Unless you’ve somehow managed to fly under the radar of Instagram’s notorious algorithms, you’re familiar with the multitudes of "#wanderlust"-inducing feeds out there. Though marketing travel via hyper-saturated grids appears to be the direct descendant of yesteryear's glossy travel posters, we'd argue otherwise. The ability to filter and curate to the nth degree diminishes the possibility of "here goes nothing" travel, once implicit in booking a trip based upon a single poster or radio ad. Nowadays we sprint to our sojourns even before we've purchased a ticket, booking dinner reservations, guided tours, even beach chairs down to the hour.
Fortunately, there are dissenters to this digital-age narrative. Johnie Gall – a writer, photographer, producer and adventurer whose work examines the relationship between humans and the environment – is one of these people. Better known by her web handle, Dirtbag Darling, Johnie and her husband Marlin have dedicated themselves to exploring the far-flung reaches of the Great Outdoors. Johnie and Marlin are fond of documenting their adventures, and have provided us with plenty of inspiration to leave those best-laid plans behind and just go.
How’d you end up in New Zealand? What were you hoping to explore?
When you arrive in a new place, what’s the first thing you do?
Well, we're really terrible planners, so the first thing we do is figure out where we're going to stay. We call it strategic procrastination: sometimes not having a plan opens up the door for really random and incredible opportunities. Other times, it just kind of sucks. During past trips here we've gone the camper-van route, but since we've been living in a van for weeks back at home, we needed a break from that. And a shower. So the first thing we did was rent a car, find a place to rent, and then ask around at a local coffee shop for what we should go to that day.
My approach to travel is that if you're lucky enough to travel, you're lucky enough, so just enjoy the experience and don't worry so much about ticking experiences off a checklist. We also try our best to learn something while we're traveling. This trip we've been doing a lot of research around plastic pollution. We've been trying to meet up with as many NGOs, artists, researchers and small brands working on the frontlines of plastic pollution as we can just to learn and to try to share what we've learned.
How do you balance travel and work?
I work full time, so balance usually means carving out time to actually do that, even when I'm in a really beautiful place. It's so hard! While I'm traveling I struggle with taking care of myself, for sure. I downloaded the Headspace app, so I've been working on meditating for ten minutes a day.
What’s your ideal adventure?
What are your favorite places to explore?
I was in total bliss pretty much everywhere we went because it's lambing season, meaning there are lambs and calfs everywhere. Everywhere. I couldn't handle how cute it was, I'd just sit in the passenger seat and try not to scream Just being surrounded by some of the most incredible mountains, glaciers, and turquoise lakes in the world was insane enough. Actually, one of my favorite experiences was when we discovered Cinema Paradiso, this tiny movie house in Wanaka. Inside each theater there are old couches and random chairs, and even old-fashioned car fronts refitted with cushy seats. During intermission you can order fresh-baked cookies and they serve wine. We went there two days in a row.