Photojournalist
Panorama Rd Haines Jct.jpg

The Road Journal

Three. Six. Four.

Tomorrow is a special day, or so I've been told. It marks one year since the greatest, worst, craziest, smartest decision I’ve ever made. One year since I gave up air-conditioning, heating, a private bathroom, regular showers, a real mattress, good food (okay, I wasn’t exactly whipping up Monte Cristo every morning in college) and any chance at meeting girls. One year since I hit the road to chase a dream at 18 miles per gallon.

Three hundred sixty-four days ago, I moved into my truck to live life on the road.

Here's the live feed of my reaction to this monumental day: 

It is what it is and it's pretty good. (Buttermilk Boulders | Bishop, CA.)

A lot can happen in a year: The country elected a celebrity with zero credentials to lead a nation. I grew my hair out longer than a few inches. Jon Snow died… sort of. Hell, the Cubs won the World Series. The past year proved ANYTHING is possible.

I've seen more personal transformation over the last 52 weeks than a contestant on a contrived reality TV show.

  • I learned to play guitar (and by that I mean I learned five chords that let you play every country song ever... seriously).
  • I learned to cook gourmet dishes with the three major food groups: oatmeal, peanut butter... okay, maybe two major food groups.

(Damn, will you look at that flawless layering system?)

  • I finally learned how to edit well. Annnnnnd in doing so, I became very jaded about over-processed photography. (Sorry, but if you're using "X-Pro II" or blasting clarity + vibrance + saturation to 100, I'm blocking you--call me elitist, I'm just trying to save my retinas.)
  • I've learned to ignore the desire to be a solitary, moody artist. Talking to strangers is awesome! They'll fill you with an appreciation for basic human decency and make you answer questions like "When's the last time you showered?" and (depending on your answer) follow that up with "Let me buy you dinner." It never hurts to be friendly, guys.
  • Bartering is the new (well, I suppose it's the old) currency out in the boonies. I've traded huckleberries for peanut butter, my beard for dinner and a bar tab (Thanks Pat, you da real MVP), and rides to trailheads for lunch.
  • Money just leads to problems--I've solved that by having none of it.

Oh yeah, and then there's that whole hair and beard thing...

Longer hair, shorter beard now. And a little less snow. (Liard River, British Columbia)

To someone on the outside, one year of van/truck/car-dwelling life can seem like some sort of goal. “Congrats on 365 days—you’ve done it! Now you can get your own place, work a normal job and feel good about your little social experiment.”

That's not how I see it. Tomorrow my meter hits 365, but the sun will set and it’ll be 366 before you know it. Compare it to hitting 100k miles on your car: one instant the odometer clicked from five to six digits (woohoo!); the next it was at 100,001. When my Taco broke six digits, I was in the middle of nowhere on a less-than-scenic highway surrounded by semis. How monumental.

Life in a 5x6’ pickup bed quickly became the new normal. Wake up, shoot sunrise. Go for a run or do some pushups and abdominal exercises on my crash pad. Make oatmeal. Go climbing / hiking / coffee shop for WiFi and a public restroom. Return to truck. Make dinner (or maybe oatmeal). Write in journal. Rinse (just kidding!) and repeat.

Post-dinner views from the rooftop terrace. (Lone Pine, CA)

It’s not that I'm not stoked on it anymore; I'm enjoying the freedom and simplicity just as much today as I did a year ago. Maybe more. But rather than look back on the past year as an accomplishment, I see it as a precursor: I'm stoked on the next 365. 

Sure, there've been downsides: I was SO thankful for my zero-degree sleeping bag during the winter in Canada... I'm slightly less thankful when it's 85 degrees at night in the Owens Valley. I used to complain when USC's WiFi was acting up... now I'd generally be happy with dial-up. I used to think taking a girl home from the 9-0 was hard...  now I'm skeptical I could even fit a dog in my truck, let alone another human.

But it's a pursuit of passion. And that's worth it. It's SO worth it. I have all that I need and none of what I don't. I can go anywhere, any day, on a whim. I'm responsible for generating enough business to sustain myself, but I'm not beholden to anyone. And I'm chasing a dream.

It's freedom. It's simplicity. It's a heavy dollop of what-the-hell-am-I-doing mashed up with a healthy scoop of this-is-fucking-awesome lathered in an introspective glaze of Matthew-why-do-you-swear-when-you-talk-to-yourself sprinkled with a reassuring garnish of because-I'm-pretty-goddamn-passionate-about-this-lifestyle.

(Wow, that made me hungry.)

It's a bundle of intangible, unquantifiable feelings of satisfaction stemming from simplicity, an appreciation of the little things and a take-it-as-it-comes approach that is best represented by this emoji: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Life in Low-4 has taught me to enjoy every individual day of this adventure and look forward to every day yet to come.

So you ask, why do I write on Day 364?

Because tomorrow is a special day. But so is today.

Long hurrr don't currr. (Moab, Utah.)