As a professional long-distance adventurer with zero musical talent, the speaking and book tour I’ve been on for the last six weeks—and this week too, in the Pacific Northwest—is about the closest I’ll come to being a rock star. Performing by night, traveling by day, sleeping and eating and partaking in sex and drugs running when it’s possible and/or convenient.
If the tour finishes as well as its gone thus far, it’ll have been a worthwhile investment of time and resources. However, like every backpacking trip I’ve done, I’m looking forward to its end and to my next project. There are certainly perks to living on the road, but it’s not all glitz and glamour:
Pro: Six nights per week, an audience shows up to hear me
Drawing a sizeable audience is a primary objective of every traveling musician, comedian, dancer, speaker and/or author. And there’s a resulting sense of pride and achievement when I’m looking out into a crowded sea of eyes that are all looking right back, or fixated on the images or videos illuminated on the screen. Equally rewarding are the post-presentation handshakes, photo requests, and follow-up emails—reactions that suggest I at least achieved my goal of being entertaining or informative, and perhaps thought-provoking and inspiring too.
Pro: Hard work pays dividends
Throughout this tour I have acted as chief scheduler, marketer, accountant, travel agent and driver. It also took thousands of hours to write my book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide (the sales of which have been very strong), and to develop and master my two presentations. My bank account may still not bulge like those of my friends and family members who took more conventional routes (e.g. lawyers, engineers, financial advisors, and accountants) but it’s encouraging to see that my hard-won adventurous lifestyle is becoming more of a legitimate occupation.
Pro: “It’s so great to see you! How long has it been?”
The tour has unintentionally served as a tax-deductible reunion with family members, childhood friends, former teachers, former teammates, and past clients on guided trips. I’m generally not great about keeping in touch, so it’s convenient that my job gives me the opportunity to catch up over a mid-day coffee, a post-event drink, a night on their couch or in their guest room, or even Easter weekend.
Pro: New places and new faces
Whenever I’m on the road, I’m inspired by newfound opportunities to further explore and experience—trails to run or hike, restaurants and bars to check out, events to attend, geological events to research, and histories to read. The road is also an opportunity to make new friends and connections, and to match real faces to virtual names and handles.
Con: I miss her dearly, and Boulder too
The last time I was on the road for an extended time—for five months in Spring 2006, on behalf of GoLite—I never became homesick, probably because at the time I didn’t have a “home” to long. My situation is different now. First, I am deeply in love with a woman in Colorado. We’ve been able to rendezvous twice, for weekends in Fort Lauderdale (with my parents) and in Kalamaoo (with her parents), but otherwise we’ve had to depend on phone calls, Skype, emails and texts—all sub-optimal forms of communication—to keep the fire burning. Second, in the last six years Boulder has become my true “home”—it is usually where l live, and it certainly is where I belong. Its network of recreation trails, its who’s-who outdoor community, and its eccentric personality suit me very well.
Con: Mind and body struggle with constant travel
Flying is mentally disorienting. Interstate driving is monotonous and homogenous. Waking up, traveling, working out, and eating at different times every day has caused my GI to become utterly confused. Eating out usually twice a day, seven days a week, has taken a (small) toll on my waistline. And shortly after I ever feel “settled” somewhere—in a motel room, at a coffee shop, or in a rental car—it’s usually time to pick up and move again. I get restless if my life is too routine, but I struggle to handle the variability of life on the road.
Con: There’s little else to do but work
Early in the tour a friend joked with me that being an entrepreneur keeps you about as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Probably not PC, but totally true, and especially so while on the road. It’s hard to ever “get away” from work out here. On average I give presentations six nights a week, and my “day off” is usually spent traveling to a new region of the country. I rarely have friends or family around to help balance my activities. And my (hopefully) daily trail runs—which are sacred to me—are often shorter than I’d like, due to miles that still must be traveled or work-related tasks that must be completed.