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vanlife

The Risks We Take

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The Risks We Take

“I’m not going to go.”  My stomach flip flopped as Paul finished his sentence.  “The last couple days helped me decide. I’m going to stay here.” Paul had just gotten down from multiple days and nights on El Capitan, and he was telling me that he had decided to nuke his plans to go on a climbing expedition in Pakistan in the summer.  It was a gorgeous May morning in Yosemite.  Our friend Jess Roskelley had died in an avalanche on Howse Peak less than a month ago.  

Paul and I in El Cap meadow after a (for Paul) sleep deprived night on the Captain.

Us not climbing, or running, but blissful.

Fast-forward to July 11.  Paul and I both have tears in our eyes as we embrace tightly at the airport in Denver.  The luggage cart next to us is overloaded with two oversized duffel bags and smaller carry-on. “This is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” says Paul. He isn’t talking about the climbing he’ll be doing in Pakistan, but about leaving me for seven week. I pull him closer. 

Life is a risk.  You never end up regretting the things you do but the things you don’t do. Decisions should be based on love not on fear.  So many platitudes to go around.  

The real question is: how do you decide between pursuing a potentially risky trip to a place you’ve wanted to see for decades - the type of trip that is woven into the very fabric of your identity - on one hand and on the other hand having found bliss in low-commitment adventures and daily life with the partner you love? It’s a question that Paul and I debated a lot: each of us individually, consulting friends and in conversations with one another. 

We found an answer: Paul is on his way to basecamp in Pakistan as I am writing this.  To have an incredible alpine climbing adventure, I hope; even though deep down I know that a big part of his decision to go was so he could give me space to pursue my own big mountain running projects. The decision to go was anything but clear cut.  

Long runs = big time.

Doing hard things is character building.  Suffering is privilege.  Time apart makes time together that much more valuable. More platitudes. 

We’re independent.  We both charge hard, and we’ve spent longer chunks of time than this apart.  Hell, I left Paul ten days after we got married to walk across the Colorado Plateau for a month all by myself. And yet… this feels different.  

Maybe it’s because this time I’m the one who is staying ‘at home’ (though not really - I’m going to run the Ultra Gobi in China while Paul is in Pakistan… but I’m not leaving for a few more weeks). Or maybe it’s because Paul was on the fence on whether he really wanted to go or not, and the risks involved in remote alpine climbing are all too real.

Me on the Hayduke shortly after Paul and I got married

Paul on recent day of carefree alpine cragging in Chamonix

I do know one thing: as excited as I am for Paul to finally get to climb in the Karakoram, and for me to run far in amazing places… I am even more excited at the thought of Paul’s return to Colorado in late August. Happiness is only real when shared!

If you want to see where Paul is and/or exchange (free) messages with him via his Garmin GPS, you can use this link: https://www.clmbrlifr.com/gps.

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Making Vanlife Work (#1/3): The Budget

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Making Vanlife Work (#1/3): The Budget

I shared a post the other day talking about how @clmbrlifr and I are going to return to full-time #vanlife in short order.  It'll be my second stint in a van in the last three years and Paul’s return to his old dirtbag roots after working corporate for the last three decades: he used to be an itinerant climber in his twenties.  

Financing life on the road

‘How do you make it work financially?’ is one of the questions that I get asked most frequently these days.

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Sunny's Story

Hi!  I’m Sunny.  I am 30 years old; I am a climber, mountaineer and ultra runner, and I live on the road full-time in search of sunshine and adventure.   

All that is true, but it’s not really my story.  Up until the end of 2015, I wasn’t Sunny; my colleagues and friends knew me as Suzanne (or Suz if we were close).  I was living and working in Houston, Texas, right in the middle of the take-off of a high-octane strategy consulting career.  I have an MBA from a terribly prestigious school; until a few months ago I used to crush it on all the “right” dimensions: acing those tests, landing that job, working my way up the ladder.  Now my home is ~150cft of space on wheels, stuffed to the brim with sandy, muddy gear; I am constantly thinking twice before I spend $5 on a Starbucks coffee or even $1.50 on a truckstop cup of joe - and then usually end up deciding against it. How did all of this happen?

In a way it all goes back to when I was 12 years old and my parents took me to theGrand Canyon for the first time - but that’s going back way too far. Let’s start in my early twenties instead: they consisted mostly of work, bar nights and being a couch potato.  A dear friend and mentor encouraged me to take time off to go traveling before grad school, so I did; with a budget of $5k I covered ten countries in five months.  Coming back from the trip my appetite for adventure had been awakened. I was still mostly a couch potato but learned to climb at the local rock gym during my first semester in business school and quickly fell in love with it.  Mountaineering and ultra running were the result of another extended backpacking trip right after graduation - my first ultra trail was essentially ‘off the couch’ (not something I would recommend), and I somehow even managed to like it enough to come back for more afterwards. 

Fast forward to the last four years - I was working long hours based out of Houston, and gradually came to realize that my true passion has very little to do with business and a lot with being outside, pushing myself and exploring.  On many Fridays and Mondays you’d find me at the airport in shift dress and high heels, still feverishly typing on my laptop, trad rack and climbing shoes slung over my shoulder; I occasionally pulled up to the Red Rocks campground in business attire with a consultant carry-on spilling out of the car - you get the idea. In 2015 I came to the realization that the main reason for why I needed a big paycheck was that I lived in a big apartment in a big city that I didn’t appreciate, and spent lots of money on plane tickets and rental cars to get into the mountains for rushed getaways: once I was out there, I wasn’t spending very much.  I also knew that I would be in a position to pay off my remaining student loans by December 2015, and with that my path was as clear as a yellow brick road - or rather a red dirt trail: save up as much as I could, dare to quit the promising job, downsize, get rid of the expensive apartment, buy a dirtbag mobile, and instead of spending lots of money on plane tickets to quickly get to the places that I cherish… just never leave them. 

That’s where I am today, it’s who I am.  The big question is what’s up next and for now, the answer is simple: the open road, until it stops being fun or my money runs out.  Judging by my first couple months of vanlife I have a feeling that it’ll be the latter!