Looking back I can see that it all started with the car camping trip in Whitehorse in 2019. My husband and I threw our mountain bikes in the back of our truck. We slept in the back of the truck at night and rode our bikes all day for almost two weeks.
At the time, I felt that something in me was pent up. It wasn’t a positive or negative. It just felt like there was more me that somehow needed to get out. During that trip, I had brief and intense experiences of feeling wholly a part of myself and immersed in the outdoors. I realized this was something I craved more of in my life.
A year later, in the middle of pre-vaccine COVID-19, my husband and I again took to the road, but in a very carefully orchestrated way to scrupulously avoid indoor spaces. We did a lot of curbside grocery and meal pickup. Again, the focal point of the trip was outdoor time on our mountain bikes.
Finally, after being cooped up during the longest winter of my life in Alaska, my husband and I again burst on the scene, fully vaccinated. We took the longest vacation either of us had ever taken in May of this year; three weeks living out of a kitted out rental van in the Nevada desert.
I’m someone with big aspirations that tend to center less on fixed outcomes, and more on feelings. I want to feel happy, fulfilled, and inspired. The conditions that create these feelings are where I set my sights. I try out discrete changes in my life for size, seeing by trial and error if I’m getting closer to the best circumstances for me. Even when the path to change seems linear in retrospect, the truth is I’m constantly hopscotching along. What’s interesting to me about my outdoor columns with ADN over the past few years is they collectively form a clear trail, if meandering at times, that when I look at it from now carry that edge of inevitability. One camping trip, followed by a long stretch seeing what it’s like to live out of our car; followed by another vacation, and finally a full three weeks in a modified campervan.
Of course I’m here, on the precipice of making a major life change that will find me much more geographically mobile and outdoors more. How could I have seen it as anything other than where I’ve been heading all along?
I love to share my experience of the world with others, which is where my writing comes from. It’s never been enough for me to experience something purely on my own. Some of my most painfully beautiful and simultaneously aching experiences were experiencing sunsets on my own, mountaintops, or simply the thrill of a new place and not having anyone to share it with. I started writing partially as a way of simply sharing experiences that didn’t seem to have an outlet.
The desire to share my perspective on how incredible everyday life can truly be is on full display not just through writing, but also in artwork. I have been painting acrylic on canvas pieces since a mentor encouraged me to give it a try as a teenager. I’ve gone through phases as an adult with painting more or less, but in the past few years alongside my heightened desire to be outside I have been supporting myself in getting a whole lot more focused and disciplined about art.
If I don’t make space for it in my life and push myself to do it even on those days where the ephemeral yet fickle experience known as “inspiration” isn’t showing up, it won’t happen. So, I make the time and I park myself in front of my easel. I paint one brushstroke at a time, and some moments are a lot harder or easier than others. But, in the aggregate, it’s something that is important to me. I’m proud of the results of my work.
My paintings are — surprise, surprise — mostly everyday outdoor landscapes. I love bold colors, sharp contrasts in lighting, and my favorite painting subject is one that includes both stunning natural scenery alongside something commonplace and manmade. Streetlamps, roads, and power lines abound.
Similarly, if I know I want to live a smaller, more compact life where I get to be outdoors more, require less money, and therefore work less, unless I take the steps to make it happen, nothing will change.
I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder why I didn’t give even what might seem impossibly daunting a go.
So, over the past year and a half or so I have been dreaming, saving, and building toward making a big change. I wrote about Airbnbing out our house for extra income. I didn’t write about exactly why.
I recently, and finally, made an down payment on a new, custom-retrofitted Airstream trailer. This is probably the most significant purchase of my life, both in terms of what it represents and the dollar value (my house notwithstanding; but that still mostly belongs to the bank). The plan is to create a fully liveable, if spare, mobile art studio that I can paint from; and ultimately that will enable my husband and I more freedom in terms of where we park ourselves.
I know I’m part of a growing trend, contrary to my grandma’s surprised reaction (“This is not a normal thing,” she said after I shared my plan with her, not unkindly. And, in her Boston accent: “Are you sure you want to live out of a trailah?”).
As sure as I’ll ever be, granmda. And if I don’t like it, I’ll try and try again to keep getting closer to what fulfills and makes me happy. I have the feeling it’s a lifetime effort.