If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know, you will never become anything, and that is your reward. – Oscar Wilde
For some reason, when Oscar Wilde wrote this I don’t think he imagined the “artistic life” looking like scooting your head under a Sprinter Van during a rainstorm to plug it into a power hookup at an RV park in Santa Barbara. However, that’s apparently what my “artistic life” had succumbed to on the night of January 4th 2023. Laying on a tarp at 8:30 pm with an extension cord in my hand, it got better too — I looked over and on the ground a few feet away from where I was lying, I saw the silhouette of a large pile of dog shit.
This would be the point I could imagine having a record scratch, freeze frame, and voice over of “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation.”
Well, it’s all part of the adventure.
That being said, there’s no way in hell I would’ve been able to predict this situation a year ago. Because here’s the thing: in the span of a year, my life situation has gone from settling into a new home in England and talking about getting a dog with my committed life partner, to being single, living in a borrowed Sprinter van by myself, and traveling around Southern California writing a guidebook about hiking and beer.
I’m damn excited about that transition, but that’s not to say it hasn’t had its ridiculous and nightmare-ish moments like the one above. Plus a whole lot of nervous laughter and “I have no fucking clue what’s going on” conversations.
What am I getting at here?
Well this past year has been the most heart wrenching, terrifying, and uncertain year of my life. HOWEVER, it’s also been the most magical, adventurous, and blessed year of my life. That may seem contradictory, but in reality, I think they go together a lot more often than people would like to believe. Allowing myself to sit in that incredibly uncomfortable position of uncertainty has opened these adventurous doors that may never have happened otherwise.
I’m VERY behind on any blog post updates, so let me do a quick recap and prove my point at the same time:
1. The End of Certainty
In May 2022, all I knew about my future was that I would be leaving my newfound home in the UK in June to return to the US and would run a trail race in Italy at the beginning of July. I didn’t have flights booked and I didn’t know where exactly I’d be going. But not having that locked in gave me the flexibility to say yes to a backpacking trip in Yosemite with my mom where I got to climb Half Dome. AND it meant I could accept an offer from one of my clients to spend a full two weeks in the Alps for the trail race and do additional research work while I was there.
2. A Return to France
While doing those activities, I once again realized that starting in mid-August, I had no clue where I’d be sleeping or what I’d be doing. That is, until I got the opportunity to go back to the Alps to experience the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France and the Tor des Geants in Courmayeur, Italy for some book projects I was helping with. This time though, I didn’t book a return flight right away.
3. Dog Sitting in Chamonix, France
So again, it was mid-August and I was telling people, “beyond September 19th, I have no idea even what country I’ll be in, let alone what I’ll be doing.” That’s when my client in Chamonix told me he needed a house sitter for his labradoodle from the end of September to the end of October. And that was my October sorted.
4. Writing My Own Book in Southern California
By early-October, I was thinking, “starting November 1st, I’ll be back in California, and I have some ideas, but still, nothing’s settled.” And that’s when the approval for this book assignment to write about hikes and beer in Southern California came through. This was in part, because of the book project work I’d done in Chamonix in August. I could start at the end of November.
5. Finding My Southern California Living Solution (Vanlife)
At this point, I had a general destination and goal, but still no clear solution for how I’d find a place or afford living in Southern California and what that would look like. If I’d really wanted a safe and certain option, I could have probably found a room in a house and committed to that. But after everything else that had happened, I pushed myself to sit in the uncertainty and trust that when I actually got to Southern California, I’d find a solution. That’s when I got a note from a cousin asking if I’d want to borrow his built out Sprinter van to be in Southern California for 6 months. Two weeks later I was on a plane to Florida picking up the van and driving it to California.
If that chain of events doesn’t sound like some magical serendipity that should only exist in a Hallmark film, I don’t know what does. I am incredibly grateful for the luck and opportunities I’ve been able to get and recognize this isn’t always the case. At the same time, it absolutely never would have been the case if after moving back to the US in June, I’d decided that I (understandably) just wanted some stability and found a place to rent somewhere in the US to start rebuilding my life.
Keeping myself open to life’s uncertainty, while terrifying and miserable at times, also allowed me to start creating a life I could have only dreamed about.
Of course, it also opens the door to laying in the mud under a Sprinter van in the dark next to a pile of dog shit. So there’s that too.