11/20/17 8:01 PM

My Bucket List Idea | Drumming Before the Grand Tetons

Ariele and I finished our first road trip across America earlier this year. It was something we both dreamed of doing since we were kids. In 100 days we:

  • Traveled 11,700.
  • Visited 21 states.
  • Adventured eight National Parks.

I had another dream when I was a kid, too – to set up my drums and play them in the middle of nowhere. I'd daydream about it constantly.

Before we left on our trip, I condensed my drums so they could make the journey with us from the back of the truck. Not knowing where I’d set them up, I knew they’d get some love when the time was right.

And they did. By Grand Teton National Park.


Below is the story I’ve had brewing in my head for more than 15 years.



Everyone needs a creative outlet, a way to live in the moment, some sort of meditation that brings you joy. You’re not doing this to be cool or impress anyone. This is your purest self. The raw energy and passion you feel when doing it is unlike anything else and it keeps you coming back. Often it becomes an obsession, where you can’t get it out of your head. You have to do it to release or you feel like you might explode. For some it’s gardening. For some it’s cooking. For some it’s yoga. For me it’s drumming.

I’m a high energy person. My mind moves a mile a minute jumping from one thought or task to the next, and I often find myself working on multiple things at once. Thoughts and ideas come and go. and sometimes they’re so loud and invasive that it’s difficult to slow down and silence the noise. But drumming requires full body concentration and coordination; too fast or too slow and everything else around you falls apart.

Drumming understands me; it gets me; it helps center me. There’s rhythm in everyday things that can cut through the noise and compete for my attention. And I don’t ignore it. I’m constantly tapping my fingers and feet while sometimes murmuring a relevant tune. Most don’t understand my tendencies and disregard it as me being fidgety or restless, when really I’m just trying to work out a beat in my head. Sometimes the immersion is so powerful I find myself silencing everything around me and creating my own little world where I’m comfortable and my truest self – this idea of staying weird.

But drums and I have always had a complicated relationship. I bought my first drum kit when I was 14 years old. I mowed a lot of lawns and cleaned a lot of houses to raise the funds for that black 5-piece CB drum kit with a set of Paiste cymbals, which I quickly upgraded to Zildjian’s. I loved that kit. But I was rarely able to play it. My neighbors didn’t like loud rock music at three in the afternoon (which, why the hell are you at home at three in the afternoon complaining about noise?). I had about 30 minutes to play before a cop paid me a visit and shut me down. I didn’t see any use in resisting, but I didn’t let that stop me. I adapted. I learned to practice in my head, because I knew I would only have 30 minutes of physical playing time.

I upgraded the kit my senior year of high school, which followed me to college where they were put to good use. I met people with similar passions and we melded those passions, we would play music for hours and hours. We played so much that I developed blisters on my hands that would pop during the same session.

But, I moved around a lot. I slept on friends’ couches to save money on tuition, which took a toll on the kit. Parts went missing, things got broken, but we always found a way to make it work. At one point, I had motorcycle mirrors holding my cymbal stands together. But, during the last show I played with the band I was in, all the kit’s hardware bit the dust. It was this statement of everything that I put these drums through. But what remained and continued to follow me, as always, were my 1986 Batman comic drum shells and Zildjian A Custom cymbals.

We all live busy lives and lose sight of that thing that centers us, makes us who we are. We make excuses, it’s easy to make excuses as to why we don’t celebrate it enough: I’m too busy, I move too much, the people around me don’t like it, I have motorcycle mirrors holding my equipment together. But you have to find a way to keep that feeling alive, keeping yourself centered, together. The choice to do so lies in the palm of your hand.

All my life I dreamed of setting up my kit out in the middle of nowhere. No neighbors to complain, no authority to come shut me down, no distractions to compete for my attention. Just me, nature, and complete silence. It’s been about seven years since I had my kit assembled and played regularly. But, I’ve been practicing. I just didn’t have a physical set in front of me.

Don’t give up on the things that make you feel complete, that make you feel connected, that make you feel whole. Find a way to celebrate it in some way, shape, or form, because if you try to manifest something long enough, then eventually those thoughts will become reality.

Big thanks to Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters for inspiring this thought that became a reality.

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Topics: Digital Nomading

Written by

Justin Champion

Justin Champion

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