Out of the Wild
(National Parks Magazine - 2021)
In this first-person memoir piece, I describe my summer living among 100 grizzly bears.
"Paul needed wilderness for escape, for revival. I once needed this, too. I believe I used to have recurring dreams of grizzlies because something within me was nudging me to get out of the suburbs and find adventure and truth in the depths of wilderness someplace far away. In waking life, I imagined that Alaska could possibly connect me to ancient sensations, to a core self. I may have been propelled by the exuberance of youthful romanticizing, but I do think the Arctic mountains I’d scrambled up and the close encounters I’d had with wild animals made previously terrifying things — job interviews, speaking in public, talking to women — slightly less terrifying. Wilderness can be not only a portal to the past, but a portal to a wilder, better version of you."
I live in a van down by Duke University
(Salon - December 2009)
In this first-person memoir piece, I describe what it was like to live in a van in secret for one full year.
"I was lying on the floor of my van where the middle pilot chairs used to be, trying to hide from view. This is it, I thought. They know. I’m going to get kicked out of Duke.
"Moments before, I had been cooking a pot of spaghetti stew on top of a plastic, three-drawer storage container, which held all my food and my few meager possessions. I figured the campus security guard had parked next to me because he spotted the blue flame from my propane stove through the van’s tinted windows and shades."
Letter from the Heartland
(Wigtown - Spring 2020)
I find myself stuck in North Carolina during the 2020 covid-19 pandemic, living among preppers, doomers, and a militia.
"Our tiny, cold flat in Dunbar was the furthest thing from my mind. I began to fantasize about living out an agrarian fantasy in this little clearing in our new forest kingdom. I wondered if our lives might begin to feel more adventurous, more natural, more full."
America may be opening back up, but most of our land is still off limits
(Washington Post - Spring 2020)
In this Op-Ed, I return to my favorite subject, the right to roam. I argue how the pandemic, which, for a moment, shut down our public parks, exposed how inconvenient it is for so much land to be locked behind private property boundaries.
Get Thee to a Monastery
(Smithsonian - April 2019)
In this first-person feature, I visit a ninth-century German monastery village.
"The construction at Campus Galli has been underway for seven years now, and the workers would be the first to admit that they’ve only just begun. As of today, Campus Galli has a wooden bell tower, some gardens and 16 open-walled wooden shelters, each a work site for a craftsperson. The campus’s most striking building is the wooden church, built to serve as a temporary focal point of the campus. With its long, vertical, timber spruce planks still a fresh, unweathered pale yellow, and its steep roof, scaled in hand-cut shingles, it is their first foray into constructing a building not for reasons of utility, but for beauty."
No Trespassing laws create a personal playgrounds for the wealthy
(High Country News - August 2018)
In this Op-Ed, I call out a law in Idaho that may allow landowners to legally shoot harmless trespassers.
"When Europeans are freer than Americans, when the moors of England are more open than the plains of Wyoming, and when our laws are crafted for the sole benefit of the landed gentry, we Americans have clearly lost our way. So let’s stop putting up with enclosure for the few and reclaim our old rights, the rights of the many. It’s not their right to exclude, fine and shoot us. It’s our right to roam."
Walking to the Horizon
(Backpacker - June 2018)
In this first-person travel piece, I walk the Great Plains Trail with the founder of the trail.
"As we walk with grass seeds in our socks and wind blowing through our hair, the plains feel wild and free, and Myers’s idea doesn’t seem so crazy. We cross the paths of Lakota horsemen and pioneer wagon trains. We walk beneath a blue sky that somehow conveys the threat of blizzards, dust storms, and tornadoes. Beneath our feet lie dinosaur bones, forgotten oceans, and the blood from the clash of civilizations. And we have it all to ourselves."
Right to Roam
(Backpacker - January 2017)
In this first-person travel piece, I walk the Scottish highlands and embrace the right to roam.
"Alongside equality and justice, I thought that this—the everyday freedom to get close to nature and move where we please—was an advancement in human rights that all civilizations should aspire to achieve."
This Is Our Country. Let's Walk It.
(NYT - April, 2016)
In this Op-Ed, I make the case for a national "right to roam" law.
"While the Bundy family and radical ranchers out west talk of seizing public land for themselves, we should be having the opposite conversation — about opening up the country for everyone. Something as innocent and wholesome as a walk in the woods shouldn’t be considered illegal or intrusive. Walking across the so-called freest country on earth should be every person’s right."
Ernst/Brian Snyder/Shannon Stapleton/Montage by Salon
Donald Trump Is an Environmental Nightmare
(Salon - June, 2016)
In this Op-Ed, I confront Trump's ridiculous environmental policy.
"Conservatives know that their core economic principles are at risk of becoming obsolete if enough people get worried about manmade climate change and start calling for serious government action. Instead of changing with the times, though, it seems that Republicans’ only strategy is to call for reviving dying industries such as coal and dead projects like the pipeline, all while manufacturing widespread doubt by loudly rejecting the science behind climate change."
South Dakota Oil Spill Reveals Major Pipeline Problems
(Time.com - April, 2016)
In this article, I point out TransCanada's pipeline problems.
"It’s uncertain if the other proposed pipelines will fail the way the Bluegrass and Keystone XL have, but it’s clear that, in America, no pipeline is a safe bet anymore. Pipeline companies’ futures may be in jeopardy, but that won’t bother a lot of ranchers and farmers of the Heartland. To some, that may be a matter of low consequence."
What Obama's Rejection of Keystone Means for the Climate Fight
(Time.com - December, 2015)
Political reflections on the rejection of the KXL.
"During President Barack Obama’s address to world leaders at the Paris climate conference Monday, he cited, in unspecified terms, his rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline as evidence that the U.S. is doing its part to lower worldwide emissions. “We’ve said no to infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil fuels from the ground.” he said.
This little factoid has already gotten lost in the series of opening speeches that author Rebecca Solnit has called a “parade of clichés.” But it should stand out as a pretty remarkable thing—rejecting a pipeline is just plain weird."
This Cold House
(New York Times - January, 2015)
In this Op-Ed, I describe my experiment of living in a 45-degree house for a winter.
"OVER the summer, I moved into a house in rural Nebraska where, for the first time ever, I had full control of the thermostat. It was a drafty 4,000-square-foot palace of cold-to-the touch cinder-blocks that had long stood empty. As fall approached, I started to think about heating. Keeping that whole place at 70 degrees with natural gas, for just one person, seemed like a waste. I wondered: How cold could I let my house get, while remaining comfortable?"
No Fracking in Stokes
(Winston-Salem Journal - June, 2014)
In this Op-Ed, I call out some North Carolina legislature bullshit on fracking in the state.
"Indeed, let’s look at North Dakota. During North Dakota’s shale-oil boom, workplace fatalities increased to five times the national average and traumatic injuries increased 200 percent. Oil spills, train explosions and a night sky lit up by gas flares that annually burp out 6 million tons of carbon dioxide have become a daily part of life. Crime has risen 32 percent, and jails are jam-packed with the likes of heroin traffickers and Mexican cartel members, who’ve moved into the area to cash in on the Bakken bonanza."
My 1,700-mile hike across the Keystone XL
(Salon - January, 2013)
In this travel piece, I describe the first half of my hike across the Heartland.
"To take off to northern lands on the eve of winter with a purple toe and no trail to follow or guidebook to consult would be, to most rational thinkers, insane. Yet since everything about the Tar Sands and the XL and America’s contempt for the reality of climate change struck me as insane, too, I thought it would be fitting to embrace this spirit of insanity, throw all caution to the wind, and embark on my adventure anyway."
When Home is a Campus Parking Lot
(New York Times - April, 2013)
Another vandwelling tale, this one describing my first semester at Duke.
COULD I live in a van? I looked over the Craigslist ads, took a bus to John’s used car dealership in Raleigh, N.C., and scanned the rows of sedans, trucks and SUVs in search of my new home.
And there it was. A giant 1994 Ford Econoline coated with a burgundy sheen, the sun turning its black-tinted windows a blinding white. It looked out of place among the shiny, spotless SUVs, whose bumpers proudly faced away, as if exhibiting a juvenile disdain for their ponderous elder. Its distended underbelly hung vulnerably low — so low I wondered if it would scrape its undercarriage when climbing up and over speed bumps.
Illustration by Scott Seymour
Out of Debt, on the Road
(Chronicle of Higher Education - May, 2013)
A travel piece about my get-out-of-debt journey, set in Coldfoot, Alaska.
I thought of student debt like I thought of death. In other words, I didn’t think of it at all. As a 21-year-old college student, I had a long life and bright future ahead of me. Why should I worry myself sick over gloomy inevitabilities? Best to shove worries of my $32,000 student debt to the back of my mind alongside other yet-to-be grown-up worries, like paying a mortgage, finding good day care, and growing skin tags.
I Will Keep Up with Andrew Skurka
(Duke Magazine - November, 2012)
In this travel piece set in the Colorado Rockies, I try to keep up with the greatest hiker in the world.
"'If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have done it,' he said matter-offactly, while violently rubbing his hands together. 'We could break a coccyx if we fell.' My guide was Andrew Skurka ’03, a god of calves, and arguably the greatest hiker the world has ever seen.
"I’d been hiking with him for two days, but I still had a lot to figure out: Are we going to get down this mountain? What exactly is 'ultimate hiking?' Who is the real Andrew Skurka? And—most pressingly— where is my coccyx?"
My soggy, frustrating, inspiring week Occupying Wall Street
(Salon - November, 2011)
In this first-person travel piece, I describe my week living in Zuccotti Park as a member of Occupy Wall Street.
"On Oct. 20, I arrived at Zuccotti Park, carrying a tent and sleeping bag, eager to see things for myself and excited to embrace the life of an “occupier” (if just for a week before I had to go back to work).
"Zuccotti Park was smaller than I’d imagined — only 33,000 square feet, little more than half the size of a football field – yet hundreds slept here every night, and thousands visited throughout the day. There were folded blue tarps, piles of backpacks, heaps of cardboard, and rows of sleeping bags laid side by side like body bags after a deadly battle. From afar, I heard the clatter of the drum circle and the clunking of construction. There weren’t any distinguishable smells except for a hint of grilled hot dogs wafting over from a nearby food stand. Thousands of tourists slowly wove around established sleeping grounds through narrow, curvy lanes. A gaggle of reporters, like hens crowding a poultry feeder, surrounded a man in a wrinkled shirt screaming something about how the Jews were to blame for everything."
An Intolerable Intolerance
(Winston-Salem Journal - April, 2012)
In the op-ed, I point how ridiculous it is for Rep. Virginia Foxx to say she has little "tolerance" for student debtors.
"Last week, Rep. Virginia Foxx offered the nation's 36 million student debtors a lesson in tolerance. She told radio show host G. Gordon Liddy that she has 'very little tolerance' for student debtors who have as much as $80,000 or $200,000 in student loans. 'There's no reason for that,' Foxx said. Actually, there are a lot of reasons why student debtors have over $1 trillion in debt. And Foxx is one of them.
Illustration by Hudson Christie
Credit: David Dalton
The Cowboy Way
(Go Magazine - April, 2012)
In this travel piece, I spend time with Creole cowboys on their customary "trail ride" in backwoods Texas.
"On a cool Saturday after noon in rural, backwoods , wheretheheckamI southeast Texas, a procession of cowboys and cowgirls on horseback trots down Farm Road 1301 — the sort of road where you might spot lolling cows lounging in the sun, freshly rolled cylinders of hay in an open field or the remains of hapless wild pigs and raccoons decaying along the shoulders. Way out ahead, leading the group, two riders proudly hoist the American and Texan flags, and in front of them, decked out in black denim and rhinestones, Betty Love marshals the oddball parade, her regal, tengallon hat bobbing with her horse's gait.
"When Love went on her first trail ride nearly 20 years ago, she didn't know anything about the 'cowboy way.' She didn't know what a party wagon was. Or a muleskinner. In fact, she was so unprepared that her brothers — who'd dragged her along — had to go out and buy her a pair of jeans. Now, Love is the president of the 'Betty Love Ryders' — a small, eightperson riding club that, for the past 11 years, has hosted this annual 'trail ride.'"
Confessions of a Lab Rat
(Duke Magazine - September, 2011)
I took part in 25+ experimental studies when I was a student at Duke to pay tuition. These are my confessions.
"Over the course of my graduate education at Duke, I was zapped by electrodes, pricked by needles, dazed by pharmaceuticals, and I can even say that I shared three of my four primary bodily fluids. While it may sound like I spent my time exploring the shady side of the student body, I actually got paid to do these things.
"I was a lab rat—a research-study participant. I took part in some twenty-five studies that would pay, typically, $10 to $20 an hour to participants willing to undergo cognitive tests, pop experimental pills, and have their brains scanned in MRI machines. And for much of my college career, I was willing—at least until I did an experiment with an anti-seizure pill that caused a harrowing, drug-induced nightmare involving my sinking into a pit of quicksand."
One Year, One Acre
(Duke Magazine - June, 2011)
I took part in 25+ experimental studies when I was a student at Duke to pay tuition. These are my confessions.
This is a profile on Duke's brand new student-run campus farm.
"Emily Sloss wasn’t supposed to be a farmer. In fact, she was supposed to be anything but. Coming from a long line of Iowa cattle farmers, Sloss likely would have taken up the family business if it were not for her parents’ decision to move out of the heartland when she was young—a decision they made to give Sloss and her brother a chance to lead better lives.
"The decision paid off. Sloss ’10 got into Duke, where she majored in public policy, but much to her parents’ surprise, upon graduating she traded in her cap and gown for a hoe and pitchfork, taking a job as the first-ever project manager of Duke’s new campus farm."
The Age of the Loan Drones
(Artvoice - December, 2007)
When talking about student debt wasn't popular, I published this story about how student debt was affecting graduates of Western New York.
"At first glance, recent college graduate Dave Antonelli has it all. Nested in a cozy hamlet of rural-suburban Wheatfield, Antonelli, 23, and his fiancée Liz Baker, 28, live in a country home, cheerily stocked with symbols of the American dream.
"Though it seems they’re only short a set of wind chimes and a couple of kids to round out their idea of the dream, their student loan bills tell a much different story. The cost of college has put the soon-to-be-weds $230,000 in the hole. Like many young Americans, Antonelli and Baker have been denied their slice of domestic bliss because higher education, though accessible, is no longer affordable for most degree-seekers."