Enjoying what makes him happy
Meet Adam Jones. The 43-year-old from Denver has been traveling the world for 30 years and couchsurfing for 10. He is a remote CAD support specialist and an experienced mountaineer. Adam reached out needing a place to stay in March, as he was taking a three-week road trip from Denver to Pennsylvania and wanted to explore Des Moines for a few days.
Des Moines has been the halfway point for you between Pittsburgh and Denver since 1995. How many times have you made this trip?
I have made this trip over 40 times. All by car. Des Moines is 22 hours from Pennsylvania. It’s strange that I have made this trip so many times and I have never stayed with anyone here until now. I used to just find cheap motels in Des Moines or maybe even in De Soto. Years ago there used to be a motel in Altoona called the Archer that I would stay at. It was not the fanciest place in the world but it was less than $50 a night. When you travel as much as I do, you build up a little black book of all those little places.
More than 40 times since 1995? That seems pretty excessive to be doing it all by car.
Well this trip would have cost me $1,200 more between flights and rental cars. So you have the financial side of things. But there is also the meditation that happens while driving on an open road, it is part of the process of letting go. I’m talking about that point when you break past the suburbs of a major city and you don’t see signs for it anymore. This trip was 5,083 miles and I did it all in my little 1995 Geo Prizm which has just under 360,000 miles on it. I will get a half million miles out of her before I let her go. The biggest gift, I will say, is 18 years without a car payment.
You are on the return leg of this three-week trip. Did you have a mission behind all of this?
This trip was over a three-week span. I drove from Denver and hit Kansas City, Knoxville (Tennessee), Princeton (New Jersey), Mount Washington (New Hampshire), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and finally Des Moines to pick up my sister and a friend, then we drove them to Nashville. I was in Nashville for a few days to see some of my immediate family. But the main focus of this trip was to climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire, where I just made my 80th summit, which is sort of a spiritual experience for me. I go up there in some pretty harsh conditions. Most mountaineers don’t go to the parts that I do. People get so freaked out over frostbite, which they should, but I get little touches of frostbite every time I’ve made a summit during the harsh conditions with five feet of snow.
You have couchsurfed with strangers around the United States and Europe for more than 10 years. When and where did you start doing this?
It started in Europe. I went to Switzerland and stayed with a woman named Patricia, whom we have now been friends ever since. So it’s not really couchsurfing anymore in the true sense. But Europe is a little more open and trusting when it comes to travelers. Sometimes you need to just lay your guns down for a minute and have a cup of coffee. It goes both ways, too. A woman from Sudan reached out to me that she was coming to Denver for the first time and knew nothing about the area. She had never seen the Rocky Mountains. So when she arrived, we packed up and went climbing. Is there a risk factor? Always. But if you live a life in fear you will end up dying in fear. That’s no way to live.
There is this minimalism movement that is happening where people are reducing the things they have so they can achieve freedom.
We can chase that idea of freedom forever really. In some ways I think the chase itself is freedom. By the time I’m 73 years old I am still going to be climbing summits and traveling all over the world. Meet more people, meet more lovers. It’s hard because you want to tell that younger version of you these things but you can’t go backwards. We are told to find stability early on. You know: get a job, get a house and start a family. Which is fine. I got the job and the house. Here I am now trying to sort of “undo” some of that now. I don’t see myself starting a family anytime soon. So you hope to realize these things as early as you possibly can so you enjoy what really makes you happy. ♦
Kristian Day is a filmmaker, musician and writer based in Des Moines. He has couch-surfed across the west coast as well through the Midwest. He also offers his home up to unknown travelers passing through Des Moines… for free. Follow him on Twitter at @kristianmday.