This blog was featured on Mountainsmith.com on March 15, 2016.
Y'all. I am beyond excited to announce that my trip has received its first sponsor.
After over 15 months of contacting more than 500 companies, individuals and organizations, this brand was the first to say, "We get it. We believe in you. We want to be part of this journey."
From day one--sending a cold-call email to their CEO--they have been nothing but excited, kind, responsive and flexible as this Nebraska boy, who isn't a celebrity, doesn't yet have a massive social media following, and isn't promoted by National Geographic, tries to change his/the world by doing something extraordinary.
But I shouldn't be surprised by the quality of people at this company. After all, I've had one of their products since I was 14.
It was early in my 9th grade year and the amount of textbooks I was bringing home each night was so profuse that I couldn't fit them all in my JanSport backpack. So I went to "The Moose's Tooth Outdoor Company" in Lincoln and got the biggest backpack I could find that didn't look like I was hiking into the Grand Canyon on my walk to school.
After four years of being stretched to the max by more textbooks than was fair, one of the zippers stopped connecting so I sent it in to be repaired by the brand's "Lifetime Warranty."
Perhaps sensing the strain my bag had been under, rather than just fix the zipper, the company sent me a brand new backpack of the same model. No deductible. No hassle. Just a brand new backpack. It was the first time I'd heard of such magical customer service until I encountered Cheryl Strayed's miracle acquisition of new REI shoes in her Wild famous hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
So I opened up the box and got my new Mountainsmith "Guide" backpack just before embarking on my 18th year and adulthood.
Now, some of you may have read my piece about my first independent road trip at age 19, but when I say this backpack has been with me for every trip since traveling became essential to my adult life, I mean literally every trip.
This bag has been with me on that first road trip and on every annual road trip I've since taken to honor the experience. It moved to Memphis with me. To Montreal. To summers working in Maine, Wisconsin, Switzerland and China. It accompanied my first international trip, to London, and afterward, to nearly every European nation from Serbia to Sweden. It was with me when I lobbied Congress using the "Pocket Constitution" that has sat in its inner compartment since I received it in 11th grade civics class. And it was with me for my 2011-2012 Dream Road Trip; carrying my most important possessions and staying on my back or by my side every inch of the way so I didn't lose them.
To this day, it still serves as my go-to carry-on/computer/weekender backpack for any trip away from home, whether taking the Metro into the city or flying to Peru to hike the Inca Trail.
This bag has walked with me through every stage of life. Like an imaginary friend that's actually real and is always ready to hand you a piece of gum it's been holding in its pocket--just waiting for you to need it.
It's such a part of my travel-being that I don't know how to let it go. Like a champion horse that should be put out to pasture, it's served me so well that it doesn't deserve to be taken out back and turned into glue. It's my Woody from Toy Story. Old and tattered, but loved and appreciated.
So when my new Mountainsmith gear arrives, ready to undertake this journey that is the most adventurous I've ever pursued, I want to do something special with my Guide backpack.
Something special for my trusty friend.
Now, my yoga-teaching sister would tell me that material items are fleeting and change is constant and the only way to really live life is to do so in the moment.
So I ask for your help with this moment. With my trip now only 63 days from launch, I ask for your ideas of what to do with my Mountainsmith Guide. Do I keep it? Donate it? Give it to a donor in my future Kickstarter campaign?
Whatever I do, I will look forward to when I have to depart from the forthcoming Mountainsmith products that will accompany my National Parks journey. Confident in the knowledge that it's not any material item that makes a trip extraordinary, but great material items that help make extraordinary experiences possible.
Comment below with ideas for my backpack and check out links to the items I received from Mountainsmith to help my trip!
Click here to read about each of the 400+ national parks.