And I think something about the entire emotional experience of getting there, hiking not on trails, plus the almost indescribably beautiful landscape made that a real standout park for me.
LA: You know, you talked about hiking off trail, which I love hiking, but that does sound more intrepid than the average hike in a national park. Physically, what does that feel like? You touched on how it kind of ties into the title of the book, but I mean, it must be really quite grueling.
EP: It is grueling. There’s something really fascinating about our mind’s ability to focus on things that we have evolved for thousands of years to focus on, like carefully scanning a landscape for hours on end while moving slowly through it.
I think that it can be strangely meditative but then also strangely exhausting, because the second that you stop for the evening and set your pack down, you are exhausted and ready to eat something and just plop onto your mattress. [laughs]
LA: There are lots of characters in your book, most of which are human, but there is also, I’d say, the character of your van, Gizmo.
EP: Yeah. This was not a $100,000 [laughs] Instagram van that you see.
LA: You weren’t, you weren’t-
EP: [laughs] If you see-
LA: … living, like, van life. [laughs]
EP: No. [laughs] No. So combination of me not having $100,000 but also [laughs] being very aware of the mild hypocrisy of wanting to visit these beautiful, you know, protected landscapes in the middle of pretty severe climate change occurring, I wanted to get the smallest, most fuel efficient thing that I could. And I bought carbon offsets hoping that they would do something.
But in terms of, like, the financials of it, you know, I bought, like, a used van that had almost 100,000 miles on it for, like, $12,000 and built it out myself for, like, $2,500 with a friend. Like, this was not a fancy vehicle, but she did have a lot of love and heart thrown into her.
She had, like, these beautiful tapestries that were, like, embroidered together, ribbons that I picked up in India and Thailand that was dark burgundy that turned into her walls that was originally going to be part of this psychedelic [laughs] pixie tearoom that I built.
My dear friend Jack, who is a Burning Man friend, and he’s, like, an old school hippie, he’s very handy, much handier than I am, and he helped me hand stain the wood that became the inside of the doors.
And so she had this very, like, bohemian cabin feel on the inside and kind of this, like, strange white minivan that didn’t look like much on the outside. And then I kind of just cobbled together some solar [laughs] energy and, like, basically Velcroed it to the top of the van.
LA: What did you discover [laughs] to be the most useful equipment you used? Was it a pee funnel? Was it a portable power station? You know, what were the really practical learnings you were figuring out whilst also going through this, like, huge emotional turmoil?