Interview: Brendan Leonard Outdoor Writer

Brendan Leonard is a professional dirtbag. When he’s not managing his blog Semirad, he’s out pursuing his everyman dream of climbing as many days as there is sunshine. He recently teamed up with production company Duct Tape Then Beer for an inspiring and motivating video that has been sweeping the outdoor community. The video, titled 35 is about sucking the nectar out of every possible second of life, and though Leonard’s friend Derek Craig is the climber in the video, his words set the stage for a man pursuing and reaching his goals

Derek Schroeder: Tell me a little about your line of work. Your video highlights the dirtbag lifestyle we would all like to live. How did you find yourself doing it professionally?
Brendan Leonard: So, my line of work is writing and editing, and I work remotely — I don’t have an office anywhere, and I live out of a van most of the time (when I’m not on friends’ couches or guest bedrooms). I’ve done all kinds of work, at least partly outdoor-industry since 2004. At the beginning of 2011, I got a copywriting gig for a big tech company and started doing that from home, and six months after I started, my relationship ended, so I moved out of my apartment, got rid of most of my stuff, and hit the road. I have been working from coffee shops all over the West and the U.S. since August 2011, and have been writing 100 percent outdoor/adventure stuff since August 2012. I now have a collection of gigs, including being a Contributing Editor at Adventure Journal, Contributing Editor at Climbing Magazine, my own blog at Semi-Rad.com, and writing features and other stories for Backpacker, Elevation Outdoors, The Dirtbag Diaries, and other publications, and together, all those pay my bills okay. So I live on the road, but it’s not quite “living the dream.” I am working 40-50 hours a week, and lots of weekend days, so it’s maybe halfway living the dream, or 1/3 living the dream, I guess.

DS: Did your parents ever tell you to cut your hair and get a real job?
BL: Funny, I actually have long hair, which my mother constantly wants me to cut. But they understand that I’m working my ass off, just not in an office anywhere. I’m stoked to be doing my own thing, even if it means health insurance is more expensive.
DS: Your script for the video was incredibly inspiring. Why do you think people ultimately lose sight of the beauty in life’s little pleasures?
BL: Thanks! Man, I don’t know, I think we get caught up in a lot of things we see in advertisements and other media, and me saying that is probably nothing new. I think it does everyone a lot of good to step back and think about things more than we do: Do I really want to buy this TV/car/big house, or do I just think I should? Is my phone really more interesting than this person sitting across the table from me at the coffee shop? Am I living to work, thinking too much about all the deadlines and e-mails I owe people, even when I’m not “at work” (guilty of that too often myself).

DS: What advice would you give people who want to shed all their worldly possessions and climb every day?
BL: I’ve never done that, and neither has the guy in the video, but I could see people thinking he might have. Hell, I’d say have fun with it. It will eventually lead you to whatever you’re supposed to be doing, which if you are 9,999 people out of 10,000, is probably not climbing every day.
DS: Where do you see yourself in the next 35 years?
BL: Still finding and telling stories, I hope.

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