A guest post by Ace
Ever since June 2020, when Mountain Man and I embarked on our hike of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) we have been what some may call “location independent,” “nomadic”, “wanderers”, or even “homeless.”
We prefer to call ourselves “residentially challenged.”
Why “residentially challenged”, you ask? Well, we own a home in Seattle that is currently being rented. Yet, when we are not on the trail we tend to bounce around from place to place, much to the frustration of our friends and families who never seem to know where we are or where we plan to be.
Case in point: after completing the CDT in November 2020, we spent the winter of 2021 in Burlington, Vermont. We spent the summer and fall of 2021 finishing my Adirondack 46ers and hiking the Long Trail, Glacier National Park and the Arizona Trail. This winter we were in Whistler, British Columbia. All the time in between, we have been fortunate enough to have family or friends that allow us to visit. Thank you, friends and family!
Mountain Man and I knew when we started this new chapter that we wouldn’t always want to be wandering around. We like having a sense of home, a place to call “ours,” a place where we don’t feel like an imposition and can fall into our own rhythm and routine.
If the last two years are any indication, our new sense of “home” will come in 4 to 6 month stints, usually during the winter months and in places we enjoy or want to further explore. What is our end game from all of this? To be able to continue exploring new places while also building out our non-traditional careers.
Until then, here are some insights I have gained from our “residentially challenged” life these past two years.
It gets mighty complicated when folks ask us where we live. As I mentioned above, we still own our home in Seattle, but it is rented and taken care of by a property management team. Despite that, we still use our Seattle address for things such as our car registration or business licenses. But when people ask what our mailing address is, we sheepishly tell them it’s in Henderson, NV. A place we have never actually lived.
Why there? Well, we have a virtual mail service set up with Virtual Postal Mail. All our mail gets sent to the Henderson, NV address and we are notified via email when we have new mail. If it seems worthy of reviewing, we can get it scanned, read it, and file in the archives. We can also have checks deposited to our bank and packages forwarded to wherever we are. Best of all, we no longer get any junk mail. It’s magic. We like it so much that Mountain Man and I have considered using this address even if we were to settle down somewhere new.
When not camping or backpacking, there are ways to find accommodations that don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. A few reliable options we have used include Trusted Housesitters, Furnished Finder and, of course, the old standby, AirBnb. In the rare event we need to book a hotel, we search for deals using travel rewards from our credit card (thanks Chase Sapphire Rewards card; the greatest credit card ever!) #shamelessplug.
We have also had the good fortune of spending more time with friends and family in California, New York and Seattle. You know who you are, and we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.
One of the many things I love about backpacking is the freedom I have in carrying very little at all. With backpacking, you truly only carry what you need, which makes packing effortless. I have become a better packer off trail, but still have room for improvement.
Case in point, I filled our closet in Whistler with things I never wore. Why did I sneak in that extra pair of pants or that extra sweater? The reality is that my wardrobe is a rotation of the same five staples that changes with each season. So, every time I pack, whether it is on trail or off, I need to remember that I will be fine only bringing the items I instinctively know I need. Anything else will just be added weight and wasted space.
You need a good chef’s knife and a good pot. You’d be surprised how many places have neither, and if you’ve stayed in your fair share of AirBnBs, you know what I’m talking about. Both of these things sure make cooking easier and help us save money on eating out.
In fact, when we were in Seattle in January, we made a point to get our Le Creuset (the enameled covered cast iron pot that can basically handle all your cooking needs) out of storage, so we had a good pot in Whistler and every location thereafter. #firstworldproblems.
Travel with a spice box. While in Vermont, I was reintroduced to my love of cooking and trying new recipes, all of which require different spices. Since Vermont, we have been traveling with said spices, so we don’t feel limited in continuing to try new things, and we don’t waste money or food by buying the same spice over and over again.
I’ve learned that you don’t need a fancy gym membership to maintain an active lifestyle. Anyone who knows me, knows I value exercise. In fact, last year, I think the only two things I talked about were my love of Ted Lasso (still waiting on my Apple TV+ royalties) and several YouTube fitness influencers. Thanks to the latter, I’ve been able to find a way to supplement my active lifestyle when we’re not on trail. After walking for half of the year, I am grateful that I have another outlet that helps me burn my excess energy.
These past two years, I have been fortunate enough to land some consulting gigs with my previous employer; work that I have surprisingly enjoyed. Mountain Man and I have also collaborated on redesigning Stone and Sky. However, as I look to the future, I am more interested in pursuing freelance opportunities that push the boundaries of your typical 9-to-5 job. My second career is still a work in progress, but I know I want it to be remote, flexible, and to satisfy my task-rabbit ways. Open to suggestions…
Get out and explore. Try to engage with the community you are visiting. Last year in Burlington, I volunteered weekly for a food bank. Not only did it give me a sense of routine, it introduced me to a wonderful group of people. Mountain Man and I also made sure to explore a new place for hiking or cross-country skiing every weekend.
This winter, when we were not downhill or cross-country skiing, we were exploring the Whistler area. We’d go for walks or runs on the fantastic Valley Trail system that winds itself through town and the Whistler Valley, Lost Lake Park or the Emerald Forest Trail Network. We revisited our favorite places to go for breakfast (Southside Diner), baked goods (Purebread), and poutine (Zogs). You know, the important stuff. It has been fun to be a seasonal local of sorts.
Mountain Man and I also both invested in new ski gear. It turns out my ski boots were too big and the skis that I bought from a Vermont ski swap over 14 years ago needed updating. #shocker. Sadly, despite gear that fits, I still won’t leave this town an advanced skier. Have I gotten better? Yes. Am I Lindsey Vonn? No. And, the fear of skiing that Mountain Man spoke about in his most recent post? Yeah, I got that too, but for entirely different reasons.
Sadly, we left Whistler in May. We have always loved that place—heck, we even got married there—and having the opportunity to spend the winter there was an experience I will forever appreciate and never forget. It is a town that checks all of our boxes—accessibility to the outdoors, walkability, connectivity, and it’s just downright beautiful. As such, we know we will be back.
Until then, we only know where our car will be taking us for the next few months—Bryce Canyon, Arizona, and Colorado. After that, it is figuring out what trails we’ll find ourselves on. But the few things that will always be known and constant are these: our chef’s knife, our Le Creuset, our spice box and my YouTube fitness influencers (thanks iPad) will be with us, ready to set up shop at our next “home away from home.”