The Dirtbag Dream and Nightmares
June 16, 2017
Oh, the dirtbag dream… we all crave it, need it, and yearn for it. The pure freedom of the outdoors at our beck and call! Meanwhile, as we inch by during our day jobs throughout the week, we scroll through Instagram double tapping on everyone else’s epic adventures. Longing for the weekend, we daydream about all the things we could be doing to match that excitement we see on our tiny screens. Little did we know, there is so much more than meets the eye. It’s what goes on in-between those epic posts that I want to shed some light on.
I’ve been living on the road for about a year now in my Toyota Tacoma, dubbed the “Buttermilk Taco.” No, that doesn’t make me a dirtbag guru of any sorts, but it has given me a perspective on the life we all dream about. What I didn’t know about this dream when I made the jump is, not every day is going to include a beautiful sunset, sending an epic climbing project, and eating delicious food. Being a dirtbag is just like it sounds, dirty, stinky, and uncomfortable. You can go days or even weeks without showers, eat the same bland pasta for 2 weeks and have to sit in the back of the truck for 3 days straight because of a torrential downpour. You become a professional at peeing in a bottle and your tolerance for unrefrigerated food goes way up. To be a successful dirtbag, you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Not everyone is built to be a dirtbag, it takes a lot of effort and creativity. The things that challenged me the most were money and rest days. Unless you were born rich or were some successful blogger or photographer, keeping the funds flowing on the road proved to be quite difficult. I hadn’t planned on being on the road for longer than 2 months, so I saved for a little more than that. When I found myself wanting to extend that time, I was in a bit of a pickle. Sometimes, you can get lucky and find a snow shoveling job or a painting job. Other times, you can come up empty handed. When the time came, I was lucky enough to get a part-time job at a climbing gym to extend my adventure.
Rest days can be tricky. Working at a gym a couple days’ week helped soothe it a little, but before and after that, it was sometimes miserable. You would think you could spend every single day climbing, but realistically you can’t. When you were out in the middle of nowhere, with no Wi-Fi or amenities, finding out what to do on rest days would be dreadful! There aren’t enough books or podcasts, that can replace the joy of sending a boulder problem or red pointing a route. Time would painstakingly slow to a crawl. You would catch yourself staring at the sun, as it crept behind the horizon, hoping for the new day.
Everyone will have different issues they have to deal with while living on the road. One thing that was a trend for me was nothing ever went as planned. You always end up spending more money than you think, use more gas than you want, and rarely climb as hard as you can. You’d be surprised on how hard it is to stay psyched when you’re by yourself. We all crave interaction and camaraderie. I often found myself deviating from my original plans, in order to follow the people (and pads). That’s a part of the game and you have to realize that sometimes, you need to go with the flow.
I say these things not to scare you away, but to prepare you for those uncomfortable situations. You’re going to hit different roadblocks than me, but it’s those moments in-between that make the adventures that much sweeter! That feeling of topping out your first multi-pitch route or sending that double digit boulder problem. The full rack of baby back ribs and sweet potato fries filling your stomach after a long alpine day. The people you meet along the way that make you wish the days were longer. It’s all of these moments that make it worthwhile, so I say, dream on!