In Defense of the Void

“Fuck you. You’re a wimp. You’re a hack alpinist.”

I feel like a sadistic acupuncturist is driving 10-inch needles into my thighs with a wooden mallet as I ascend the steep, north slope of Mt. Dana, ragged breaths punctuating my movements like a death cough. I take a gulp of the crystalline air, and suddenly my organs rebel; I am lost in spasm, propped up on hands and knees and retching the last of my peanut butter along with a teaspoon of phlegm onto the carpet of white snow.

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Learning to Sit Still

The door closes with a heavy thud and a deep, metal click before drowning me in darkness. My heartbeat instantly spikes up to twice its normal rate, and I am left naked, alone, and swimming in a salty, nebulous pool of infinite pitch-black. There are no sounds, no light, and no one to tell me what to do. I feel sick to my stomach and start fumbling for the door handle when, all of a sudden, a voice inside my head screams, “WAIT!”

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The Life-Changing Magic of a Truck Stop Shower

I’m gross. Like, really gross. Like, so gross that there’s a bloody, half-smushed mosquito on my upper left arm and my fingernails look like they’ve been dragged through the trenches in ‘Nam. I need a bath. But how? I’m on day seven of a sleep-in-the-van road trip with two more days of driving before I get to my mom’s house in Tahoe.

Then, out of the darkness, a sign appears in bright yellow and red like a 1970s roller disco. “Love’s” exclaims the homey print, followed by a large cartoon heart. The sign looks and feels just like a hug, and I am drawn, mothlike, to its folksy flame. I’m about to experience the magic of my very first truck stop shower.

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How to Travel Forever

It’s sunset, and you are watching the last of our star’s orange glow fluoresce against the horizon before it dips out of view. You’re sitting on the stoop of a 400-year-old stucco building in Cinque Terre, Italy, swigging Chianti straight out of the bottle like a college sophomore. A light breeze blows past. Giggling couples begin returning from the rocky shore towards restaurants lit with dancing flickers of candlelight, ready to gorge themselves on fresh seafood. You take a deep breath and exhale proudly, “Now this is living!”

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5 Coping Skills for When Life Gives You Lemons

I’m going to level with you for a moment. Sometimes, the ordinariness of day-to-day existence can feel like a big pile of dog poo wrapped up in a sparkly anxiety bow, especially in this current news cycle. When things get overwhelming and you find yourself wanting to quit, sob, or perhaps yell at the next stranger who cuts you off in the grocery store, take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and try out one of these age-old solutions instead.

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The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist

Let’s face it. Modern life can be overwhelming, and sometimes you just want to get away from it all. Like, really far away. Like, so far away that the government can’t track you remotely via your mobile device, and the screams of potential, innocent victims can’t be heard amidst the towering pines and mountain spires of the hinterlands. If you’re on the hunt for some true wilderness R&R, my ultimate packing checklist for backpackers will set you off on the right foot.

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Small Things: A Mindfulness Practice

Last Thursday afternoon, I bit into a bright pink apple, feeling the familiar crunch as my teeth sliced through its delicate skin. The texture was waxen at first with a cool grit the color of eggshell hiding underneath, and I paused as each flavor spread wide across my tongue. First tart, then floral, then an accelerated array of sweet, sour, base, and plant before I swallowed and began again. I paused, affixing my gaze on the small, oval sticker that bared a barcode and a cheap cartoon logo, and I wondered, “Where did you come from?”

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“Let’s Go Take a Look”

“How much higher do you think that outcropping is from where we’re sitting right now?”

Justin was faded, nauseous, and swaying in the mid-day heat of the Eastern Sierra when he the words fell out of his mouth. My head felt like an over-inflated balloon. Dumbstruck, I tried my best at a civil response, “Fuck. I don’t know… Maybe 50 feet? Is this not the summit?!”

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The 21-Day No Complaint Experiment

“Look! My hip has a weird, reptilian scab from this backpack’s belt.”
“Pumping water from these plastic bags takes SO LONG.”
“Dude. I hate marmots.”

We’ve all been that person – the one with the sweat dripping into our eye sockets or the wrong shoes on when it starts to rain. It’s inevitable, it’s annoying, and, usually, it really fucking sucks. The more I go outdoors, the more I become aware of the myriad of weird discomforts and things that can go wrong while tramping through the woods with your house on your back. I’ve also noticed that some people seem to be significantly better at keeping their troubled assertions to themselves and making light of the situation instead, laughing off blisters like some sort of high-octane mutants. I call them Bodacious Backpackers, and they are the superhero mind-ninjas that everyone wants on their thru-hike or climbing expedition. I wanted to become one of them.

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