A stake on the map: 1 month in a tent

by Kim on April 20, 2014 · 59 comments

Last week was our “hell week.” We were in Boulder, Colorado and we had 4 presentations in 4 days (Lone Tree, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Boulder) and then on the final day we filmed video for Backpacker Magazine for 8 hours and then went directly to a presentation where many of the Backpacker bigwigs watched us perform. Luckily, by the time that presentation arrived we were too tired to be nervous and by the time we fell asleep many hours later we couldn’t remember ever being so exhausted. It was the first time in a long time that Saturday meant something.

Filming video

Sheri and Randy, who had our job before we did, film video while we take a break.

We’ve given 10 presentations now (we’ll give 60 total) and we’ve both become pretty comfortable with it. We can (and do!) recite the script in our sleep. There’s a part of me that’s still shocked that we can stand up there without panicking because, this is a strange dichotomy, we both fear public speaking but also enjoy it.

After hell week wrapped up in Boulder we went to Oklahoma and Arkansas, two states I’ve never been to before. To be honest, for the most part the days have blended together in a medley of campsites and outdoor stores and peanut butter sandwiches and gas station fill-ups.

In Oklahoma we camped at Lake Thunderbird State Park. It was freezing when we arrived and we were all alone except for a friendly retired camp host named Tony and a group of hard-knock campers who may have been cooking methamphetamine in their tent. We slept in the Subaru the first night because it was so cold but by the second night it had warmed up and we were able to sleep in the tent. The sky turned a beautiful blue and the trees began to bud. Spring, it seems, has finally arrived.

Camping at Lake Thunderbird State Park

Cold and camping

Spring

In Arkansas we camped at Lake Fort Smith State Park. We found the people of Arkansas to be incredibly friendly, offering up their backyards and spare bedrooms to us and telling us the best places to hike in Arkansas but only after swearing we wouldn’t tell the magazine (we won’t). Arkansawyers (that’s what they’re called!) believe that Arkansas is the best-kept secret in the U.S. and I’m inclined to agree.

It’s been about a month since we left on this adventure and I’m happy. I love sleeping in a tent and waking up to the sunshine streaming in and the birds singing in the trees. We have camp cots that have saved our lives and I’m sleeping better in the tent than I did in many of the beds that I encountered around the world.

Camping

But while the tent is okay the moving around is getting to me a bit. I’ve found that when my best thoughts come to me in the shower it means that I’m not spending enough time on my own just staring off into space. I need time to think, to process and to generate new ideas. It helps my writing and about every other aspect of my life. So this is my new priority: More time to stare into the silent space and think about whatever comes to mind.

Finally, for those of you that read this blog and have come out to the presentations- it has been so wonderful to meet you. Really, I cannot put into words how great that has been. When I write here on the blog I feel as though I am writing to friends, to people that may have very different lives than my own but the same sort of spirit, so to meet you in person has been a true joy. Thank you and keep coming!

I use this blog as a sort of online litmus test to track the ups and downs of this journey. I’ve been writing here for so long now that I can read my old posts and see how I’ve changed over time, how I’ve relaxed and opened up and let go. The fact that I can even live comfortably (happily!) out of a tent is proof of that evolution. So I write this in the early days of this new adventure of living outside for 7 months in order to place the stake in the ground, the pin in the map, that says, “I am here,” in order to judge how far I end up going.

On our way to somewhere

On our way to somewhere.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Mandie @ RamblingMandie April 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I’m in Arkansas right now, and I completely agree – it’s one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. Yesterday I got to kayak through Tupelo trees on a “secret stretch” of a beautiful little river. I’m also enjoying how wonderfully WARM it is after coming from Chicago! I was bummed to have missed you guys by one day – I’d have loved to come hear your presentation – but I’m so glad your trip is going well! :)
Mandie @ RamblingMandie recently posted..5 Things to Learn From Solo Travel

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:26 am

I totally agree about the WARMTH! Heaven after the freezing temps. And Arkansas is definitely a state I’ll be heading back to to explore.

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Rob April 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Glad spring has finally arrived and the presentations are a breeze now. I’m seriously impressed by your ability to live in a tent. A couple of years ago I camped for two weeks in a tent in France and by the end of it I was craving the comfort of a mattress and a proper cooker! Seems like it’s the perfect experience for you guys though, keep having fun!
Rob recently posted..Palenque ruins – not just some falling down buildings…

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:26 am

Well, we do have a pretty nice camp stove but I hear you on the mattress. Actually, our camp cots and sleeping pads do a pretty good job as a stand-in air mattress. It’s not so bad really!

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Bianca @itsallbee April 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Thats another part of the USA I have yet to visit. Your pictures make me want to go camping.
Bianca @itsallbee recently posted..Spring Living | Picnic in the Queen’s Park

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:27 am

Bianca, I don’t think I would have ever made plans to come to Arkansas but it’s definitely worth a visit. That’s what I’m enjoying about this job- it’s taking us to places we wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

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Ben Miller April 20, 2014 at 7:47 pm

I wish I would have paid attention as to where you guys were going to be in Colorado. I would’ve loved to have seen your presentation in the Springs.

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:27 am

I’m sorry we missed you!

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Sarah Somewhere April 20, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Congratulations on all your evolutions and achievements! And happy Easter!
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Destruction and Renewal: Experiencing Easter in Antigua, Guatemala

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:28 am

Thanks Sarah. Happy Easter to you as well :)

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Maddie April 21, 2014 at 2:24 am

I love the photo of you bundled up in your sleeping bag outside! Camping cots are definitely the way forward, there’s nothing worse than being all warm and cozy in your bag until the cold starts seeping in from the floor! Glad you’re having fun guys :-)
Maddie recently posted..Tips for finding a job after long term travel

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:28 am

Thanks Maddie. And I hope the need to wear a sleeping back outside has passed now- I’m so sick of the cold!!

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Tony April 21, 2014 at 5:04 am

Interesting post and experiment. My wife and I leave on Saturday for a six month bike trip that will involve living in our tent for most of that time and we can’t wait to get going. I just love being so close to nature and living outdoors. Good luck with your project. G&T

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:29 am

Thanks Tony. I’m sure you and your wife will have a wonderful time. Have fun!

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures April 21, 2014 at 7:12 am

I couldn’t even make it one night, so bravo to you for making it one month!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Nevis: Day 2 (Part 1)

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:29 am

Ha, thanks! We’ve still got six months to go!

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Jessica Hill April 21, 2014 at 7:16 am

You’re such an inspiration!

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:29 am

Awww, thanks Jessica. That’s an honor :)

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motowngirl April 21, 2014 at 7:17 am

Hi Kim. Such fun to read about your new adventures. My husband and I recently traveled with a biking group out of St. Louis to Corsica. As much as I like to BE other places, I get totally stressed out with the travel part of it. Air France lost our bicycle for two days, so we missed the first couple days of biking. I called the Travelex folks and got them working on it, and the bike arrived two days after we did. I am convinced it was the Travelex folks who made that happen. Our front desk kept calling Air France, but you know – it seems to require some kind of leverage to really get action. Our Delta person in Minneapolis was NOT nice and charged us $150 per bike box (for one tandem) even though they were standard sized cases and under 50 lbs. She made us put them in oversized luggage (even though they weren’t) and I think that is part of why they got lost as well. Anyway…other stuff happened too, but needless to say I am envious of your growing ability to be comfortable with the unknown and take these seemingly constant upheavals in travel plans in stride. I plan to come see you in August. Enjoy your travels!!

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:32 am

You know, I think part of the reason that I can roll with it is because we have this endless amount of time. For example, if I was on a vacation to Corsica and my bike got lost I know I would have been VERY upset because I’d be on a schedule and now because of someone else my schedule has been interrupted. That would make me mad. But because we have so much time these days, if the same thing would have happened and we were traveling without a timeframe I would just shrug my shoulders and think, “well, I guess we’ll get started when the bike arrives.” So it is a luxury that I am able to just roll with things because I don’t have to be worried about time. Does that make sense?

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Rhonda April 21, 2014 at 7:38 am

Glad it’s warming up a bit. Wow, 10 presentations done already. I see a couple of different tents… are you trying out several? Can’t wait to see your final reviews on everything when this is over. Enjoy the day!
Rhonda recently posted..My Fascination with Doors

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

Rhonda, we have 8 TENTS if you can believe it. So, yes, we are trying them all out. A few are lightweight and small backpacking tents so we only use those when we backpack, not when we are car camping.

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Rhonda April 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm

lol.. well at least we won’t worry about your lack of sleeping options. I want your COTS!
Rhonda recently posted..My Fascination with Doors

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Kim April 23, 2014 at 6:27 am

Seriously, the cots are amazing. Worth every penny.

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Emily April 21, 2014 at 8:01 am

I love going through my old journals and reflecting on how I’ve grown and changed. I am happy to hear about your evolution and ability to open up – maybe there’s hope for me to just let go and try shoulder-season camping then too ;)
Emily recently posted..How We Spent Our Easter: La Paz

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

Emily, you would love shoulder season- just pick the good weather ;)

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Coral April 21, 2014 at 10:36 am

I haven’t been camping for a while, although we had a camper van in NZ, not quite the same. I bought a pop up tent about 4 years ago and so far only used in the garden. Maybe we should take it on a road trip through Europe next summer? Interested in what ‘camping cots’ you have as I am too old to sleep on the hard ground.
Coral recently posted..When preparing to travel Part 3 (things I didn’t use)

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:35 am

Coral, we have the Helinox camping cots. They are GREAT. Pricey for sure but totally worth the money.

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Lance | Trips By Lance April 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm

As a former Arkansan (I’ve actually never heard that word you used) I do agree about the beauty of the state. I haven’t lived there in more than 20 years, but I do recall a childhood of enjoying the great outdoors. The Ozarks are so beautiful.
Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..One Family’s Journey to Temporary Residence in Ireland

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:36 am

You’ve never heard Arkansawyer? I looked it up and it said Arkansan or Arkansawyer and I thought Arkansawyer was more fun to say. And I agree, the Ozarks are beautiful!

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Carmel April 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm

This job is such a perfect fit for you two – challenges in the speaking and comfort in the outdoors. I could not live out of a tent for 7 months, but I’m glad you can and are inspiring others to get out more.
Carmel recently posted..GHOSTS OF HISTORY IN HO CHI MINH CITY

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:36 am

Thanks Carmel!

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Candace April 21, 2014 at 5:05 pm

You guys are such an inspiration! I’m so happy to hear you’re happy, and that the tour’s going so well. Also, I have another quote for you, from our dear friend Thoreau: “It would be well, perhaps, if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.” Given that we’re both living in tents these days (or, you know, variations of them!), I thought you might enjoy that one :) xo
Candace recently posted..“Boat is home”: Getting to know the Moken.

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:37 am

LOVE IT! Candace, you alone are the reason my quote book is filling up so fast.

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Corinne April 22, 2014 at 12:04 am

Wow…tent camping, and camp showers. It’s hard for me to imagine that’s where you think, because the majority of camp showers I’ve taken are not warm enough to stay in any longer than necessary. Glad to hear all is working out!
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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:37 am

We stay at state parks with showers… they’re nice! Warm and as long as you want them. We don’t carry a solar shower or anything like that.

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Adrian Mendoza April 22, 2014 at 2:08 am

That was a hectic schedule indeed. But it seems like enjoyable and fun too! I love campings. Like you, i also don’t like public speaking it is really nerve wracking!
Adrian Mendoza recently posted..BOOK FOR A CHEAP VACATION NOW!

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:38 am

Agreed, so nerve wracking.

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Kelly April 22, 2014 at 8:02 am

Hi Kim! So excited to see you when you arrive in Massachusetts. Just bought your book…can’t wait to read it. You inspire my husband and me so much. Congratulations on the job of a lifetime.

Kelly
http://www.alovelylifeindeed.com
Kelly recently posted..Visit Massachusetts: Boston

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Kim April 23, 2014 at 6:26 am

Hi Kelly, THANK YOU!! I hope you enjoy the book. And I look forward to meeting in you Massachusetts too!! See you soon ;)

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Patti April 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

Does your job require you to camp every night, in order to test the equipment?

I’d be tempted to check into a hotel every now and then. ;)
Patti recently posted..A Quirky Little Cemetery ~

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Kim April 23, 2014 at 6:27 am

Oh, we do check into a hotel every now and then. We have a lodging budget- it just isn’t very big which means we need to camp in order to preserve it. Camping isn’t cheap these days!!!! I still almost die of shock each time we pay $30 to CAMP. CRAZY.

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Darcy April 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Awesome update. I can’t believe that you are already coming up on your two year anniversary!

Other random thoughts:
- I love staying a tent in Fiji for three weeks…definitely a place to chill out when you’re done with this wild adventure. ;-)
- But not before you book a stay at our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins
- I’m still ready to sign up for the crazy family version…planning camping trip to the Olympia and BCs Gulf Islands in August!

Enjoy spreading the gospel :-)
Darcy
Darcy recently posted..Creativity & Coaching

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Kim April 23, 2014 at 6:30 am

UM, I think I could chill out in Fiji for a few months :) And, YES! We need to stay at Olivia Beach Camp Cabins!!!! The problem is, I’m not sure we have much time while we are coming through Oregon :( I’m going to have to look at the schedule and get back to you. I really (REALLY, REALLY want to go).

Have fun in Olympia and BC- gonna be amazing!!

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Illia April 23, 2014 at 1:05 am

You look so comfy sitting in that chair drinking a hot drink! :)
Illia recently posted..Travel Guide to Unbelievable Georgia

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Kim April 23, 2014 at 6:30 am

Haha, I was freezing!

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Tracey April 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Congrats on your one month anniversary:) I am so glad the weather has improved for you 2. We have just left Canada and your posts almost make me regret not driving to South America Kim! Looks amazing and I have no doubt Arkansas is absolutely beautiful.
Tracey recently posted..Leaving Home

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Kim April 28, 2014 at 6:18 am

Hey, flying is quicker so I don’t blame you :) HAVE FUN in SA!!!!

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Karyn @ Not Done Travelling April 25, 2014 at 1:07 am

I’m glad you’re getting into the swing of it. Only 50 presentations to go – you’ll be done before you know it!
Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..The Me In The Mirror

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Kim April 28, 2014 at 6:18 am

Ha, 50 more… I wonder if we’ll remember this presentation for the rest of our lives? Like, in 30 years will we still be able to repeat it?

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Oliver April 25, 2014 at 7:52 am

Let me quote Aristotle Kim: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”… I think I’m not the only one who appreciates your straightforward writing and it’s good to see how the two of you grow with this new situation. I think sun already makes a huge difference and I’m not sure how many people I have seen reading a book with gloves on, respect!! :)
I also really like your idea of “staring into silent space” in order to have enough time and space for the silent inner dialogue. It sounds so mundane, but is so essential indeed! How about using the time around the camping stove for this? I found some moments of contemplation when listening to water starting to boil or something like that. Only yesterday I came across a lovely habit of an adventurer who used to have popcorn kernels with him all the time and prepared it every evening before lunch and emptying the mind into a wee journal… :)
Best wishes, have fun and keep going!
Oliver recently posted..Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself ~ Allen Crawford

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Kim April 28, 2014 at 6:20 am

I love hearing about those different habits. For me, I can’t be doing anything else, except for running. When I run I also easily let my mind wander too- which is why I always say it is so important to my mental health.

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Franca April 28, 2014 at 4:56 am

Wow! Well done guys, that’s an achievement! I’m not sure if I would have managed to do the same, not for a month at least, but who knows? Since I started travelling I’ve done things that I would have never thought I would or even could do.

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Kim April 28, 2014 at 6:21 am

Hey, there were a few hotels thrown in there!!!! But I agree, not sure I would have signed on for 7 months in a tent if I was still in my cozy house in Portland. Traveling for two years, in so many different situations and beds, really made me a flexible person.

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travel srilanka April 29, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Seriously, the cots are amazing, i like all things.

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Amy May 5, 2014 at 12:25 am

Sounds like you’re really embracing this new fuse of work and travel; I’m super-impressed that you’re living in a tent too! What an awesome lifestyle :)
Amy recently posted..The True Heart of Cambodia

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Kim May 5, 2014 at 7:09 am

It is an awesome lifestyle, especially now that the weather is PERFECT!!!! It makes it so much easier to live outside.

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Ben @ Road Affair July 8, 2014 at 10:02 am

Congrats on your one month :D

My GF and I are about to hitchhike the USA and since we never really know where are we going to end up, we bought a tent as well. I love the idea of having a portable “home” with me even if it is only a few feet wide.
Ben @ Road Affair recently posted..From Here to There: Hitchhiking the USA

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Kim July 9, 2014 at 6:44 am

Now THAT will be an adventure. We’ll pick you up if we see you along the way (not that we have much room in our car… :))

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