The Week That Took Me To South Dakota: Forest Camping, Mud, And Spontaneous Adventures

This Week:

  • Why the heck did I drive to South Dakota, of all places?
  • I almost got my van stuck in the mud.
  • AGAIN, the incredibly spontaneity of living on the road.
  • Why you might want to think twice about saving your money.

July 2023

Su M T W Th F S

Where In The World Was I?

  • Cheyenne, WY
  • Black Hills National Forest
  • Spearfish, SD
  • Rapid City, SD

Live Travel Map 🌎

A Pit Stop In Cheyenne, Wyoming

Since it was Sunday, I stopped for a quick morning pit stop to get some time behind the laptop and post last week’s Life Update post.

I spent the afternoon chilling at a park.

Then hit the road again!

And where did I end up?

Wildlife Habitat Management Area Camping

I found this area on iOverlander and wow…

Just wow…

(tons of new photos on my Photography page)

What WASN’T pictured was the millions of mosquitos and 3 ticks that I found after walking in the grass for 2 minutes… But it felt SO good to be back camping in nature.

It’s been a good 2 months in Denver, plus all of winter, plus the end of fall since I was out in national forests and exploring camp spots in the van.

To go to sleep without worrying about trying to be stealth, hiding from people walking by, hearing cars driving by, it was absolutely glorious.

THIS is why I love van life.

I Was NOT Expecting This

So my destination was Spearfish, South Dakota, but I decided to stop by the Black Hills National Forest to do some camping before making it into town.

As I entered the Black Hills, I was shocked to see how green it was!

It was like the greenery of the Pacific Northwest mixed with the trees, structure, and layout of the forests of the Rockies (Colorado, northern New Mexico).

The lush greenery has been one of the main things I’ve missed from camping in mountain west. There’s just nothing that compares to lushness of the Pacific Northwest.

I ended up finding an old overgrown logging road that I decided to explore and found the absolute best camp site I could find.

Secluded, quiet, and deep in nothing but nature.

The van literally looks photoshopped there lol.

The ground was dry driving in… but let’s just say, it wasn’t dry going out 😅 Keep reading to hear about the adventure getting out of here…

(and then I moved even further down the road and found a better spot haha)

A big thunderstorm rolled in as soon as it got dark, with incredible lightning and energy sparking through the sky. Fortunately it tracked south of me.

But I woke up to a foggy and misty morning.

And decided to walk the rest of the logging road and check how muddy it would be getting out. It wasn’t quite full-on waterlogged mud, but it was wet enough to cake the bottom of my shoes. Ya know, enough that there was a serious question mark as to getting out…

My shoes were 110% soaked…

So after scoping the path, I just sent it. The video definitely doesn’t do it justice, but it’s at least a taste.

Thankfully I made it, but not without a sinking feeling in my stomach driving over that last muddy section.

I took the rest of the morning to just chill, make some food, watch some YouTube, read, and meditate. Like Wyoming, it felt good to just take it slower, be enveloped in nature, and have a peaceful change of scenery.

There’s absolutely something special about being out in nature in the forest that does something to our brains. I just can’t quite pinpoint it.

A Freakin’ Canyon???

As I drove my way down to Spearfish, this exposed rock canyon just came out of nowhere! I had no idea it was here and it was SO cool to drive through.

It reminded me of Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado!

April 2022, road trip to Zion National Park:

I dunno, South Dakota was never on my list of places that I had to visit, but I think that’s changed after the past week… I’m impressed.

So Why Did I REALLY Drive To South Dakota?

South Dakota is one of the few states that’s incredibly friendly to full-time travelers. They allow you to become a resident, get a driver’s license, and register your vehicle all while traveling full-time. A perfect combination for those living on the road.

With all the travel I’ve been doing and will be doing (abroad), I wanted to take advantage of this before leaving the U.S.

So I cut all my ties to Colorado (I do still love Colorado though!) and moved everything with me to South Dakota.

I ended up getting a virtual mailbox service with the South Dakota Residency Center (, based in Spearfish. Doing that allowed me to get a South Dakota driver’s license and set everything up super seamlessly and all in one day!

If you’re a full time traveler reading this, I would highly recommend them!

Exploring Spearfish, SD

While I was in town I stopped by to explore, eat out, and support the local economy!

Killian’s Food & Drink:

And stayed at my first-ever campground in the van (yep, this is the first dime I’ve paid to camp in my van).

Exploring Rapid City, SD

After a couple days I headed down to Rapid City to get some more admin-y things done as well as explore the 2nd largest city in South Dakota!

I ate at this Thai place that was actually really good, I was impressed!

Thai Thai Restaurant:

Then got ice cream and walked around downtown and walked into a spontaneous surprise!

Apparently every Thursday night in summer, Rapid City hosts a concert for free! What the heck! Free music, food, alcohol, and it felt like the whole city was out!

It’s moments like these that I love about the spontaneity of living on the road and exploring.

If I still lived in my apartment in Denver, I would’ve NEVER in a million years decided to drive to a city in South Dakota to spend a Thursday evening exploring and walking around downtown.

… or bump into a car show and mariachi band in Bishop, CA:

… or do a u-turn to stop at the Farmer’s Market along the Pacific Coast Highway, or stop at THE Tillamook Creamery for ice cream:

Another night in Rapid City, I grabbed pizza from a pizza place (Blaze Pizza) and ate it in the park.

The pizza was REALLY good. Again, I was impressed.

Which also took me back to Pagosa Springs, CO when I did the exact same thing:

My Last Coffee Shop Sessions…

I decided to get some coffee shop laptop sessions in because these may just be the last coffee shop sessions I have in the U.S. for a loooong time 🥺 The next couple days/weeks will be lots of driving.

In that spirit, I did some journaling around my travels and what my essential few focuses should be right now.

Here’s a little peek into that.

Life Experience Optimization

# 202307020813 What type of experiences should I optimize for backpacking

Question: What type of experiences should I optimize for while backpacking?

Well, when I'm middle aged:
- I won't have this kind of health
- I won't have this kind of time (no responsibilities) and flexibility
- I won't be on a budget
- But I'll have money

When I'm 80
- Pretty much all the above, but even less health

So it seems to come down to:
- Anything active where health is a requirement or advantage
	- Think surfing, hiking, walking all day, snorkeling, wakeboarding, bungee jumping
	- Night life, festivals, partying
- Time and flexibility and budget
	- Think staying in hostels, riding buses to get to places, transit
	- Flexibility - going to new places on a dime, just exploring, spontaneity

## High Priority
- Hostel culture
- Adventurous activities and physical challenges
- Nightlife and festivals
- Flexibility and spontaneity

## Low Priority
Things that I _could_ do, but can also do later in life:
- Restaurants, local cuisine
- History, tours, cultural immersion, architecture, museums, art
- Slow travel
- Wildlife viewing - national parks, tours
- Any festivals that are more for all ages
- Cruises

I was heavily inspired from Bill Perkins’ book Die With Zero for this. Some of his core ideas that I took away were:

  1. Optimize your life around fulfillment – which can mean travels, experiences, memories, etc. and/or meaning you get from being of service to others.
    • Just remember that, based on the data, 2 of the top regrets of people on their death bed were: 1) “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” and 2) “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware
    • And that when you’re on your death bed, what do you really have left? Your memories from experiences you had. You can’t take your money with you, so spend it on experiences and fulfillment.
  2. Invest in experiences early, because they continue to return memory dividends – an experience isn’t just the present moment, it’s also the sum of all the future moments when you recall the memory, plus the times when you tell that story to someone you just met, plus the times when you connect with a stranger because of that experience etc.
    • I’m already noticing this. See above (spontaneity of travel, eating pizza in the park). I’ve started noticing a positive feeling making connections with past experiences and reliving past memories.
    • This is EXACTLY why I write these Life Updates. It’s for my 80 year old self, sitting in his rocking chair, reliving his life experiences.
  3. Some experiences can only be done in certain time buckets of your life because our health deteriorates with time and our responsibilities increase with time.
    • Health: The downside risk of breaking your leg while wakeboarding when you’re 19 is what? Maybe 3-6mo in a cast, and that’s it? What about when you’re 55? Maybe 12-18mo to recover, maybe it means serious hip surgery.
    • Responsibilities: The downside risk when you have a family means it’s not just your own life you’re putting on the line, but it’s the lives of your spouse and children. Taking 6mo to backpack around Europe when you need to also support your family and children is just literally not even an option anymore.

Essential Focuses

So on a similar note, I thought about my current focuses and direction right now (I started reading Essentialism by Greg Mckeown).

# 202307020908 What are my essential few focuses right now

What are my essential focuses right now? If you stripped away everything else, what is the absolute highest priority?

## Summary

### The Essential Few
- Positive life experiences - creating memories for my future self, particularly things I can't do later in life
- Wealth - _long_-term income and fulfillment creation, _but_ not prioritized over positive life experiences
- Health - maintenance mode: staying healthy, active, and fit; when prioritized: bulk and build muscle
- Relationships - maintenance mode: family; back burner: friends; open to: relationships and partners

### 4 Hour Work Week
If I had literally only 4 hrs to work behind my laptop per WEEK, I'd spend it:
- 2 hrs - capturing positive life experiences and memory dividends for my future self
	- Life Updates, photography
- 2 hrs - long term income and fulfillment creation
	- Personal brand - posting on social media, engaging with others, sharing my journey, building an audience
	- Business - building solutions to problems, creating value, marketing

4Runner Sales Montage Video – Finished!

I had the idea to capture my journey of selling my 4Runner in a video for a while now.

The problem? I still feel a lot of friction editing videos. But this video in particular because I had over 14 HOURS worth of footage I had created over the 6 weeks it took to sell. It ended up taking about 8 hours to edit it all down.

But on a similar note to the journal entries above, I thought this was a perfect example of investing the time up front for my future self. My 80 year old self isn’t gonna want to sift through 14 hours of footage.

Instead, I have a 27 minute video that captures the essence and the best and worst moments that I’ll want to remember.

I think it’s worth slowing down and spending a bit of time while things are fresh to document and capture these experiences into curated assets that my future self can use.

That’s the same idea behind why I’ve been writing these Life Update blog posts every week.

The one last thing I’ll say related to this, is that it feels good to create stuff.

What’s Next?

The plan is to explore a couple cool spots up here in South Dakota before hitting the road again!

Flight leaves from the east coast in T minus 2 weeks 😳


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