After years of joking about running away and becoming dirtbag climbers, we’re making it a reality. Mark and I are embarking on a year-long adventure of living on the road, traveling around the country, climbing, hiking, biking, exploring.
We bought a van, a cherry red 2002 Chevy Express, that will soon be our home sweet home. Sure, going from 1,500 square feet of living space down to about 70 will certainly come with challenges. Daily showers will be a thing of the past. WiFi will be spotty or *gasp* non-existent at times. And opportunities for any alone time from each other will be few and far between. But we will adjust. We’ll get used to the smells. We’ll spend our time staring at the horizon instead of a screen. If necessary, I’ll kick Mark out of the van and make him run to the next town. We’ll embrace simplicity for richer experience.
So far our news has been met with varied reactions, from enthusiastic supporters to those questioning our sanity. “How will you survive without a bathroom?” “What about all your stuff?” “Why??” Well… because we can.
Rock climbing culture has historically endorsed the dirtbag lifestyle. In the ‘70s when Yosemite’s Camp 4 was the center of the climbing universe, die-hards survived on a few hundred dollars a year, living in caves, sustained by giant sacks of cornmeal or even canned cat food, climbing all day every day. Nothing else matters when you’re living in paradise.
These days true “dirtbag climbers” are a dying breed and those sort of extremes are rare. By old-school standards our living quarters will be downright luxurious: a comfy bed and a roof over our heads, solar panels to charge our electronics, and enough money saved up to avoid dumpster diving. But even so, living out of a van for even a few month stretch is still a rite of passage in the climbing community. Talk to any climber and if they don’t have a story to share about a time when they lived out of their vehicle, then they’re dreaming of a day when they can. Crag parking lots are marked with live-in rigs of varying comfort. Many people maintain employment, working remotely wherever there is an internet connection. Some even manage to raise families on the road.
And this vagabond lifestyle certainly isn’t an experience unique to climbers. Before finding a home in Northern California my hippie parents traveled across the country in a bare-bones Ford Econoline van with little more than a few sleeping bags and a single director’s chair for when they picked up a friend on the road. Like many others, they just wanted to get out and see the country. I guess you can say this sort of adventure is in my blood.
Then of course, there’s the whole sub-culture of full time RV’ers. Even though their demographics are heavily made up of retirees who, on the surface, seem to have very little in common with those crazy daredevil rock climbers, the basic idea is the same. Forego the “normal” lifestyle for the freedom of the open road.
This trip is not about running away from reality or shirking responsibilities. It’s about reevaluating our priorities and accumulating experiences instead of possessions. Immersing ourselves in nature, exploring the unknown, and cultivating new perspectives. No more trying to cram a lifetime of adventure into weekend increments. It’s about doing what makes you happy, all the time. And climbing. Lots and lots of climbing. It’s about chasing the stoke.