This is not rhetorical: Is there a point where rad people doing badass sh!t don’t second guess the intentions of chasing epicness?
Sometimes doing cool things feels inauthentic to me. It feels like I’m trying too hard. Or like I need validation for the dreams I’m chasing. It feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to have those experiences or be proud of those achievements or aim for those goals because let’s be honest, I am a desk jockey. I’ve got an 8-5 in a corporate office building in a major city. I pay rent and utilities. My grand adventures are confined to weekends and too few weeks of vacation time.
I can’t compete with dirtbags and nomads. My expeditions are weekend voyages to routes conquered, tamed, and retamed. Choosing the comfort of a townhouse over a van disqualifies me from certain branding. Finding time outdoors only after I’ve clocked overtime is the norm. A nagging exigence for security keeps me shackled to my biweekly paychecks, 401k, health and dental insurance. I have health and dental insurance for f!cks sake! Can the stark dichotomies coexist?
At present, I’m oriented in that narrow, center slice of a Venn Diagram- stuck in the purgatory between the monotonies of urban hell and extraordinary exploration. We’ll call it “Wannabe Wedge.” My peers in this sect impress their coworkers with weekend warrior tales on Monday morning; coworkers who are content with weekends spent watching Netflix and catching up on laundry. An overnight backpacking trip on some viewless, overpopulated trail sounds downright exotic in comparison to pizza delivery with a side of binge watching sitcom reruns and folding dish towels.
But the lowest common denominator of expectation should not- and for me, does not- define how we view and plan our adventures. Thanks to an endless feed of perfectly filtered and curated Instagram shots I’m left feeling like every other Average Joe is devouring a glittering life of lakeside sunsets and summit sunrises from the confines of their perfectly built-out Sprinter. From the ceaseless stream of emails landing in my inbox from Backcountry, Patagonia, Alpine Ascents, and the like, I know there are people in the Wannabe Wedge doing more than me. Maybe I want to keep up with the Jones’, but I know better; their grass is the same as my grass, they just used more saturation in their editing.
No, I’m not too naïve to believe that the #vanlife doesn't come with figurative baggage and literal stressors. I know that the 28-year old guy summiting Everest for his second time is a hedge fund manager with deep pockets. I know that the NOLS Leader living in Colorado is living out of his car without health insurance or any benefits. Yet, I can’t help but be hungry for more. At best, this appetite leads to ambitious peak-bagging routes mapped from my desk. With a stroke of real inspiration, or the right deal from Southwest, I’ll book a weekend getaway ticket and laboriously pour over trip reports and maps and “Best Of” lists for months to plan the perfect three days. For a minute I’ll feel like I’m really doing it- choosing a better life, finding a purer happiness, sucking more marrow from life.
Then the doubts crash in. Forget what other people think; I am certain I’m a fraud. You can buy your way into some clubs. My abused REI membership and gear closet are testament that I’ve anted up with hopes my Outdoor Explorer application would be up to snuff for acceptance- outdoorsy enough, artistic enough, pure enough, ambitious enough, interesting enough.
These are the worries every bride has before hiking to the altar, right?