Do you know what you really want out of life? Not many people can say they do and it’s always inspiring to meet someone who has the courage to go after their real dreams. Chelsea Kimball is one of those people.
At first sight, she might look like any other ordinary mountain biker. But hang out with her for a few days and you’ll see she burns a different fire, which led her to ditch traditional living so she could move into a van and be free to enjoy the mountains, climbing, and ultimately find a new passion on her bike.
“I was living in LA and I realized I didn’t want to live there anymore,” she says. “I was sick of being around a lot of people that I didn’t know. Cars everywhere, people everywhere, I was sick of it. I decided the best way to travel was just to get a van. I got a VW bus, a 71 bus that I intended on restoring and traveling in that. Then I realized that restoring a bus takes a lot of money, even if you’re doing all of the work yourself, those parts are expensive.”
Since her restoration project didn’t go as planned, Chelsea sold the bus and got an Astro van. That’s when the adventure began. She moved in while she was still in Los Angeles working nights at Walmart. The new living arrangements allowed her to save money for her future projects.
“It was great living in LA in the van. I could save up money and drive up to the mountains to escape the city. There was no one in the mountains. I was searching up different traveling jobs and found out about WWOOFing and found a farm in the foothills on the west side of the Sierras, right near Yosemite. I talked to them and set it up so I could go live at that farm for a while. I figured I could go do a bunch of mountaineering in the Sierras, rock climb in Yosemite. That was the start of it really.”
So for the past six years now, Chelsea has wandered across the country living frugally and dedicating more time to the things she loves. She spent time in California, in and around the Sierra Mountains, in the U.S. Northeast, and the desert just to name a few places.
“I like going to a place and living there for at least six months or a year, just because I never feel like you can get the feel of a place if you’re only there for a couple of weeks or months. There is something nice about living in a place and having people recognize you, having you habitual places, you form some sort of relationships with people. Romantic relationships are hard because I always end up leaving. Friends are not as much a problem. It’s pretty easy for me to make friends. Every place that I’ve lived, I’ve made friends with or second and third and fourth families with. It’s pretty awesome because a lot of people have helped me so much.”
Although the lifestyle is not the easiest, Kimball says she wouldn’t trade it for anything. In fact, she has no desire to stop living this way in the near future even if she has other projects in mind. Her plan was to leave last summer on a never-ending bike tour starting in Alaska and going all the way to the southernmost tip of South America, then shipping her bike to Africa and continue her journey.
“My friend CJ moved to Big Bear and got a job at a bike shop. When I visited her, she told me ‘You’ve got to try this.’ That’s how it started but I didn’t get too into it right away because I was still reluctant to be a biker. I still wanted to rock climb a whole bunch. Only in this last year, it really grabbed a hold of me.”
Chelsea’s progression and desire to improve is fierce. Every day, she pushes herself to try harder lines and practices in hopes to add new tricks to her list. Watching her ride is inspiring and her smile is contagious for everyone.
“It’s so much fun. It’s more fun, to me at least than rock climbing. Because rock climbing is more stressful I guess. Even hucking a big cliff is scary but it’s over really fast. Not like last year when I tried to climb El Cap with my friend and we were on the wall for three days and it never got less stressful as we went up. It’s stressful and hard work. I don’t laugh when I’m rock climbing like when I’m mountain biking, hooting and hollering going down a trail.”
Her love for the sport and desire to improve on her skills pushed her to delay that never-ending bike trip. For now, she wants to bike down mountains. The steeper, the better. Add some jumps and you’ll make her day. She credits her confidence and desire to surpass herself to her younger years of playing softball. To make sure she’s always improving, she tags along with the more skilled and aggressive riders.
“I personally love riding with men because I think it helps me get so much better. I don’t think there is as big of a gender gap in cross country mountain bike as there is in freeride and downhill. There are a lot of women out there pushing themselves to get better but there is still a big difference. It drives me nuts just in the fact that I want to get there, I want to be there, I want to do it as good as they do. I like the fact that I don’t see many women doing it. If I could be the first to do some of these things, that would be awesome.”
Her riding is great, her motivation and drive are inspiring, and she lives her life according to her own principles.
Editor’s Note: The #SearchingForSero photo project shares the stories of people who are passionate about outdoor adventure as the key to happiness, well-being, and balance in their lives. Learn more at Searchingforsero.com