#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…]

Hitting the Road for the End of Summer

I’m finally surrendering to the seasons – summer (almost, pretty much, but not quite yet) is over. The air is slowly shifting towards a crisp chill, and I keep spying overeager trees with gold and crimson leaves. Fine. I can jive with the thought of thick scarves and cool climbing weather. But first I need to give my beloved summertime a proper send off.

I’m hitting the road for 3,766 miles of road trippin’!

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Here’s what’s really going on: Amble is coming back to Colorado for the fall, and I need to go scoop her cute toosh from Tallahassee, Florida. Given a perfect storm of holidays and PTO and other travel plans, it just made sense to hit the road and live out of the Subaru for 10 days to complete the mission. The adventure begins with the Colorado mountain wedding of two of my favorite humans, then continues southward towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. We’re passing through Durango on the way, so I’m hoping to hop out of the car for a few hours to explore if time permits.

After trucking across Texas–seriously why is that state so damn big–I’ll make a stop in Baton Rouge to visit an OIA member and do an interview + photoshoot at their outdoor retail shop. From there, it’s to the coast. I have a serious craving for saltwater and sand, so I’m spending a few days soaking up as much salty bliss as I can before hitting my most eastern destination: Tallahassee to pick up Amble pup!

IMG_1197The forecast is promising lots of rain, rain, and more rain–but ain’t nothing going to dampen how excited I am about reuniting with my pup and basking in some saltwater. Spending a few nights cozied up in mountain cabins and seaside shacks with my adventure partner doesn’t sound too shabby either.

Do you have any end of summer trips planned? Are you ready to give up the season of sunshine and swimming holes? I want to hear your plans! Be sure to follow my journey in real-time on Snapchat (kboue), Twitter, and Instagram.

Hit the Trails and Become a Weekday Warrior

I never thought I would become a weekend warrior. In fact, I spent years dedicated to a pursuit of a lifestyle where “weekend warrior” does not apply. But here I am, working 40 hours a week and regulating much of my outdoor time to the way-too-short weekend.

But I’ve realized something: spending time outside is integral to my happiness. Spending every single day sitting behind a desk cranking on deadlines or sitting behind a steering wheel in rush hour traffic is just not the key to a positive life. So why do we confine ourselves to outdoor adventures solely on days when we don’t have to go to work the next morning?

The outdoors are in reach any day of the week.IMG_0497

I’ll admit, I totally have it made. I work just a stone’s throw away from Boulder’s mountainous treasure trove of trails, forest roads, and open spaces. I leave the office every day at 4:00, so I decided to see if I could indeed squeeze adventure into my weekday grind.

Spoiler alert: It was a success.

The first experiment with post-workday outdoor pursuits was technically on a Sunday, but since I still had to wake up at 6:00 AM the next day, I’m counting it. My lady pal Laurie and I decided to hike out to Lake Isabelle to catch the sunset, and hit the road towards Brainard Lake Recreation Area around 4:30 PM.

I immediately realized one of the perks of getting outdoors on a “school night” – the trails are empty. Anyone we encountered on the hike out to the lake were all headed in the opposite direction, back to the parking lot. What kind of maniacs start a hike at dinner time?IMG_0500IMG_0401

[Read more…]

Outdoor Essentials for an Endless Summer

Spring is swell, and autumn is amusing (and winter, well, it’s woeful if you ask me) – but summer is forever. My mission this season has been to embrace the idea of microadventures, and just get outdoors as often as possible. Whether it’s camping in the backcountry, hiking after work, or just going for a lazy Sunday drive in the foothills, this summer is all about being outside.

In fact, I’m writing this guide to the essential gear for an endless summer while swinging in my hammock out in my backyard. For the record: It’s 73º, breezy, and full of sunshine out here. And I just reached over to pluck a golden cherry tomato from my garden and plop it into my mouth. Like I said, summer forever. 

After months of testing, wearing, and munching, here’s a guide to my favorite summertime outdoor products:
Camping in Cottonwood Pass while snacking on a meal from Fireside Provisions

Camp food from Fireside Provisions

Ultra light backpacking is fine and dandy – but most of the time, I’m way more into convenient camping. I’m all about picking a random forest road, driving down it until I find a suitable dispersed campsite in the woods, and setting up a cozy nook in nature while snacking and soaking up fresh air. Have I become a lazy camper? Perhaps. But I dig it – sometimes you have to ditch the complications of getting outdoors and embrace the easy route. Cue the simple solution provided by the folks at Fireside Provisions. [Read more…]

Crag Dog Adventures in Utah

Here’s the problem with human companions: They come with too many variables. Ask someone, “Want to go out on an adventure?” and your response will inevitably be a “Yes, but _____.” There’s always something – yes but I have to work, or get my oil changed, or hang out with my boyfriend.

And here’s the thing about dogs: There are no buts. The answer is always “YES!” All it takes is one sniff of your backcountry gear piled by the doorway and they’re ready to hit the road ­– no matter what the adventure is.

Amble spent the first few months of her life traveling in a big yellow van, so she’s been groomed for a life of adventure since she was a pup. Nothing thrills her more than getting her paws dirty and sprinting like a torpedo through the outdoors. And you know, she might just love Utah wilderness as much as I do.IMG_8815IMG_8842

We sought out to hop around eastern Utah for a weekend with lady-friend Alex, with Joe’s Valley and Moab as our two destinations. I packed my climbing gear, Amble brought her freeze dried raw Merrick pet munchies, and we drove off into the mountains.

After a night spent folded like origami sleeping in my hatchback, the first stop of our mini-roadtrip was Joe’s Valley – one of my favorite places on earth. After exploring a few of my favorite boulders, the heat became unbearable, so we decided to drive back down country roads to a cluster of boulders we had noticed off a dirt road.IMG_8825IMG_8827

It look less than 30 seconds of peeking around the newfound boulder field to realize that we had just happened upon a sandstone goldmine. Rocks towering 30+ feet in to the air greeted us as we bumped down a very dusty forest road. I wanted to get closer to the field, so I coaxed my little hatchback further and further down the increasingly muddy road ­– and then it happened.

My tires started spinning, mud started flying, and my forward motion quickly ceased.

We were stuck.

Frankly, I was torn between pride and concern. I’ve always loved my little Scion for breaking the mold of adventure vehicles. It’s a city slicker, but my hatchback has traveled across the country a dozen times, navigates dirt roads like a champ, and always keeps me safe. The fact that it even took me to a place where I could get it stuck was a proud moment. And then I realized that didn’t exactly change the fact that I was stuck.

Alex and I quickly gathered as many big, flat stones as we could and wedged them under my tires. She pushed, I gave ‘er gas, and after a few attempts we freed ourselves from the mud. Defeated, we parked at a primitive campsite and walked the rest of the road to the boulders. Amble much preferred the walking over the driving.IMG_8819

I won’t say exactly where we were, because I’m selfish and want to go back there to scrub those dirty boulders until they resemble the beautiful lines they deserve to be. But the point is: these boulders are the real deal. While Amble investigated every inch of dry, cracked mud with her heeler nose, Alex and I set to work inspecting the rock faces and dreaming up boulder problems.DSC_0341 DSC_0326

Drained from the sun and stoked on our discovery, we retreated to the valley for another night crammed in my hatchback as rain pounded the desert outside. Left with soaked boulders, we ditched Joe’s Valley a few hours before sunrise and took off towards Moab.

Big Bend Boulders is one of the most convenient bouldering spots out west, if you ask me. It’s not the biggest, or the boldest – but it’s easy, sunny, and a great place to spend an afternoon. I showed Alex a few of my favorite lines, and we took turns flailing on projects and tossing sticks for Amble to chase.IMG_8861 DSC_0416DSC_0378DSC_0454

[Read more…]

Getting Wild 4 Backcountry

Can I just take a minute to gush about how delightful it is to have Amble around again? How much more magical being outside is with my partner-in-adventure? It’s almost too much. Campfires feel warmer, sleeping bags are snugglier, and trails always seem to get a little messier.

She was born to be an outdoor pup, and as she’s getting bigger it’s always remained a top priority to make sure she’s eating right. Amble has been grain-free since she was a puppy, and gets spoiled with fresh-cooked eggs, high protein meals, and a likely excess of healthy treats. When given the opportunity to let her do some gear testing of her own, I was a little skeptical about letting her try a new food – until I did some research on Merrick Pet Food. They use freeze-dried raw meat and locally sourced produce – all grown in the USA – from family farms. Plus, everything from raw ingredients to the final packaged product are produced under the same roof. I was sold.

But how exactly do you let a dog gear-test food?photo 2

I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to tell how Amble felt about the food. Would she react differently? Would I notice anything else? Who knew. Then I opened up her Pacific Catch kibble, fished out a little bit of freeze-dried salmon, and used it as bait to get her to go through her usual commands. After the treat disappeared into her mouth, she stared at me with the most intent, borderline-crazed expression I have ever witnessed. Clearly, she wanted more.

The second clue that Merrick got the Amble stamp of approval came when I introduced wet food into the mix. Amble has always been very into food, but once I mixed a few spoonfuls of Alpine Rabbit Stew into her dinner, she totally went bananas. She spent 20 solid minutes licking her bowl clean (it was totally clean after about 45 seconds). When she was done eating, she came right over to me, sat down, and kept looking from me to the countertop where the food was.

In that moment it became very clear to me how the whole “letting your dog gear test food” concept works out.

20150607-DSC0265120150607-DSC02695 [Read more…]

How to Become a Runner Overnight 

It all started in a weight room. As I grunted and strained under the guidance of my favorite training partner, she pitched a curveball my way (as if convincing me to deadlift wasn’t insane enough).

We should go for a run around Wash Park,” Heather suggested.

My response? “Ha, okay. Good luck with that one.

Because here’s the thing: I’ve never been into anything remotely involving cardio endurance. I lived for years under the strict rule that I don’t run unless I’m being chased. Why run when you can walk instead?

Reluctantly, I laced up my too-small sneakers and met my four-woman training crew near the pond at Washington Park. I felt almost sick with dread – I already hated running, and there was no way I’d be able to complete this 2.5 mile circuit around the park.

Then something unexpected happened. My feet began to hit the pavement in a rhythmic pitter-patter, my lungs filled sharply with cold Colorado air, and my entire body woke up from a hibernation I didn’t realize I had been in. I hardly made it a mile before I need to pause for fear of my body bursting from exertion – but within seconds, I wanted to run more.

So I did. And then I ran again the next day. And the next.Running at City Park in Denver, CO.

It seems that I’ve become a runner. In a few weeks I went from being allergic to running to acquiring four pairs of running shoes, signing up for the BolderBoulder as a sponsored participant, and even doing a photo campaign for a major nationwide running brand.

So how does one become a runner overnight?

You just run.

In four short days, I’ll be running my first race. The BolderBoulder is the Front Range’s most beloved 10K – a true community event where speed doesn’t seem to be quite as important as having a memorable adventure while cruising through the streets, down slip-n-slides, and past live music. For once in my life I didn’t let my pursuits become encumbered by logistics or gear or personal limitations – I just put on shoes, and ran when it felt good. Some days, it didn’t feel so good, so I didn’t run. Becoming as runner has been one of the most organic recreational experiences I’ve ever had.

I’m no expert, but if you too have the itch to feel your feet slapping trails, here’s some rookie advice:

  1. Drink a lot of water. The #1 piece of advice for anyone doing anything outside. Hydrate.
  2. Invest in proper running shoes. I ran in too-small sneakers, hiking boots, and even hybrid water/trail shoes before realizing how important proper footwear is. Now that I run in Adidas and Skechers shoes, my body feels better, my feet feel better, and frankly, I don’t look like such a noob.
  3. Start with a friend who will pace you properly. Turns out, I have an issue with running way too fast. Luckily, Heather is an excellent pacer and taught me how to run slow. Because running slow = running further.
  4. Be mindful of your body. Running hurts, and your body will respond accordingly. I picked up runner’s knee within the first week, and had to tone it down while my joints got used to all the pavement pounding.
  5. Choose dirt over pavement. If you can, run on trails. I’ve found that it makes such a difference to run on soft surfaces instead of concrete. Not to mention the major upgrade in scenery when you go from a jog around the block to a jaunt through the trees.

Runners, what advice would you give to someone keen on the idea of dabbling with running?

Summer is starting…

I spend a lot of time collecting pieces of plans. Ideas for collaboration, e-mails from gear companies, inklings of grand adventures. Inevitably, most of these half-baked notions never come to any sort of fruition – but when they do, it usually happens all at once. Like right now.

It started with unexpectedly with mystery e-mails about a mystery trip that will have to remain a mystery until further notice – but then the (sharable) details of half a dozen more plans started falling into place too.

First, I dotted a few i’s and crossed a few t’s to start a partnership with Merrick Pet Care as ambassadors to celebrate the launch of their newest all-natural dog food line. More details to come, but the jist is this: thanks to Merrick, Amble is coming out to Colorado in May for a climbing adventure, and she’ll be hanging out with me in the west for a few weeks while Niko goes surfing in Peru. Get excited for some rad #amblegrams.

Amblee3 Amblee

Photos by Alex Alchin.

After crushing in Joe’s Valley and around the Front Range with the pooch and lady-friend Alex (who is bringing Amble out here), my parents will fly into Denver for some Boué fam-jam time. While they’re here, I’ll be gearing up to do something I’ve never done before:

I’m running a 10k – the BolderBOULDER to be exact.Running

Despite my honest warning that they’d be supporting a gal who is likely to be the very last person to cross the finish line, the folks at BolderBOULDER invited me to become a “sponsored runner”. It’s slightly amusing since I can barely count myself as a runner, but I am thrilled to be challenging myself to my first race. I have about a month to wrap up my training, which is a little daunting – but I’ve totally fallen in love with the rhythm of running, especially on trails. Stay tuned for more updates as my journey from #couchtocrush takes on a whole new element.

Then there’s that other trip, which may or may not be happening sometime in June. My lips are sealed (and I frankly don’t even know where I’m going yet), but before this adventure begins, I’ll be road tripping with Amble from Denver to Tallahassee – yet another tick on my cross-country list. I never got a chance to stuff my face with corn nuggets on the last trip, so this will be my redemption.

Phew, that’s a lot.

Call me crazy, but I have a strong feeling this summer is going to majorly kick ass.

I’m hitting the road – to the southeast!

Since my year in the van ended, I’ve gone on quite a few road trips – but they’ve all been little league status. Circuits around western Colorado, weekends in Moab, driving from Miami to Sarasota for a wedding. All great trips, but nothing quite like the long stretches of endless road and vague plans of a grand adventure.

But on Wednesday, I’m adding another tick to my cross-country map circuit:

I’m road tripping down to Florida for Tally Rock Gym’s Save The South climbing comp!

As it turns out, one of the few downsides of leaving the freelance world is that you can’t just take off for weeks at a time – so I’m squeezing a wonderful 3,350 mile road trip into just six and a half days. ‘Cause I have to be back for work on Tuesday, you know? Here’s what the road trip circuit looks like:

Road trip Colorado to Florida.

The plan is to leave Colorado and well, just drive. I’m planning on snagging the passenger seat for the first stretch so I can finally get some photos of the mountains along I-25 heading towards Santa Fe, then we’ll press on until we hit New Orleans! I haven’t been back to New Orleans since I was a little kid, so I’m stoked. We’re staying at a historic haunted hotel right in the heart of the city, and our tick-list includes beignets, live jazz, and cajun food. After that, we’ll make a pit stop somewhere to touch the gulf (because, saltwater!) before shooting east towards Tallahassee.

I cannot wait to get to Tallahassee so I can fill my belly with corn nuggets from Lindy’s, soak up all the springtime blossoms, pull some sweet plastic at Tally Rock Gym, and give some loving to gorgeous miss Amble pup. The 5th annual Save The South bouldering competition to benefit the Southeastern Climbers Coalition is already promising to be a mega rad reason for this road trip – we’ve got a killer event lined up and two local breweries who donated some delicious brew to our SCC after party!

On Sunday morning, Mcgoo and I are going to haul ourselves up to Chattanooga for a day of climbing before hitting the road hardcore back to Colorado. I’m pretty psyched ’cause this is our first ‘big’ road trip together – we’ll see how long it lasts before he wants to toss me out of the Subaru. His adoration for me just oozes out of this photo, amirite?

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It feels so good to have a reason to hit the road again, and this trip combined with all the training I’ve been doing lately feels like a retreat to complete the beginning of the next phase of life. My body feels good, my mind feels good, my Gmail inbox is finally cleared out, my knack for writing seems to have returned, and all the pieces seem to be falling into place. High five, universe!

 

Hangboards + Climbing

First rule: never walk by a hangboard (or pull-up bar, or rings, or any sturdy door frame) without doing a pull-up. No but really, unless you’re resting, just do it. Mastering the pull-up is essential to leveling up your climbing game.

But seriously, don’t forget about climbing in all your #couchtocrush training. A lot of fitness plans tend to slack out on the climbing part of it all – but I can guarantee you that the single best way to become a better climber is to climb. Incorporating hangboarding and climbing ‘games’ is key to a successful fitness routine:

Couch To Crush Guide to Climbing Training – Hangboard Training and Climbing

HANGBOARDS

My hangboard circuits have been fairly standard thus far while I build my finger strength back up. As is outlined in Deadpoint Mag’s Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks plan, I choose six different hangboard positions per session. Each set of hangs goes like this:

For your first rep, gently hang from the chosen grips for 10 seconds (start with the harder and move towards easier holds). Drop, and rest for five seconds before pulling on again. Repeat six times per position. Once you’ve completed the set, rest for two minutes.

Here are some tips for hangboards:

  • Your arms and shoulders should be engaged, but not totally locked off. They’re called ‘hangs’ for a reason, folks.
  • Work with a partner. It’s great to have someone to help keep time and make hangboarding a bit less tedious. A stopwatch is really helpful, especially if you can prop it up somewhere you can keep an eye on it while hanging.
  • Don’t overdo it. I usually do hangboard training once a week. In winter when I’m not climbing as much, twice a week is totally fine if you’re up to it. You want to strength your fingers, but you don’t want to overwork them – that’s how injuries happen, and “I busted my tendon on a hangboard” makes for a really crappy reason to get sidelined.
  • Give yourself a decent rest after every hangboard session. You can train hard all you want, but you won’t give your body time to properly recover (and get stronger) without resting. Work hard, rest hard.

Check out this post from Evening Sends for a truly excellent guide to hangboarding that includes everything from tips on proper form to adding weight for additional intensity. Steph Davis also offers some great advice on hangboard training (along with an alternative hangs circuit), and this video from Chris Webb Parsons shows you how to level up your hangboard game with one-armed assisted hangs:

If you’re really committed to your hangboard training, read this post on TrainingBeta.com written by the authors of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Mark and Mike Anderson provide a deep look into choosing the right hangboard, exercises, and grip positions.

CLIMBING GAMES + WORKOUTS

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate intentional climbing sessions into your training:

  1. Bottoms Up: I use this to warm up a lot, and sometimes spend my whole day playing along until I max out – start a V0, and climb every line of that grade until you progress to the next level. In addition to really warming your muscles up, it provides a great bout of endurance training.
  2. Hop on the Systems Board: Just like campus boards, when I get on a systems board I always get a slice of humble pie right to the face. This thing will really whip you into shape – and you can make it a game with your partner. Grab a long stick brush, and while your partner is on the wall, point out each next hold for them to reach. Keep your core engaged, and really focus on your body movement.
  3. 4x4s: The perfect ‘game’ for the climber who wants a solid pump in a short period of time. Pick four boulder problems that sit within the range that’s pushing your limits (but not quite at them). I climb at an upper limit of about V5-6, so my ideal 4×4 would include a mix of V3-4s. Do each circuit as quickly as possible – and don’t be afraid about falling, because you absolutely should be if you’re pushing hard enough! 4x4s work your power endurance, and should leave you feeling pleasantly wiped out.
    1. Note: These can be a little difficult to do in a packed gym! I head to Movement Denver at 7 AM most mornings to avoid the crowds.
  4. Add-On: A great activity for when you’re not in try-hard-project-sending mode, add-on is a group game where each player takes a turn adding a move to the sequence. The game continues with players disqualified if they cannot complete the sequence, or forget any of the moves.

Climbing training at Movement Denver.Whatever you have to do to get yourself on the wall, don’t forget that the most important part of training for climbing is the part where you actually climb. You’re lifting weights, eating right, and working hard for one reason: to become a better climber.

Additional Resources:

Be sure to share your training photos on Instagram +Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag for a chance to win sweet climbing swag!