One of the most touching stories to come out of the Moab 240 this year was about the two runners who tied for 2nd place: Serbian professional runner Jovica Spajic (who we interviewed in our podcast about the event), and the winner of the 2018 Bigfoot 200, Wes Ritner (who wrote a previous post about that win for this blog).
It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the two ran the vast majority of the race together. In a race this long, that meant two top competitors running together in virtual lockstep for more than 2 days straight!
Wes was kind enough to share his personal account of the remarkable experience with us here.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos courtesy of Scott Rokis. He's one of the best outdoor and race photographers around, and we'd encourage you to check out his work.
It was the afternoon before the race, and I’d just finished the check-in process. I’d retrieved my drop bags from my car, and was carrying them to the designated area. That’s when I saw Jovica. He was up a small slope from me, standing where all 150 of the runners would soon gather to hear the pre-race briefing.
Jovica and I were too far apart for me to say anything. I could have shouted, but it seemed like that would have been obnoxious since we didn’t know each other very well. Instead, I waved. He waved back. His face was unmoved. Stoic.
I wasn’t sure how to read his lack of an expression. We’d been the first and second place competitors for the first 140 miles of last year’s Tahoe 200 race, so I thought that maybe he viewed me as an opponent rather than as a friend. I wanted to respect his feelings even if I didn’t understand them, so I decided I should just give him his space.
I finished the short walk to the drop bag area without another glance up.
I didn’t see Jovica again until we found ourselves standing side by side near the starting line the next morning in the gradually increasing light of the rising sun. Still trying to respect his space, I remained silent. We stood there for several long moments before he broke the ice by saying hi. We exchanged well-wishes for the coming race, then the horn blew and the race began.
If you’re the type of person who daydreams about:
it might be worth thinking about New Caledonia.
I’m not sure if you can do those things there, but it seems like you probably could.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a small group of islands and islets in Melanesia - forming a roughly equilateral triangle with Australia and New Zealand, where it is the Northeasterrnmost point. It’s not that far from Vanuatu, if that helps.
If you aren’t already there, it’s almost definitely a long way from where you are. We booked an AirBnB on a woman’s catamaran in the main harbor in the capitol, and she told us that a lot of people arrive by boat and fly home, ditching their vessels because it’s too much trouble to get them back to Europe or the United States or wherever they’ve drifted in from.
It's pretty sleepy, but it still does a healthy tourist trade with English speakers and people from mainland China and Japan. The main group of foreigners, though, are French. The proper official name is Nouvelle Caledonie, because since 1853 the French have put themselves in charge of things. Along with a lot of blue water, the islands have one of the richest nickel deposits in the world, and the white people there taking it are primarily francophones.
Originally though, it was a Melanesian paradise - Kanak, specifically. People have been there for 3000 years, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. They still make up 40 percent of the population, and their culture is alive and quite visible all over the islands. As is the case everywhere I’ve ever been in the Pacific, they seem to exist in a uneasy detente with their colonizers. Just before we arrived in November 2018, there was a national referendum on whether or not to remain a French colony. Kanak flags were flying everywhere, and only 56% voted to stay.
I didn't know any of that before we arrived, and our own trip to the country happened mostly on a whim. We were looking for flights between the South and North Island of New Zealand, where we were traveling from our home in the US, and noticed a cheap flight to a place called “Noumea”. We Googled it, found out it was the capital of a country we’d never thought much about, and decided “what the hey”.
We were only there for a week, and I’m by no means an expert, or even a novice, but we did dig around enough to function something like scouts for others out there who might be interested in paying a visit.
by Ana Hinz
I'll admit it - I feel a little bit guilty because Angel and I have been posting Facebook pictures from a two month trip to New Zealand just as our friends back in North America are headed in to the depths of the winter doldrums. To add insult to injury, we've been enjoying a respite in the 2nd most popular place for Americans to threaten to run away to during the 2018 Mid Term elections. I can feel your jealousy and resentment from across the Pacific!
That's why I was really stoked when our friend Ana Hinz sent on this guest post for the blog, about how not to let social media inspired wanderlust ruin your life. It's a great set of tips that we wholly endorse - whether you're a world traveler or stuck in your day job - and we love Ana's humor and insight, and like us she is a former Mid-Westerner who dreamed of running away to see the world.
She describes herself as a Midwesterner transplant to Seattle who is happiest with a trail beneath her feet or a dram in her hand. To read more of what she writes, Ana blogs about running and hiking on the beautiful trails of the Pacific Northwest, and exploring the fascinating world of whisky at Will Run for Whisky. She also share an epic, hilarious story about running her first 100 mile ultramarathon on episode 60 of our podcast!
Here she is, on how to keep wanderlust, and Instagram, from ruining your life.
I'm someone that has always looked to the future, ever since I was a child. I distinctly remember a moment (I was probably 7 or so) standing at the edge of a field in my small hometown, and wondering where else could I go? What could I see? (Like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but in Wisconsin and not France... so less brie and more cheddar.) While it's a charming thought, and likely the perfect start for a story about a glamorous world traveler (spoiler: I'm not one), it also has a significant downside. In short: wanderlust is ruining my life.
Let me explain.
I was raised as an only child, so I had a lot of solitude and time to entertain myself. Thankfully, I loved daydreaming and reading books about far-flung places. I got the fun of learning about it as well as imagining it, with a few well-curated photographs for illustration.
Contrast that with modern technology, and having Instagram at our fingertips. We can indulge in "travel porn" at any moment of the day. And wow, do we. We gobble up photographs of stunning locations around the world, and add new places to our exponentially growing bucket list. We double-tap these photos, and then after a 10-minute binge session, compare our own seemingly mundane existence, and ask ourselves what the hell we're doing with our lives.
No? Just me?
Is my life so disappointing? Of course not. I’m active and healthy, have a fantastic husband, a good job, amazing friends, and live in a safe and beautiful place. However, with time, my existence has become comfortable (the complacent American Dream, it seems.) And comfort does not spur growth. I want freedom, but from what? My privileged life? Ugh. I disgust myself. But traveling to a new place can be a catalyst for healthy challenges and personal growth, and I'm craving that adventurous change of routine (and Instagram is amplifying that desire.)
Of course, we all know that seeing people's perfectly curated lives on social media can spark envy. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that these photos are often staged and edited, and not a true representation of what actually happened.
We know intellectually that we shouldn’t compare someone's highlight reel to our blooper reel. Comparison is the thief of joy. Yada, yada, yada. But here's the thing: Instagram didn't create my wanderlust. It's always been there. And this doesn't mean that I should stop dreaming. Or setting goals. Or being inspired.
While wanderlust can push us to explore the world in new ways, it also intensifies dissatisfaction with our current lives. So how can we be inspired and not depressed by wanderlust?
1. Find local adventures.
This summer I spent time exploring local places within a few hours’ drive, and I loved it. It helped bring my focus back here to the present (and the financially feasible.) Go hike that trail you always meant to check out, or visit that vineyard you heard about one time, or visit that state park just an hour away. Microadventures like these remind me how many amazing places there are, right in my "backyard." Be a tourist in your home geographical region!
2. Take a social media break...or just tone it down.
Okay, let's discuss this one. While I'm all for taking a break from the soul-sucking dumpster fire that is Facebook and/or Twitter, I'm personally not quite ready to give up my visual escape that is Instagram. Mostly because it's not really the platform that is the problem. It just amplifies something that already exists in my psyche. However, as we all know, everything is best in moderation (except maybe chocolate and hugs.) So maybe dial back the usage to one session a day, or just a few minutes at a time instead of a 20 minute session that leaves you depressed from all of the totally-authentic-and-not-edited-at-all perfection you just witnessed on your feed.
3. Escape via a book instead of a screen.
If you still need an escape (ahem, I do), perhaps try a vintage form - a book! Flex that (possibly rusty) imagination by reading travel essays. (I love this collection.) Or if you want to feel better about your life choices, you can always read about dramatic polar expeditions or woefully unprepared Amazonian adventures by a former president. If you're still looking for a visual escape, check out a photography book as visual candy and a learning opportunity for your own photography. Reading books about traveling and adventure is my go-to when I desperately need an escape from the couch.
4. Get out of your comfort zone with a new hobby.
Want to escape to something new and exciting? Try a new hobby! Write about someone traveling to a new place. Take an art class to create your own beauty. Go to a concert featuring traditional music from around the world. Try a new sport with a friend, like trail running, rock-climbing, or kayaking. Begin learning a new language (in a class or using Duolingo - whatever works.) Take a salsa or ballet class. Try cooking some recipes from a place you’ve always wanted to visit. There are loads of small ways to get that thrill of experiencing new people, places, food, music, scenery without having to get on a plane. I’ve tried a number of these options, with varying levels of success, but I loved the challenge of each one!
5. Sell everything and hit the road.
If all else fails, this is always an option.
The goal is to lose the social media envy and keep the inner child who thinks about life's possibilities. When we indulge our wanderlust with travel, we are open to new experiences. Just like that little kid that dreamt about traveling the world. That wondrous soul gets stomped on enough in the demanding reality of adult obligations, so let's not continue that trend during our leisure time. Let’s take this opportunity to foster that curiosity!
While it may feel boring compared to a round-the-world vacation (sorry, fresh out of those), let’s workshop some solutions to this challenge! How do YOU encourage or tame your wanderlust?
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!
Angel and I find ourselves in an unfortunate situation, whereby neither of us were born in the proper country.
After several months of research across the last few years involving street tacos, warm winters, warmer people, affordable everything, and locally grown coffee, Angel was able to diagnose recently that she was intended to have been born in Mexico.
I, on the other hand, have suspected since 2005, when we left after living there for a couple of years, that I was intended to have been born in New Zealand.
We find ourselves back here for the next several months, and I plan to spend most of my time staring contentedly into the distance with a barely perceptible smile on my face, absorbing everything wonderful that New Zealand has to offer.
Along the way, I’ll take a few breaks from my relaxed sense that all is right in the world in order to write blog posts, so you can share some of the magic.
I think and hope that some of these articles will be useful for people who are interested in visiting, but this first post, I decided to write something purely celebratory, and so would like to offer you this list of the Indisputable Best Things in New Zealand, as voted on by me. These things won’t be the things that you already know - about Hobbits and Rugby and universal healthcare and all that. They’ll be the little things that make the place magic.
Between a car breakdown, sickness, and travel for out of state events, we were happy to be able to make it out on Saturday to the inaugural Refuge Outdoor Festival in Carnation, WA from September 28 - 30, 2018. A festival whose tagline was "To Explore and Celebrate Nature, Diversity, and Life", it was developed by Chevon Powell and Golden Bricks Events with and for people of color in the outdoor community. We met Chevon a few months back when she was kind enough to sit down for an AdventShorts interview about her experience in the outdoors, and her motivation for creating the festival. We're white. We know. We'll get to that.
Speaking concretely, the 2018 Refuge Outdoor Festival was a gathering of (primarily) people of color from around the country who are interested in the outdoors enough to pay money and take a bunch of time to go camping with other like-minded people of color.
It was camping, concerts, silent discos, hiking, service projects, presentations, hanging out by a river, and a series of conversations.
And it was genuinely diverse: we met people whose backgrounds were Columbian, Mexican, African, African-American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Caucasian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and almost definitely more. Straight, queer, male, female, non-binary, and almost definitely more.
More abstractly, it was a rare experience - an “outdoorsy” event that was specifically for people of color. For reasons that might be obvious from the photo in the top right of this blog, it was a first experience for me in this kind of environment.
It’s worth us taking a minute to write about for a lot of reasons.
One is to signal boost. Chevon Powell, the organizer, told us that the one thing she wanted us to pass on from the weekend is that it will happen again. Please stop reading right now to follow them on their various social media, so you’ll get the updates.
I'll wait here...
Okay, welcome back!
As Caucasians at Refuge, we were along primarily to learn and listen, but a big direct takeaway from participants was that we should talk to our people about the things that came up during the weekend. While there are plenty of people of color in our audience, it’s more likely, if you’re reading this, that you’re white like me. So, here you have it.
A year before Bigfoot, in September of 2017, I was running my second Tahoe 200. I’d trained for Tahoe harder than I’d ever trained before, and, after finishing in fourth place the previous year, I went into the 2017 race with the hope of winning. Viewed from the online race tracker, it might have looked for a while as if I was doing reasonably well. I trailed Jovica Spajic of Serbia in second place for most of the first 120 miles, and a couple times I overtook Jovica to take the lead. By the time I hit the Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 140, the race was a three-way tie for first place between Georg Kunzfeld of Germany, Jovica, and me. We arrived at that aid station together, all moving a bit slowly. But the difference between them and me was that they seemed to be feeling reasonably well, whereas, due to major electrolyte issues, I hadn’t been able to keep any food down except a few grapes for the last forty or fifty miles. Jovica and Georg got back on the trail after a brief stop to refuel. I took my time at the aid station, eventually got moving again, and then dropped out of the race five miles later. I still couldn’t eat anything without vomiting, and, based upon my dark brown urine, my kidneys were in the process of shutting down.
That drop was my biggest disappointment in 28 years of running.
It was hard to get my mind off of what happened at Tahoe until March of 2018, when I began training for Bigfoot. I’d run Bigfoot once before, in 2015, and I knew it was a tough race through the Cascade Mountains with a lot of steep ascents. But it was my chance, in my mind at least, to move past what I viewed as a terrible failure. I didn’t have to win, but I had to give it the best effort I possibly could.
Start to Blue Lake. 12.2 miles. Mile 0 to 12.2
When the horn blew at the start of the race, I made a conscious effort to not allow myself to be sucked in by the excitement of running hard out of the gate. I wanted to be somewhere up with the frontrunners, but, above all, I wanted to control my pace. After the initial hundred meters of pavement, the first section of the trail was a relatively easy climb that most people near the front of the still-dense pack ran, with some occasional walking of the steep parts. It wasn’t long before I was able to look up the slope and count roughly nine runners ahead of me. It was possible a couple more had already slipped out of sight over the next crest, but it didn’t matter. I maintained my pace.
The route got tougher as we moved farther along the course, and the first signs of the pack stretching out a bit became apparent. At one point, I was about to cross of one of the ash-filled washes when I mis-read a course marker as indicating I was supposed to turn to the right and head up the ridge on the near side of the wash. I went a couple hundred meters before spotting two runners on the opposite ridge. Realizing my mistake, I turned around and headed back to the dry wash. There, at the base of the opposite hillside, was the marker I’d missed. My only consolation was that I’d caught my mistake before I’d gone very far.
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.
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.