Friday, May 16, 2014

Are you a Dirtbag? A Growing Social Movement

Before I go into details about Dirtbags, I want to explain a phenomenon that I see growing. Like any great social movement, it's always been there on the cusp of society. The movement I speak of I'll term Dirtbaggery, or as individuals, Dirtbags. Dirtbags are defined in the Urban Dictionary as:

A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communaly and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle


Me, living on the trail more than home. I've created work for myself that allows me time to do what I love and has become my work. 

A purely selfish endeavor, you might think. Not so, and I'll tell you why. These lovers of never ending single track trails, high altitude peaks, and feeling the sun on their sweaty skin are choosing a different life, not a selfish one. They are the seekers, the new philosophers of our time. Creativity is born of a free spirit and these individuals are highly creative. Their kind of creativity cannot be conformed to a modern job or a monotonous life. At its essence, the life of a dirtbag is like any spiritual journey. It seeks a connection, a merging with the outdoors and with the deepest most powerful parts of nature. The idea of death doesn't slow down a dirtbag's pursuit of the outdoors, it fuels it. For the dirtbag, life without living their passion is the true death.

What Makes Someone a Dirtbag? 

The main points are:
  • Lack of "normal" employment, or complete lack of job
  • Alternative housing, homeless, living out of car, etc
  • Choosing this lifestyle in order to spend more, or all, their time pursuing their outdoor activity
  • An extreme (according to social norms) commitment to their outdoor pursuit of choice

Not necessary, but common traits:
  • Unusually talented at their sport
  • Propensity to connect with other like minded dirtbags
  • Very athletically inclined
  • Adopt unique social views, and are unlikely to classify themselves in any common organized religious, social, or political factions
  • If they are employed they are self employed or work in jobs that allow them lots of time for their chosen lifestyle. 
  • Not weekend warrior dirtbags, these people are in it for the long term.
  • Often become masters at their sport/lifestyle. Many of the best climbers, trail runners and skiers were or are dirtbags.
  • Unlikely to take regular showers, shave often or follow other normal hygienic procedures. 

Anton Krupicka, one of the most recognizable dirtbags in trail running. Photo by Kevin Winzeler.
New Trail Kerouacs: The Dirtbags
Why we need dirtbags

Every now and again, a generation of young people come along and say no to what is considered the norm in society. Our generation's anti-establishment movement are the dirtbags. Yes, dirtbags have been around for as long as I can tell, yet the movement toward this kind of social freedom appears to be growing.

Dirtbags, as I am terming these people, are individuals who choose to spend their time exploring the outdoors and turn away from traditional jobs, marriage, and other socially accepted stepping stones of modern life. Dirtbags live for the present moment and find ways to spend most days doing what they love. They might be trail runners, rock climbers, mountain bikers, or skiers. They might even do all four of the aforementioned pursuits and some more.

Dirtbags might have jobs, and if they do their work is designed to maximize their time in the outdoors. I know of one dirtbag who works a few months of the year, saves up then road trips to small towns with incredible trails. Another saved up money from a lucrative job, quit the job and made his life one of endless road heading from trail to trail, mountain to mountain. Dirtbags seek work that allows them to play as much as possible and hone their skill.  They want to climb higher, seek a tougher route, and ultimately to find something that just hasn't been done before.
Joe Grant, a talented trail runner, writer, photographer, and trail running dirtbag. Photo by Matthew Brown.
Dirtbags are often masters of their sport. They give back to society through their physical creativity. They are athletic innovators. Many new ideas, products, and outdoor adventures are born of the dirtbags. It's likely a dirtbag that is taking you on that trail running expedition. Dirtbags show all the "sport" types (people with regular jobs and modern lives that find time each day or week to exercise) what is possible. Society needs these kinds of committed nature freaks. Dirtbags weave a beautiful dream that is their life for modern society to see how it's lost its soul.  When society is ready, the dirtbags have the map and they're happy to share it over a few small batch crafter IPAs and a slack line.
Richard & me epitomizing dirtbaggery in Zion, canyoneering the Subway.

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13 comments:

  1. I'm not alone!! Thank you Candice! I now know where I fit in and know why society makes me nuts!!

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  2. Oh hell yeah, that's me! Been one for years and finding ways to make it work.

    Robert Rhodes

    baytrailrunners.com
    @baytrailrunners
    @coastalmarin50k
    fb/baytrailrunners
    fb/trailsinmotionsf

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  3. Hi guys, count me too. Thanks Candice.

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  4. i love & appreciate the idea, not sure how this works with children/school/parenting! insight?

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  5. this is awesome. I've been wondering how you get to do what you do.
    it's great to see someone living their heart's desires.
    thanks for the blog posts,
    Ralph Havens
    Bellingham, WA
    Ralph Havens Physical Therapy
    www.ralphhavensphysicaltherapy.com

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  6. I'm not a dirtbag. Jealous of you guys who can do that, but its not me.

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  7. Thank you for this insightful piece! I've been looking for a succinct description of a dirtbag. It's frustrating not being able to define yourself and those you have kinship with.

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  8. I am not a dirtbag Yet.........in the future, maybeeeee. Great post Candice !! Maybe one day you can pace me for my first 100 miler, Your love of nature and positive attitude is a great quality :>

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  9. I've been a dirtbag for years. Seems to be part of a climber/runner/mountain person. There are certainly different levels of dirtbaggery, but it is more about the lifestyle and philosophy then anything else. Memories and experiences hold more value then things and stuff.

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  10. This is AWESOME!! I can't believe I didn't see this when I wrote my post. I'll link to this when I get back to my computer.

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  11. Dirtbag ON young peeps.! Can't wait for the kids to get off to college teeheehee. shhh

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