#VanLife Q&A: Ask Me Anything

Oh, van life. Even after my year spent living on the road, I still get questions about van life all the time. It’s such a romantic idea for adventurers, and I admittedly have my moments of longing for life in a retrofitted Sprinter van. After getting so many reader comments asking for insight and advice on living in a van, I decided to put a Q&A together to put it all out there.

My retrofitted 2005 Dodge Sprinter van, which I lived in for 365 days.

“I was just so inspired by your blog and reading about your 365 day trip around the country in a van, I wanted to know more about your planning for it and what you had to take into consideration to just pick up and leave your life behind for a little while.” – Natalie W.

The decision to start this whole “van life” thing came on a whim while I was living in Colorado. It was about 6 months after I had gone on a monthlong cross country road trip after graduating college. I didn’t have any debt, and hadn’t yet touched my life savings. I was freelancing with LivingSocial, so I could work anywhere with a wi-fi connection. It was the perfect timing to pick up and hit the road – so I decided to take advantage of it!

“I want to live a life like you traveling the world in a van but the only thing I can’t understand is money, how did you find yourself to be able to pay for food and gas for a year? I want to spend my life adventuring like you but money will hold me back, any advice?” – Raymond

I moved back to Florida and saved up for a year before finally heading out on the open road. While I was out on the road, I frequently picked up freelance writing gigs and copywriting work (but it honestly added up to peanuts).  I also totally blew through my entire life savings during the trip – which is something I regret. I was b-r-o-k-e at the end of my trip, and it made it really hard to transition back to the “real world.” I would definitely recommend securing steady on-the-road work if you’re going out on the road, unless you save up like $20k+ for spending money.

DSC_2159DSC_7940“Did you work at all on your adventure? How much money did you save up before you set sail? Did sponsorship’s cover a lot of your costs?” – Connor M.

I attempted to work a respectable amount during my trip, but didn’t do enough to make it sustainable. I took freelance writing gigs often within the outdoor industry, and worked as a ghost copywriter picking up jobs like writing 100 product descriptions for Office Max office supplies. My trip partner Niko even spent a month working as a delivery man for an organic mattress company in Boulder, CO at one point to help pay for unexpected van trouble.

Sponsorship is something I get asked about almost on a daily basis–and a lot of folks have misunderstandings of what a typical sponsorship relationship looks like. I am not a professional athlete, so my sponsorships primarily come in the form of support through gear and travel–my paid partnerships with brands typically focus on content creation. That said, partnering with amazing brands like Goal Zero, Teton Sports, and ClimbOn! was tremendous in getting my van outfitted. Their generosity helped me supply my trip with quality solar equipment, camping gear, and eco-friendly toiletries–three very crucial things for van life! [Read more…]

Returning to Reality after 365 Days of Living the Dream

Sitting on the porch of my new home, sipping on tea and eating fresh eggs from the chicken flock in my backyard while watching my puppy chase squirrels up trees – it’s hard not to think that in some ways, this is living the dream.

Yesterday, the big yellow van I spent 365 days living in was officially sold. For an entire year, waking up every morning inside my retrofitted van and heading out across America to climb and explore was my version of living the dream. It was a dream that my partner Niko and I had fantasized about for many years – and it was nothing short of a dream to make it a reality.

My retrofitted 2005 Dodge Sprinter van, which I lived in for 365 days.

Towards the end of the trip, I started having other dreams. I dreamt of a big wooden desk where I could get some writing done – random coffee-shops get a little tiresome after a while; I dreamt of not eating anything out of a can; I dreamt of having a proper bed and a closet; I even dreamt of wearing dresses, putting on make-up, and feeling like a lady again.

The moment the trip ended, I got all of the “things” I missed while living in a van – and almost immediately, all I wanted was my dirtbag life in the van back.

I was a little lost in the aftermath of the trip, but my post-adventure blues really hit rock bottom after I listed my van for sale. This was it – my life as a vagabonding climber seemed permanently over, and I suddenly found myself entirely lacking motivation, purpose, inspiration, and energy. I did what was probably the worst possible reaction to this newfound sadness: I stayed cooped up inside for days. I didn’t climb, I didn’t write, I didn’t do anything but sulk.

When I handed my key over to the van’s new owner last night, I was expecting to feel an overbearing sense of loss and depression – but instead, I was greeted with relief. Hope, even. I had officially closed this chapter of my adventures. It was undoubtedly the best year of my life, and no vehicle will ever compare to the big yellow Sprinter that was my first mobile home – but now it’s time to focus on new adventures.

The completed map of my yearlong road trip around America.

I may have a home-base now, rent to pay, and a desk where I can get some real writing accomplished without feeling pressured to spend $4 on a latte, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up any adventures. I’m heading down to Miami this week to pick up my old Scion hatchback, and once I’m back in a car I actually love to drive (sorry van, you weren’t my favorite vessel to pilot), I’m going to start exploring again. Niko is already planning a bike ride from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, and I’ve got my sights set on a few tubing trips once the water warms up.

This isn’t the end, folks. This is just the beginning of something new.

The Ultimate Roadtrip Adventure Van is FOR SALE

My big, beautiful, very yellow Sprinter van! Let’s make one thing clear: I don’t want to sell my van. If I had things my way, I’d keep this van forever – but a massive van-debt is forcing me to part ways with my beloved Sprinter. Whoever ends up with this impeccable adventure mobile is going to be one very happy camper – and I’ll probably cry a bit as you drive off into the sunset.

This handsome yellow hunk of metal, wood, and rubber is the ultimate road trip vehicle. Sure, it’s rear-wheel drive, but that has never stopped the van from seeking off-road adventure. You want to go rock-scrambling down to the Bridger Jack camping area at Indian Creek? She’s done it. Climb up sandy mud pits at Triassic near Joe’s Valley? Piece of cake. Navigate deep ditches when the Rocktown parking area gets too full? No problem.

You’ve all seen the exterior of the van, but many haven’t gotten a peek at what’s inside the big yellow box. Here’s a look into the retrofit Niko built after we gutted the shelving and partition the van had when we purchased it. *Note: We can include all of the furnishings, some of it, or gut it all before we sell it if you have another build in mind.

We won’t be including the solar panels/equipment when we sell it, but it will include the set-up that’ll have you ready to rock ‘n roll while being powered by the sun. We can hook it up with the water jugs, sink system, curtains, foam bedding, etc.

Here are some specifics about this wonderful 2005 Dodge Sprinter 2500:

  • This diesel van features a 140-in wheel base, and high-top roof (unless you’re a giant, you’ll be able to comfortably stand up inside the van – which is so convenient).
  • The ‘ole gal gets between 25-28 mpg – but once we managed 31 mpg, yeah I’m proud of it.
  • It currently has 160,000 miles on it.
  • The van has a 5 cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine, which we’ve put a lot of money into over the past year. All the typical issues with Sprinter engines have been repaired: replaced turbo resonator and hoses, brand new EGR valve, new battery (still under warranty). It is also up-to-date on all oil changes and mileage-based servicing.
  • It’s a rear-wheel drive vehicle, with four new all-terrain tires (also under warranty).
  • The hot air blows hot, and the cold air is cool.
  • Here’s what’s wrong with the van: the speakers are blown, two of the plastic air vents are cosmetically damaged, and the exterior isn’t the best paint job, but you can’t beat the character of the yellow color.

The interior of my 2005 Dodge Sprinter adventure van.

The Craggin' Wagon perched on the side of the road outside of Hueco Tanks, Texas.This beautiful 2005 Dodge Sprinter adventure van can be yours for
the insanely reasonable asking price of just $14,500!

If you’re seriously interested in my beloved van, shoot me an email at katieboue(at)gmail(dot)com with any questions or offers. Serious inquiries only please – I know we all want my van, but my baby needs to find a worthy new owner who will take her on many adventures. The van is currently located in Tallahassee, FL.

[UPDATE: The van is sold. I am full of regret.]

The End of an Era: My Yearlong Road Trip is (Almost) Over

This is a post I’ve been procrastinating all week. As a storyteller, it’s my duty to my readers to keep y’all updated with my journey every step of the way – but as a human, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I’m struggling to put things into words, and incredibly stressed with the logistics of what comes next, because –

This is it: I am officially in the last week of my yearlong climbing adventure.

Seriously? Already? Didn’t I just move into my big yellow van? Have I really lived outdoors, climbed, camped, and adventured for 52 weeks? It just doesn’t make sense – I refuse to wrap my head around this reality that seems to have been suddenly thrust upon me.

It’s almost February 1st, the technical one-year anniversary of my trip (although I started living in van sometime in early January last year). After that milestone is ticked, Niko will begin working full-time managing Tallahassee Rock Gym, and for me, well, the future is very up in the air at the moment – but you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out more about that one.

Bo Durham crushes The Price is Right (V8) at Rocktown in GA.We’re spending the final days of the adventure in our favorite place in the world: the southeast. We’ve been holed up at Rocktown in Georgia for quite a while, but were forced to retreat back to Chattanooga when the polar vortex reared its frigid head and made climbing absolutely unbearable. The temperatures should be (at least somewhat) warming up by Friday, so we’ll be returning to the no-service zone to enjoy our fleeting opportunities to climb, camp, and explore.

The good news? This year has been the most transformative, educational, inspiring 365 days of my life – and the adventures have only just begun for me. The bad news? We’re selling the van. That is the worst part of all of this, and Niko is taking it the hardest. I also have a feeling that Amble is going to go into some sort of identity crisis once we moved into a four-walled dwelling. Oy vey.

I’ll try to update at least one more time before we head back to Florida, but I’m not making any promises. I only have a short time left to enjoy my van life freedom, and I intend on soaking up as much as I can. There will be many thank yous, heaps of gear reviews, and probably a lot of tears shed – but first, adventure.

2013: The Year I Decided to Live in a Van to Travel, Climb, and Adventure Across America

Last year while looking back at my biggest adventures of 2012, I started the post by saying “I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever” – and I was so right. This year has been the most incredible, outrageous, challenging, inspiring, beautiful year of my entire life.

A crew of Stonelick crash pads out at Red Rocks in Las Vegas.

When I started writing this post, I fully intended on it taking the shape of the traditional month-by-month, adventure-by-adventure, mishap-by-mishap retelling of my year. I made it as far as March before I realized how incredibly futile it is to attempt to condense the experience of living “the dream” into a single blog post. For goodness sake, I want to write a book about it – how could I possibly belittle this year into a measly blog post?

I traveled well over 35,000 miles across the country, exploring 26 states (two by plane/train – hello, New York and New Jersey!), and even popping up into Canada for a few weeks. I slept in barren deserts, snowy mountains, forests thick with mossy trees, and on the side of busy streets in big cities. I have seen and done more in this year than many people will accomplish in a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky – and incredibly broke.

But every moment, every victorious climbing send, every piece of all-you-can-eat-sushi in Vancouver, every exploding tire on the interstate, and every I’ve-been-wearing-the-same-shirt-for-a-week realization have been 100% worth it. My savings account might make me cry a little when I look at it, but I have no regrets. I am richer now than I have ever been.

View from the top of Pistol Ridge in Indian Creek at Red River Gorge.

This year has been transformative, both physically and mentally. I used to be a cute girl, with (at least occasionally) matching outfits and make-up and long, well-kempt hair. Today, I am barely above bum status. My mismatched clothing is worn for days on end until it reeks, my hair has been chopped into a short bob that is slowly morphing into a mullet, and I shower once a week. Fortunately, what this trip has ruined of my exterior it has compensated for internally with a renewed adoration for being outdoors, a profound understanding of what I want to do with my life professionally, and a deeper love for Niko than I ever could have imagined.

Seriously, if you ever want to test a relationship, live in a van with that person for an extended period of time. If you can survive that, you can survive anything.

Will 2014 be able to compare to the rollercoaster of ass-kicking adventure that I experienced in 2013? Probably not, and I’m okay with that. I don’t really ever want anything to be like this year – 2013 was special, it was an adventure unlike any other. Even if I do spend another year (or many years) living in a van and traveling again, it will never be anything like my first. And that, is wonderful.

Cheers to all the breathtaking landscapes in America, to the hospitable and generous people we’ve met along the way (Spenser and Vikki, I’m looking at you), to chasing the perfect climbing weather, to giant boxes of TimBits, to my big yellow van, and to many, many more years of adventure. 

Starting to Circuit the Best of Southeastern Bouldering (With my Proudest Send!)

My crew of lady crushers at Rocktown in Georgia.One of my favorite things about the climbing culture of the southeast is our pride. Folks around here are proud of their local boulderfields, proud of hard-earned sends, proud to be a part of a community with camaraderie, hospitality, and deep-rooted, well, pride unlike any other population of climbers I’ve encountered on this trip. This is my favorite place in the entire country, and it feels so good to be home in the southeast.

For the remainder of my yearlong trip (less than 12 weeks, whoa!), Niko and I will be circuiting the climbing areas throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and a bit of North Carolina. Our main focus is what we consider the true triple crown of the southeast: Stone Fort in Tennessee, Rocktown in Georgia, and Horse Pens 40 in Alabama. Now, I love Hound Ears more than anything, but it’s only open one day a year (and no days this year), so I think it’s about time Rocktown earned some respect with triple crown status.

We spent the weekend climbing at Rocktown with old friends from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Vikki and Spenser from The RV Project. For once, the ladies outnumbered the men! It is so good to be crushing with Vikki again – she is the queen of short lady beta, and has helped me crush a few problems I was struggling with.

Finishing the top-out on Grape Ape (V4) at Rocktown in Georgia.Rocktown impressed us with some crazy autumn colors, easily the best we’ve ever seen out there. I spent the weekend getting a little mileage with a few new sends mixed in, like Belly Button (V3), and a totally-intimidating-can’t-believe-I-sent-it V4 called Grape Ape. It’s a fairly committing, tall boulder that demands you to trust your feet and lean over a funky slab to a great, but slightly out of reach, jug. I was mildly terrified at the top, but somehow made it work.

I’ve yet to find any big projects that really inspire me at Rocktown, but we’ll be spending a lot of time there so I’ll do some exploring until I stumble upon a climb that pushes my limits and motivates me to challenge myself on it. In the meantime, I returned to Stone Fort near Chattanooga to tango with a climb that has haunted me for way too long: Shotgun (V6).

During our last southeastern climbing trip before starting our yearlong trip, I fell in love with a boulder problem that was way out of my league, but absolutely enchanting. The fellas I was with quickly sent it, while I fumbled around on the first move without making any progress. For some reason, I was convinced that this was the one, and vowed that my goal for my yearlong adventure was to come back to the southeast and send Shotgun.

And I tried and tried. I came up with crazy beta that doubled the amount of moves I had to do compared to most folks who climb it. And I made progress. Then I got shut down, left Stone Fort for a while, and trained a bit at Tallahassee Rock Gym. And then I came back, and everything clicked.Gunning for the big pinch on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed to get up to the top out of this boulder, but it happened. It was my last attempt for the day, and I wasn’t quite feeling it, so I decided to just really throw myself at the big pinch move that had been shutting me down – and it worked. I reached up to the victory jug, recollected myself, and prepared for the notorious top-out.

I’ll admit, I spent a LOT of time hanging out on those slopers. There’s seriously just nothing there. You have to slap your hands on the flat nothingness, trust your feet, and stand up. Luckily, I had Spenser snapping pictures from the top of the boulder, plus Vikki and Niko cheering me on from below. It was an ugly struggle, but I had to do what I had to do.

Sussing out the top-out on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Tennessee.Working out the slopers on the top-out of Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Chattanooga.Photos: Spenser Tang-Smith of The RV Project – he’s the best. 

Folks, it was a big moment for this little lady. There was totally a happy-dance on top of the boulder. Now I need a new project to keep me motivated at Stone Fort. The icing on my yearlong trip cake would be to send a V7 before the adventure officially ends – but that’s definitely dreaming big.

Since we’ll be around the Chattanooga area for the next few weeks, Niko and I (along with Vikki and Spenser of The RV Project) decided to show some love to my favorite climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. We’ll be volunteering at the second annual Buy Your Own Boulderfield fundraiser party at The Crash Pad on Friday night – and if you’re in town you ought to be there! (And if you’re not in town, it’s totally worth making a weekend trip for – we’ll go crush some boulders afterwards!) The SCC will be auctioning off awesome swag like crash pads, climbing videography workshops, rock gym passes, and even a climbing day with Lisa Rands.

Come to the BYOB party in Chattanooga –
I’ll be serving up all-you-can-eat chili all night!

So, What Do You Do After a Year of Adventure, Climbing, and Living in a Van?

My big, beautiful, very yellow Sprinter van! After a month of living in a van, I was still very deep in the honeymoon phase of the romantic idea of adventure. After three months, life on the road still felt great. At the seven month mark, living in a big yellow van, climbing all over the country, and camping every night was the only thing I knew. But now, after nine months of traveling, it’s time to look towards the future.

What am I going to do when my yearlong road trip ends?

On February 2nd, life is going to smack me pretty hard in the face. The fantasy world of living in a van for a year with hardly an responsibilities (aside from sharing my incredible experiences with everyone) will abruptly be gone. There will be bills to be paid, income to be earned, and a future to be seriously considered – plus, Niko needs to get ready for starting grad school in August. I’m not quite sure that I’m ready for everything that comes with the idea of ending the trip and returning to “the real world,” but I have a plan.

Once the big yellow van fulfills our goal of spending an entire year traveling, climbing, and exploring, we’ll be returning to the place where it all began for Niko and I: Tallahassee. When we left, we thought we’d never come back – but we were wrong. Visiting our old city last week reminded me of all the reasons I love Tallahassee, and more importantly, the rock gym.

The new bouldering walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Niko was offered a fantastic opportunity to manage Tallahassee Rock Gym full-time until it’s time for him to start grad school (which is a whole new adventure – we have NO idea where he’s headed for that yet). Neither of us have been able to accept the idea of not being on a constant climbing trip anymore, but I have to admit: I’m really excited about six months of training in a rock gym (and one last fleeting affair with my beloved rock gym before we really leave forever). I’ve gained incredible technique and confidence during our yearlong trip, but constant travel and outdoor climbing aren’t quite conducive to training and getting stronger. And the best part? We’ll be care-taking for a flock of chickens and a lovely garden while we’re there. 

For me, this means I will have six whole months to finally catch up on all the writing that has been pent up for the past year. There are so many stories that have yet to be told, so many photo essays that have yet to be edited, so much freelance work that has piled up, and I’ll finally have the creative juices available to write my book about our trip. I’m going to miss this lifestyle so much, but I’m confident that life isn’t done throwing epic adventures my way. This isn’t the end of my adventure, this is just a quick little break to let me finally catch up, cool down, and contemplate where to explore next.

Oh, and we’re getting a puppy for Christmas!

Pretty much everyone I know is fully aware of the fact that Niko and I have been dying to get a pup of our own for the longest time, but we didn’t want to adopt a dog until we were in a more stable situation to train it. Well, that time is quickly approaching, and we’ve already begun to search for the perfect four-legged addition to our family.

It’s hard to fathom that in less than three months we’ll no longer be that climbing couple who lives in a big yellow van and travels around the country full-time – but I’m looking forward to this new chapter in our lives. And we’ve already arranged Niko’s schedule so we can take plenty of weekend climbing trips when we get the itch.

Whoa – that was way too much future-thinking. If you’ll excuse me, I need to return to the boulder fields before reality sets in anymore. 

That Time I Made a Cameo in a Climbing Video, But All I Did Was Eat Nutella and Apples

Shannon Joslin climbs A River Runs Through It at Joe's Valley while Niko and Spenser film her ascent.No, but seriously. My two friends, Spenser and Vikki, from The RV Project made a killer climbing video, and I’m totally in it – and all I do in my cameo is sit on a rock and stuff my face with Nutella and apples while everyone around me is cheering. Wow. But really, does this shock anyone even a little bit?

Here’s the story: You remember how Niko and I planned to visit Joe’s Valley in Utah for two weeks, and ended up staying for two months? Well, Spenser and Vikki totally instigated our long-term stay, and while we were there we helped them shoot a sweet project they filmed featuring our lady friends Shannon Joslin and Flannery Shay-Nemirow. These incredible women climb for La Sportiva and Five Ten (respectively), and wanted to do a head-to-head battle to see which climbing shoes are better.

It took weeks to film, and months to edit, but Spenser did an incredible job with the final product – it’s such a fun video. Niko and I are really proud to have had a small part in it – mostly Niko, who helped Spenser shoot a few scenes. We both make a cameo during the “A River Runs Through It” scene, and my La Sportiva Katanas get worn by Shannon in the “Self Service” segment. Awesome!

Check it out:

Those ladies know how to crush, amirite? They make those stout climbs look like a cake walk. Bonus points to Niko for his hilariously edited fist-pump. And then there’s me, just hangin’ out, stuffing my face like a total lard. And I wonder why I don’t climb V10 – it just might have something to do with all the Nutella. Sheesh.

Check out more from The RV Project on their Facebook page, and show ‘em some love on Twitter!

25 Climbs for 25 Years at Rocktown, and a Perfect Weekend in Chattanooga & North Carolina

In an attempt to say “no thanks” to the typical 25th birthday, which according to my generation includes a quarter-life crisis where you wonder what you’re doing with your life and why you aren’t as so-called successful as your peers, I decided to do something different: I challenged myself to climb 25 boulder problems.

I thought it was going to be easy. The original plan was to head to one of my favorite spots in the southeast, Stone Fort, where I have a pretty decent circuit of familiar climbs. Instead, the weather forecast relocated us to Rocktown – also a wonderful crag, but with a few hang-ups. The boulders are drastically spread-out compared to Stone Fort, and the lines aren’t always as clean.

The day started strong at a familiar warm-up spot near The Orb, a classic Rocktown V8. I made quick work of almost 10 climbs ranging from V0 to V2, including a few new lines I hadn’t climbed before. Things were looking good.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

After a few failed flails on Double Trouble (V5) and an old send, Jug Surfin’ (V4), I realized that if I was going to succeed at climbing 25 boulder problems, I was going to have to take it easy. We moved on to another cluster of easy problems, knocking out 5 more lines. I was convinced that V0s were all I’d be able to send, but resigned myself to having a fun day instead of focusing on v-points.

We visited a new area I haven’t seen before, and I flashed two sweet climbs called Ripple (V2) and Mario (V3). A quick moment of redemption, but still no impressive sends.
Climbing Mario (V3) at Rocktown in Georgia for my 25th birthday.Flashing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown during my 25th birthday challenge.

The remainder of the day was spent climbing lines that looked like no one had touched them in a very, very long time. First was a tall arête climb with a sweet iron rail feature, which I quickly cruised up. Then we moved onto a trio of lines on a triangular boulder called Pommel Horse – and it was game-on. This boulder was completely grown over, and anything that could have been a hold was caked in moss or draped with cobwebs. Even Niko struggled to decifer where the various V0s went, but we finally finagled our way up the boulder and I bagged three more sends.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

I ended the day on what can only be described as a choss pile. My favorite southern food buffet was closing in only a few hours, and I still needed five more climbs. We hiked back towards the front of the boulder field, and climbed unappealing problems toilet-themed names. It wasn’t pretty, but I was determined to finish all 25 climbs.

Twenty minutes of hiking, and an hour of driving later, we arrived for an all-you-can-eat southern feast at Wally’s Family Restaurant in Chattanooga. Once our bellies were bursting with collard greens and bacon, we retreated to The Crash Pad where we were treated to the hostel’s newly opened private room – which is crazy cozy and has a great upstairs view of the grounds.

The next morning, Niko and I made a long haul out to Waxhaw, North Carolina, where we met my family and two favorite fellas for a relaxing birthday weekend. We explored the Q-City BBQ Championship in downtown Charlotte, wandered around Asheville, and I even got to blow out some birthday candles over a slice of red velvet cake. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday – my 26th is going to have a lot to live up to! 

Instead of a Quarter-Life Crisis Meltdown – I’m Going on an Epic Birthday Adventure!

What the title of this blog post should really say is “instead of having a quarter-life identity crisis and major meltdown, I’ve decided to climb 25 boulder problems in the southeast, stuff my face at an all-you-can-eat southern buffet, and spend an evening at my favorite Chattanooga digs” – but that seemed a little too long.

Who me? Turning 25? No way.In some crazy twist of events, I’m turning 25 tomorrow, October 16th. Not exactly sure how that happened, since I still feel like a kid most of the time, but apparently, I’m a real grown-up now. All around me, my peers are having babies, getting married, working full-time desk jobs – and I’m over here living in a van, climbing all day in the woods, and feeling pretty proud if I manage to shower once a week. Oops!

I’ll be honest, there were a few moments of “oh my god, this is it, I need to stop adventuring right now and rejoin the real world and start painting my nails and brushing my hair again – but let’s mull on that for a minute, it’s so not what’s going to happen. If anything, turning 25 is a milestone to celebrate with even more adventures. Thus, I’ve decided to trade my quarter-life crisis for a 25th birthday celebration worthy of reaching my quarter-life.

Here’s the plan:

I’m going to climb 25 boulder problems to commemorate 25 years of a wonderful life (inspired by my buddy Spenser who did 29 Squamish classics for his 29th this summer). I originally wanted to do this at Stone Fort in Tennessee, where I went on my first outdoor climbing trip, but a rainy forecast put a literal damper on my plans – so we’re relocating to Rocktown. There’s still a 30% chance of rain there in Georgia, but I’ll rough it on some moist sandstone if I have to! I’ll post the official tick list once the challenge is completed.

After shredding my skin on sandstone, I’ll refuel at my favorite new eatery, Wally’s Restaurant – an all-you-can-eat southern food buffet loaded with all my favorite fixings, including collard greens, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, breaded catfish, fried chicken, homemade banana pudding, and sweet tea.

The evening will be completed at one of my favorite Chattanooga spots, The Crash Pad. The fellas generously offered to put Niko and I up in one of their sweet private rooms, so we’ll get to shower (see, I’m totally a grown-up!) and relax before heading over to their new on-site restaurant, The Flying Squirrel, for some celebratory drinks.

But it doesn’t stop there – on Thursday, we’re headed out to Waxhaw, North Carolina, to meet up with my family and two of my favorite fellas for a weekend of pumpkin-picking, brewery-hopping, merry-making, and general wonderfulness. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday – I’m a lucky gal.

Who needs a quarter-life meltdown when you can just have an epic adventure instead?