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Living the ‘Wild’ life

USF alumni couple inspired by author to find a new direction

Inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild,” Matt and Michelle Bisek went on a journey to find themselves. They have since settled in Oregon and are working for not-for-profits.
Inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild,” Matt and Michelle Bisek went on a journey to find themselves. They have since settled in Oregon and are working for not-for-profits.

JOLIET, Ill. – From the outside, it looked as if University of St. Francis graduates Matt and Michelle Bisek had it all.

The couple, who met while they were students at USF, married shortly after graduation in 2010, landed jobs in their fields and lived in the city. Even though everything was “nearly perfect” according to the couple, something was missing.

“We both enjoyed our jobs, and honestly, everything was fine; however, we both wanted something more,” said Matt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance with a minor economics.

In search of that something more, Matt and Michelle decided to take a huge leap of faith. The decision wasn’t made lightly.

They knew their liberal arts education at USF had prepared them for anything. And, having just read the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, they felt inspired.

They quit their jobs in April 2012, packed up their car and drove west.

“After reading the book, I felt more confident that we could ‘do it’,” said Matt. “Not everyone who wanders is lost, and it is OK to do some soul-searching.”

Strayed discussed her best-selling memoir, which documents her path of self-discovery while trekking more than 1,000 miles alone on the Pacific Coast Trail, during a speech Monday, March 18, at USF.

On the Biseks’ journey, Matt and Michelle spent the summer driving up and down the West Coast, logging nearly 25,000 miles.

Michelle, who graduated with a degree in science and biology, said, “Our families were really supportive of our quest, although our grandpas, who each worked at their careers for more than 40 years, thought we were being foolish giving up the security of our jobs. Eventually they came around and even called us ‘courageous’.”

Eventually the Biseks found their way to an organic farm, where they lived and worked for three months as part of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).

“Our time on the farm was an amazing experience; we met so many young couples like us who were trying to find themselves, too,” said Michelle.

Michelle credits her husband and her USF experience for inspiring their new journey.

“One thing that I learned at USF is that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, have the courage to try something new, and the learning never stops,” said Michelle. “If Matt and I have an interest in something, we pursue it; whereas before a year ago, we might not have.”

Now that Biseks have settled down in Oregon, they both found jobs working for non-profits. Michelle is working for a local grocery store cooperative, and Matt is working at Goodwill.

“Even though we are still discovering our path, one thing we realized is we were looking for what we had at USF in the real world—to be involved and engaged in a community of people that all have the same values and goals,” said Matt.

Michelle added, “Matt and I had a plan when we graduated college. We realized it is OK not stick with that plan and write a new one. That is what we are doing.”

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing and health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit

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