The Dirtbag Way is an ideal, something to aspire to. It is something I have tasted and want more of. Something glimpsed. A way of being. An attitude. A path. A practice. A way to pare down life to what is essential. A stripping away of the unnecessary so that life can be more fully enjoyed. It is sleeping on the ground under a brilliant canopy of stars. It is working hard for months on end to be able to afford to take time off to travel. It is making sacrifices so that we can do the things that we love, be in the places we crave, and get inspired by others in this community.
I first got a glimpse of the Dirtbag Way on a mountain in Costa Rica as a student in the last week of a three month course with the North Carolina Outward Bound School. For much of my life I had been placing my self-worth into the hands of others, but on that mountain in Costa Rica, with a sea of stars swirling overhead and the lights of the town in the valley down below, I realized that I had all that I ever needed: a backpack carrying the few possessions necessary to survive and even be somewhat comfortable and the realization of all the possibility the world held for me. I discovered that having less meant experiencing more, that the things I had thought were necessary in the past were merely comforts that had little to do with real satisfaction. I felt as free as I ever have in my life that night.
Since then, life has grown more complicated. I spent the next 16 years working for Outward Bound and continue to do so periodically. I got married, bought, and recently sold a house. Today I’m working 40 hours a week in a 9 to 5 job, something I swore I would never do again. There are no regrets about the path that I have taken. It has all been an important part of the journey. But I want to get back to the top of that mountain. I want to regain the sense of freedom I felt there. I want to partake in all the opportunities that life offers.
The Dirtbag Way is different for each of us. We each have our own starting point and none of us can know where the journey will take us. What we can do is continue to walk the path, be okay with taking some wrong turns along the way, and continue to seek out those things that inspire us. We must move towards our dreams, one foot in front of the other.