Trail Running Florida: The Overseas Highway Heritage Trail

“North, or south?” Alex asked as we neared the end of the dirt road stretch. I took a deep gulp of humid air, trying to keep my breath while surveying the options ahead. We had just pulled over after finding a dirt road on Long Point Key. Our detour yielded stretches of dirt trails in multiple directions, but most abruptly ended in heaps of limestone or thickets of vine. We refocused on our true objective: running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail.

“Left!”

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

We ran in that direction for only a few hundred yards before being once again lured toward a new route – this time a mile-long detour off the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and into Curry Hammock State Park. We waved to the rangers as we jogged past the entrance station, stopping only once we reached the lapping waterfront.

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a multi-use path that runs the length of the Keys across islands and bridges until reaching its terminus at Key West. It officially begins at Mile Marker 106 in Key Largo, and ends at MM 0. The trail itself has been a work in progress for more than a decade as Florida slowly stitched together portions of existing bike paths to create a continuous, safe route for those who prefer to experience travel though the Keys at a human-powered pace.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

I didn’t find trail running until many years after I moved away from the Sunshine State. I used to live by a strict motto: “I ain’t running unless something is chasing me.” Somewhere between my native state and my new home in Utah, my anti-running resolve weakened and I kept finding myself lacing up shoes to hit the trails. Returning to my home state to bring together my native environment (read: humidity, sunshine, sea-level elevation, and salty air) with my newfound love for running was a treat.

I like running because it’s pure. You don’t need fancy gear or technical skills – it’s simply one foot in front of the other, until your legs feel like Jell-O. Left foot, right foot, repeat.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

With more than 100 miles of trail to choose from, you can make your experience on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail all your own. Here are some tips from my experience:

  • My favorite parts of the trail are the stretches between numerous smaller islands. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction you feel after running an island tip-to-tip, even if it’s less than a mile long.
  • Ultra runners can camp out at Bahia Honda State Park, then go big and run the trail’s final 32 miles from the park to Key West. Celebratory rumrunners, anyone?
  • Note: It is not advised to tackle the Seven Mile Bridge by foot. Heavy vehicle traffic and small shoulders make this portion of the trail less than appealing for the average runner. I would personally run it only if specifically attempting to complete the trail in its entirety. Plan your run around it or hitchhike your way across.

So, what gear do you need to run on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail?

  • Running shoes: The path is mostly paved and very well maintained throughout, so technical trail running shoes are not required.
  • Water (hydration pack or belt): Locals with a higher tolerance for South Florida’s hot, wet climate may be able to skip carrying water on shorter distances, but I found myself eager to hydrate often.
  • Sun protection: After just a single bridge crossing, I knew sunscreen would be at the top of my list for recommended gear. Many stretches of the trail provide little to no shade, so it’s key to come prepared with a liberal layer of sunscreen and I’d suggest a hat, too. If you’re bringing a hydration pack, toss in a tube of sunblock to reapply throughout the day.
  • Bathing suit: Okay, so this one you can leave in the car – I wore my bikini top as a sports bra – but the point is: be prepared to go for a dip after your run. Trust me, the après-run swim is almost as good as the actual running.
  • Bonus Points: If you’re running across a popular key, bring some cash for pit stops at Cuban sandwich shops and seafood joints.

All photos of me in this post taken by Alex Uribe. Thanks, Alex!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

That time we went to Moab on a Monday.

From my leather journal. (With new thoughts sprinkled in while I transcribe.) 

3/20

Note: Please excuse any bumps and inky bruises on this page; I’m driving. Well, Brody is driving. We just turned off the highway at Crescent Junction, on our way to Moab for the week. I don’t think either of us really know why we’re in my car heading south right now, but I’d like to think that part of it is just the magic. Like the purple and the orange glow of the sunset streaming through the haze of this passing dust storm.

View of Castleton Tower in Moab, UT.

3/21

Good morning, Moab.

Right now, I’m sitting on a rock somewhere up Long’s Canyon off Potash Road. My face and ears are covered in tiny little flies. It’s early, and I’m not in a rush. Brody made french toast with berries and maple syrup for Dakota and I when we woke up. My piece is kind of burnt, but I don’t like sweet breakfast anyways so it’s okay. I hardly slept last night. My sleeping pad deflated. I can’t wait to climb.

Brody makes french toast on the first morning of our trip to Moab.

Later.

I didn’t believe we were actually going to Moab until I pulled up to Brody’s downtown apartment with my rig full of gear. A never-gonna-happen whim had turned into an oh-I-should-pack overnight, so we left Salt Lake City on a Monday afternoon and pointed south to the desert–my happiest of places.

We met up with our soon-to-be new friend Dakota (Jones, you might know him if you’re a runner–he’s real fast and a rad human being), at a dimly-lit park just after sundown. On the first and second nights, we slept down Long’s Canyon. We started the trip climbing classics at Wallstreet on Potash Road, then returned to our camp spot for a lazy lunch. Once my belly was full of veggies and tortilla and weird beet dressing, we sailed the Pilot up a bumpy dirt road to Maverick’s Buttress. I had never climbed there before, but I think I’d certainly like to go back.

Climbing at Wallstreet on Potash Road outside of Moab, UT.Gear, everywhere. Okay, Brody pretty much always makes the food. I just eat it.Climbing at Maverick Buttress down Long's Canyon in Moab, UT.

On the last full day, we climbed the classic Kor-Ingall’s route up Castleton Tower. I stood on top of the proper summit first, and took my moment of solitude to soak in the overwhelming feeling of smallness. I’ve never felt so tiny. Unsurprisingly, I cried a little bit at the top before the boys scrambled up. It was one of those moments that just remind you how audacious it is to be alive on this earth.

What a gift that I get to exist on this planet and do things like climb up a sandstone tower on a Wednesday afternoon.

Brody and I somewhere on pitch three of the Kor-Ingalls route up Castleton Tower. Enjoying a peaceful moment at the top of Castleton Tower in Moab, UT.On the summit of Castleton Tower with Dakota Jones and Brody Leven.

[Insert things about love and stealing kisses between pitches and two sleeping bags in the rain. I can’t share every detail from my journal, you know.]

Thursday morning, I awoke during twilight to the sound of rain pattering on the roof of my rig. We slept with the hatch open to catch the breeze, and I jolted up sure that our feet would be soaked from the storm. I patted our sleeping bags, and while a little wet, it wasn’t enough to wake up and shut the door.

Later, I woke back up to sunrise pouring over the La Sals with mist rolling over the mountains and drips of sunshine filling the space between the peaks and my sleepy bones.

(The last three photos, from Castleton Tower, were all taken by Brody. Thanks Brody. I left my phone and camera behind for the climb, and I’m so glad I did.)

Weeks 8-9: Snowstorms + Outdoor Love in Asheville, NC

Oh, Asheville. With only 20 days to immerse myself into the weird and wonderful world of Western North Carolina, I found myself literally feeling stressed out about making sure I soaked it all up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. There was no way to properly experience all of the magic of Asheville in such a short time–but I sure did try.

Here’s a quick highlight reel from my favorite Asheville moments, sights, and sounds:

Katie Boué hiking DuPont State Forest in North Carolina.

Hiking in DuPont State Forest

Holy waterfalls! You like waterfalls? You got waterfalls, if you make the short drive out to DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC. The area has six main waterfalls, and five of ‘em are easily accessible on a single trail. Obviously I had to hike it. It’s a wide trail, packed with people on a weekend, and not exactly a full “wild outdoors” feel, but still worth it for an afternoon adventure. Mcgoo and I hiked to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. I spotted a covered bridge higher up in the hills, but we got lost trying to find the trail out there and eventually gave up.

The fellas from Bro’d Trip have a vlog that shows a bit of the hike–I totally went back the next day and re-hiked it with them, actually finding the covered bridge this time. Check out the video here, and skip to about the 1:07 mark to get to my cameo + the DuPont hiking.

Bonus spot: Make the short drive up to Buzzard Rock right before sunrise–and you’ll get epic views of the city below like this one: 

The sunrise view from Buzzard Rock in Asheville, NC.

Caught in Asheville’s 2015 Snowpocalypse

Somehow, I always end up in the southeast when there’s an epic snowstorm. And by epic, I mean usually just a few inches of snow that shuts down the entire city. This time, however, a whopping 13 inches dumped downtown–and totally shut everything down. The resulting adventures were probably my favorite part of my time in Asheville. Cars were rendered useless, and the people took back the streets on foot. Bar hopping across town while riding in a sled? Yes please. Whiskey just tastes better when you’ve trudged 3 miles in the snow to get to it.

Sledding during the big 2016 Asheville snowstorm.

Food and Beer and More Food

You guys. Asheville has a jammin’ food culture. The best trout (hell, the best fish. period.) I ever had in my life from The Market Place. Jamaican food so good we went two days in a row at Nine Mile–and yes, I ordered the same thing both times, it was that good. I had a religious experience eating the cheese plates at Wicked Weed. Pro tip: Get a beer flight the first time you go to Wicked Weed, because you will be back multiple times for those cheese plates, so you might as well figure out what kind of beer is your favorite to accompany all that cheesy goodness.

The amazing cheese plate at Wicked Weed Brewery in Asheville, NC.

For a full dive into my time exploring the Asheville outdoor industry scene–and peeks into my visits with outdoor brands like ENO, Farm to Feet, and more–check out my OIA Roadshow: Asheville Edition story on the Outdoor Industry Association website. Here’s an excerpt:

“If you’ve ever been to Asheville, North Carolina, you’re already in on the not-so-subtle secret that it’s one of the greatest outdoor destinations in America–but for those of you who haven’t received the memo: This Southeastern city was voted one of the country’s best outdoor towns by Outside magazine in 2006, and made it to the voter’s choice list in 2014, too. It’s a recreation mecca in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers. You can hike, bike, paddle, climb–and sometimes even ski–all within a short drive of the downtown area.”

I know, I know, there’s so much more to be said to fully encapsulate how incredible Asheville is. I wish I could have stayed longer to spend more time soaking up this vibrant city and its culture–but alas, there’s so much more America to explore!

Week 7: Exploring Asheville, NC

After an exhausting week in Salt Lake City, I couldn’t wait to slow down and get cozy at my new Airbnb in Asheville. Flying into the small city directly came with a hefty price tag, so I booked my flight into Charlotte, where Mcgoo picked me up before heading to downtown for a Brazilian steakhouse feast with my Uncle Danny (who totally isn’t actually my uncle, but he should be). By the time we made it down to Asheville, we were wiped. I hardly had time to take in my new surroundings before pouring myself into bed.

My first morning in Asheville, I promptly beelined straight for an old favorite spot for breakfast, Early Girl Eatery. Bonus points: Our Airbnb is only a half mile walk away. Wham bam! Pictured below is my grub of choice, the veggie bowl loaded with black eyed peas, spinach, and local cheese curds. I love how this city is so passionate about sustainable, locally grown food.

The veggie bowl from Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC.

Honestly, this week has been a lot of indoor time. Adjusting to working remotely and shifting my focus from all-social-all-the-time to more hands on outdoor industry interactions is taking a bit of time to get used to. I’m all about putting myself out there in the digital world, but I’m totally an introvert in real life. Reaching out to strangers and making plans to travel to new places is more intimidating than I’d like to admit–but I’ve got a ton of exciting mini road trips and visits to outdoor brands + shops planned in the next two weeks that I can’t wait to share with you guys, both here and on OIA’s social channels.

In the meantime, I’m doing a lot of this:

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Florida: The USA’s Hidden Outdoor Adventure Gem

Here’s the thing: When I was a young adult living in Florida, I spent every weekend trying to get outside. And for some reason, I thought I had to cross state lines in order to achieve outdoor bliss. I’d spend up to 12 hours driving in a single weekend to go camp.

If only I knew then what I know now.

I went on a two-day camping trip to Ginnie Springs to film an outdoor video for VISIT FLORIDA, and it completely changed my perspective on getting outside in my home state. Spoiler alert: I’m already planning my next adventure down to Florida. It’s that good.

Here are five reasons why Florida is the USA’s untapped, entirely underrated gem for outdoor adventure:

Camping at Ginnie Springs.

 There’s an activity for every outdoorist.

At the Ginnie Springs welcome center, I saw folks hauling personal watercraft, inner tubes, scuba and snorkeling gear, hiking equipment, camping gear, BBQ supplies — the works. In just 24 hours, I managed to canoe up the river, chase fish while snorkeling in the springs, explore trails, eat steak around a campfire, hunt (unsuccessfully) for crawfish, attempt slack-lining, and get a full night’s sleep in my tent perched on a dewy peninsula overlooking the water.

If you look past the notion that Florida is nothing but beaches and retired folks, you’ll see that the Sunshine State is home to an abundance of outdoor opportunity. There are 3 National Parks, 161 State Parks, and more public recreation spaces than I can count. Bike paths stretch for miles, unique ecosystems beg to be explored, and a lack of mountains means you’ll always find a flat spot to pitch your tent.

The wildlife feels like you’re on another planet.

Lizards that can walk on water, birds waking you up with a cacophony of sound, manatees munching on sea grass, bejeweled beetles, and masked raccoons peeking out at you from the mangroves? Yes, please! I’m a sucker for creatures, and Florida knows how to deliver.

During my camping trip to Ginnie Springs, our crew was woken up in the middle of the night by two dueling owls who had taken up a battle of hoots in the trees directly above our tents. Sure, it interrupted my slumber–but it was worth it to get a front row seat to pure nature.

The water temperature in the springs stays at 72º all year.

Swimming at Ginnie Springs.Swimming at Ginnie Springs.

In the summertime, it’s the perfect way to seek relief from the heat–and in the winter, the water actually feels warm when the temperatures drop at night. I was expecting to jump into the spring and immediately want to bail, but I ended up snorkeling for hours.

And this isn’t just Ginnie Springs–I’m talking about every spring in Florida. Find the nearest one, load up your snorkel gear, and get psyched to make a splash off a rope swing–they’re everywhere.

You don’t have to be a hardcore adventurer to enjoy Florida’s outdoors.

Camping at Ginnie Springs.

I like to challenge myself outdoors, but I don’t always need every outing to be the kind of trip I need to train six months and buy $1,000 in technical equipment for. Florida’s outdoors is accessible to anyone who wants to experience it. Just want to car camp and spend a weekend under the stars with your family? Easy. Want to go on a multiday cycling and backpacking trip along the coast? Done deal.

When I lived in Colorado, we used to spend hours looking for an open campsite on the weekends–and once had to turn around and drive home after giving up on finding a spot. In Florida, you aren’t battling massive crowds to find your own slice of outdoor heaven, and many sites are easily reserved online.

This is what winter in Florida looks like. Seriously. Cue the mic drop.

Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.

I’ve been around the USA block a few times, and I’ve experienced just about every type of seasonal weather from heat waves to blizzards–but nothing compares to a winter in Florida. While folks are waiting hours in lift lines and scraping ice off their windshields, you can be basking in sunshine and wearing sandals.

Disclaimer: If you’ve been following me on social media, you already know–VISIT FLORIDA sponsored this trip and provided compensation for me to get out and explore Florida’s outdoors. As usual, all thoughts, #LoveFL vibes, and opinions are my own.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

Weeks 4 & 5 – Sunburnt: Winter in Miami

I used to love the long haul between Colorado and Florida. I’ve driven it over a dozen times, and it used to enchant me. These days, I’ve become a road trip curmudgeon. How do both Texas and Kansas stretch for so long? Why are southerners such awful drivers? And who the hell put KFC at every highway rest stop instead of the clearly superior Popeyes? 

The drive from Boulder to Miami wasn’t romantic. Mcgoo and I caravanned across the country, stopping only to pee or fuel up. We spent the night crammed in our driver’s seats as we attempted to sleep at a rest area right on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. This is what I looked like in the morning:

The reality of a nomadic lifestyle.

Not cute.

Ultimately, the decision to press through and just drive straight down to Miami was an excellent choice. I pulled into my familiar driveway just before midnight on Sunday evening, was greeted by hugs from my ma and a lit up (fake, ugh) Christmas tree, and quickly collapsed into my old bed.

Being in Miami for the holidays is a bit unconventional. The only white Christmas you’ll get is a sandy one, and on Christmas Eve I was out getting sunburnt while kayaking. One thing is universal though: the joy of being with family. My ‘people’ are a bunch of loud, borderline insane Cubans + Mexicans, so things tend to get a little rowdy when we’re all in the same room.

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In other news, if your pops ever asks you to wake up before the sunrise to go kayaking on the bay with him in hopes of catching a huge flock of birds waking up and taking flight–go with him.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but hot damn, what an experience. I was groggy and slow dragging my kayak out to the water, but watching the sun crest the horizon and trigger a wave of seabirds to come flying overheard was one hell of a way to wake up.

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Just before New Years, I took a solo road trip up to Ginnie Springs to shoot a camping video–sponsored by Visit Florida (#LoveFL, y’all!), the state’s tourism board. They let me invite two lady friends along, and it ended up being the perfect two days of snorkeling in crystal clear springs, canoeing down a river, eating steak around a campfire, hunting for crawdads, and reconnecting with two friends I can’t believe I went so long without seeing. But there will be another blog post about this trip on the 14th–stay tuned!

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I made it back down to Miami just in time to head out to Coconut Grove for an Indian feast at Bombay Darbar before hitting the water to watch fireworks from the boat. I had a moment while the boat skimmed along the black sea–I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so present. It was one of those heart-swelling, body tingling, shit-eating grin kinda moments.

My peace was quickly interrupted by honking party boats and my attention quickly turned to whiskey gingers, but the good vibes remained. 2016 is going to be one for the books (or rather, one for the blogs?).

Weeks 2 & 3: Boulder Life and Leaving the Office

The last few weeks–err months, arguably the last two years–have been a series of transitions. First there were the purges, then turning in the keys to my house, and now a new phase of kinda-on-the-road but mostly still-in-the-office. My personal life has been completely upheaved, but everything was business as usual at work. I still went into OIA HQ each day, still sat in my cubicle–with a view of the Flatirons, so I can’t complain. Honestly, this was a weird week for me.

I’m ready to go, and somewhat already gone, but also still stuck.

Katie Boué of TheMorningFresh.com

Another big­–and very positive–change came about this week. Mcgoo and I couldn’t handle another night in our fly-ridden, mold-lurking Airbnb, so we bit the bullet and cancelled our reservation. I felt awful leaving the nice fella who owned the property, but we hadn’t slept a full night since arriving and Mcgoo was starting to get sick from the funky smelling air.

Let me tell you, our new Boulder Airbnb was a palace. Beautifully decorated, owned by a young climber couple, and full of everything I love: photographs of Indian Creek, old bones, polaroids from Yosemite, posters from musicians like The Black Keys & TV on the Radio, you name it. I mean, look at this place:

Our Airbnb in Boulder, CO. Another photo from our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.Our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.

We got hit by a huge snowstorm this week, which was the perfect farewell to winter. I’m constantly torn between loving the cozy vibes of a wintry wonderland and just plain ‘ole hating being cold. The struggle is real y’all.

One last photo from the backyard of our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.

On Thursday, the OIA staff did our annual hike up to the Boulder Star, then we all went out for dinner and drinks to celebrate my departure. Friday was a normal day–until 4:00 rolled around. I said my farewells, rode the elevator downstairs, then slid into my car and promptly felt my eyes well up with tears. I wasn’t expecting to get so choked up.

Ultimately, I want nothing more than to never be in a cubicle ever again–but also, I’m going to really miss the camaraderie and damn good vibes the OIA crew has. I still bug them every day with e-mails and video conference calls, but there’s nothing like popping your head into the kitchen and messing around with your colleagues. Plus, now I miss out on all the beer.

Hiking to the Boulder Star on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, CO.

Mcgoo and I had our final Colorado dinner at Under The Sun, the sister restaurant to our beloved Southern Sun brewery. If you’re ever in Boulder, you must go eat at Southern Sun. Best nachos on the planet. Those cheesy, gooey, never-gonna-finish-‘em nachos are probably one of the only things I’ll truly miss about Boulder.

Before the sun rose on Saturday morning, my Scion tC was already on the highway heading east. And so begun the 2090 mile journey down to my hometown, Miami.

Weeks 0 & 1: Goodbye Denver, Hello Boulder!

It’s been about two weeks since I turned in the keys to my adorable house on Grant Street in Denver. Packing up my entire life and downsizing to accommodate my new mobile lifestyle was a whirlwind. At first, I skimmed my belongings and clung to sentiments, barely making a dent in the massive amount of stuff I had accumulated during my two years living in Colorado. As go-time lurked closer and closer, I quickly converted towards the “Purge all the things!” mind set. On November 30th, I slid the key to 159 S Grant street off my carabiner and locked the door behind me.

My darling old house on historic South Grant Street in Colorado.

Since then, I’ve stayed in two Airbnbs in Boulder while wrapping up work at OIA’s HQ. Why two? Well, the first one turned out to be a major mistake in judgement–I actually don’t even have any pictures of the place. It was a charming property with tons of house plants and a very kind (but super chatty) host, but we eventually had to cancel our reservation after Mcgoo literally became allergic to the funky air and houseflies + a noisy heater rendered us sleepless. It would have been a good spot if we were just staying for a night or two, but we’ve learned our longer stays = being a bit choosier with our Airbnbs.

Thank goodness for a flexible cancellation policy.

Our new Airbnb in Boulder is divine. I can’t wait to show you pictures next week. It’s a gorgeous two-bedroom house owned by a climber couple with impeccable style. The walls are adorned with mountain paintings, polaroids from Yosemite, and concert posters featuring bands like TV On The Radio, The Roots, and The Black Keys. Bookshelves are lined with climbing guidebooks, beautiful animal bones, and tchotchkes from the hosts’ travels. I am seriously kicking myself for not booking this place originally. A fresh coat of snow only makes this place even more flawless. I’m in love.

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While in Boulder we’ve been taking it easy as we adjust to this nomadic lifestyle. There’s a lot to learn. Since I’m still working out of the office, I’ve been horrible about cooking my own meals. My relationship with Whole Foods is getting seriously unhealthy–in an ironically healthy way.

These tofu salad rolls from the Whole Foods sushi bar are addictive. I mean, look at them. Who wouldn’t want that for lunch, every day?

The tofu salad roll from Whole Foods' sushi bar.

I’m also getting a little sentimental about leaving Outdoor Industry Association HQ. I’ll be traveling back to the Front Range frequently for important company events and spending time with my colleagues, but damn, I’m going to miss them. Our team is top notch, and I love spending time with my ragtag crew of co-workers. I mean, how many other marketing departments get together to climb during lunch on a regular basis?

It’ll be sad saying goodbye, but I’m stoked to convince all of them to come meet me out on the road at some point…

The view from Lake Standley in Colorado.

Next week is our last before we hit the road down to Miami for the holidays. Confession: I still have a bit of purging and organizing to do before we’ll be able to fit everything in just two cars (Mcgoo’s Subaru Outback–which is what we’ll be traveling in–and my Scion tC). It’s going to be a tight squeeze, but we’ve got a few things like paintings and family heirlooms that we have to transport back to Florida for storage before we finalize our on-the-go packing situation. Wish me luck!

Want to follow along on my adventures? Get connected on Twitter, FacebookInstagram. For all the action in real-time, make sure to follow me on Snapchat – username: kboue! 

I’m hitting the road (again)

Remember that time I spent a year living in a van while traveling around the USA to climb, explore and discover? That was pretty damn rad, and while I’m glad I traded in the broke dirtbag lifestyle for a salary and health insurance, something has been missing since I settled down in Colorado: the spirit of life on the road.

I’ve learned that I’m just not very good at staying still.Hiking in the South Platte area of Colorado's Front Range, pre-Airbnb life.

Restlessness and wanderlust started gnawing at me over summer, escalating in intensity after spending 10 days in Costa Rica and road-tripping across the country. On those trips, I felt alive again. I didn’t wake up tired and dreading commutes; I awoke earlier, brighter, eager to write and take photos and work. My mind was filled once again with creative notions and passion for travel + the outdoors. It was clear: this lady is made to be on the road. So when Mcgoo declared “I’m leaving Colorado, you coming?” – there wasn’t really a choice to be made. The only answer was yes.

But here’s the thing: I love my day job. The thought of having to choose between my work that I love and a lifestyle that fulfills me was agonizing. So I came up with a crazy idea, and pitched it to my employer, Outdoor Industry Association. I spent weeks putting together a presentation that first highlighted my accomplishments, then paused with an ‘intermission’ slide before launching into my announcement that I had decided to leave Colorado but really, really didn’t want that to mean the end of my work with OIA (real talk: my eyes teared up immediately when it was time to drop the “I’m hitting the road, please let me keep my job” bomb–that meeting was full of the feels).

My plan outlined the idea of turning me into a mobile advocate for OIA. Building relationships with our brand and retail members all across the country, bringing the outdoor industry community together, and documenting it all through social media and content creation. And for some crazy reason, they supported my vision. It was–and still is–a lot of work to bring to fruition, but all the pieces are coming together.

Here’s the other thing: I’m over van life. My year spent living in a Sprinter was phenomenal, life-changing, and beautiful–but I’ve realized that isn’t the way for me to travel this time. Vans are a blast, but they’re not always a sustainable way to live on the road. Mcgoo and I are both working full-time during our explorations, so we need proper work spaces, wi-fi, and a small bit of stability. I’m not operating on a dirtbag budget anymore, so there’s no reason not to jazz up the on-the-go lifestyle.

So how will this nomadic couple travel full-time while maintaining our professional lives?  Airbnb.My big announcement: I'm hitting the road full time. Hello, Airbnb life!

Katie & Matt, traveling and working full-time while exploring the USA and living in Airbnbs.

Our plan is really quite simple: We’ll be spending 3-8 weeks in each destination as we make our way around the USA for the next few years. We’re already in our second Airbnb property since giving up the keys to my house on November 30th–and I couldn’t be happier. Currently, you can find us in Boulder. As I type this, I’m peeking out the window of our gorgeous two-bedroom house, watching snowflakes sprinkle down on the backyard like powdered sugar on french toast. I don’t have a home anymore–but I have many homes.

I owe you much more about the plot of my life’s next chapter, and I’ll deliver all the details over the next week, but for now, it’s time to lace up my boots and go tromp around in the snow. I’m heading down to Miami next week, so I’m soaking up as much winter as possible before turning to the land of endless summer.

Got questions about my big announcement? Want to chat about Airbnb life or learn more about where I’m heading next? Hit me up on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and connect with me on Instagram! Shameless plug: If you’ve haven’t signed up with Airbnb yet (seriously?!), check it out using my referral link. 

#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…]