Confessions of a Part-Time Dirtbag.

Cable Bay Walkway views at sunset makes for some buzzy moments. Photo by Paul Petch.

Cable Bay Walkway views at sunset makes for some buzzy moments. Photo by Paul Petch.

Dirtbag; A person who is committed to a given lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle.

I roll over and stretch deep and long in time with the lapping waves on the Nelson shore, just metres away from my bed. My 96 Toyota van is a mellow orange inside with a warm 360 degree sunny greeting. Week 2 of a road trip to unplug, un tangle, drop out and explore ME, and run trails was finally starting to feel normal. Starting to feel like a good life choice. Or was it that I was starting to feel? Either way, stoke was good.

This morning be like…… Photo by Paul Petch.

Laying there in the total peace and quiet of another sunny start to life I could not help but reflect. This ‘life’ of mine seemed to be a long time coming after literally fleeing Christchurch nearly 5 years prior into the concrete jungle- but here I was off the grid again in my happy place Southward. Things are different though. I’m more balanced in life, views, and my running. It had been a while to find some kind of status quo though, and at 42 laying in a van I chuckle with the literal randomness of it all. I’ve always been on the fringe of something though. Dirtbag life in someway has been in my blood since leaving home at 16 and moving around into the unknown- then jumping on a plane to chase a dream to the other side of the world (England) in 2000.

Trust me I’m a dirtbag. Photo by Paul Petch.

But now, all of the years of not settling-  this ability to change, suffer, and search was finally my friend. A friend that instead of hiding away, it’s now on full show choosing lifestyle over that flashy car, huge house, massive TV and working 24/7. I’m not gloating…. but while the majority of the city was waking against their will at 5am, to then sit in traffic for hours, to a job they hate, I was waking to adventure, and I wont lie….I felt FREE for the first time in years. Running and adventure being a catalyst for these moments is always a special gift. Priceless. Today I was looking to hit a Nelson track called the Cable Bay Walkway.

Truth be known, it had taken me a few weeks to adjust from central Auckland living to that of a smelly dude sleeping in his van. I was practically brain dead when I headed off. Burnt out. Unable to be present in anything I was doing. A pretty typical state for me in Auckland city to be honest- that I refused to accept as being ‘OK’. Two weeks after leaving, my body and mind had settled into a new rhythm that felt normal. Wake to the sun, cook breakfast, make fresh coffee, explore my surroundings, relax, read, write, shoot some frames if i felt like it, run if i felt like it, eat well, watch the sunset and sleep after dark. The simple life.

But first coffee! The morning routine. Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Paul Petch.</a>

But first coffee! The morning routine. Photo by Paul Petch.

With my tanned feet sticking out from the rear of the van and ocean breezes keeping the hungry sandflies at bay, I spent time catching up on my emails. I was in no rush. What a feeling. People ask I how manage to travel and get by, and the answer is that i work like everyone else. There are no secrets, other than I set out with a plan five years ago with a hunger to be able to work remotely if required. To enjoy lifestyle over working 24/7- and to be that dude who pays his bills and then travels to shoot runners, its culture and everything in between. I put myself into a period of hard hard work, sacrifice and hustle to make it all come together and this trip was symbolic of how far the dream had come. I had to pinch myself. As a commercial photographer I need to be physically present on location, but quoting (and hustling) can be done on a laptop anywhere. Sat looking at the ocean, after the hard yards establishing myself as a commercial photographer things, felt like I was moving forward.

With the sun lowering in the sky I set off up the Cable Bay Walkway track and after a prolonged break from the South- the climb felt long but awakening. There was a chill in the air under shade and protection from the towering hills too. My trusty 6+ year old wind block jacket keeping the chill off up top as the views literally turned into what can best be described as emotional. Getting high on dirt under my own steam to see mother nature at sunset is always such a moving experience for me, and with an ease forming in my gait two weeks in, this dirtbag life was feeling pretty sweet.

Views across Nelson mountains from Cable Bay Walkway and ocean at sunset. Emotionally charged.

Views across Nelson mountains from Cable Bay Walkway and ocean at sunset. Emotionally charged. Photo by Paul Petch.

Just me and my mates. Photo by Paul Petch.

Opting for a typical run up- across the top- and down was a great way to explore this area and the magnificent views across the mountains and coastal magic. Did I really know where I was going? Not really. So on the run down I got lost, and ended up in some dark forest similar to scenes from the Lord of the Rings and killer orcs. My imagination has always been fairly wild and I could not help but freak myself out even though I knew I was close to ‘home’. The issue was the light was fading and I respect the NZ wilderness enough to know things can get out of control quickly after dark. Hooking up onto some tracks made by sheep my running compass was all out of whack before I popped out onto some familiar trails.

Sweet sweet singletrack. Photo by Paul Petch.

Views like this as you fall asleep? CRAY CRAY! Photo by Paul Petch.

Back at the van I reheated a tasty chickpea and vege dish from the previous night (having a fridge is so civilised) and hit the sack watching the sun fade against the surf. Falling into slumber I wondered what tomorrow would bring aside from a new place- new trails- and new adventures. My road trip had officially started at this point as I was energised, into the routine of living in a small van, and most of all in better mental and physical shape than when I left Auckland. Most of all, I was comfortable just ‘being – run – repeat’.

Paul Petch
Director of Good People Run, pro photographer, tutor and a recovering 'runaholic'. Based in Auckland City, my work is at
Paul Petch

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