Taylor Otteson: A world traveler who makes a difference along the way

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As a backpacker, entrepreneur, founder, student and future doctor, Taylor Otteson seems to live the phrase “I was hooked.”

“I’m always pretty busy, pretty hectic,” Otteson said. “I try to keep my life as balanced as possible. Sometimes I don’t do as well as I could, but sometimes you just have to accept that you did the best that you could.”

Doctor in training

This Orem native knew he wanted to be a doctor from a young age, even after toying with the idea of being a photographer or an astronaut. Otteson is currently a BYU Cougar preparing for medical school.

“I guess I could have been an astronaut, but it’s not the most common of careers in the end,” Otteson said. “Everyone wants to be one when you are a kid, but then you realize that you hate physics and that you don’t want to be doing that for the rest of your life. I quickly learned in college that I don’t like physics.”

Kid entrepreneur

Otteson started his own lawn-mowing business when he was 11 years old. It has grown to a landscaping company that covers almost 30 accounts, including various commercial locations.

“I’ve been doing it for over 12 years now. The business is doing really well. It allowed me to pay for my mission fully, and I’ve saved enough money to pay for almost two years of med school,” he said. “It’s been extremely beneficial for me.”

Brody Bushnell, a BYU junior from Orem majoring in business management, grew up with Otteson in Orem and has been able to watch his friend tackle life.

“Taylor growing up was just as driven as he is now,” Bushnell said. “Maybe he has even become more driven, if that is possible. He is probably one of the most well-rounded people I know and does a great job at whatever he takes on.”

From vacationer to backpacker

Otteson (center) with five pilgrims dressed for Shiva Ratri, a festival for the Lord Shiva. (Courtesy Taylor Otteson)
Otteson (center) with five pilgrims dressed for Shiva Ratri, a festival for the Lord Shiva. (Photo courtesy Taylor Otteson)

As a young boy, Otteson and his family visited places such as Mexico, the Bahamas and Italy; these experiences led to his love for traveling and exposing himself to completely different worlds.

“I knew that I really liked to travel from the time I was a young age just because of all of the traveling that we had done and all of the really good experiences that I had,” Otteson said.

After all of the family vacations he had been on, Otteson decided to take his traveling to the next level and take extended backpacking trips through Asia and South America.

“When I truly came to love traveling was that first time when I went to India,” Otteson said. “I just had such a life-changing experience in India. The first time I went, I was just enthralled with the people and their culture and just fell in love with them.”

Israel Turley, a BYU junior from Lindon majoring in business management, first met Otteson last year while living in King Henry Apartments and was inspired to backpack after hearing about his now-roommate’s experiences.

“I ran into Taylor while he was planning a backpacking trip to South America and actually almost went with him,” Turley said. “I was honestly inspired by his desire to see the world, and it led me to a life-changing backpacking trip through Mexico.”

Science guy turned founder

Otteson’s passion for traveling the globe on a dime has not only contributed to his wealth of experiences but also initiated a foundation with the goal to change the lives of people who may not realize the opportunities life can bring.

The KVM foundation, based out of Andra Pradesh, India, was created to gather funding to support young adults and their educational endeavors to get out of poverty. KVM stands for “Kala vidya marindi,” which is Telugu for “dream, educate, inspire.”

According to Otteson, the goal for the foundation is to create a movement and an opportunity to help these young adults change their circumstances and realize their potential.

Otteson (center) in a small village named Kottugumada with Santosh, Kranthi, Mouli and Rajeev. (Courtesy Taylor Otteson)
Otteson (center) in a small village named Kottugumada with Santosh, Kranthi, Mouli and Rajeev. (Photo courtesy Taylor Otteson)

“The second time I went (to India), when I was going to set up the foundation, I talked to people and (asked), ‘What do you want to be when you grow up,’ and no one would say, ‘Oh, I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be an engineer,’ because they didn’t see that as in their realm of possibilities,” Otteson said.

Turley has been on the board of directors since the foundation’s early stages and sees KVM flourishing.

“I have no doubt that this foundation will be recognized on a worldwide level in the future,” Turley said. “We have some of the sharpest guys I have ever met on the board of this organization. We are bound to succeed.”

According to Turley, Otteson is the kind of leader and team member with the qualities to make KVM a success.

“Taylor has the perfect personality to lead an organization like KVM,” Turley said. “He is disciplined, organized, grounded and passionate. I could never pull something off like this on my own, and I don’t think many people could. Having Taylor as a leader and teammate in this endeavor gives me the confidence that despite what obstacles we come across, nothing can stop us.”

Hannah Holm, a junior from New Brighton, Minn., studying elementary education, has also been inspired by Otteson and looks forward to seeing the foundation grow.

“Taylor has been an inspiration to me ever since I met him,” she said. “He’s incredibly courageous and bold, which allows him to help all the people he does. His foundation has such potential to change people’s lives, and I’m grateful to be seeing it take place. He has had more life-changing experiences in the past 20 years than I could imagine experiencing in the next 50 years of mine.”

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