9

Life On The Road: Taking The Leap

Stories

from Indianapolis, IN

453 days in

The idea to live on the road came to me in January of 2013. It was a romantic idea with a backbone of logic – for someone who wants to make a living with words and photographs, the road is an endless trail of inspiration.

But like most of my best ideas, it was one that I shoved into the crazy box –the home for ideas that were too radical for this 30-year-old Midwestern boy with an expensive education and an office chair softening his ass. 

A month later, during a boredom-driven Craigslist search, I got a glimpse of the future – the exact van I wanted was for sale 90 miles away. Even then, I hesitated. But in ignoring the van… in not buying the van, I began to feel an immense amount of regret. Regret for an action that I hadn’t even made yet! If it felt this strongly then, imagine how I would feel when I was 67! 

With road visions in front of me and regret behind me, I pulled the trigger. I traded my reliable ‘09 Subie for an unreliable ‘86 VW Vanagon – my new home. It was February 1st, 2013. As I rolled creakily down the highway in a van nearly my age, I sat upright, flooded with doubts. What about relationships? What about money? What if this is a dumb idea? What if…? The pedal was pushed to the floor, but I could only muster 63mph. 

Just then, I broke into a really good laugh. 63mph was it  – it was the name, it was the journey, it was everything. It was the beginning of an exploration of life that couldn’t be lived at the speed of society. My instincts were my new compass, and I would need them on the road.

In the first of a two-part series, I want to address some questions that nearly tripped up my leap to road life. After 15 months out here, I hope my learnings can help those contemplating extended travel.

What vehicle should I call home?

This is a complicated question, but simply: choose whatever vehicle you are in love with. It’s going to become your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your partner. You’re going to wish it good night and pet it in the morning (really, that’s just me?). If you don’t feel an emotional connection to it, don’t buy it. 

Maybe you value precision and reliability and have a big savings account; the Sprinter could be your perfect rig. Maybe you value simplicity and ruggedness; the Tacoma could be the one. Maybe you’re living month-to-month and still dreaming of the road; your thumb and two feet will work great. 

I chose the Vanagon because I had a feeling the pace of society was funneling me down an endless-burnout tube. I needed a vehicle that forced me to slow down, that gave me no choice in the matter. 

I valued the quirky VW community and wanted to pick up mechanical skills, so the Vanagon made perfect sense for me. The mechanic that helped me with my first breakdown said it right, “These old Volkswagen vans will make you a very patient man.”

OK… but what about money? 

First, you’ll need to throw out the rules of make a lot consume a lot save a little repeat. Begin to love this trajectory: make some consume a little save a little repeat. You’ll still get to save a little, but you get to ditch the stress of making a lot to consume a lot. All of a sudden, you’ll have a lot more energy to live.

I saved up for my first year on the road because I wanted to freely roam, scouting out future projects and work. I spent about $18,000 the first 12 months and am now spending about $1,000 per month (on gas, food, insurance, beer and whiskey). I learned about many ways to make money on the road, which I’ll get into in Part 2.

By accepting a life of less, you’ll be stepping off the treadmill of the American Dream, and this takes great confidence… great faith. 

On a hike in Alaska last August, I was talking with my buddy Kern about money. I asked him (another rambling man) if he ever worried about running out, and he blurted, “NO!”  before I finished the question. “I don’t know if it’s the combination of all my life experiences or my faith, but when I’ve really needed money, it’s always been there for me,” he said. “I can’t do budgets. If I did, I’d be running around pooping everywhere.”

In taking the leap, you must have Kern-like faith. Whether that’s faith in yourself, a greater being, or something you can’t explain, you’ll need a lot of it to follow your passion. The money (and the support) will not be there right away. 

It must be nice. 

Well, it is and it isn’t. 

Living on the road is living with the extremes… living with extreme freedom and extreme sacrifice. I traded the support of the system, companionship, and creature comforts for a life without rules. 

Many romanticize a life on the road, but few actually do it because it’s uncomfortable. When you have no idea where you’re sleeping, or who your next friend will be, or when your next water source will come, or what lurks down highway 37, you can go nuts pretty quickly. The other (and only) option is to become comfortable being uncomfortable. 

With the open road in front of me, I bellow wolf cries of joy, and at the same time, I miss Sunday-morning bullshit sessions with my buddies. I reject the importance of money, but miss buying new skis on a whim. I’m proud that I’ve acclimated to sleep in -20F, but I miss a warm shower on my face. 

I know people are jealous of my life, but I’m reluctant to think what I’m doing is anything special. The minute it becomes something special to me is the same minute complacency hits, the minute ego takes over, and my blade goes dull. 

Alright, where’s all your stuff?

All of my stuff, everything I own, is with me. 

Moving into 75-square-feet was an extreme exercise in necessity – 20 t-shirts to three, three pairs of skis to one, three bikes to one, a full bookcase of books to eight. Moving everything I had into my van helped me live a statement I already believed in… the more you know, the less you need.

I have one of everything, I’m a rolling General Store. I carry mountaineering gear, photography gear, ski gear, backpacking gear, mountain biking gear, climbing gear, hunting gear, fishing gear, spearfishing gear, cook gear, maps and reference books (one on every state and relevant outdoor subject). I carry a computer and a typewriter. Don’t try to rob me or I’ll bear spray you. 

My gear is heavily used. 

I once bought gear based on the brightest new orange dye or a brand’s marketing promise of waterproof breathability (impossible!). I now buy for one thing – durability. 

I have one pair of Carhartt shorts, one pair of Kühl cords, and one pair of Carhartt overalls. I’ve repaired my Kühl cords 11 times because I like how they fit. I carry one suit for weddings, and I spend an hour ironing it each time. Since I’m on the move, I have a secret that only I (and now you) know…  I’ve worn the same pants 314 days this year.

Do you have a gun?

I was in a Montana pawn shop in July holding a $125 pump-action shotgun. I was trying to talk the gun-loving owner down to $100 when he said something I’ll never forget: “You know son, your best weapon is always between your ears.” 

Your brain… your instincts… they are constantly sharpened on the road. Nearly every decision I make is done with limited information, so there’s always an emotional consideration. What does my gut say about that dirt road? What about that campsite? What’s that guy up to over there? I will bail so fast on a place, situation, campsite or person if I get a bad feeling. 

But I’ve felt incredibly safe living on the road. People have shared their couches, lives, steaks, time, advice, asparagus and smiles with me. The media had done an incredible job making us believe humanity is in trouble, but I’m a believer in humanity again.   

I did begin carrying a rifle for hunting two months ago, but I don’t keep it loaded and van-side each night. Not only is that a process, but it’s not designed for close-quarters combat. With guns, you should do whatever makes you feel safe, but as our pawn-shop friend implied, don’t assume that having a gun guarantees you are protected by it. 

Do you get lonely? 

Absolutely. Lonely is a word that has been demonized – if you ever feel lonely, something must be wrong. Why don’t we talk about the effects of an overly-social world in the same breath? 

People in the city feel smothered by an abundance of socializing, while people in the country feel lonely from a lack of socializing. Neither feeling is wrong, they are simply the extreme social emotions of our chosen environments, and both emotions can inspire action.

When loneliness hits me, there are times I just let it in and let it pass. Other times, I reflect it outward… I explore a new relationship with the trees or wildlife or night sky; I meet up with an old friend or go find a new one. 

How do you stay warm in the winter?

The best answer is to spend it with a companion, although that’s not how this winter went down for me. 

When it’s really cold (10F to -20F), I make myself into a big burrito – a 20-degree bag inside a 10-degree bag inside a wool blanket inside a down blanket. When it gets dark at 4:30PM and it’s really cold, I find a bar and drink 3 beers as slowly as possible. Next winter, I will install a real heater or wood stove into my van. 

Any big surprises?

From August to February, I didn’t experience a day above 50F. I had been 190 pounds my entire adult life, but during that seven-month period, I gained 20 pounds and held steady at 210. I was just as active (read: very active), but I packed away core body fat and calibrated to the sun-cycle, habitually sleeping 12-hour nights.

I would never have believed this type of body adaptation was possible until I made my home outdoors. 

Picked up any tricks along the way?

Many. Here’s one for when you’re camping alone and you’ve had enough silence for a bit: build a big fire, put your phone on your knee, press ‘play’ on a good audiobook, and stare at the flames. It isn’t a friend plucking your favorite melody, but it’s damn good. 

I’ll see you a little bit further down the trail, friend.

[thanks to my friends at backcountry.com for inspiring me to write this]

Watch on emgeemann.tumblr.com

Heavy action in the #dhthrowdown finals. 63mph pack riding tight into the hairpin. Results:
1: @maximgarant
2: @f_cooper_d
3: @normayne
4: @dexmanning
5: @charlesouimet
6: @bdesnyder
Congrats homies, you make me proud. See you in <1week at #CentralMass5! #downhillthrowdown

10

Stories · from Portland, OR · 496 days in

Building A Wheel Estate Empire

Look, I’m a lover, but one thing I hate is paying for camping. I didn’t start living in my van to keep paying rent. Spending $15 a night to camp ($450 a month) is the equivalent of paying rent, which is unacceptable to me.

Below is my process for finding free camping anywhere… these are the steps I’m using to build my Wheel Estate Empire.

Rural Camping

The single most important step to finding (great) free camping is deciding to stop paying for camping. Since there are so many convenient, paid campsites, if you’re not committed to finding free(dom), you won’t find it. 

1) Get your mind right. Hunting for free camping with great views and ample resources (water & wood) is work. Think of the hunt as equal to the energy required to cook a good meal or have a thoughtful conversation. If you don’t go into the hunt with these energy expectations, frustration will certainly ensue. 

[Note: The upside of this energy (and potentially gas) expense is the free spot will be yours forever. It will be your little secret, your little treasure. Put an X on your map and smile every time you think about it… then share it with those you love.]

2) Get yourself as detailed a paper map(s) as you can find. Yes PAPER! They still exist. I always have a state atlas riding shotgun with me. Why paper when we have phones? At least two reasons:

a) The only way to get a holistic sense of a landscape is to look at a region topographically… its curves and peaks and valleys, its swimming holes  and water sources (all the way down to its fresh water springs). Paper maps also show dirt roads, which will be important later. 

b) You’ll need paper because you probably won’t have cell service in the places I’m talking about in this article. 

3) Apps can help too, but don’t rely on them. I use Topo Maps often. It allows you to download any USGS quadrangle in North America, which helps with the details – the quadrangles show every dirt road and delineate between 2WD and 4WD. The app also works with No Service. 

My friends at Where’s My Office Now? use the AllStays app often – it’s a great resource for finding public land and developed campsites (free and paid).  

4) Now that you’ve got your map(s) and your mind(s) right, let the real fun begin. Look at all public land allocations within a two-hour radius. 

In summer, I’ve come to prefer National Forests because they are shady and have ample water sources. In winter, I prefer Bureau of Land Management lands (BLM) – typically open grasslands or high deserts – which tend to be abundant in sun and my favorite fire woods, pinyon and juniper.  

[Note:  For those of you in the east or midwest where there is very little public land, your hunt is a lot harder. This article is about my Western process. My Eastern process is simpler: I find private land I can camp without getting hassled, or I park in towns and cities (which I’ll get into later). The same issue goes for Southern California and warm beach areas, which have become so overpopulated that finding free camping is nearly impossible, but it still can be done.]

5) With your map of public lands, decide what mood you’re in. Is it hot? Should you get high on a mountain, or to the coast or to a lake? Is it cold? Should you get to a hot spring or the desert?  

The more you pursue your intuition, the better you’ll get at finding the best spots. This sounds very fuzzy because it is, but when your brain is drawn to something on a map, there’s a reason. And the more you follow these reasons, the luckier you’ll get.

6) Learn to love the dirt!  Dirt roads keep the tourists away and rarely lead to anything but treasures. When I started getting dirty every night, my luck increased exponentially. 

[Note: While we’re on the topic of dirty, it’s unfortunate, but much of our public land has been trashed by thoughtless folks. Many times, I will come across a perfect camp with a nicely built fire ring, only to find dirty diapers stashed in the woods, shotgun shells littered throughout, and eight Keystone Ice cans in the fire. 

Don’t get discouraged. If it’s a good camp, stay. Use it as an opportunity to clean up the land and leave your own trace (none). Bag the trash and disperse the negative energy others have left behind; make it your own home with your own energy. I try to leave each campsite improved… cleaned up and (if energy permits) with firewood for the next free-seeker.]

7) Let’s say you’ve driven for an hour and are stumped. Here are landmarks that are sure winners:

a) Bridges – before and after bridges there is usually a (well-hidden) dirt road that leads down to the water source and camping near it. 

b) Radio towers – all radio towers have roads to them. Some of these roads have gates, but many are left unlocked. If you can stand the thought of the incoming/outgoing waves, the views are unparalleled.

c) Telephone lines – same story as radio towers, most have access roads to them that are never used. 

d) Around paid campsites – often the best place to look, especially in National Forests. People with the same free-camping philosophy have most likely carved out a camp nearby.

e) Railroad tracks – paralleling all railroad tracks are dirt roads and pullouts. Just don’t park too close to the tracks or the train engineers will whistle at you all night long. 

f) Trailheads – any place that allows overnight hiker parking is (free)game for camping!

8) You’re still stumped and out of energy? Don’t be afraid to break the rules, just be thoughtful in your execution. Don’t add unnecessary harm to the land or others. Be able to justify your camp to a reasonable person if asked. My #1 rule in breaking the rules: don’t bother anyone and you won’t get caught. 

Urban Camping

I really try not to urban camp because you have to be sneaky about it, which takes away the feeling of freedom. But I have to say, I do get a kick out of it – there’s something mischievous about sleeping in front of someone’s house who has no idea you’re there. 

[Note: Urban camping is way harder (or impossible) if you have a dog (one of the reasons I don’t) or if you’re traveling with 3 or more people or a small child.] 

When my three buddies from Current Sea were on the road, they had to pop the top every night for sleeping room. They often pulled into neighborhoods and asked permission from the neighbors to pop and park the night. Often they heard “Yes!” I thought this was rad but have never done it myself.]

On Walmart – somehow Walmart has gotten the reputation as being a great place to urban camp. I totally disagree. The last place I would camp is under 82 fluorescent lights with a bunch of people driving around all night. There is another way. 

1) Get your cooking done and your van tidied up before seeking good urban camping. I’ve definitely cooked on the street in front of someone’s house before (which actually helped me meet three amazing friends). But, finding a spot and going to bed is the surest way to stay low profile. Reading, watching movies, etc. is fine too, just avoid activities that require a lot of van shuffling. 

2) Find a good neighborhood. This is the question I ask myself: where’s the nicest view in town where neighbors won’t notice an unfamiliar vehicle? 

There are nice neighborhoods where people have “their parking spot” and would be peeved if you took it. You’re looking for the rung of neighborhoods just below that kind… the ones where your van fits in as a visiting friend.

This is a feel thing, I can’t explain how I know the good neighborhoods, I just do. You’ll know them too. I’ve gotten some epic views in neighborhoods where people pay multi-millions for their lot. Very few things feel better than that. 

3) Look for parks, double lots, empty lots, tall hedges, and houses for sale. 

a) City parks are always the first place my eyes go to on the map. Many times there are parking restrictions at parks (for people like us!), but a block away, there won’t be. 

b) If you can’t find a good park, start looking for empty lots. When you’re aware of them, you’d be amazed at how many empty lots there are in any town or city. Park in front of one, make it your lot. 

c) Next best to empty lots are double lots. Park in the back part (yard part) of the lot, so the homeowners won’t notice you when they’re eating dinner.

d) Tall hedges, ahhh, my best friend. Those people who want privacy so bad, they can’t even see your van on the street. Perfection.

e) Houses for sale that are uninhabited. Their tell-tale sign is the single porch light and single living room light that are on. They also have a strange vacant energy if you watch them long enough. 

4) Okay, you’ve found a good spot, but it has a horribly uneven lie. You have three options:

a) High energy level – leave, find something better.

b) Medium energy – pull your tires up on the curb to level out. Yes, it will look obvious, but if you’re not bothering anyone with your post-parking activities, no one will bother you. 

c) Low energy – stay, do nothing, lie with the lie. The nights I have a horrible lie and don’t care are the nights I will have zero problem sleeping anywhere.

5) What about peeing? I’ve never been one for a pee-bottle (or bucket) because they smell, it’s easy to miss (or overfill), and you have to deal with them later. 

If you’ve followed the steps above, you will have an urban camp with green space nearby… (queue mischievous feeling)… I just get out and pee when everyone’s asleep (my bladder has a way of picking 3:23AM). 

6) What about extended urban stays? The longest urban stretch I’ve done was a week in multiple places. Find a good 3-4 spots and rotate them. I’ve got my rotation dialed in Anchorage, Jasper, Durango, etc.

Hassled?

I know you’re wondering, have I ever been hassled? Never by weirdos, three times by authorities.

Twice while rural camping (illegally). Both times I got moving too late. Both times I was pleasant. Both times – after the authorities saw I wasn’t causing any harm to anyone or the land – they let me go without a citation. Just let the authorities feel like they’ve won, because guess what, that means you will too.

I can’t say you’ll never get caught camping illegally if you leave before 6:30AM, but I’m almost positive you won’t get caught (I never have). Most government agencies don’t pay well enough to get their people up before then. 

I’ve been hassled once while urban camping, but I asked for it. It was the night of a friend’s wedding, and I had a buddy in the van with me, pop top up. I was being arrogant with the top up. 

We knew what to do if someone knocked… do nothing, stay quiet. Sure enough, at 2AM, we got knocked on and flash-lighted. Trouble for the authorities was, since they couldn’t see us (curtains drawn) and we didn’t make a peep, all they could do was leave. 

That’s all I got for now. Happy free living… happy Wheel Estate Empire building! If you explore what I’ve outlined above, your concept about rent and land ownership will change forever. I’m just warning you now…

10

Briefs · from Bend, OR · 491 days in

Mazama’s Core

Wildfires burned the sky red as we pointed north, seeking the cool, clear waters of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States. It formed when the ~12,000 foot Mount Mazama collapsed, creating a giant caldera that eventually filled to a max depth of 1,943 feet. 

When we arrived at the lake’s rim, smoke filled our lungs, but it didn’t deter us from filling our bellies with tacos and tequila. We jived to music that jived with the land and watched the cotton candy fire sunset.

When day became night, we each packed a small rucksack and hiked to a clearing on the crater rim. A buck, two does and a fawn joined us at camp for a bit, but eventually jumped off their own way. A small hole opened to the stars, and eventually our banter yielded to silence. 

The red sunrise was cold, colder than it should’ve been. The orb in the sky failed to shine its warmth through the smoke. But, sunrise signaled it was time to play in the sky clear waters of Mazama’s core. She doesn’t get too many humans visiting her chilly waters, so she begged us inward…

8

Stories · from Washington · 474 days in

A Humbling Breakdown

"Got any beer or smokes? For some reason I drove all the way out here with nothin’ tonight," the stranger said.

I remembered the single Budweiser in the van and handed it to him in the deep, dark British Columbia woods. By headlamp, the three of us talked over the situation, as the rising moon pushed its lamp into our circle.

The situation included two friends stranded 24km down a No Service dirt road. My left-front wheel was resting near-horizontal from an earlier driving error, and our potential savior was now sipping a Budweiser.

He wore a vintage Patagonia vest, not for style, but because he hadn’t shopped in 30 years. His belly opened the vest’s three bottom buttons, and he stroked his santa claus beard without pause.

"I live by myself in the woods for a reason," he said. "I’d offer to put you two up tonight, but…" He stopped, and he didn’t need to finish, we understood. Eventually, we hashed out a plan – he’d call CAA (the Canadian AAA) with my information; we’d stay the night in the van, waiting to see if his call worked.

Once we had a plan, his tone dramatically shifted, “Hey, you guys want a beer?” I could sense Leah and I were equally confused – why was he suddenly interested in socializing AND offering exactly what he just asked for? But, you don’t call shenanigans on a helpful stranger, so we took the beers and learned our savior’s name was Will. “I haven’t talked to anyone in four days, my cup was overflowing… it’s sure nice talking with you two,” Will said.

We went ‘round the moonlit circle taking turns at our life stories. I told about my conservative upbringing, costly business degree, and, ultimately, my decision to hit the road seeking stories and self-sufficiency. I voiced frustration that this rural breakdown would probably be a weeklong ordeal.

Will cut me off. “Whoa whoa whoa! Don’t forget who caused this… you asked for this with your adventurous life. You can’t be mad when something goes wrong, you want this,” he said, and pointed to my van. 

His words bit sharply, but the truth in them was clear. Will continued, “You’re one of those independent types, you and your big, bad American independence. You know, you’re not independent and you never will be… look at us right now, we’re all dependent on each other for something. We need each other.” I answered him with silence, but he eventually broke it, “Hey, how about another beer?”

Leah and I paused, both eager for bed after a full day of snow-slogging up Valhalla’s Gimli Peak. Will sensed our hesitation, “Okay then, we’ll put it to a vote whether I can stay,” he said. “Each of us gets one vote and one round of feedback. I’ll go first… I vote to stay, I’m really enjoying your company.”

Leah was next, and after a thoughtful pause, she voted yes. My turn. “Look Will, I want to share another beer, but I’m also anxious to see whether CAA will come out here, or whether we’re walking,” I said.

"Whoa, feedback time!" Will exclaimed. "Remember, I’m the one helping you, and now you’re concerned about the efficiency of my message delivery. I just want to point that out.” “Well, dammit Will, seems you only speak in truth,” I said, and we cracked the three new beers.

About an hour later, our messenger clanked his Jeep down the washboard road, leaving us in the broken-down van. We attempted to explain his two-hour presence, but eventually decided it was better left a mystery.

Somehow, though, that mystical stranger in the Canadian backwoods illuminated the dark spots of my ego… the exact parts I had hit the road to break down.

The drum, drum, drum of a diesel tow rig woke us at 3AM.

[This post was written in partnership with REI, and all words here are my own.]

Rewind to the beginning

Briefs

from Fishers, IN

250 days in

During my time of rest, I’m going to share some things from the past that I haven’t shared, starting from the beginning. The decision to live on the Road became real to me in January. It was an idea I first remember thinking six months earlier, an idea that I shoved into the crazy ideas box… the ideas that lightened my heart, but could never happen… the ones that were too radical for this Midwestern boy with an expensive education. Instead of listening, I kept searching… searching for a change from San Francisco and quickly finding a lil’ cabin in Lake Tahoe. I loved that tiny cabin, but something else was at work. The Land was calling… and it said, “You are not ready to stay… not yet… your studies await.” I had no reasons and I had no ability to fight it, so I surrendered. By February I was rolling slowly and creakily down the highway in a van nearly my age. I was incredibly uncomfortable… I sat upright, anxious, tense, flooded in thought — what about relationships? what about career? what about money? what about…? I looked down at the people whizzing by and at the speedometer. With the pedal to the floor, we could only muster 63mph. I laughed. The fear and the expectations slid away with laughter; a different feeling crept in… it felt like joy but I didn’t know for sure. My subconscious had spoken, and I had truly heard it for the first time in my life. I decided I would share some things from my travels, in case anyone, even one person, could learn with me. 63mph was it… it was the name, it was the journey, it was everything. It was going to be an exploration of life that couldn’t be lived at the speed of the society… my instincts were my new compass, and I would need them on the Road. 

10

Stories · from Washington · 465 days in

The Art Of The Story

There are no truths, only stories. - Simon Ortiz

Alpenglow paints the peaks above, your friends gather ‘round a fire below. The pines creak in the cooling winds, and a guitar chord joins the breeze. The notes draw you inward and outward, you’re somehow here and somehow everywhere. You want to remember this.

You are a storyteller… everyone is a storyteller, which means there is a single rule in storytelling: a good story begins and ends by being ruthlessly true to your personal vision.

Before you toss your rucksack in the trunk, have a creative form in mind. Is it words, images, both? A short-film or a painting? I love combining images and words because images elicit words, and words elicit images.

As the trip storyteller, you’re accepting the hardest job, so you must be in the best physical shape (to gather content without delaying everyone) and the best mental shape (to journal while everyone else sleeps).

Get your body and mind right prior to hitting the trail; make a list of shots to capture and questions to explore. You’ll be maxed out physically, so make the creative work easier by having a plan.

In that plan, map out the perfect tools for gathering the story and carry the absolute minimum. I often compromise on packing multiple lenses, as I’d rather get all the shots with one lens than miss many because I’m over-burdened.

Always have your tools at the ready – if they’re in your pack, you’ve already missed the whoa moment.

And the whoa moments are all that matter. The whoa is your curiosity jumping, your emotions churning; whoa is you, and you is what we want. Always investigate these instinctual moments… wait for the whoa and act.

Once you’re back at home staring at your whoa moments, develop an editing process and stick to it. Be brutal while editing. Brutal. I start by singling out the images and words that draw an emotional reaction within me (feelings of inspiration, beauty, happiness, anger, confusion, etc.).

At first glance, if my work doesn’t draw a deep emotional reaction with me, it will have no chance with others. I visualize a conversation with a single person about my work, why would you care?

I read (and believe) you must subtract 1% from the quality of your work for each person you think about while creating. Your work is you, not what you may think your mom, boss, or boyfriend wants from you. If your work becomes everyone’s, it’s lost your voice, and it’s no longer good.

A good story may require waiting; don’t be afraid to wait. Often, only separation gives me the perspective to start. Stories are hard to force, but the more you practice, the less force you’ll need to get them out.

Getting them out…  pressing publish… the last (and hardest) part! You’re sharing the deepest corners of your brain, your strongest feelings. You are completely vulnerable and completely authentic. But the world craves authenticity, the world craves your story… go ahead, press publish.

[This post was written in partnership with REI, and all words here are my own.]

8

Far North In The Lower 48

Photoset

from Red Lodge, Montana

102 days in

I’ve been tip-toeing around the northern reaches of the lower 48 before I jump into British Columbia and the wild Alaskan unknown. Sure it may rain and snow a lot up North, but once the winter blanket is peeled back Life springs from the snowmelt of these gritty mountains. Up here there is still a sense of the undiscovered, perhaps because of its run-to-your-cabin cold winters. But where few people have been, the beauty remains… onward now kid.

Photo 1: Grinnell Point from Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier Nat’l Park

Photo 2: Lake Quinault, Olympic Nat’l Park

Photo 3: Sunset from the Sourdough Lookout, North Cascades Nat’l Park

Photo 4: Storm clearing over Ozette Lake, Olympic Nat’l Park

OzPhoto 5: Southeast approach near the railroad grade, Mt Baker WA

Photo 6: Hozomeen Mountain and Ross Lake, North Cascades Nat’l Park

Photo 7: Strait of Juan de Fuca from Olympic Peninsula

Photo 8: From the Sourdough Trail, North Cascades Nat’l Park

2

Briefs · from Washington · 477 days in

Seasons & Showers

The Winter Shower

Frequency: Low to very low (only considered on days above 32F)

Source: Any non-frozen water

Technique: 

1. Heat two pots of water on stove

2. Gather 35-degree water in shower bag

3. Regret what you’re about to do

4. Undress, shiver, rinse, soap, shiver, rinse

5. Dump two hot pots over head

6. Say, “Oh my god, that is the definition of bliss.”

7. Towel dry

 

The Summer Shower

Frequency: High to very high

Source: Any clean water source, ideally an alpine lake or glacial river

Technique:

1. Undress

2. Stand in the sun for awhile… smile

3. Jump in and swim around

4. Get out and continue smiling

5. Say, “That was the best shower of my life.”

6. Air dry

[winter shower portrait by Keenan Newman]

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