The importance of chasing your dreams, whether they end on top of a mountain or in a custom trailer

Looking back, I can see that it all started with the 2019 Whitehorse car camping trip. My husband and I threw our mountain bikes in the back of our truck. We slept in the back of the truck at night and rode our bikes all day for almost two weeks.

At the time, I felt that something inside me was being repressed. It was neither positive nor negative. I just felt like there was more of me that needed to come out somehow. During this trip I had brief and intense experiences where I felt totally part of myself and immersed in the great outdoors. I realized it was something I wanted the most in my life.

A year later, in the midst of the COVID-19 pre-vaccine, my husband and I hit the road again, but in a very carefully orchestrated manner to scrupulously avoid interior spaces. We did a lot of curbside grocery shopping and meal pickup. Again, the focus of the trip was the time spent outdoors on our mountain bikes.

Finally, after being locked up for the longest winter of my life in Alaska, my husband and I broke into the scene again, fully vaccinated. We took the longest vacation we have ever taken in May of this year; three weeks living in a fully equipped rental van in the Nevada desert.

I am someone with high aspirations who tend to focus less on fixed results and more on feelings. I want to feel happy, fulfilled and inspired. The conditions that create these feelings are where I set my sights. I try quiet changes in my life for size, seeing through trial and error if I am approaching the best circumstances for me. Even when the path of change seems linear in retrospect, the truth is, I am constantly hopping around. What interests me about my outdoor DNA chronicles over the past few years is that they collectively form a clear trail, so meandering at times, that when I look at it from now on, it carries this edge of inevitability. A camping trip, followed by a long drive to see what it’s like to live in our car; followed by further vacations and finally three full weeks in a modified motorhome.

Of course, I am here, on the verge of making a major life change that will make me much more geographically mobile and more outwardly. How could I have seen it other than where I was heading from the start?

I like to share my experience of the world with others, that’s where my writing comes from. It was never enough for me to experience something on my own. Some of my most painfully beautiful and painful experiences at the same time have been experiencing sunsets alone, mountain peaks, or just the thrill of a new place and having no one to share it with. I started writing in part just to share experiences that didn’t seem to have an outlet.

The desire to share my take on how amazing everyday life can be manifests itself not only through writing, but also in works of art. I’ve been painting acrylics on canvas ever since a mentor encouraged me to try it out when I was a teenager. As an adult I have more or less gone through phases of painting, but over the past few years, along with my increased desire to be outdoors, I have supported myself to become much more focused and disciplined on art.

If I don’t make room for it in my life and push myself to do so even on days when the fleeting but fickle experience known as “inspiration” does not present itself, it will not happen. So I take the time and park in front of my easel. I paint one brushstroke at a time, and some times are much harder or easier than others. But, overall, this is something that is important to me. I am proud of the result of my work.

My paintings are – surprise, surprise – mostly everyday outdoor landscapes. I love the bright colors, the sharp contrasts in lighting, and my favorite painting subject is one that includes both stunning natural landscapes and something mundane and artificial. Street lights, roads and power lines abound.

Likewise, if I know that I want to live a smaller, more compact life where I can be more outdoors, require less money and therefore work less, unless I take the necessary steps to make it happen, nothing will change.

I don’t want to go back over my life and wonder why I haven’t even tried what can seem incredibly intimidating.

So, over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been dreaming, saving, and building to make a big change. I wrote about Airbnbing our house for extra income. I didn’t write down exactly why.

I recently and finally paid a deposit on a new custom Airstream trailer. This is probably the most important purchase of my life, both in terms of what it represents and in dollar value (despite my house; but still largely owned by the bank). The plan is to create a fully habitable mobile art studio, even if it is available, from which I can paint; and ultimately it will allow my husband and I more freedom in terms of where to park.

I know I’m part of a growing trend, unlike my grandmother’s surprise reaction (“It’s not a normal thing,” she said after I shared my plan with her, not viciously. And, in his Boston accent: “Are you sure you want to live off a trailah?”).

As sure as I will ever be, Grandma. And if I don’t like it, I will try and try again to continue to get closer to what fulfills me and makes me happy. I feel like it’s the effort of a lifetime.

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