I find myself pulled in two directions a lot.

DSC05054 For the vast majority of my life, I was fairly comfortable labelling myself a bookworm. I have been inseparable from reading (and to a lesser extent, writing) for as long as I can remember. I never went anywhere without a book – I know that every hipster blog out there probably says the same thing – but it was true. I was one of those freaks in the corner who would read a Harry Potter book in three and a half hours and then start devouring up the next one. In that sense, it seems somewhat inevitable that I’ve found myself at 21 as an English Literature student at the University of Bristol. Books were always my first passion.

And yet….

Four years ago, I took a job waiting tables in Yellowstone National Park. I’d spent most of that spring working and hiking outside, but something seemed to ignite once I found myself in such an enormous area of wilderness. I was from a little village in England, a country whose tallest mountain was not even half the elevation of the cabin I was now sleeping in. Without wishing to stray into Romantic tropes too much, it was a humbling awakening to find out that there still existed places where humans could surrender a degree of control over their surroundings, accept the inherent dangers of such wild places, and somehow live even more fully because of it.
That rush, for which I could never find a more academic description than simply ‘the Yellowstone feeling’, never really left me. In fact, my first year of study seemed dull and listless in comparison to falling asleep to the howling of the wolves deep in the backcountry, or plunging into ice-cold alpine lakes after a hot morning’s hiking. In spite of how much I reassured people around me that I was loving my degree, the truth was that my new passion was superseding the first. As nauseatingly cut-price Jack London as it sounds, I felt homesick for the wild.
I finished my degree last summer. And thank god, the enjoyment came back. The reading was stimulating, I loved discussing the novels and poetry in seminars again, and I read reading because it was fantastic literature, not just because it was required reading. However, I still feel pulled in two directions. My love for the outdoors remains just as strong, and I spend far too much time fretting about getting locked in an office without the time I feel I need to get outside into the remote places of the world.
It is, in sore, sore want of a better phrase, my dirtbag dilemma. And that’s where this blog comes in. I’m going to try to fuse these two passions instead of ignoring one at the expense of the other.
I can’t really escape the sarcastic voices I conjure up in my head – ‘Ooh, writing about the outdoors; that’s never been done before’. And for the most part they’re right. But hey, George Monbiot and Robert McFarlane are (to my eternal sadness) not immortal – surely someone will be lucky enough to end up doing that for a career! But I think there’s something to be said for a millennial outdoor writer. Yeah yeah, we know the jokes: we’re glued to our screens, we’re trapped in an imaginary world of likes and followers, and therefore our generation is doomed to a sheltered life of ignorance and artificiality. But I think that’s quite a limiting portrayal – after all we apparently are more likely to spend money on experiences rather than material goods than any previous generation, and we sure do love jetting off to far-flung locations. My real concern as a young outdoors writer is about the way that we view the outdoors. I know I’m guilty of it too, but I think we decide too often to view nature as a backdrop to promote our own vanity. We visit Trolltunga, for example, not because of the way it makes us feel, arguably not even because of its jaw-dropping beauty. Instead we exploit dramatic landscapes to make ourselves seem more worldly and adventurous, not to mention evoking feelings of envy in our not-so-lucky friends (looking at you, Instagram).
It’s not occurring in a vacuum, however. First it was tiny houses, now it’s #vanlife – it seems my fellow millennials are increasingly gravitating towards this counter-cultural shift from the cities to the open roads. But doesn’t it all seem a bit hollow, dirtbagging for its own sake? There’s an artifice to the way my generation views the outdoors that profoundly interests me, and I think older writers might not be as well-positioned to analyse this.
To conclude then, welcome to The Dirtbag Dilemma, where I get to bring together my favourite things: literature and the outdoors. I’m really excited for this rather revamped blog, and I hope you all enjoy the ride.


Happy trails.


12 thoughts on “Preface

  1. Enjoyed your thought process. Your Grandmother is a very good writer. I tried to get her write a book. It looks like you will be the writer for your family.
    Pam Bowers. Hope to read more of your work

  2. Finn – you have always fascinated me and you continue to do so with your new blog. I look forward to the next additions. I’m a fan.

  3. the dirtbag dilemma has got me as well! I start to go crazy when I don’t get enough time to go out and explore! great blog

  4. Very well written and great insight into the life of a millennial! Can’t wait to follow your progress!

  5. Finn, You don’t know me, but your grandmother and I have been friends from church and garden club for many years. I remember when you were born and telling Judy how much I liked the name Finn. Your writing is beautiful, and I wish you the best in combining your passions into wondrous experiences. Looks like you are getting there.
    Ruth Dickson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s