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@poseidonsbeard wanders the west in a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia full camper.  All photos by @poseidonsbeard. You can connect with them through their website.

If you were to drop in on the Instagram account of @poseidonsbeard on any given day, chances are you’d find pictures of a VW van camped under the stars beside a fire, nestled amidst a forest of pine trees. This is where Ryan (@poseidonsbeard), his wife Christina, and their two young children spend most of their time. They’ve discovered that home is where you park it. They spend most of their time outside, rekindling their spirits and refocusing on what matters most in life.

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What Matters Most

Ryan (@poseidonsbeard) says what matters most to him is spending time with his family and “showing up” to be a father each day. “It’s so simple, and yet profound when you think about it,” he says. He strives to make his kids see that they were created for a purpose and they’re loved beyond human comprehension. He and Christina are raising their kids without iPods, without TVs, and with a healthy dose of natural wonder. “It blows me away to think that our two-year-old daughter has spent more time sleeping outdoors than most people will in a lifetime. I think being outside so much from so early on has shaped their appreciation for natural beauty beyond anything I could have hoped for.”

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The Road to Here

When Ryan was a child, he remembers watching the faces of the commuters passing by in traffic. It struck him how unhappy everyone looked, as they traveled those same miles every day that would take hours away from their lives. Ryan decided that was not how he wanted to spend his life, and that was not the kind of traveling he wanted to do. When he found himself in a similar situation after high school, he knew he had to make some changes in his life. “I believe there is something ingrained in us as humans from way back that pushes us out of our comfort zones and makes us long to explore and immerse ourselves in the glory of creation,” he says. “I’ll sum it up with a favorite John Muir quote, ‘Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.’ I cannot recall the last time I had a friend tell me that he felt that way about his cubicle.”

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Wondering and Wandering

Ryan and Christina lived in Hawaii for a time, and although they loved it, they longed for the trips they used to take when they were dating. “We knew the island too well and nothing was foreign. We missed wondering what was around the next bend in Big Sur.” With a move to Washington state, Christina went back to school for her doctorate and Ryan became a stay-at-home dad. He loved the change, but says he was a “terrible homemaker” and didn’t like the staying-at-home part of the job description. And so, their trips became more and more frequent. Once they started spending much of their life traveling, their goals became simple: “surf and fish as much as humanly possible in places void of other humans… and rack up well over a million miles on our adventuremobile in the process.”

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Their favorite places to visit are national forests. The “upper left wonderland” (as Ryan calls it) is replete with forests, boasting 17 national forests. “Most of our country doesn’t realize that they belong to us! They are there for our pleasure and I’d sure like to see these national treasures that generally remain unexplored stick around for generations to come.” He says they’ve run into many other travelers who didn’t know about the national forests, and he loves being able to open that door for someone else by introducing them to this natural wonder. One place you won’t find them is in crowded campgrounds. Although they feel campgrounds can sometimes be a lifesaver at the end of a long day, they generally prefer to not spend their time outdoors a few feet away from a neighbor’s rumbling generator.

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Sharing the Wonder

Ryan shares pictures of their travels on Instagram, but he doesn’t consider himself a photographer.  Rather, he sees himself simply as a father who wants to leave something for his children to remember.  He usually shoots his pictures with a smartphone that was a gift from a friend who won it on the Jimmy Fallon show. He has come to appreciate the art of photography, and often camps with other travelers who are professional photographers. “There’s just something about a photo that captures more than just space but a moment that can stir wonder in any person. Wonder leads to daydreams. Daydreams lead to action and action leads to celebration. Celebration will bring praise!”

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The Beginning of Happiness

Ryan says if you put together all the nights last year they spent traveling and sleeping outside, it would equal more than six months of their life. Although their van may not have a mailbox or a permanent foundation, it feels like home to their family. It has allowed them to immerse themselves in the wonders of the west and feed their own sense of wonder. They believe that “the beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.” (Abraham Heschel). “Your kids will never remember their best day of television,” Ryan says. Rather, he encourages being outdoors and reading good books. Which books would he take with him if he could only fit a few books? Ryan names books like The insecurity of Freedom by Abraham Heschel, One Acre and Security by Bradford Angier, and the Bible. He also lists a coloring book as one of the few books he would take. When asked how they encourage a sense of wonder in their own children, he says simply, “we open the door.”

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What matters most to you? Leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.