I cannot believe another decade is comin’ in hot! The end of a decade is arbitrary, but I still feel like it means something.
Amazingly, this blog has been alive the entire 10s, so it is a fossil preservation of our memories, an agreeable happenstance for Justin’s terrible memory that he fully admits to have.
Digging into the blog archives, however, is like peeking into someone else’s life window. These days represent a stark difference from the traditional life we led with office jobs and specific titles. Back in 2009 when we said goodbye to the 00s, Justin & I were renting a house in New Hampshire, owned a rental property in Virginia and both had full-time, mostly 9-5 jobs—he as a parks & recreation director, I as a medical writer. They seem familiar, but who were those people??? We were even contributing to our 401Ks. We were such babies, err, except for the responsible adult living part.
Somehow our year-long planned sabbatical to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2011 turned into a 9-year stray from the norm. Because we sling a lot of mud at the wall to see what sticks, I have to remember what we actually are doing in the moment for work when people ask how we make a living. But somehow, we maintain a partial nomadic existence whose recipe includes 1 cup of environmental education, 1 cup of outdoor writing, 3/4 cup of public speaking tours, a 1/2 cup of property caretaking, 1/4 cup of long-distance hiking and adventuring, with 2 tablespoons of odd jobs. And if I had to slap a fancy title on our career path, I’d simply say authentic storytellers. I swear that even though we appear to have a restless nature, we are taking purposeful and intentional steps. In fact, if you asked 2009 versions of Patrice & Justin what they wanted for their future, they would claim they dream of one day owning a camper van and a cabin in the woods. Done.
Getting to this point was not without a whole lot of hustle. These past 10 years, we’ve worked hard to create this life, with create being the operative word. Obstacles—like Justin’s three surgeries, one hospitalization for a pulmonary embolism for me and taking care of my parents—should have thrown us off course, but we are still happily meandering and living our best life less ordinary.
I gathered one picture from each of the last 10 years to commemorate the decade and there seems to be a pattern.
2010 – We took our first multiday backpacking trip on The Long Trail in Vermont (still unfinished business there!)
2011 – We walked from Maine to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail in 141 days
2012 – We managed Bears Den Trail Center & Hostel in northern VA along the Appalachian Trail
2013 – Backpacker sent us on the road as the Gear and Go road team, giving 25 presentations around the country
2014 – We managed RimRock Inn (tipis! restaurant! bar!) in remote northeast Oregon
2015 – We walked from the top of New Zealand to the bottom in 123 days
2016 – We started working at Fenton Ranch in northern New Mexico, where we taught environmental education to private school kids & took care of the school’s ranch property
2017 – We launched our very own speaking tour about hiking New Zealand giving 31 presentations around the country
2018 – We began our role as the Zero Landfill Team for Leave No Trace/Subaru and worked in 3 national parks—Grand Teton, Denali & Yosemite. We also purchased our dream camper van.
2019 – We purchased our cabin in Alaska outside of Denali National Park
It certainly has been an equally invigorating and chaotic decade. I realize I crave some slowing down, which simply means in this next decade, I think I’ll say no more without giving an excuse. Although knowing me, I probably won’t.
As for the most recent year 2019, how can I begin to summarize it? It was bittersweet. I appreciate the trying times, as much as the rewarding ones because I know it all helps me grow.
Here are a few stats to sum up 2019.
2 family deaths (my dad & Justin’s grandma)
195 days on the road for Leave No Trace (76 days for our winter contract + 103 days for our summer Zero Landfill contract + 16 days for our fall REI Cleanup contract)
31 days (ish) on the road in our Sprinter camper van
9 US National Parks (and 3 Canadian NPs)
2 more State Highpoints from the list
215.9 miles hiked/snowshoed/skied/paddled
35 flights for Justin (24 for me) … we feel really bad about contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions, but to be fair, there were a lot of funerals & bi-monthly treatments that required flying!
And with that, we say C-ya 2019. Bring it, 2020, along with a new decade.