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The Big East Trip: The Spark

The Trip

We travel for many reasons. For me, its a chance to find a new way to connect with a more creatively collaborative and professionally productive mode of being. I long for extended stretches of time on the tracks, not for the vacation-like sense of wanderlust, but to take in a purposeful plate of challenging, expansive experiences. 
Fayettechill’s latest sensory saga, The Big East Trip, was inspired by the above and a host of other reasons. Starting in Montreal, Quebec, a set of four travelers embarked in a tightly packed expedition down the East Coast, traveling by train and hitchhiking, with stops in the Adirondacks, New York City, the Appalachian, New Orleans, and Austin.
Being the brand’s Director of Media and Marketing lends me a certain insight into where we are most actively expanding as a company. Not too long ago, we were only understood as a college brand, an Arkansas company, or as an apparel outfitter for the Ozarks. But today, when I look at the map of where all of our website, retail, and social media traffic comes from, I see a peppered picture of the United States, especially along the East coast and Southeast region of the United States. We’ve had an eye on the Eastern US for some time now, and recognize the similarities between our outdoor communities. This trip is aimed to raise that understanding to new heights of both sophistication and depth, as we personally experience the Big East.

The Crew 

The last time I traveled by train I was solo, apart from a short stint when I was joined by my friend and creative collaborator, Rush Urschel. I realized the supreme value of community and shared experience, and I knew while preparing that I wanted The Big East Trip to embark with a dynamic creative crew in tow. Life is stunning after you set an intention—the universe has a way of responding in an esoteric and immensely creative fashion, and before I knew it, three other individuals had signed up for the long haul. Each came from a different part of the US with their own personal and creative objectives, but all were the same in that they instantly found value in the voyage the moment it was presented to them. 
The first to enlist was Heno Head, an up-and-coming, passion-fueled photographer hailing from Branson, Missouri but more accurately defined as a citizen of the world. Heno and I first started working together via Fayettechill media productions. He was the first person I discussed the trip with when it was in it most formative stages. I can honestly say that I don’t know if the Big East Trip would have happened if it weren’t for his ardent reaction to general idea of creative trips. A consummate traveler himself, he instinctually jumped on board, and in that action, the trip went from a state of potential to actual reality. 
Next to join was Ashleigh Rose, writer and public relations manager for Fayettechill and native of Fayetteville, AR. Together Ashleigh and I quarterback Fayettechill’s media productions and publications. I laid out the extent and mission of the trip to Ashleigh during a hike on a creative retreat in the Ouachita Mountains. I have never seen her eyes light up more quickly. Like Heno, Ashleigh instantly began to make plans to make it possible for her to join me and Heno on the tracks. One thing I’ve alway admired about Ashleigh is her ability to focus on ways to make things happen rather than becoming distracted by all the obstacles that could stand in the way. She told me on that hike that she was going to make the trip happen no matter what was needed and there wasn’t a moment between that proclamation and our eventual meet up in Montreal that I doubted her words. 
The final piece to the puzzle was Sebastian Duffel, a great friend, creative incubator, and logistical maestro hailing from Denver, CO. While reviewing travel plans for Chicago’s Freaky Deaky music festival at the end of October, I jokingly suggested that he continued to travel east to Montreal and join me, Heno, and Ashleigh on our travels. Before the humor could even be appreciated, Sebastian was in. By the week’s end he had told his job he had must-go situation ahead and wiggled his way out of work for three weeks.
Although all radically unique, Heno, Ashleigh, and Sebastian are all archetypical representations of today’s wild youth. Each lives purposely, without desire for a traditional career to stabilize them in a sense of security. These are the kind of individuals that live for a certain sense of chaos, that live for moments when things are messed up, that stand in the eye of the hurricane and smile because they know that it is in these moments you are experiencing the nature of reality in full form.
We are all raised in an artificially structured world. The continents are divided by invisibles lines to create nations, our society is divided into to arbitrary stratums to create classes, and our understanding and knowledge of the universe is separated into neat and tidy subjects. Not surprisingly, we as individuals, are funneled onto this conveyor belt of delineations as we move throughout our formal education and into the early eras of our careers. We put up walls and build an ego so we can define ourselves. We put fences around our houses so we can define and protect our families. We put up gates around our neighborhoods so we can clarify our kind through separation.
But not Heno, not Ashleigh, not Sebastian, and not me. Although susceptible to partaking in the divided world, our aim is to escape it, and perhaps unearth old, forgotten, or easily passed over connections.  We are the types of travelers that hop fences into extraordinary experiences, not because we enjoy breaking the rules, but because we don’t see the lines in the first place. We see the world and its inhabitants as a unified whole and feel that it is our responsibility to experience it fully, reconnect it where appropriate, and remove the artificial separations that our forefathers convinced us of. 


The Mission 

The mission of The Big East Trip has both macro and micro motivations. From the big picture perspective, we are looking to connect with new and old friends that instinctually understand the movement that is Fayettechill. We are asking them to take us to the areas within their cities where lovers of the laid back lifestyle go to be themselves and connect with nature. We are looking to soak in as much inspiration as possible from the lush landscapes that cascade along the East Coast, to celebrate their existence with the locals that love and protect them, and to capture pieces of that confetti in our pictures, writings, and memories to share with others back home. 
Personally, I’m looking to practice habits of discipline, focus, creativity, and collaboration so that I can make the most out of each amazing day that is presented to me as a result of working with Fayettechill. When at home, it is natural to get derailed by daily distractions, to procrastinate projects, and to take it easy at the end of each day. On the road, these motifs do not appear to exist. Limited access to internet service forces you stay focused in those moments when WIFI is actually available. Procrastination is not as easy as an option because the time spent in each city is so evidently fleeting, that you are almost forced to make the most of it. Time that would normally be spent unwinding at the end of the day is spent incubating new creative ideas and planning the next day in detail so that it has the greatest potential for success.
I want to live in this world, to permanently exists in a state of motion that mandates I bring my A-game to each and every day. Towards any other directions and I would be spun off the carousel and onto the sidelines. I was once told that there isn’t a single known fixed point in the Universe, every known physical particle is in a constant state of flux. Essentially, nature’s rule of cool is “change". I believe that happiness is found through letting go of unnatural anchors, riding the wave of existence, and looking around in awe and appreciation at all the amazing manners through which the Universe has decided to express itself. 

The Trains

We’ve chosen trains as our mode of transportation for a long list of reasons. They make for incredible mobile offices (wait until you experience the productive inspirations that accompany the glide). As creatives, they allow us to slowly take in inspirational landscapes and vantage points inaccessible through any other mode of travel. They are incredibly communal and lend you the opportunity to meet an eye-opening variety of travelers from all over the world.
More abstractly, trains and outdoor-oriented travelers share a number of essential qualities. They are intentionally and irrevocably attached to the Earth. Their inner being is transient, as train house a constant carousel of new travelers, travelers themselves are existentially composed by novel experiences. They operate around principals of momentum brought about by substantial, authentic weight and sophisticated engineering. They are a remaining relic of the past, but also hold promise for the future.
A most important note on trains - they force you to let go of control. Once you board a train, you are subject to whatever reality is thrown the train’s way. Trains are often delayed due to traffic or technical mishaps to the extent that you nearly never make it to a scheduled destination on time. Even when they do stay on schedule, they travel substantially slow by today’s standards. They almost force you to remain inside the moment of “traveling” rather than simply fixating on the destination. 
This is a good thing. Trains force you to remember that time is relative, preparation is king, and home is everywhere. Time stuck on a train (or in car traffic or taxing on an airplane) doesn’t have to be treated as a negative experience. It can be taken as a time to do any of the number of things you wished you did, but don’t find yourself with the time to do on a day-to-day basis. They demonstrate that, with proper preparation, any setting can instantly be transformed into a creative corner of your choosing. Pack a beautiful book, wisdom-filled podcast, or download an instructional video on a creative pursuit you are passionate about such that it is accessible wherever you go. Go to it the next time you are stuck and see if there is such a thing as wasted time during travel. 

The Spark

It all starts with nature and the outdoors. As we live entangled within a technophilic, instant gratification, and possession obsessed society, we feel it is important to exists as a counterbalancing spark to the hustle-n-bustle lifestyle that results from trying to keep up with artificial standards of value. We are a reminder that “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” to the millions of individuals that believe that world is way too wound up. There are a lot of ways to unwind the world and we believe that the outdoors is the most universal way to do it. We all came from nature. We all go back to nature. We all are nature.
We believe when you go outside and relax, the world slows down. In those moments, true passion becomes apparent, and the spirit's fire grows. The outdoor activities, sports, and non-profits that Fayettechill promotes are examples of those potential passions that nurture the body, mind, and soul. Passions bind the world together and it is no secret that one of our favorite things about the outdoors is how its various modes of exploration build incredible local and global communities alike. Rock climbing, yoga, fly fishing, skateboarding, mountain biking and all the other modes of outdoor recreation share the astounding ability to turn a stranger into a friend, mediated by a shared passion for the outdoors.
There is a spark that exists between lovers of nature, an electric understanding that the world is filled with wonder. When we explore the potential within nature we understand that everything is implicitly connected. We are not separated in the many ways we have been taught. We are inescapably connected by our shared slice of time and experiences we have within its present moments. We are all descendent from the same blue dot and it our responsibility to protect and honor it together as a single, unified community. Alive on this planet, we have all been given the opportunity to be brave and create meaning in a sea of emptiness. We do not yet know if we are alone in this Universe but we know we have each other, and that’s more than enough. We have a tribe to share our stories with around campfires, friends with which to stare at the stars and wonder, and a boundless family to explore the loving, expansive nature of our reality. These are truths that are always present, but often forgotten. Fortunately, they are so deeply woven into our being that it only takes a quick jolt to remind and awaken the natural spirit.

For our four travels, that spark bit long and hard some time ago. It is caught the catacombs of our being, and experience fanned it into a roaring flame that is a passion for life. It has illuminated the simple truth that it is our responsibility to spread the spark through both our words and actions that value an unwound way of wandering through life’s many puzzles. Fayettechill stands as evidence that there is a sea of people who share these values, many of them long before Fayettechill was founded. Rather than defining and delineating a culture, we are simple connecting the millions of dots out there that represent a most chill approach to all. I stand in awe at the excitement inside each new connection. Together, our collective spark --more than me any combination of words I could create-- illuminates just exactly what this could all become. 


Photography by Heno Head and Devin O'Dea