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Introducing: The Rubber Tramp Diary, Entry One

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We met Jeff Kish online where we and thousands of readers learned about his minimalist life in a van shuttling hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail. Jeff’s story resonated with many people.

Kish has agreed to report with a weekly column about his life, written on a laptop aboard the customized Ford Econoline in which he lives. He will discuss adventure, living simply and the gear that makes it possible. You can catch upon Kish’s adventures with his first post. So with no more delay…

The Rubber Tramp Diary, Entry One

I was halfway up a class 5 chimney, hanging precariously from my fingertips and the toes of a worn pair of trail runners on crumbly volcanic rock, without protection, when I felt it again, stronger this time, overwhelming.

I’m not a climber. I paused to analyze my feelings. I’m not afraid but probably should be. I would have been at any previous time in my life. I look down and can’t summon fear.

I was 25’ feet under the summit of a mountain in central Oregon. The only real climbing on this peak is in the last 50’, but I had taken a long approach. I started walking from the Mexican border a few months prior on the Pacific Crest Trail.

A wave of emotion washes over me. My lip quivers, my vision goes blurry as tears stream down my face. I realize what I’ve been feeling recently: Freedom.

Jeff’s ‘office’

I think most people live their lives feeling pretty certain that they know what freedom is. I thought I did. That’s what made that moment so powerful. I realized I had unknowingly lived 30 years of my life in bondage to one thing or another.

I had a mortgage to pay by the time I was 21, the responsibilities of owning a business by 24, and the commitment of a marriage by 26. I had toed the line all through my 20’s, but had never really considered the cost. I had sacrificed my freedom for things, and all those things had smothered my soul.

That realization brought me to where I am today – typing this post under a surplus wool blanket, on a used mattress, atop a bed frame pieced together from discarded pallets, in the back of the old cargo van full of gear that I now call home. I am free.

The view from Jeff’s home changes constantly

Each day, I wake up to the patter of northwest weather on my roof, crawl out from under a pile of cozy wool and down, warm my hands over a backpacking stove while boiling water for coffee, and pull open my heavy slider to something new. Whether it’s damp leaves falling in the park, warm streaks of morning light at a trail head, sea lions honking through the salty air on the coast, or a moonlit alpine start on the mountain; this is the life I live now.

My happiness comes from the outdoors, and my refashioned life is built in the pursuit of new adventures in the natural world. I hope you’ll enjoy the accounts of the places I go and some reviews of the gear that gets me there, and that you’ll feel inspired to get out and create some new adventures of your own. —Jeff Kish

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