Aussie in America: How COVID Led Me to My Dream Life in the US

Everyone has a story from the COVID pandemic years. Mine is that Growing Wild Outdoors was born out of this time in Australia, and has landed me here today in San Francisco, California.” said Airlie Murray, Founder.

During family trips in high school, a semester of exchange at the University of North Carolina and most significantly, during my six+ seasons as Director and Trip Leader of various outdoor programs in California, I had always known that I was destined to live in the US. I fell in love with the vastness of the country, the people and the scope of opportunity.

I spent my 20s working and travelling between Australia, the US and Scotland. Upon my return to Australia after studying a Masters in Outdoor Education at the University of Edinburgh, I won the Green Card Lottery. This lottery program grants US permanent residency to the less than 1% who ‘win’. I thought I was set! My lifelong dream of living in the US was finally coming true, and I would be able to run transformational outdoor programs for teenagers in California forever!

Cut to March 2020. The world locked down and my entry deadline into the US swiftly came and went. I was still in Australia, having quit my job in preparation for the move and living with my parents.

What I considered to be a devastating blow ultimately turned into a ‘you only live once’ mindset. I was clear on my passion for working with teenagers and without feeling like I had anything to lose, decided to start Growing Wild Outdoors- outdoor programs that connect teenagers back to self, community and the natural world.

During quarantine, I worked hard on preparing to launch programs in Sydney, Australia. I was fueled by reports of profound mental health impacts and disconnection felt by teenagers, knowing there would be a vital need for initiatives like Growing Wild Outdoors that addressed this post pandemic.

In December 2021, I successfully launched the first programs in Australia, with the ultimate goal to launch in California down the line.

Soon after launch in Australia, I was introduced to Trena Blair who connected me with an amazing range of professional advisers who helped to kick start my journey back to the US.

The outdoor recreation/ camp market in the US has always fascinated me. An industry underpinned by long standing traditional summer camps has given rise to innovative outdoor initiatives over time. With California being the fifth largest economy in the world, it was an opportunity I knew I wanted to explore.

The ultimate mission of Growing Wild Outdoors is to create spaces where teenagers feel seen, heard and valued…exactly as they are. Our programs are about making outdoor environments accessible to teenagers, where the focus is not on conquering mountains in hardcore remote wilderness, but instead feeling like a part of a community and exploring their sense of self, outside of the school, home and online environments.

So a couple of months into my journey, I am filled with excitement, anticipation, drive and gratitude for what lies ahead, and the deep impact I believe Growing Wild Outdoors will have on the teenagers of California (and hopefully one day the world!)

Growing Wild Outdoors LinkedIn

Growing Wild Outdoors Website


FD Global Connections is engaged by Airlie to support her USA market entry with our mentoring service, “PowerPlay” for business leaders seeking independent, trusted and confidential advice on scaling their business. Business leaders can expect a tailored, 3-month engagement where they receive independent, expert advice to progress their USA strategies. Read Here about our PowerPlay Program.