I think it's always been inside me, this pull to explore the world.
I don't remember life without it; even in those days when I was a bookworm honed in on my studies it crept in. When I was a kid I dreamt of going away somewhere new for college, and then becoming an astronaut and exploring space. I've always wanted to study as much as I can about our universe and learn everything there is about everything. I just never knew quite how to get there, and then how to do it once "there".
As a kid I spent my summers between the pool and reservoir down the street, and an overnight camp called Geneva Glen up in the foothills of Colorado. I was ALWAYS outside. Camp was the best - we would go on backpacking trips and hike through the mountains to find the perfect place to camp, stay up all night telling stories and dreaming of worlds beyond our own, and then wake up to a beautiful new day full of new adventures, opportunities, and possibilities. Once we were older, we even got to leave camp and go on excursions to other parts of Colorado. It was THE BEST. My parents aren't exactly what I would call "outdoorsy"; so it was at summer camp, on outings with friends and their families, and when we slipped through the pool fence into the far side of the reservoir that I really learned to love and value nature.
Side anecdote: Kids are funny, don't you think? In elementary school we all raised mealworms until they'd turned into beetles and then released them out into the reservoir. How many of us as adults would even think of touching a mealworm, let alone raising it as a pet? That innocence and love for the world is unmatched. Kids really know how to live life. I wish we all would keep that in us, not letting it give way to other things as we grew up.
Somewhere along the way I did grow up, as we all do, and got distracted by the life that our society makes for us. I even moved away from the mountains - granted, the beach has shown me all sorts of new and wonderful things and given me a whole new side of nature to be in awe of - but I lived in the city for like 6 years before getting here. Not sure what I was thinking, but it did prove to be a different and new experience full of lessons learned, so don't think I'm writing it off as a mistake or a waste. All the while however, I developed fears and insecurities. I got lost among the hustle and bustle of life, and forgot what makes me thrive and what makes life so beautiful.
The past few years have been tough, full of changes and challenges, love and loss, and an always looming feeling of "is this what's right for me?"- as I am sure is the case for most 20 something year olds. I finally get out into the world and then I had no idea what to do, haha. It's ironic, after spending 20+ years preparing for it- I'm here and still feel I'm not in the right place.
I've been living in a lovely beach town that is part of what we all refer to as "the bubble" for the past few years. Everything most of us could ever need is here; it is a small town where you run into friends and neighbors everywhere, and your servers, bartenders, and even grocery store clerks know your name, you never have to get on the highway - really, if you wanted, you never even have to drive. It is part of a bigger city of Los Angeles and thus doesn't really have any of the drawbacks of small towns in the middle of nowhere either, since the bustling metropolis surrounds it. Maybe it is from living in this bubble away from mountains, fields, and open spaces and away from the rest of the world that I've grown uneasy. It's hard to say, because the majority of people I love most and call family all live here, and thus it feels like home in a way. On the other hand, I've always felt a pull to the road, to somewhere else, to nature. I've thought about moving away to somewhere new and different every year at least once, but always found a reason not to just yet.
I used to think it was a relationship, a guy, I was missing. That if I could find "the one" we would go off into the world together and our lives would be full of adventure we could share and love, and that we could grow together. How could someone not want that? Hah! Hell, I even started planning a move to Australia with a guy after we'd barely known each other a few months. (Obviously that wasn't meant to be, and I can laugh about it now, but I was stoked thinking there was a guy out there as crazy as me.) I guess I felt something was missing, or was not confident in my ability to make these things happen for myself. I craved that "family unit" that did things together, since that isn't exactly what we had growing up - and it was my friends who did have strong familial relationships that ended up doing all the fun things I wanted to be a part of. Just my guess. I'm not a psychiatrist - so who knows anyway, right? What I have learned is that this is MY life, MY journey. I'm the captain of it, and I will sure as heck choose my own adventure. I have instead focused on growing myself, on figuring out who I am and who I want to be, what life I want to live, and what impact I want to leave. I don't think you can truly commit to being with someone else when you haven't truly committed to yourself already anyways. I think that the lesson can be learned by guys and girls alike - but no one is going to make your life what you want it to be for you, no one is going to make it complete. You've got to figure that shiz out on your own, and then add in a companion once you're at the right place in your life.
In the past few years I've really spent time and focused on getting back to the wild. Back to spaces where I am not surrounded by others, by expectations or judgements, by pressures to do or be anything. I find solace in swimming in the ocean, in long runs and bike rides up and down the coast, in driving until I lose cell service and then hopping out of the car with my pup and whoever else I can convince to come along and wandering until nightfall then sleeping under the stars. It's this space - out in the wilderness - where I feel I am most free and my guard is let down. I get to be the real me - the one who picks up beetles much like the ones my mealworms turned into, the one who sings and dances along trails, who has dark chocolate and a camera with me at all times, the happiest and most fulfilled version of me. Adventuring is what I've come to live for - those days when I can escape work and the city and find myself out there.
I don't by any means have it all figured out, know who exactly I am, where I want to be, or what I want to be doing. What I do know though, is that I am filled with the most peace and happiness when I am outside, soaking up the sun and moonlight, traversing through unknown landscapes in search of the magic within. It's is because of this calling to the outdoors, this yearning for discovery that grows deep inside me, that I am taking to life on the road. I can't wait to finish building my van out, and take off into the sunrise with Russ Pup to finally get acquainted with this country and all its land has to offer. More than that, I am so excited to get to share this with everyone along the way- the ups and downs of life on the road, the amazing places I see, the awe-inspiring people I meet, and, overall, the love of the land.
Starting this fall, I’ll be spending the next however-long-it-takes traveling the countryside of North America. My focus will be on taking a #standforpublicland and sharing the importance of our public lands, of conserving them, and of connecting with them. Public land is essentially all we have left of the wild here in the states, and I want to make sure it is around for generations to come to connect with and learn and grow from. I want to make sure my kids and grandkids will have somewhere for their class to release their beetles, when the time comes.
Please follow along my journey and spread the word, #standforpublicland. There will be a Kickstarter to come, funding CBelme Photography in my work to create a coffee table book sharing the beauty of our public land through photographs, the stories of these lands, and the importance of protecting them. Make sure you head to the contact page and subscribe so that you don't miss out on any steps of this adventure!