WordsHank Puckett
Photos | Austin Johnson

If you were to live a hundred lifetimes, you still couldn’t see everything there is to see on this earth. Our planet is vast, beautiful, methodical, and steeped in culture that people spend careers trying to dissect. Our only hope is to take the time we have, and without wasting any of it, strive with all our might to find what makes us happy, and what it is we are to contribute to this world.

Growing up in middle-class, suburban Iowa, I was always someone who followed that concept. I explored ideas, chased dreams, and implored my peers to join me. I’ve been able to find what I love, and what it is that I am to contribute to the world. At this point, I am genuinely excited for the career ahead of me.

However; I am young. We are young.

One day rolling down the interstate, I saw someone drive by with a manufactured teardrop trailer. I started to imagine making one out of wood, and how it could be done. For two straight nights, I stayed up to sketch out all of the ideas in my head. To me, the teardrop was a piece of art that I wanted to challenge myself to create.

I dove in right away. Using tools borrowed from my school and no plan whatsoever, I began to form the idea I had in my head into a tangible project. Every day was a frustrating practice of problem solving and woodworking, and I loved it.

Senior year was coming to a close when I finished the teardrop, and both me and the trailer needed to get out of Iowa. A friend (Austin) and I planned a trip to Colorado, which expanded to Washington, then to the entire west coast, and let’s just throw in the Grand Canyon too. But, much like my trailer build, we had no concrete plans for how to make it happen, just a dream and an ambition to chase.

  • axx_7762
  • axx_7975
  • axx_9683

Austin and I hooked up the trailer and hit the road, pushing hard to the west coast. We hit our first metaphorical speed bump somewhere around New Mexico. The engine had started smoking, forcing us to pull off, but we couldn’t find anything wrong with the car. So, we slept right there at the rest stop. In the morning, when I cranked the engine over, it surprisingly sounded great. I shrugged at Austin and we decided to see how far we could go. By some act of God, we didn’t have any problems with the car for the rest of the trip.

I would need half a day and coffee date to describe to you the sights, people, and experiences we would run into the succeeding days. However, I will try to describe just a few.

When Austin and I climbed out to a cliff at the Grand Canyon, a thunderstorm began to engulf the depths. It drew nearer to us, then hit. We had never seen anything more beautiful, and sat through the storm to take it all in. Then, as the rain started to pass, half of the canyon was light with orange hues by the setting sun, while the other half was dressed in a thunderstorm chased by a vibrant rainbow.

Our trip continued on through San Diego and then headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway. We picked up our photographer friend, Austin Johnson, in LAX on the fourth of July and watched the show of explosions on the beach in Santa Barbara. Some nights we stayed in Walmart parking lots, others at rest stops or side roads. One night we parked amongst a community of Westfalias and VW busses in the countryside north of Moneterey. Every day, we would wake up, drive to a coffee shop and decide what we wanted to do that day and where we might sleep.

Adventure works best with no plan; only ambition.

Mt.Tamalpais took us above the clouds of San Francisco, and Trillium lake into the shadow of Mt.Hood. The Hoh rainforest introduced me a whole new world, one that called me to stay, explore, and play in its paradise forever. Port Townsend unveiled to us the banks of Canada while Seattle taught us about coffee and seafood.

Through it all, what I learned most was not about the sights or landscapes, but about people. What they have to offer, the stories they want to share, and the desire to find purpose. We set out on the trip to see the trademark views the West has to offer, but we completely overlooked the power of people.

  • axx_9757
  • axx_9521
  • axx_9631

While the memories of the views and the photos of the sights was the reason this trip came into fruition, it is the people we met along the way and the stories they shared that will stand out most. And as I meet more people, I know I am growing as well.

It becomes easier to be personable, revealing the good in humanity; they want to help, share stories, and most of all just do life with someone else. After all, isn’t that what this is all about.

I know that I can’t live as a nomad forever. I have work to do and a difference to make. But we grow by pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, and we keep losing days. So, it is important never to remain stagnant for too long. I listen to people talking about all the things they wish they would have done in their lives; all the trips they would have taken and the skills they would have learned.

I plan to live my life so I wind up with no “would-have’s.” Just a really great story and hopefully, someone to hear them.

Leave a Reply