Embracing the Mystery Box: How Outdoor Leaders Discover and Sustain Their Way of Life


  • Patrick Lewis Ithaca College
  • Jay Kimiecik Miami University




narrative inquiry, outdoor leadership, career development, discovered life theme


Recent reports suggest that quality outdoor leaders are needed to meet the needs of increasing outdoor recreation participation. However, little is known about the experiences of individuals who discover outdoor leadership as a career or how outdoor leaders sustain this way of life over many years. Through a narrative inquiry framework, this study conducted in-depth interviews with outdoor leaders to better understand how they discovered the life theme of outdoor leader, as well as how they created and maintained this lifestyle over the years. This study used relevant life theme concepts such as flow and resonance as conceptual grounding, to understand and interpret the outdoor leaders’ stories. Findings describe experiences within two main categories: Becoming and Maintaining. The participants discussed experiences that served as catalysts for becoming an outdoor leader, and they described how they established community networks, connected with nature, and created goals and challenge to maintain their discovered life theme over many years. This article discusses implications for the growth and development of outdoor leaders as well as future research.

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Author Biographies

Patrick Lewis, Ithaca College

Assistant Professor

Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies

Jay Kimiecik, Miami University

Associate Professor

Department of Kinesiology and Health


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