I was staring down at my feet. They were dusty, dirty and a previous sunburn had now turned dark tan. Blisters poked out in weird places and callouses rubbed in all the right ones.
“I can’t believe you hike in your chacos,” my dad told me. We were on our morning climb up to Animas Mountain. I shrugged, “I like dirty feet.”
For some reason, that tickled him. As one of Wander Writings biggest fans, he commented, “You could write an article about that. ‘I like dirty feet,‘” he testing the phrase again in the context of a story title.
I had to laugh too. There wasn’t much substance to the statement. No story arc. No plot. But the statement is certainly true, I like having dirty feet. Its one of the reasons I could never give up my instagram account name barefoot_bonhomie, even when the name Wander Writings started to become something bigger.
I kept staring at my feet, even after the conversation passed…and that moment planted a seed. I wanted to always have dirty feet, to get sunburned and tan, blistered and calloused, sometimes bleeding and often sore. In that moment, I realized that I would do whatever it takes to keep my feet dirty.
Whether I was kayaking in Canada, climbing in Utah, hiking in Colorado or running around on farmlands in Texas, to have dirty feet always meant that I was really living, really experiencing.
I had been working part time with a nonprofit since Fall of last year. It was a fantastic job, but it was in an office and in Dallas, Texas. But since it was part time, I had time to pursue other things in the meantime. Writing, hiking, climbing, travel, and more writing. That only made this dirty feet need worse.
I had a vision for this Wander Writings thing. A blog. A travel guide. A how-to website. Something. It turned into an outdoor adventure blog. And suddenly, it started to grow.
I began freelancing on the side, writing for magazines, writing gear reviews, hosting focus groups and experiments to put the latest and greatest outdoor gear to the test. I found myself wanting to check Wander Writings emails at work, asking for a longer lunch break so that I could host a phone consultation for a client. I was designing and writing and working nonstop in a cycle of trial-and-error. Half the time, I had no idea what I was doing, but all the time, there was work to be done. Slowly and surely, everything started to fall into place.
I found a niche and it was well received. I told myself that financially, if this Wander Writings thing ever grew big enough, I’d quit my job for real and write full time.
And then, it did.
So, I quit.
I quit my job to have dirty feet. To have sore muscles and scabbed up knees. To make freezing plunges into alpine lakes and to shiver with regrets the rest of the night. I quit my job to experience new things, so that my lungs would burn, my skin would peel and to push my body to its very limits.
Exactly 24 hours after I resigned, I hit the road with my trusty car Babe. And with my own Tay Babe in the passenger seat, I drove. I drove the 15 hours from Dallas, Texas to my new permanent home in Durango, Colorado.
Not once did I let Tay Babe drive. This was my pilgrimage. I wanted to do it.
Around 48 hours after I resigned, I sat atop Sunshine Peak, my 6th fourteener to summit in the state of Colorado. The dramatic change in altitude royally kicked my ass, and during one exceptionally long breather, Tay Babe commented, “Isn’t this the best?”
He was referring to how neither of us could breathe, and that so real, physical battle for oxygen. I looked down at my feet. They were really dirty. In this moment, we were both living. We were both experiencing life exactly the way we wanted. We were exactly where we wanted to be.
“Yeah,” I agreed in between breaths, “it really is.”