You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

March 27, 2011

To Recount

Seven days left in the Pacific Northwest and I have a lot of work to do.  In one week I am departing on a long journey deep into South America on my motorcycle with my friend Alex Smith.  We have a budget of about $15,000 and a year-long maximum commitment.  Sitting at the precipice of eighteen months of hard work and planning, I think it is important to take into account the last two years of my life.  I’ve hit the road for every whim that’s come my way and it has led me through some wild times.

To recount, since graduating from Gonzaga University in 2009 I have been roaming my youth constantly searching for adrenaline, cash, or character.  After leaving the Moontower I immediately took a job delivering paper for Office Depot in Bellingham, WA.  I lived with my parents during that post and quickly learned the value of money in the bank.  Living large on the weekends and cheap throughout the week I was able to save about $4,000 in just a few months at Office Depot.  Then, over the course of a weekend, I decided to take a job offer as a windsurfing instructor in Hood River, OR for the remainder of the summer.

Hood River was my first taste of the freedom of the road.  I packed my Subaru Outback chock full and used it as a home for the next six weeks while I cruised from parking lots, to state parks, to backyards living in my tent.  I would explore the Columbia River Gorge in my free time and instruct my passion most perfect natural setting for money.  It was an Eagle Scout’s dream come true and there at the age of twenty-two I decided that my life needed to continue in this fashion.

After the wind died I returned home for a month before devoting the entire 2009/10 winter to skiing in my beloved Cascades.  I took a cashier job at Mt. Baker and lived in the employee lodge for $8/day at one of the most wide open mountains that America has to offer.  The skiing was ecstasy but unfortunately my winter was foiled by a hernia in January.  By the time I had recovered from surgery, I was out of shape, broke, and starting to seriously consider this motorcycle trip around the world that Alex kept babbling about.

When an opportunity to drive for Office Depot arose again I decided it was time to make some money.  Alex kept saying we could ride all the way around the world on dual-sport motorcycles with about $30,000 total.  Eventually I was hooked and I budgeted a lush lifestyle in Bellingham that would allow me to save the funds by the summer of 2012, our original departure date.  So for six or seven months I worked about 34 hours/week making $3,600/month saving nearly all of it.  Of course I had a ball since I was finally living on my own in a house for the first time since college: in half a year I bought a big screen TV, a windsurfer, and two motorcycles (one of which I am riding to South America in a week). 

Even with those purchases and random adventures every single weekend I was sitting on $5,000 when my next call of the wild bellowed.  There was an opportunity through my current employer to go work with Alex in Juneau, AK as a Home Depot delivery man earning $1,000/week.  Again, over a weekend, October 1st 2010 I uprooted and underwent a complete lifestyle transformation. 

The next four months of my life are hard to describe.  I spent eight weeks in Juneau learning the job as Alex’s assistant.  In that time I began learning Shito Ryu (karate), earned my Class B CDL, and got in the best shape of my life.  I bitched about the rain a lot in Juneau but in hindsight it was a great place to be paid to live.

As is common in this line of work, one weekend I was overnight shipped to Fairbanks, AK to fill in for some guy who quit the local delivery route.  This is where my life was put on ‘pause’.  I spent two more months in Fairbanks working with three different assistants amid a horrible delivery coordinator and arctic temperatures.  I remember during my third week when the temperature finally rose to negative singe digits how vibrantly warm it felt outside.  It had averaged minus thirty degrees Fahrenheit until that point.  Not to mention I was driving a massive flatbed semi truck just one week after passing my driver’s exam.  And I was fully responsible and liable for every delivery with a $2000 deductible for every mistake I made.  And there was only three hours of sunlight.

Fairbanks was the night’s darkest hour in my recent life.  I encountered states of boredom and obsession that I’ll never forget.  When it is minus twenty-five and you’ve been working in it all day, you don’t really EVER go outside.  All I did was repeat the day before and watch money pile up.  They say I built character in Alaska; I did it for the money.  I saved 90% of my income in Alaska.  Fast forward to February of 2011 and I come home.  Finally.

I had planned this vacation starting in February for months.  Within days of returning I learned that my job no longer existed in the future but I really didn’t care.  I needed to ski, live with my family, hang with my friends, and tinker on my motorcycle.  After about two weeks it set in that we no longer had jobs and a new plan was in order.  We had budgeted the next eighteen months intending to make $1,250/week delivering appliances.  You can’t make that kind of money with zero expenses in any other job.  So we both were sitting at home in Lake Stevens, WA with $25,000 in the bank and decked out motorcycles in the garage.

And that is how I got here.  The last seven weeks Alex and I have been preparing for our grandest adventure ever and now my finest moment draws near.  Until yesterday I was worried.  I’ve been on the road so long…why not just hang up the cleats for a season?  Maybe meet a girl and build a career for a bit?  It would be nice to settle down for a bit.

Then, watching the sunset at Camano Island, the fear completely washed away as I said goodbye to my best friends.  I am ready.  The last four months have taught me that I have a lot to live for.  The extreme solitude of Alaska followed by the pure joy of my vacation have revealed just how amazing my life is here in Washington.  I have a loving family and the most eclectic group of friends you can imagine.  Why the hell would I willfully leave any of this?

My mom says I watched one too many Indian Jones movies.  She’s right!  It’s time to become my childhood superhero.  Not many people grow up to be who they wanted but here I’m staring down Harrison Ford in the mirror.  This trip isn’t some reckless stunt to prove I’m a badass; this is the natural progression of my life.  And with that in mind, please believe that I will not be taking safety lightly.  Along with my high thirst for adventure comes a low tolerance for risk.  I didn’t get to this point by making many mistakes and the same mentality applies on the road.  So everybody please: I’ll come back.  Until then, everything can wait; I’ll be in Margaritaville.