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Explorer Spotlight: Robbie O'Donnell

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Name: Robbie O'Donnell | Age: 24 | Location: Wilmington, NC.

What’s your day job? 

I am currently a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  I’ll be graduating with my masters in Marine Science in 2017

What are your favorite things to do outside?

Whenever I go outside I always bring at least one camera with me so photography would have to be my favorite. But when I leave the camera in the car I enjoy any activity that puts me in contact with either the water (surfing, kayaking) or the mountains (hiking, climbing).  Going to school at the beach also doesn’t hurt either.

What first drew you to the outdoors? 

I’d honestly have to say where I grew up.  I grew up about an hour west of Washington D.C. in the valley just below the blue ridge mountains.  The Appalachian Trail ran through the backyard of the first house I grew up in so black bears and deer were some of my first sights.  Also having a great group of like minded friends with me who were always down to explore that next secret spot helped to always keep me outside.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after? 

When it comes to Wilmington, NC there is no contest, it has to be Wrightsville Beach. It’s honestly one of the best beach towns on the east coast.  And when it comes to beers afterwards you can grab one on Crystal Pier at the Oceanic Restaurant or head down around Tower 7 where there are some awesome beach bars all within a block of each other. 

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?

It would have to be either my Canon 70d or a nice flannel.

What’s your favorite trail snack?

Have you ever had hotdogs and mac and cheese cooked together after a long day hiking in bear country?  It’s thrilling and delicious. 

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?

Hitting the road? I take go-to soundtracks with me on the road, on the trail, to the beach, pretty much anywhere I go.  It depends on the trip but some go-to staples are: M83 or Modest Mouse...and being a good Virginia boy I can never leave without Mr. Dave Matthews.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest? 

Probably coming around the corner of the AT in Shenandoah National Park and coming face to face with a full-grown mama black bear and her two cubs.  I froze, my buddy walked closer to get a pic.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?

It’s impossible to choose just one.  I have great partners-in-crime in my friends who are always up for any kind of adventure from swimming in an abandoned quarry to enjoying some summer sun to going on spur of the moment backpacking trips.

It’d be impossible to list the number of people who inspire me but some of the ones that have set me down the path I’m on now are my dad, and then just the whole crew from the documentary "180 degrees south".  The people in that movie changed my life. 

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?

My top destination will always be Patagonia. There is just something about that place that I can’t shake.  But other than that I’d love to go to Nepal to the Himalayas or explore Easter Island and all the history there.

What's on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?

I need to get back to the Pacific Northwest.  I was there once as a kid and I’ve wanted to go back ever since.  Luckily i’ll be out there this summer for research.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!

This was an in-camera double exposure I took with my medium format Kowa on one of the first days of spring in Wilmington.  I had no idea the two pictures would work so well together and I think it really exemplifies that first feeling of spring on the beach; when everyone kind of comes out of hibernation and there is just this feeling in the air and the beach is just buzzing.  The surf was up and everyone was just pumped to be outside..

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?

Gotta thank good ole George Miller and Mad Max for that one...

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland in search of our better selves”

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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