It’s been a few months since I’ve posted an update on here, which means a lot has changed. This chapter of my life seems to be one of transition, of living in flux. Ever since quitting my job in January to build out my van, I’ve been committed to vanlife. What exactly does that mean? To me, vanlife means prioritizing travel and adventure over comfort and complacency. While I was down in Baja this spring, I had a dream of becoming a kiteboard instructor to fuel this kind of lifestyle. After a lot of hard work and continuously pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, I achieved that dream and spent the summer teaching in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.
Teaching Kiteboarding in the Legendary Gorge
As a kid, I would visit Hood River and watch the kiteboarders with starry eyes. Only in my wildest dreams could I envision myself as one of those humans flying through the air. So it felt surreal, in the beginning, to be teaching people this amazing sport and helping them redefine their ideas of what is possible.
Because let’s be real—kiting defies reality in a lot of ways. You use a big kite to skate across the surface of the water, jumping to stellar heights or navigating your way through the surf. The ability to kite and the right conditions can transform any body of water into a playground.
Learning a sport like this, so mind-bending and new, can seem like a daunting endeavor at first. For most people, it’s not intuitive and they have to start with the very basics. It takes bravery to jump into something new and it’s humbling to suck at something. I have mad respect for everyone I had the privilege of teaching this summer.
There were times I felt exhausted after long days of teaching in the sun, the water, and the wind. The elements can really take a lot out of you. But whenever I’d step back and reflect on what I was doing, the excitement always came back. I was helping people achieve one of their dreams—providing them a key to unlock a new future, a new way of interacting with the world! How can one not feel grateful for that?
As any teacher knows, an extra bonus of teaching is learning the skills or material very well yourself. I got really good at flying kites in all sorts of conditions by demonstrating and observing. Teaching forced me to analyze what I was doing and why I was doing it. How do you fly a kite when there’s almost no wind? How do you fly one safely in 40 knots of wind? I learned to boost really high and grab for style. I learned how to do strapless airs and carve on waves. I learned to look both ways before riding into the channel to avoid close encounters with barges that keep your heart pounding 20 minutes later (thankfully that only happened once!).
Nyma got a pretty sweet deal at the kite school, too. While I was out at the sandbar, she usually chilled outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. She worked out a deal with Erika eventually where she’d get to nap inside when the wind was really howling. She made friends with the two other dogs at the school—Dora and Zulu. Nyma’s not usually very social with other dogs, but she had her moments over the summer. Mostly she kept the peace and defended Zulu when playtime got a little rough. They made a great little doggy pack for the kite school!
Exploring the Columbia River Gorge
When I wasn’t teaching, Nyma and I enjoyed exploring around the Gorge. I’ve done most of the hikes on the Oregon side, but this was my first chance to really explore the Washington side. It did not disappoint! We found waterfalls, swathes of old growth forest, and epic viewpoints in true Gorge fashion. Partway through the summer I got my hands on Scott Cook’s “Curious Gorge” guidebook, which unlocked a treasure trove of hikes that would have otherwise slipped under our radar. If you don’t have a copy of this book, I’d highly recommend investing in one.
The popular hikes around here are often very crowded (for good reason), but Nyma and I prefer getting off the beaten path. I find solitude in nature to be restorative. It gives me space to think, to hear the quiet thoughts I might otherwise ignore. A hike in nature is a spiritual experience for me, far more so than going to church. And the Gorge is a wonderful cathedral. Any time we could get away to viewpoints of the river or waterfalls in the Gifford Pinchot, we’d come back with our lights shining brighter and share it with the world.
Some of our favorite hikes include Spirit Falls, Wind Mountain, Coyote Wall, and Falls Creek Falls. None of these were overcrowded and provide opportunities for solitude if you’re willing to get your feet wet. The three tiers at Falls Creek Falls is a perfect example—most people are content to stop and take pictures of the bottom tier, so Nyma and I had the top two tiers all to ourselves when we scrambled up a steep, unmarked trail on the slope beside the falls (Nyma is a pro at sniffing out hidden paths like this!).
Plans for the Future
Looking ahead, Nyma and I will be heading down to La Ventana for the winter season to keep kiting and teaching. As always, I’m feeling a little nervous for the upcoming adventure. This is normal, and I take it to mean I’m going in the right direction. If I feel comfortable, it means I’m not growing. Seeking discomfort is the best way to facilitate growth. That doesn’t mean I’m always doing things that are scary, but it does mean making an effort to do something uncomfortable on a regular basis. This could mean sending a big strapless air, going out in bigger surf than you’re used to, or going on a date. I don’t care what you do—recognize what makes you scared and go for it. It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail—you’ll feel elated either way.
In addition to teaching down in Mexico, my current ambitions include learning to lead climbing routes, kite in more waves, and making new friends in Baja. I recently purchased a mountain bike, as well, so I’m excited to hit the trails and get to know what that’s all about. If you need a break from the cold weather, come down to La Ventana for some sunshine and kite lessons! Nyma and I always love seeing familiar faces.
What are your current ambitions? Are you getting out of your comfort zone on a regular basis, or are you letting fear hold you back? I’d love to hear about your struggles and successes—leave a comment below!