I was nature-starved, then I remembered I had a backyard

In 2012, I bought a rusty, yellow Sprinter cargo van. Why? To go see nature. To go be in nature. I spent six months installing rickety planks of wood and metal and clearance sale cabinetry in the van to build a little home, then rode off into the sunset away from home to ‘go West’ and see nature. It was every dirtbag climber cliché you’ve heard of, but before the era of Instagram influencers. I bought a van because it was a means to finally ‘connect with Mother Nature’.

As a Floridian growing up in the hustle and bustle of Miami, then falling in love with rock climbing at an indoor gym in Tallahassee, I thought I had to leave my surroundings to properly experience nature. I believed that ‘real’ nature was at least a five-hour drive away.

For years, I pursued outdoor recreation as a means to commune with the environment. To get closer to nature, I climbed higher, hiked further, ventured deeper into the backcountry. I’d pack up my car, drive as far as I could, hoist on a backpack, and walk even further. Travel, to be in nature, became the core of my identity. I visited all 50 states, lived full-time in multiple vehicles, and flew all over the world to find nature.

Perhaps you know the feeling—I think we call it wanderlust. It’s that insatiable desire to be out there, experiencing the world, soaking in the environment around us. We think of experiencing nature, and suddenly picture ourselves in a national park, or some faraway landscape. We want to go, we want to get out there—because is there any feeling better than being in the great outdoors?

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