This is the first post in a series based on living a life outside of selfie-domestication— stories from adventures in a rabid return journey to find what is Wild. Natural. Unkept.
We said The Hatter and The Hound Tour was about four women determined to blaze a new trail — make space for ourselves in this world one highway mile at a time.
What a beautiful metaphor for life. Cue four babes standing at the edge of a cliff, windblown hair on fleek, eagle flying over majestic scenery.
Well, we got all that for sure. The scenery was majestic, replace hair on fleek with hat head— and in the end we absolutely pulled it off…safely…mostly…only a fingertip down.
But seriously, you never know what will unfold when you hit the road. For four weeks I mobbed down the interstate in a giant diesel 4x4 truck, a 32 foot Airstream in tow, a pit bull named Charlie breathing down my neck, and three amazing women by my side. We were hungry for adventure and determined to find it our way. Little did we know that at the end of each road, at the closing of every day —it was the relationship all of us had forged with our new comrade in creative-crime that made this road trip not only possible, but epic.
The Hatter and The Hound Tour helped all of us solidify our love/hate relationship with Fear. That bitch was riding with us for every single one of the 2600+ miles and none of us could deny it.
Hell, Fear made us stronger. If we hadn't come to terms with her though, if we didn't at some point relegate her the back of our minds —we'd probably be on the side of the road somewhere in Colorado, gripped by fear with only a sad sack of good intentions to rest our heads on. Or worse, we’d still be sitting in our corners of the world, wondering what that one autumn may have been like. We would be imagining rolling across the country like badass boss bitches, taking our lives by the balls and holding of for the ride— all from the comfort of our couch, the safety of our same ol' neighborhood barstool.
We'd all wonder what life would be like if we had told Fear to f*&% off.
I don’t know about you, but I heard the, “fake it ’til you make it” motto growing up. I always thought it meant front like you got all your shit together, act like the person you eventually want to be, and one day you will actually be that person, you won’t have to fake it anymore. Everything will come with the ease and confidence of an eagle soaring over chickens.
Well, I'm pretty sure that’s complete bullshit.
Or at least for those who stay inspired, stay hungry, and stay lively —it’s total b.s.. What I learned actually happens is you wake up and have coffee with that voice of doubt and fear every-other-goddamn morning, and then walk out your door and get the hell on with your day. THAT’s what becomes normal. That is the tipping point I realized every person who leads a self directed life has reached. That is what the road taught all of us.
So, backing up a bit, the tour— this all started with Cate Havstad of Havstad Hat Company. Maker of traditional western style beaver and rabbit felt hats. Business owner, craftswoman and all around dope human in general. A mobile workshop had been a dream of her's for years. When she started to get some things in place to actually make it happen she called photographer, Amanda Leigh Smith. Cate wanted to document her first tour across the country, Oregon to Nashville, and knew Amanda was the perfect woman for the job. Amanda, knowing it would be a huge production on so many levels called me. Before we knew it, all of us were hyped and figuring out how the hell we were going to make this happen together.
What the hell did we know about going on tour with a mobile workshop, shooting a ridiculous amount of content, staying safe, and keeping Charlie chill with all the random strangers? Umm, mostly nothing. We all knew how to do parts of those things, we all had roles to fill, but big picture —most of it was winging it
Amanda and I worked on finding sponsors, writing pitches, sending photo decks, finding people and brands that shared the same values and passion for craftsmanship as Cate, and would want to be a part of the first Havstad tour. Cate hustled to get everything on her end ready to hit the road— the trailer buildout, actual hat production details, networking, branding, logistics. Oh also, we were all living across the country from each other. Cate and her good friend and jeweler, Rachel, of Navone Jewelry who helped, hustled, and joined us on tour —they were in Bend, OR. Amanda was in Whistler, British Columbia. And I had just moved from Portland, OR., to Nashville, TN.. Regardless, the four of us started putting this tour together because it was exactly what we all wanted to do with our lives in one aspect or another.
We chose to believe it was possible, we'd figure out how.
Of course all of us had doubts — so, so, SO much could go wrong.
There was no instruction book or info-graphic giving Cate the “How-To's” of building out an Airstream into a custom hat workshop and touring the country —it had never been done before. And for Amanda, this was the first time she would be responsible for shooting content for multiple brands at one time while shooting for an entire tour, all on a 35mm film. And me, what the heck did I know about producing a four week tour with multiple pop-up shops, Meet and Greets, and ranch visits —all the while organizing the production content for over half a dozen brands on one simultaneous agenda?
Because you don't know... until you just fucking do it.
Regardless, the four of us —Cate 24, Rachel 32, Amanda 29, and myself 33 —we had committed to follow and define our own path. We wanted to work for ourselves and collaborate with other likeminded creatives, hungry for adventure, navigating an inspired life through their work.
We all at some point realized along the way though, this only became a reality because we had all made peace with, and given a hell of a lot less space, to Fear. That whiney voice of doubt in your head that comes by every day or so and tries to take up space, borrow your time, and take a hit off your peace pipe —we had learned to recognize it, and push past it. Fear was no longer a driver, but we were humble enough to understand she sure as hell had a place at the breakfast table, whether we wanted her there or not.
Now, don’t get it twisted. From day one serious thoughts of fear and doubt were rolling around in all of our heads, and they didn't just go away once we hit the road.
Winding our way through the Colorado Rockies, hauling ass to catch the sunrise in New Mexico, barreling down the highway through Texas sunsets —fear could easily be just a few steps behind. Seriously, so much could go wrong, like terribly wrong at any point; a blowout, a broken camera, busted machinery, a sick dog, truck cab-in fever. But when those thoughts tried to get up in any of our space, ride shotgun in our mind, we had learned to say, “whuddup”, and continue rolling down the highway.
We relied on each other and the habit of getting on with it to push past these ‘what if…’, ‘…oh crap this was not in the plan…’, ‘I don’t know what the hell the answer is…’ —moments.
The folks we met on the road, we could see this same grounded confidence and “f#@& it” attitude in them. Complete strangers opened up their homes to us. Matt and Lindsey, cowboying on a dreamy 800 acre ranch in Colorado, showed us hospitality that was unmatched. Jason and Sarah of Texas Heritage Co., working and raising their sons in her grandfather’s house outside of Junction— they let us park in their front yard and make dinner in their kitchen. We met them 30 minutes earlier on Instagram. Denis O’Donnell, owner of the White Horse Saloon and a major cornerstone of the Austin music scene— we parked at his bar for three days, sipping whiskey, talking music and community into the late night.
And there was Leslie Crow, farmer and designer/leather worker of Heyoka Leather. She provided a healing and grounded home for us after barely making it out of Austin alive, complete with home cooked meals and yoga by her pool.
There was Drew Park, owner and sole roaster of Drew’s Brews Coffee in Nashville. Drew was our first believer and sponsor. He opened up his dreamy river house to us for over a week while we posted up in Tennessee, stopping by and calling to make sure we had everything, taking us out on the town and giving us the upfront support and encouragement that made four girls believe this may all actually happen.
All of these folks are doing what they decided made the most sense for them. They were honest and humble about the craft, taking it day by day, pushing past the doubt and fear and relying on the amazing communities around them for support.
They were our community on the road.
Look, it’s not like any of us just woke up one day and were like “Oh, shit yeah, that voice of doubt is finally gone! I’ve faked it to the mountain top of confidence. Perfect! Now I’m just going sit back with my fancy scotch and watch the fruits of my faking it roll in.” I realize there is a grain of truth in the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ mantra. But at the end of the day, that method as a means to lasting success is only part of the story.
Developing a healthy relationship with fear and doubt, figuring out how to acknowledge it but know you have habits and things in place to move beyond it —that is the gold that makes following your own path possible.
When I asked Cate what surprised her about the tour, or what the big take away was for her, she said,
“Ha, I wake up every morning and still can’t believe I keep pulling this shit off.”
During the Hatter and The Hound Tour we all had moments —on a horse, in a trailer, in a bar, on the road, on a mountain, under the moon, on a dance floor, or in an emergency room, where we literally said, “I can’t believe we pulled this shit off.” We kept having what we coined, “Too Much!!” moments —moments that seemed beyond explanation. No amount of planning or dreaming could have captured the reality of the people we met, the beautiful sunsets, scenery and magical coincidences we experienced on the road.
The good, the bad, the mind blowing moments that instill fear —even if it's only the fear that an incredible experience might end— they are little dots or snapshots that make up the big picture that is your story. You have to go through them to get the vivid colors to show up in your life. You have to just trust they will all work out.
We never could've prepared for Austin.
After waking up on the third morning in the White Horse Saloon parking lot, a little haggard and eager as ever to get the hell out of dodge, Rachel and I were hitching up the trailer so we could pry ourselves out of the sardine sized parking lot and be on our way. I had it lined up and knew the weight of the trailer would click the hitch over the 1/4 inch off center it was sitting. Side note, I’m a morning person, Amanda is not —one of the many reasons we make a great team. Amanda came over blurry eyed and ready to help. Long story short, she saw that the hitch looked a little off center. Unfortunately she looked with her hand and not with her eyes.
‘Click.’ And there goes her finger.
Girl literally smashed the tip of her middle finger off. Like, off, off. Like, I looked for part of her finger on the ground, off. We were only about halfway into the trip and now in a position where not only had we bitten off a HUGE work load for shooting content that we were not even half way through —but now Amanda had a finger that looked like a it had been bitten off by a zombie.
While standing beside Amanda in the emergency room, as we trolled Walgreen’s aisles for apple juice and non-stick gauze, heading down the highway to rest at Leslie’s country farm —Amanda mulled over the thought of calling it quits and heading home. I knew if she did the tour would be basically over for me and a huge bummer for Cate and her story. But more so, we knew Amanda would be hella pissed tomorrow, two weeks, a month, maybe even a year later, if she went home. We arrived at Leslie's and I told her to get some sleep, see how she felt in a few hours. I gave her a pain killer, put on Like Water for Chocolate and let her pass out in the hot TX heat —arm elevated and the fan blowing. While she was sleeping, I got a snack ready, put chocolate by her bed, and most importantly —pulled her camera out and put it on the kitchen table, ready to shoot when she was ready to shoot.
We all knew she had every reason to leave, the voice of fear was on blast and repeat in her mind, I’m sure.
“What if germs get in it and my whole arm falls off?”
“What if it hurts too bad and I cry a bunch and look weak and ruin the mood?”
“What if James tells me to come home and I don't, and it gets gooey and green and he gets to say, 'I told you so?'"
“Or worse, what I a actually see what it looks like while Claire changes the bandages and I barf on her —then I pass out and hit it on the sink as as I fall and hurt it even more and then land in my own barf, and bleed to death?”
We knew she only needed one reason to stay. Her camera. I knew if she just started shooting, just got behind the camera and didn't listen to anything except the nostalgic click (the good kind of “Click”) of her 35mm camera, we would all get back on the road.
And she did. We all did.
Look, we all learned you have to put things in place in your life that will keep you moving one step at a time. Whether that’s scheduling a cross country tour before you have the actual Airstream do it in, saying yes to a project you have no clue what the end result will look like, or something as simple as having your girl on FaceTime speed dial for when the force of Fear is strong —you have to come to terms with your version of a dialogue with fear and doubt and be prepared to move on.
The Hatter and The Hound Tour taught me the necessity of surrounding yourself with people who will call bullshit on your fears, say tough shit, we’re ok, you’re ok, we/you are still doing this, I believe in you and you believe in you —now get in the damn truck, it’s time to go.
That’s what I wish someone would have explained to me about living a life of your choosing. The “making it” part, that’s really just you reaching a point where you have excepted and made peace with the with the voice of fear that pops into your head when you're doing something rad and pushing yourself to be awesome and you keep going vs. letting it stop you in your tracks.
Only in hindsight did we realize to live an inspired life, one you are stoked to play the lead role in at least five out of ten days— you’ve got to get to that place with Fear. When she tries to come in and take up too much time or space you don’t fake like she’s not there, you say, “Wuddup…. Na, not today. But thanks for the reminder that I’m on the right path. Now, get the hell on. ”
And really, what’s the alternative? A safe desk job? Security in a 9-5? A five year plan of safe bets?
Those are way more frightening to me. The Hatter and The Hound Tour was a whirlwind lesson in the art of navigating your path with Fear. I think the four of us all wizened up and learned quickly that coming to terms with fear is necessary.
There aren't roadmaps for blazing new trails.
But if you keep close tabs on what scares the shit out of you, peel back the layers of fear and see the rawness of excitement that's actually wrapped up in layers of your bullshit fear, that is as good as a roadmap.
Go that way, follow what excites you, scares you, and challenges you to figure "it" out.
It's the best trip you will ever take.