Q&A: Eric Donoho – Gila Wilderness Expedition
Eric Donoho is a U.S. Army veteran from Carmel, Indiana, who took part in the Gila Wilderness expedition earlier this year. We asked him a few questions about his experience with No Barriers and this is what he had to say.
Q: During the experience, what was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
A: My experience with No Barriers Warriors has taught me that when something traumatic happens to an individual you basically have three options: let it destroy you, allow it to paralyze you, or use it to make you stronger and better. For me, I allowed my life to become paralyzed with fear of when the other shoe would drop. I knew I was I doing it but still allowed it to happen. I found myself blaming others for my inability to move forward rather than making a conscious effort to go after what I want. I was angry at the world, an ass to the ones I love, and it wasn’t until my expedition with Warriors to Summits that I realized I am living my life all wrong. On the expedition I found myself challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, but what I kept focused on was the opportunity to learn from the people around me. There were so many little nuggets of wisdom thrown out on the trail that it was like someone turning a light bulb on in a place that had been dark for such a long time. I was smiling and laughing in a way I hadn’t in many years and found myself not thinking about the pain — physical or mental. I just found myself determined to continue living my life this way because laughing and smiling is sure better than the darkness I was in before Warriors to Summits.
Q: Has life changed since your experience?
A: For me life has changed drastically. I am no longer just sitting around making excuses or thinking about doing photography. I am out networking and getting my portfolio out in front of people. And because of that, I was asked for five photographs for an Indiana Veterans Art Show this November at the IUPUI Cultural Arts Gallery. I am also in the process of developing a solo show as well. What I am realizing about life right now is that I truly don’t know where it’s headed, but I am certainly enjoying the ride because it feels good to laugh and smile again.
Q: Have your relationships improved with your family, friends, spouse?
A: The relationship with my wife and kids is the best it has been in a long time and it’s a direct correlation to being a member of Warriors to Summits. This trip was the first time I had ever been away from my kids and my wife with no communication and I got to miss them. I found myself missing the ability to talk with my wife about the things I was thinking. I missed hearing my children’s laughter, I missed the hugs, and what I realized is that I took them for granted. I couldn’t see the blessings I had been given right in front of my face; I was only focused on the negative. Empowered with advice from others along the trail I became committed to no longer taking them for granted and enjoying life with them without fear of the unknown. It’s the best thing to happen to me in a long time and I am so grateful I had this opportunity.
Q: Can you describe your best day on the journey?
A: My best day had to be when we arrived at the hot springs. After we got all set up, I went down to the creek/river where there was kind of a sinkhole, to cool off with a group of people. I found myself thinking this would make an incredible photograph but was scared to use my brand new camera in that situation for fear of it getting wet. We were all talking about how beautiful it was and I said, “I think this would make a great photograph.” Then Didrik, the expedition photographer, says to me, “So why don’t you take it?” I told him my fear and he countered it with, “isn’t that why you have a camera.” I realized it was just another time where I was afraid to take a risk, so after thinking about what Didrik said, I went and got my camera, got back into neck deep water, and took the shot. Even though it didn’t turn out to be my favorite photograph from the trip, it was the turning point for me. I realized I have to be willing to take risks in life to move forward.
Q: What does the “No Barriers Life” mean to you? Can you tell us more about how you believe this experience helped you to live a No Barriers Life?
A: The “No Barriers Life,” to me, means not letting fear or any other obstacle stand in the way of accomplishing your goals and enjoying your life. It means believing that what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way. This program has in a real and positive way shown me that I wasn’t living at all. It has given me not just the knowledge to start a new chapter but the continued support after the expedition has helped me stay on that path. It’s because of that support, I can honestly say, that I am living a No Barriers Life and going after the things I want. But most important, I am thoroughly enjoying time with my family and having fun in life again!
Q: Looking back, what means the most to you from your time on your No Barriers Warriors Expedition?
A: The one thing that means the most to me from my expedition is something John Toth said to a number of us while we were taking a break along the trail. He said, “… for every stimuli there is a response and it’s in between the stimuli and the response that we get to choose how we react.” As I thought about that statement, walking the trail, I realized how empowering it was to think I can choose a better outcome. This one thought has become the cornerstone of the new chapter I am creating, and while I still have times that I react poorly, I remind myself that change isn’t easy. I just remember this statement, admit my shortcomings, and most importantly stay committed to being a positive person within the lives around me. Eventually it just becomes the way you live your life, and I really like the idea of being a positive person to be around.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: To all the veterans stuck and lost in life, if you are reading this and trying to decide if you should apply or not, my advice to you is do it. Commit to the process, come with an open mind, and you will certainly leave happier than when you arrived.