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Creativity wins dream trip for Ratnayake '07

November  22, 2010

Kumari Ratnayake

She dreams of the Appalachian Trail but the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming will be just as exciting for Kumari Ratnayake ’07. Especially since she’ll join a 30-day backpacking trip as part of the National Outdoor Leadership School’s (NOLS) Wind River Wilderness course with all expenses paid — even her hiking gear.

How did she do it? Did she have to prove her knowledge of the wild through an intense examination, or hike the nearest tall peak in two days?

No, Kumari demonstrated her worth through a national video contest sponsored by NOLS. More than 60 video entries addressed the question, “What is your dream expedition and how do you plan on preparing for it?” When Kumari’s video “I dream of the Appalachian Trail” won, she felt disbelief, appreciation and an inability to think.

“I had no doubt this would change my life, and a rush of emotions and ideas of the future flooded my mind,” she said. “I had a friend who introduced me to NOLS as an opportunity for experience and professional development, but unfortunately, I could not afford their classes. So, for the last three years, I have been drooling over their courses. When I saw this video contest in their newsletter, I knew I had to try.”

“I dream of the Appalachian Trail” is described by her fans as “brilliant” for its stop motion and original music. That’s also Kumari singing and playing guitar, accompanied at times by her parakeet, Manu.

Kumari works at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and though she loves her job, she looks forward to spending a lot of time outdoors and backpacking. At Augustana she majored in elementary education and geology, and until now the longest she’s been on a trail was five days in the Grand Canyon with the geology department in 2006.

“Throughout my Augustana experience,” she says, “I discovered my love of traveling and my love of learning. I found friends in my peers and my professors, and that alone is irreplaceable.”