The Dichotomy of Dirtbaggin

Dirtbagging is romantic, essentially my life is a Patagonia tee shirt, living simply and having adventures is what it consists of. Being unemployed and climbing, running, skiing, biking full time is something to be striven for; we’re like animals migrating towards the sun or away from it depending on the season and our activity of choice.
I went climbing with some of my bros the other day and there were some non-dirtbags there; we were talking about what the spring and summer were going to look like. Should we go to Indian Creek or up to Bend, Rifle or Maple, Renier or Alaska, aid climbing in Yosemite or alpine climbing in Wyoming, Kentucky? The debate was lively, none of which are poor choices. This girl from South Carolina ,one of the non-dirtbags, chimed in and said “my life is so boring, you guys have so much freedom” which was flattering and I lose site of often. Being entrenched in the climbing community it’s normal for people to hit the road for the summer or winter. People look at our lives and think its awesome; I know that I did before I moved into my car. But what about the fear and loneliness I feel sometimes. When you’re at a climbing area and it’s raining, being stuck in your tent or van all day can really suck. Looking for a reliable and safe touring partner in the miserable Montana winters can feel extremely lonely. “What the Fuck am I doing with my life” is a thought that crosses my mind often: am I going to wake up in ten years and realize that I’m just okay at a bunch of sports that know one gives a fuck about, am I going to die alone in some remote mountain range because I was arrogant enough to think “I don’t need a partner for this”.
There are so many Youtube videos, stories, books, podcasts about how awesome it is to give up everything and just ramble on down the road. And it is. Humans need passion, joy, freedom, experience, but what about routine, accountability, security, and personal relationships. I feel like I don’t have much of the latter in my life. Sometimes I feel intense fear because of my life choices; especially when I don’t have a partner and I’m stuck in town. I also think that to often dirtbaggin is looked at as awesome and we don’t talk about the negative aspects of our lifestyle. In my experience mountain folk are people who wander and question. Do “normal” people with regular jobs fear these things as a general rule. I don’t know.
Looking back at the last few years of my life I have no regrets: I’ve driven highways end to end, I’ve hiked (and hitchhiked) the width of the country, I’ve climbed in dozens of different climbing areas, I went on a run and saw the most beautiful sunrise run in Clover Texas. Where the hell is Clover Texas? I’ve spent my adult life exploring the United States, I know my home.
Looking at my reality objectively it’s fear that makes me question my lifes trajectory. Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all, I do not want my life to be run by fear and indecision. So today I’m going to stay fearless and live a charmed life.

Colin Smith

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2 Comments

  1. Fear and loneliness plagues us all throughout our lives, whether you are a dirtbag or “normal.” I agree with your closing words. I think the goal is to rise above the loneliness (fear of being alone) and learn to love the solitude of our souls and embrace the glory of being alone. If you think this is bullshit, then just try to take comfort in the words of the great Henry Rollins, “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.”

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