A Personal Essay // 2019 ROAM Awards Finalist
This is the age of looking through a thousand windows into a thousand worlds. We wake up and scroll through epic landscapes. We transport ourselves, we jot down notes, we plan weeks of our lives accordingly. We surround ourselves with a steady stream of inspiration.
The hiking trails near home get busier every year. Once forgotten countries are overwhelmed with people - cameras - drones. So many in search of the perfect shot to curate those tiny windows into their lives. To hide reality between a planned out order of perfect compositions.
But there is something that hides in the space between all the perfectly lit frames that follow the rule of thirds. There are all the moments of movement - getting from here to there. The motion before the still capture. Slow cold mornings, long car rides, grueling hikes and the dinners after. Jokes and camaraderie born out of discomfort. There is community. There are stories.
There are the moments we remember, the relationships we build and the transformation, over time of our worldviews, priorities and values. Purpose lives here. We use channels like Instagram to discover and to be inspired - but we find purpose and meaning in the pursuit.
I’m one of the success cases in this new age of discovery. I’m the child of a family that was stagnant. Our suburb in the Sacramento valley was a breeding ground for stillness and content with the mundane. I never camped when I was young, never touched snow or rock. To venture into the unknown was a fire waiting to be lit.
An addiction written in my fate.
And so, out I went.
It's 9pm on a Wednesday evening somewhere in Connecticut or New Hampshire - I can’t remember which because the days and state lines have been blurring together. I’m driving a seven passenger van full of eight women, a makeshift film crew and approximately 15-20 skateboards.
Another driver takes over around midnight, and the next thing I know I’m waking to the sound of boards shuffling and a rush of cool air as a van door pulls open. We stumble out, tired and stiff from sleeping in cramped spaces. It’s an early morning - fall - and we’re at the base of a luge track in Montreal.
The photos and videos that came from that day were scenic and epic to be sure - but I’ll always remember these moments the most vividly: quietly putting on gear with music drifting from the car radio, waking up over Cliff bars and cheap coffee. Somewhere in the midst of it, I realize these people are my family.
We’re on an international downhill longboarding tour, making a video to empower and encourage other young women to pursue the outdoors in unconventional ways. We’re showing them that if they go looking for it, they can find community. It’s a message I firmly believe in, because I’ve just found mine.
This trip sparked my passion for adrenaline - travel - photography and all the downhill sports I would fall in love with soon after. It taught me how to feel at home in uncertainty, and how to welcome strangers as family.
Fast forward four years, a handful of international trips and two camera upgrades later - I’m not skating anymore, but I’m climbing, surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking and as always, taking pictures. I’m also working at an environmental non-profit on a campaign for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. My world view has changed - I give a damn because I’ve spent time with people who are different from me. I've been experiencing, first hand all these places that need protecting.
Before all of this, there was a girl that grew up in a suburb in the Sacramento valley, raised by a conservative family who knew nothing of the world beyond her four walls. And there are thousands more of them that need to know that there is more.
And so, out I go.
I know the desire to make a difference is not unique in this new world. We’re all waking up to the beauty and fragility of this planet. One by one, we’re venturing out of the safety of our homes and our world views. There is nothing unique or special about my desire for equality or a healthy planet - today, the greater majority of all of us hold these values.
This gives me hope.
The year is 2043.
I’m in Alaska. Or Iceland. Or back home in Lake Tahoe. Really, anywhere there is snow - and there is plenty of it nowadays.
I’m at a peak, strapping in. I glimpse wrinkles on my hands as I put on my gloves. I feel an ache in my back - the same one I had when I was 23. It’s still there, it always will be. And as it did when I was 23, I know the pain will vanish once I drop in on a new line. It always does.
I take a deep breath. Smile. This is the best way to spend a Monday morning.
Oh, and it’s a Monday morning because I’m out of the 9-5. Have been, for awhile now. I’m doing meaningful work with people that are family to me. I’m outdoors most of the time, I’m writing and creating constantly.
I breathe it all in before I drop. I feel the air on my skin and my soul rests easy because the year is 2043 and we’ve done it. We saved the planet from the brink of destruction (or at least turned back from the way we were going). We came together and made the difference just like we said we would. We protected our winters and our children and we made this country and maybe even our world a better place for all people.
I finish my ride and maybe I catch up with my kids - they’re younger and faster. They grew up on this mountain. Adventure raised them - they are made of dirt and scraped knees. I look at them and see a future where they can adventure at peace and with purpose. A future where they are kind to all living things and to themselves.
Maybe, best of all, they can look at me and be proud. And maybe they ask me to tell them stories and I happily oblige because I lived the fullest and best life I knew how. One full of discovery and discomfort in the name of adventure, connection and meaning.
Maybe this will be me in 25 years. I pray that with or without me, it is the state of the world. I hope that I get to play a small part in helping us get there.
But for now, it is 2019 and I am writing this over coffee in a city that will soon be another place I once lived. I write this on the brink of something big - something not quite laid out in full, but something that gets me out of bed in the morning nonetheless. I’m inspired - by my friends and by strangers - by the people that believe in change and defying the normal. We’re all reaching a little further and dreaming a little bigger these days.
I’d love to do something remarkable with my life. I’d love to be immortalized for some great feat or daring adventure. But I think I might be more likely and just as happy to find my name in the footnotes - to be remembered as an inspiration or a guide. To be behind the lens, or to put pen to paper and tell the story. To know that my words or the way I lived my life may have inspired someone else to live a life bolder and kinder. These things, I know I can do.
And so, out I go.