(Click on any photo to see it larger)
The great, mysterious days of exploration are dwindling away under the brawn of the daring and the creative. The moon has been conquered, Everest, K2, Mt. Meru, someone has walked the length of every continent, and caves have been pushed deeper than ever imagined. Submarines dive to the deepest depths of the ocean and there is a rover on Mars. The days of government funded expeditions are over as American’s have stood on every major peak of the world multiple times. The modern day adventurer has to happen upon great wealth, be born into it, or be so freakishly athletic, people pay them to wear their brand and travel.
I look up to the famous explorers of yesteryear. Columbus, Royal Robbins, Jim Whittaker, Neil Armstrong, Messner and Amelia Earheart; but in modern times, few people like that exist. Today, I look up to the person who has no money, but is willing to sacrifice everything to chase their passion, to follow in the footsteps of our explorative ancestors in the only real modern fashion…I’m talking about ski bums, dirtbags, surfer dudes, trekkies, mountaineers and the like. The real heroes of today; breaking away from the societal norms of offices and full time jobs, pensions, retirements, 9-5ers, and commutes.
As I strive to find my place among that community and slip into a life of adventure on the cheap, I constantly get asked, “How do you do it?”
I’m here to tell you that my life isn’t all smiles and butterflies. I’ll tell you how my life has lead me in the direction that it has taken today and you can take what you want from it. When I was 16, I was obsessed with soccer but I hated the way my friends all treated each other in the constant gorilla testosterone style of competition. I bought a kayak and spent my weekends on the river with the turtles, snakes and my fishing rod instead of sitting around video game consoles talking about next week’s game.
I started rock climbing at a small gym and would go to soccer practice from 4-6pm then eat a quick dinner, drive to the gym and climb from 7-9 followed by an hour long body weight exercise session. Sleep, repeat. Before long I realized my passion for climbing and the peace I found by popping in my headphones and forgetting all the stresses of the day far surpassed the negativity of hypercompetitive field sports. I found comfort in the few people I met who knew what a crimp was and understood my drive to push myself on the artificial stone.
In between the hustle, I worked long, hard hours for a grumpy old man doing tree removal all over the deep south. I paid for my own gas, my own car repairs (they were never-ending on my ’93 VW Jetta), I paid for my own nights out, my dinners out and my loving mom occasionally gave me $20 she didn’t have. I saved every penny I could for imminent adventures I had planned for years.
I graduated May 31, 2008 and packed my car and left for my first cross country road trip on June 5, 2008. I couldn’t wait to escape the norm, to break away from the binds of small town drama and those who so materialistically fought for popularity and pushed for the American Dream. I drove to Virginia camping along the way, putting my kayak in any mediocre body of water that had a campground next to it. I then drove to the Black Hills of South Dakota following the same mantra.
As high school came to a close I started applying for jobs all over the country knowing that no matter where I got one, I could always pitch a tent somewhere and get by. I landed a job in Spearfish, SD spraying noxious weeds from atop a four wheeler. I spent my summer going full throttle around the Black Hills rock formations staring up in awe at the endless possibilities that lay ahead of me in my climbing career, a metaphorical window into my future.
(Keep Reading after photos)
During that summer, I worked endless hours in the heat. Worked with a bunch of lowlifes and even had a gun put to my head by a drunk man on my crew. I was a week out of high school, less than two months 18 and was already head first into what everyone had called the “real world” in high school.
I started a new job at the SDSU Climbing Gym and my love grew stronger. I became obsessed, spending more time at the wall than I did working on school. I continued to live a similar lifestyle to high school. Monday through Friday I went to classes and spent my evenings climbing or setting routes or working out. On Friday when everyone else in the dorms was tipping back their first beer I was driving West with a carload of archery equipment. I would spend every morning and evening of the weekend in a treestand, sandwiched in between, I pushed my farm for pheasants, alone.
This would continue through December when Christmas break would start. After Christmas break I always returned stoked for the upcoming Spring Break climbing trip and began training incessantly. Pushing myself as hard as I could I fell in and out of injury. After four years of working relentlessly at the climbing gym I graduated with zero desire to chase my degree in Wildlife Biology. I landed the first climbing gig I applied for at the Front Climbing Club in Salt Lake City. After giving $300 to the state of South Dakota as a fine for the criminal trespassing I acquired graduation week (who knew you weren’t supposed to rappel out of your school’s bell tower in your underwear?) I had little money for my cross country drive.
I arrived in Utah and couldn’t afford a deposit on a room, let alone the first month’s rent in conjunction. I found myself in a tent in my brothers backyard under an apple tree. In the backyard I didn’t have to feel bad not paying rent and could stay out of the way of the five roommates in the house. After almost two months, a coworker who was considering moving to San Francisco left for a month and graciously allowed me to stay in her house under the stipulation that I take care of her dog. I set up shop on the floor of an empty room with my stuff scattered around me. Once again another month of free rent and I finally could get my own room in a house. I moved into an actual house the last week of August and stayed until the last week of January.
Summer and Fall in Utah are some of the most amazing times for diversity of endeavors. I cliff jumped, Alpine climbed, sport climbed, multi-pitch trad climbed, bouldered, canyoneered, road biked windy mountain roads, mountain biked slick rock trails, tubed under the interstate, bagged summits and drank a lot of beer. As winter closed in on the valley, pollution filled our little terrarium between the mountains. I picked up a second full time job at Backcountry.com and worked 16 hour days, 80+ hour weeks and barely saw my friends, never climbed anymore and pushed through three and a half months of that before taking what I had saved and put it in my gas tank.
Check out my other website with my brother (unattended for a while now) http://www.makingonceenough.com to see the videos of our Utah times together. Don’t worry 2015 will be an action packed year for that website.
For the first time in my life I had a destination but no agenda. I knew I wanted to find myself in Alabama with my grandpa for a series of surgeries but I had two months to make it there, tons of climbing gear and an equal amount of time. I spent nights at crags snuggled in the bed of the truck with my then five month old puppy. I partied with friends, and saw a lot of family as well. After a month with my grandpa I ventured back out to continue climbing and before long found myself on a friend’s couch in Rapid City, SD, trying to start a climbing gym.
I was so close to starting what society considers a real life. With an Angel Investment and an approved down payment on a $200k+ loan, and an entire business plan to start my dream business, I got a pesky e-mail that piqued too much interest to pass up. Two months later I was climbing a cell phone tower East of Austin, TX and since then a series of weird events has lead me to owning my own Rope Access/Wireless Solutions contract company. I wasn’t ready to settle down; too many endeavors laid unachieved all of which I had always dreamed would come in my youth.
Now that I run my own contract company I can accept or refuse work as I please which allows me to stay unmarried to the game and keeps me on the road regularly. Big things are in my near future and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So for all of you who have assumed I have money to live this way. Or who have assumed I’m some sort of trust fund kid: I’ve been broke, really broke, I’ve had money, I’ve had a lot of fun, sometimes more fun that I’ve had money. I’ve just allowed myself to slip away. To break the chains that keep so many folks anchored to their ideals of life so intricately bored into their brains via society. I’ve allowed the criticisms to roll off my back and to keep making myself happy. I’ve allowed myself to venture into the unknown so repetitively that the unknown has no effect on me. I’ve allowed myself to live life the way I want to. Period. Consequently, I know great people, with which I have amazing memories. For me, I’ve just tried to make it as enjoyable as I can. Regardless of whether I have $10,000 or $100, my motto: There’s always money for beer.
Below are just a few more photos I consider major times in my life that have kept me pushing towards what I will say is inevitably a life of happiness and contentment.