Michael Strong has ridden the Trans-Siberian Express through China, hopped a freighter to Gambia, and stood atop the Berlin Wall helping Berliners tear it apart.

“I very much enjoy being out of my element,” says the owner of Brothers Strong, Houston (Big50 1995), who has visited more than 50 countries in taking full advantage of his company's yearly six-week vacation package.

In addition to serving as Brothers Strong's vice president and continuing his travels, Strong has, for the past four years, pursued a somewhat alien intellectual challenge as a consultant for the federal government's Partnership for the Advancement of Technology in Housing program. Strong and fellow remodeler Bill Asdal work with PATH's retrofit researchers, providing insight into the benefits, cost feasibility, and promotion of new sustainable building technologies.

Not only is the advancement of sustainable building a worthy effort, Strong says, but the highly technical material he encounters in the program tests his mental agility.

“I'm not an engineer,” Strong says, “I've never liked that stuff, so, intellectually, I've really got to be at the top of my game.”