In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware. ― John Muir
“Life is an adventure.”
So stated the motivational posters on the walls of our childhood elementary schools. A promise of the unknown. Those places yet to be discovered. For many of us — from family camping trips to lightsaber battles along the creekbed near grandma’s cabin to fishing exploits with dad — this was once true. But now, the responsibilities of work and life and home squeeze the margins required to maintain such wonderment and adventure in this stage of life called adulthood. Unless you’ve been intentional on investing time and energy into planning and executing uniquely disruptive expeditions, life as an adult can often feel decidedly non-adventurous.
It’s a bummer. Because just about all of us love a proper excursion into the wild. But along with our time, our increasingly urban lifestyles leave most at a loss for where to begin (or end, for that matter).
There’s good news, however. For those wild at heart but tame in knowledge, you can still take that trip that breaks you out of the ordinary. That enlivens your soul with the adventure of the road. Because even though you don’t…Mr. Steve Dubbeldam knows the way.
“So many of my formative memories were around discovering new places,” Mr. Dubbeldam begins his story. “That incredible feeling of waking up somewhere new every day and getting to explore.”
Explorative road trips have long been a part of Mr. Dubbeldam’s life. Every summer as a kid, Steve’s parents would pack him and his four siblings into the family’s diesel suburban and tent trailer and drive them out into the great outdoors for two to four weeks at a time. “That was really big for me growing up. And it’s led to everything that I’m doing now.”
Since the days of his early explorations, the Canadian-born adventurer has taken a number of detours. But he’s always kept in touch with the road. After relocating to LA with best friend Stephen Kenn (no surprise, via 2,400 mile road trip), the two launched a pair of denim brands and a bag company. And while these expeditions of commerce were formative, they weren’t quite in line with the center of Mr. Dubbeldam’s soul.
A few years in, as both projects were coming to a close (and as Kenn was launching his line of furniture), Dubbeldam was looking to flex some different muscles. Ones that aligned with his roots. And at the same time, Steve and his wife and were working on the debut issue of Darling Magazine.
“We were doing this really powerful work for women in the world,” says Steve. “And I wanted to have an answer for men.” Steve knew he didn’t want to launch a men’s publication out of the gate, nor was he interested in doing another men’s clothing company. But the idea of launching an experiential brand — one that centered around his love of outdoor adventure — was starting to percolate.
“I’ve always been the guy who says, ‘Hey, I bought a $500 sailboat on Craigslist. Let’s see if we can sail it to the Channel Islands.’ Or, ‘I got this shady, $600 dirt bike. Let’s go ride 1,800 miles in Mexico and see if it makes it!’”
A natural leader amongst his peers, Steve knew that these weekend getaways had a profound impact on him and his friends — personally and relationally and even professionally. But he also knew that his friends were terrible at putting trips together on their own.
“Every time we’d organize a trip, I’m the guy figuring out the scoop,” Steve says. “I’m the guy who’s like, ‘Hey, you got a sleeping bag?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that.’ Steve realized that there are not many guys who will say ‘no’ to riding motorcycles in the woods, yet everything would break down with planning: Who’s going to bring the food? Who has tents? Who knows the way? Where are we going to go? All of a sudden, the trip isn’t happening simply because of the small details.
Because those “small details” are, for many, significant barriers to entry. There’s preparation: deciding where to go, plotting the right course, buying and preparing food. There’s acquisition of gear: for trekking, cooking, and camping. And then there’s knowledge: troubleshooting on the road, tracking the journey, fixing a bike when it stops working, and knowing how to manage the changing conditions of weather and road. These details, when combined, are overwhelming for many. To the degree that the trip is never taken. The benefits known, but never experienced. Never gained.
So it was in that delta that Steve contemplated a business model. He contemplated how he might build something around the magic that happens on the road. Because he knew he was uniquely positioned and skilled to make that magic happen.
The result of that contemplation is Wilderness Collective.
In a nutshell, Wilderness Collective plans end-to-end logistical execution for epic, all-inclusive adventures. Having guided 25 trips in the past three years, Steve knows a thing or two about life on the road. From a dual sport motorcycle trek from Sequoia to Yosemite to a pack horse and fly fishing tour in the Eastern Sierras, these trips been plotted for the most scenic routes and the best campgrounds. And you’re doing so alongside a group of like-minded souls. Upon arriving, you’re greeted with a motorcycle (or pack horse, or boat), gear appropriate for the trip, a guided route, a professional photographer to capture the journey, and amazing food — all bookended with artisan coffee by morning and craft cocktails by night. You’re roughing it…but not too much. It’s the kind of adventure that includes the spoils the urban man is accustomed to, wrapped around an adventure that’s anything but customary. For most of Steve’s clients, an adventure like this is so foreign. And so formative.
“One of the biggest and most powerful take aways for people is they just can’t believe how great it is to be without their phones for four days. I’m serious. I should just start a business taking people’s phones away and not do any of this camping adventure crap,” Steve says with a laugh.
“But in all seriousness, it’s kind of crazy how much that’s a profound and consistent thing for guys,” says Steve. “It takes a couple days to unwind, and then all of a sudden, you realize, ‘Man, I haven’t been thinking about email. About work.’ You’re finally in a distraction-free state of mind, and that’s when you can start to think. That’s when you can start to be introspective. Introspection is something that’s really missing in our world today. That’s something that we all really have to fight for. So I work pretty hard to create an environment where that happens. It’s kind of my job to get people thinking inwardly.”
And you’ll cram all of this into the span of three to four days.
As we see it, that’s no concession. It’s a benefit. Most of us have jobs and families and responsibilities. Three to four days is short enough to be reasonable (and affordable), but long enough to provide a context and opportunity for growth.
When he’s not leading trips, Mr. Dubbledam is likely on the road planning them. The trips generally start with an idea (wondering if there’s a way you can get from Vegas to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, all off road, for example). Steve will scout the trip briefly online, but before long, he’ll grab a few buddies, an atlas, a GPS, and hit the trail.
“I don’t look on forums and research other people’s tracks,” says Steve. “I’ve got to go because I want to make sure that the route is amazing. That all the campsites are amazing. There are all these different boxes I want a dream trip to tick off, so that’s how I build them.”
Steve’s process, and his ethos, is channeled beautifully through the brand’s tagline: Wilderness makes you better. Because a true adventure in the wild makes you grow physically and relationally and mentally and emotionally. There are so many things that can happen to you if you say yes to them in the context of a real adventure. When risk and excitement and unknown is present, impact is around the corner.
“I think that, for men, adventure is a bit of a chink in the armor,” says Steve. “I think we can be pretty guarded. We can have walls up. But what I’ve found, after guiding more than 250 guys, keeping them alive in the woods, is that everybody’s dealing with the same stuff. Everybody wants to talk about the things that actually matter in their life, but nobody wants to bring it up. If you build an environment where that stuff comes up naturally, it’s pretty incredible to see how fast people connect and bond and go really deep and form super-meaningful relationships.”
We know this to be true. It’s those times of struggle and unknown that galvanize relationships. The conversations over cups of coffee and pints of beer often fade, but those on the banks of a river, on the precipice of a mountain view, or around a campfire are the ones that stay with us forever. Even if such conversations are, from the outset, with total strangers. Because on a trip like this, nobody stays strangers for long.
Think about it. Who’s the type of guy that’s going to even know about Wilderness Collective in the first place? It’s the kind of guy who wants to prioritize adventure, relationship, and time to process the world, but doesn’t get enough of it. The kind of guy who wants to ride motorcycles in the woods for four days but not get completely lost. Basically, it’s the kind of guy you want to hang out with. A guy like Steve. A guy like you.
Head to wildernesscollective.com to book your next adventure.
For those that don’t have the time or money to invest in a trip right now, we recommend checking out Wilderness magazine. A sort of “phase two” of the company, the quarterly publication distills the essence of the experience and conversations from the road, and packages it in a print medium, preserving it and making it accessible for the rest of us.