23 Feet: Banff Film Festival Review

On Friday night, Sean and I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Sun Valley. Given the impression I’ve gotten from Sundance Film Festival (crazy, weird, artistic movies that I might not understand), I was a bit skeptical as we grabbed seats in the theater.

Then, an amazing thing happened: From the moment the screening began, I could relate to every film, simply because all the films are centered around travel + action sports + mountains.

That’s our life. Those are our people.

The last time I felt like this was my first day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I remember being at a party, and thinking to myself about how awesome all my new friends were… I thought, “These are my people.” Same concept applied in these films.

One movie that really inspired me was 23 Feet. The premise behind the film is simple. Their website explains, “23 Feet is film about a community of people who make the conscious choice to live simply to do what they love in the great outdoors. Three women set out across the west in their 23 foot, 1970 Airstream to search for the stories of people who have turned their backs on the creature comforts of society to live in school buses, vans, and other small spaces.” I’ll paste the trailer at the bottom of this post.

Photo Credit: http://www.23feet.org/

For obvious reasons, I relate to the idea of living out of a motor home for an extended period of time. (WE’RE DOING THAT IN JUNE.) Secondly, I was intrigued by the concept of living simply.

The film interviews various folks across the US who have made a conscious decision to live simply. Whether they currently live in a bus-converted-to-a-home behind their workplace, on the bank of a river in Moab, or in the tall forests of California spending their days climbing and slack-lining, these people—what some would call the quintessential hippie—are truly living what they believe is a simple life. They align themselves with nature; they don’t use more than they need; and they are happy living a life in the outdoors that doesn’t include the daily grind. They are following their passions, doing the things that they love most, every day of their lives. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that sounds like the path Sean and I are on.

That got me thinking about recent messages I’ve received from readers about our Alaska trip, wondering how we do all the crazy things we do (and how we afford it). The truth is? Anyone can do it. There is just a level of assumed “risk” to be taken. You have to give up those creature comforts that you may be used to… namely steady income and disposable income. And the thing about “living simply” is that its all relative. While I may be living simply in Utah as a tutor, someone else may be working that daily grind in NYC, but still living an incredibly full and simple life. In other words, you don’t have to have a van-down-by-the-river mentality to live simple.

To be clear about how Sean and I live, here a few steps we took to get here.

First things first: Get a job in education. Being a high school coach/tutor is a way to free up some of your time, especially at a boarding school where the holidays are long (summers off), free food is at your disposal, and the need for tutors is abundant. Plus as a tutor, all that hard work as the Waupaca High School Salutatorian is FINALLY paying off. (Ha!) That’s how we get all the spare time we have… we’re not just twiddling our thumbs out here in Utah; I swear we actually do have good jobs that make money for our family. After all, someone has to pay for Daisy and Dexter’s expensive, hoity-toity allergy-free dog food…

Secondly, contract yourself out for what you do best. When I’m not tutoring (or running Riding On Insulin…or writing this blog), I’m writing for various publications, bringing in an additional income as a freelancer.

Third, to live a more simple life takes stamina of the money-spending variety. If you look at a credit card statement from my lifestyle in Madison, and one now, I guarantee the percentage spent on haircuts, clothing, shoes, jewelry, internet, cable TV, booze, and eating out went from massive to next-to-nothing. While Sean is careful to point out that I still have a closet bulging with clothes in this “simple life,” I can’t remember the last time I bought new outfit… all those clothes moved with me from Madison to Utah—WAHBAM!

This film really gave me an appreciation for the life Sean and I live. We spend most days outside, being active, planning trips to the places we’ve always dreamed of. I realize it’s not practical for every family—heck, I’m pretty certain a lot of people wouldn’t want to live life the way we do. But you know what? It’s all relative… if you get to see this film, I hope it inspires you to live more simply in a way that’s meaningful for you.

For more on 23 Feet or to purchase the DVD for $20, visit their website, here. I’ll paste the trailer here to give you a little bit more insight into the movie, itself.

4 Comments. Leave new

sweet… perhaps someday! The possibilities are endless, thanks for these thoughts. I envy the ones that actually do it…I want to do it, then I don’t Ahh, life choices! <3


Love you, Laura… I think of you often, and I miss coming to see you! XOXO


Love the Banff Film Festival! I get to help bring it to Madison every year. I did see clips from 23 feet and it looked good. Check out the book “Voluntary Simplicity” by Duane Elgin for more thoughts on this concept of living. Good stuff! Hope all is well with you!


Thanks Brandt… good to hear from you 🙂 I’ll check out the book for sure. Good reading in prep for our summer adventure! I’ve been trying to get Sean out in a canoe one of these days. In any case, I’m determined to get him up to CMW, just to see it. Proof that the midwest can be more beautiful than just corn fields and flatlands. Hope all is well with you, too!


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