Kick in the pants, shot in the arm, slap in the face, or, inspiration.

Being inspired is sort of a funny thing. It’s strangely unsettling, like the beginning of a storm. The sky darkens and the air chills, but you don’t know the storm is upon you until a rogue gust of wind flings open your front door. That’s what being inspired feels like to me – the throwing open of a closed door.

There’s been a lot of talk flying around between the three of us about what this project is, where it is going, what we want it to mean to people. Those answers will come, eventually, as we move along the road and our project leaks into the empty corners that only experience can fill. For now, we can share how we got here, what inspired us to inspire.

Allie has been shooting film for the outdoor industry for two years. Every so often she would disappear to participate in some industry convention or film festival and return elevated, full of stories about amazing people she’d spent time with. One such person is Nick Waggoner, director/producer of Sweetgrass Productions. When I met him, he was in Aspen to attend the Powder Magazine 2010 Powder Video Awards at the Winter X-Games. He walked away with the award for Best Cinematography for his film “Signatures,” performed an impromptu harmonica solo as his acceptance speech and shook Warren Miller’s hand, then took us back to the candy-colored short-bus that he calls home. That night we slept five across in the back of the bus, protected from the Colorado cold by body heat and down sleeping bags.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Nick Waggoner on the harmonica.

I was absolutely floored. Nick’s life seemed so contradictory– rubbing elbows with the skiing world’s glitterati then returning to his home on wheels, eating stale Raisin Bran and musing with us about the poetry written on the bus’ haiku wall. It wasn’t long after this that Allie started talking about her Airstream, how she yearned for a home with wheels. “I could never do that,” I marveled to myself when she left Durango in her newly bought veggie oil-converted truck, en route to buy an Airstream in Boulder.

And as there are bumps in every country road, Allie’s road held some unseen dips and holes. Only a few miles outside of Boulder on the return trip to Durango, her veggie engine seized. She ended up stranded for a month, refiguring her dream and reworking logistics. She eventually hitched a ride to 5point Film Festival in Carbondale, CO, then to Durango to empty her room before her lease was up. She invited Greer and I over to share some beers and keep her company while she packed. We’d received a few cryptic text messages from her while she was in Carbondale, and were thus curious as to where this meeting would go.

Elvira, Allie's doomed veggie-oil truck, being hauled off in Boulder

We learned that when she was at 5point, Allie screened “180 South,” a film about Jeff Johnson’s re-creation of Yvan Chouinard and Doug Tompkin’s 1968 voyage to Patagonia to climb a new route on Mt. Fitzroy. Yvan and Doug traveled by van through South America for months, and they made a film too, called “Mountain of Storms.” Jeff’s voyage was a passion project ten years in the making, a trip by land and by sea. “180 South” weaves his trip together with South America’s ecological devastation, a cause that Doug Tompkin has devoted his life to. Allie told us she was so inspired by all this that she’d decided she ought to document an adventure of her own. She said she wanted to make a film about the ever-roaming community she was about to join in her Airstream, while taking a stand for her country’s environmental woes.

I had never heard of Yvan or Doug or any sort of Patagonian adventure and was completely perplexed by the idea of “dirtbagging,” but Allie had the fire in her eyes. From the minute she pitched us the project, it was a done deal. She stormed into my life and flung open a door that I had never even noticed before. I was inspired, and that day I was given license to be a filmmaker, adventurer and the writer I’d always fancied myself to be.

I hope this experience will ultimately yield a film about what can happen when people get inspired. Every person we are searching for is doing something courageous – railing against the status quo and pushing for their passion. We hope to discover what motivates them, what pushes them, what unlocks the hidden doors in their hearts.

And what about you? Are you inspired? Has anyone ever pushed your limits? I want to hear what that was like. Let us know, you can connect with us on our facebook page or here, on the 23 feet blog.


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