Garage Strength Notes, Day 2

September 28, 2011:

Skipped today – took mom to Philly, spent the day in the car! Listened to 1/3 of Eva Gabrielsson’s book about Stieg Larsson. Sat in the car and got inspired by the This American Life episode on the un-reality of money while mom got her MRI in Collegeville. Inspired me to do the Dane story with that angle – no money, lots of passions. Speaking of which…

Angle #1 (?): If money is imagined, then what is the point in chasing it…?

I’ve known Dane my entire life. We played Little League against each other. Both of our dad’s were our respective team’s coaches. Dane and I spent high school together. Freshman year, 4 weeks into our first high school experience, Dane convinced me to quit the Spanish class and come join him in Herr K’s German class. My school was small, and we only had two options for languages, and only one teacher for each. Dane just said ‘there’s something different about Herr K, you have to take his class.’ It took a meeting with the guidance counselor, who was confused, as I was getting A’s in Spanish. I could only tell him it ‘felt right.’ He let me switch, on a hunch.

Dane and I went on to enjoy several year’s of Herr K. We learned German, for sure, but his class was more about life. It was about discipline (he once gave the ‘silent treatment’ to the other German 2 section for over a month, speaking only German to them, as he felt they had disrespected him). It was about hard work. It was about passion.

Dane and I learned all of these things in spades, and the lessons stayed with us. We left high school, andboth graduated from Penn State. Dane was heavily recruited to play football at several Division 2 and 3 schools, but chose PSU to join the track team. He was state champ in shot-put and a defensive end on the football team our senior year. I was captain of the golf team.

Neither Dane nor I followed a typical path in college, instead choosing subjects that interested us. After several semesters ‘finding myself,’ I ended up with a minor in history basically by default. I didn’t choose to major in it simply because I ran out of interesting classes to choose from one semester and picked something else. Dane was also a history buff, and combined this with religious studies, philosophizing between practices with the track team.

I got the travel bug. Summer after my sophmore year, I took off and went to Costa Rica for a month to travel and do volunteer work. It was a test of sorts to see if I could spend a lot of time away from home, which I hadn’t done to that point. Spring of junior year, after deciding that traveling was indeed for me, I went to Australia to study tourism management in Brisbane, at the University of Queensland. On the way, I stayed 10 days in New Zealand, vowing to return to what quickly became my favorite place on earth.

After college, Dane and I lost touch. We’d meet for the occasional beer when we were back in Leesport, but went months or even years without saying a word to each other. But we read each others blogs, and this is significant.

Then, I was writing for pleasure, for myself, just about my experiences. I went back to New Zealand in 2006, after graduating from PSU with a BS in Tourism Management and a minor in History, and before starting a ‘real job’ as a sales agent for a company in Annapolis that ran a sailboat for tourists, and for which I had worked on as sailing crew for a while in the summer. That trip, two months this time, was when I met the woman who is now my wife, a 6’ tall, blonde Swede named Mia.

Dane hitch-hiked across Canada. He had a dream of making the Olympics as a shot-putter, and wanted to train with [name], who lived in Kamloops, near the west coast. His stories of catching rides with guys halfway through a case of beer are both scary and enlightening. When not training, or talking about it, Dane was a bouncer at a local pub. He chuckled when a girl tried to pass off a fake PA ID – he denied her, she complained, and he promptly produced his real PA ID, at which point she politely asked for hers back and left the premises.

Dane’s pilgrimage to Canada and mine to New Zealand did not change our lives, but they solidified our worldviews and gave us the inspiration to chase our dreams. In the five years that followed, up to the present, Dane, after failing at his Olympic bid, has carved a niche in the athletic training world, opening the world’s first and only gym that raises and sells its own food. The gym, called Garage Strength, after first opening in his parents garage, is now house in an 18th century barn, with climbing ropes hanging from the ceiling, kettlebells lining the walls and high school freshman girls doing pull-ups and powerlifting exercises. Out back, his 130 hens lay eggs daily, and Dane stores them in a large wire basket you’d normally see at a golf driving range. Dane has over 70 regular clients and hasn’t had a job since 2009.

I started writing professionally a year after that first trip. Thanks in part to Dane’s encouragement from having read my travel blog, I started sending articles into magazines, and they started getting published. Mia and I worked professionally on sailboats, doing yacht deliveries up and down the east coast and running adventure travel programs for teenagers in the Caribbean. This summer, we sailed our own boat – our only possession, and our home – from the Chesapeake Bay to Ireland, fulfilling a dream and getting a lot of writing material in the process.

Both Dane and I have interesting stories, but it wasn’t until today that I realized how I was going to pitch it. After listening to the money episode of TAL – which only confirmed some notions that I have held for years – I realized that there is a logical continuation on that thesis – if money is inherently imaginary, what then is the point of pursuing it? Dane and I seemed to have figured that out long ago, and yet were never really aware of it. We just did things we were passionate about, and the money (though not a lot of it) followed.