Words by Laura Hughes
The following thoughts were inspired by a recent trip to Aspen with Teva, Sanuk, and Hoka One One. Thank you for continuing to innovate from your roots for all of us who love to experience the outdoors by foot.
Living on the road, I’m on creative overdrive by design. I wake up to sunlight catching trees and buildings I’ve never seen before, and my sleeping spot is under a different set of constellations nearly every night. The in-between hours are full of navigating through back roads and city grids, carrying both feelings of home and adventure. In these new spaces, I find myself on a type of sensory overload my brain’s acquired a taste for – constantly inundated with stories to capture in words and images. And even though it’s only been a handful of months living this way, it’s easy to forget what my previous life chapter looked like.
Until hitting the road I had an apartment in the heart of a major city, lived the bustling 9-to-5 life that requires a structure I feel to be unnatural for me and spent most of my time indoors due to the weather and my own existential exhaustion. Over time these factors began to compound. I said ‘no’ more often, became increasingly risk-averse, and was in such a stagnant brainspace I could only recall dreams of familiar places and situations: the office I worked in, my dimly-lit apartment, rainy rides on the bus. I felt my creative ambition and desire to say ‘yes’ to new experiences become external, then foreign, then start to slip away altogether.
It was at this time one year ago I wrote myself a letter, dripping with honesty and laced with regret, pleading for that crucial piece of me to resurface:
Your fears sit uncomfortably in unanswered questions. What if, in your prolonged, sterile emotional state, you’ve lost the creative part of yourself? What if you chased her away? Do you think she’ll be gone forever, or will she perhaps return someday? Would she cry out in pain, seeing who you are now? Would she find her new home desolate, and if so what would it take to make it her own again?
At the time I looked at this letter as merely a cathartic practice, but in reality, I was feeling barren of creative energy– sapped, tired, and afraid there wasn’t anything else inside of me that had a will to create something new. And while I could see the potential of full-time road travel in my distant future (which I naively leaned on heavily as a solution to my quandary), it wasn’t enough to give me hope I would be able to salvage my creative drive before it was too late. If there is such a thing as losing your talents for good, I was walking into some risky territory already. So with courage and humility, I began to explore – because the only thing I had less of a tolerance for at the time than stepping outside my comfort zone was doing nothing and losing a part of me I cherished so dearly.
What wasn’t apparent at the time was that I was embarking on a quest for internal innovation – striving to take the best and most meaningful parts of me from out of the depths, dust her off, and make her new again. But the key in that effort is starting with what you have. The product of innovation is only as strong as the roots from which it originates. So instead of trying to become someone or something else, I re-embraced who I was to begin with. When I was at my best, creatively. When I was at my weirdest and, yes, my most awkward. But also when I felt confident with every fiber of person I am that what I create has value.
And I did more than simply accept her – I celebrated her.
I daydreamt about who she was, retracing her steps through favorite songs on repeat and special outdoor places with inviting walking paths and summit vistas. I traveled because my best ideas have often come from new places so my creative self obviously cannot sit still for long. I gave myself permission to keep an erratic schedule, giving energy to projects I loved even if it was well past dark at times. I said ‘yes’ to new experiences and made connections with other women who wanted to do the same. And perhaps the most challenging of all: I didn’t pass judgment on my own ideas or compare them to the product of others. I didn’t cut or stifle my roots. I grew from them by surrounding myself with an abundance of love, creative thought, and nature.
Over time, all this root-loving added up. I began to feel at home in my own ideas again and regained the confidence to share them with anyone who was interested. I re-learned that we cannot resonate with everyone and that mere fact shouldn’t hold up the act of putting ourselves out there. I finally summoned the courage to view my creative energy as a life force and not a distraction from life itself. In embracing my roots, I now feel more whole, knowing I pay a daily tribute to a part of myself I neglected for years. Even in the face of my most ill-conceived ideas, I know I’m on the right path for me, acting on the values I’m root-deep grounded in. The creative woman inside me smiles, and you know what? I do too.
Your roots are not the mundane, routine part of you. They are the lifeblood of you. It’s only when we let ourselves stagnate that they hold us back from innovation. So keep yourself moving, and if you’re ever feeling lost, look to where you came from. Your roots are worth building upon.
Photos courtesy of Shane Eubank.