Tag Archives: camping

Happy New Year from Peru!

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Hey friends!  Happy 2012!  We celebrated in a grand fashion in Huacachina, Perú, by taking a dune buggy/sandboarding tour, camping at a place with a pool, and getting ripped off by outrageous holiday prices everywhere!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Seriously though, the journey is going great despite it’s many challenges.  Reflecting on 2011, Zach and I both decided it was the best year of our lives.  And it’s only going to get better!

I updated my Thirty by 30 today and was happy to cross four things off the list!  That’s pretty good for one year, I’d say!  So here’s a goofy picture of me out on the dunes on NYE.  Yes, I have dreadlocks now; call me crazy if you must.

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Burning Man

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The reason it has taken me so long to write about Burning Man is because the task seems impossible.  To get it, you honestly have to be there.  Words cannot do it justice, and neither can pictures (which is good because I barely took any).  All I can do is ineloquently try to give you a glimpse of what our first burn was like and try to show you that despite the media’s portrayal, Burning Man is more than a bunch of drugs and sex.

For those of you not in the know, Burning Man is an annual week-long arts festival that takes place in the desert of northern Nevada.  In recent years, more than 50,000 people have attended the event.  One of the core principles of Burning Man is “radical self-reliance.”  This means you must bring EVERYTHING you need to survive for one week in the Black Rock Desert.  The only service Burning Man provides is porta-potties.  We arrived with all our camping gear, baby wipes galore (our bathing method), 20 gallons of water, 4 cases of PBR, and plenty of food.  Burners call the Black Rock Desert “the playa.”  The playa is an otherworldly environment.  Nothing but flat, white, sand for miles constantly blowing dust.  The dust was the hardest thing to cope with.  We had to wear bandanas around our mouths and noses to avoid breathing it in.  We kept all of our electronics in Ziploc bags in the car.  Our tent, ourselves, and everything else was immediately coated in dust.  Sometimes it would blow so hard that you just had to stop and close your eyes until it stopped.   Sound miserable?  It was, at times.  But keeping Burning Man here prevents a lot of the people who shouldn’t come from coming.  You have to be able to deal with the conditions physically and mentally, be prepared, be radically self-reliant.  That’s part of the purpose.

Another basic tenet of Burning Man is environmental preservation.  This was a huge issue, as it should be when 50,000 people descend on a barren desert.  Yes, 50,000 people come to Burning Man, but EVERYONE follows the “pack it in, pack it out” rule.  No garbage facilities to be found.  No trash was supposed to hit the playa and it was AMAZING how well everyone did at this.  Even by the end of the week, there was hardly any M.O.O.P. (“Matter Out of Place”, as trash is referred to in Black Rock City).  I was impressed.

The absolute BEST thing about Burning Man for me was the sense of genuine community and connection that I felt.  Everyone is there to interact with and help each other.  As soon as we got there, as we were struggling to set up our shade tarp, an old guy from a couple camps down rode over on his turtle car (made from a lawn mower engine and a kids’ turtle sandbox) and loaned us some poles to use.  Our neighbors were all seasoned Burners and they all kept checking on us to make sure we were having fun.  I think the thing that really fostered community the most was the “gift economy” setup.  No one uses money at Burning Man.  The only things that are sold are ice and coffee.  Everything else you get all over the city is “gifted.”  It is hoped that everyone will bring some type of gift to share, but that’s really on the honor system.  We brought five gallons of homemade peach wine and used that s our gift.  But it was really nothing compared to what we received everywhere we went.  The best way to give you a sense of what a “typical” day at Burning Man is like is to take you through a sample day of ours, so that is below.  Also, I didn’t look at a clock the whole week (radical, right?) so that’s why there are no times written.

Morning: Wake up when it gets too hot to sleep more, try to make ourselves presentable with baby wipes and crazy clothes.  Head down the road to Java Johnny’s.  He was an older guy with an RV who made tons of coffee for everyone every morning.  He also collected mugs all year and sandblasted them with the Burning Man logo and gave them away with the coffee (“to avoid doing dishes,” he said).  His mugs became our reusable cups for everything all week.  We would sit there and talk to people and listen to Java Johnny yell ridiculous things into a megaphone periodically.  (Ex. After several military jets flew overhead, something they always do just to check out Burning Man, he yelled, “Fly over again boys!  Spend another $5 million!!!!)  People kept bringing breakfast contributions (we brought fruit), so by the end of the week you could get coffee and a full breakfast there.  It was a great way to start the day.

Mid-Morning: After Java Johnny’s we’d go wandering for awhile.  Black Rock City was HUGE and we never even saw it all.  The main attractions were theme camps–big group camps that had planned and built amazing structures, art cars, you name it.  There was a camp for everything–circus performing and lessons, hula hooping, yoga, chanting, meditation, a whole LGBT neighborhood (the “Gayborhood” lol), many bars with outlandish themes (sake bar, whiskey bar, homebrew bar, Bloody Mary bar, etc.), henna and body artists, places where you could relax in hammocks, musicians performing, massages, giant swings, towers to climb, snow cone camps, diners, and enormous nightclubs with DJS and massive sound and lighting systems.  You name it, there’s a camp for that.  Sometime before noon a camp down the road from us would give away amazing fresh-baked bread they made in an awesome portable oven, so we’d usually try to get some of that.

Noonish:  After walking awhile we’d head home to chill a bit.  Sometimes we’d make some lunch, try to nap, or read.  Two times, we set up a ghetto wine stand in front of our camp.  We made a little sign, put it on a card table, and bought ice.  We’d yell at passersby, “Homemade wine??” and many would stop, provide their own cup, try our wine, and chat for a bit.  This was our little gift and people said they really loved it.  It was definitely one of the most fun things we did because we got to talk to so may awesome people!  On other days, we’d do other things…one day our neighbors had a “Chuck ‘N’ Cheez-It” party with “two-buck Chuck” wine , Cheez-Its of all varieties, and a foot wash (Woot!).  That was really fun.

Evening/Night: That same night, another camp had a “Spaghetti Taco” dinner party that went to.  We’d usually chill ’til almost dark then head out again.  The first night we went and looked at all the art, which I can’t even begin to describe.  Find some pics online for that.  We’d hit some bars and try to hop on some art cars as they drove around the city.  We’d go to some parties and dance for awhile but we never stayed up all night like a lot of people do.  I like sleeping too much.  So we’d wander back exhausted and pass out.  On Saturday night we did stay up late watching the man burn.  It was crazy–triumphant fireworks and thumping music and neon lights.  Everyone was in a frenzy that night.  After the burn we saw a psychedelic rock band play at the big Center Camp venue in the wee hours.  They were amazing.  It was a beautiful night.

So on to the tricky part–sex and drugs.  Were there people doing lots of drugs and having weird sex there?  Obviously, yes.  Burning Man is also about freedom and open-mindedness and people really embraced that.  BUT this was not Woodstock; it was not everywhere.  The people who wanted those things found them but they were not in-your-face 24/7.  The Black Rock City census they take every year also showed that it is a minority of people at Burning Man who engage in drug use and/or sex with a new partner.  Although present, these activities were not the emphasis of the event, as the media would have you think.  You can have a perfectly amazing experience at Burning Man while staying totally sober and totally abstinent.

It takes a certain type of person to enjoy Burning Man.  You have to be energetic, adventurous, and able to rough it.  But more importantly, you have to be willing to jump into the community and give of yourself to really get the true experience.  The parties are rocking and the art is inspiring, but I believe the one-of-a-kind community spirit is the reason seasoned Burners call Black Rock City “home.”  Burning Man was like glimpsing the way the world should be.  It was the better, more child-like, more cooperative, and more generous side of humanity.  Being there gave me faith and made me question, “Why can’t the rest of the world be like this?”  That’s a question for another post, but suffice it to say that until the rest of the world gets it, I’ll keep returning to the playa.

So long, Arizona

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Do me a favor.  Start here.  Meg’s post about doing things we’re afraid of is so well written and TRUE.

There was a short but bright rainbow in the sky tonight.  A sign of good luck for the start of our journey tomorrow!  It’s been a weekend of goodbyes and wrap-ups.  Packing sucked.  As usual, I found myself with a way-too-big pile of “essential” clothes and a way-too-small suitcase.  Trying to convince myself that I don’t need these, I really don’t need these, I don’t!  Who cares about variety?  The car is packed to the gills with camping supplies, clothes, food, and camera equipment.  But I’m sure we’re still forgetting something.  The rest is in boxes in a closet here.  So of course I’ll come back, because after a year of only what I stuffed in one suitcase, I’m gonna want to see the rest of my clothes again!

It’s been a year.  A seemingly quiet one compared to last year, but I still can’t believe all that’s happened.  I’ve learned how to live with someone in a real, day-to-day, “in this for the long haul” relationship, survived our first real fights, and found myself more in love than ever.  I’ve worked two new jobs and started my own business.  I’ve learned to snowboard, tried rock climbing, hiked long distances, cliff jumped from 50 feet, and climbed my first two mountains.  I’ve been to Mexico for the first time.  Biked many miles, saved many dollars, made new friends, started to integrate into a whole other family.  Tasted western microbrews and Spanish wines.  Shared so many homemade pizzas with couchsurfers from around the world.  What a year.

The next one is going to be even better.  A circular journey that will take us through two continents and back.  The western US, Ohio again, all of South America, and back to Ohio by August 2012.  After that, who knows?  These next six weeks we’ll be living out of the car, couchsurfing, exploring new national parks, and going to Burning Man.  I do have several goals for our time on the road:

1. Study Spanish every day.

2. Hike or run every day.  Work my way up to running a 10k.

3. Dumpster dive.

4. Keep the car clean and organized.

5. Take amazing photographs.

6. Keep up this blog.

7. Eat healthy.

8. Enjoy myself!!!!!

So tomorrow we begin.  First a quick stop in Las Vegas, for Zach to sell some of the scrap copper wire he’s collected at work.  Yes, we really are that poor.  And as Zach said “What great story doesn’t start with driving to Vegas to sell something?”  Lol.  Then to Death Valley NP in California, where apparently the highs can be over 120 degrees this time of  year.  Yikes.  Now it’s time to share a bottle of wine in hopes of being able to sleep tonight.  I’ll catch up with you again from somewhere in California!

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”-Christopher McCandless

Missing My Love

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In Swahili there’s no word for “miss” as in “I miss you.”  It’s a language distinctly lacking in words to describe emotions, and “miss” is one of the words that just isn’t there.  This made it so hard to explain my feelings to Tanzanians when I was there, because a lot of the time I was consumed with the loneliness of missing my friends and family.  I thought of Zach every single night as I fell asleep and often dreamed about him.  The missing was a constant ache despite how much I tried to ignore it.  I realized that the loneliness of KNOWING there’s a perfect person out there for you and not being with him is worse than the loneliness of just being single.  And you can’t tell people how much you miss the guy you’re in love with back home because their language has no words to describe it!

Fast forward a year and a half.  We haven’t spent even a week apart since I got back from Africa.  Now, Zach is working on construction project that is 2 HOURS AWAY from home.  It sucks!!!  We keep hoping that he’ll be offered a job closer to home, but so far no such luck.  This puts us in quite a pickle.  If he wants to come home at night he basically loses half the day’s money in gas costs.  Argh!  So he’s been camping out, sleeping in his truck in 100-degree desert heat most nights and just coming home once a week.

I miss him!!!!!  I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a partner who will endure such annoying circumstances to make our dreams a reality.  But I’m just so used to being with him that the world seems duller when he’s not around.  I can’t believe how much I miss him when he’s just gone for a few days at a time.  It’s crazy.  All I do when he’s gone is eat ice cream and watch Grey’s Anatomy, lol.  Regressing to the sad, single girl life.  Ultimately, though, it helps me realize how blessed I am to have a person I never want to be without.  Being able to miss someone like this is extraordinary.  It’s kind of a gift.

Support Letter for La Aventura Project

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Hi all! This is an easy post, but important. We finally got our fundraising underway for La Aventura Project.  I figured the easiest way to share this is just to copy and paste the same letter I sent out to family and friends detailing what we’re doing and what we need.  Of course you should also click over to the La Aventura Project website (link in the right sidebar) to see the trailer and more.  And please, please ask questions if you have them!  I’m feeling the vibe of a lot of doubts expressed by non-supportive silence by certain people who are close to me.  And it really hurts.  I’ll probably write more about that later, but for now, here’s the letter:

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings!  I hope you all are well!  What is going on in your lives???   Since I’m fairly bad at keeping in touch, I wanted to write to you about what is going on in my life at the moment.  I’ve been living in Williams, Arizona (near the Grand Canyon) for almost one year now with my amazing boyfriend Zachary Minnich.  This is the first time for both of us to live out west and we’re loving it!  The many mountains, creeks, and canyons to hike and explore keep us endlessly entertained and active.  Most of our time is spent working, however.  We both work in Flagstaff, Zach as an electrician and me as a server at a nice restaurant.  We are saving as much money as possible for travel.  We both have the same desire to see the world.

That brings me to our other main activity right now, which is planning a year-long backpacking/filmmaking/volunteering adventure in South America.  On October 27, Zach, our good friend Melissa, and I will be departing from Chicago and flying into Colombia (which I assure you has become very safe and pleasant for tourists recently).  We plan to work our way around the continent in a counterclockwise direction through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Venezuela.  We have budgeted $17 per person per day for an entire year of travel.  In order to live cheaply and really learn the language and culture of these countries, we will be doing lots of volunteering, mostly through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwooof.org).  We so look forward to building relationships with locals this way, and to learning about and contributing to sustainable agriculture on our planet.  We also will be finding other volunteer opportunities at orphanages and schools along the way, couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org), and camping.  To finally put my film degree to use, we will be filming our experience every step of the way, telling our personal stories and searching for everything else worth documenting.  Because it’s hard to predict what will happen on a journey like this, it’s hard to say exactly what our film will be about.  Right now the working title is La Aventura Project and we are focused on telling the personal narrative of our journey and showing how travel and exposure to different cultures affects three 20-something Americans.  I am hoping to tell our story and eventually edit a feature-length documentary to show in film festivals.

And now the part you probably knew was coming and that I hate to write…the request for money.  Although Zach, Melissa, and I have all been working hard and saving, leaving on a year-long trip is quite expensive.  We are each trying to raise $7000  for travel and living expenses, plus cover our loans and US obligations for the year, plus purchase some filmmaking equipment.  Our film equipment alone will be about $6000 once we have everything we need.  We are so, so close to having the money ourselves, but we need just a little bit of help.  We are trying to raise just $5000 to split between the three of us to assist with equipment and travel costs.  We really feel that this project will make the world a better place by enabling cross-cultural learning, challenging and growing ourselves, and telling what is sure to be an awesome story through film.  We believe that world travel is the best education you can get, and that explorers and artists have and continue to change the world for the better.  If you believe this too, and can spare even $1 to help La Aventura Project, we would greatly appreciate it.  We are accepting secure, tax-deductible online donations via indiegogo.com.  Our project link is www.indiegogo.com/LaAventuraProject.  You can get some awesome perks for donating!  Please also visit our website, www.laaventuraproject.com, where you can find our film trailer and blog updates throughout our preparation and travel.  If you know anyone who would be interested in our project, please pass along those links!  And if you have any questions, please reply and ask away!

Thank you all so much!  And for those of you in Ohio, Zach and I will be back in early October and would love to see you before we leave!

Sincerely,

Carrie Hoffman

“What’s the difference between exploring and being lost?  The journey is the destination.”  –Dan Eldon

Nomadic Tendencies

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How does one become a nomad?  Especially after being raised in the USA?  Sure, we have mobility between cities and states but we are definitely not a nomadic culture.  In fact, I think very few cultures are nomadic in the sense I feel nomadic.  I want to constantly be on the move, exploring new cities, countries, continents.  I know there were small signs as I was growing up, like when I declared at age 11 (half-joking, half-serious) that I wanted to be “a hobo” when I grew up.  The fact is, I’ve got the itch and I’ve got it bad.  It’s now been over a year that I’ve been back in the US, 10 months that I’ve been living here in Arizona.  The mountains, deserts, rocks, and beauty of the southwest is great, and we’ve had amazing day and weekend trips out here.  But I’m getting to that inevitable point I always reach, where I just feel done with it.  I’m done working, done coming home to the same house, I’m ready to GO!  Unfortunately this point usually hits a good few months before my actual departure date, and this time is no exception.  Zach and I have a little over two months before we’re bookin’ it out of this town.  This is necessitated purely by finances; if they were not an issue we’d be long gone by now.

We have such insatiable wanderlust. Our happiest times have been on the road, on the trail, approaching a new city or mountain or anything NEW.  There is nothing like the thrill of constant movement.  We can’t stay in one place for long without feeling stuck and beginning to desperately plan a new adventure.  And now, we are so, so close to get-up-and-go time.  On August 22 we will pack the car and drive to California–camping in Death Valley, Yosemite, then Lake Tahoe before swooping down upon Black Rock City to experience another world at Burning Man.  From there we’ll head back west to spend a week in San Francisco and NorCal wine country.  Then Salt Lake City to see all the Mormons, and a good two weeks in Colorado for lots of hiking and brewery tours.  Iowa City and Chicago will be our final stops in the midwest before arriving back in Columbus.  This will be our longest road trip yet and it is only the prequel to our big adventure, the escape to South America.  We’ll be back in Columbus for a few weeks, just long enough to pack it up and say goodbye to friends and family before our flight to Medellin, Colombia, on October 27.

It takes a certain kind of person to really understand wanderlust.  We’re lucky that although our families and many of our friends don’t get it, we’ve found a vast network of other wanderers through Couchsurfing and are sure to meet more at Burning Man and in South America.  Honestly, I would be fully open to the idea of NOT coming back to the US after a year down there.  Who knows what opportunities may present themselves?  The ultimate dream is to find a way to travel indefinitely.  Maybe that dream will change someday, but for now we are embracing it and chasing it at full speed.  We’re young.  What better time than now to live out of a car, a backpack, a tent, to watch the man burn, to hike the Andes, sail the Amazon, and create countless other stories?

Mexico trip pics!

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TentSurf 2011 was  A BLAST.  I’m still recovering.  We camped on Sandy Beach in Rocky Point, Mexico for 4 days with about 50 other couchsurfers from around the southwest and Mexico.  I might write more about it later, but for now here’s a photo recap.

The beach! This is how far away our tent was from the ocean.

Zach does an Axel Rose impersonation with seaweed. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Jumping off the booze cruise boat. Look at that turquoise water! (Credit: Mike Huang)

Whole group of crazy Couchsurfers. (Credit: Mike Huang)

Flying a tent at the end of the event.

Zach and me with our good friend Jeremy. (Credit: Jez Seidner)

And with that, it’s back to naptime for me.  Mexico took it out of me and I’ve now got a nasty bug.  I’m just dreaming of the even bigger adventures we’ll be having a few short months from now!

My BFFL

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The best part of my birthday was having my best friend and her hubby visit. They flew in from Ohio on Monday night and stayed until Friday night, hoping for a week of fun in the AZ sun. Well, that didn’t pan out exactly. As luck would have it, the weather was pretty terrible. We had one nice day on Tuesday, then the rest of the week it was a combination of snow, sleet, rain, clouds, etc. depending on what elevation we were at. Yep, that’s right, it SNOWED on my birthday. Big fat flakes actually accumulating on the ground on May 18. Crazy! I tried to look on the bright side and just chalk it up as another birthday “first.” First birthday I’ve ever had with snow falling! Despite the weather, we had a great week. I was off work and acting like I was on vacation myself with lots of good food, drinking, and tour guiding them around northern AZ. We cooked together, played beer pong in the dining room, went to the cowboy bar, jumped in FREEZING Wet Beaver Creek, ate at Criollo, and made S’mores in the fireplace.

The best part though, was just having my best friend there, and having everything feel right between us. The past few years have brought so many changes in our lives and strained our relationship. It’s natural for these years to do that, I know, seeing as the early 20s are when most of us choose the path that we will follow throughout the rest of our lives. Choosing different paths (for her marriage, a career, and a house in Columbus and for me the Peace Corps, moving around a lot, and working just to travel) definitely made things hard for awhile, as we had less in common, found it harder to get together even when I still lived in Columbus, and there was a thin but tangible layer of tension between us.

I was a little nervous that things would still be like that when they visited. But from the moment Zach and I picked them up from the airport it was just like old times. The four of us have made so many awesome memories together over the years (camping, ziplining, whitewater rafting, and many many happy hours) and this trip just continued it. I feel like having the past year (her first year of marriage, my first year back in the US/living with my boyfriend/in a new state) to grow into our adult lives allowed us to become comfortable in our own skins and accept each other’s differences. While growing apart and disagreeing in some ways is inevitable, we still have that special best friend connection of knowing each other better than almost anyone else. We can talk about the hard things and learn from each other’s perspectives. We can still remember our old high school inside jokes and laugh about them long into the night. We can still team up and make fun of our SOs to no end. I could tell that we both have matured in our lives and in our friendship. I love her so much and it was so great to have her here and feel like everything was “just like old times.” Here’s to many more years of adventures together!