If there’s one thing true about your twenties it's that it's the time in your life to have experiences. You’re supposed to experience angst, excitement, introspection, and passion all in the pursuit of figuring out who you really are. It's when you can be a DJ, climb a mountain, or engage in irresponsible activities you'll be shocked and embarrassed by later. I’m not saying you can’t do these things in your 30s or beyond; I’m just saying it’s a lot harder to pull them off later in life.
This decade-long process of figuring out what you want to do with your life, who you’re going to share it with, and how you’re going to live it can be especially anxiety-inducing and can easily have one teetering on the brink of a “quarter-life crisis.”
I recently came across one San Franciscan by the name of Sam Parr, 25, grappling with these existential dilemmas. Parr, a self-proclaimed "typical middle-class-white-boy" was living the entrepreneurial dream. He co-founded and ran several businesses, but he found himself struggling with life beyond work. His remedy was to say "fuck it" and go on a 9000-mile, 45-day-long cross country motorcycle trip, budgeting himself to about $100 a day (although, as someone who "saves like crazy," Parr usually only spent about $45 a day).
I spoke to Parr about why he left a great job and group friends, what happened when he fell off his bike, and his life plan now that he’s back in SF.
To view a gallery of Parr’s trip, click here.
You had a great job and great friends in San Francisco. What was missing?
I freaked out for two reasons: depression and panic attacks.
I know, I know...it sounds like a bummer of a topic to talk about, but it really isn’t. My depression was pretty bad the last few months because I thought meeting certain goals in life (having certain amounts of money, a house, getting sober, etc.) would automatically make me happy. What a dumb thing to assume. When I hit those goals I was so depressed that I didn’t feel any different. I thought happiness was like a flip of a switch and it’d turn on when I hit those goals. I was an idiot for thinking that.
I also suffer from panic attacks, which sucks more than anything I’ve ever experienced. As I got more involved in my work I noticed I started panicking over the dumbest, most meaningless shit ever: Am I living up to other’s expectations? Do I look cool on Facebook? Why is this person doing better than me? That type of stuff, ya know? I decided to do this trip because I was really, really scared to do it and I thought if I could push the panic button away just a little bit further each day on the road, then all the dumb shit I was constantly freaking out about wouldn’t scare me so much.
Why a coast-to-coast motorcycle trip? Where did you come up with this idea?
What sounds cooler to a girl at a bar: "I freaked out and drove cross country in a van to find myself" or "I freaked out and rode a motorcycle cross country?" You tell me. Just kidding (mostly).
I’ve been riding motorcycles for a long time and have always loved the freedom you feel on a bike. You don’t feel contained like you do in a car or plane, and you can ride a bike anywhere you wanna go. Dirt, highway, mountains – anywhere really. That type of freedom really gets me to feel at peace.
I decided to do it while reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. In the book, Aurelius talks about how spending time in nature and reflecting has some strange way of making you feel harmony. It was also my small way of celebrating one year being sober and dealing with all those emotions.
What were some major differences between the people you met and life elsewhere versus SF?
All people are the same. That’s something that shocked me. There are rednecks in southern Alabama and Southern California. Cool pothead hippies are in Denver and Tennessee. You’ll find the same people wherever you go and they all have the same wants/needs.
You can also live with WAY less than you imagine. I spent $45 a day and lived out of a backpack. That simple kind of living will make anyone happy.
The biggest difference I noticed outside of SF was that no one gave a shit about apps or startups, which was SOOO refreshing. God it was awesome to not talk about IPO’s and Airbnb for once. But not everyone outside SF is ambitious as we are. That’s fine, but different.
Did you panic when you crashed in Telluride and hurt your back? Did you have an “Oh shit, WTF did I get myself into?” moment? How did you rebound from that experience?
Hell yeah I did. I could barely walk afterwards. Afterwards I set up camp in a mountain, about 12,000 feet above sea level. There wasn’t any cell phone reception and I was four miles from the nearest person. That night there was a thunderstorm so the clouds covered the moonlight and temperatures dropped to 40 degrees. And my tent had a hole in it. So I was wet, freezing, could barely walk, and it was pitch black outside. That’s when I panicked a little.
It was a really, really shitty night and I was miserable and scared, but I made it through all right. That’s what made me rebound – knowing that I survived my biggest fear. Didn’t I mention I hate camping?
What were your four favorite places you visited?
Silverton, Colorado – just as pretty as Telluride, but the people aren’t as snobby. The darkhorse of Colorado.
Fittstown, Oklahoma – instead of Monday night community softball, these crazy sons of bitches ride rodeo. One of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. Night and day compared to SF.
Nashville, Tennessee – Nashville reminds me of Los Angeles, but its not nearly as big. Everyone is so freakin’ attractive there. Tindering there was awesome.
Tonapah, Nevada – Tonopah is a small town in the middle of the desert that’s shockingly beautiful and peaceful. Stopping in the middle of the desert was one of the only times I’ve ever heard complete silence.
Do you feel like changed person now that you're back in SF? And what's going on in your life now?
Hell yeah I feel different. It’s not like I had an epiphany but my panic button was pushed back a ton. I also realized that this point in time is literally the best time in the history of the world to try new things because the worst case scenario is SO good. What’s the worst that can happen? What if I go broke? Big deal, I’ll just go to Tonopah and live off $1000 a month. What if I look like an idiot when I fail? I can always go ride rodeo in Fittstown. As long as I don’t hurt anyone, then the worst that can happen is still pretty freakin’ good.
Career wise, I decided to not accept a job but start a company. I’ve started a sold one in the past and have also worked as an employee but I realized I prefer running my own business.
[Photos via Sam Parr]
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