I used to think I lived two different lives I had to keep separate from each other. In one, music, and being part of an insular collective with common values relating to that music, was everything. In the other, experiencing nature and the world at large in a path to discover my place in it seemed to point to a different set of values entirely. I constantly felt on a pendulum between the two.
Landscape photographer Ansel Adams wrote in a letter to his future wife:
I don’t think I’ve ever related to anything more in my life. But the same could also be said in reverse, of how much I miss music when I’m not around it.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what helped me to reconcile the two, but in recent years I’ve come to understand how they coexist. In fact they were never in opposition to each other at all, because the core desires motivating each interest are the same - to constantly be discovering, moving forward and evolving.
Every piece of music delivers a new perspective that you hadn’t considered in quite the same way before. When you see an act's live show, those ideas are then visually presented to you in yet another new way, giving a deeper understanding of what life might look like for that artist. Working in the music industry means meeting and interacting with tons of creative people, learning how their brains work and helping to facilitate their vision. It means pairing them together with other artists whose ideas complement or challenge theirs. And sometimes, it means hearing your own thoughts and emotions articulated so perfectly by someone else that it almost brings you to tears to recognize your common thread to the rest of humanity.
Traveling and hiking gifts us those same windows of insight. Meeting people who’ve had a completely different experience - people from other countries, cultures, jobs, lifestyles - not only creates awareness of the world around us (which music also does; the musical landscape as a whole is like a signpost of where we currently are as a culture/society), but also illustrates the context of one's own relationship to it. Late nights around a campfire in Alaska, I had conversations with travelers from all over the world. While my mind was blown by their ideas about alternative ways of traveling and living, I was also hearing an echo of my own beliefs when they explained the reasoning behind their choices. I hadn’t experienced half the things they had, but I related completely, and once again there was a flicker of recognition that I am one part of a whole. It was a confirmation that we all come from the same point of origin, somehow (does it seem odd that I should value this realization when our bread and butter in the music industry is individuality?). When I hike, particularly somewhere remote, and particularly alone, I recognize that that origin is the land. I also start to access something deep within my nervous system that never forgot.
Certain arrangements of sound can help us access that too. Or, connecting with a whole group of other people who identify with the same art that we do; our tribe.
The stories you find on this blog will sometimes pull from my experiences backpacking for extended periods of time, and will sometimes pull from my experiences exploring my surroundings more conventionally while living in cities and working full time in the music industry. I don’t intend for this to be a music blog or to talk at length about the industry, but inevitably my brain will create those pathways in any story I tell, as they’re so inseparably tied.
I travel because I don’t want to get stuck in any one version of myself, but the places and people I find sometimes resonate with me so much that I don’t want to leave. I prefer to travel slow with no set agenda, so I can get “stuck” on purpose (I consider myself always "on-trail", even when I stay put). Other times I get literally stuck because I suck at hitchhiking/camping/hiking - just call me Wrong Way Ramsdell.
This is a hitchhiker’s guide to getting stranded - literally and figuratively. Stranded in one system of thought, stranded on the side of the road for three hours, or stranded for months in a city I intended to leave in a week.
You've got to burn
straight up and down
and then maybe sidewise
for a while
and have your guts
scrambled by a
and the demonic
you've got to run
along the edge of
you've got to starve
like a winter
you've go to live
with the imbecility
of at least a dozen
you might know
where you are
for a tiny
- Charles Bukowski
All travel photos taken by me with either a refurbished Canon Rebel T6 or an iPhone.
Any good music photography has been credited. Bad concert photography taken drunkenly by me on an iPhone.