Spotlight on Guide Russ: Get out and tell your story

Liz Miller

Spotlight on Guide Russ: Get out and tell your story

You can likely find Russ out in nature, hiking, or biking. When he’s not there he’s pursuing his passion for writing, reading, and publishing. He has worked for the last several decades in the publishing industry, and as a university administrator, before” downshifting” three years ago. He had a busy job and life and wanted to slow down to more deeply appreciate his home in the Shenandoah valley. With 41 years of marriage under his belt, 6 kids, and 6 grandkids he has a lot to enjoy in his spare time.

He took a year off and spent six weeks of it in Spain walking 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago. It was such a life-changing event that he wrote a book on it that he self-published later, The Walk of a Lifetime. You can hear him talk about this great adventure as well in his class Walking the Camino de Santiago.

“I like teaching the class on the Camino because it's different every time. I never know what people will ask about.”

Later that same year he biked 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the UK, essentially the whole length of the UK, in two weeks. Russ has 5 or 6 more book ideas in the back of his mind. His goal was to do a book a year and he was just getting ready to walk the Way of St. Francis in Italy (and to write a book about it)  when Covid-19 hit and kept him at home; well,  almost.

“My home has a fabulous view of the Allegheny Mountain. I felt a bit guilty that I  had such a nice place to ride out the pandemic.”

He struck out instead more locally for his physical feat of the year: He rode the Great Allegheny Passage - 7 days over 335 miles of rails and trails from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. This is the theme of his second book currently in the works.

After Russ slowed down in 2018 he became a freelancer. Besides writing, he now works as a publishing consultant and coach and is a GetSetUp Guide.

“I know there are lots of folks with a story in them or a skill that they want to write about. They just need to know how to start  it.”

According to Russ, it’s not always about publishing a physical book; sometimes it’s publishing a blog, ebook, or some other medium to share with others.

“Don’t die with your stories unshared. Get out and tell your story.’”

This is why Russ is teaching classes on GetSetUp about publishing. He teaches

6 Questions to Ask When Thinking About Publishing a Book an introductory class for people who have an idea they want to write a book.

"I enjoy teaching how to self-publish a book because people who come to that usually have ideas about what they want to do. I like that learner engagement. They ask specific technical questions, and I really enjoy that. I know a lot, ranging from the type of paper to the cover material, formats, copyright, and more. I enjoy sharing that expertise and offering suggestions.. Key for any successful author is to work with an editor, get a professional design, and don’t make your self-published book look amateur.”

Working with older adults helps dispel aging myths

Russ truly enjoys connecting with learners and particularly likes working with older adults. He knows ageism firsthand as he saw this in his industry. Yet, just like he knows a person can walk the Camino de Santiago at any age, he knows a person can write well anytime too.

“I love what I am doing now and plan to keep doing it as long as I’m able.  Part of my attraction to working with GetSetUp is how much I love the interaction with older learners. I think it’s important that people continue this trend of growth and change and movement throughout their lives. Some people say once someone is 60 they are set in a mold and won’t change. I say there is NO excuse. I like encouraging people to go out and do things. I emphasize with learners that they can do this!”

That’s part of the reason Russ teaches a class on Cycling Fun and Fitness to motivate people to get out there and ride!

“I want people to get out and move, but self-propelled via biking or walking. It’s like I say in my Camino de Santiago class. 'You too can get a backpack. You might not walk so far every day but you can do it, no matter your age. If that’s not your dream is there something you dreamt of doing and never did? Well, get out and do that!'”

Russ hopes people continue to explore at all ages. He is looking to teach a class on GetSetUp on “slow “travel. His wife and he enjoy traveling to one place for a week or two and really exploring that one spot by walking, hiking, or biking the area. It’s a great way to learn about history, culture, becoming a “temporary local,” as the travel specialist Rick Steves terms it.

Never retire - just slow down

Russ knew when he slowed down that he didn’t want to have a full-time job again. However, he’s not considering retiring 100% ever as he has a superstition around it.

“I will never retire. I have met people that never retired and loved their work. They did it until the day they died and lived long, happy lives. I’ve also known people who didn’t like their work and saved up for retirement, but when they stopped working they got sick or died shortly after. They never lived to enjoy it! Consequently, I have found work I love and I plan to keep working. though  at a slower pace.

Russ sees aging, not as a hindrance or a problem but rather as an opportunity.

“I think that 55 on is the age you should be sharing wisdom. That’s why I like working with GetSetUp to help guide other older adults on their inner movement and outer movement. By just taking it one step at a time.”

Older learners have lots of opportunities still for growth and learning. They have wonderful potential to share their wisdom and experience. Russ is even learning about himself. While some of his kids might consider him a tech “Neanderthal,” he’s learning that he’s much more of an expert than he thought.

“Apparently I’m a real tech expert and I never thought about myself that way. I had to learn a lot in the publishing industry. I knew I had to learn the tech cause it’s in my business. I didn’t realize that keeping up with tools like Gmail and Google Docs made me now an expert to start teaching those.”

Now he's starting a new class to help facilitate others' modernization on tools like Gmail and Google docs. Despite loving tech, he still appreciates a good physical book. He gets tired of staring at a screen, so even on his Camino de Santiago journey, he packed a couple of books. He found rather than using his smartphone, he preferred to read about the history and culture of the regions from paper pages.

Come join Russ in a class to learn more about him. Maybe if you are very lucky he will tell you about his most beloved small coffee town in Colombia - an unspoiled paradise -  or his next travel plans.

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Spotlight on Guide Russ: Get out and tell your story
Spotlight on Guide Russ: Get out and tell your story
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Spotlight on Guide Russ: Get out and tell your story
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