Thirty to Three

Life has been good lately and I find myself trying to pin the source. Surely, there must be a source which we can pin, then attempt to emulate, only to fall frustratingly into the trap of deconstructing things that cannot be taken apart.

Can you relate?

Casting rays at dawn. We can see the light but not feel warmth. A little repositioning is all that is needed.

Last year I put thirty-thousand kilometres on my sprinter van in a pretty narrow travel window of about five months. Five times thirty days, divided by thirty thousand…. 200 kilometres a day? If i’m averaging 50 kph, thats four hours each day.

Driving was my part time job.

Off the clock, Zion National Park UT.

You’re thinking, no, Sean, you entitled son-of-a, Driving through national parks and land reserves, taking in epic sunrises, casually strolling to the next destination in a comfortable fashion does not constitute work. Well, you might be right, but allow me to further gripe.

Mother nature has the ultimate daily rituals, Salt Lake City UT

Last fall road tripping stirred a range of emotions, from deeply uncomfortable to pure contentment. The contentment comes and goes easy, but the discomfort much more difficult to shed. I’d arrive at some revered destination; Moab to bike, Red Rocks to climb, Trestles to surf, with expectations so high as I hopped out of my van and suited up, literally vibrating in the process. When something is so built up in your mind, variance from the expected can surface as a negative.

No variance on the “Skyline”, Gallatin Canyon MT

Not up to expectations? well, that’s disappointing. And while it feels like you have been slighted by a place, it is hard to make the argument that a salient dot on a map can cause this strife. Disappointment, locational anxiety, coupled with a sensitive ego results is some form of offended feeling. What do insecure people usually do when they get offended?

They run. Queue the long drive…

Golden hour in Jackson, WY. Sublime location, but a lonely night. Zipping in-and-out of town without adequate social time has it’s drawbacks.

Noticing the pattern, and having repeated it myself several times, I can assuredly report back that nothing changes. The unsettled feeling that comes with this form of travel will remain. Neil Gaiman couldn’t have said it better; “Wherever you go, you have to take yourself with you.”

Failing to lean in, explore and resolve this discomfort will only result more of the same. Why do I set these lofty expectations, and why am I so hard on myself when they fall short?

Where hot and cold meet, Yellowstone WY.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about travel by bike. He raised the issue of something we can call “destination hopping”, described as if a trip or journey are discreet points on a map, with nothing to be experienced in between.

He shared that he wouldn’t visit an unfamiliar country again unless it was by bicycle touring. From there, stories emerged of going to place X to see Y and Z, but the most memorable and culturally rich experiences came from the unplanned, impromptu stops in small villages and towns.

Trying to create order from harvest, Southern AB.

And then there’s the pace, one mode resembling something of a slow-iv-drip, compared to an epinephrine injection. After a long driving session, I feel exhausted. Overloaded by visual sensations while the body feels restless, plus the standard disdain for other drivers who may have been following you just a bit too closely.

Now, bike touring isn’t for everyone, but maybe we can take the mindset of one and apply it into the conventional forms of travel?

Sundown in Jackson, WY.

Less moving time, more doing time. There is beauty everywhere. There are things to do, and company to enjoy. This doesn’t require a momentous uproot-and-go approach. The itinerary based, gotta-make-the-most-of-it approach applies blinders to everything you do. Plan to do less and watch the time fill itself.

Simple pleasures of sandy feet in Pacific Beach, CA

Maybe the unsettled feeling comes from the unnatural state of moving thorough so much country at such a rapid pace. As if our subconscious knows it’s wrong to go on some whirlwind drive-a-thon to chase something we saw in a magazine, when pulling off on side road and going for a walk in the woods would provide just as much enrichment to our lives.

Be mindful of the others on that walk…. Yellowstone, WY.

Grinding sucks, period. Through work, an education, a road trip, all forms will result in the query “why am I doing this?”. It has been said, many of times, that what we’re here to experience is a journey, not a destination. I’ve been learning to love the process, even when it is hard, in hopes that the hard moments make one appreciate when times aren’t.

I don’t have the best history of taking my own advice, but these are points I’ve been working hard on. The last two months have been nothing short of an incredible adventure; ample social time with friends new and old, physical challenging with human-powered efforts to reach summits and stashes (of powder, y’know?), and time for self care in all departments. All the these things are what I thought van life to be, but only now am I realizing that they have pretty much nothing to do with the van.

My odometer shows about 3,000 km.

“Puff Daddy” in Rogers Pass, BC. Photo: Phil Tomlinson (

I’m sticking with this new motto: less moving, more doing.


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