If you call someone a dirtbag, you might be insulting them for being dishonest. Or, you might be describing their lifestyle — their pursuit of an outdoor passion at the expense of more mainstream options and commitments.

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a rock climber living in a van or becoming a rafting guide, thru-hiker, world traveler, or some other kind of nature-loving, adventure-seeking wanderer, my guest has written a handbook for making it happen. His name is Tim Mathis and he’s the author of The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life: Eternal Truth for Hiker Trash, Ski Bums, and Vagabonds. Tim and I begin our conversation with what it means to be a dirtbag, the origin of the term amongst the early rock climbers who explored Yosemite in the 50s and 60s, and why Tim thinks the lifestyle embodies a countercultural philosophy. Tim then offers a window into why others might adopt this approach to life, by sharing his story of how he personally became committed to dirtbagging. From there we turn to the brass tacks of embracing a life centered on outdoor adventure and exploration, beginning with how much money you need to make it happen, and the kinds of jobs and careers that are conducive to it, including, perhaps surprisingly, the field of nursing. Tim also shares how he responds to criticism that being a dirtbag isn’t a responsible way to live. We then discuss the effect dirtbagging can have on someone’s relationships, and whether this lifestyle is viable if you have a spouse and kids. At the end of our conversation, we discuss how, even if you’re living a more freewheeling lifestyle, it’s important to have a sense of meaning beyond traveling around and doing cool stuff, and the three elements that go into finding that kind of meaning, which apply to dirtbags and non-dirtbags alike.

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Show Highlights

Where did dirtbagging come from?How Tim became a through-hiker Why do people become dirtbaggers?Why dirtbagging isn’t as expensive as it might seem The careers of dirtbaggers . . . are perhaps more varied than you’d expectTrue responsibilities vs. social expectations What do relationships look like with a dirtbag lifestyle? What about kids?The dark side to the dirtbag lifestyle How Tim found some more meaning with his life

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Valley UprisingLet My People Go SurfingHow to Travel Around the World With Just a 20lb BackpackHow to Take Care of Your Feet on a HikeLessons in Persistence From Tommy CaldwellExploring Life’s Trail, Literally and Metaphorically5 Unexpected Skills Needed on an Ultrabacking Adventure The Complete Guide to HikingHiking With NietzscheHow to Hitchhike Around the USANat Geo article on death by suicide in ski townsFinding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With HappinessAgainst the Cult of Travel

dirtbag guide to life by tim mathis book cover

Connect With Tim

Tim’s website

Tim on Instagram

Tim on Twitter

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