This week we're featuring Mizu Ambassador Todd Glaser's expedition through Central California with his partner in crime, Jenna. Their getaway included as many reusable products as possible to eliminate single use on their journey.
"Somewhere between the 5, 405, 41 and the 1, I turned to Todd and asked, “do you ever notice people’s obsession with doing ‘epic trips’ halts simpler travel?” We both got quiet, and with the hum of the road whistling through open windows, we looked out over Central California’s rolling green hills and agreed we’d never seen it look so beautiful. Why it took us so long to get here, we weren’t sure, but we were super excited to have finally embarked on a mission we’d been dreaming about for a while—a van trip! With a rig full of boards, bikes, fins and cameras, we embraced our blank agenda and the freedom that came with it. Here’s how it went!" - Jenna
Tell us a little bit about who you are and why you chose to do a Mizu Mission
I’ve always loved road trips since I was young, so when Jenna asked if we could get a van and go on a mini mission, I was all in! The feeling of finding something new while still sort of close to home has always been appealing to me, whether it’s surfing in the dark at a new place or just discovering somewhere new in our own backyard. My work as a photographer has taken me to some amazing places, but now more than ever, I really appreciate all the places I was lucky enough to see in a pre-covid world. Knowing the world might be a little strange for a while, this trip will hopefully be the catalyst for more local explorations. Small trips can be just as fun and memorable as big ones. Secretly I was also hoping to find some steep hills to climb on the bikes, and we definitely found a few!
Todd traveled the world shooting some of the best surfers on the planet, but this last year has taught us that home is wherever we plant our feet together. With California under tight Covid restrictions, our itch to get outside for some adventure was pretty strong. We’d been talking about taking a van trip forever, and finally pulled the trigger for the mission—renting one from our friend who did the most insane build out for a completely sustainable trip on the road. A few days in the van made me realize why people are so into it! You’re in your own little capsule and wherever you post up is your new home. There is so much flexibility, and if the weather is bad, you can just go back inside and make a coffee until it gets good haha.
Where did your mission take you and what did you do?
I’ve been into riding bikes for the last few years and have conned Todd into riding with me too, and it’s become a really fun way for us to enjoy new places together. We rode some epic backroads during this trip and hiked a new peak in the middle of San Luis Obispo county, which ended up being pretty hilarious, because we got hailed on super hard as we neared the summit. It was one of those magical weather moments, where you’re getting soaked and hammered by rain and hail, and then all of a sudden, you’re standing under clear skies with frigid wind blowing everything out. There’s actually a funny photo Todd shot of me struggling to get my hood on while we were on top of the peak. It was for sure one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever been on, and from nearly 3,000 ft. up we could see Morro Rock and tons of other formations up the coast. For a few days, we basically floated between campgrounds, a friend’s house in Pismo Beach, and spent the night on Gibraltar road overlooking Santa Barbara. Honestly, we didn’t do anything crazy, and that’s why it was so perfect. It didn’t feel forced or like we had to do anything in particular, just enjoy the outdoors and each other.
I had a photoshoot up in Central California and during the time when I was traveling so much I would go to the location, shoot and leave as quick as possible to spend as much time at home before the next shoot. Now with the world a little more closed, our urge to explore and adventure is still as present as ever, but we’re finding that feeling much closer to home and together!
What are some highlights you’d like to share with our readers?
Being able to experience familiar places in an unfamiliar way with fresh eyes is what I love the most about road trips. Is it the location that draws us to the road or the journey? I’ve always loved those quiet moments at the top of a big hill, the views from the top of a mountain hiked or the familiarity of waking up next to the ocean. Having spent so much time on the road with other people, getting to share these experiences with Jenna and the funny little inside jokes along the way made this trip extra special.
I personally loved cooking in the van. Focusing on what we had, rather than what we didn’t, made cooking really fun for me. The sheer simplicity of being limited meant getting creative, or thinking ahead, to make meals come out on time. It’s so easy to get caught up in excess, and thinking you need more things, but we were able to eat super good meals that fueled all of our adventures and reduced our need to eat any meals out—which really cut down on our total waste.
What inspires you to get outdoors and explore?
I love the feeling of going somewhere new, whether it’s finding a new wave, exploring a new road, or trying a new type of cuisine (pre-covid!). We as humans crave adventure and I feel it’s important to not only put yourself in uncomfortable situations by challenging yourself physically, but the mental clarity and lessons learned when you are totally immersed in nature shape us far more than wondering what if. I’m not saying you have to rent a van to have that feeling, but for us, it was a new way to explore the state we’ve both lived in for so long and to see it with a fresh perspective. Home is where we parked.
The more I see, especially in California, the more I realize I haven’t seen anything. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been to Europe but never been to Yosemite. I’ve been to Japan, but never seen Joshua Tree. I came from a family of surfers and if there wasn’t waves, we didn’t go there…and now I realize there’s so much left to see here, I need to get on it! The pace of the outdoors relaxes me, so I’d say the feeling of nature is what inspires me to be outside. Grand adventures are great, but sometimes even just a few moments in the sun is enough to feel recharged for me.
How do you manage to adventure while also taking care of the planet along the way?
We both agreed staying in the van was an eye-opener when it came to trash, as every single piece of waste you produce sits right in front of you until you find a place to dispose of it. We’re so conditioned to throwing things away and thinking that “away” solves the problem, but tossing trash out is just another way of saying it’s out of your sight. I always pick up trash I see whether I’m on my way in from the beach or on a trail. It doesn’t matter if it’s mine or not, I just know it doesn’t belong out in nature.
For the trip, we cooked 100% of our meals during 6 days on the road and kept our utensils handy reducing our need for plastic. While we both agree that there’s nothing better than a strong coffee mid bike ride, paper cups with plastic lids are a huge turn off, so we opted to use our bialetti over our propane burner once we got back to the van.
What was your favorite Mizu product/s used through the mission and why?
For me, the camping cup came in clutch for mixing up pancake batter and drinking coffee (not at the same time, eww) making it the most versatile and useful piece of the trip for me. You really learn to value items on the road because you have less things in general, so this cup was awesome for coffee early, wine at night, and pancakes in between!
The Tumbler was my go-to product, it keeps my coffee hot all day and without coffee, we perish :)..We’ve been using the same set of cutlery utensils for over a year now and we don’t leave home without them, so those would have to be the most essential pieces for me on the road.
Any tips and tricks for keeping a low footprint while hitting the road?
For long drives, we always bring the Mizu v8 to avoid buying any bottled water while on the road, and if we can travel more locally on foot or bike instead of driving, we’ll do that too. Having a bike reduces your need to drive big time, which is awesome when you’re staying in smaller places.
Another one is to always defend nature and pick up the trash around you. The night we slept up on Gibraltar, we woke up to puffy clouds and an amazing sunrise, and unfortunately, the sight of discarded white claw cans and beer bottles hiding in the bushes below. It’s such a bummer when you see people trash nature, so we’re always trying to leave a place better than we found it.
Picking up trash is a big one for me, especially when I see it near the ocean. I’ve also really gotten into the habit of bringing my own Mizu utensils with me wherever I go, either in my car or in my camera bag, so I always have the option to use them. I never realized how much plastic cutlery I was using on the road until I started bringing my own. I like to keep empty canvas bags with me as well so we don’t have to use plastic ones, and we try to do our food shopping locally where we can purchase loose fruits and vegetables without additional packaging. No one is perfect, but we do our best!