Scott Sater is familiar to the Pine River-Backus community as a former band teacher. Since retiring in 2018 from teaching in Shakopee, Sater has been trying different pursuits.
Since 2007, Sater has been taking trips to India with a friend, Dan Meckel, and students from Meckel's School, St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Sater and Meckel met many years before while they were roommates at Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University-Moorhead). This laid the groundwork for a business venture years later.
Sater grew up and graduated from St. Louis Park in Minnesota before going to Moorhead State University. After college he came to Backus to teach music and band until he could move on to a bigger school. Like other teachers, he got hooked.
“I thought I would be here two or three years and then end up with a larger school like Brainerd or St. Louis Park or something,” Sater said. “I ended up loving it. I ended up loving the land. My job got better and better. I just loved the Backus School climate and I ended up staying for 26 years.”
Sater and his wife raised their sons, Sam and Kelly, and daughter, Brenna, in Backus.
Sater did eventually feel called to a larger school, and he worked his last few years in Shakopee until he retired in 2018. Even before retirement, however, his old friend, Meckel, got in touch.
“In 2007 he invited me to co-lead study tours at St. Mary's College in Maryland,” Sater said. “He's just one of those friends you are friends with for life. When he asked me to be a co-leader I instantly said yes. I thought it would be fun. My India experience prior to that had been in 1994. I went to visit him doing field research for his Ph.D.”
Sater and Meckel have guided trips there for seven years, not all in a row. Each time it is the same trip. They land in Delhi, take a train or cars to the north and visit villages along the river on the way to the mountains.
“It involves Yoga and Aarti ceremonies,” Sater said. “They are Hindu festivals where every night on the river Ganges they celebrate the river with song. I don't understand Hindi, but we all sit with them and it's a warm feeling. We are very welcome. Then we move up into the northern part.”
The trip is meant to be one of transformation.
“The goal is deepened understanding of culture and religion of India. Along with that is for them to come home literally transformed and reflecting on their own life and reflecting on similarities and differences from being over there,” Sater said.
For years, Sater has been getting requests to expand the trip to include more than just students.
“I have had colleagues of mine from Pine River-Backus and Shakopee say, 'Hey, Scott, whenever you stop taking those college students, would you consider bringing adults?'” Sater said. “Dan and I, as part of a vision, did that for the first time on May 17.”
This was the culmination of a plan to start an LLC called Transformative Journeys: India. The approximately two-and-a-half-week trip took place four days before the annual student trip, meaning Sater went to India twice for the same trip in a matter of weeks.
The non-student adult group revealed some differences to Sater and Meckel. Some of the adults were less able to bounce back from inconveniences like illness and others had difficulty hiking long distances. As a result, Sater plans to custom fit future trips to his audience.
After teaching music and band for 38 years, Transformative Journeys has allowed
Sater to explore other interests.
“It hooks my love of travel, my love of photography. India is a stunning landscape,” Sater said. “It's also to grow culturally, socially and spiritually. Every time I go I come home with something new. We're really excited about it. It's kind of a recreation time for me. What really excites me is photography and travel and this business.”