Annie Aggens ’92 likes kayaking. Hiking too. Only when Aggens kayaks, she’s passing through waterways well out of the way of your typical national park. And when Annie hikes, oftentimes, the latitude lines read in the single digits.
She learned to love the outdoors while most others weren’t making it much farther than the swing set. “I started going on canoe trips at a relatively young age, and every year they kept getting longer and longer,” said Aggens. “Going on these trips in my youth gave me confidence and passion that are still with me today.”
While at Cornell, she led students on canoeing and backpacking trips as long as 50 days. “Leading small groups into the wilderness for months at a time is an incredible job—and one that is hard to top,” she says.
Yet top it she has. Now based in Wilmette, Ill., Aggens is director of polar expeditions for the adventure travel company The Northwest Passage. As the name implies, Aggens leads adventure-seeking travelers on expeditions to the North Pole. She has canoed down the Mississippi, kayaked through Canada, and hit the road in a “pimped out” 1978 Ford van with her longtime boyfriend, driving all over North America.
Despite traveling to places most will never even dare, Aggens still returns in her thoughts to a small college in rural Iowa to keep her grounded. “So many of my professors taught ‘outside the box’ that my college experience felt very personal—very one-of-a-kind—and of course, very fun.”
“If I had to give advice to Cornellians,” said Aggens while contemplating her winding route from Iowa to the top of the world, “I’d say get out and explore the world. There will always be enough time to sit behind a desk. In the rush to make a good living, don’t forget to make a good life —it’s the more important of the two.”
Annie Aggens ’92 is co-author of the Encyclopedia of Outdoor and Wilderness Skills.