Matt Durfee remembers hard nights of studying and many hours of working after class, on weekends and during vacations to pay for his tuition at Michigan State. But he also warmly remembers some calmer times. “I would say some of my fondest memories were walking through campus along the Red Cedar and just seeing the sights, particularly when it was a football Saturday,” he said.
Years later, Durfee has found a replacement for those casual walks across campus: 100-plus-mile treks across the United Kingdom with his club, Bucket List Hiking.
The club, made up of Durfee’s colleagues and friends, hikes by day and relaxes in quaint local inns by night, allowing the trekkers to rest, refuel and enjoy the sights. The group—usually about five people—has taken four official hikes over the past five years in Scotland and England, hiking across the Isle of Wight, Rob Roy Way, Great Glen Way and Hadrian’s Wall.
While these aren’t typical tourist stops, for Durfee they’re perfect. He is drawn to the rich history of Europe. “I guess you would say that I’m a student of the Roman Empire,” he said. During hikes, he and his crew pass ruins of that empire, castles and defensive structures from World War II and other wars.
“When I’m up on the hills looking down, it becomes a connection with both the history, as well as nature and there’s an intrigue to that,” he said.
Durfee grew up in Flint and came to MSU seeking a future beyond working in the automotive factories back home. He’s worked as a human resources executive for more than 25 years. Today, he runs The Navigator Institute in Orlando, Florida, teaching job search skills and providing career transition services to both individuals and companies throughout the country.
He hopes to one day combine his hiking excursions with his work. Clients could join him on a hike, getting a chance to recharge and contemplate while working through their career or business challenges. Durfee would be their walking, talking job coach.
But until then, Durfee will keep traveling and hiking with friends and anyone else brave enough to join, enjoying the physical challenge and the spiritual experience.
“When I’ve been out there for a couple of days, in nature and in these small villages—away from my cell phone and the distractions and stress of everyday life—it truly does give me a chance to think and to reflect in a way that I have not been able to replicate in any other endeavor,” he said.