Jared Portugal was only looking to enjoy his hobby of slacklining in the park with a few friends, but he didn’t realize he would stumble upon a community, a community that would change his life, make him a better leader, and inspire him to just go for it.
It started with returning to the Grand Canyon state after satisfying some wanderlust.
And is there really anything quite like coming home?
“I had been traveling around the country just with a backpack, and I came back to Arizona with this new sense of wonder and empowerment to go into places that were out of my comfort zone, like pitch black, and just going in without any expectations,” Jared said.
A lover of rock climbing and all other outdoor activities, Jared found fellow adventurers in the Valley, and a small group met at a local park to enjoy each other’s company and practice their balance.
When he arrived at the park, Desert Canvas’s Todd Van Duzer was already there with friends, and they all got to talking.
What would happen if they brought even more people out?
The huge community the slackliners imagined was one unlike any group Jared or his friends has belonged to before, let alone tried to start.
“We also saw that there was this opportunity to make an even bigger impact on people and have a bigger celebration with everyone, and we knew it was going to take a lot of resources from everyone,” Jared said.
And it wasn’t going to be easy.
Before expanding the community, all the resources were supplied by its members. It was their own money, time, and effort, but it was going to take something bigger to help keep track of the proposed growth.
“We needed something more structured to keep these events happening,” Jared said.
The result was Desert Canvas, a hub for the existing community to meet up and fall into place with each other.
“It’s become a connection point for a lot of people who have been looking for this place…and it guides them to bigger and better things in their life,” Jared said.
Events like weekly yoga and more in the park bring people together to hang out and get to know each other, which is one of Jared’s favorite parts.
As one of the original members of the community, however, he was expected to be a leader.
“I don’t like to lead,” he said.
He was involved, yes, but mainly through arriving early to the yoga and more in the park events to help set up the slacklines.
Expanding the community wasn’t even his idea—he actually didn’t want it to grow because he preferred the intimate feel of the small group. He was excited to see it grow, yes, but he didn’t like the direction it was going.
Why do we want it to get huge? Why do we want to charge for anything?
But by spending time in the Desert Canvas community, Jared realized that there was untapped potential within himself. He could speak and he could lead and he could do anything he set his mind to.
He realized the true purpose of Desert Canvas is to cultivate the growth of every member in the community, including himself.
As time passed, Jared realized he enjoyed leading by example and encouraging others to pursue their passions and live the lives they want to.
All because he went for it.
With the help of Jared’s leadership, Desert Canvas flourished.
“It’s sort of like we gave people this space to grow, and now it’s like watching spring.”
He said he meets at least ten people at every Desert Canvas event in a fun and relaxed environment, which is a perfect way to expand one’s network and to learn.
“It’s a learning experience. I am learning so much from everyone. Everyone you meet has something to teach you, and that’s what this is all about, what’s we’re doing. We’re co-creating an experience.”
Jared now confidently kicks off every yoga and more in the park event by speaking in front the crowd, who looks to him as the leader he now is. Afterward, he is right at home among regulars and newbies alike. He believes in himself, and it shows.
“It definitely showed me how much you can do for yourself and everything you want to do can be possible and if you really just focus yourself to it, hold yourself accountable for it, and be committed 100%, and you don’t just try, you just go all the way.”