We talk a lot about the Vagabond Way around here – in the restaurant, in our blog, on our social media platforms – and one question seems to be a natural follow up: “What exactly is the Vagabond Way?”

I have given a thousand different answers to this question because it’s often more effective to give people an answer within the context of what we’re talking about, but I’ve been really thinking about those foundations lately as I entered into a seasonal partnership with Grand Vue Park in Moundsville, WV – a place that was as familiar as my backyard growing up and helped spark in me the wonder and love of adventure that is so foundational for what has become known as “The Vagabond Way”.

First of all, as a quick little plug, the partnership with Grand Vue Park will bring some of the Vagabond Kitchen’s signature dishes to Grand Vue’s clubhouse for lunch as well as a Wednesday Evening Signature Dinner Series. It’s exciting to be offering some of the food I’m so proud of to a hometown I’m so fond of. This partnership is due to kick off sometime in the middle of May, and it’s certainly a big part of our summer plans at The Kitchen.

But back to the point of this article, “What is the Vagabond Way?”

I guess the essence of The Vagabond Way is a never-ending pursuit of experiencing the world and your surroundings to their fullest. For me, that has always come naturally. In fact, as a child, it was perhaps, at times, seen as wanderlust and a natural predisposition to having my head in the clouds. It wasn’t until I had travelled for a while, late into my twenties and early thirties that I began to realize that perhaps this wasn’t a trait that everyone shared with me. I began to realize that this thing that had always driven me to do big, seemingly erratic things was seen as equal parts irresponsible and admirable by most of the people that knew me.

And when I think of the roots of that inclination, when I follow that path back to its beginnings, I am suddenly filled with images, sounds, and smells from my early days at Grand Vue Park.

My maternal grandparents’ home directly bordered the park, so my time visiting with them was time spent wandering the parts of the park that were within close proximity to their land. To a young boy, those woods went on forever. Those trails were the paths that led to adventure. That park, my own personal wilderness.

I learned how to get lost and find my way back again amidst the initial anxiety of not knowing where I was. I learned to keep a cool head in new and unexplored terrain. And, perhaps the most important lesson I learned, was that there is infinite beauty in the world, and if every experience that you miss, every lesson that goes unlearned, may never come around again.

And so now, when I somehow stopped being a young man without my permission, and as I have begun my greatest adventure and challenge in opening up the Vagabond Kitchen in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, I am suddenly very aware of my how my past has led to my present and provided me an intersection to reflect on.

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“What is the Vagabond Way?”

The Vagabond Way is about recognizing the Grand Vue Parks in your own life and the lessons they taught you. It’s about knowing that every wilderness, no matter how big or small, is infinite in the experiences it provides and the lessons it can teach. It’s about being bold enough to get lost on purpose once in a while – to step out of your comfort zone to do something you’ve never done before – and courageous enough to enjoy the journey back from the unknown – or to last there until it becomes familiar.

The Vagabond Way is about finding your adventure right where you are as well as in all the exotic places you dream of visiting.

The Vagabond Way is about exploring every moment you are given, wherever that may take you but never losing sight of the home that made it all possible.

This might all sound like a lot of hippy-dippy nonsense to a lot of you. Maybe it is. But I know that starting a business has challenged me in ways that I never imagined possible. It has stretched what I thought were my limits of exhaustion, financial stability, and mental health. It has forced me to be a better communicator and a more thoughtful husband. But amidst all of those perceived hardships, I have found more satisfaction and professional gratification than I ever imagined possible.

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Rick Vargo and Matt Welsch, the Vagabond Chef celebrating the partnership with Grand Vue Park and the Vagabond Kitchen.

And I continue to be humbled and grateful to places like Grand Vue Park who want to partner with what we’re doing at the Vagabond Kitchen. The small child in me, the one that is roaming the woods, is wide-eyed that I get to become a part of that wonderful park’s story and that they will continue to find new ways to be a part of mine.