Show notes for podcast #106
Bound for Nowhere on the Quest for the Perfect Overland Vehicle, Exploring Alaska, and Realizing Childhood Dreams
In this podcast from Overland Expo West, senior editor Ashley Giordano speaks with Mak and Owen from Bound for Nowhere about balancing content creation with truly experiencing the places they visit, and why they chose a 2019 Toyota Tundra and Four Wheel Camper Hawk as their overland platform.
Mary Ashley Krogh (MAK) and Owen Chikazawa (just Owen) met in 2008 at Savannah College of Art and Design. They’ve been inseparable ever since both as a couple and collaborators. After pursuing careers as commercial artists, they set out to travel full-time. Having now been on the road for six and a half years, their literal and figurative horizons have broadened. Their film and photography work is inspired by their adventures traveling, wildlife, and a boundless curiosity for the world.
Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory. @desktoglory_ash
This episode sponsored in part by
To check out some of the Alaskan series click the YT video
Bound For Nowhere on all of the channels:
Ashley Giordano: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. My name is Ashley Giordano and I’m senior editor at Overland Journal and Expedition Portal and we’re here at Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona in our Black Series podcast trailer extraordinaire, and I’m here with two special guests today: MAK and Owen from Bound for Nowhere. Welcome, guys!
Mak: Thank you so much, Ashley. This is such a treat.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, thank you.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, any time!
Scott Brady: And special thanks to the New England Overland Rally for supporting this week’s podcast. The New England Overland Rally will bring together overlanders, adventure travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and specialty exhibitors from throughout the Northeast and further for a fun and informative weekend of camping, educational classes, vendor demos, live music and even culinary creations. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, located in the quiet northeast corner of Connecticut, is within an hour of several major cities including Boston, Hartford and Providence. The New England Overland Rally will be one of the largest gatherings of overland and outdoor enthusiasts in the Northeast and the fall is a wonderful time of year at the track, and they have more than 200 acres for camping, vendor displays, food and beverage areas, and parking. For more information and to register please visit neoverlandrally.com.
Ashley Giordano: You guys have done extensive vehicle travel through North America and Mexico, seems like you’ve learned a lot about vehicles and the creative process and probably each other and yourselves along the way. I’m wondering like, how did you guys get in to this?
Mak: I feel like our story kind of starts a lot longer ago than the version that I guess we are talking about now. Owen and I, post college, I think that it was two weeks after I graduated from college, we just kind of took our savings account and my Honda Element and a hand-me-down tent from my parents and we just kind of hit the road. It was greatly inspired by something that my parents did after college, when Owen and I started dating, it was an idea that he had always been really intrigued by and so he was just like, we should do that! I’m always game for anything like that. So we just decided- so we took our meager amount of savings, and we got on the road and we were able to travel for about six months with that money and our objective- it was only like six grand, so we really didn’t have very much to take with us. We ate a lot of canned chilies and things like that. We just wanted to go for as long and as far as we could. I am an army brat and had lived outside of the United States for most of my life and Owen was born and raised in the south east.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, so I hadn’t had a chance to see much of the country at all. It was a nice opportunity for us to shop for a new place to live. That was sort of the objective.
Ashley Giordano: Okay, yeah, looking for the place.
Mak: This was in 2008, so the economy was-
Owen Chikazawa: It was 2012.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, yeah, woah, big difference.
Mak: 2012, the economy wasn’t doing super well. We were fresh out of art school and people weren’t hiring artists to- and particularly not moving them across the country and so we kind of realized over the course of that six months that we actually fell in love with the movement more so than one particular place because I think that we’re also huge suckers for falling in love with everywhere, because everyone has something really special and unique and interesting to offer. We just really wanted the movement more so than anything else so that was kind of the inspiration for this 2.0 version that we’re doing now.
Owen Chikazawa: We spent a lot of time just getting ourselves prepared for this new version. That’s just like setting up our careers so that we could work freelance remotely and then bop around indefinitely.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. So when you finished up that trip, what happened after that? Did you start looking for a vehicle? Where are you trying to set up to work on the road? How did-
Mak: No, so that was- so we just ra- we actually ran out of money in Colorado and Owens family were in Atlanta, and we had just enough money to get back to Atlanta. And so we kind of raced back and it felt like maybe two weeks later, you had a desk job. You we’re working in a studio. Is that right?
Owen Chikazawa: Just to go back a little bit, we were in Denver, Colorado on that trip, and our friend was cat sitting the entire time. And he called us and said that the cats had fleas, and that his entire house now had fleas, and he was panicking.
Mak: He had no idea what to do about it.
Owen Chikazawa: At that point, we were so low on money we were just like, alright, screw it let’s just drive all the way back to Atlanta. We took care of the fleas, luckily, and then, yeah, I fell into a job pretty quickly just because I had been working before we left in Atlanta and so it was just kind of an easy segue back into normal life. You know, a few years later, we had boughten a house in Atlanta, we were kind of settling in, then all of a sudden we started panicking.
Mak: We were both working in a studio at that point, and we were both taking on additional freelance work, and we were moonlighting, just doing that at night, and I think it was like 11:30 at night one night, we were doing work on top of our studio work and we both looked at each other and we were like, what is going on? Like this is not how we envisioned our lives, you know, we love this house, but this is just not what we pictured for ourselves at all. And so that night we I actually kind of sat down and made a plan, we put a date on the calendar two and a half years in the future and we left on that day.
Ashley Giordano: Wow. On that day! Amazing!
Mak: We left on that day.
Ashley Giordano: That’s awesome.
Owen Chikazawa: April 19 2016.
Ashley Giordano: It sounds like you were pretty young, at that point.
Mak: Yeah, we were. The thing is, like, once you realize what you love, it kind of feels like- puts everything into perspective, you’re willing to do anything it takes to make that possible. And we realized that our jobs weren’t actively going to be something that was going to help us live on the road so we needed to put a date far enough out that would give us the opportunity to reformat our careers to be able to take with us. And so that was kind of the biggest thing that we needed to prepare and then the other thing was, obviously, we didn’t have a vehicle at the time and the Honda Element, unfortunately, it was not going to cut it for full time travel. So we just wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to make that transition and to do all of the prep work and that was the hardest two and a half years, probably, of my life. To know that you want something and to see it in the future and to just- I would sit in the driver’s seat of my car in my office, and I would hold on to the steering wheel and I would just be like, well, what if I just kept driving? What if I didn’t stop until I got to the Grand Canyon. And it was just- it took everything I had to go into that into that job but I think it instilled a sense of tenacity to fight for what we want.
Ashley Giordano: And patience, sure, oh, my gosh.
Mak: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Ashley Giordano: What steps did you take in order to prepare to transition to be able to work on the road during those years?
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah. So I think that I stayed in that job for just over two years, when we got back. When we made that plan, I actively started trying to take on more and more work at night so that I could eventually quit my day job. Then I could start freelancing. And I guess, essentially, we were trying to groom our clients from that point on, just like, we went ahead and told them what the plan was and I think that most of them were like, yeah, yeah, sure, whatever. They didn’t really think it was actually going to happen. Yeah, just we spent a few years just trying to build up that client base, warn them ahead of time that we were going to be remote and luckily, both of us kind of stumbled into jobs that were remote friendly well, before COVID. It was just kind of training these clients and letting them know that we were going to be gone, but also building up that business. In the meantime, to make sure that it’d be sustainable.
Mak: Yeah, it was- it’s kind of weird to have to fold your clients into what your personal life looks like. It’s like just so you guys know, we’re going to be moving into our car, we’re going to be traveling around but don’t worry, we’ll still be here for you, we’ll still get your work done. And I think that as silly and ridiculous as that was, it’s instilled a sense of community in us with our clients, because whenever we chat with them, they’re like, where are you? What have you been doing? What have you been seeing? And I think that because there’s more of a bond between us and our clients, our business has grown exponentially since we’ve gotten on the road because there’s a personal aspect to working with us. And I think that people enjoy that. And then they pass us on to other people who need the type of work that we do. So yeah, it’s been a really lovely process. And then we get to go visit them too, because most of them were not in Atlanta, which is where we left from, it’s kind of cool that we get to catch up with all these people that we work with throughout the year and then to be able to see them in their home turf.
Owen Chikazawa: I do motion graphics, and so we were doing a bunch of stuff for TV and small startups in Atlanta. There’s a big broadcast scene there, so we were doing TV show titles and credits, lower thirds, things like that. And so that just luckily segues into explainer videos, illustration is also involved in design in general, so I have like these three kinds of things that I like to do and live in.
Mak: Yeah, so I left behind- I was doing apparel branding, so I would design textile graphics that would end up on apparel. And that isn’t something that is really easy to take with you. So I was just transitioning more into like packaging, graphic design and illustration. That wasn’t ever really my passion, it was just something that I was doing so I could transition into full time freelance work, because pre-COVID worlds, you had to have something that was very specific to being freelance and luckily, you know, that there’s so many more options for people now. Since then, my work has transitioned greatly into just photography and filmmaking.
Ashley Giordano: Did that come out of your schooling? Or did you kind of pivot to something that was a little bit different?
Mak: So, my degree is not at all what I’m doing. So my degree is in printmaking, so I have a fine art degree and I am not currently or actively making fine art anymore, but I think that when you go- so we went to- we met in college, we went to art school together, we were on the swim team, which is where we met. I think that if you’re trained in art and design, you can take that eye with you to anything that you do, and I feel like that was actually a really empowering aspect of going to art school is just realizing what a collaborative environment looks like, and you don’t necessarily have to have all the skill sets to do something. As long as you can surround yourself by the right people you can make anything that you want to make which has greatly led me to photography and filmmaking.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, you had a good background in photography and I did study motion graphics, so… my schooling was in fact what I do now.
Ashley Giordano: So you guys were on this path to taking jobs on the road and making that transition; you also had the vehicle to decide on, so how did that process go?
Mak: We’re hopeless romantics, and so naturally a Volkswagen Vanagon again was going to be our first rig. I had always wanted one, and in fact, when we were on the road that first time we met a guy in the Badlands who had this adorable like rusty orange Volkswagen Vanagon and we hunkered down for a storm, and we hung out and had dinner and a couple beers with him and we were like, oh, this is it. Like, if we ever do this again, like, this is the rig. I will say, from a livable standpoint, there’s no better interior layout, in my opinion than a Volkswagen Vanagon with the full camper interior. So that’s what we started with, it was like, almost immediately. I believe that night that we put the date on the calendar, I was just like, Oh, look at all these Vanagons for sale, I guess this is just like what we’re gonna do! And that did end up being what we did. We paid for it, like we bought it and then we went to go pick it up, and it wouldn’t start, which was a huge sign for things to come. It was a huge red flag that we clearly ignored.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, a lot of foreshadowing there.
Ashley Giordano: I’m sure you’re not the only one. You got a good community of support, I’m sure.
Mak: It was fully stocked when we bought it and we did the best we could to make it as reliable as humanly possible before we got on the road, because we were fully aware of the fact that it was not reliable. For instance, Owen wouldn’t let me drive it to work until it started for 20 consecutive times with no issue, and I wasn’t able to drive it to work like three times. This is a great car to, like, shove your life into and travel the country with. But yeah, so we did a lot of work to it. We did a Subaru swap. We did a bunch of transmission work, bunch of rewiring. So we took about… I think we had it for over six months before we hit the road to do as much work to it as humanly possible.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I think we actually had it for over a year before.
Mak: Okay, yeah.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, because we ended up sending it out to Colorado to get all this work done and then flew out there and did like a test drive back. And I think that that-
Mak: It went well.
Owen Chikazawa: I think it went without a hitch so we were like, oh, yeah, this is great. It’s gonna work for sure.
Mak: We broke down within two weeks of being on the road full time. So… it didn’t last long.
Ashley Giordano: Was the vision that you had of living on the road what the reality was?
Mak: So I feel like that’s a that’s an interesting question, because it’s kind of a loaded question. I feel like because people always ask was it a huge transition to get on the road and the answer is no, for sure because we had wanted it so bad for so long that it just kind of felt like a sense of relief once we finally made it happen. I think that we were a little- it was a little jarring for our van to only make it to Vegas before it broke down for the first time. We actually broke down outside of the Hoover Dam. I think our fuel pump went into vapor lock because it was so hot. So yeah, it was a little jarring to get on the road. Oh, and we were also broken into in Miami in the first two weeks.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I think the honeymoon period like we really didn’t have one because immediately we went into like the sobering reality. We started in Orlando, we drove down to Miami and the Keys and then we stopped in Miami on the way back, a week into it. Someone broke our window and stole some food out of our fridge and a bunch of like diving gear.
Mak: And they bled all over our van. It was yeah, its pretty invasive and yeah, I think that pretty- yeah, sobering as you said, to get on the road and immediately have a break and like that, and we had a safe luckily, that had our camera and computer equipment because we probably would not be on the road today if that stuff was gone, because it would have been such a financial hit right away that we probably would have- it probably would have stopped us dead in our tracks.
Owen Chikazawa: It was just this weird little triangle window up in the front of the van and a storm was coming and we were driving all the way back to Orlando, so we put like a trash bag like out in that corner and just booked it as fast as we could to Orlando just to try and get into a garage or someplace dry before it just got totally soaked.
Ashley Giordano: It’s so hard when that happens, too. You feel violated, like-
Mak: It’s very violanting.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, your house has been broken into, similar obviously, and the weird vibe and feeling comfortable in it, and…
Mak: We definitely- there was no grace period for us to… so reality hit kind of hard but I think that as much as that stuff was a bummer we were also just so elated to be doing what we had worked so hard for so we kind of just… we just pressed on, we just took the punches and did our best to recover and kept moving.
Owen Chikazawa: And I think the interesting thing is too, that no matter the fact that we’re the same people and each of these vehicles we’ve done, it’s- each vehicle is also like had a very different experience and a very different lifestyle comes with it. So with our Vanagon, it was a lot of stress and anxiety about the mechanics of the vehicle itself and then we traveled a lot in our Tacoma and that was really just more focused on us and what we were doing, and then in this newest version with the four wheel camper, it’s sort of like this… it feels more like our regular life almost, back at home because we’re getting to do work and career stuff as well as traveling and all that stuff because- yeah, like the Tacoma didn’t really offer us a workspace, we were just like sleeping in a coffin in the back.
Ashley Giordano: Right? What have you learned from that progression of vehicles?
Mak: I think that the biggest takeaway is that even though these vehicles are very much a part of our team, they all have names, we care about them, and we love them. But the thing is, at the end of the day, if it’s not helping us towards our end goal, it’s nothing personal, like we just need to- We’re just so dedicated to doing everything that we do to the best of our ability and if a rig is not assisting in that process, we just have to move on, we just have to do better, because at the end of the day, this journey is about us, it’s not about a vehicle. So it was always just hyper focused on what was going to be best for us and our needs at the time and so the progression has just been tailoring and trying to figure out what that is.
Ashley Giordano: Can you take me through the vehicle builds?
Mak: Yeah, so it was 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon, and then we realized that we really wanted four by four, because a lot of the stuff that, you know, all of the recreational activities that we love to do are usually down really challenging roads. So we were like, Oh, we just are hopeless romantics for these old rigs, so we ended up with a 1985 Toyota Sunrader. Apparently, there was only like 21 of them ever made and we somehow ended up with one. Fully original, but we wanted to do a little bit of updating to be able to house our work and that took about nine months, and then we were in it for two weeks, I think is all we made it? And yeah, it was such a bummer, there was just- again, in two weeks after doing this nine month build, we were already having mechanical issues and we’re like, we just clearly have Stockholm syndrome, and are just ending up in these vehicles that are just so demanding of our time and our energy. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as people who have to rely on it to get into service to send files for work, we just- we couldn’t trust it, and so we just realized that we needed four by four, but we also needed trust. So we didn’t know what was next but we just knew that over the course of that nine months, we had kind of lost touch with why we were doing what we were doing and we just felt like we needed to refocus, recenter, and try to figure out why we were doing all of this. And so that’s when we ended up in our 2008 Toyota Tacoma with just a bed cap, like just your run of the mill bed cap and a basic build in the back.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, we were- we had just driven the Sunrader up to North Carolina so we had only made it a few states up, and that’s when we made this realization. In North Carolina, I hopped on Craigslist and we bought a Tacoma there and then drove them both back down to Florida, where we sold the Sunrader, a little bed platform with drawers and then left in like the course of a weekend.
Mak: Yeah, seriously, we turned around. It only took about three days to sell the Sunrader. But it was really, really lovely, we had so much interest on our Sunrader that I was able to choose who purchased it, we were able to make sure it was going to somebody who really understood what it was and that it was old and special and deserved to be cared for in the way that she deserved to be cared for. So we ensured that she went on to another family that was going to care for her as much as we had, but she obviously just couldn’t be a part of our life going forward. And then while we were in the Toyota Tacoma, we went up to Mainline Overland because we were heading up to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. So we stopped in Philly to chat with them and we knew that four wheel campers had been pretty high on our list and we just loved the floorplan of the flatbed and it felt like it was going to give us everything that we had built in the Sunrader, but then the reliability, trust and all of that good stuff that you get with a new vehicle. So we stopped in and had an incredible conversation with them and we put a deposit on our build the day that we took the ferry to Newfoundland, so-
Ashley Giordano: Wow, you move fast!
Mak: Yeah, I was gonna say, you know, like, when you know, you know, you know? Like, yeah, that’s just what it is. And I think that, again, the whole Sunrader situation just brought everything into hyperfocus and then we realized that we were unwilling to sit still, while the new build was happening, we wanted to continue to move until the day it was ready. So that’s what we did. We lived in the Tacoma for nine months and we went as far north as Labrador, winter set in in very early September up there and then we kind of raced our way back south, but it was an incredible time. And I will say though, that was- the Tacoma was the hardest one for us to sell, because it had just like, felt like it gave us our life back and I think that you really can’t put a price on that. If it like had been*, you know, just been struggling for so long.
Owen Chikazawa: It felt like it really let us fall back in love with being on the road and yeah, just focusing on the travel itself versus the vehicle.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, you guys were talking about how the vehicle basically helps you complete your why, and why you do what you do. What is the why? What’s the-
Mak: We’re just like- I can only- and I feel like you’re- you should have a separate answer for this, I feel like because you know-
Owen Chikazawa: Fine.
Mak: But no, but I- for me, I do this because I’m in search of inspiration for my work. I am a very creatively driven person. I feel like I’m willing to suffer for my art. I just- if I’m creatively fulfilled, like I feel like I’m living the life that I’m meant to be living and I am very inspired by nature, wildlife and the people that we meet along the way and I feel like those things just keep me extremely hungry to keep moving.
Ashley Giordano: So the vehicle is like a reliable platform for you to get out into nature, or-
Mak: It’s a facilitator.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. Which then fuels your creative process?
Mak: Yeah, 100%. It allows us to chase what inspires us.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, and I think that there’s, you know, like something to be said about constantly being, not necessarily in a state of uncomfort, but I feel like there’s this thing in society now, where everyone just is- gets comfortable, and then they just like kind of go through cruise control through the rest of their lives and I think that there’s something to be said about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so I think that that helps us be a little bit more lucid and aware of things and like, just take more notice of the things around us and I think that that’s also a really big thing that drives me, at least, to keep traveling, is we’re constantly learning about ourselves and about the world around us. We’re talking to people that we might never meet, getting influences from them, which, yeah, like, greatly helps us grow as people.
Mak: Yeah, I think that we have actually been sitting still for the last couple of months somewhat against our will and I think that- so we got on the road to come to Overland Expo for the first time, in the last couple of months and Owen and I on the drive over here, we took like a week to do it. We just kept saying it felt like a part of our brain goes to sleep when we live in a home-like environment and it feels like we are waking back up getting on the road. Like we’re just so much more attentive, we see details in the landscape, and you know, in all sorts of things that we don’t otherwise see. So it just like this part of ourselves that goes dormant when we’re in a comfort- like a truly comfortable environment. And I think that we just like the people that we are when we’re more just like aware and attuned to like what’s going on around us and being on the road and this constant state of change, I think really keeps you sharp in that way.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, I think too, spending that much time outside and really noticing sunrise, sunset, you know, whenever I’m inside, I am not necessarily aware of what’s going on outside, and so feeling the temperature and all that really makes you feel more connected.
Mak: For sure, yeah, this is actually a recent realization I’ve had while we were in Alaska, this summer. I think that we all know that we like came from nature, like, you know, like, we know that. But I think that when you spend so much time in it, I’m starting to like feel this sense of being home, like when I’m in the outdoors, more so than I am anywhere else. And I think it’s just this connection to this, this place that we all have come from but often feel very separated from. I always joke that when I’m inside I- and I see it’s sunset outside, like I have like this weird sense of FOMO from like, not knowing what’s- like, I don’t know what the moon phase is like, I’m kind of like, bummed about that. And I’m not like into- what is it astrology? Like I’m not even into astrology, but I just like to be in tune with what’s going on in the natural world around me.
Ashley Giordano: So you guys went up to Alaska last summer?
Mak: Yeah, this past summer.
Ashley Giordano: Tell me more about that trip.
Owen Chikazawa: We started in Bellingham, Washington. At the time, the Canadian border was closed because of COVID and we took the ferry up to Juneau, which was in itself one of the highlights of the trip, was just that two and a half day ferry up there. We hung out in Juneau for a while and then we ferried up to Haines and then drove all the way up to Fairbanks and then just journeyed all around the main sections of Alaska, we did our best to get out there into some pretty wild places too. Yeah, it was just a really interesting and, I don’t know, really refreshing experience for us, because with COVID and borders being closed, we kind of fell into this sort of like familiar loop for a few years. And it was just nice to kind of break that cycle, see something new again, and like really have that feeling of like a renewed sense of excitement.
Mak: Yeah, Alaska, I feel like, to a certain extent is on everybody’s bucket list. But Owen and I, there- we have these places that we both as kids, I think, would flip through old National Geographic magazines and just like really ogle. I think that the first one of those is actually the Racetrack and Death Valley. And to like, see that and grow up and you’re like, man this just feels like it’s on another planet and then to finally make it to that place as an adult and to like realize that you’ve made a bunch of decisions that have led you to this thing that was so inspirational to you as a kid. It is a really magical experience getting to Alaska and to see the fishing bears in Katmai which is a very, very famous waterfall where the bear- and while we were there we saw 40 bears at any given time fishing this one waterfall and to be able to know that you have the power to turn like childhood daydreams into a reality for yourself as an adult is like really a magical feeling.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I feel like that’s… I’m like more proud of those accomplishments than like anything career wise. Just being able to like, make my childhood self-
Mak: Really proud.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, exactly.
Ashley Giordano: That’s so cool!
Mak: Yeah, yeah, it’s really awesome. Like, for instance, in Alaska, I was able to surf the bore tide wave, which is this really unique wave that happens twice a day during a tidal shift. It’s just a single wave, so if you miss it, like, you’re out for 12 hours, like you’ll have to come back and try again. I ended up getting in the water with that wave six times and I only successfully stood up on the wave, I think two or three of those times, but that was a wave that I learned about when I was 11 and I had wanted to surf it when I was 11 and it’s so funny because I do feel like your goals change as you become an adult, but to like know that my interests have still kind of like kept this quiet burning flame inside of me. And again, these like crazy, unrelated decisions that led me to the ability to get to that point to ride the wave after I did for the first time successfully ride that wave I got out of the water and just start crying because it’s just like, it’s such an emotional experience to be able to, like make your own dreams come true!
Ashley Giordano: Completely overwhelming.
Mak: Yeah, it’s great. And I will chase that feeling to the end of the earth.
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Ashley Giordano: What other things did you guys learn from that trip about yourselves? By the way, this is the third podcast at Overland Expo where somebody’s been, like, tearing up.
Mak: Well, that’s a good sign, I’m glad, because I feel like I’m always the one who ends up crying and it’s just like that crazy girl who’s super emotional about like the stuff that she gets to see, which, you know, it’s just a sign of how thankful I am for it. But we went to Alaska, as cheesy as it sounds, with like really heavy hearts. We had had three pretty major family losses over the course of a very small amount of time and so I think that the both of us were kind of dealing with like a huge weight of grief that was kind of showing up in weird and unexpected ways in Alaska, and just having so much space, because it really was just the two of us this summer, kind of really allowed us to push through it and realize what’s important to us and what we want out of our travels, out of our professional lives, out of our personal lives. It just like gave us the space to process it in a way that I don’t know that we would have if we were in, one a familiar place with a bunch of people, like we would have never been able to sort through that. I’m definitely a meditate in motion kind of person and it definitely gave us the ability to sort through it all.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I think being in a sort of far flung destination where there’s not a network of people we’re familiar with, or supportive of us so that we are completely self reliant, for the most part and we were mostly alone, I can only think of one single night the entire time that we were camping with someone else, for the three and a half months. And I think that yeah, just having that time to ourselves to really process things, just talk about it, and… it was kind of therapeutic in a way, process the grief.
Ashley Giordano: And you guys were sharing that story while you were on the road by filming.
Mak: Yeah, so we filmed what ended up being a 15 part series about it, the series is called Lost and Found. I wonder what the title means. We showed up in Alaska feeling really, really lost and I think that there was a lot of guilt that came along with that because we were stressed from work, we were sad, and it just felt like maybe we weren’t being as attentive to this thing that we had been looking forward to for so long. But I think that over the course of the time, and then the additional time spent editing that series, it really gave us the opportunity to like turn all of those experiences over in our hands and examine them and realize like how far we really have come mentally and emotionally from like when we first got there, just somewhere out there and the vastness of it all we definitely found ourselves.
Ashley Giordano: Was it hard to turn the camera on sometimes, when you were going-
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Mak: Yeah, it is. And but the thing is, I found that all of the moments that are hardest to pick up the camera for are the ones that I’m the happiest to have in the future, because those are the moments that are really transformative, those are the ones who- that like really informed the person that you’re going to be going forward. It’s really special to be able to have that to look back on. We always joke that we make these videos- they’re just like glorified home videos for ourselves, like they’re not for anybody but ourselves and I’m really thankful to have these experiences to look back on.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, it’s it’s interesting too, because we kind of do things a little bit differently, where we film everything for the whole three and a half months and then we go take a look at it and decide, and I think having that hindsight really helps us see like how we started versus how we ended and kind of create this arc and figure out interesting points that we want to hit. Moments that really like were special to us.
Mak: Yeah, I think that, you know, everybody has a different process for how they create video work, but I kept a journal for the entire summer, which also, I feel like was a very smart idea for like remembering some of the minute details, but I think also to help me like remember some of the harder days that I feel like I have a hard time remembering if I was just going to think back on it myself. But then when we came to start to like, rough out the 15 episodes, like Owen mentioned, we’re writing a story, but like none of it is like manufactured. It is what happened, as it happened, but it’s just so cool to see the whole thing laid out like that and then to break it into individual episodes and the story arc that happens within those episodes, and how that kind of stacks up against the overall story. And it’s kind of weird to look at your own life that way, but I think I do find it to be very, very cathartic and I think that half of the personal development that has happened has been because of the editing of that series, as hard and challenging as it was to make 15 episodes, just the two of us.
Ashley Giordano: That’s a big undertaking.
Mak: It is, it won’t happen again, we must hire an editor.
Ashley Giordano: How did you guys balance experiencing versus capturing?
Mak: That’s a great question. And it makes me happy- we’ve had a lot of people ask us here at Overland Expo about that process and it makes me very happy that they’re thinking about that, because I think that we live in a very binge worthy society where everybody just like wants, but they’re not thinking about what’s happening behind. But that is very contrary to like what people have been asking, so it makes me really happy that people think about that. For us, we’re very communicative of how we’re feeling and how we’re doing and we’ll film some stuff and then maybe there’ll be like four or five days where we don’t film anything, because we just like need to have some time to ourselves. Because if we’re not having a good time, nobody who watches this series is going to have a good time. So we just needed to make sure that we were staying in communication with one another and checked in to make sure that everybody was doing okay throughout the process, because it’s exhausting. It’s a lot of work. But also that’s just how we- I think that’s how we experienced places, like I would have my face pressed up against a camera regardless if I was ever going to make something out of it in the end, cause that’s just how we kind of process and enjoy and make art around the things that we get to see and enjoy.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I think that pretty much sums it up.
Ashley Giordano: What’s your advice about creating, like a narrative storytelling piece with those arcs? If people want to put together their own, I guess, writing piece or a video, what are some things you’ve learned along the way in terms of storytelling?
Mak: Yeah, so I will say that we actually watch a lot of really incredible film breakdowns- and I have no interest in writing a screenplay or ever filming a screenplay of any kind but I think that just like learning, like what a successful story looks like from a mechanical standpoint is really important to being able to like work backwards and create one out of your own story. Because like I said, we’re not fabricating anything, everything is just kind of how it happens, but the funny thing is, like, you have all of the pieces to write an incredible story out of your own, because you have all of the information at your fingertips but just to like know what that looks like. Lessons From a Screenplay is our favorite YouTube channel that kind of breaks down story arcs, all sorts of different like character development ideas, and things like that, and so you just have to, like take that technical information and point it back at yourself to be able to write a good story. But I think that having an overall outline for like the story that you’re trying to tell, the highs, the lows, like all of the things that contribute to the development of the characters, which are ourselves, but I just think it’s like really important to like, write it all out, right? And I call it a skeleton of our series, I tried to like write the skeleton out, and then I fill it in with the footage that we actually have.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, and I think our particular style doesn’t do a lot of talking heads stuff, so it’s mainly… it’s almost like you roll montages and then like, at the end of the day, Mak can kind of go back and see how she was feeling because she writes in her journal, to kind of like get those feelings and then she can write and eloquently describe those things and just like how we’re feeling and you get to do some research and talk about the education of the area and history and things like that, that get us jazzed up. I mean, I don’t know if everyone else is but…
Mak: Yeah, seeing the whole experience through is really helpful, like because then you see the story, like start to end. It’s always going to be helpful, but much like Owen said, like looking at it as a whole and then- so the vast majority of our storytelling is done through voiceover, again, it’s just such a nice way to take it all, process it, write something eloquent because I know what I would say in the moment would just sound completely dumb by comparison to what I could write after the fact. So that’s why we tend to shy- we do shoot talking heads, and sometimes we’ll use snippets of them because that’s like how you can work your personality into it, but I think that from the overall story, I am telling the story after the fact.
Ashley Giordano: You guys are really passionate about, I would say, like, tread lightly principles and leave no trace and leaving it better than you found it and conservation. Why is that so important?
Mak: I was raised by a woman who, like, everywhere she went, she was like I leave a place better than I found it. Even if that was just like a rental car, my mom was like this will shine brighter than when we got it. And I think that she just like really instilled this idea that we have to, like, take care of the places that we go to and I’m very thankful for that because it is very informative of the person that I’ve become. We spend 99% of our time on public lands, our way of paying it forward- we don’t pay to be there. It’s like, I guess, our right or whatever, as Americans, like we all have access to these beautiful spaces, I want to make sure when I come back that it’s going to be there, that it’s going to be taken care of, that it’s in the same condition that I left it in. I also want other people to feel the same way about it. And the thing is, like, it’s all about connecting with the places that we go to and if you care about it, you’re going to connect with it. The more people that connect with these wild places, the more people that will care about them, the more people that will stand up for them, more people that will vote for them, the more people that will ensure that these places are there in the future for us, our grandkids, everybody in the future, because we all deserve to know these places.
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, I think it’s kind of a big conversation. I think that one of the biggest things too is if you like going out and seeing these places, you just take care of it because if they become trashed, they’re gonna get closed, and everyone loses. And you see it happen time and time again and the more places that close means more people are crowding up the other spots, so I just- yeah, I think it’s really important to have that education out there for everyone just to help, it’s for the greater good, I think and I think that it’s important for us to highlight that kind of stuff so that- even if it feels like common sense to us, you know, maybe it’s not for someone else and you know, you don’t want to come across as * or anything like that when you’re like saying these things. And I think just to do it in the most organic manner, just showing how we do it and maybe that can rub off and a domino effect can happen.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, studies- I believe, I read one study, but it shows that if you leave your campsite clean, the next person’s more likely to.
Mak: I think it’s called the broken window effect. Like if a house has a broken window, there’s more likely to be more degradation done to the house because they’re like, oh, clearly, nobody cares about this so I can do some damage to it, too. So I think that we always, you know, we really have so little space, but I carry contractor trash bags, I use our winch gloves for picking up trash, and I have like one of those cool little trash grabber things, I feel very official when I’m out there with it. But we tried to take absolutely everything humanly possible that we can out, it’s not uncommon for us to end up with our entire backseat full of trash bags, or our entire camper full of trash bags, and I’m filling my house with other people’s trash and I’m willing to do it because I care about these places and I want to ensure that they’re around for everybody.
Ashley Giordano: One conversation that was brought up at a panel here yesterday was the tendency to throw trash into the fire pit. So yeah, that’s another thing to be aware o and thank you for doing that.
Mak: Yeah, I mean, I- the other thing is like, I can’t enjoy a place until- like, I can’t sit back and enjoy the sunset until I’ve like cleaned the area. Like if there’s trash, like I will not be able to sit there and enjoy myself so it’s also kind of selfish. I’m just like, I can’t sit here until this is done like we must- put your gloves on we got we got work to do.
Ashley Giordano: Awesome. Yeah. Before we wrap up. There’s one question that I’m going to steal it from Scott Brady today, but he always asks everybody in each podcast what’s your favorite book and why? I know it’s so hard.
Owen Chikazawa: I think that my favorite book that I’ve read- the one that jumps out immediately when you say that is the Emerald mile, which is-
Ashley Giordano: Yes!
Owen Chikazawa: Have you read it?
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. So good.
Owen Chikazawa: And yeah, I thought that was just a really great story, intertwining a specific narrative, along with the history of an area and yeah, just fantastic story.
Ashley Giordano: So for those who haven’t read the Emerald mile, it’s about oh my gosh, it’s about so many things, but-
Mak: It’s about so many things!
Ashley Giordano: History of the Grand Canyon and the incident where the dam broke?
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, that’s the part of that history, yeah, they were like nailing pieces of plywood on top of the Dam.
Mak: Hoover Dam, just to be clear.
Owen Chikazawa: I don’t think it was- I don’t think it was the Hoover Dam. It was… it was the-
Ashley Giordano: Glen Canyon?
Mak: Oh Glen Canyon Dam, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: And then this wild man gets in a boat and rides the wave.
Mak: Yeah, they were trying to set a speed record paddling through the Grand Canyon. But it just is like this incredible, like intertwined history of the Grand Canyon, the first people to like lay- the first like Westerners to lay eyes on it, the native people who used to live there, it’s just like so much good information about so many good things.
Ashley Giordano: Like an incredible feat of journalism, like how long do you think that took to put together, you know?
Mak: So funny when they would bounce between storylines, I was just like, I’m exhausted for the man who wrote this, this is insane! I think that one of my favorite books is The Endurance, it’s about the Shackleton expedition that went to Antarctica. Their ship ended up getting crushed by the ice and they survived out there for a well over a year and they ended up making it home, it was just the most incredible survival story. Shackleton was just the most incredible leader. Kept his team together, well, you know, he kept morale as good as you can in a situation like that. But the leadership that it took to get them out and the tenacity that those people had is just absolutely incredible, we love a good adventure story.
Ashley Giordano: Speaking of adventure stories, what is next for you guys?
Mak: What is next? We have a lot of things on the horizon for us and we’re really excited. We do have a new series that we are going to be working on this summer, we’re going to be checking off the last of our North American bucket list items. A lot of-
Owen Chikazawa: Well, the United States.
Mak: Oh, yeah, sorry, the United States specifically. But we’re going to be heading up into the northern Midwest to hit a bunch of like, seldom visited national parks, a lot of- we’re gonna have some floatplanes, possibly some ferries, some canoes, all sorts of really cool different modes of transportation to get to these hard to access places. Lots of multiple 100 mile hikes. We got we got a lot going on.
Ashley Giordano: Exciting!
Mak: Yeah, I’m really excited because it feels like that area of the country, like when people set out to travel, they always go west and you have to like make a point to be in that particular area of the northern Midwest, and it’s eluded us for far too long and we are going to put an end to that this summer. Yeah, but other than that, I think that we’re starting to look ahead to international travels, because it feels like the world is opening up a little bit so we can finally make that happen. We’ve only been waiting for like two and a half years.
Ashley Giordano: Same.
Mak: I hear you, girl.
Owen Chikazawa: We’re gonna follow you guys.
Mak: Yeah, we’re just gonna- yeah, wherever you’re going, we’re going.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, I’m excited to follow along with your next adventures. And if anybody wants to find you guys, or follow your adventure, or watch all your great content on YouTube, or watch your adventures in Alaska via Lost and Found where can they find you?
Mak: Yeah, so we’re Bound for Nowhere in all of the places on the internet. So that’s on Instagram, YouTube, our websites Bound for Nowhere. I think if you just type in Bound for nowhere, we should come up somewhere along the way I think.
Ashley Giordano: Well, thank you guys so much for spending this time with me.
Mak: Thank you so much, Ashley.
Ashley Giordano: It’s been so great chatting with you and learning a little bit more about your past and yeah, thank you so much for sharing.
Mak: Happy to share, a lot of people helped us get to where we are so we see sharing is just kind of a way of paying it forward to help other people get out there.
Ashley Giordano: Sharing is caring.
Mak: That is- yes, it is!
Ashley Giordano: Cool, well, thank you guys, and thank you to the Overland Journal Podcast listeners for tuning in to another episode and we will see you next time!
Mak: Thank you!
Owen Chikazawa: Yeah, thanks!
Ashley Giordano: Bye!