I’m Afraid Too.

Would you rather die having not lived at all, or take a risk and live life to the fullest?

I don’t think I’m a brave person.

I’m anxious, I over-analyze and spontaneity is usually reserved for late night Waffle House runs.

I constantly kick myself for living life in fear.

My boyfriend and I were recently talking about how we feel were not “that outdoorsy” or “that adventurous” compared to some of the crazies we see on Instagram. But when I really started to think about it, we are pretty outdoorsy and adventurous compared to a lot of people. I’m shocked when I run into somebody who’s lived in Colorado for a couple years and has never made it up to the mountains. I can’t believe it when someone says they’ve never camped or been to the top of a 14er or snowshoed or skiied.

But then, I have to back myself up.

Fear is nothing to be ashamed of.

Continue reading “I’m Afraid Too.”

Take the Road Less Traveled 

Why road tripping is the best way to see the world.

When I turned 16 and go my first car, my life changed.

That maybe-blue-maybe-purple ’98 Jeep Cherokee with the killer sound system was freedom.

I was an angsty teen in the throws of my parents divorcing and having a car meant freedoms I had never experienced before; like going to parties, dating and doing extracurricular activities that sometimes required staying out until one in the morning.

But more than the normal teenage freedoms wheels provided, that Jeep meant total freedom. I was perfectly aware that I could get anywhere I wanted to on two different continents in that leaky chariot. Within months of getting my license, I was driving all over Colorado and southern Wyoming. It was less than a year later that I took my first real road trip and drove from Denver to LA.  I’ve been hooked on road tripping ever since.

Since the day I got my license, I’ve never felt trapped. I’m always the one to offer to drive because I love the feeling of knowing that I can go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Home, the grocery store, Peru. It’s all accessible.

I’m always surprised at how many people think that travel is unattainable. If you have a car, you can get to some pretty amazing places. Between my boyfriend and myself, we’ve had five cars in varying stages of age, mileage and crappiness that have carried us on some of our favorite adventures.

Last summer, our epic 7,500 mile road trip was done in a ’98 Subaru Outback with over 100,000 miles on it and we were patching it up the entire way.

There’s no excuse not to go when you have a car.* Pack a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jelly, Google Map some WalMarts or National Forests along your route and go have an adventure.

ProTip: Invest the $7 a month your insurance wants to add roadside assistance to your policy. That’s less than two trips to Starbucks and it will save your ass if you get stranded and will give you the peace of mind to enjoy yourself.

I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to fly a lot in my life and see some pretty incredible places, but honestly? Some of my favorite memories have been made on windy back roads, the destination reached my own hand with the help of a Redbull or two.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s some pretty incredible places within a totally doable driving distance. Here are some suggestions from Denver:

  • Moab – less than 6 hours
  • Las Vegas – a long, but doable, day
  • Grand Canyon – if you leave during a summer sunrise, you can make it there in time for sunset
  • Yellowstone/Grand Tetons – ~6hrs

*Unless you have a car like my ’91 Cherokee that lacked power steering, power brakes, interior lights, heat, took a quart of oil a day, had an alarm that went off every time you opened the door and a shot suspension. That’s probably a valid excuse.

Road trips are Kenzie dog’s favorite.
Take the road less traveled.

Travel Diary – Moab, Utah

The best places to hike, camp and drink coffee in Moab, Utah. Fisher Towers, Dead Horse State Park and camping on HWY 128.

One of my very favorite things to do is to throw some camp gear in the car, take off after work and drive through the dark to find what we hope is an epic campsite, stumble around with headlights and then wake up the next morning to discover where we ended up.

This past week, our destination was just outside Moab, up Utah State Highway 128. We rolled into a campsite at 2AM, the sucking blackness hiding any hint of a landmark, and awoke the next morning to this view:

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Waking up at first light and making coffee on the camp stove while Topher sleeps is another one of my favorite activities. I love the smell of hot coffee and damp grass, watching the sun touch our little corner of the universe, feeling the warmth of the coffee seep through the tin mug into my numb hands and the steam warm my cold nose.

This trip to Moab was focused on hiking. On Thursday we explored Dead Horse State Park and hiked the East Rim Trail, from the visitor’s center to Dead Horse Point. Its an easy 3 mile round trip hike with stunning views the entire way. After thinking it looked familiar, and texting my dad a picture, I realized that I’d rafted that section of river and hiked up the mesa at the point when I was 15, long before the Instagramification of the scenic spot. Yes, I am a hipster.

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On Friday, we got up early and did my favorite hike to date. Fisher Towers feels like stepping onto another planet. The trail immediately takes you down into a canyon and keeps climbing in and out of various canyons, along ledges, on top of cliffs, all while being shadowed by the most amazing red rocks spires. At just over 5 miles round trip, the hike was definitely strenuous with all the elevation loss and gain, but well worth it. There are many epic views along the way and the scenery is incredible. There’s a point where you have to descend an approximately 10 ft metal ladder into a canyon, which was definitely a feat with the dog. It took both of us balancing precariously and a stranger pushing her over the ledge to get her across.

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Kenzie and I enjoying the views

 

This is a trail that I would definitely not attempt in the heat of the day or at all in the summer months. With no shade or running water, once you’re out of the spires’ shadows, you’re pretty much being cooked. Bring more water than you think you could possibly drink, sunscreen and a hat. If there’s even a chance of rain, don’t attempt. Much of the trail winds in and out of canyons that are prime territory for flash flooding.

While we’re not normally “campground people,” we did choose to stay in one of the BLM campgrounds along HWY 128 because we knew we’d be coming in late and didn’t want to have to search for primitive camping. At $15 a night, these plentiful campgrounds are a great option. Note that they were completely full by a Friday night in March, so finding a spot on weekends may not be possible.

While we spent most of our time hiking and reading in camp, we did stop at Moab Coffee Roasters on our way to Dead Horse State Park and were pleasantly surprised by their coffee being roasted in paint buckets in the side of a Life is Good store. Give them a try if you’re in town and in need of a cup of coffee.

I love the stark beauty of the desert. Beaches and rain forests and bustling cities are beautiful, but sometimes all that amazing-ness coming at me is overwhelming. I love the simple colors, the harsh landscape, the marvel of a teeny tiny flower blossoming under a rock or nothing but red rock and scrub brush as far as the eye can see. Somehow, that simple beauty is more beautiful to me than the busiest landscape.

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I love Utah, I love Moab and I love the desert. Go visit for yourself.

Stay tuned for why you should go take a road trip there 🙂

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Why I Chose To Be Homeless

Last summer, I chose to be homeless.

Last summer, my boyfriend and I quit our well-paying jobs, chose not to renew the lease on our apartment, packed our lives into a 10×10 storage unit and took off across the country with nothing but a Subaru, our dog and a 2 person tent (you can read about our adventures under the Two and a Half BAMFS in Banff tab).

For years, I had scrolled jealously through the feeds of wanderers on Instagram. I had longingly devoured articles with titles like, “Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel the World.” I saw all these people, these perfect internet people, living the dream, living my dream. I saw that it was possible. For them.

“I could never do that.” I would scoff to myself.

There were a million reasons why I couldn’t. I was a broke college student, a broke young adult, I had a life, a job, family and a dog counting on me, my boyfriend, college to graduate from, careers to start. We were too young, the world was too vast and scary.

As I scrolled through my Instagram feed with my increasingly long list of “can’t”s, I started to see all these beautiful images of Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.

I had graduated from college and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and was working an unsatisfying job, my boyfriend had decided college wasn’t for him and was working a manual labor job.

Slowly, an idea began to form in my mind.

Maybe quitting our jobs to travel the world was too lofty, but maybe it didn’t have to be the world. Maybe it could just be Canada.

Once I got up the courage to have that first initial thought of “maybe I could”, every “can’t” started to melt away.

If we pinched our pennies and saved, and weren’t paying rent on an apartment, we’d have enough money to spend a few months on the road. We could camp and sleep in our Subaru to avoid paying for lodging. And Canada wasn’t that vast and scary, was it? Even at 21, it seemed attainable.

And what was the worst that could happen? We’d break down, we’d be stranded, we’d have to go live with my parents for awhile.

Once I actually let myself start to believe that I could live my dream, nothing else was that scary. Saving money came easily. Quitting jobs we weren’t passionate about wasn’t hard. There were more apartments we could rent when we came back. Our friends and families understood; we weren’t leaving forever. Just the summer.

So, we packed our 1998 Subaru Outback to the brim and headed North. I don’t think it occurred to me until the first night we were on the road that we were truly homeless. It was a little scary, but also exhilarating.

We were on the road for over 40 days and didn’t pay for a single night of lodging. We slept in our car, pitched our tent or stayed with relatives every night. A couple grand got us through the summer, including unforeseen expenses, and held us over until we found jobs upon our return in August.

Was it all rainbows and butterflies?

Hell, no.

The radiator in our Subaru started to go on the fritz several days into our trip. We ended up having to replace it in a parts store parking lot in the middle-of-nowhere Montana and the car continued to overheat every time we’d go less than 25mph for the rest of the trip.

We found ourselves in a town called Fort McCloud, Alberta and realized our credit cards didn’t work outside the US and that Canada has hardly any free camping. We called my dad in tears in a Tim Horton’s parking lot. After buying donuts and poutine with the last of our Canadian cash, we headed back to America after less than six hours and changed trajectory.

One night, after scouring the Washington and Oregon coasts for hours looking for an open campsite, we ended up sleeping (or at least parking for the night) in a Fred Meyer parking lot and brushing our teeth in their bathroom.

Showers were not plentiful. I did an 11 day stint without bathing and had to get pretty creative with trial passes at gyms to get clean.

Some nights were terrifying. Some nights were cold. Some nights were hot. I was grumpy at times. He was grumpy at times. The dog was grumpy at times.

Our tire went flat on a 4wd road, we almost got stuck more times than I can count. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes and ate hummus for at least 1/3 of our meals.

We found ourselves in Redding, CA in August and the heat was oppressive, even at night, the car was protesting, the dog ran through a burr bush and had thousands of burrs stuck in her fur and we were homesick. We cut our trip a few weeks short and lived with my parents until we found a new place to call home.

The worst happened.

It wasn’t that bad.

The trip was actually the best experience of my life.

We saw amazing things, we bonded, we laughed, we turned our Subaru into a home.

We lived our dream.

I chose to be homeless because it was my dream to cut my ties and just go.

I’m telling you this story, not because I want to be another one of those perfect internet people who are living your dream life. I don’t want to be another “can’t”. I want to motivate you to find your “can”.

Whether your dream is to travel, or to pursue a freelance career, or to publish a book, my advice is this: find your “can” and just do it.

Things will go wrong. It won’t be what you expected. But if you’re living your dream? That’s all any of us can ask for.

Here’s a picture of Lake Louise. This was the start of my “can”. I never made it there, but was that really the point?

Just do it, you won’t regret it. I promise.

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Hunting for Authentic Experiences

Several weeks ago, one of my favorite Instagrammers, Chris Burkard (@chrisburkard), wrote, “It’s only recently that I realized that one authentic experience during a trip is better than 50 tourist stops.”

This has probably been nagging at the back of my mind for several weeks, because I can definitely fall in to this trap. This spring, we went to New Orleans and ended up walking something crazy like 37 miles over the course of the long weekend, mostly at my behest. I tend to feel that if I am not doing, doing, doing I am not truly experiencing. This feeling is magnified like crazy when I’m in a new place. In NOLA, I wanted to have a truly authentic, meaningful experience and so I tried to cram as much into those few short days as possible. The results were hurried and stressful and although I got some great pictures, many of the tourist experiences I was hoping would feel truly meaningful, fell flat. My favorite experience of the whole trip was our first night when we had nothing planned and ended up experiencing a “true” New Orleans night on the town.

I’m not trying to say that tourist “traps” can’t be real or authentic and create amazing memories. On our trip this summer we ended up in a lot of really touristy places. Walking through Geyser Basin in Yellowstone and taking the ferry to Victoria, BC were some of my most cherished experiences of the trip and they were arguably some of the most touristy. However, when you walk into a trip with a list of items to check off, or you Google “Best Things to do in XXX” and try to accomplish them all in a short period of time, the chances of you truly feeling rewarded are not high.

As I mentioned, our road trip this summer was full of touristy places. Some were amazing, others were not. Sometimes tourist traps can really resonate. I think the key is to allow the space for things that work and to admit when things aren’t working and move on. I’m a planner and it can be really hard to get out of the mindset that every little moment needs to be planned. This summer was so good for me because 99% of our time was unplanned. I hadn’t spent hours pouring over Google for the best places to visit or planned our route based on tourist attractions. The most memorable moments of the trip were truly spontaneous and organic. Hammocking next to a river in the middle of Wyoming. Laying on a blanket under the stars in Oregon. Swimming in a mountain lake in Montana. Driving through the last light of the Eastern Washington countryside on a spur of the moment side trip.

And the worst moments? The moments when I most felt like I wanted to go home, the moments where I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting the most out of our crazy adventure? It was when I tried to over plan. It was when I Googled “Best Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula” and we ended up climbing a 13% grade with a million other people. It was when I planned a solid day around hanging out at a lake I’d seen pictures of on Instagram and it turned out to be a crowded, buggy swamp. It was when we started stopping places just to collect postcards rather than because we really wanted to.

That’s not to say that some of my high quality planning didn’t pan out. Taking the ferry to Victoria was magical. Seeing Glacier National Park was a highlight of the trip. We found the most amazing campsite by Googling “Best waterfall hikes near Bend”. I think the moral of what I’m trying to say here is what Burkard wrote. A truly authentic experience is worth so much more than checking off items on a list. Are those truly authentic experiences sometimes items off a list? Absolutely. One of my favorite memories ever is of the hanging bridges in Costa Rica which were absolutely a tourist destination and I’m sure my parents had planned based on some in-depth Googling. Is it wrong to plan those things? No. Not at all. But its also important not to plan every second and to let those authentic experiences happen. Because sometimes, you’re going to fly into New Orleans on St. Patrick’s Day and the torrential downpour is going to stop and there’s going to be a parade like nothing you’ve ever seen. Sometimes, you’re going to be waiting for your ferry in Victoria and have two hours to kill and walk a million miles to the neatest part of the city you never would have stumbled upon otherwise. Coming home from a trip with a camera roll full of pictures of the same iconic places that everybody who has ever been to there possess’ means far less than a truly wonderful memory. Does that mean a truly wonderful memory can’t include walking a hundred miles (are you noticing a theme here?) to the Golden Gate Bridge for some crazy great pictures? Not at all.

Make sure you’re present in the moment. Close Snapchat. Put down your camera for a minute. Take a deep breath and decide if what you’re doing in that moment is truly something you want to be doing. And if it is? Then enjoy the moment however you choose. If its not? Go find something that truly sparks your heart. Because that’s what travel is all about.

Creating Memories or Taking Selfies?

Is snapping a selfie the same as making a memory? Is our instant gratification culture is confusing the two?

With Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook documenting our every step, it can be really hard not to want to have “experiences” that make people scrolling through their news feeds jealous. I can’t tell you the number of hikes I’ve been on lately where teenagers show up with a hammock, stage three or four iPhone pictures and then pack up and leave. Last year I witnessed a couple get out of their car, take two steps down a trail, take a selfie, discuss the caption, and then get in their car and drive away. I think we can all agree there’s no way these people are actually making memories. But it can be so hard not to fall into the trap! Sometimes I’ll have an idea in mind for the best Instagram post. Topher makes fun of me all the time for taking pictures just for “the ‘gram”. Am I guilty of that? Absolutely. We can be having a piss-poor time, the weather can be crappy, we can be hot and hungry and tired and not enjoying ourselves in the slightest, but I stop the car, snap a picture and then doctor it up and make this fake memory for the sole purpose of likes online.

Especially when you’re a photographer, an artist, its a thin line. Sometimes, I want to shoot something because its beautiful, its inspiring. Sometimes I just want to shoot something because I want the photo for social media. Sometimes I set the shot up, take a million different angles, and try really hard. Other times, I snap one photo, just cropping out the hoards of other people doing the same thing, check to make sure its clear and am on my way. Because it looks good on everyone else’s feed. Because I have a witty caption in mind. Because I’ve been dreaming of the shot and I don’t want to admit its not the experience I’d hoped.

An Instagrammer I really admire, @minayounglee suggested truly experiencing a location, with no cameras, cellphones, etc, for 30 minutes before the first snap is ever taken. That way, you have time to really have an experience. To get a feel for the spot and find the perfect shot before you start blindly shooting and ruining a moment with your social aspirations. Its a humbling idea. Could I really sit still for thirty minutes without taking a picture?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. This summer I was gone for a month and a half in some of the most beautiful spots in the country and I only have 400 pictures to prove it. Do I wish I had taken photos some of the places we stopped? Absolutely. Do I regret not taking enough pictures? Honestly, no. The experiences are so much more valuable than a million photos of something I only saw through a lens. I am no Nat Geo photographer, and lucky for me, they have captured most of the world for me already (way better than I ever could hope to!) When time permits, I pull out my camera and try to create art. When it doesn’t, I’m learning to try to create an experience instead. I’m still guilty of pulling out my camera or my phone and taking several generic photos, but I also try to really be present in the moment. I want to be “Instafamous.” I think everyone does! But I also want a mind rich with memories and experiences. So, its a delicate balance. If you’re trying to create art, go for it. If you’re going for an experience, stop with the selfies. You don’t need to prove you were there, if you yourself are not going to remember it because your back was turned to it for a Snapchat.