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They really hit the road

RIch '77 and Sue Freeman '86

    A much-needed leave of absence from Eastman Kodak Company's corporate ranks led to an unexpected entrepreneurial adventure for Rich Freeman '77 and Sue Freeman '86 MBA.

    As administrators for Rochester's corporate giant (Rich was a manager of customer service; Sue, a marketing director), the couple had spent the 1970s and 1980s climbing the success ladder. Combined, their annual income was upwards of $140,000. "But times change," says Sue Freeman. "The last ten years there were a roller coaster of downsizings and spin-offs. The cost to us in terms of emotional well being was significant."

    The Freemans felt there must be more to life, but weren't sure how to find it. With that in mind (and a sizable financial nest egg), they requested a six-month leave of absence to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine-a 2,178-mile expedition. When Rich Freeman's boss said no, Rich left the company. Sue was given permission for the leave. The couple planned to live on Sue's salary when leave was over, while Rich looked for a new job.

    The Appalachian Trail, the country's first national scenic trail, passes through eight national forests, six units of the national park system, and 60 state park, forest or game lands. The trek was physically demanding and emotionally rewarding, the Freemans say; the focus on putting one foot in front of the other helped them develop an acute perspective on their lives. Near the end of the odyssey, Sue Freeman learned via a telephone call that she had lost her $80,000 a year job, when her division was transferred to Johnson and Johnson.

    Careerless, with a newfound appreciation for the outdoors honed on the trail, they needed to tackle another adventure-finding work. The couple opted to become "hucksters" for the outdoors: through their new publishing company, Footprint Press, the Freemans write and publish books on hiking and biking.

    Their first few books describe trails around Rochester and western New York State and the joys of long-distance hiking. These books, bestsellers for the new nature enthusiasts in Rochester area bookstores, are Take A Hike! Family Walks in the Rochester Area, Take A Hike! Family Walks in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley Region, Take Your Bike! Family Rides in the Rochester Area, and Take Your Bike! Family Rides in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley Region.

    Another book takes them slightly farther afield: Bruce Trail-An Adventure along the Niagara Escarpment relates their adventures on a 500-mile trek from Niagara Falls to Georgian Bay following the limestone cliff known as the Niagara Escarpment.

    What they learned on the Appalachian Trail-such as taking things one step at a time, relying on themselves and other people, and trusting that most things work out with time and patience-has served them well, the couple says. They have "downsized" their lifestyle to accommodate the change, but what they have now they wouldn't trade for their previous lives, they say.

    "We never set the alarm clock, we read the paper in bed each morning with coffee, and we have a three-second commute to the office," Rich Freeman says. "When we get bored sitting at the computer, we get in the car-an old ugly car-and go for a hike or a bike ride at a place we've heard about or wanted to visit."

    "We wouldn't trade our careers back for anything," Sue says.

    For more information about Footprint Press books, call 716-321-3666 or visit the Web site, www.footprintpress.com.

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