"So you decided to be a bum"

A buddy of mine recently quoted a memorable breakfast conversation from Pulp Fiction when describing my recent life choices.  In Tarantino’s Masterpiece Jules (Jackson) tells Vincent (Travolta) that he intends to “walk the Earth” “like Caine in Kung-Fu” to “meet people” and “get in adventures.” Vincent responds, “So, you decided to be a bum.”

(check out the video to the right if you have no idea what I'm talking about)

I guess you could call me that.  After all, I do meet 2 of the 3 criteria that Vincent used to qualify Jules as a bum.

  1. No job
  2. No residence
  3. No legal tender

I will not have a job nor will I have a permanent residence.  I will have legal tender as I have spent months saving for this trip, but if those are the only 3 qualifications 2/3 of the time I could be labeled as a bum.  That didn't quite sit right with me, as ‘bum’ is not usually a prestigious classification.  It prompted me to examine the ‘bum’ label a little further. 

According to Merriam Webster online a ‘bum’ [noun] can be defined in the following ways.

  • One who sponges off others and avoids work.
  • One who performs a functions poorly
  • One whose time is devoted to a recreational activity
  • One with no settled residence or means of support

OK.  Let’s look at these one by one.

  • I have no intention of sponging off others, I can support myself, but I definitely intend on avoiding work for a while, at least work of the indoor cubicle type variety.  
  • I don’t generally perform any function very poorly, unless of course I’m hungover, then I don’t do anything well.
  • I fully intend on devoting 100% of my time to recreational activity in the coming months.  Can't argue with that at all.  
  • I will not have a settled residence as most days I will wake up in a different place than the day before, but I will have a means of support (health benefits, insurance, etc.)

Well shit. It certainly appears that, depending on your point of view, I could be and should be considered a bum.  My friend’s movie reference seems like it was in fact appropriate.  To be honest after reading some of the definitions I don’t mind the moniker, but I prefer to be thought of as a recreational bum, just like the ski bums, climbing bums, and beach bums that can be found across the country enjoying things for the rest of us.  



Fishing weekend with the guys

A fishing weekend with the guys: the quintessential getaway for hundreds of thousands of men.  It is time spent in in the middle of nowhere, it is time spent with your best buddies, and, lastly, it is time spend away from your regular routine.  In my experience whatever your normal routine is or whatever your normal rules are: throw them out of the fucking window during these weekends.  Now let me tell you why.

Whitewater River in SE MN

Whitewater River in SE MN

Nightlife in Elba, MN

Nightlife in Elba, MN

You will drink ungodly amounts of the shittiest American lagers.  You will smoke 3 packs of cigarettes even though you don’t smoke.  You will eat the crappiest bar food ever despite watching the bartender pull it out of the oldest greasiest microwave on the planet. You will make outlandish booze fueled bets on sporting events you don’t care about.  You will fall asleep on the floor next to your deflated air mattress.  You will drive your car through the middle of a fucking playground at 2 in the morning.  And………..you just might get to do some fishing. 

In the brief flashes of sobriety you realize that all of those smart tendencies, useful habits, and good decisions that you have developed up to that point in your life are all for naught this weekend.  Don't try and stick with them.  Let them go.  Resisting only makes is worse.  Realize that you have purposely isolated yourself from the normal routine you have worked for years to establish, all in the name of fun. So let go and enjoy the ride. To paraphrase a very inebriated friend of mine "hey man, we might never be here again, so just have fun."

It was a fucking great time, and I’d do it again.

200 days

200 days ago.  I was a 34 year old Sr. Financial Analyst working for a Fortune 500 company.  I had what most people would consider a pretty promising corporate career.  I made good money. I had the loft apartment I always wanted. I had a brand new car.  I had what a lot of people would consider a pretty damn good life.  And honestly, it was pretty good, but it just didn't feel quite right.   On this particular day I got home from the office around 6pm.  It was a more-stressful-than-usual day.  It was one of those awesome day at the office you hear about; I had to redo some calculation 17 times because it’s not what some executive wanted to see, then, when I finally got the numbers ‘right’ (in his eyes), the font was wrong.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME! THE FUCKING FONT! I was livid. I changed the font, pressed send, and left.


I walked in the door, dropped all my stuff, and immediately hit the couch. I just need to relax.  I think I was still frazzled from my day.  I must have laid there for an hour staring at the concrete and pipes that adorned my apartment ceiling.  As I lay there I could help but think about sitting in a cubicle doing this every day for the next 30 years.  I almost vomited at the thought.  I decided then and there that I am not doing this anymore.  I am not going to living my life on someone else's terms.  I will not spend the next 30 years working for someone else who only gives me 3 weeks of vacation a year. 3 stinking measly weeks, aside from a few holidays sprinkled in there, is all the free time you get to chase your own dreams in the corporate world.   There was no way that I would ever be able to do all cool things I wanted in only 3 weeks a year.  The math just did not work.  I almost certainly would never be able to go on an expedition to summit Denali, or go on my dream African adventure, or road trip to South America, or climb in the Himalayas.  Denali would be the shortest commitment of those at 4 full weeks.  Maybe I could save vacation for two years to do it, but that means I couldn't do anything else for 2 full years.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  2 FUCKING YEARS! I’d rather wake up and get kicked in the dick every day than accept that.  I got up off the couch and walked over to my computer.  I opened up a spreadsheet and started to figure out the logistics of how long I would have to work until I could take some time off.  And I didn't mean a little time.  I meant months.

What to do, where to go, and when to leave, questions that needed answering.   A few months before this, in August of 2013, I spent all 3 weeks of my vacation on a 6500 mile road trip throughout the western United States.  It was amazing.  I lived out of my car, camped or stayed with friends.  The trip culminated with a successful summit of Mount Rainier alongside one of my brothers and several friends.  I could think of no better way to spend my time than a massive road trip adventure all over the United States.  I went nuts for weeks researching climbs, hiking, and all kinds of other fun.  It got a little ridiculous because I wanted to do so much; unfortunately time and money would only allow me a finite amount of fun.  After weeks of brainstorming, planning, and calculating I came up with a plan for a 3 month road trip across 10 states throughout June, July, and August.  It covers over 8000 miles and includes a lot of hiking, climbing, camping, mountaineering, and everything else I could possibly dream up.   It was an amazing plan to get out of the cubicle life and live on my terms, doing what I wanted.  Ironically enough I had utilized all my corporate experience to meticulously budget, organize, and plan a way out of corporate America.  I found it pretty damn funny.  The only thing to do now was quit my job, give up my apartment, put everything I own in storage, and set out on my own across the US.  No big deal. Right?

Well here I am. 200 days since that shitty day of work started me down this path.  I am sitting on an old couch cushion on the concrete floor of my near empty apartment, I have 2 weeks left of my job, and I am 48 days from the beginning of the trip I have thought about every day for the last 6 months.  I am beyond the point of no return at this point.  Each day brings me closer to the first mile of road.  Each day I put one more piece of the puzzle into place.  There are some of those days where I am freaking out.  I mean honestly, what the hell am I doing?  Am I really quitting my job to essentially be a homeless vagrant wandering the United States to climb fucking rocks?  What the hell is wrong with me?   I calm myself down by remember why I am doing this.  Then I get really excited.  This is what I want. This is happening. I am taking an epic trip that I have dreamed about.  I can do it.