The DirtBagger Way of Life

Marci Nault
E2T Adventures
Published in
3 min readSep 20, 2019


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

According to the Urban Dictionary, a Dirtbagger is a person who casts off the restraints of a conventional life to pursue their passion. Until this past weekend the only time I’d heard the term was when it was used as a verb not a noun and for me it meant that a person was a complete jerk.

Then I watched the history of rock climbing that came out of the Yosemite Valley in the 1950’s. The Dirtbagger’s, as they called themselves, were the grandfathers of rock climbing.

While the rest of the country was being tidy as can be, each wanting the carbon copy house, the manicured lawn, the excitement of a new television, and a wife who cooked dinner every night while wearing pearls, the Dirtbaggers were homeless by choice.

They had one passion in life — to climb rocks.

In those days, there weren’t sponsorships or world wide competitions. Outsider magazine wasn’t coming around to put men living on the ground onto shiny covers, and Good Morning America wasn’t calling for interviews.

They didn’t do it for fame. In fact, oftentimes they had to hide from the rangers, as they stole ketchup packets and butter from the condiments counter.

A glamorous life wasn’t part of who they were, and they definitely weren’t out to change anything about society — they didn’t want a part of what the country was selling.

But if you look at what they did for our culture as a whole, you’ll see that they were also the grandfather’s and grandmother’s (as the years went on), of a whole new generation that believed they could live life anyway they saw fit.

The Dirtbaggers awakened the sense of adventure in our culture. Those that wish to see nature away from the crowds, run rivers in remote places, and explore the earth as a playground had role models in which to follow.

For the last sixty years, this group of people remained below the radar. They white water kayaked, skied, rock climbed, and became rafter guides that followed the weather, oftentimes living out of their cars, not having much money to their names. They didn’t care because they were happier than most who lived in their cars to commute.

Then came Youtube and van life, and a new generation became stars as they chose to showcase the Dirtbagger way of life.

Van life has become a new generation’s way of living, as they balk against the idea of having to be in one place. What was once an RV’ing community of older people, is a growing tribe of those willing to live a very simple life as a vagabond with freedom.

Society still sees these people as odd, the strange ones who don’t seem to carry a real purpose in life.

What if in some ways they held the key to happiness?

These are people who are willing to give up everything for a deep passion and desire. They live outside what others deem successful, making up their own rules for their lives. Each day they wake up, knowing they will have a day where they explore, strive for more, push their own limits, move past fear, and seek out the ultimate struggle to become ever present.

To our society the most successful people, spend their time making certain they get their perfect kale smoothie, ride on a bike that goes nowhere in a gym, lift weights in front of a mirror, and then work at a desk under deadlines on the next ever important task list only to go home too exhausted to do anything but binge watch television.

What if society’s way of living is actually broken, and the Dirtbagger way of life or a form of it, where passion is deeply followed, is the key to getting us back on track.

What if every person in our culture followed their passion, whatever they were. For some it may be that corporate life, while others realize they want that tiny place in the quiet of the woods. Would we have less depression? Less lives filled with stress that cause us to zone out?

What would our world look like if each person was able to live a life of freedom? Are we even capable?

What do you think? How would your life look differently if you followed your passion?



Marci Nault
E2T Adventures

Author of The Lake House (S&S), founder E2T Adventures, world traveler, figure skater, white water kayaker, dancer, keynote speaker.