“Something inside of you is telling a story. I believe every little thing that you see and hear is talking to you.”
– Jim Carrey
Moving to a new city can often be a bit daunting. It requires you to establish yourself in a place you’re not familiar with. It requires you to make this new place, your place. You have to find your new favorite sushi place, your favorite bar, the park where you’ll go for runs, where you’ll be doing your grocery shopping, and most importanly, your new favorite coffee shop. These are not daunting tasks by the traditional sense of the word, it’s daunting in the sense that it requires you to be dilligent in your search, it requires your one precious commodity, your time. It’s daunting because you want to make sure you’ve found the place you belong.
One of those all imporant places you must find is a barber, or perhaps a salon. That can be a daunting task, in the traditional sense. You don’t really want to get that wrong, the consequences might be more than you’re willing to risk. Being new to Nashville, I had to find my new barber shop. The place where I would entrust my hair to someone, which is ultimately a part of our everyday lives and to someone like myself, it matters.
I did my due dillengence, I asked my roommate Jeremiah where I should go, asked a few others, and checked the often helpful Yelp!
But this isn’t about finding a barbershop in Nashville. It’s about the places we are drawn to.
We are drawn to the places we belong.
I found a place where I belong. A place I could dive right into conversation with Nick, the master barber, a place that housed multiple 80’s and 90’s movie’s posters that brought back such incredible movies of my childhood, a place that was plastered with famous celebreties that I admire, such as Burt Reynolds, Mick Jagger, and even my all time favorite painting of Steve McQueen, who is the original man of wild stories.
Sitting down with Nick, I discovered he was an avid outdoorsman, who loved to fly fish and has even been to Bozeman, MT to fly fish, which is where we just returned from. We shared our favorite spots in Nashville and it turns out, we have the same taste in food, music, and craft beers. It’s inspiring to me, how the universe can conspire on your behalf to provide the necessary paths that shape your experience when you allow the room.
I am constantly open to exploring any and every experience and in that, I feel I will meet the people with the best stories, find the routes that open my eyes to see what is new around me, and to take me to where I belong. When we are open to the experience, we are drawn to where we belong.
Like I said, this isn’t necessarily about finding a barber, it’s about finding those places along our journey that we feel a sense of belonging and holidng onto those place, and making them our spaces. We share them and occupy them, we find solace in them, we experience and begin to inhabit their story, we begin to cultivate community, which is all we’re really striving for.
You’ll know when you’ve been drawn to the places you belong. Trust the experience.
Hotel Emma is one of the most storied, landmark, boutique hotels I’ve had the privilege of staying in. The history, story, and character of this place already have me wanting to come back. What started as one of the first breweries of San Antonio in the early 1900’s, has now come to be known as one of the most historic landmarks of the area.
It’s a story of survival, betrayal, and sheer determination that have allowed Emma and Pearl Brewery to remain. And it’s a story one must absolutely discover for themselves. I share a little bit of it in this video below, however, I hope you get the chance to visit this place for yourself and experience the story and character of Hotel Emma.
I suppose you don’t plan on a hat becoming a part of who you are. I realize that sounds farcical, that’s not lost on me, but like listening to a song during a certain period of your life or the aroma of a certain tree reminding you of seasons, an article of clothing can graft itself into a place in the soul.
We were exploring downtown Charleston when we embarked upon an unlikely outdoors shop on King Street. I say unlikely due to the fact that King Street shopping is essentially tourist boulevard. Not the type of place you expect to find a half decent outdoors shop. If you’ve been there, you know, if you haven’t, you need to go. It’s beautiful. I had been in the market for a new hat, that I’ll call my adventure hat. Why a new “adventure hat?” Well, the stage had already been set for a summer of adventures: camping, exploring, fishing, backpacking, climbing, and more, through the adventure wonderland of Montana. Again, sounds farcical, but I wanted a new hat for the new adventures we were going on; mostly because I wasn’t planning on living a summer of perfectly shaped hair.
I found the new adventure hat in Downtown Charleston. Essentially, I bought this hat because of the way it looked, how it fit, and what it said. There wasn’t a light shining from above with angelic voices singing as I approached it. Honestly, I wasn’t even the one looking for a hat in this particular store. It was Sam, my girlfriend, she needed a new beach hat for the day (she eventually found one).
I like my hats. That’s not a metaphor for anything in particular, I just really enjoy wearing a good hat. I don’t have one hat for all occasions, I have a few hats that I cycle through on a regular basis. Hell, I use to wear a fedora on a regular basis. I like hats. But this summer’s hat, it quickly became a part of me. Not in a way that shaped my identity, but in a way that it related with the very being of who I am.
Perhaps it was the way it quickly began to patina. I love the life, and the personality, that items begin to take on when they start to patina. My dad and I make pens and the first one I made, on my own, is the one I carry most frequently. It’s quite simple, made of oak, has basic silver fittings, and writes like any ball point pen. Except for the fact that I made it with my own hands. I’ve had it about three years now and the every day holstering and unholstering out of my pocket, along with the daily use, has begun a wear on it’s shell that gives it a life of it’s own. A reminder of the story and the life we have lived together. The stories we have written together, the adventures, the rigor of everyday life, and every now and then, another maker will catch a glimpse of the pen and compliment the it’s patina. Not the fact that it’s a handcrafted pen, but the way it’s wearing and taking on a personality. The hat, much like my pen, already has stories to tell and is wearing them like a badge of honor. The same can be said for my wax canvas bag, my knife, my jeans, all my possessions, really.
I’m not afraid to use my possessions and put them through the elements, to run them through my life. I want stories to share with my things, stories that might tell themselves and stories that invoke the question, “what happened here?”. I want to look at my wax canvas bag and see the scrapes, abrasions, rips and think of the camping trips and the road trips it took me on. I want to remember the drive from the east coast, starting in NC, taking me through TN, stopping in St. Louis for Sam’s birthday, a couple of days in Boulder, to seeing the Grand Tetons for the very first time and onward to Montana. I lived out of that bag for five days and I was, by no means, tender with it. It was a rigorous trip, on the bag, the car, and our bodies, and it was one we will never forget. I want to look at that bag and remember living out of it.
I wore my hat on that same trip. It’s a Patagonia LoPro Trucker hat that says “Conquerers of the Useless”. I told you, it’s nothing special. Typically I don’t even like trucker hats, it’s the only one I own. But there was something about this hat that I found particularly special. Perhaps it’s the quote, “Conquerers of the Useless”, meaning, do something useless today and really own it. I can own that. I can get out there and have an experience that is seemingly useless to some, but after exploring that experience, it plays a small part in the continual shaping of who I am.
Doing something useless is an experience that becomes a part of the patina of me.
The phrase “Conquerors of the Useless” is the tagline to the popular documentary, 180° South, which turns out to be one of my girlfriends favorite documentaries.
Buying the hat, I knew nothing of the story of “Conquerors of the Useless.” But sitting by a campfire in Beartooth Mountains, I started thinking about our summer of adventures, the places, the experiences, the moments, and at that moment I was wearing the hat, took it off, glanced it over and realized it had been with me all along. And the life it was taking was becoming something I was proud to wear. Once I returned to my computer, I searched the phrase and came across Jeff Johnson, his story, his passion for doing the “useless” and I think I have discovered a new hero.
I think the Conquerors of the Useless would be proud of the adventure’s that the hat and I have been on this summer. Together, we’ve camped Glacier, backcountry hiked Yellowstone, multiple 10+ mile hikes, laid eyes on the Grand Tetons, explored Bozeman, MT, learned to fly fish, drove The Beartooth Highway (remarkable, by the way), and well, the list goes on.
A summer of adventuring may seem like a summer of the useless. Why would we drop everything, move to Montana for the summer, spend all of our free time “adventuring?” To most, it probably doesn’t make sense. To others, it may evoke a riot of envy. To us, it’s a experience that is shaping the story we are telling, it is a chance to explore just for the sake of seeing something we wouldn’t see by following routine, it is us, Sam and I, falling in love and crafting our story around adventure and journey. Doing something useless and owning it, is more than just doing something useless, it’s about doing something for you, to shape you, to become you. It’s adding to the patina of your life and the story it is telling.
Here’s to Conquering the Useless and to the next adventure.
Explore the Experience.
Today was our first solo hike. Our, as in Lucy and myself. Lucy is our dog who lives for adventure more than Sam and myself. Sam will be in Alaska fishing for the week, so Lucy and I decided it was time to get into the Gallatin National Forest and explore on our own for a bit. Let’s be honest, Lucy will go anywhere as long as the window is down.
It started out relatively simple, fun and lighthearted. It was hike that we could do in less than a couple of hours, full of beautiful scenery, easily accessed from where we live. Sam gave me a list of easily accessible day hikes in the Bozeman area, before she left. Middle Cottonwood was one of those on the list and sounded the most exciting. After a bit of searching online, I discovered it to be easy, so easy in fact, that I thought it was be more fun for Lucy, seeing that there were multiple creek access points.
But somewhere along the way, I missed the point where Middle Cottonwood ended. And I just kept walking.
Lucy was running from creek access to creek access, thinking that she would love it was completely accurate. The dog loves water. Every time we approach a creek she trots over to the creek bed steps in and lays down. Just lays right down in the middle of the creek, I think she’s the happiest there. I was running with the camera from one new scenic view to the next, the scenes were incredible. No bend was like the other. It was breathtaking, and the further we went, the more incredible the scenery.
We passed a young family about 45 minutes in, a young mom, late 20’s and her daughter were leading the pack, followed by their son, who was about 11, and dad of mid-30’s, we’ll call him Randy, for relatable purposes. I greeted the family with a casual, “how is it up there?” Having no actual clue where up there was or if there even was an “up there.” Randy replied with a smile and a simple “it just gets more beautiful the further you go.”
Perfect, that’s what we needed. More beautiful. So Lucy and I keep jumping in creeks and taking pictures.
We really didn’t know how far “further” was and honestly didn’t care. We were out for a day hike.
I say I didn’t care about how much further, further was, but I still kept finding myself saying “maybe we should just turn around.” But Randy the Dad was right, it just kept getting more and more beautiful the further up we went. The mountain goats were unexpected, i’ve only seen those on higher elevation hikes, which is when I knew we were going further. The view of *Saddle’s Peak with a peripheral view of Sam’s favorite, the Spanish Peaks, the zen-like sound of gravel crunching under my feet, the creek crackling next to us and a clear, inviting sky as we walked in to the day made going further more like therapy than physical exertion. At one point, the smell of the forest was so overwhelming, that we stopped, I closed my eyes, stood in the middle of the trail and took it in. It was the scent of pine trees mixing with the breeze of the mountain air, that picked up with it, the scent of berries that surrounded. I had a moment with Gallatin National Forest.
I’m guessing we went around at least 18 different bends, that included me saying at least 18 different times that we were just about there. We weren’t. We came around one corner and there at the end of that stretch was a beautiful cluster of boulders, that I assumed signaling the end of the trail, offering a place for us to drink our water and eat our snacks. You know what they say about assuming.
I walked up to the boulders, that offered a spectacular view, and peered over my shoulder, there was still more trail. “SERIOUSLY?” So we walked out on the boulders, snapped a few pictures, and kept walking.
The further we went, the more beautiful it became.
I didn’t really know how far it was at the time, but I wasn’t expecting “far.” But I knew if we kept going, we were going to continue to be greeted by beautiful scene after beautiful scene. So we continued.
We eventually made it to the top. Lucy had to stop in the shade of a pine tree, since there was little shade on this trail. Once we got to the top, it was evident we were at the top and Randy the Dad was right, it was more beautiful at the top, although I highly doubt Randy the Dad and his family went the way we went.
The view, the thoughts, the elation of sitting under this pine tree’s shade with Lucy while I write this, along with a couple of Bruk’s Bars (thank God I brought these, they were serious fuel) could not be met by any other feeling today.
Today, we went further. Today, we pushed ourselves. Today, we encountered beautiful.
Today, I will take solace in the face that we went further and it kept getting more and more beautiful.
Today, Go Further.
Today, Find the Beauty.
*We made it to Saddle’s Peak, turns out it was a 10 mile hike, not that far in the grand scheme of things, but our longest, with a quick elevation gain of roughly 3,000 feet. It was a solid day’s work.
Road trips are a special sort of adventure. I’m not talking about the three to four kind of road trip, the eight to twelve, or even better, the two-day-plus type of road trip. It’s here that the road unfolds an experience that only traversing through cities, US Highways and States can unveil. Our road trip to Montana had us stop in Nashville for the night, head over to St. Louis for Sam’s birthday, then roll over to Kansas City where we would stay the night. It was in Day Two of our trip, that the beauty of the road started to reveal itself.
A few months ago, we announced that we’re moving to Montana….er, summering in Montana. We made the move. We want to pursue adventure, story, and experience more than comfort and stability. So we’ve relocated to Bozeman, MT. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, we just know that while we are here, we are going to be all here. The journey, the experiences, stories, and people will be shared. This is how we will write our Wild Letters.
We’re leaving comfort and stability to pursue adventure and story. This summer, The Wild Letters takes to the road and ventures west. It seems less like risk when story and experience are what matter most to you. Our time will mostly be spent wondering, adventuring, and exploring new experiences as often as possible.
New stories shared here daily. And over on the new vlog.