Between the fall of 2015 and the fall of 2016 I drove across the country five times. Leading up to those five trips, my life, more specifically my mind had been in a state of limbo and uncertainty. In 2012 I was married at the age of 27, by 2015 that had ended in divorce and I was struggling to make sense of what had happened the previous three years. It was an odd situation because my photography business was doing well and financially I was better off than I had ever been... a perfect example of money not buying happiness. I did not feel grounded. I didn't feel like I had a purpose. I had been through four different therapists and was finally seeing someone whose methods I liked and felt like we were getting somewhere.
Then I saw the craigslist ad. It was for a Little Guy teardrop trailer. $3000. Barely used. I did a little research, made sure my car could tow the 8oo pound camper, and then went to check it out. I ended up coming home with a new trailer and a new idea. A road trip.
After researching minimalist life styles, dispersal camping out west, how to tow a trailer and talking at length with my therapist about whether I was actually running away from my quarter life crisis or confronting it, I decided to go.
It would be a trip of self discovery that would define the next chapter in my life. From east coast to west coast to the high desert, from Mexico to Canada, I was going to drive all over this great country, photographing the outdoors, photographing weddings, networking with freelance clients, meeting new people and trying to understand the events that had shaped my life.
I planned on moving towards simplicity and purging my life of anything unnecessary... clothes, books, most of my material possessions. I planned to give up my apartment. There is one central theme I want to follow, doing more with less. I wanted to tighten my belt and trim the fat. Long ago I decided I will not accept spending one second doing something I don't love. I will not accept a desk job or working for "the man." The American Dream seems like a load of crap to me. A house in the suburbs and a Monday through Friday job probably behind a desk? Work to retire? Then retirement comes and I'm too tired to do anything because I've worked my whole life? Yeah, no thanks. I was setting out to get away from Fridays and Mondays and calendars altogether. I was leaving with no agenda and no mission. There was nothing particularly helpful or sensible or practical about what I was doing. I was going to venture out simply to think, face my fears and play.
"The affect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart, the only thing that will be left of you is what was in your heart. You will only ever have two choices, love or fear. So many of us choose our path in life as fear disguised as practicality. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart." –Jim Carry
Being a practical, sensible person I didn't want to give up my apartment right away. I wanted to make sure I could handle the open road and living out of a four foot wide trailer for extended periods, so I decided to take a test trip, five weeks long, out to the desert southwest. I secured a contract with Farm to Feet, a sock company, to photograph their product out in the desert. They sent me 60 pairs of socks to shoot and give to prospective models. Now I could write off all of my miles and some of my meals as a business expense. My friend Amelie, an avid rock climber, just happened to need a ride to Moab, Utah to do some climbing. She agreed to keep me company and help with the drive across the states to Utah, and maybe join in a few adventures once we got there. So I sublet my apartment for a month, picked Amelie up in Boston and we headed west.
*please know that I shot thousands of pictures during this and subsequent trips. You are seeing about 30 of them here. Nothing is as it seems. I am choosing how to present this trip to you. You aren't seeing the rainy days, the lonely days, the really cold days. There were long stretches without showers, days when everything went wrong and I just wanted to go home. As you scroll through, keep this in mind.
Having Amelie with me in the beginning ended up really helping. I wasn't thrown into the desolation and loneliness of the high desert in the off season. Through her connections in the climbing community we were able to have some great adventures... including rappelling off of a remote arch deep in the desert outside of Moab and climbing to Castleton Tower, one of the premier rock climbing spots in the US.
My friend Chris and his friend Alec joined us a few days later for trip on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. We rented a jeep and secured a camping spot deep in the national park backcountry and off we went. It was great to reconnect with Chris after several years.
After our excursion in Canyonlands, I faced my first long stretch of being alone. Amelie had headed back to Boston, Chris and Alec back to Denver. I turned the car south from Moab and struck out for southern Utah. After driving through a snowstorm, I arrived after dark at the Valley of the Gods and spend a cold and lonely night in the camper. When I woke up the next morning I was stunned by the landscape:
Just south of the Valley of the Gods I rolled through Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border.
After Monument Valley I decided to turn west and head to Zion National Park to meet up with my good friend Mark who was flying in from San Francisco. Mark and I went to college together and had wracked up quite a few adventures in the Tetons and on the East Coast. We explored Zion and then headed north back to Moab.
Back in Moab, Mark and I explored deep into Arches National Park and the lesser known Deadhorse Point State Park.
Mark flew back to San Francisco and I was left to face the long drive back to Maine. I was hooked. I had survived being alone, knew I could live in a small space and knew that getting rid of most of my material possessions and hitting the road full time to live out of my car was the right thing to do.
Some short go pro video from the trip: