Leaving a Wild Land

In just about a week, I’ll pull out of the dirt road driveway leading to the place I’ve called home for the last six months, and begin the trek back to Michigan. I’ll be trading the moonlight streaming in through my windows for streetlights, and off-the-grid, solar-powered living for suburban Detroit. Again.

When I graduated college this past spring, I imagined that I’d complete my internship in the fall and land a full-time ranch dream job right away. However, the way we imagine things is rarely the way they actually happen. (That’s a lesson I’d imagine I would have learned by now, but that just goes to prove my point.) I had plenty of options: accept a job offer and work full-time, find something seasonal for the winter, travel, go back to school, etc. When I saw all of these options written down on paper, I realized that there are so many things left that I want to do before I eventually settle down and live the life I really want to be living right now.

I want to go to Iceland. Ireland. Alaska. Heck, maybe even Antarctica if I can make that happen. I want to visit friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. I want to see musicals on Broadway and road trip to places I’ve never been in our own country. So when I saw that “travel” option written down, I knew that if I didn’t take it right now, maybe I never would.

And that’s why I’m leaving this wild land for now. I have no doubt that sometime, hopefully in the very near future, I’ll have my ideal ranch job, with a house and family and commitments that I crave but don’t have right now. But through this tough decision, I’ll be able to fill that house with stories of adventure and exploration and people I meet along the way.

It’s not going to be easy to leave here. My internship has taught me so much, about working horses, cattle, and land, and I am so grateful for the warmth and graciousness shown to me by some of the best people I’ve ever known. Because I’ve also been taught so much about life. I’ll never forget the laughs we’ve been so blessed to share, and the miles we’ve ridden over some of the most beautiful country on earth. And I know that this place will always be a home to me.

That’s the thing about traveling – after a while, everywhere becomes home. 

“Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Genesis 28:15

Homecoming – Josh Ritter

Goodbye Colorado – Corb Lund

Adventure Is Out There!

There is something about the American West that fascinates and enchants, something that pulls people to visit and re-visit time and again. There is something romantic about the cowboy lifestyle, even when it’s portrayed at its worst. There is some sort of ingrained desire for open spaces and prairie sunsets and mountain air that can only be satiated by wandering westward.

I have a good friend who is well-learned in the Lakota tradition. She was once telling me about the medicine wheel, which is a symbol used by Plains tribes to represent knowledge of the universe. Each of the four directions is connected with a different space. The West is linked to joy and growth in the intellect space, where you hold the things you’ve always wanted to do. In our American tradition, westward expansion is linked to exploration and adventure. Those two images of the West overlap for me, joy and growth stemming from the adventures I’ve always wanted to take.

Adventure has always been a big theme in my life. I remember spending hours as a child, poring over accounts of the Vikings, Lewis and Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Edmund Hillary. I’ve always craved range to ride and mountains to explore. To me, the West always seemed like the perfect place to live, an idea which was made fact by several family vacations in my formative years. Yet somehow, I never realized that I could actually live here, until a visit to family in Montana after my first year of college.

I still remember it so clearly. I was 19 years old, and feeling burnt out and lost. I didn’t know where the next turn was, or what to do once I got to that turn. My cousin told me, “I think you need an adventure.” We went on to talk about all the things I loved, and how to make those things a part of my everyday life. How to create a life I loved. How to follow my bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say. And that’s when I discovered, adventure didn’t have to be something I dreamed about, it could be something I lived. From that point forward, that’s how I’ve tried to make decisions and live my life.

Life is too short to do things that make you miserable. Of course, there are going to be hardships and difficulties along the way. That’s just how life goes. But those hardships and difficulties are much easier to bear if you live where you love and do what you love. To me, that’s living out west and ranching in the mountains. It might be something completely different to you. But the important part is to find the thing you love, then do more of that thing. To quote Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, “Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.”

Adventure is out there. All you have to do is find it.

 

(shoutout to the movie Up for the title inspiration. You go, Russell.)