What does it mean to be free to roam? Answers to this loaded question can be purely physical, deeply emotional, or anything in between. Reactions can be immediate, or they might require a moment of ponderance. During our recent trip to the Kenai Peninsula, on a drive from Anchorage to Seward, we asked four friends what “free to roam” meant to them. Read on for their answers.
Bronté Smith is a backcountry skier and Outdoor Studies student from Anchorage, AK @bronteloveMichael Coston is a PCT alumni (trail name “Monster”) and photographer out of Denver, CO @_stonnieLani Gailey is a graduate student studying Marriage and Family Therapy and climber from Salt Lake City, UT @lani.jpegSteven Frederick is a climber and graphic designer in Salt Lake City, UT @steven.a.l.frederick
From left to right: Bronté, Steven, Lani, and Michael
What does “free to roam” mean to you? And when you embody that sentiment, what does that look like?
Bronté: With the caveat of being responsible, you can push yourself as much as you want, but you gotta be able to do it the next day, too. It's a luxury that a lot of people don't have, so it’s also about taking the time to be grateful about my ability to do it. A big thing with Alaska specifically is acknowledging whose land this was before. Anchorage is Dena'ina land, which is super important to keep in mind.
Bronté taking in the views on the sled ride out to Matanuska Glacier
Michael: It is just being open to opportunities. Not only seeking and wishing, but also keeping an open mind and making time to go on adventures and to do something different. There's always going to be another meeting, or another busy thing to do at home. You really have to make time to do what you want. When I'm “free to roam,” that's when I feel truly alive. I love the feeling of not feeling like I need to look at social media. All I want to do is be in this moment and feel the stoke running through me.
Lani: Being “free to roam” is lifting the constraints that I have placed on myself. I started being really hard on myself any time I wouldn't perform the way I wanted to. But giving myself grace, removing the expectations I have for myself lets me really enjoy my time. I feel relaxed, because pulling back on the expectations I have for myself lets me actually have a good time. When I’m “free to roam” I’m able to pursue whatever gives me joy.
Steven: Life is made for adventures and not for work. Yes, work gives you the ability to go on the adventures, but if you have an opportunity and you can make it work, you should go on an adventure and have fun. That’s what “free to roam” means to me. It’s also about regularly living my life and feeling free to be who I am. When I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anybody and I just get to try to understand who I am as a person, that makes me happy.
How are you rewarded when you’re free to step outside your comfort zone?
Bronté: If you don't push yourself, you'll stay stagnant. If I'm not trying something new or if I don't have a new objective, that’s scary to me and I get antsy.
Michael: The more you step out of your comfort zone, the more that enhances your life. It might be uncomfortable at first, but then, I’m like, "I'm so glad I did that."
Michael cruising along the shoreline in Seward
Lani: Stepping out of my comfort zone is a paradoxical experience for me, because my comfort zone is actually pushing myself and having high expectations of performance. When I strip those [expectations] away and lean into the experience, I have a better time and perform better. The less I try and the less I stress, the more fun I have.
Steven: My friends have really helped me step outside of my comfort zone and I’m really thankful for that. I'm bisexual, and one of my friends is gay and nonconforming with the way he dresses, and sometimes we literally just go get dresses or skirts and put them on and go out on the town. Starting to feel comfortable being myself and not feeling like I have to care about what people think about me, it’s really powerful.
Steven enjoying an evening full of laughs on the beach in Thumb Cove
As we get older we often lose the sense of freedom we have as kids. What do you think 10-year-old you would think of grown-up you today?
Bronté: 10-year-old me would think I'm crazy. Everything I've done. I don't know what I'll end up being in 20 years, but 10-year-old me would be like, "You've done a lot that I didn't even know was in the realm of possibilities."
Michael: A couple years ago, I found a journal entry from when I was about 10, about my adult life and what I wanted–I was riding in a red convertible, probably a Corvette, on my way to the Super Bowl with a million dollars. 10-year-old Michael would be pretty disappointed that that is not my life—but would get over it though. I would be stoked that I'm married and doing cool stuff in Alaska.
Lani: When I think of my little 10-year-old self, I think she would be just stoked. I've lived my life always feeling like I'm on the cusp of something, like I'm waiting for the next step. But now I'm achieving what I want to achieve and it's no longer like I'm on the cusp of greatness—I'm standing within it.
Lani exploring the beach at Miller's Landing
Steven: I don't think that they would like me, because I don't think that I would like them … I was a completely different person with a lot of taught personality, and I wasn't really living my own truth. I think Steven would be embarrassed by me now and be like, "Oh my gosh, what are you doing? You can't do that." But they would be happy, because they would know deep down in their heart they would like to do the things I'm doing.
What does “Free to Roam” look like to you? Let us know on Instagram.
Caroline Maahs is a writer based in Salt Lake City, UT and one of the crew members on the 2022 Alaska Shoot. Follow along on IG @carolinemaahs