The 2019 Escape Adulthood Summit – our seventh! – was another sold-out affair. More than seventy people, from 14 different states and Canadian provinces gathered in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin, for a chance to take a break from the daily grind, connect with other Adultitis Fighters, and take their lives to a new level.
This year’s theme was inspired by the Henry David Thoreau quote, “All good things are wild and free.”
That being said, we wanted to set the tone in a wild and memorable way. As guests arrived with their Golden Tickets, they were greeted by snakes, alligators, lizards, and turtles presented by the Madison Herpetological Society.
While some folks admired them from a distance, others were eager to get up close and personal with the unconventional ambassadors.
A wild start indeed.
Once the doors opened, we greeted each guest one by one, excited to share with them all that the team had spent many months planning.
Everyone got a swag bag filled with all kinds of fun surprises…
…including an exclusive t-shirt…
…and some new anti-Adultitis temporary tattoos. (Now available at the Lemonade Stand!)
As eager as we were to kick things off, we couldn’t start our journey together on empty stomachs.
Aside from beginning and end times, we purposefully keep most of the agenda a secret. This is hard for some folks, but it’s a rare opportunity to unplug from the day-to-day hustle, be unshackled from the burden of managing time, and enjoy the freedom to just “be.”
Once you start meeting the smiling people who are serious about giving Adultitis a good swift kick to the shins, it’s pretty easy to settle in and go with the flow.
There is something special about people who decide to attend an Escape Adulthood Summit: they are the coolest people on the planet.
After some quick introductions, we love starting things off with a fun group project. Each table was tasked with creating a coat of arms inspired by their favorite wild animals.
Creative minds and busy hands went right to work generating some crafty masterpieces.
Later, each table got to share their creations with the rest of the group.
Jenna, pictured above, is our secret weapon. Besides managing the Lemonade Stand, she helped gather all of the materials needed to allow creativity to run wild on this project.
And the banners were hung with pride for the duration of the Summit.
Then it was time for our first-ever Summit Field Trip, a mile down the road to the MacKenzie Center, one of the most diverse education centers in Wisconsin, featuring interpretive trails, exhibits, museums and programming available for all ages.
Sara, one of our awesome team members, stepped up as the Summit “Mom” and gave attendees a bag on their way out the door, each one lovingly packed with snacks and treats.
Once on-site, everyone got a chance to take advantage of a number of pre-planned activities, or explore the grounds on their own.
There was a cool tour that highlighted fascinating facts of wildlife native to Wisconsin, such as bison, deer, gray wolves, lynx, red fox, and raptors. All of the animals in the exhibit were injured, orphaned or raised in captivity and cannot be released into the wild. They are cared for as part of an educational exhibit, providing people an opportunity to see and learn more about the animals that are part of Wisconsin’s ecological community.
Other options included archery…
…and the opportunity to break into groups for a scavenger hunt thoughtfully designed by Jenna.
For others, it was a chance to explore the beautiful grounds and enjoy the perfect day we ordered up.
The field trip concluded with some of the scavenger hunt teams entertaining us with chants they created as part of the game.
Back at the “ranch,” it was time for a hearty dinner of pulled pork, brisket, and all the fixin’s.
After dinner, we welcomed Dianne Moller of Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center who brought some her feathered friends.
It was thrilling to see and experience these amazing birds up close, including this juvenile bald eagle. (Did you know that the bald eagle’s head and tail feathers don’t fully turn white until they are five years old?)
This barn owl named Cookie stole the show with his little swagger and his eager desire to fly up into the rafter of this awesome, you know, barn.
After the birds took off for home, we assembled outside for some sweet treats, including a taste testing station of wild and weird sodas…
…featuring flavors like Mustard, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Ranch Dressing, Butter, Kittie Piddle, and Zombie Brains.
Jo from Sugarsmith was back for the second year, but we encouraged her to bring some flavors that were a little on the “wild” side. She obliged, and guests had the chance to try buttered popcorn and chocolate-flavored cotton candy.
And we also offered up the more traditional, but inner child-approved favorite, s’mores.
The evening was capped off by a joint talk from me and Kim. As I unveiled some of my newest paintings featuring whimsical wild animals, we shared lessons we learned from some of the more unconventional choices we’ve made in our life, and how they have led to much of the freedom we now enjoy.
On the morning of the second day, Kim started us off with a humorous and heartfelt talk about she reawakened her wild heart amidst the joyful haul of motherhood.
I had the opportunity to record it, and am pleased to share it with you here:
At every Escape Adulthood Summit, attendees are encouraged to bring an item for Show & Tell. It is always a highlight.
After breaking into groups and diving deeper into topics relevant for creating better health, relationships, workplaces, and lives, it was time for an old school art project.
The chance to decorate wooden birdhouses instantly transformed everyone back into kindergartners again.
After a Wisconsin-approved brat bar lunch, everyone was let out for recess! It featured some really BIG bubbles…
…some sumo-themed hijinks…
…a little juggling…
…semi-professional hula hooping…
Oh, and there was an epic Rock Paper Scissors war…
…and an extra helping of fun with a GIANT parachute!
Needless to say, it was NOT a good day for Adultitis.
As our time together wound down, I was able to share some thoughts on living a wild and free life.
I was eager to be able to tell the somewhat traumatic story of something I experienced a few Summits earlier. It was both one of my worst and best days ever, but taught be a valuable lesson about the power of seeing with new eyes.
We always hold an open mic session at the end in order to give people the opportunity for people to share their biggest takeaways and shout-outs to new and old friends who made a difference.
It’s a magical time, marked with laughter and a few tears, that reminds me just how special this event is and how grateful I am for the people who come from near and far to celebrate joy and learn ways to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Our time together ended with the presentation of a specially-designed “Wild & Free” merit badge, aimed at inspiring everyone to do something great with their “one wild and precious life.”
But the Summit didn’t end until we surprised everyone with one more thing…
…a pastry box with two early copies of my (at the time) yet-to-be-released book, “A Chance of Awesome: How Changing the Way You See Changes Everything.“
It was cool to finally be able to share the book with real live people, and a pleasure to be able to personalize them once the Summit ended.
After so many hours of planning, the event itself feels like it’s over in a flash. Writing these re-cap posts always gives me the opportunity to be grateful for the people who make it magical and the memories we created together.
As always, this thing would never be possible were it not for the selfless effort of our small but mighty team of volunteers, including Sara, Lynn, Sue, Jenna, and this year, for the first time ever, our oldest daughter Lucy!
As you’ve seen, a lot of what we did was very animal-centric. The thing about animals is that they are pure. There is no pretense, no ulterior motive. They are who they are.
As Kim and I prepared for this Summit, we realized that some of the best parts of our life have been when we have decided to just be who we are. Some of the decisions we’ve made may seem wild to the outside world, but they have led us to freedom.
Our goal was to share some of those decisions (and the lessons learned), not so that you’ll make the same ones, but so that maybe you’ll be encouraged to be more of who you are.
Even if it seems little wild.
[ Not enough photos for you? There are hundreds more here! ]