One of the best ways to work through a crossroads in your life is to take a trip and let your new surroundings help you solve the problem. One of the best ways to give your children a very detailed education and holistic upbringing is to give them a new environment. One of the best ways to find personal fulfillment is to develop a system in which strangers can fly through your yard or spend the night in your trees. If you’ve never been given such advice, you’ve probably never met David Beilharz.
David Beilharz received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas Tech University in 1979. After David’s first semester, he was perplexed. He wasn’t doing as well as he would have hoped, and he wasn’t sure what was next. He was at a crossroads.
David took a trip to Canada with only a canoe strapped to his car and a dog in the front seat. After this road trip and break from school, he was rejuvenated and ready to tackle life ahead.
Because of a desire to take over his favorite uncle’s mechanical contracting business, David started his schooling as a mechanical engineering major. After the unfortunate passing of his uncle and because of his family’s background in agriculture and business, he decided a degree in agricultural economics would better suit him.
He continued his education at Tech all while running a furniture store and assisting George W. Bush on his congressional campaign as the youth coordinator.
In the 70s, especially toward the end of college, David found himself upset by all that was happening in America at the time: President Nixon’s resignation from office, the Iranian hostages, the economy in decline, and others.
“The whole country was just in trouble,” David said.
His sense of patriotism called him to join the Navy.
During his time in the armed service, David met his wife, Amy. They got married and decided to begin their life together in Austin in 1984.
He owned a successful auto parts business, and they started a family. They resided in an up-scale Austin neighborhood, and they were doing very well. Inspired by his time working with the Bush campaign, David even decided to run for U.S. congress but was unsuccessful.
THE BIG CHANGE
In the mid 90s, David knew something about their current lifestyle wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Amy shared in those feelings. They were at a crossroads.
“We were disgruntled with how our kids were going to grow up, despite our best efforts,” Amy said.
David returned from a trip to Peru with the assurance his children were being raised in too much of a fast-paced and materialistic lifestyle. He desired to live a simpler life. He and Amy began to brainstorm. A large consideration was moving to a ranch in either Montana or Wyoming. They knew they needed a big change for this next stage in their lives, but after discussion about their investment in and love for the Austin area, they chose to stay closer to home.
The family ended up purchasing 88 acres of native land just west of Austin. When they bought the property it was completely “off-the-grid” as David described. There were not even any roads or paths on the property. The family did everything from scratch. David said they definitely “little house on the prairied it.”
While David built their home, the family lived in a yurt. With no air conditioning and a wood-burning stove, they started a life in this new environment.
“Everyone thought we were nuts,” Amy said. “But it wasn’t like David and I had gone to this extremist thought process. We just thought it would be really fun to do with our kids.”
So, they began what they said was an experiment. Their four kids were homeschooled on the land and learned many skills such as how to make soap, build their own homes, grow crops and raise animals. The family installed their own solar panels and water purification system and continued to develop, on their own, this new homestead.
David felt as though this new lifestyle brought the family back to nature and infused his agricultural background into the lives of his children. Despite the fact this family built everything they had from scratch as if they were new settlers, Amy said she felt this new life was more docile than what they would have experienced on a ranch in Montana or Wyoming.
What started out as a “reset” for this family quickly became a permanent change, and they desired to share it with others but weren’t sure exactly how to do it. At a crossroads yet again.
SHARING THE LAND
In 2004, David took a boating trip with his brother. They spent time in the Panama Canal as well as parts of Mexico and Central America and finished up in Costa Rica. It was here David experienced a canopy tour for the first time. He loved it.
“I just had this beautiful, heart-opening experience,” David said.
He knew he had to recreate this experience back home in Texas. Developing the canopy tour would be the perfect way to share their land.
“I thought this would be an excellent way to share the property and environmental ideas with people while having fun,” Amy said.
While the family loved that this idea would be educational and enjoyable, they also loved that unlike many of their other ideas, such as retreat centers or an all-green subdivision, developing canopy tours would be sustainable and leave the land feeling just as wild as it did when they found it.
When David returned from Costa Rica, he began planning how he would install his own zip lines in their trees and develop them into their livelihood.
I just had this beautiful, heart-opening experience.
In America at the time, zip lines only existed as portions of ropes courses, and there was no existing system that was fastened completely to and within the trees. This presented a unique problem for the planning stage of the project.
No one had seen or heard of what David wanted to accomplish, so there was “no reference point,” as Amy described it. Eventually, David found a company that was willing to work with him and creatively fasten the zip lines to the trees without having to install telephone poles on the land.
In the summer of 2005, Cypress Valley Canopy Tours opened for business. It was a booming success. Shortly after the grand opening, David and his son began building tree houses on the property. These also quickly became successful and lucrative.
Their life in nature and the business it had become gave David his sense of life fulfillment. He was able to focus on his family and grow them up in an environment that was sustainable, good to the earth, and different than the rest of the world. The icing on the cake for David was being able to share this newfound joy with the rest of the world.
So, the next time you’re at a crossroads, or you’re thinking ahead to your future plans, or you are looking for personal fulfillment, you may consider giving David’s flying, freeing approach a go. It’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun.