Hey adventure buddies! Last post we had some discussion about where all of our money comes from in life - including streams of income from this business..
We had a thing happen this weekend, where 5 new Patreon sponsors signed up in a couple of days.
5 might not sound like much to any big name podcasters out there in the audience, but for us it was a jump of 10% in both number of sponsors and total pledged money.
It was enough to get us thinking, and to spur another money-focused post, about where the money's going when you all support us.
Thank you for patronizing us.
Here at Boldly Went, our most visible "product" is our podcast, but we have a couple of primary ways of making money. Within the flow of the business, ticketing for the events where we gather stories is our primary income source most months, and we get a little bit from event and podcast sponsorship and merchandise sales (thanks Territory Run Co!). And we occasionally take people out on tours around the Seattle area or rent them our kayaks through the Navigator Network.
Beyond those transactional pieces though, we also have a Patreon page where people who believe in what we're doing can pledge monthly, PBS Telethon style, to allow us to keep going.
Because you know those pledges come from pure support, it always feels especially good to get a new one. Selling a ticket is great (and actually amounts to more money into the business a lot of times), but getting a patron subscription feels like more of a personal affirmation that we're on the right track.
Practically speaking, those pledges are also super helpful because they're stable, in the sense that they don't require ongoing advertising work on our part, and aren't as up in the air as ticket sales. One of the most nerve wracking parts of this whole thing, especially when we're traveling, is wondering whether events will cover the costs of travel for the places we go, and it's great to have that consistent base so we feel like we can take risks on going to smaller towns and places that are more off the beaten path - like Poulsbo, WA, for instance, where we just had a fantastic experience last week.
At the moment of writing, we know a few things about our base of Patreon sponsors. The average pledge for Boldly Went is $10/month, which is 33% higher than the average Patreon account. We have 53 current patrons, and a decent number of those are friends and family, so that might factor in to the higher than average dollar amount. But I also think that it has to do with what we're up to. A big part of our goal is creating community - which involves making new friends and family. So the support feels warm and personal, and often either springs from, or develops into, real world relationships. People who have supported us on Patreon have also helped us get events organized in their home towns, let us crash on their couches (thanks Callista, and see you tonight, Dan and Stacie!), consulted personally with us on business development, and literally hung out in the woods for days on end. That's the kind of thing we're going for!
What's the money going towards?
We're not a nonprofit, so we don't have an itemized public statement of exactly where the organization's money goes (although Angel has this somewhere because she's on top of all of that stuff in a way that I'm not...), but I can tell you concretely that almost all of the money that comes in to the business goes towards the basic tools of the trade for us. It goes to keep our car running, to pay for insurance, to get gas and food between towns, to keep our technology functional, and occasionally to put a roof over our heads when we're on the road in the winter. We embrace a full-on dirtbag business model, so most of the time we're crashing on couches, in our car, or in a tent, and our tech amounts to a couple of old iPhones (one of which was donated by our friend - thanks Angie!), a couple of old laptops, and a used iPad (which we bought using Patreon money so we could do this more reliably on the road!)
From the beginning, I'll admit, we've been trying to build this business as a sort of life-hack: an attempt to create something we could get paid for that also grows out of things that we love to do. In Angel's case, traveling around, making new friends, and playing outside, and in my case writing, creating, and trying to help people navigate the thorny hellscape that we call the modern world.
Because it's so integrated with what we love, we put as much of ourselves into the project as we can - and concretely Patreon sponsorship buys us time and emotional energy to do that. It's letting us live out some dreams, because it's allowing us to spend less time on other work and more time on this project.
I've done a fair amount of fundraising work in the non-profit world, though, and in my experience almost no one gives money to people trying to replace the rear differential on their car or purchase an old iPad on Craigslist. People give to things that they feel personally invested in, causes they believe in, and products and services that they personally benefit from. So, those ideas guide what we're trying to build here. Our goal from the beginning has been to create something using the gifts and interests we've got that is concretely valuable to the world.
So what's the point of all that? The Grand Vision? Where's it all going?
That's the stuff that's worthwhile, we think - in terms of our time and your money. The important point isn't the type of recording device we're using. It's what we're using it for - to what end we're employing our time and resources. That's the big picture of what the money that goes into this business goes towards. That's what's interesting because I think we're creating something pretty unique.
So, what are we providing to the world that we hope is worthy of time, money, and energy? Both our own, and the people who support us?
1) Numbered lists, because people like lists.
2) A connected outdoor community.
One of the early recognitions we had when we were thinking about business ideas was that there was a niche to be filled in the outdoor community, because even though outdoorsy people have a lot of shared values and commonalities, they don't have many central, social gathering places. We'd said for a couple of years that outdoors-types need a bar in every city to hang out in, the way football fans have sports bars. Storytelling events have been a way to create that in a natural way, and it's been a ton of fun, and a real, unique added value in the outdoor world, we think. The Navigator Network has been one concrete platform to create real world connections through the business outside of events, but more than a few people have also met through events and the podcast, which we think is pretty cool.
3) A platform for stories to be told that wouldn't be normally.
It was also an early recognition that in the outdoor community, there is a particular type of voice that you normally hear at public events - winners, champions, record setters. It's not that we aren't interested in those things. We just also think there's a lot of value in hearing about the losers, oddballs, and also-ran's of the world. And it's been interesting - so many of the stories we've heard at events focus on failure, or things that suck, rather than victories and glory, that it's almost a surprise when someone talks about a big accomplishment. Our events and podcast, we think, create a uniquely robust picture of what the outdoor experience actually is, and what it's actually about, because we give anyone who wants it a voice at the table.
As a related aside, Patreon has been a great support for gathering these types of stories - because it gives us some freedom to go to smaller towns where we aren't likely to make money on events. There are good stories everywhere, in our experience, and our goal is to gather as many of those as we can.
4) A Platform to tell stories that are important.
I will be completely honest in saying that there was no real higher social cause (beyond connecting people who wouldn't otherwise be connected) when we first started developing this idea. What we were envisioning with events and the podcast was essentially lighthearted fun. But pretty much immediately, it became clear that when people came to events, and were given an mic to tell any story they want, most of them talked about reasons that their outdoor experience has mattered. They've either shared about lessons learned, or traumatic events, or ways that playing outside has taught them important lessons about life. Based on the platform, it was maybe inevitable that along with "that funny thing that happened that one time", stories have moved towards the interface of the outdoors and social issues, struggles with mental health, gender and sexuality in the outdoor community, and race in the outdoors, among many other things.
When we realized that was happening, we embraced it for what it is - a great opportunity to be a platform for people who are telling stories that are important beyond just recreation, and trying to be good stewards of those stories has become a central goal in what we do. That plays to an existing strength in lots of ways - we're healthcare providers, and I have a Masters degree in religion, so life and death, both literally and figuratively, has been our business for most of our adult lives. But at heart, it's a side benefit of the platform. Give people 10 minutes to share who they are, and they will show you something important.
5) A platform to tell stories that are niche but are interesting to the wider world.
As we've branched out, out attempt to connect with a broad community of outdoorspeople has naturally lent itself to stories that are about the way our weird hobbies are relevant to the interests of people of all kinds. As the business has been developing, a fun spin off of that has been that we've been able to attend, and tell stories about events like the Bigfoot and Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Runs, and Seventy48, a 70 mile endurance paddle, and share them with a world that wouldn't normally have any idea what they're about.
6) Stories from travel and adventure that are helpful.
We've also naturally gravitated towards practicality. For a lot of adventure types, it's natural to want to provide beta when you're telling a story, so that people who want to can repeat your adventure. Because 10 minute stories aren't quite enough time for that, usually, our Field Notes have been a way to dig deeper into experiences in a way that's useful.
The book I'm working on, "The Dirtbag's Guide to Life", is entirely focused on communicating things we've learned along the way, and will eventually become a real thing you can read. In the meantime, I try to keep this blog primarily useful, because from the beginning we've really wanted to use our platform to make adventure more attainable for more people.
That's a relatively broad list, and while supporting what we're doing, basically, is supporting more events, podcasts, and web content, the important thing we think we're providing are the meaty intangibles - helping people make new friends, providing solid beta, inspiring people to get outside in ways they hadn't thought of, understanding a bit about why all of this madness we engage in on the weekends is important, and how all of it connects us to one another and to the environment we live in. All of that is why we do this, and we hope it's a contribution to the world that those of you supporting us find worthwhile!
Thanks so much for being a part of this thing and helping it continue to grow!
If you're interested in investing in this project with us on Patreon, I wouldn't argue with you, and you can do so by clicking the link below. You get stuff for your sponsorship too, so that's a bonus.
This week we're in Lake Tahoe, having just hiked 120 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and we're preparing to host an adventure storytelling event tonight before working the Tahoe 200 at the end of the week. After that we'll head back up to Seattle before going to Portland, Bend, Moab, and then New Zealand in October. Earlier in the year we went to Calgary and the Sunshine Coast, and if things pan out, we might make it to Mexico by the end of 2018 as well.
A question that we were asked recently is how we afford to do all of this kind of stuff, and I've been thinking about how people afford to live their dreams a lot recently. Budgeting may seem a bit unrelated to all this travel and adventure and stuff, but it's nuts and bolts, and it's come up in more than one conversations recently.
I've got a couple of hours this afternoon, and I wanted to organize a few thoughts around finances specifically because I think it's helpful to provide real life examples of how people do the kind of thing we're doing - leaving a traditional full time work path in order to travel, play outside, and start creating your own thing from the ground up - without venture capital, a trust fund, or a wealthy benefactor.
We've pursued this kind of lifestyle for about 3 years now, and in that time it's been really helpful to have some role models ourselves (thanks Urbanski's!). I don't have any magical secrets here, but I do want to take a minute to outline the basic strategy we've been using to make this work. It's easy to make assumptions that this type of lifestyle is inaccessible to most people, and it's helpful to make things concrete and point out that there are real-world ways to figure it out.
I'm calling this a Dirtbag's guide to the financial hustle.
1) Absence of debt and marketable skills create a massive amount of freedom, even if your income and savings aren't huge.
For a bit of essential background, the life situation that Angel and I find ourselves in is a pretty good one, from the perspective of an entrepreneur.
We aren't independently wealthy, and we can't afford not to make enough income to meet our expenses for more than a couple of months. We aren't willing to take loans out to finance our lifestyle because we don't want debt, so we have to figure out a hustle from month to month so our income reliably meets our expenditures.
But, after 15 years working and saving diligently in our careers, we don't have much current debt, and we have a fantastic safety net because we have highly marketable skills. I'm a nurse. Angel's a nurse practitioner. If our given hustle isn't working, it's really easy to pick up shifts in order to quickly make enough money to survive.
For me, that's a big part of the reason that I feel comfortable enough to take the chance on figuring out how to make money in other ways. If it doesn't work out, we both have solid fallback options.
2) There are only 2 difficult steps: a) believe you can figure it out, and b) commit to hustle until you do.
From a position like ours, my personal experience has been that the most difficult steps in making a transition from a stable, long-term career path into something creative, entrepreneurial, and travel/adventure-based have been the psychological steps required.
I'm personally a creature of routine who likes stability, and it hasn't come naturally to me to give up a traditional contracted job in order to drift around and figure out how to survive. So the first difficult step, for me, has been to believe that I can figure it out. That somehow or another, I'll figure out how to make enough money to survive. Somehow, Angel has that instinct, so she's been the rock.
And related to that, it's difficult not to just retreat back to the familiarity of a comfortable job. I'm a nurse, I can work whenever and where-ever I want. There's a bit of hyperbole there, but not much. But in order to do what we're doing - traveling, creating a business, maximizing our flexibility - we have to be committed to the hustle of making it work across the long haul. That requires a continued commitment to the idea that we're going to figure this out - how to make a passion project pay in a way that's sustainable. That confidence might not always come naturally, but is reinforced the longer we do it, and the more years we manage to make ends meet living a non-traditional lifestyle.
3) The goal: lower expenses to an amount you can meet with income.
Because of our lack of debt, our basic equation is that, in order to keep Boldly Went-ing, we just have to figure out how to keep our expenses lower than our income. The way we've been achieving that, I think, is probably what you'll find most helpful here.
In order to achieve a balanced financial equation, there are really only two things you can do: drop your expenses, and increase your revenue. This is where the rubber hits the road: the practical answer to the question of "how we afford to do what we're doing." How do we make more than we spend while also traveling around, making up a business, hiking a bunch, doing what we want?
The two categories of actions we take include dropping expenses we can live without, and maximizing the number of revenue streams that we can cobble together.
a) Dropping expenses
For us, in 2018, dropping expenses has meant the following things:
b) Maximizing revenue streams.
I mentioned above that we haven't had traditional contract-based full-time jobs for 3 years. But that doesn't mean at all that we don't work. In fact, we work more now than when we would if we did have normal jobs. I'm almost sure of it. It's just that the jobs take the form of a series of side-hustles. And they're organized so that we can do them in a way that's compatible with a peripatetic lifestyle.
While for most of our lives, our sole income streams were traditional jobs, in 2018, there have been at least 10 ways that we've earned money. In roughly descending order, from most to least lucrative, here are our the ways we've made money this year (not including investments because we’re not planning to touch those pre - retirement, so the money’s not “real” yet for us):
None of those revenue streams is big, but pieced together, they're enough to allow us to travel around, work on establishing the business, and work on creating more revenue streams - writing a book, trying to build bigger events, finding more sponsors, and maybe picking up more fun side jobs that don't feel like a burden.
What’s life feel like in that context? Pretty damn flexible. There's no one job obligation that feels like it truly "owns" us. We have to figure out how to make money to keep doing what we want - but it's the "keep doing what we want" idea that feels like it's the focal point of our life, rather than the "making money" part. Life feels creative, and a bit unstable, but not in a threatening way because we always have nursing as a fallback. Our taxable income at the end of the year will be really low, but I definitely don't feel poor, because we have figured out so many options. And I think a variety of options in life is the true opposite of poverty.
Mainly, life these last few years feels like investing in something we believe in with this project - something really personal, creative, and cool.
Will our income streams be different next year? Almost definitely. Maybe we'll find some online income? Or take different side jobs? Or just work more at the hospital? Or less? Who knows? It's weird - it almost doesn't matter, because it's not the point. The point is finding out a way to afford to do what we're doing - traveling, building a business, working on passion projects, creating something cool in the world that we believe in.
If you like this post, you'll also like my book The Dirtbag's Guide to Life. It's a fun guide like this, but for your entire existence.
Another stream, which we also can’t continue to do this without is Patreon - where lots of individuals chip in a few bucks to help keep our podcast, events, and other content happening. If you listen to other podcasts, a lot of them have entire, large production teams. Our team is us and our patrons. We hope you'll check out our page - it's a great place to both help out concretely with a couple bucks a month, and to provide feedback and advice about how we can make what we're doing more valuable!
Helgi Olafson is hilarious, hardcore, and inspiring. We met him originally at one of our Portland events, and we're stoked to share a bit of his work here.
Helgi Olafson is a hilarious dude.
He also happens to be a beast of an athlete, competing in 2018's Triple Crown of 200s series, which involves running three 200 mile mountain races in the span of roughly two and a half months - the Bigfoot 200, the Tahoe 200, and the Moab 200 (which, just for funsies, actually covers 240 miles).
And he's doing it all despite having ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which in his words is "a degenerative autoimmune arthritis involving fusion of joints resulting from inflammation of the attachment points of ligaments and tendons to bone. In layman's terms...if I don't MOVE IT...I will lose it.”
We were lucky enough to get to know him a bit at the 2018 Bigfoot 200, midway through the race when his feet looked like hamburger and he hadn't slept in days. He finished the race, and I was stoked to find out afterwards that he'd put together a piece of my favorite style of internet literature - idiosyncratic reports on the nitty gritty details of unusual adventure experiences. The type of thing that really allows you to dig into the emotional experience of what it takes, and what it feels like, to do something really hard and weird - like running the 2018 Bigfoot 200.
He calls it a race report, but what Helgi actually put together is a page turning mini-novella that has enough humor, background, and personal insight that it'll be interesting for someone with no experience of these things at all, but also enough detail that it'll be useful to someone in the planning stages of running this race, or another 200, themselves.
Helgi manages to reference the Truffle Shuffle, Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap, and his apple bong, but my particular favorite anecdote from the report was his description of an interaction around mile 160:
I remember whooping around a lake and then coming up on a father son combo. They were just on a short hike. I made eye contact with the dad as I trekked by. I was deep in thought, but I managed to say to this man, “Monday?”
This thing's full of these sorts of gems, so do yourself a favor and take the time when you have it to read the whole thing. It's classic literature: Helgi Olafson's Bigfoot 200 Race Report.
Helgi's report on the Tahoe 200
Just a couple of weeks after finishing Bigfoot, Helgi ran, and finished the Tahoe 200 - an adventure that he had essentially completed solo earlier in the year when he completed the Tahoe Rim Trail in the snow in not much more than race cutoffs would allow. He offers some humorous background on that experience, as well as another great write-up of his experience at the second of the Triple Crown races.
You can, and should, read that Tahoe 200 Race Report here.
...and finally, Helgi's Moab 240 report
In my opinion, this is Helgi's magnum opus. It's 50 densely packed pages of pictures, stories, and reflections from his experience of the entire Triple Crown of 200s, and a leg by leg recounting of the Moab experience. It's characterized by his usual offbeat humor and inspiring personality, and concludes with an announcement about a major upcoming adventure project in 2020 that will include all three of the 200 mile races.
Helgi's Report on the Moab 240.
Helgi has done a ton of advocacy in the AS community, and you can follow his adventures on his athlete page on Facebook.
And if you like what we're up to here at Boldly Went, check out our Patreon page and consider joining the small but mighty horde of supporters, and pledging anything from $1/month in order to help make it feasible for us to continue creating the Boldly Went podcast and other online content!
(All photos by the amazingly talented Howie Stern. Used with permission.)
Angel took on the medical director role for Destination Trail's series of 200 mile ultramarathons, and our first event was the Bigfoot 200 near Mount St Helens. We were stoked because that also allowed us to do a bunch of race recording with the goal of sharing the 200 mile ultramarathon experience with you all.
As our friends in New Zealand say, we're completely gutted to say that the day after the race, the phone that contained all of our audio and a bunch of our photos from the 2018 Bigfoot 200 went kaput during a run in Capitol Forest, WA, and the audio can't be recovered.
We lost a wealth of good material, runner and volunteer interviews, and humorous interludes, but the thing I regret the most is that we won't be able to share audio of Helgi Olafson screaming while Angel hacked in to one of his blisters with a pair of toenail clippers at mile 140.
Lemonade from lemons and all that, so at least this gave us a practice run at telling the story of a big event like this in the lead up to the next race, the Tahoe 200. We won't be able to put together a podcast episode from Bigfoot material this year, but as a consolation prize, here are 4 takeaways from our experience running medical at the 2018 Bigfoot 200 Mile Endurance Run.
1. It takes a village.
For the uninitiated, the Bigfoot 200 is a 206 mile point to point foot race through the Cascade Mountains, running roughly from Mount St Helens towards Mt Adams on remote trails and a little bit of forest service road. Participants have 105 hours (4 days, 9 hours) to complete the course, and it's not a stage race - meaning the clock never stops ticking, so racers are encouraged to sleep as little as possible and move as fast as they can. It's arguably the hardest, most scenic 200 mile race in the United States. Sure, there's not that much competition for that title, and there aren't really any easy 200 milers, but you get the picture - it's really something.
You might be wondering how a person might be able to complete that sort of thing. I am too. I can say as a bystander and someone who's also run very long distances in the past that it looked hard. More on that in a bit.
But stepping behind the curtain, the thing that stood out was that getting runners through that course was a massive production involving multiple paid professionals, and literally hundreds of volunteers, crew, and pacers doing thousands of hours of work. Being part of it felt a bit like being a member of a pit crew at a NASCAR race. The runners were driving, but a churning mass of coordinated humanity held things together to get the through the course. Communication alone involved the week-long presence of 40 volunteer HAM Radio operators stationed at various remote locations in the mountains. I heard that the Costco bill for aid stations was over $10,000, and there were volunteers who flew in for a week just to feed and support the other volunteers.
I'm not just saying this - it was a genuinely mind boggling thing to witness, and it gave me huge respect for Candice Burt and the crew who pull off three of these in three months, and huge appreciation for the volunteers who donate weeks of vacation time to hang out with a bunch of smelly runners trying to accomplish something ridiculous.
From my perspective, this was one of the things I loved about the experience. The whole philosophy of this Boldly Went thing is that it's community that makes adventure. This was a big ol' week-long illustration of that.
2. People are gritty.
And yeah, I guess the lunatics doing actually running these things deserve some amount of credit as well. These people are gritty.
The best, most representative lost story from our audio recording, in my opinion, is from Nick Davis, who's participated in the race all four years since it's inception. At mile 140, he asked me to look at his ankle, where he had intense point tenderness at the base of his (oversized) calf, and pain that had been getting worse for hours. I'm no physio, so I asked Angel to check him out, and she diagnosed him with a likely partially torn Achilles, and made the recommendation that he drop due to the possibility of serious long-term damage. He decided to sleep on it, and when he woke up, he told me he was going to try to go on, but wanted to build a heel lift and asked if we had any cork or similar.
After digging through the back of our car, I came across these nice, soft foam novelty Hulk hands:
I cut out a heel-sized chunk of Hulk using trauma shears, stuck it in his shoe, and Nick headed out for two more nights in the wilderness.
No sensible adult would argue that this was a good decision, but when Angel and I rolled in to the finish line, Nick had just come through, Hulk-flesh still in his shoe, having hobbled 66 miles past where we last saw him.
These people are resilient. Even more than other long, slow races, the game in 200 milers seems to be to just keep moving, managing nutrition and sleep deprivation and nausea and feet and soft tissue injuries and the entirely rational desire to quit. The most successful runners, in my experience, kept a sense of humor and perspective about the whole hardcore but patently ridiculous endeavor, pampered their feet like babies, slept when they started to get psychotic symptoms, and spent days on end convincing themselves not to quit until eventually they finished.
Exhaustion makes you regress, so runners would flop themselves into aid stations like over-extended toddlers into their parents arms, and put themselves at the mercy of crew and volunteers to feed them and fix their feet and convince them that they could actually do this before stumbling off into the woods offering profuse and mildly incoherent thanks. I can't speak to what happened out there in the woods, but from the view of the aid station, it's a scene.
People push through for up to 4 1/2 days on end with little to no sleep and nearly constant movement. That's gritty.
3. Ultra medicine = suffering management
Don't read this the wrong way - we kept people safe during this whole thing - but in order to be a medic in a 200 mile ultramarathon, I had to adjust my mindset a bit.
As a hospital-trained nurse, my goals at work are pretty simple: provide care and encourage people to do what they need to in order to get better as quickly as possible.
But as a medic at Bigfoot, where people are pushing themselves right up to the edge of their abilities, the goal was to help them hold it together long enough to get through the race safely.
So, while my inner clinical nurse would advise any patient with gnarly blisters, sleep deprivation, dehydration and strained muscles to take a shower, clean their wounds, drink some water and go the hell to sleep for a couple of days, as a race medic my job was to assess for safety, and patch them up and send them out into the elements as they weren't on the cusp of a medical emergency. A few runners quit the race with infected blisters and soft tissue injuries, but most of our job consisted of cleaning people up, slapping on bandages and tape, and telling them to keep moving. If they were hallucinating, sleep until they stopped, and then get back out there.
Hospital management would frown, but four days of well-managed and emotionally-supported suffering is essentially what people paid for in entering this race. Being a medic meant patching people up so they could safely keep hurting for a few hours longer.
200's are a thing.
Every outdoor and endurance discipline has its challenges. As someone who's thru hiked, run up to 100 miles, and moved up to 36 hours at a time, I was wondering what this experience would be about. I'm a bit of a natural skeptic, so part of me thought the number was a bit of a novelty - that it would just be standard ultra running, only longer. But, at least from the outside, it really did feel like its own game.
The endeavor obviously requires an extremely high level of physical fitness to complete - one of the medical volunteers was a long-time medic for the US Marine Corps, and he said that these runners fitness levels were on average much higher. But all ultra runners are extremely fit, and most of these runners aren't training differently for a 200 than they would a 100, at least physically. It's the mental game that seemed different, and the race required a huge amount of strategy and preplanning around sleep, foot care, injury management, and mental commitment to completing the race.
The most comparable experience, physically, seems to be thru hiking for speed or Fastest Known Time attempts on long trails like the John Muir or Arizona Trails. But the event happens with support and in a crowd, so there are hamburgers and friendship.
And that crowd piece is what made it feel important. My image is that the ultra running community at its core is a bunch of eccentrics doing niche activities on the edge of what's possible. While the trail and ultra communities have grown exponentially in recent years, making 100 miles feel human, if not normal, this crowd felt like an emerging expression of that spirit. Not mainstream yet, by any means, but still a bunch of hardcore oddballs creating something intriguing and weird enough to be important. It still feels like people are figuring out how to do it, so it's generative and experimental, and the formulas haven't quite been set yet. But people are clearly being sucked in. Participants were the types of people who'd done it all in other areas of running - local legends and international notables, and people came to the race from at least 8 countries and dozens of states. By report the Tahoe 200, which has about 100 more participants, is even more diverse.
In short, as someone experiencing this for the first time, 200's feel like a thing in the adventure world - gritty, nearly impossible, absurd, and innovative.
There's a lot of material already up on Facebook, but for amazing photos that really capture the human spirit behind the event, watch Howie Stern's page, who was gracious enough to let us use his photos here. And if you want to read about it, Ryan Chukuske is releasing a book about the event in November. And after the 2015 event, Kerry Ward produced a great personal YouTube documentary about the experience.
We're looking forward to gathering more material for you from the next two events, Tahoe in September, and Moab in October. And next time to avoid technological malfunctions, we're recording on audio cassette and circulating bootlegs like God intended.
If you like this post, you'll also like my book The Dirtbag's Guide to Life. It's a book-length celebration of outdoor culture, and a fun "how to" guide for your entire existence.
If you like what we're up to here, check out our Patreon page and consider joining our mighty horde of supporters.
Life's been totes cray the last few weeks, and it's not going to quiet down any time soon, but the summer of fun has finally arrived for us! Here's a quick update from us on the front end of what's looking to be an action packed last half of the year!
1. We're on a Podcast!
I know, that's normal.
But this isn't our podcast - it's our friends' at The Forgotten Art Project!
Their oeuvre is interviews with creators who are figuring out how to follow their passion projects, and they were kind enough to invite us to sit down with them a few weeks ago. For us it was a really great opportunity, and while no matter how much you do it, it's always weird to hear yourself talk, for you all we hope it will be interesting.
The interview is about an hour, and it's the most comprehensive description you'll find about what we do, and the personal reasons behind why we do it - from the impact of thru-hiking and trail running to my dad's sudden illness and death. I think, as well as anything we've put out, it gave us a chance to get to the heart of what we're about, so we hope you'll check it out, and keep The Forgotten Art Project on your radar!
Listen or download from their site here, or from your favorite podcasting app.
2. We sold a house and bought a house and rented a house!
Life's crazy! In May we decided to sell our home of 13 years in Seattle and start looking around at other options. As of last Friday, we are home owners in Tacoma. As of today, we're rootless landlords.
Stuff moves fast in the Puget Sound real estate market, and we managed to thread the needle between selling our place and closing on another within a whirlwind week long period, and before we'd even closed Angel had lined up people to look at the new place to start renting.
I don't know where to even start with all of that - we're excited to be setting up shop in Tacoma. We love our new little place. Our renters are awesome and we think they'll take care of it.
The context makes more sense if you're up to speed on the next point.
3. We're hitting the road until December!
Ah! It's adventure time again!
The reason we scrambled to get set up, and to get our place rented out so quickly, is that as of today we're going to be peripatetic until roundabouts December! Our Element is tuned up and loaded with all of the things we need to survive, and we're going to be on the road for the next few months. We'll be in and out of WA.
The short explanation is that Angel took a job as the medical director for the Destination Trails 200 Mile Trail Race series, so tomorrow we're headed to Southern WA for the Bigfoot 200, followed by the Tahoe 200 in September, and the Moab 200 in October. In between, we'll have a series of events (Truckee, Seattle, Bremerton, Bend, and Moab are on the schedule), and we're hoping to finally get out to the trails for a good chunk of time after a Summer of deferred fun in service of the house hunting and moving processes. The loose plan is to knock out the chunk of the Tahoe Rim Trail that we didn't finish on the PCT in late August. Gnar! We'll be in and out of WA for work and weddings and so forth, but for the next few months, our home is a Honda Element.
We'll be full on with work at the 200s, but no doubt we'll share some stories from the road along the way!
4. We're going to New Zealand!
And, ah! Back to visit our spirit animals, the Kiwis!
One of our best friends is getting married in New Zealand, so immediately after the Moab event, we'll be hopping a plane to get to the ceremony! It's a long flight, and you can't just make it a quick trip, so after the wedding we'll be drifting around, and you can expect dispatches from the road while we're there in November!
NZ can be pricy, so we're going to be dirtbagging it to keep the trip as cheap as possible, and that will probably mean a ton of time on the trails, some hitching around, and some crashing on couches.
We're currently putting together thoughts on how we can incorporate collecting stories to share with the world into that process. Any creative suggestions?
Okay - gotta run! This post is really just a quick update, but there's a lot of "dreams coming to fruition" type stuff in this post. Our number one mission is always to share the outdoor community's stories with the world, and we're really stoked to be fully immersing ourselves in it for the next few months - getting out and about as much as we have since we started this thing almost two years ago. We're excited to see what opportunities fall into place along the way!
If you like what we do, and want to support, consider pledging on Patreon. Even if you don't pledge, check it out because there's a bunch more free content there - including a ton of fantastic AdventShorts interviews with some cool-ass adventure types!
Looking to go Surfing, SUPing, Free Diving, Mountain Biking in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica? Meet Marcel.
In addition to sharing inspiring stories with you from our live events through our podcast, we have a bigger vision:
To create a network so that you can have better adventures whenever you go traveling.
We want to help you meet the right person right away who can get you out on the exact adventure you’re looking AND whose skills are equally matched to you hard core outdoor enthusiasts.
We do this by connecting you with other hardcore outdoorists some who we know personally, and others who you have referred to us. This week we want to introduce you to Marcel who was introduced to us by our big supporter Matt Phillipy.
First we'll introduce Matt. Matt can frequently be found out roaming the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, but has spent a good portion of his life living and traveling internationally. He's an accountant by training, but a mountain man by interest. By our definition, he's a dirtbag aka adventure lifestyler. Even though Matt most often is exploring the world on foot, for the last month he has taken up a surfing pursuit in Costa Rica while he studies Spanish. Matt sent us this email to introduce us to Marcel and we're so glad he did.
Thanks to Matt, we're happy to be connecting all of you with Marcel for the next time you go to Costa Rica and go surfing, SUPing, free diving, or mountain biking.
Go with Marcel: Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Explore Costa Rica with Marcel. Marcel is an expert in surfing, SUP, free diving, and mountain biking. Marcel can be hired for instruction, single-day adventures, multi-day adventures, and location finding services.
Language: Marcel is fluent in English and Spanish. Also, he is also very happy to communicate in Spanish for people learning Spanish.
( Lee en español abajo)
Free Diving and Spear Fishing:
I started snorkeling in Venezuela (Caribbean) with my dad and I had a boat and we would go snorkeling with a small harpoon on board...Later I started to fish lobster and octupus with my friends in the archipelago called Los Roques, but I stopped doing it when I arrived in Costa Rica.
5 years ago I started again with a friend that was a solo fisher and after I got certified en Level 1 with FII (Freediving Instructors International). Actually, I work as a guide in a company called Soul Spearfishing Costa Rica (Facebook) and am working toward Level 2 certification with FII.
I was mountain biking in Venezuela from age 14 to 16 years old. Then I started to compete and received a lot of trophies and medals until 21 years old. That's when I came to Costa Rica for vacation and I stopped mountain biking and started surfing. I cycled sporadically, only for maintenance, until 3-4 years ago when I started to take MTB more seriously again and even though I haven't participated in a lot of races because I have a lot of work with surf clases, I am preparing myself for a "stage race" or a race in steps called "La Ruta de Los Conquistadores" that is in November and other races that are smaller to the national level.
Calificaciones de Marcel en Playa Jaco, Costa Rica
28 años en total / 11 en Venezuela / 17 en Costa Rica / 10 años como instructor / Cuento con Certificado ISA (International Surfing Association) y también soy competidor en la división Longboard, logrando ser Sub-Campeón en el 2017 y actualmente liderando en circuito Nacional.
5 años en total / Sub-Campeón Nacional SUP Surf 2016 / Campeón Nacional SUP Surf 2017 / 3er Lugar Nacional SUP Race 2017 / actualmente compitiendo el circuito nacional
Free Diving and Spear Fishing:
Comencé haciendo snorkeling en Venezuela (Mar Caribe) con mi papá que tenía una lancha y hacíamos snorkeling, teníamos un pequeño arpón a bordo... Luego comencé a pescar langosta y pulpo con mis amigos en un archipiélago llamado Los Roques, pero dejé de hacerlo cuando llegué a Costa Rica. Hace unos 5 años comencé de nuevo con un amigo que iba a pescar solo y después me certifiqué en Nivel 1 con FII (Freediving Instructors International). Actualmente trabajo como Guía en una compañía llamada Soulspearfishing Costa Rica y pronto estaré haciendo el Nivel 2 con FII.
Yo hacía MTB en Venezuela desde los 14 años y a los 16 comencé a competir, conseguí muchos trofeos y medallas hasta los 21 años, a esa edad me vine a Costa Rica de vacaciones y me terminé quedando, en ese momento dejé el ciclismo y comencé a surfear más. Luego hacía ciclismo esporádicamente, solo para mantenerme... Hace unos 3-4 años comencé tomar el MTB en serio de nuevo y aunque no he participado en muchas carreras por que tengo mucho trabajo con clases de surf, me estoy preparando para un “stage race” o carrera por etapas llamada “La Ruta de Los Conquistadores” que es en Noviembre y otras carreras más pequeñas a nivel nacional.
Listo ir con Marcel? Nos envia un mensaje electronico empezar.
In the ongoing process of writing my crackpot manifesto, The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life, I have a lot of thoughts that spin off in directions that probably won’t make it into the book - at least not directly. This essay falls into that category. Written the day after the Hammond Brothers were pardoned for having torched 140 acres of Oregon public land in an act of arson to cover up poaching they’d committed on that land, it's written in honor of Scott Pruitt's resignation.
Since November of 2016, America has been collectively flailing around trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And in my reading of the posts on my Facebook wall, there have been at least three predominant narratives circulating.
The first is the narrative of Trump supporters themselves, and the story they tell is that DJT is essentially a messianic figure. A long awaited political outsider who is shaking up Washington and re-establishing America’s political strength, and correcting the wrongs of a decadent progressive class that’s been eroding old fashioned American Christian values.
The second is the predominant narrative of the white moderate - whether they’re Democrat or Republican, it’s actually pretty similar. What’s happening at the highest levels of government is “not who we are”. It’s a series of almost unbelievable violations of American values that are pointing us towards a political apocalypse of historic proportions. Trump's an existential threat without analogue in American history.
And the third is the narrative that people of color and immigrants seem to generally be stating: Yep. This is the same shit, different day. The weepy head of the abscess is as ugly as it’s been in a long time, sure, but America is suffering from the same infection it’s had since its inception. Rich white people and the masses that enthusiastically guzzle the snake oil they sell them are stomping on everyone else’s neck so they can get more for themselves and protect their own. Grinding bones - preferably those covered in dark flesh - to make their bread.
While I’m entirely prone to hysterics myself, it really does seem like the third narrative is the only plausible one.
It doesn’t seem likely that this particular narcissistic rich white guy who’s spent his life exploiting, well, pretty much everyone, is going to be the savior even white conservatives are looking for (unless they’re conservatives in the 1%). And he's made it abundantly clear that he hates the rest of us, so we can probably rule out America Being Made Great Again for the plurality that voted against him or the 60 - 70% who consistently report that they disprove of his performance.
And the idea that some great holy American nation is crashing down around us seems a little ridiculous as well. Not because the terrible stuff we’re all freaking out about isn’t actually happening, and escalating - but because, let's be real, that America never existed beyond romantic ideology. White moderates may have constructed a just nation and a beacon of freedom in their minds, but there’s plenty of video evidence that innocent black children were being killed with impunity well before 11/16, ICE was raiding homes in record numbers under the Obama administration, and that Japanese grandma that lives down the road knows all about being shoved into a cage by the American government. When your worldview collapses, it feels like an apocalypse, but the better analogy for what's happening might be a slow, forced awakening of oblivious masses.
But the idea that America is a place where white people assert their power politically in both overt and covert ways, and where people of color, non-Christians and immigrants make easy targets whenever things go wrong? Seems consistent with everything else that’s happened in American history. And that those with the opportunity use political power to rile up and manipulate entirely willing poor whites with moralizing, dog whistles, violence, and empty promises while accumulating massive amounts of wealth at their expense? Even if you aren't the least bit cynical, it's the predominant story of the ‘20s and the ‘60s and the ‘80s at the very least.
So yeah, black people, immigrants and queers are right. Same shit, different day (even if they've added a megaphone and taken off the muzzle) is a much more plausible interpretation of current events than messianic fervor or apocalyptic terror.
What’s this got to do with dirtbags?
When you start assessing the situation through that lens, you recognize that the same trends are present in the various outdoors communities.
On one hand, there are voices arguing that government restrictions of the use of public lands has been destroying the livelihoods of hardworking Americans - the coal miners and the loggers and the ranchers and the fishermen are disappearing because of the heavy-handed and ridiculous government restrictions that prioritize spotted owls over human beings. The Hammond's were populist heroes and deregulation is about freedom.
On the other, it's easy for people like me to feel that the Trump administration is destroying an American tradition of conservation that makes the West what it is, and that public lands that American ecosystems - including human ones - rely upon for survival are under unprecedented threat. That the Trumpocalypse is worse than any catastrophe before it.
But while it’s true that the people in charge are terrible right now, reading history, it’s hard to feel that what’s happening is particularly novel. Whatever Scott Pruitt and whoever the climate skeptic coal lobbyist that’s replacing him are, they aren’t political innovators. Ed Abbey was freaked out about Arches getting paved when Moab was a backwater, and Lake Powell was Glen Canyon when he was contemplating blowing up dams. And Pete Seeger was singing about businesses pumping sewage into the Hudson in 1982.
So the bastards are drilling for oil in Bears Ears while pardoning domestic terrorists for burning down public lands in the name of “freedom”, but don’t give them too many points for creativity.
Same struggle, different day.
To bring Abbey up again, I can’t figure out when he said this, but he died in 1989, so it wasn’t yesterday.
"The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chainsaws. It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it. Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."
In a lot of ways it’s effing depressing that we’re fighting the same battles that Abbey was in the '60s.
But in other ways it’s reassuring, because it makes sense of things. We’re not facing anything new.
Those of us pushing for the preservation of wilderness aren’t struggling against some kind of Independence Day aliens that we know nothing about. We’re fighting the same tide that’s been coming in four times a day since the invention of soil exhaustion.
And the dirtbag’s role in the struggle isn’t anything it hasn’t been before. Use Twitter to organize and all that. Recognize the struggle is intersectional with every other struggle for humanity and justice in the face of exploitation and shortsighted selfish interest. But the fight’s essentially the same. So reread the Monkey Wrench Gang, throw a fresh coat of paint on the Rainbow Warrior, and chain yourself to a cactus in Bears Ears, literally or figuratively.
And don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Big shout out here to the people in our orbit doing more than just writing blog posts: Among many others, go support our friends at Oregon Wild who are working to prevent Cascade-Siskiyou from becoming the next Bears ears, and proactively pushing for more protection around Crater Lake. And our friend Ken Campbell and the Ikkatsu Project working to clean plastic out of Puget Sound and the Pacific through direct action and education. And Erica Prather keeping the spirit alive through Rocky Mountain Wild, the Sacred Rage podcast, and taking Cardboard Donnie to see what he’s missing firsthand.
For updates on The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life as it develops, click here.
And to help me spend less time working as a nurse and more writing stuff consider supporting us on Patreon.
A basic experience of life is that it's easier to figure out what you believe than it is to figure out how to behave as a response. That is, it's easier to define your values than it is to decide what actions you need to take in order to live them out.
Talk is cheap, and all that, but it's also true that even the most committed among us can't do everything. In fact, we can't do most things. Time and resources are limited, and all of us hold important values that we won't be able to take meaningful action on. That's something most people sort out individually as teenagers when pesky guidance counselors badger us to pick something to do after high school, and lament in our old age as we look back on the paths we might have taken, but didn't.
But building a business that's still in its formative stages, it's a reality that we're constantly butting up against. We feel motivated to do way more than we realistically can, and this is a constant process of prioritization and sticking with a focus even when there are plenty of worthy, or even pressing, distractions. The vast majority of our energy goes into the one thing that's really at the heart of this project: building connections between people in the outdoor community through story. We're doing that because of our values around inclusivity, equality, local economies and environmental ethics (which are stated explicitly, if not comprehensively, here), but every day presents new options of other things we could, and maybe should, be doing.
Individual and organizational actions can accumulate.
Even if you aren't also creating a DIY, niche market side hustle, I'm guessing you can relate to the sentiment, which is why I've come to think that maybe the most important thing we can do in the outdoor community is to play matchmaker between cool people doing cool things. Because, to crib a quote from Angel, we believe that individual and organizational actions can accumulate. None of us may be able to do everything, but if we use what we're good at to support other organizations and people who are doing the stuff that we value, then they might be able to do those things more effectively. And if we can be a venue through which good people and good organizations get to know each other, it seems like everyone wins.
Oregon Wild: Doing stuff we wish we could.
Since we opened shop in 2017, our instincts have been towards trying to partner and support other like-minded, local organizations with similar values, and while we've encountered those everywhere we've been, for some reason there seem to be a disproportionate number in Oregon. My theory is that a bunch of weirdo dirtbags move there without jobs because it's amazing, and have to figure out something to do with their lives so they start businesses and nonprofits. Whatever the reason though, we're excited to be heading down again for events in Portland and Bend in a few weeks, on July 10th and 12th, respectively. (Shameless plug: Buy tix here!)
At our Portland event in particular, we're excited to try something for the first time by teaming up in an explicit partnership with Oregon Wild, who are doing exactly the kind of work that we think is valuable and want to support. We've been planning the event with our friend Jamie Dawson from the organization, and will be accepting donations for them both at the event and during the ticket sales process on the website. While raising a bit of money might be the most concretely helpful thing we'll do for them, the fun part is that we'll be encouraging storytellers to focus on experiences that happened on Oregon public lands, as a way to distill the personal, emotional importance of the place. We think it'll be a great chance to experience some Oregon love, and to share that love with a wide audience through the podcast later. And, we hope, it'll create content that Oregon Wild can use to help other people understand the importance of the land that they're advocating to protect.
(SIde note, if you're a reader planning to come to the Bend event, your Oregon stories are more than welcome as well to share the heart of what makes your state such a great place to live!)
If you aren't acquainted with Oregon Wild, they're a nonprofit based in Portland focused on "Protecting Oregon's wildlands, wildlife, and waters for future generations".
Specifically, they're the people going to bat politically to make sure that protected lands stay protected, and that lands that should be preserved, are. Among a variety of other things, Oregon Wild are helping train and organize grassroots advocates through their Wild Ones program, organizing groups in Portland, Bend and Eugene that teach democracy skills training, and going to bat legally on behalf of supporters on the wonky issues that come up when government regulations are changed or challenged. Under a Federal government that seems actively hostile towards wilderness protection, Oregon is home to one of the most threatened regions in the country, in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which is under the same government "monument review" process that recently opened Bears Ears and Grand Staircase in Utah to mining interests. There are strong pushes to open lowland old growth forest to logging in the monument and along Federal Wilderness areas on the Rogue River, and large areas that are currently protected are under serious threat of losing that status.
Our events are always in good fun and everything, but we're also happy to team up with Oregon Wild on this one to say screw that.
And if you're interested in learning more or supporting them, come hang out with us in Portland at the Skyline Tavern on July 10th, or check out their website! Or, subscribe to our podcast and stay tuned because the stories will be coming down the pipe!
If you like what we're up to and want to be a part of making sure it continues to happen, think about supporting us on Patreon.
To give money directly to a local on the ground who is organizing emergency relief for those affected by the Volcan de Fuego eruption in Guatemala, Trek for Kids, an organization run by a friend and Boldly Went Navigator, which organizes volcano tours in the area, is accepting donations at this link.
Travel is a beautiful thing because it teaches you how small and connected the world actually is, and we're feeling that this week because Volcan de Fuego is erupting in Guatemala.
Located about 30 miles from Lake Atitlan, where we studied Spanish in 2016, and just a few miles from Antigua, a beautiful colonial city we visited on the same trip, whole villages have been destroyed, and more are being evacuated as I write, in an area where we have friends and good memories. It's heartbreaking to watch - this is a beautiful area full of beautiful people. The eruption started on Sunday, but it is still very much an active situation, as flows are continuing at time of writing, rescues are ongoing, and towns are still being evacuated.
If you are interested in helping locals out directly, Javier Navichoc, our friend, and a Navigator in our network, has a guiding nonprofit called Trek for Kids that raises money through volcano tours in the area, and he is collecting donations to assist those affected. You can Paypal them directly by clicking here. And even a small amount helps - for perspective, the average Guatemalan lives on $200 US/month, so $10 - 20 goes a lot further there than it would in North America (where I'm guessing most of you are reading from).
Javier is a great guy, this area is his home, and he's on the ground already. We donated through Trek for Kids because it's the closest thing we can do to giving money directly to people in the volcano's path, and we're confident that the money will go to good use.
But if you're interested in other ways to help, this article gives a rundown of what's happening there, and also lists some other good was to support.
For those of you tracking closely, you might have noticed this week that we didn't put out a podcast on Monday, and have probably been less active on social media than normal. That's because, a few weeks ago we made a decision we've been debating for a while, and decided to sell our place in Seattle and make a move. Some kind of move. We're not exactly sure what kind of move yet. We wanted to let you know a little bit about what's up with us here so you won't worry, and because we're pretty stoked about it. We'd also love to hear your ideas. What should we do next?
We've been tossing around the idea for a while, for a variety of reasons, but mostly it comes down to the way that thru-hiking ruined us as productive members of society. Since finishing hiking the PCT in 2015, we've never really re-settled. We moved back in to a unit we've owned since 2005 in a Co-op on Capitol Hill in Seattle, but we've also been in and out for 2 - 3 months of every year traveling for business or pleasure. We've both worked as nurses again, but never full time, and we haven't been able to stomach the thought of recommitting to spending the majority of our time following a regimented work schedule. The vast majority of Angel's working time, and an increasing amount of mine, has been devoted to this business, and our post-PCT life could be accurately described as a quest to figure out how to make enough money to live on while doing (primarily) things that we want to.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.