Written by Brent Harris, Edited by Heather Smith
All photography submitted by and credited to Brent Harris
Brent is a sculptor whose work can be seen throughout the United States. He’s a teacher, father, friend and partner who resides in his home state of Michigan.
You can follow his work and travels on Instagram @krampuscowboy.
Describe your travel experience. If all of your trips were a series of snapshots, what kind of a story would they tell?
Starting out, everything was close to home. I didn’t have much money and was from a small town, so travel never seemed like an option. Mostly I kept my trips around Michigan. My family enjoyed spending time in the UP, and we had a cottage up there when I was young.
I think my story would be of a young man finding himself growing up in a rural environment, then marrying and having kids and traveling across Michigan, experiencing camping and cabin life, biking, hiking and kayaking with the family. Eventually, trips out west, more serious camping, xc skiing, kayaking and mountain biking.
At what age did you start traveling?
I started traveling more in my late 20s with my wife at the time and our young children. It was mostly an appreciation of the outdoors — Michigan specifically. Partly because it’s less expensive than more extended travel but mostly because there’s so much to see in this state. It is so beautifully complex and the climate resonates with my spirit.
Do you have a preferred way to travel?
I love a good road trip. My current partner and I did a van life adventure to Yellowstone and back this year (2022). Some future plans may involve renting out both of our homes and living/traveling by vehicle. I like solo adventures, but I prefer to travel with friends or a partner. Some sites and experiences feel best shared with another who sees things in a similar light.
What kinds of experiences do you seek when you travel?
Outdoor adventures for sure. I appreciate larger cities like Chicago or New York. There’s a flow and a style to them that I appreciate, plus the cultural experiences. Most other cities I don’t necessarily feel comfortable in.
Relaxing trips aren’t especially interesting for me. My body needs to move to experience my world. I like to exercise and physically engage with the natural environment. International travel would be interesting, although it is not a huge draw for me. I wouldn’t mind visiting Alaska and northern Canada. Southern South America seems beautiful as well; I’d like to explore the climate/environmental landscape. The bureaucracy of airports, transportation, lodging, expenses, etc., makes international travel less navigable for me.
Most memorable trip?
Exploring the upper peninsula and all of its seasons is my favorite. I love the topography and history. Knowing volcanic foundations and seeing the way glaciers carved the terrain. It leads to a greater understanding of the world that I grew up in. I like that. Driving up through Copper Harbor at night and seeing the aurora borealis in its glory was absolutely amazing. When I arrived at Copper Harbor and asked the locals if they had seen it, they said they had never seen something so spectacular in their lifetime. That was magical.
This year’s road trip to Yellowstone was a foundational change for me. I had wanted to go to Glacier National Park several years ago but experienced financial difficulties and couldn’t make it. This was the closest thing I’ve experienced since and it met and surpassed my expectations. I want to experience more grandeur and mountains and wildlife.
Another experience that was incredibly memorable was a motorcycle trip with my buddy to Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming, and back. We did triple digits on the way there and back and the journey was hallucinatory and amazing.
What negatives have you experienced when traveling?
The negative of travel is usually related to race. Outdoor spaces and the whiteness that polices them are rarely kind to us. There’s always an awareness to always watch my six in these environments. It can be detracting but it is a safety issue. I’ve had to bypass trailheads, pack up and head out before things got ugly at parks. I avoid most small towns.
Are there challenges within the travel industry you would like to comment on?
Recognizing the specific needs of people of color, women, the queer community and other certain marginalized communities. I’m not sure how it relates to other travel types, but the outdoor adventure community is horribly white and financially inaccessible to many. I know there are programs that are seeking to change that and that is nice to see. It’s been a long time coming.
I would also like to see travel taking into consideration the climate crisis. Being realistic about our limitations and the impact on cultures that will be hit hardest. Tourism is a luxury and can also hit communities on the margins very hard. Especially with the climate crisis pushing on their boundaries.
Do you have a favorite place?
Isle Royal National Park (MI) was a magical place. I love that it was such an alien, isolated place. I appreciate that there are so few people; it was easier to engage with the world around me. I’d like to visit it again with my partner and kayak some of the inland lakes.
Why is travel important to you?
I find the world so beautiful and want to experience it in any way I can. I like being less committed to one place more and more. Home will always be my home base, but now I feel the need to reach out and experience more of what the environment has to offer. Like a calling of sorts.
What have you learned most about yourself? How has travel changed you?
It has made me more physically fit. I appreciate adventure traveling because I like the problem-solving aspects of it. What to bring, what’s necessary, what is unnecessary. There is a sense of independence where you rely on yourself and the people around you. I experience wonder. It’s really nice to sit back and appreciate a sunset or to force yourself to get up early to appreciate a sunrise or go through the work of climbing to the top of a mountain. There is work and a payoff.
- Go for it and figure it out as you get there.
- Don’t over-plan or bring too much. Keep your eyes open and your expectations modest.
- Look people in the eye and speak to them. Ask questions. Respect where you are. Be thoughtful.
- Know how to start a fire.
- A sturdy fixed-blade knife is your friend.
- Take lots of pictures.