Thoughts

i can't do it anymore

I can't put it off any longer.

I've always been impatient, but I don't think this is that. In fact, I think it's the opposite. Sometimes my doubt becomes a surge of confidence in the form of a big "FUCK YOU!" to the impossible. It was the same when I took 3 weeks off for the solo road trip to Alaska and back, and again when I moved to Oregon for a month. But this will be the biggest and scariest decision I've ever made.

I'm buying a cargo van and moving into it! Like... actually living in it full-time. No backup car. No home or apartment.

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I don't know where I'll park when I'm staying in a city. I don't know how I'll prevent theft. I don't know how I'm going to stay cool or warm, or how I'm going to cook and store food until I get solar set up. I'm not sure how I'll make enough money without the security of a steady job, but I'm giving myself a year to figure out that last part. Honestly, there is probably more that I don't know right now, but I know that I'm doing it.

I think I'm going to sell my car first and bike to work—21 miles away—until I find the right van. I want to own it outright so I can immediately move in and put EVERYTHING toward paying off my debt. At this time, I owe $11,607.42 to various credit cards—which doesn't include $6,687.13 in student loans, but I'm not worried as much about the those. Without a car payment or rent, I should be able to pay the credit cards within 12 months—assuming I find enough freelance work for extra money.

Truthfully, I'm fucking terrified. I felt like a failure and a quitter for giving up on Oregon after only one month. I was robbed twice that year and moved 6 times in 8 months. It was the lowest I've ever been. But I also experienced one of my biggest highs. When my car was broken into, a friend started a fundraiser that accrued $900—the amount I needed to replace everything. That still blows me away. I had no idea so many people cared about me; I still have a hard time accepting that.

Moving into a van has even greater potential for failure, but—weirdly—I've never been more excited.

I hope you are doing well! Hit me up if you wanna share crazy ideas or just get some shit off your chest.

Much love,

Max

Happy New Year! Plans for 2018: vlog, portraits, and more adventures!

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It's been too long since my last blog post. 2017 was an interesting year. I started dabbling in portrait photography and graphic design, discovering a talent and passion for both. I've decided to put them to work! I've also wanted to make a vlog for a long time. My snapchat stories were known for being cinematic and amusing so I've decided to take that to a better platform. My goal is to just have fun and keep doing what I love. The long-term goal is making a career from these passions, as it always has been. I don't care if I'm making just enough to survive as long as it puts me in places I dream about and creating something new, entertaining, or inspirational.

As a result of people reaching out to me for portrait work, I decided to buy my first camera light this week. Until now I've just been using natural light. It taught me to be very creative, but it's also extremely restricting in many of the settings I shoot. I would love to buy a dedicated vlog cam and some microphones for the vlog, but I can't justify that when my phone will do a reasonable job until I can purchase the necessary upgrades. I'd rather start making progress and stop making excuses, hoping the content will outweigh the gear.

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Outside of the big plans for photography, I'll be focusing more on nature shoots and adventures again. There's only one way to get better: lots and lots of practice. I'm so excited for everything in the works and know I'll learn something even if I fail spectacularly. Cheers!

P.S. One huge thing that happened in 2017 was being hired by a new video game streamer to be his graphic designer. His handle is LobroWatch. He plays video games and often ends up talking to people in chat. Check him out if you're into that sort of thing!

Anyway, I had never really done anything quite like it, just little stuff here and there, and mostly for myself. Fast forward several months. He's blowing up. It could very well end up being a full-time gig for him fairly soon and I couldn't be happier for him. In addition to the web graphics, I have designed a shirt, patch, bracelet, sticker and a thank you card. The designs just keep getting better and I love every second of the work we're doing.

In summary, 2017 was the first year I started getting paid to take photographs and do graphic design. It didn't happen because I went to school for it or randomly picked something that might lead to a career. I just sought things that excite me and pursued them with passion. And I don't plan on stopping now!

Get out there and do what excites you! 

Big Changes and Deep Thoughts

It's been a wild few weeks. I found a place to live and a job in Oregon and I've been on lots of adventures, including a random 2-day trip to Colorado!

Despite the increase in group size since I joined Meetup, I found that I don't necessarily enjoy the adventures any more than I would normally. I've met a lot of awesome people, but I've also had to do a lot more maintenance and prep for the trips. It seems that not everyone is so enthusiastic about flying by the seat of their pants. So I've decided to stop paying for the organizer service on Meetup and just stick to posting events on Facebook and this website. It's free and a lot less stressful.

My move to Oregon has been solidified for a few weeks now. I have been promised a position at Dutch Bros and found new roommates via Craigslist. I would leave now if it were not for the trips I had already planned.

Since my last post, I've been camping on the Mogollon Rim (pictured), went back to Tonto Natural Bridge, mountain biking and camping in Arizona and Colorado, and bungee jumping and camping in California. I'm finally getting all the content edited and posted this weekend now that I can finally relax a little.

Photos and videos coming up!

Moving to Oregon

I've explored a lot of beautiful places in Arizona during the last 15 months, but I've felt the call to greener lands, or even grass at all, for a while now. Oregon seems like it would be perfect for my lifestyle and it's close to a lot of amazing places: Northern California, Washington, British Columbia and Alberta.

I haven't allowed a ton of time to find a new roommate which is easily the scariest part - not finding one, but replacing the one I have. I brag all the time about my living situation; my rent and place are amazing, but Nick is the real reason I love my home; he's my brother from another mother and I'll miss the hell out of him.

I'm not too worried about the job situation. I'm hoping for a transfer through my current employer or finding work as a waiter again, but that shouldn't be too difficult; I'm a good worker and have plenty of references.

My last posted adventure in Arizona is Havasu Falls from July 4th - 7th, so I'll be ready to move shortly after that.

Earth Day: Easy Ways to Help!

Every day should be Earth Day. 24 hours is not enough to correct the damage created by our disposable lifestyles. It's so easy to think, "someone else will take care of it," but that leaves no one to actually do it because they're all thinking the same thing. The saddest part is that it's so easy to pick up that gum wrapper you dropped, use a cloth towel instead of a paper one, bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store. Recycling is hugely helpful, but you can prevent the need for most of it by just thinking a little differently.

By using a disposable product, the company needs to replace it, so they buy more, which means the manufacturer needs to make more, which means they need more material and that means more harvesting and processing. Every step in that process also creates waste. You could prevent all of that by refusing to use bags at a grocery store. Forget your reusable bag? Put everything back in the cart without one and transfer it to your car. Sure, it might take a few more trips into the house, but I'm sure you can manage...

Every litter bit helps; it's corny, but it's true. Future generations depend on a more responsible approach to life. There are billions of people on the planet and that number grows every day - along with our impact on the planet. We can't continue this current trend of disposal. If you can't reuse something, avoid it. If something breaks, try to fix it. Let's change the world so we can keep it!

I Need Suggestions!

Calling all adventurers: I want to go backpacking this Friday and Saturday before the cliff jumping trip on Sunday (my birthday - and you're all invited!). I did a through-hike in the Superstitions two months ago; I'm considering an overnighter on Flat Iron, but I'd love to hear some suggestions from the locals! I'm actually still pretty new to the area; does anyone know some good 10-20 mile backpacking trails in Arizona?! :D

Fossil Creek: Biggest Meetup Yet!

The Meetup group is becoming more successful than I expected. Seven people attended the second event I posted there - which is about the number of new people I met after posting events on the Facebook page for an entire year. I think we can call that a success. I don't have a clue what this means for the future, but I'm ready to enjoy the ride!

Fossil Creek Waterfall (Trail) was the second event posted on Meetup; eleven people (and three dogs) showed up for a gorgeous day of cliff diving in great company. It was awesome to meet so many cool new people. Driving home, I told Andrew, "I don't think there was a single person that wasn't just cool as fuck." That group set the bar pretty high for future events, but I'm excited to see where things go from here.

I'll probably go to Fossil Creek again this year - despite the permit system that goes live in May, but if you would like to plan your own trip, check out my guide.

Montrose Pools and Meetup

I created the Meetup group on a whim - not stopping to think until I reached the payment screen. I had been there before, a year ago, when Max Level Adventures was just beginning. I was afraid again, afraid it would be a waste of money, energy and time, but I've learned to consume fear since then, instead of letting it consume me. So I signed up.

The truth is that I don't really know why I do any of this. I genuinely enjoy doing things alone or with few people. It's a lot less stress: I can modify plans, cancel, reschedule, take my time or pick up the pace. I do enjoy meeting new people, but I think the real reason I do anything is because I have a natural desire to create. Before Max Level Adventures, I played video games that required or allowed for creative play. I'm currently writing a fantasy novel. I went to school for art and game design. Life just feels empty when I'm not creating.

As usual, my fear was unfounded. I copied over events from the facebook group and watched as the RSVP's rolled in. I had 200 members within a week! As the first event on Meetup, the hike to Montrose Pools was fairly short notice. Only one person signed up, but even that was more than I was expecting. My friend, Eric, came too and we met Rebecca at the trailhead.

The trail itself wasn't too long or difficult; it rose steadily along the valley slope, occasionally managing the elevation change with switchbacks. Various cloud types broke up the blue sky, casting shadows on rolling hills of muted green scattered with several blooming species of desert plant. It was a beautiful day to meet someone new and share experiences while making a new one.

Until next time, happy adventures!

-Max-

Fossil Creek, Here We Come!

This is shaping up to be the first big event of the year! Paying to start a group on MeetUp brought 19 people to sign up that wouldn't have otherwise! That's probably more than any group I've ever had before - even before including the 7 people that signed up on facebook. I'm sure some people will bail before the final date, but I'm just excited to meet some new people!

I'm going to focus cinematic shots with the GoPro and some pictures for content production. I have some cool ideas for another video and the guide for this trip could use some better photos.

I'm not excited about the temperature of the water, but what can you do except enjoy the adrenaline and scenery! :D

Update And Apology For The Lack Of Posts

I wish to apologize for being so inactive lately. I was living with friends for a month while my place was being remodeled. Then my laptop got hacked and I lost all $1,300 in my bank account. I've been applying for a second job as a result.

On a positive note, I started a group on Meetup.com to widen the net; I planned and posted 14 new events; and I completely redesigned the website!

I still don't have another job, but I'm proud to introduce the brand new website and get back to posting blog entries, photos and videos. I would LOVE to hear your feedback on the new website. It looks best on a desktop/laptop, but the mobile version looks solid too (turn your phone sideways for best effect).

Alaska Roadtrip Expense Report

It took two months, but I finally calculated expenses for my trip to Alaska and back. My gas estimates were spot on. Food/Bev could have been halved, but still wasn't bad. Miscellaneous was higher than expected, but mostly items I'll use on countless adventures to come; no regrets there. The speeding ticket was unlucky, but I shaved off *many* hours of travel by speeding; no regrets there either. An oil change was unavoidable. Overall, I was in expected range even though I splurged a little when I got to Anchorage. I'm very pleased with my results!
 
I can't wait to do more stuff like this - especially knowing that I can afford it! I'm thinking an overseas trip for the next one... :Dchart

Photoshop Workflow

I am by no means a professional (yet). I've only had my camera for 2 months, but I've learned a lot in that time and it's all credit to passion and consistency. Unfortunately, I don't edit most of my photos to the level they deserve. Most just get blanket adjustments because I'm editing 50+ photos at a time, but practice has made me more efficient, so I can do more in less time. Test

This example is why you should always shoot in RAW. The files are huge, but you get some much more to work with. I gave the details a little more attention here, but it still didn't take that long to edit. I've also stitched a few panoramas now and will be experimenting with HDR when I start on the most recent shoot from Elephant Arch in the Superstitions.

For this image, I imported the photo using Photoshop Camera RAW, applying auto adjustments, then slightly tweaking each one. Then I add levels, brightness/contrast and vibrance layers. I tweak each one, sometimes adding layer masks to target specific areas. I will usually add a color balance layer as well. Then I duplicate the background and apply shadows/highlights, auto color and/or auto tone to the copy(ies) so that the base layer is untouched. Finally, I play around with the opacity of each layer until I get a look that I like - adding layer masks if needed.

I learn something new with almost every batch of photos, so my workflow constantly evolves! Experiment and don't be afraid to use google if you get stumped! There's a tutorial for everything these days!

Upcoming Events near Phoenix

I know a lot of people don't have Facebook so I'm letting you know that I just posted three events on the Facebook page with more coming soon. You won't be able to sign up without an account, but you can still check out the deets and let me know if you want to go by contacting me here. I'm going to Sedona on Saturday morning to check out Devil's Bridge and Red Rock Crossing. I'm headed to stay the night at Elephant Arch in the Superstitions after that.

I've posted them as two separate events so check them out if you're interested.

The third is for a 3-day trip in June to Moab, UT and Maroon Bells, CO. Happy adventuring!

Success: One Step at a Time!

It is an awesome day! It's my first week since I quit the job with better pay and hours to force myself into seriously pursuing my passions. When I got off work today, I found out that InstagramAZ used my latest post for their photo of the day! It may not seem like much, but it's a sign that my dreams may not be as far-fetched as I thought... :) Original post: https://instagram.com/p/-kFh7aDevK/

Their repost: https://instagram.com/p/-mE9UYhKnz/

Photo Gallery Update!

I finally editing my favorite photos from the trip and posted them. The dashcam video is coming soon! I went on a snowy mountain bike ride in Flagstaff yesterday too so I'll post some photos from that soon! Tips and more cool locations to see coming soon!

Putting Things into Perspective. Literally.

Here's a cool perspective on my path of travel for the trip. The total mileage ended up being just over 9,000. It still seems a little crazy to me that I actually did it. For no good reason really - which is perhaps the best reason ;)

Adding a "Places Worth Going" Section

I've finally started working on a section to post descriptions, directions, pictures, tips, and reviews of my favorite places. My first one was for one of my favorite hikes: "Flat Iron"! I hope to build a list of cool places I've been for those looking to get into the adventure lifestyle or just looking for new places to check out. I have a lot of work to do, but you have to start somewhere! http://maxleveladventures.com/where-to-go/hiking/siphon-drawflat-iron-trail/

Phoenix to Fairbanks (and back): Day 17

Funny, I never actually went to Fairbanks. I ended up staying in Anchorage the whole time (which was an extra 2 hour drive so don't give me shit). I'm 8 hours away from home and ready, but not all at once. It rained me out of Alaska and I planned to spend some time at national parks on the way back, but the weather followed me. I'm okay with that though. The only place I'm skipping as a result is just a day's drive from my home anyway. No major loss. 

I'll post a proper update tomorrow with pics once I get home, but I just wanted to say how excited I am for a shower and sleeping in my car above freezing temperatures for the first time in almost two weeks!!! 😍😍😍