After I first started to make some major changes in my life that affected my mental and physical health, I discovered that it was much easier to find enjoyment in the outdoors that I’d never known before—I had never felt capable enough to truly enjoy traveling and camping. Over the years, I’ve grown far less averse to “roughing it,” and revel in the chance to push myself to my limits and explore.
Sometimes, this newfound passion for camping has me dreaming about exotic adventures in faraway places: I envision the sorts of epic trials that Rudyard Kipling or Robert Louis Stevenson would have written about, as though I was their protagonist, surviving alone in the wilds of some mythic jungle or wayward island. The kinds of trips that—after recounting the tale to other travelers—would have their eyes wide with surprise, terror, or excitement, and disbelief. The kinds of treks and feats accomplished without guides—without any means of “paying my way” through them—with only my wits to get me by. Forget Kipling or Stevenson: I wanted to be a part of the kind of adventure that would inspire memoirs of my own; like riding a road bike from Europe to Asia (then buying a horse in Mongolia to traverse the Steppe), or crossing the Australian outback on foot (in snake proof boots, of course), or rescuing cobras from snake-charmers in Morocco.
All of those dreams sound so deeply romantic and silly to me now: the reality of our world, in the current moment, means that I must be (for the time being) confined to the borders of my own continent—and remain as socially-distanced as realistically possible from any co-travelers. As critically important as it remains, however, to limit any possibility of cross-contamination and the dangerous spread of infection, it is equally as important to maintain my physical and emotional health. Although the jet-setting, globe-trotting trips of my dreams are always seemingly at least six-feet (and possibly, several years) away from me at the time, it’s essential that I take advantage of what safe, solo traveling on the homefront has to offer, and to make the most of every stateside outdoor adventure. After all—in a country that offers some of the most majestic and breathtaking natural wonders in all the world—there’s no time like the present to rediscover the heart-stopping vistas available on my own proverbial backyard. It might not be Kipling or Stevenson at the moment, but Jack Kerouac could always give them a run for their money anyway.
Preparation is the Key
To maximize the enjoyment of any outdoor adventure (and to minimize the stress that often accompanies a trek beyond your hometown), preparation is the first—and easily the most important—step on your journey. Years ago, I invested in a customized camper trailer to ensure that I spent as many hours as possible soaking in the sights, rather than wasting them setting up my camps. Prepping the trailer for the trips, too, is an essential step in my planning, but the design and construction lend itself to being completely “shipshape” and “ready to launch” at any moment. The same can’t always be said for my used car, however; even though its a “beater” who’s never let me down before, I always make sure that—before any major trip, and at regular intervals, in order to extend the life of my vehicle—I take my car in for regular professional tune-ups and check-ups. Some basics that my mechanic looks for when I bring “Old Reliable” in before we set sail down that open road include:
- Checking my tire wear by using a tread gauge.
- Changing the engine oil.
- Checking the battery.
- Checking the fluids (including the brake fluid, and power steering fluid).
- Ensuring every signal and car light is working properly.
After all that’s well and in order, I feel confident that I can hitch up my camper trailer to my now well-tuned vehicle—when my mechanic gives me the all-clear, all that’s left is to pick out my destination. With nearly a dozen national parks within only a few hours drive from me, it’s simply a matter of closing my eyes and picking out a spot on the map.
(Rented) Home Away from HomeAlthough sleeping in my camping trailer is not exactly roughing it—and I so imprudently suggested in my lengthy preamble that I was ready and willing to endure the most severe of conditions in the name of adventure—in the face of the uncertainty of the pandemic, as I plan my next road trip, I’m considering renting out a luxury property for a weekend of the finest. In the southwest, there are several rental cabins that can reveal the beauty of the painted desert. Headed northward, several rental companies near some of Colorado’s most beautiful mountain towns offer some of the state’s most storied nightlife smackdab in the middle of rustic, historic neighborhoods. While I’m waiting to traverse the Mongolian highlands, some of the Rocky Mountain’s most beautiful landscapes won’t just be a suitable alternative—with the right planning, they’ll be more than worthy of their very own memoirs. With all that there is to see, I’d better get to traveling if I’m going to fit it all in one lifetime. Onward—and inland—ho!