On taking big risks, embarking on new adventures, and getting out there

So there is this guy I’ve known since high school. Handsome kid, hardworking college graduate pursuing a career as an investment banking analyst. I’m always flattered to see comments and ‘likes’ from him as I document all my adventures, but he recently surprised me with the biggest compliment I have ever received.

Yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see a declaration from him in my news feed. It read:

“Holy crap! I just told my boss that I’m quitting my job to go travel the world. I’m either insane or just made the best decision of my life…I’m gonna say the latter! Wow, It’s all happening.”

Naturally, I jumped to congratulate him on his bold decision. I told him the truth: He had just made the best decision of his life. His response?

He told me that I was a part of his inspiration to quit his job and head out on a journey of worldly adventures. 

That, folks, is what this is all about. Maybe it’s the obscenely early morning and the lack of coffee flowing through my body at the moment, but I’m admittedly a bit misty-eyed to think that I contributed even the tiniest fraction of motivation for him to take such a daring leap into the world. Inspiring others to embrace life as an adventure is the reason I document my trips, spend endless unpaid hours writing, and take photos of every glorious little moment that enchants my life. And apparently, it worked.

Readers, consider this a call to arms. I dare you to leave your comfort zones, ditch the doldrums you’ve resigned yourself to, and get out into the world. Evan is choosing a truly courageous journey to experience destinations far beyond our country’s borders, but any adventure will do.

Can’t quit your job? Take a sabbatical. Take a long weekend – hell, just take the afternoon off. Drive outside of city limits, head towards the mountains, and get some dirt on your boots. Life is calling, and you can either sit around and let it pass you by – or you can take advantage of the adventure that awaits you. Go. Be bold. Take big risks, they tend to reap big rewards.

Seriously, you can do this.

Evan, congratulations again on following your intuition and seeking a journey that will ultimately change your life forever. I wish you all the best of luck and fortune during your travels – and can’t wait for you to unveil your own travel blog so I can keep up with all your worldly adventures. I am beyond honored to have been even the slightest inspiration for your decision to get out into the world. Cheers, buddy!

Introducing “Simply Adventure” – Reinventing the art of adventure in 2013

In May 2011, Niko and I embarked on a five-week trip across the country to climb, explore, and gain a new perspective on living. My leg of the journey began along the Atlantic coast in Miami, and together we traveled across mountains, prairies, and forests until reaching the Pacific ocean. After over a month spent living out of my parent’s Pilot, waking up with the rising sun, and spending afternoons splayed out in the sunshine of boulder fields – we returned home entirely changed.

It was quickly realized that we needed more.

We spent the next six months apart, with Niko studying in Tallahassee while I voyaged out on a seven-week solo trip and moved out to Denver for the fall and winter seasons. Upon reuniting, we decided our lives were better spent together – but that togetherness had a purpose.

We were built for a life of adventure.

And so, the plans began to form for a yearlong trip across the entire length America. At first, we dubbed it “The 2013 Trip,” but this epic journey deserved a more proper name – and thus, Simply Adventure was born. 

What are we doing?

We’re two perfectly regular people, proving that adventure is within anyone’s reach – all you have to do is choose a trail and follow it. We’re selling everything we own, buying a used van and building a home on wheels, simplifying our needs, and traveling America to discover everything that the land of the free has to offer. Our strongest passion is climbing, and through our journey we plan to support and advocate for local climbing communities and organizations. We also want to revive a love for living locally, focusing on local eateries and farmers markets.

Why are we doing this?

The common thread in all of our passions? The land.  We’re going to spread an appreciation for the unrivaled nature that sprawls across our country, and we hope to inspire others to embrace the values of land stewardship, conservation, and taking full advantage of what the outdoors has to offer. Whether it’s working to ensure access to a climbing crag in Tennessee, or supporting local farmers in California, we want to give back to communities who love the land.

We also want to demonstrate that what we’re doing isn’t some special journey reserved for a handful of folks daring enough to break free. Simply Adventure is a journey for EVERYONE. This experience is accessible to anyone – and we want you to come along for the ride. We hope to inspire you to forge you own path, dream about your own epic trips, and hit the road towards your adventure.

Where are we going?

Frankly, we want to go everywhere. Our map is still evolving, but we have a rough idea of our seasonal destinations. The adventure begins in January 2013, with a few months of climbing around the southern states to avoid the brutal winter up north. Once spring has sprung, we’ll begin meandering towards the mid-west and Pacific coast. Summertime will be spent in the northwestern region, and across the northernmost states. As the heat resides and the colors of autumn begin to blossom, we’ll follow fall along the northeast, and back down to our beloved southeast. The trip will conclude with a circuit around our favorite southern climbing areas.

For Katie, this trip will be the cherry on top of a lifetime of American travel. With only a handful of state lines left to be crossed, Katie will fulfill her goal of visiting all 50 states by summertime. And Niko? Well, he’s always up for exploring new territory.

So, how can you get involved?

Without you, our trip is meaningless. Simply Adventure is about inspiring, challenging, motivating, and educating others. We want to bring you along during our adventures, and we want to provide everyone with the opportunity to take part in the journey. By sharing our experiences, providing valuable tools and resources, helping local communities, and spreading the good tidings of adventure, we hope to create a new breed of explorers. We want you to adventure.

You can keep up with us through social media, personal contact, the blog, and even joining us during the trip. We’ll be documenting the trip as we go, via The Morning Fresh, and will be collecting material for a series of books, including photography books and a guide for creating your own epic adventure. (Stay tuned for an upcoming Kickstarter to help us fund the dream!)

Check out all the ways to stay in touch with Simply Adventure and The Morning Fresh:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SimplyAdventure
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SimplyAdventure
Instagram: http://statigr.am/themorningfresh
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/themorningfresh/
Yelp: http://simplyadventure.yelp.com

The journey has just begun – and we invite you to travel with us during every step of the way. Updates shall begin flowing, plans will solidify, the dream will inevitably grow, and Simply Adventure will soon come to full fruition. Will you join us for the adventure?

A Guide to Car-Camping – in Walmart Parking Lots

As any experienced road tripper, climber, or long-term traveler can attest, one of the biggest issues with life on the road is finding a place to rest every night. Between tight budgets, uncertain routes, and evenings spent driving at ungodly hours, there is often a need to find a makeshift place to catch a few hours of sleep.

One of the tried and true traditions of my climbing trips and cross-country excursions is the practice of spending a night (or two) in a Walmart parking lot. I was extremely reluctant and nervous my first time, during which I hardly achieved a few moments of rest. However, after nothing but positive experiences, the sight of a glowing Walmart sign on the side of a highway has become a welcoming landmark.

While Walmart founder Sam Walton has allegedly been quoted in feeling strongly that all travelers should reverie his stores as a destination for safe rest and refuge, there has been a lot of debate surrounding the practice of overnight camping in the parking lots. While I have never been approached during my brief stays, I have heard plenty of stories of people being asked to leave, or told they couldn’t stay.

So, should you spend the night in a Walmart parking lot? I’d say sure, but first, educate yourself on the do’s and don’ts of overnighting at one of these fine American institutions (ha).

What You Should Do:

Depending on your attitude, calling ahead to inquire about a specific location’s overnight policies is the safest course of action. However, if you’ve pulled into a random store in the middle of the night, desperate for sleep – you will likely be fine. Always be discrete. While large campers and RVs are sitting ducks in the parking lot pond, sedans and smaller vehicles have the advantage of blending in fairly well.

A few crucial elements of discretion include parking away from store entrances where shoppers should have priority, keeping your ‘space’ clean, and leaving as early as possible in the morning. Additionally, you should make an effort to give patronage to the place that is giving you a safe place to sleep – buy something. If you just grab a protein shake and cheese stick in the morning, fine. Need to stock up on some camping supplies? Even better – you’ll make the entire car-camping community look good.

Just because Walmarts are generally a secure place to stop for the night doesn’t mean that every location stands equal when it comes to safety. Always be aware of the surrounding neighborhood – a sketchy area equates to a sketchy Walmart parking lot. Be smart. Always keep your keys within reach. I prefer to keep the driver’s seat open and easy accessible, in case there is a need to make a quick getaway.

What You Shouldn’t Do:

*Note: Niko wasn’t actually in a Walmart parking lot in this photo, no worries.

Basically, don’t be that guy. If you roll up to a Walmart at 11 PM, pop open the hatchback, and set up a few chairs around your parking spot while throwing back a few beers – don’t be surprised when you get the boot. Anyone traveling in a non-car rig is should never set-up camp in any conspicuous manner. If security or management approaches you, don’t be disrespectful. It is a privilege to have access to staying overnight, and travelers must remain understanding that some locations have had bad experiences with long-term or disruptive ‘campers.’

Don’t leave a mess. You should be practicing this in all aspects of your adventures, but littering free accommodations is especially offensive. Nothing leaves a bad taste in a manager’s mouth than rude overnighters.

Despite the usually relaxed overnight regulations at most locations, there are some stores that are actively against travelers shacking up in their parking lots. Check out this listing of Walmarts that do not allow overnight stays.

Niko says: “I’ve been crashing in Walmart parking lots ever since I was able to drive — it’s a “simple comfort” for dirtbags. On long nights, you know that just down the road there’s a parking lot where you can grab some munchies, clean up in the 24-hour bathrooms, and shut your eyes for a couple hours. I always crack a window in my car to get some fresh air, and like to stop in the store to grab breakfast before heading out – think of the cost of your milk and cereal as a camping fee.”

If you aren’t bothered by the unavoidable florescent lighting and likelihood of waking up in a sea of cars from Walmart’s morning floods of blue collar customers, pulling into one of their many parking lots provides a great venue for catching some rest before embarking on your next day of adventuring.

Have you ever spent the night in a Walmart parking lot?
Got good any experiences to share? Any bad experiences?
Sound off in the comments and contribute to the conversation!

 

This week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat recap – “Avoiding Thirst” with the Hydration Summit

During this special edition of Twitter’s only chat dedicated solely to outdoor adventure travel, we teamed up with the folks at the Hydration Summit for a discussion about staying hydrated while out on the trail. As an added bonus, Geigerrig generously donated a hydration pack to give away to one lucky chat participant.

From favored methods of carrying water while hiking to the best ways to keep water bottles clean, this weeks’ discussion dove into every aspect of staying hydrated while outdoors. We were joined some experts in the field, and everyone came away from the conversation with some new knowledge, and a few new items to add to our gear wish lists. Check it out:

Q1: How do you keep hydrated on the trail?

@JillianLaura: “A1: Well, thanks to a total lack of gear, I opted for bottles this past weekend. Even with rationing almost ran out! #atqa

@valinreallife: “A1: I’m always sucking down h20. Use a bladder to keep things easy, esp. for the little Camp Granolans. #ATQA

Q2: Take a side on the great hydration debate: bottle or bladder?

[Read more…]

This week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel twitter chat recap – “Technology on the Trail”

After requesting any suggestions that the Adventure Travel Q&A chat community may have, we received a great inquiry about discussing the relationship between technology and the outdoors from Adam Nutting. The result was a great Twitter chat that generated plenty of opinions about topics like taking technology on the trail, favorite gear, and the merits of knowing how to navigate by compass when your GPS fails. We also had a few great guest appearances by awesome outdoor technology brands like Goal Zero, Pocket Ranger, and Point6 Socks.

Check out the conversation recap, and add your answers to the comments section!

Q1: What’s the role of technology in the outdoors?

[Read more…]

I’m back from the OmniTen trip to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear (reluctantly)

Holy mother of Arizona adventure. Here I am, in humid Florida, still reeling from the epic trip that I’m still not sure really happened. I’m sitting here with heaps of GoPro footage, thousands of photos, and a slightly torn wristband that served as my permit for camping near the Havasupai village deep in the Grand Canyon. Did that whole trip really just happen?

Words can’t even begin to describe what I experienced while out traversing canyons, waterfalls, streams, and travertine tunnels with the OmniTen crew and Columbia Sportswear team. Our time together began with a week of industry events revolving around the release of Columbia’s newest innovation, OmniFreeze Zero. We were wined and dined all day and night long at the Hilton and around Sedona as the company worked to woo editors, gear buffs, journalists, and industry professionals. Don’t worry, there will be an entire post dedicated to all the phenomenal meals I gorged myself on during the gear previews. Elk kabobs and cactus margaritas, anyone?

The highlight of the trip was hands-down the three days we spent around Havasu Falls. We began with an early morning hike into the canyon, a hot and heavy 10-mile excursion that left me with blisters in places I didn’t even know my feet could sprout them. We passed through the Havasupai Village, set up camp, and enjoyed our first evening together as a close knit group. The second day was spent jumping off waterfalls, climbing through travertine tunnels, wading through waist-deep streams while carrying our packs over our heads, and cooling off in the unbelievably blue water. The final day saw a 10-mile hike back out to the rim of the canyon, which was brutal. I wouldn’t have survived the final mile, which involves a 2000 foot elevation gain up switchbacks frequented by mule trains, without the cooling glory of my OmniFreeze Zero neck gaiter. Seriously, when they start making those available to the public, get one. 

My grand adventure would have been nothing without the amazing people who made it a truly unforgettable journey. The OmniTen crew started out as complete strangers (aside from creeping on eachother’s social media profiles), but we left Arizona teary-eyed over the prospect of losing eachother’s company. These people are now lifelong friends.

It’s going to take me a few days to process everything that I experienced, put it all down in words, and edit all of the amazing photos I snapped during the trip. Stay tuned for a huge installment of posts chronicling my adventure.

It’s going to be good. 

This week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat recap – “Outdoor Dads”

As a special ode to all the wonderful fathers who love the outdoors, this week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat was a special “Father’s Day” edition. I won’t even try to deny that I got totally teary-eyed while crafting the recap; there are some truly touching tweets that were shared during the chat.

I was unable to perform my usual co-hosting duties as I was stuck at an airport awaiting a plane during the chat, but the wonderful David Croyle did an excellent job as guest co-host. Shoot, he did it so well, I may even be out of a job. Check out the tweets:

Q1: What’s your favorite outdoor memory with your dad?

@RamblinBears: “A1: My favorite outdoor memory was going to Yosemite with my Dad for the first time at age 16. #ATQA

@JoyfulShoehorn: “A1. Going hiking in Idaho with my dad & leaving my mom and sister back at the hotel to whine. #ATQA

Q2: What’s your favorite memory of time outdoors with your kids?

[Read more…]

The inaugural #ATQA Adventure Travel chat recap – “Weekend Adventures”

During this week’s edition of #ATQA Adventure Travel chat on Twitter, we got down and dirty with the idea of weekend adventures. Many travelers are confined to cubicles during the workweek, and live for the moment they can escape the office on Friday afternoon to head out into the backcountry.

What’s even worse, many eager explorers find themselves missing out on the weekly #ATQA chats held every Wednesday at 5 PM (EST) – so after multiple requests from fans, we decided to present a weekly recap of the best tweets from each week’s chat. Check it out, and feel free to leave your thoughts and answers in the comments section!

Q1: How do you stay prepared for spontaneous weekend adventures? 

@KelseyIvey: “a1. I usually have a half un-packed bag sitting around my room from my last trip + my sleeping bags lives in my trunk all summer! #ATQA

@croyle: “A1: By trying to keep my gear in order and ready to go. As a SAR member, I need to have much of the same gear ready. #ATQA”

@overlandnomads: “A1: I keep my vehicle packed and ready for adventure…or zombie attack! #ATQA

[Read more…]

Get ready to kick off “The Summer of Adventure”

From a week of sport climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky to an epic journey to Flagstaff for Overland Expo, my summer has been exploding with seemingly non-stop adventures. It’s been quite a task trying to keep up with all the excitement, so I’ve devised a plan – I call it, “The Summer of Adventure.

Behold, a weekly schedule of thrilling posts that revolve around road trips, climbing excursions, edible adventures, my favorite gear, and more. Constantly being on the road has muddled my preferred system of operating on a routine, so I’ve created this weekly agenda to keep the content flowing.

Monday: Monday Morning Ascents

Keeping true to the strongest motivation for my adventures, each week will begin with a climbing conquest. From my latest outdoor pursuits and training at Tallahassee Rock Gym to favorite routes I’ve climbed (and photographed) around the country – let’s start each new week with some inspiration to get out into the boulder fields and crush some rock.

Tuesday: Tasty Tuesdays

Second only to climbing, one of my most beloved activities in life is stuffing my face. Tuesday posts promise to get your mouth watering with stories and photos highlighting my favorite eateries throughout the nation. I’ll go through a buffet of destinations and dishes, including the outrageous doughy concoctions served at Miguel’s Pizza at Red River Gorge in Kentucky, messy Mexican grub in Merced, and a local Tallahassee mini-bakery that cooks up some of the tastiest sweets I’ve ever munched on. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Thursday: #ATQA Adventure Travel Chat Recap

You’ve been asking for it, and now we’re ready to deliver. After weeks of faithful #ATQA chatters asking about a way to revisit any questions or answers they may have missed, we’ve decided it’s time to start giving you what you want. Check back every Thursday at noon for a recap of all the best tweets from #ATQA Adventure Travel chat, the latest and greatest outdoor Twitter chat created by the wonderful J. Brandon of American Sahara. Don’t want to wait for the Thursday recap? Join us Wednesdays at 5:00 PM (EST) for our weekly discussion about all things outdoors.

Friday: Outdoor Adventure Fridays

The weekend is finally upon us, and it’s time to get inspired to get outside with a grand tale of adventure. From tromping through the towering trees in Sequoia National Park to kayaking down the Wakulla River in Florida, every weekend will be kicked off with a story aimed at getting you motivated to get out into the great outdoors to do some exploring.

Sunday: Get Your Gear On

While you spend the afternoon lazily lounging around in your skivvies, I’ll be using the last day of the fleeting weekend to put outdoor and climbing gear to the test. I may even double up with Sunday two-fers on occasion; the tiny room I share with Niko is currently overflowing with packs, reparative balm, outdoor apparel, and loads of gear that deserves some true attention.

BONUS: My Co-Pilot Becomes My Co-Blogger

Since the inception of The Morning Fresh, readers, fans, and friends have been begging to get more of Niko. After nearly three years of traveling and climbing together, Niko is gearing up to become a much larger part of The Morning Fresh as we prepare for our big 2013 trip. Since he attempts to lay claim on every package of gear that gets delivered to me, he’ll have his own section in nearly all of my gear reviews. Additionally, keep an eye out for his own breed of posts – he’s calling it “The Morning Dirt,” and I’m looking forward to seeing what my beau cooks up.

My life has transformed into one giant adventure, and as always, I am so grateful to be taking you along for the ride. Between The Morning Fresh’s epic summer schedule and my other seasonal projects, this season is promising to be one for the books. Today marks the official start of the Hydration Summit, an excellent campaign I’m working with to raise awareness about the importance of staying hydrated while adventuring. On Friday, I’ll be whisked away to Sedona for an outrageous event with Columbia Sportswear and my OmniTen crew – we’ll be testing out exclusive gear all weekend, and hiking out to Havasu Falls! Stay tuned for all the updates and excitement!

Can’t bear to wait for the official posts? You can keep up with my adventures in realtime by following me on Twitter (@themorningfresh). 

Five Reasons I’m Counting the Days to Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ

A few months ago, I began getting involved with a mysterious event called “Overland Expo.” A true novice in the art of overlanding, I was exposed to an event and industry that gave a proper title to the art of what I love to do – traveling the world by vehicle. Sometimes by car, occasionally on my bike, and often by foot. This event is a showcase and gathering of the overlanding community, a wild group of adventurers dedicated to getting out there and experiencing it all.

So why am does my agenda now include a little countdown to the May 18-20th event in Flagstaff? Here are a few reasons, in no particular order:

1. The Adventure of Getting to Flagstaff

While I’ll be in Flagstaff for about full three days, my journey to and from Overland Expo will span across about 9-10 days of road trip travel. I’ll be making the trek solo, and am really looking forward to embarking on another one-woman adventure. To break up the trip a bit, I plan on spending a night in Houston, Texas, to visit a great lady climber friend who recently moved out there from Tallahassee.

Aside from spending time with an old friend, I can’t wait to for a few days spent lonesome in my car. Speaking of cars, this road trip will be extra exciting because I am switching cars with my wonderful sister – which means I get to drive a hybrid Honda Civic across the country. All that gas money I’ll save will inevitably be spent in coffee shops, local breweries, and probably a few pieces of new gear I won’t be able to resist at the expo.

2. Classes, Expert Panels, and Workshops

Don’t even bother reading my hype about the schedule at Overland Expo – check it out for yourself. It delivers a nearly overwhelming amount of enticing events that will keep any adventurer engaged throughout the entire weekend.

My favorite picks? Out of nearly 100 classes, I’m most looking forward to classes like “One-Pan Cooking and Provisioning (no fridge)” with Ara Gureghian, a workshop for cooking healthy meals on the road, a collection of photography and writing sessions, “Keeping Healthy and Happy on the Road,” and the survival for couples course.

3. The Adventure Travel Film Festival

Presented by Austin Vince and Lois Pryce, this edition of the festival is the fourth annual event celebrating an international community of folks who live for the thrill of getting out there. I cannot wait to get educated on the history of adventure, the inspiring stories of those who trek out into the world, and the thrilling experiences they endure and enjoy on the road. Enticing titles like “Above and Beyond Dream,” “Paddle to Seattle,” and “Salt and Gold” are only adding to the hype.

4. Meeting My Fellow Adventurers

Lately, I’ve been internally comparing Overland Expo to an adventurer’s version of Bonnaroo – minus all the substance abuse, ruckus, and dirty bathrooms. In my mind, this gathering is the ultimate meet-up for people who are like me.

Adding to the excitement, I’m going to finally meet a few of the wonderful outdoor people I’ve connected with through Twitter. While co-hosting the #ATQA Adventure Travel Question & Answer chat, I’ve joyously watched as some of my favorite friends have won our weekly giveaway – a day pass to the event. Getting the opportunity to connect with people like Dave Creech (who runs an amazing blog you can check out here) is something I’m really looking forward to taking full advantage of – especially since there have been many promises of whiskey and cigars!

5. Daily Yoga Sessions in the Morning

Does this directly have anything to do with wild outdoor adventures? Arguably not – but I am absolutely smitten on the idea of waking up in the hot abyss of Flagstaff, and starting each day with a refreshing yoga session. I’m no yogi, but I have recently begun embracing yoga as the ultimate way to stretch, warm-up, cool-down, and generally improved my flexibility for my climbing. Even aside from my training efforts on the rock, yoga has been a reviving way to get my blood flowing every day.

And I might also be pretty excited to wrangle Dave and my boss J into joining me for some yoga – purely to giggle at them when they try the downward down. (Fellas, as much as I’d love to laugh at you, I will also be so impressed if you end up whooping my rear end in yoga!)

Bonus Hype – check out this 2012 event preview video!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhml-cObSWU&feature=player_embedded]

If you haven’t snagged your pass to Overland Expo, the clock is ticking! Click here to check out event packages, and don’t forget to join us Wednesdays at 5:00 (PM, EST) for the #ATQA Adventure Travel chat for your chance to win a free pass.

I’ll see you all in Flagstaff!