Discovering the Inner Wild Man
by David Hunt (Debark 2008-10)
I discovered the Wild Man late one night in year two of my Peace Corps service in a small town known as the gateway to the Simien Mountains — Debark. It wasn’t by accident either. I had been waking up more and more often in the middle of the night with entrepreneurial breakthroughs — both for my ongoing Peace Corps projects and for future venture ideas.
In many ways, my Peace Corps experience could be described as a dogfight against bureaucracy, constant attention, and unending frustration — not exactly the ideal environment for creativity. But somehow I was at the most creative, optimistic and energetic point of my 22 years.
My invigorated state of existence can probably be attributed to a combination of being surrounded by a classroom of young, eager students who dreamed big, some of the smartest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met; the thin air at 8,000 feet; and my solitary existence without peers, parents or colleagues to squash out-of-the box ideas.
Whatever the cause, it fueled late night searches for the long-missing link to a business idea an old friend, Dan Vinson, and I had been discussing over sporadic Skype calls at odd hours in the day. We had both reached the best shape of our lives in really non-traditional ways.
I had recently discovered a “gym” only a block from my house where I had been living for a year. I joined immediately for the reasonable price of $2/month and started lifting car parts regularly with a handful of guys in my town.
Dan was a backcountry wilderness ranger in Sequoia National Forest at the same time, and he had built an “all-natural” gym in the wild using trees, rocks and logs. We both agreed that our atypical workouts were not only much more fun than going to the traditional gym, but were getting us much better results.
We knew that this more natural way of moving and working out, functional fitness if you will, was something that would benefit a lot of Americans. Furthermore, we were both experiencing a simpler, more basic state of being — an increasingly desirable state for Americans (see the growing popularity of Yoga, Mindfulness, Tiny Houses, etc.); we both knew America needed to be re-introduced to the “Wild Man.”
The Wild Man is a mythical presence entwined in medieval European lore. It lived on the outskirts of the villages, weaving between the town and the forest, and represented each community’s connection to nature. From my remote mud hut in Ethiopia, it was fairly easy to realize that as technology has taken over our daily lives, we’ve slowly become disconnected from the natural world, and the general population of America is being completely removed from their connection to nature. Dan and I decided to bring back this connection through outdoor workouts.
Now, nearly five years after discovering the Wild Man, we’ve begun to make some progress with our business idea. In March, Dan and I launched a Kickstarter campaign for monkii bars — an ultra-portable fitness device that enables you to workout anywhere. We aimed to raise $25,000 in 39 days. We surpassed our goal on day 2 and continued on to raise $111,000, which will enable us to launch our product and a brand that will revolutionize fitness.
Through all of this, I continue to share our story, the story of the Wild Man, and the story of my start in the Peace Corps working alongside Ethiopian entrepreneurs and learning how to embrace the wildness, passion, and purpose that have carried us to our success today.