp Chief Hector, a YMCA camp in the summer.
Photo by Hannah Willinger Some think his plan for a bachelor of health and physical education degree at MRU will leave him jobless, says Doyle-Baker
“People always are ignorant of what I will do with my degree. It can split off into the business side and outdoor side. You can open up your own business and employ your guides; you can sell the equipment needed for guides. You can also go to the outdoor side where you are in the field doing all the trips yourself. I’m leaning towards the outdoor path.”
But according to Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Travel Alberta’s framework document: “Our tourism industry also has great potential to diversify Alberta’s economy, which is why growing our tourism industry by 32 per cent – from $7.8 billion to $10.3 billion – by 2020 is key to building Alberta.” It seems like tourism does not seem like a jobless profession anymore.
Claire Horton, The Bow Valley Quickies Program Manager, acknowledges Doyle-Baker’s love for the outdoors through his job via e-mail. “Michael Doyle-Baker has now coached for Banff Alpine Racers for three seasons. Mike is always willing to give a hand, especially when it included having fun with kids and getting outdoors. The kids love his energy, and he makes any ‘training’ seem like a game.”
The outdoors can open new windows for friendship and family. These trips can force you into confined places with people you are unfamiliar with. This can either drive a person insane or can bless someone with the best experiences of their lives. Doyle-Baker called this “cabin fever.” This occurs when an individual spends a substantial amount of time with people they are unfamiliar within a confined space.
This past summer Doyle-Baker traveled to Iceland. During his ski tour, a horrific storm blew in. He was stuck with these people for days. “When I was in Iceland my friend and I plus the Salomon free ski team got caught in a three-day storm where we couldn’t leave our huts for three days because we got snowed in. The guides had to come dig us out so we could go eat in the main house thirty feet away. We would have to layer ourselves with clothing just to be outside for five minutes. It wasn’t really that cold, it’s the 120 km wind that got you.”
Photo by Hannah Willinger
And yet after almost going crazy multiple times, Doyle-Baker says he would definitely do it again.
Emery Tetreault, a close friend and coworker of Doyle-Baker, can see his passion for the outdoors through his work at Banff Alpine. “He [Doyle-Baker] is very passionate and dedicated in whatever he does. He brings his good sense of humour wherever he goes making everyone’s day. As a friend he is always there should I need him. He is quite passionate about nature and exploring it to the maximum hence his decision to go to school for ecotourism.”
As he walks back to the truck he stands strong against the wind, as sure footed as Atlas.
“I found my passion for this going through the YMCA Camp Chief Hector. You spend two weeks outside, sleeping in a tipi. As you get older the trips increase and you spend more and more time outside. We would just hang out and there was no pressure, everything was a lot more relaxed. I want my future to look like that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”