Kristen Bor traded the security of a Washington, D.C., job in 2014 for life on the road in a customized van, shown here at Faria Beach between Ventura and Carpinteria. Courtesy photo
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Happy wanderer spends free time on adventures

Hardly anyone is going anywhere during this Great COVID-19 Shutdown — even inveterate travelers like Kristen Bor. 

She, partner Ryan and her Charlie the Adventure Dog, a collie-shepherd mix who has his own Instagram account, live eight months a year on the road in her 100-square-foot van that “mostly serves to haul gear” for their outdoor adventures.

Bor has created an online community/business called Bearfoot Theory for those who want to learn more about being a purposeful vagabond.

“Ryan and I were supposed to leave for Hawaii tomorrow, but with the uncertainty around the coronavirus, we decided to cancel our trip,” Bor wrote in an e-mail recently. “With Ryan being a type 1 diabetic (an autoimmune disease), we decided it’s simply not worth getting on a plane at this exact moment, not at least until we know more.”

And so, the happy wanderers will remain a bit longer in their sometime-home in Salt Lake City and, like the rest of us, see how this thing plays out.

Bor has been a purposeful vagabond since 2014 when, at 32, she left her Washington, D.C., job in sustainable marine policy to do more of what she saw others doing — traveling, loving life and having a good time.

“I grew up out West and found myself wanting to go on longer trips,” Bor said in a telephone interview. “Instagram was becoming popular and (it made me) want to travel more. I knew that, in my current line of work, I’d never get the time off to do this.”

Bor also wanted to be her own boss, so she took the leap and left the traditional workforce.

“But leaving a job doesn’t mean the bills disappear,” she said. “There must be a plan.”

Hers included moving to more-affordable Las Vegas, working for REI (flexible schedule and discounts), and learning everything she could about outdoor gear and blogging about it. A savings account also helped survival. 

“I started taking road trips to southern Utah and not doing anything that cost a lot of money – things like hiking and camping,” she explained.

Eventually, Bor hiked the 214-mile John Muir Trail and wrote about it. This brought lots of people to the blog and it took off.” Next: Build an online community of those who had similar views about lifestyle and caring for the environment.

“I did everything I could to learn about building a website,” Bor explained. “There is so much computer work behind the scenes. I was working 80 hours a week. I saw (my new way of life) as a business from the beginning – not as a hobby. The growth took about two years before I started feeling comfortable.”

She named her website/blog Bearfoot Theory (bearfoottheory.com), after the Grateful Dead’s dancing-bear icon, tattooed on her right foot.   

“Bearfoot Theory is an outdoor travel blog with a mission … to empower outdoor enthusiasts who thrive off information and put the planet first – the kind of things the average person can do if they put the energy into it,” Bor said.

One outgrowth of the Bearfoot community is the annual Open Roads Fest (openroadsfest.com) June 25-28 in McCall, Idaho.

“This is for anyone interested in the van-life lifestyle. We hold workshops about van living and converting a van. (People who attend) may already have a van or want to meet people and learn about it. About 80 (of the 400 who attended last year) came to learn.” The event also includes yoga, live music, mountain biking, paddle boarding on the ranch’s private reservoir and sponsored happy hours.

Soon to launch: a revised website and a free online course on van life – how to choose one, convert it, deal with insurance, find campsites and more. Connect with Bearfoot Theory Instagram (instagram.com/bearfoottheory). For Bor’s advice on starting a business that supports a life on the road, visit facebook.com/elouiseondash. Want to share your travels? E-mail eondash@coastnewsgroup.com.

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