Out of the Wild

This post is the second part to my Into the Wild article talking about my solo journey westward for a few weeks as I learned more about myself and this beautiful country I call home.

So 4000 miles and 52 hours of driving later, here we are. I’ve barely gotten a moment to breathe between unpacking and shooting portraits, but I’m already gearing up again to head out to Colorado on Monday. I just thought I’d take a minute to talk about my journey and some things I though were worth sharing.

I’ve always dreamt of just riding off into the blue sky, nothing but open road and opportunity ahead of me, so when I set to make plans for this trip, I intentionally left a lot of gaps in the timing and locations. I knew the basic cities I wanted to visit and that was about it. I gave myself two weeks, a budget, and a carful of non-perishable foods. I just expected to fill in the blanks as I went along, writing my own story while I was living it. Though I ended up spending more time with people that I initially intended, by all intents and purposes, it was a solo trip. Of the 14 days I was gone, I spent 8 of those sleeping in my truck or at shared Airbnb to save costs.

I would definitely say the biggest personal realizations happened on the road alone. Driving through the desert canyons with only the moon to guide really puts life into perspective in a way that meditation alone hasn’t enabled me to do. One of my biggest goals on this journey was to becomes less reliant on the presence of others for happiness and I would say I attained that, or at least an idea how to. The notion that happiness comes from others is totally self-inflicted and not true in the least, I came to realize. It’s all internal, with others helping draw that out of you through interactions.

Additionally I wanted this to be a bit of a test to see how I liked “life on the road.” Stated more tangibly, it’s been on my mind lately to take some time to trip extensively either around North America or Europe and support myself by freelancing remotely and through the goodwill of others. I really think it would be beneficial to do so from a self-growth perspective - I learned and retained a lot more behind that wheel than I have from the formal education of my past. How am I expected to learn and absorb the teachings of others if I don’t truly understand myself?

On a different note, I was pleasantly surprised that my truck held up quite nicely to all the abuse the road threw at it. From the icy plains of Wyoming to the blistering LA heat, I never had a single component break. My own technical issue seemed to be startup issues camped at Big Sur, CA, but I believe that was just caused by poor fuel grade, so I’ll brush that under the rug for now.

I will definitely say that that trip gave me a taste of a lifestyle I greatly desire: one of constant movement, exploration, and adventure. I’ll surely be doing more of these semi-brief trips in my future and will post more about them here.

Belonging

Ever since the first year of my life I’ve moved, on average, once every two years. This has been by my family’s choosing, of course, but hasn’t come without its fair share of struggles. Though there’s been both ups and downs to this kind of nomadic lifestyle, I want to briefly touch on two topics that have been weighing on my mind lately and have prompted me to splay my thoughts out in this post: friendship and belonging.

Whenever I move somewhere new, it feels like a fresh start: an open invitation to make myself out to who I want to be and create a community around myself that reflects my values and that I can rely on. So often I take my friends for granted: they have been there for me when business issues are weighing heavy on my mind and also when my favorite artist comes to down and I need a concert buddy with an hour’s notice. With that said, however, I would say there are two types of friends in my life: “superficial” friends and lifelong friends.

Superficial sounds like a harsh word to describe someone I would truly call my friend, but my definition of that is of someone who shares common interests me, but I don’t feel like I connect with on a deep, emotional level. I rarely get pretty deep emotionally with many people regardless, but I want to be sure the person I’m discussing what’s on my mind can empathize and hopefully even offer some advice, solicited or not. That brings me to lifelong friends: those select few in my life who I know get me on a level deeper than just a mutual love of Tycho or ramen and know when I’m not feeling 100% (and vice-versa).

The thing is, however, I don’t have many lifelong friends at all… that’s not for a lack of amazing people in my life, either. I think it’s self-inflicted and plays into how much I feel I belong in a community. With the constant knowledge of my next impending move always on the horizon, I feel as if I have a fairly strong apprehension to make deep emotional roots in a community and “drain” my emotional mote, so-to-speak, allowing potential lifelong friends to enter my life. I think that it’s no coincidence that the majority of my life-long friends have known me since I was young. My youthful state of mind then was less risk-adverse and was more open to possibility. I would like to think the same is true of myself now, but after some introspection, I’m  afraid not.

I’ll be moving for my Praxis program in just a few short months now and have decided that I’m going to build a bridge over my protective emotional mote for the little while longer I’m here. Though it might take more time than I have here to totally drain the apprehension I have left, I can start by allowing more people into my life and saying yes to more connections that I have been. Even though I might be hurt in the process, there’s only one way to find out.

Car Camping: A Beginner's Guide

When I say car camping that might conjure up images of sleeping under the fluorescent lights of a Walmart parking lot with foggy windows. Not so! Car camping is a great way to see the country on a budget and have a great time doing so. Here’s what I’ve learned that I think is important for anyone looking to camp in their car to know.

Window Coverings

Window Coverings are something that should be so obvious but is very often overlooked when car camping for your first time. Making sure that you have privacy in your car is essential and might help to give you some peace of mind. As I drive an SUV, I have eight windows to cover: windshield, front l/r, middle l/r, back l/r, and rear. My current system consists of the following: one command hook in the upper l/r corners of the middle, back, and rear windows. I then cut up a large piece of felt I bought, added some holes for the hooks, and hang the sheets when it’s time to hit the hay. I then toss a blanket over the front tow seats to block the view from all the front windows.

“Will I be able to breathe?”

Yes. Cars are not hermetically sealed an as long as you keep your vents open you should be able to breathe quite easily. If you have more than one person in the vehicle or are in a climate that’s somewhere between 64-74 degrees, I’d maybe recommend opening the sunroof a crack or dropping the windows by an inch or so to allow for increased airflow.

Power

Making sure your phone and electronics are always charged is always important. While I’m driving I use and inverter I bought from Lowes for $50 that gives me 300 watts which is perfect for powering my laptop. Otherwise, I have a Yeti 150 battery that can charge from on-board car port, USB 2.0 ports, or even an AC plug. The box says it can provide up to 25 phone charges or 2 full laptop charges. It’s been a life saver for sure!

Storage

Organization is key while camping out of your car. With such a small space, it’s important to have things contained so you have room to sleep. My current system is a collection of stackable plastic totes that I store food, utensils, etc. in that are kept along the passenger-side of the vehicle. It makes it easy to get food when in the back or re-stock food after shopping. I also carry all the items I won’t immediately need in a Yakima on my roof. Of course you don’t need this, but it’s nice to have the extra cabin space. I carry my clothes in a regular luggage case and then place the case on the driver’s seat before I head to bed to give me extra room in the back.

Bedding

If you think sleeping in a car has to be uncomfortable you’re definitely mistaken. I often find myself sleeping longer and better in my car than in my own bed! My setup for my car bedding is a memory foam pad that I place over-top of the stowed seats, an open sleeping bag on-top of that, a down comforter on that which can be removed during summer, and a light blanket on that. It’s a very versatile setup that I’ve used from 20 degree weather in Wyoming to the high desert in Nevada.

Gear

Make sure you bring a headlamp! You don’t want to keep your car lights on before you head to bed and risk running your battery down so I always shut everything off and resort to just using my headlamp when I’m winding down. I also recommend getting a lantern to set/hang somewhere in your vehicle to provide some extra light, especially while eating. There are also a multitude of batter-powered air filters that can keep the car just a bit more fresh-smelling in the mornings which can be handy when staying in your car for weeks on end.

Finding A Spot

Whenever I go car camping, I try to camp at distributed camping locations or parks. I very seldom camp in cities. Not only do I feel more at peace in the wilderness, but the morning views are way better anyway. To find campsites I use a combination of Google Maps, travel blogs, and Pocket Earth. I’ll find a general region I want to stop in, load it in Pocket Earth, and start looking for identified camp sites that would work to pull a vehicle into. Easy!


Camping in your car can be a great way to see the country and travel cheap! I’ve been doing it on-and-off for about a year now and would like to think I’m starting to get the hang of it, but if you have any questions of suggestions, feel free to drop a comment below!

24 Hours in Denver

This is a post in a mini-series I’ll be doing where I walk through some essential things to do if you have limited time in a new city. This edition is “24 Hours in Denver”, touching on some of my newfound favorite spots in the Mile High City.

Denver has always been a favorite city of mine, since the first time I drove through. The amazing quality of life, coffee culture, budding startup scene (heh), biking scene, sheer number of off-roading fanatics, and killer landscape has really drawn me towards it. Here’s some of my favorite things to see and do while I’m in Denver.

Cherry Creek

Cherry Creek is the crème de la crème of Denver shopping. Stop by this beautiful, new neighborhood to stop in at Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Neiman Marcus and more. There’s new buildings going up all the time and restaurants for even the most selective connoisseurs.

City ‘O City

I’m by no means a vegetarian so when a friend suggested I try City ‘O City I was a bit skeptical. From my experience in the past, I was expecting sub-par food that was a vegetarian replacement for my everyday meals. Boy was I wrong. The delicious menu coupled with a gorgeous atmosphere has made this restaurants one of my favorites in the city. A must-try!

Denver Diner

This late-night Denver institution couples a retro-diner feel with quality food served by charismatic people. I always seem to meet someone new when I’m there and have never been disappointed by my orders. This most recent time I got the PB&J french toast and, skeptical as I was, I was pleasantly surprised.

Beta Nightclub

One of my favorite clubs I’ve been to, Beta is world-renowned for its legendary Funktion-One sound system. Top EDM artist from all over flock to Beta to perform, from Deadmau5 to Rusko to Knife Party and more. They also feature an amazing lighting setup, go-go dancers, and a mesmerizing 21-foot LED screen.

Summit

Another music venue in Denver, Summit is a small club that typically hosts punk rock sets, but has been the stage for various artists such as Tycho. Very laid-back atmosphere, cheap entry fee, and great sound system definitely sold me on this place! I’ll be back for sure.

Union Station

One of my favorite places in Denver to get work done, Union Station is on the edge of downtown and has free seating, WiFi, and outlets. Bordering the commons are various restaurants, cafes, and stores. You should visit to see the gorgeous layout and architecture if nothing else.

Blue Sparrow

One of the cutest coffee shops I’ve ever been to, Blue Sparrow in the up-and-coming RiNo district in Denver has stolen my heart for it’s quaint location and killer brews. The baristas have been consistently amazing and the location is perfect to set up shop and shoot off some emails when the day starts.

24 Hours in Los Angeles

This is a post in a mini-series I’ll be doing where I walk through some essential things to do if you have limited time in a new city. This edition is “24 Hours in Los Angeles”, touching on some of my newfound favorite spots in the City of Angels.

I’ve surprised even myself with the number of visits I’ve made to Los Angeles this year (I think five now) and I never am at a loss for things to do. I will say that thought my productivity might go down whenever I step foot into the dreamy world of LA, my happiness undoubtedly goes up. Here’s some of the things I’ve enjoyed doing while in town.

Malibu

I feel like I don’t need to really even say much here, but this city near LA famous for it’s pristine beaches, gorgeous houses, and even prettier sunsets is a favorite of mine. Once you’re done shopping ‘till you drop at Malibu Village, you can recline with you friends (or by yourself!) on one of the many public beaches around the city to watch the sun set over the Pacific ocean.

Abbot Kinney

This somewhat-famous road in Santa Monica stretches diagonal from Brooks Avenue to Venice Boulevard. It’s full of amazing local stores, cute boutique restaurants, and some of the cutest coffee shops in the city. I’d book out at least an hour or two to walk down both sides of the street to see the sights and smell the smells.

Larchmont Bungalow Cafe

This cute boutique eatery on Sunset Boulevard was a favorite brunch spot of mine in the city. Fairly priced, great atmosphere, and a friendly wait-staff really sealed the deal for me. Not to mention the eggs benedict I ordered was done to perfection, down to the sautéed spinach. Definitely going to make a point to visit this again!

Echo Park

A great place for a stroll with a friend, Echo Park features a large “lake” (the equivalent of a Midwest pond) that takes up the majority of the space. Water lilies and ducks pockmark the surprisingly clean water, and you can even rent a swan boat to cruise the lake with your lover.

Club Avalon

This unique nightclub was one of the 18+ nightclub establishments that was brought up, specifically for its Thursday night parties. It’s gone by many different names over the years, but has remained a favorite of the younger Hollywood and WeHo crowds. Great sound system, go-go dancers, and more LCD panels than a Best Buy make sure you won’t get bored.

Koreatown

Home of some of the best food in LA, I spent two nights in Koreatown with friends, meeting amazing people and trying some of the local food. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area and pro-tip: Airbnbs here are surprisingly cheap and are centrally located so you can venture off anywhere in the metro without too much hassle.

Runyon Canyon Park

By no means a secret of LA, Runyon Canyon is a very popular hiking destination for tourists and locals alike and for good reason. The views are fabulous at the top but the trails are easy enough for beginners yet just challenging enough to give the seasoned hiker a good time.

24 Hours in San Francisco

This is the first of a mini-series I’ll be doing where I walk through some essential things to do if you have limited time in a new city. This edition is “24 Hours in San Fransisco”, touching on some of my newfound favorite spots in the Bay Area.

San Francisco might be known around the world for the intense startup culture, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz, however there is so much more that the city can offer if you’re willing to dig a bit deeper. Here’s some of my favorite things I did during my time in the city.

Tip: A Clipper card can get you anywhere. Purchase one ($3.00 fee) at a metro station and use it for trains, subways, and busses around the Bay Area. Super useful if you’re not one to carry a lot of loose change.

Boba Guys

If you like bubble tea, this place is an institution. There are a few locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, but it all started right there in the Bay Area. Their extensive boba menu is complimented by an always-friendly staff and unique locations. My favorite personal order is the jasmine milk tea with tapioca balls, organic milk, and 75% sweetness. Absolute bliss!

The Castro

There are so many amazing restaurants, clubs, and shops in this district that it would take multiple articles to cover them all, so I’ve taken the liberty of just suggesting you visit The Castro and see it for yourself. As the more-or-less unchallenged gay capital of the world, this San Francisco neighborhood is home to a rich history, vibrant nightlife, and gorgeous architecture.

Palace of Fine Arts

This might be the most “touristy” thing on this list, but the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts is a sight to behold. Situated close to the Golden Gate Bridge in Presidio, this beautiful piece of architecture is something that photos just can’t do justice for. I walked around the theatre twice by myself, marveling in the ornate sculptures and figures atop the massive columns.

Dolores Park

This centrally-located park in San Francisco is a great hangout for locals and tourists alike. You’ll see quite the variety of folk there participating in all sorts of various activities. There are also tons of facilities there such as tennis courts, basketball courts, and an open field. And if your four-legged friend is with you on your trip, bring them ~ it’s a very accompanying park.

San Francisco MoMa

See iconic masterpieces in this beautifully designed modern art museum featuring works spanning from the surrealist works of René Magritte to pieces fabricated by local artists as recent as this year. It’s newly redesigned as well, so if you’ve been in before, no harm in checking it out again!

Downtown Berkeley

If you’re looking to get out of the commotion of San Francisco for a minute, just use your Clipper card to take Bart to Downtown Berkeley! It’s a cute, art-filled area full of culture and vibrant people. There’s some great food options there as well, such as Berkeley Social Club which is know for its delicious breakfasts and great atmosphere.

Traveling on a Budget

Travel doesn’t need to all be about high-rolling and big-spending. You can travel almost anywhere on a tight budget and have fun doing it too! Here’s a few ways I’ve found to save money on the road…

Gas Station Hot Water

It’s not as bad as it sounds… at 99% of the gas stations I’ve come across there’s been a hot water spout on the coffee machine. Simply bring a thermos and fill it to your heart’s content! Here’s a few things you can do with that…

  1. Steep tea

  2. Brew coffee

  3. Make oatmeal

  4. Heat instant noodles

  5. Add to bouillon for a hot meal

You just have to great creative with it!

Bring Your Car

This one is pretty case-by-case, but if you’re not driving to far and you have a lot of people, drive instead of flying! As long as you pay attention to how much you’re spending in gas, it can be a really economical way to travel (especially when the alternative is renting a car or taking a ride-sharing service everywhere).

Be Flexible

If you want to fly instead of driving, be open to different dates for flights! The cost per ticket can vary hundreds depending on demand, so keeping an eye on that is crucial. Also, as most know, booking more in advance is usually always cheaper than booking the night before.

GasBuddy

If you choose to take the car-route, I’d recommend using an app like GasBuddy to find the best prices in your region! The cost per gallon can vary as much as $0.50 even over the course of a few miles, so it’s totally worth checking before you pull up to the pump.

Camp

If you have a multi-day road trip, don’t be afraid to camp instead of paying for an Airbnb or hotel! It is a great way to learn about the region and makes for some amazing memories, especially with friends!

CouchSurf

This app allows you to connect with locals who would be willing to put you up for free! It’s a great way for them to meet new people and a great way for you to make new friends and have a place to sleep.

Pack Food

This one seems obvious, but many people tend to glaze right over it. Packing your own food to have on the road and to cook when you get to your destination can save a ton of time (and stress) especially when you pre-plan your meals! And you you choose to eat out a few times (which I highly recommend) try to go to local restraints that you won’t be able to try anywhere else.

Free Things

Once you arrive somewhere, you don’t need to go blowing through money like hell. Instead, try doing some free things like going to parks, museums, going hiking, checking out markets, etc!


Travel can actually be cheap! As long as you’re smart about how you spend your money, travel to almost anywhere on a budget is possible. Feel free to shoot me a comment below if you have any questions or other money-saving tips.

Tools for the Modern Nomad

With more and more of our generating working remotely, people are starting to realize that they aren’t tied down to a physical location anymore - they are free to wander and work from all corners of the Earth. How many people actually bite the bullet and travel themselves, however, it up for speculation. If you’re on the fence about wanting to get out and adventure more, here’s a list of tools and gadgets I use to help my explore.

Apps

The apps I use on my excursions have proven to be just as important as the physical tools I use. They help me plot trails, find campsites, locate cheap gas/food, and call for help if needed. Here’s the most essential I use when on the road:

Roadtrippers

This app helps you plot out long trips by giving you the option to add/remove cities, calculate cost of gas, see nearby POIs, and more. Not something I use just for a quick weekend adventure, but it definitely comes in useful when I’m driving for a week or more.

Pocket Earth

If you’re going off the grid, this one’s a must-have. Pocket Earth allows you to not only download road maps but also trails, topography, and more. Catalog campsites, paths, and pull-offs for easy access. This app has saved my butt a few times in Colorado when I’ve lost reception and I’m miles in a dense forest. After you download maps, Pocket Earth relies on your GPS to determine location/heading, keeping you on track.

AllTrails

Looking for the best local trails can be such a hassle. Googling “best trails near me” is unhelpful at best and local guides are often outdated or just simply hard to find. AllTrails allows you to filter tons of trails near you by popularity, length, permitted activities, and more. Definitely an app to download for anyone looking to take their exploration to the next level.

GasBuddy

This app does pretty much what the name implies. It helps find cheap gas near you so you’re always paying the lowest amount, which can truly add up over thousands of miles. I’ve been in locations where the total difference in gas just by driving an extra mile is $0.50/gallon! Just think of all the Starbucks you can buy with that saved cash.

Dark Sky

Weather always is a factor when traveling. It can make or break your trip in an instant and can make the difference between what you want to pack and what you have to pack. Dark Sky is an amazing app that allows you to see minute-by-minute plays for rainfall, temperature, and more. It’s hyper-local and even notifies you before rain starts so you can stay dry.

Gadgets

There’s a fine line between gadgets helping you get the most out of your travels and gadgets over-stimulating you so you forget to enjoy the trip itself. My list here is fairly sparse and lightweight and that’s defiantly intentional.

GoalZero Yeti150

This little beauty is basically that battery bank you use to charge your phone, but a hundred times bigger. Though it’s pretty hefty and weights a ton, it can really save your life on the road. Not only does it have two USB ports but it also has a car-style port and an AC plug, allowing you to charge your phone 25 times or your laptop twice from a single charge of the unit. And once you’ve drained the Yeti, simply plug it into the wall or connect it to a solar panel bank to charge it in just a few hours!

Bose Mini Soundlink II

I carry this speaker with my everywhere. Camping alone, ever for the most seasoned outdoorsman, can get bit spooky, and nothing helps me get to sleep than some music. The quality you’ll get out of this is much better than out of your phone speaker, and the charge holds for over 12 hours.

Black Diamond Headlamp

There are tons of models of these, so you’ll need to pick which is the best option for you, but the various brightness modes along with the red light really sell this headlamp for me. It has an astounding battery life and is solidly built. I never hit the road without it.


I hope you found at least one new tool to add to your traveling arsenal in this list! Feel free to comment your favorites down below!

Book Review: To Shake the Sleeping Self

I don’t read many books. Typically any books I read are because they are assigned or required for some reason. It’s not that I don’t like books… I often just can’t find the time or don’t make time to sit down to read. This time was different, however. My friend and mentor Wyn Wiley gifted my a book by an adventurer by the name of Jedidiah Jenkins (as he notes himself in the book, quite a sing-song name). The subtitle for the book is: A Journey From Oregon To Patagonia, And a Quest for Life With No Regret. Sheesh that’s impactful. So I began to read the book. And finished it in three days.

Jedidiah has an amazing way of writing that really pulls you into the narrative and makes you feel like you are along for the ride with them. His timeline of the journey is eloquently woven in with flashbacks and stories that supplement the story perfectly: one of adventure, self-discovery, exploration, and introspection. Few books I’ve picked up before have given me as much motivation as this one has, forcing me to do some reflection on my own life and see what I can do to make sure no time is wasted.

Perhaps this is because I can relate to him on a number of levels, being a free-spirited, gay, adventurous photographer raised in a Christian household Jedidiah’s story is one I can connect with, even decades apart: one of internal struggle and a need to find out what this life is about. And though the idea of a quest to find out answers to questions like “Who am I?” and “What are we here for?” sounds so cliche and over-done, I’ve come to realize that there aren’t many people who actually put their money where their mouth is and follow through with their plans. Though one might not need to bike to Patagonia to discover what life has in store for them, hearing this story can be empowering to anyone of any background.

Overall, one of the best autobiographies/travel journals I’ve ever read.

You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon.

Make Travel an Investment

You could go up to many people on the street and they would likely agree that putting money in education is an investment. People often make the connection that the more education you have the more successful you’ll become, likely measured by the amount of annual income you pull in. I would say, however, there is an equally valuable investment you can make in yourself that could teach you even more than formal education: travel.

When I say travel, perhaps, images of over-the-top partying, Cancún, and late mornings come to mind and while all of those things are find and dandy, that’s not quite what I mean by travel in this instance. If travel is to be an investment, you have to go into your trip with that mindset. Go with friends who encourage you to push your comfort zone or, better yet, go by yourself. The idea might sound daunting at first, but solo travel is the best way I know to get in touch with yourself and truly prioritize the experience-gathering of the trip.

If you truly want to get the most out of travel, going the extra mile is critical. Wake up that extra hour early to see the city before rush our. Walk to the cafe instead of taking the subway to experience all the people, sights, smells, and sounds on the street. Like the famous scene with the blind man in Amélie, make a mental note of everything you pass, forcing you to consciously evaluate it and experience it, instead of just passing it on by. You might be surprised by what you find.

This does not mean that travel has to be any less enjoyable. Perhaps you are not a morning person and getting up early during travel sounds like complete nonsense. This is when you need to be open to other forms of happiness and break out of your comfort zone, opening yourself to new things. The whole point of traveling as an investment is to expand your worldview and gather new ideas and interactions to add to your bank of knowledge.

That’s not to mention what I feel is the most valuable thing you can get out of solo travel in particular: introspection. Being truly on your own in a new place with a different culture instantly makes you more dependent on yourself… you start to better identify emotions, gain confidence, and become more self-reliant. Speaking from experience, travel has made me realize that I am too dependent on others’ company as a source of happiness for myself. It’s also allowed me to see what I can do in order to be at peace with being alone. Quantifying exactly what that means is not something I’m sure I can do, however I do know that since I’ve been traveling more, being alone is not nearly as scary a proposition as it used to be for me.

In only 36 short hours I’ll be leaving for my longest time away from my friends and family: a three-week solo journey down the west coast and back. Though I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at all for this, I was hardly able to sleep the other night with excitement. Here’s to coming days of early mornings, new faces, and lots of soon-to-be-had memories. Read more about my trip Into the Wild.

Travel can bring about wisdom, perspective, friendships, knowledge, enlightenment, and happiness. Those are all extremely valuable and all absolutely worth taking the financial and time investment in yourself. Resources spent on honest, open-minded travel are never wasted, opening doors to innumerable possibilities and experiences.