6 Things I Learned Driving the Alaska Highway

In July and August I was fortunate enough to drive the Alaska Highway to and from Alaska. Road trips are something I love. There’s nothing like driving down the open road, dodging obstacles and seeing the scenery change over the course of 1,382 miles plus getting to the highway via Canada’s road systems. There’s a lot of time to contemplate different things between audiobooks: relationships, work, outlooks on life, et cetera.

Here are 6 things I learned on what seemed like an endless drive on the Alaska Highway:

Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior driving the Alaska Highway

Embrace the Potholes and Rough Roads

The frigid winter takes its toll on the highway. As you drive further north you see the road take on various shapes. Potholes litter the road, ice heaves threaten to launch your car into the air as if you hit the wrong button in Inspector Gadget’s car, and the change between pavement and gravel will give your back an adjustment without a visit to the chiropractor. All that being said, it’s fun. The Alaska Highway wouldn’t be the Alaska Highway without all these challenges. It’d be just another highway.

There’s this quote from Stephen Colbert in a GQ interview that’s stuck with me the past couple of years.

“’What punishments of God are not gifts?’ So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

All the rough spots in the road teach you to embrace and be grateful for them all. They’re a total inconvenience and make the ride a little rough, but it’s the rough ride that makes the smooth road up ahead that much more enjoyable.

Go at Your Own Speed

A lady at the Visit Center in Watson Lake in Canada’s Yukon Territory told me I was at least a 4 day’s drive from the nearest, legitimate, town in Alaska. I was only 3 days into the long drive and was ready to be in Alaska. It only took another 2 days.

Just because someone did something faster or slower makes you or them no less or more. We were all created differently and go at different speeds. It makes no sense to make comparisons with others, only yourself. Go at your own speed; and you get decide how heavy your foot weighs down on the gas pedal.

Enjoy the In-Between Moments

In his book The In-Between Jeff Goins breaks down that we define life by moments. Big moments are what we remember, but most of our life is made of little tiny moments. And when we get caught up waiting and looking ahead to the next big thing, we take for granted to little things that give life its flavor.

While Alaska or somewhere in Canada might be the end goal, there’s so much more to love and experience on the Alaska Highway. I don’t many places where you’ll willingly stop to get mediocre ice cream in a picturesque setting, skate on asphalt that’s covered by snow and ice most of the year, see 7 black bears along the highway within an hour, take pictures of 3 bison at sunset and then get surrounded by a herd of 50 bison 2 miles down the road, or take a swim in a turquoise lake to stretch out your legs.

Take Your Eyes Off the Road

Someone gave me a map of all the campsites along the Alaska Highway. They all looked great and well maintained, but that meant I had to pay to sleep in my van on a patch of dirt for the night.

A friend of mine told me to keep an eye out for free sites near bridges and river banks. Sure enough, some of my favorite spots to call home for the night have been on the Alaska Highway. They weren’t always easy to find, but they required me to look a little off to the side of the road to find these hidden gems. Opportunity won’t always present itself in the middle of the road. Sometimes you might find them hiding off the side of the road. Unless it’s a bison crossing the road.

Heed the Advice of Others that Have Gone Before You

The drive gets boring and I listened to the Ask Gary Vee audiobook. It’s an awesome listen and not just for entrepreneurs. But in the book, Gary was asked a question about who to listen to for business advice and if info programs that are sold are even worth buying. His response was incredible.

Listen to people who have done and been successful at what they’re talking about. Heeding the marketing advice of someone that’s never led a marketing campaign or the leadership advice of someone who’s never owned a business, let alone been in a leadership or even a managerial role, is good time wasted. So many people are willing to lend you their advice because they want to feel important. That advice is rubbish unless they’ve actually done it. Same goes for people telling you how rough and terrible the Alaska Highway is, only because that’s what their friends have said.

Enjoy the Ride

I can’t describe what makes 1,000 miles of driving over a highway that’s frozen most of the year so great. But if you love road trips like I do, this one that has to be on the top of your list. All the naysayers are going to say it sucks and that the road’s too rough and you need to carry extra fuel with you. Don’t listen to them. Use your common sense and enjoy the ride.

Go Explore – Because It’s F*@3!ng There

For quite a while now I’ve wanted to visit Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta Canada. It’s hard not to want to go to either of these places once you’ve seen the pristine aqua lakes on social media with no one around. Now that I’m here, I hate it. I’ve barely taken any photos and I want nothing to do with these parks. I just want to drive away as fast as possible; and that’s exactly what I did.

Truth be told, I knew it was going to be a junk show at the waterfalls and lakes I wanted to see. I’m willing to put money on it that everyone else there knew they wouldn’t be alone either. So why is it that even if we know a place is going to be overrun by fellow tourists we still go to these picturesque places? And I’m not just talking about Banff and Jasper National Parks. I’m talking about Horseshoe Bend, The Wave, Yosemite National Park, and too many other places to name.Medicine Lake in Jasper National Park taken by Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior

How does the image that’s attached to this post make you feel? I hope it brings you calmness, maybe a little wanderlust, a sense of being there alone, and some need to explore all mixed in. If this photo made you feel any of those things “Perfect!” that’s exactly what I was going for when I took the photo.

What you’re not seeing or feeling from the photo is the family standing right next to me. The kids are being loud and obnoxious, yelling things back and forth to each other in a language I don’t understand while the parents are taking photos of each other to once again prove they were there. This photo, among so many others, has told you a lie. I wasn’t alone, it wasn’t quiet, calm, peaceful or any of those things you may have felt by looking at this photo. And that’s because I went to a place that was easily accessible. Behind me is a parking lot filled with cars and I took the stairs the park service built down to this spot.

When asked for the hundredth time why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, an annoyed Sir Edmund Hillary responded with “Because it’s f*@3!ng there!” We’ve been conditioned to believe that we have to have a reason to go out and experience nature, explore. It has to be to land a shot, get a story for a blog or news site, get in a work out, find some treasure, et cetera. But it’s never to explore because it’s f*@3!ng there.

When’s the last time you went on a hike that wasn’t listed as one of the most beautiful places in your area? Or took a different route on your drive home. Or surfed a new break? Or climbed a new route because it looked fun? Exploring isn’t all that hard, but we hardly fulfill our natural born instinct to explore. Instead we think there needs to be a reason or there has to be an accomplishment.

It’s been said that the right thing to do might not always be the popular thing to do and the easiest places to see might not always be the best places to see. With easily accessible sights, you’re going to find access issues in the form of crowded parking lots, trash all over, congested walking paths, selfie sticks getting the shot, and long lines to use the bathroom. There’s something to be said for going out to areas with less foot traffic. While you might want to get that feeling of calmness and being alone at that one beautiful lake you saw on the Internet, you won’t be alone. Everyone else has seen that same photo, wants to get that same photo, and wants to feel what that photo on the Internet made them feel but this time in real life.

Though the location may not be as iconic you’re going to get what you seek when you head out to explore more unknown areas. Crowds will virtually be nonexistent, it’ll be quiet, parking won’t be an issue, and there are plenty of trees to choose from when nature calls. Others might not understand why you’re not going to that picturesque place, but you’re just going to explore for you and it’s none of their damn business, and that’s all that matters.

There’s no real reason to explore, other than it’s fun. You should try it again sometime. Go explore – because it’s f*@3!ng there.

The Great American Road Trip

I open the Facebook app. on my phone and scroll through my feed. It’s how I get caught up with my previous life back in Florida. My friends post about their lives: the start of a new career, a baby just entered the world, one’s going back to school, looks like a wedding’s coming since a couple just got engaged.

My thumb taps the new Instagram icon revealing a plethora of photos. That burger and beer looks way better than the half packet of flavored rice and can of chicken I just inhaled. There’s a rope swing and a natural water slide in British Columbia? I’m bookmarking those spots in my brain, those places look awesome to visit on the way to Alaska. Oh look, Chris Burkard just posted another stunning photo of Iceland. Iceland looks rad, maybe I’ll go there one day.

Social media’s my form of entertainment on the road. It’s also my newsfeed at times. I’m lying, it’s my newsfeed almost all the time. I was born in 1990, I’m 26 years old, I’m a millennial, a millennial that makes a living by traveling. I’m the prime target for travel companies. I see a lot of the same ads you see on your newsfeed. The ones telling you and me that it’d be rad to visit Thailand and experience the little cities by vespa, that the climbing over the aqua blue water would feel incredible, and that I can eat cheap street food for every meal; as long as I can afford the flight there. Europe looks amazing in those ads too. I’ve had some friends visit Europe. Some of them did a study abroad program, others taught English as a second language, a few were a nanny to some rad kids for a summer, and then there’s a few that lived out of their backpack for a week or two; maybe even a month or two. They all tell me I’d love it there and I don’t disagree.

These travel ads have a way with altering perception. They do a terrific job at telling you and me that we need to go to another country to experience something amazing. Staying stateside in our own backyard is boring and that the only way to really have an adventure is to travel to another country, if only for a week or two.

Last week I was in Bend, OR for a few days. Bend is east of the Cascade Mountain Range and still part of the high desert. The days were sunny, the air was dry as the desert is, and it was warm during the day and cool at night. Adam found this awesome swimming hole called Blue Pool. It’s the most crystal clear blue body of water I’ve ever seen in photos and in person. You’d think we found it in a forest in Southeast Asia, but we barely drove an hour west into the Cascade Mountains and hiked two miles from the gravel parking lot to go swimming.Adam Fricke doing a swan dive into Blue Pool on a road trip

We kept driving west for a couple more hours until we were stopped by the edge of a jagged cliff with the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rough Central Oregon land. The temperature plummeted by 20 degrees and the wind carried little particles of salt from the ocean down below onto the land. Trees with different hues of green leaves surrounded me as I walked along the trails of the coastal forest.Road Trip view from Yachats Oregon

A couple days passed and I was walking along the cobblestone beaches of Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park along the coast of Washington. Back in Florida it was in the 90’s with high humidity on the 4th of July. And here I was walking around the Pacific Northwest fog wearing jeans and a hoodie watching fireworks across the jetty crack in the sky.Justin Fricke on a road trip through Rialto Beach

Everything’s so different than the place I left back in January. I thought I’d seen it all in the southeast, but come to find out that the southeast was my safety bubble. There’s so much more to see and experience outside of our safety bubbles and it turns out that you don’t need to own a passport to see something you’ve dreamt about seeing in photos or meet someone incredible along the way.

I want to visit every country in the world. I think there’s a lot of merit in meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and how the rest of the world lives. But did you know that there’s such a thing as Fry Sauce? I didn’t, they have it in Idaho, and it’s delicious.

You Can’t Change The World

There isn’t much music I like. Pop punk where the standard dress is skinny jeans and the median age of listeners is 14. And white boy rap, though I’m not sure that’s the politically correct terminology. Towards the top of that list is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I wasn’t really a fan of these guys until their latest album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. There’s one specific song on the album I’ve been listening to religiously this year and I think it really hits home after the events that unfolded in Orlando this past weekend.Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park

You’ve probably already heard by now that Orlando was once The City Beautiful and now has the mark on it as being the city where the worst mass shooting in United States history occurred. Orlando’s an underdog city, Orlando will bounce back, and Orlando’s still The City Beautiful (you can read more about that here). In the wake of this tragedy it seems like we’re all jumping to make a difference; we want to change the world.

You Can’t Change The World

You’re too small, I’m too small, we’re all insignificant. If we all had our own agenda to change the world, we’d all be fighting the battle alone. It kind of goes along with that saying “Too many chiefs and not enough indians.” Again, probably politically incorrect, you get the idea.

In a song to his daughter, Macklemore tells her to: find what she loves, do it every day, and eventually the world will change. Think of it this way. If you’re in a relationship it probably happened like this: You were searching profusely for Mr./Ms. Right and eventually gave up. But when you gave up you decided to spend more time with yourself and you became a happier you. In that time you probably learned to put your guard down and then Mr./Ms. Right came along and proverbially swept you off your feet. And if Mr./Ms. Right literally swept you off your feet, I’m jealous.

Doing what you love puts you in a loving mood. And love is contagious. Chances are, when you’re doing what you love, you end up helping someone else find what they love or invite them to join in on whatever makes you so obnoxiously happy. Basically you show someone else love. And showing love to someone is the easiest way to change the world.

“…Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life and eventually, the world will change.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

How to Stay Clean on the Road

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes, their heavy duty wet wipes are a great way to stay clean while traveling or get clean real quick after a big day of exploring. And be sure to check out their kickstarter campaign on their website.

Summer road trip season’s upon us along with backpacking, camping, beach, festivals, mountain biking, and all around outdoor season. Let’s face it, there’s nothing holding us back from going outside and having fun. Three days of sleeping out of your car, you probably start to smell that all too familiar funky smell. You know what I’m talking about.Epic Giant Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

After days of fun with no showers, you lift your arms and catch a whiff of what you hope is the person standing next to you, but it’s not, that repulsive stench is coming from you. You quickly try to cover it up with deodorant and go on with the fun, knowing full well in the back of your head that you smell terrible.

Here are a few, less expensive, ways you can cure that funk while you’re on the road this summer.

Sink Bath

There’s nothing glamorous about this and chances are you won’t get a heap of like on Instagram if you take a photo of this momentous occasion. Grab a small bottle of shampoo and head into the bathroom of a chain coffee shop or fast food joint. Get your hair wet and start scrubbing.While you’re there, you might want to take a stab at cleaning your pits and nether regions. That is where a lot of the stench is coming from, after all. Bypass the paper towels and go for the hair dryer, if available.

Doing this in a big box retailer that sells soap and shampoo may get you stopped by security.

Creek/River/Lake Shower

All the creeks and rivers are flowing into lakes in the summer. The cold water running off the mountains makes for one, let’s call it refreshing, shower. If this is the way you’re going to get clean, make sure you’re using soap that’s designed for this and that won’t pollute the environment.

Rain Shower

They don’t call them summer showers for nothing. Throw on your swimsuit when the rains come a pourin’ and later up in the street. Again, make sure the soap you’re using won’t pollute the environment.

Wet Wipe Bath

Getting clean using baby wipes is always a go-to alternative. The only problem is that you burn through multiple wipes to get clean. I like to use Epic Wipes. These things are gigantic and you’ll only need one to wipe off that funky smell. They’re also portable making it a no brainer to throw one, or a few, in your bag.Epic Massive Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

Deal With the Funk

Eventually you’ll get used to your smell and chances are no one else around you cares because they’re possibly being offended by their own terrible smell.

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes. Product was provided as compensation and all thoughts are my own.

Find Your Favorite Office

I’ve had a lot of offices in my career (if you even want to call it a career). When I worked in banking I had a mixture of an open work space, two cubicles, and two offices. Within the past two months of living on the road, I’ve had…we’ll I don’t know how many offices I’ve had. Some offices have had a window, others didn’t have a door, a few have been open air, the worst had terrible wifi, and the best didn’t have any wifi. Each office has been unique, each one is my favorite for various reasons.Favorite Office in Padre Island National Seashore

Here’s how you can find your favorite office:

Know what you want

Do you want an actual office, a cubicle, or an open work space? Knowing which you want is kind of important because you need to actually work in a place or in a field that offers that office you so desire.

Bust your butt

Nothing’s going to be handed to you. You have to work for it. If this doesn’t apply to you and you already have the office of your dream, congratulations. Stop reading this, you’re above me and everyone else still reading. I envy you, no really, I do.

Go find your office

We live in a world that’s ever changing. That’s what’s great about today’s modern era. If we don’t like how something’s done, we can change it or go somewhere else where we like how something’s done.

Same idea goes for offices as well. If we don’t like our office, we can work remote. Pack up, take a road trip, and find your favorite office. I take that back, you don’t have to take a road trip to find your office. Your favorite office could be a local coffee shop, park, beach, or in the mountains near you.

Figure out what you want in an office and go find it. Take a look at a postcard, cruise Google, or find an old map and go. Take advantage of today’s modern resources and find the office that you love the most.

Just make sure the boss is cool with you telecommuting. And if you’re your boss, wi-5!

Where’s your favorite office?

Fail Creatively

I think we all hate to fail. It sucks, it really does, putting a ton of sweat equity into a project and then it turns out to be a fail. The photos didn’t appease a client, screwing up the budget, the client we wanted decided to go with our competitor, no publisher’s interested in a manuscript we put our soul into, no one wants to see the movie we produced, someone spits out the food we made, not a single song download we created, boss hates the presentation, and nobody wants to buy our art.

It sucks to fail!Adam Fricke filming at Russell Cave National Monument

But failing is a necessary part of life. As we were leaving Nashville, my brother and I had a long conversation about what it means to fail. We both hate failure, I’m sure you do too, but it’s necessary and I think it’s even fun if done right.

How boring life would be if we were perfect, am I right? It’s kind of like a story plot. You start at Point A where nothing’s going on. Something catches your attention, you see something you want or decide you want to do something. Then you go on this journey, but along the way you face some challenges. Two things happen at this point: you’ve experienced this challenge before and know how to overcome it or this is brand new to you and you take your best shot at overcoming the challenge. Now if you’ve experienced this before, you hopefully know the solution right away and know how to get past it, but if it’s your first encounter, chances are you’re going to fail. You don’t know any better and end up in the deep end.

That’s not where the story ends.

You problem solve and figure out a way to get past this hurdle. That’s the climax of this story of your life. You figure it out and it’s all downhill from there. You come out with more knowledge and are, later on, able to help others get through the same challenge you faced.

Climbers, and other outdoorsy people for that matter, are some of the best failures I know. They’ll devote their lives to memorizing a sequence to a route so they can get past one part, the crux, in one push. They’ll fail hundred of times, falling on the same move, before finally sticking the move and being able to send the problem.

Why do they drive themselves nuts trying to conquer that one move? The outcome is the greatest reward out there. Knowing that they tried so hard for so long, gave it their all, and then actually bagging the send is one of the best feelings in the world and that’s what makes failing worth the pain.

When we choose to not put ourselves out there or give up, we rob ourselves of happiness. We can come up with a great idea, create a beautiful piece of art, or try something new, but it’s not worth it if we give up when the going gets tough. Not putting our work out there because we’re afraid of what haters will say, giving up because we think it’s too hard, or just not starting because we’re afraid to fail is when we lose the spark in our life. I solely believe that in order to be happy we have to fail because overcoming failure is one of the greatest forms of payment.

Now get out there and fail happy.

Routine is the Enemy of Creativity

 I bet you have your daily routine dialed in: wake up, get ready for the day, have some coffee, go to work/school, come home from work/school, do something rad in the evening, maybe have a drink, and repeat Monday through Friday. If that’s your routine, we’re a lot alike, or at least we were. I don’t know about you, but I hated my routine. It felt like I was just going through the motions and not doing anything meaningful. It’s been a little over a week since I hit the road with my brother and within days I found myself missing my routine I had so carefully dialed in over the years.Routine is the Enemy of Creativity

Photo: Adam Fricke

We look for patterns in our daily lives. We’re taught from a young age to find patterns and utilize them to get things accomplished quicker, better, faster. It’s a wonder I was missing my routine. Since as long as I can remember I’ve been carefully trained to find routine and use it to my advantage and poof gone.

Finding routine on the road’s tough. So far we’ve been in virtually a different city everyday and come up with our plan for the day, if you can even call it a plan, in the morning when we get up or right as we’re getting ready to turn in for the night. For someone who has lived by a routine for years, it’s rough.

Living a life of routine kills creativity. 10 days in and it’s gotten easier. The initial shock of living in a van and always being on the move has subsided and it’s easier for me to appreciate the lack of routine. Without routine things look different, sound different, they are different. Everything stands out because our perception changes. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this.

We read left to right and when we scan across the ocean, for instance, we look left to right. When we do that we miss certain things because we expect to see what’s next rather than actually seeing what’s in front of us. When a good filmmaker is shooting a scene and the camera pans across an open area, it’s generally from right to left. It’s more dramatic for their audience since our routine’s to look from left to right. Search and rescue teams are trained to search from right to left so they break their routine and they have a better chance of seeing what they’re searching for.

Don’t go off berating me just yet. Some routine’s good, don’t get me wrong. Dental hygiene, wearing clean underwear, washing hands, those are all great routines to keep up with. You and anyone that comes near you will thank you. The same route you take to and from work/school, change it up! Take another route and keep an eye out for something new.

You’ll never find that golden nugget that’ll turn your day around if you keep doing what you’ve been doing.

Not Yet Ready, but Willing

For the past few months I’ve been listening to this song “Ready and Willing” by New Found Glory. In the song they talk about being the underdogs and being ready and willing to get out there, chase their dream, and lose it all, in hopes of achieving their dream.Not Yet Ready, but Willing

I can relate to the song, and I bet you can too. Truth be told, this song’s really helped hold me together. Anytime I feel like I’m going to fail on The Bro’d Trip, when fear takes hold and starts telling me this whole road trip is just a waste of my time, I hit play and let the words give me hope. Truth be told though, I’m not ready for The Bro’d Trip, but I’m willing.

Packing up my childhood memories from my childhood room, never to come back to the house I grew up in because my parents are moving was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I know it may sound petty, but I felt it was worth crying over, and I did. I wasn’t ready to say “see-ya-later” to my family and friends, but I did. It sucked and it still sucks. I’ve been on the road for four days (Adam and I missed our departure date by a day) and it still doesn’t feel real. Every day I think about turning our big Sprinter Van around and heading right back down to Florida, where I’m comfortable.

This is the biggest journey of my life, so far. I don’t know how I could fully ready myself for this. I’ve been told I’ve done everything right to be ready for this: paid cash for a van, saved up an emergency fund, got a couple of awesome sponsors, started building a small following, etc., but I still don’t feel like I’m ready for what lies ahead.

That’s the joy of a big journey. We can do everything in our power to get ready and be prepared, but we’re never fully ready. All we can do is be willing to take that big step and move forward, even though fear’s telling us to wait a while longer, until we’re ready.