The Far Green Country, a documentary film about RV living in the national parks, marriage, and parenting. Eli Pyke shares his story of he and his family living in an RV for a year as they reset their lives. Watch the official trailer here.
- Stepping out into the unknown is where I experience the most transformation
- The story of the film is about defining life’s priorities, breaking through status quo, how to be adventurous
- The bigger story of hope
- Even a year living in an RV doesn’t magically fix everything in life
Where did you get the name for the film?
“PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.
GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”
Aaron: Friends. Welcome to Work Life Play. I'm your host, Aaron McHugh. I'm here to help you find work you love, learn to play, live adventurously, become curious and live your life with joy and purpose. Ready, set. Go.
Aaron: Eli pike. Welcome to the Work Life Play podcast.
Eli: Thanks Aaron. It's good to be here.
Aaron: We have the benefit of being on video, seeing each other. And I see that you are in, looks like the master bedroom of an RV. Is that where, where you're broadcasting live from?
Eli: Well this is our main living room here. I'm sitting at our kitchen dining table and that would be a bunk bed in the background or kitchen dinette over here to the left. It is a very nice kind of quiet and private place most of the time.
Aaron: Nice. So where and where in the country are you right now in the US?
Eli: Yeah our families here in Buenavista, Colorado, that's what the locals call it. BV. And we just did a private showing of our film here at the Trailhead, which is a gear store in town or friends are a part of. And we, we've been traveling, we basically traveled from Oregon over through Yellowstone and Tetons out to Lander, Wyoming where my wife did some work and now we're doing a small little Colorado tour before we head back to Oregon.
Aaron: So fun. So let's get straight to it then. "The Far Green Country" is the name of your film that you're out doing these private showings. Let's start with the story about the film itself and the backdrop for it and then we'll start into some questions.
Eli: Okay. Well, let's see. Yeah, so the far green country is a story of about a one year period where my wife and I lived full time and a motorhome. And that came at a time when we needed, desperately needed a shift, something to change. And you know, our marriage was struggling. We were having, you know, we were just kind of stuck at home. The reasons why we made the trip are, are apparent in the film.
I won't go into that too much here, but we decided we needed to just get away and sort of getting back to the adventure that we had shared when we were first dating and, and a young married couple. So we did, we bought a motor home and just moved out of our house, rented it out and hit the road full time and we really didn't know where it was going to go and how long it would take.
Eli: We weren't trying to make a movie out of it, you know, we were in a place where we just needed some help and needed some break. So the film kind of Chronicles what that looked like for us. And we put it together, just started editing it last year. So it was a couple of years after our year on the road that we actually turned it into a story. Just kind of piecing together different pieces of footage that I was capturing. Cause I love, you know, my passion is in cinematography, so I was just kind of pursuing that passion while on the road. And then pieces of my kind of video journal that I have done.
And then we did some, you know, we scripted it and my wife recorded the video in our home studio. And we did an interview in the backyard halfway through the process when we realized we needed more story. And we were able to bring on some really great music recording artists for a few of our songs, which has been a big expense but also really adds to the film. It's not just stock music. So right on. That's awesome. That's a little piece of it.
Aaron: So Eli, you skipped over the piece of beginning. You said there are reasons that we took the trip that you didn't want to visit, but I'd love for you to go back and visit. I think that's what makes it really compelling. So as we tell a story of, Oh, Hey, we lived in our RV for a year. I would say that's uncommon, but there are lots of those stories. But I think what makes yours very compelling and interesting is that there was some, you were kind of bumping your head a little bit in life and things were not flowing and you were running into some dead ends.
This reboot experience conference that my wife and I had done a couple of times. You and I talked about, we have a lot of folks who come to that where some part of their life isn't working and so they, they were not here to advertise. Everybody should buy an RV and go live in it for a year. However, and that may be on the list of options for consideration. So tell us what you were running into that stopped working or became challenging in your life that then the solution became, let's go live in an RV.
Eli: To quote myself in one of my interviews in the film, we're at a place where we never, I never thought we'd ever been before. And my wife and I have both are both in a place of being ready to walk out like we're done with this. And I never thought I'd get to that point in marriage. I didn't, when I got married, I didn't realize that was going to be part of my reality. That's where we were. We were just hitting our heads against a wall.
My wife had a very traumatic childbirth with our first son that brought a lot of trauma into her life. And she explores that in the film. And I don't want to speak too much for her, but that was playing into it. Our son had some health issues something called CVS or cyclic vomiting syndrome, and he would sort of spontaneously start vomiting in almost any situation be spurred on by bright light activity, loud noises, heat different foods.
Eli: And it would happen in the middle of the night. It would happen while we're driving. And that was a real sort of another addition of trauma into an already very difficult season of life for anyone. You know, being married and having young children and having to adjust to that. I think on top of that, my wife and I as we mentioned in the trailer, the film, we were adventurers, explorers, you know, I was a semi-pro kayaker in my younger years doing, you know, big expeditions on, you know, classified plus rivers.
Kelly was a wilderness backpacking guide and she was doing overseas. She did like a year-long overseas mission trip where she was in different countries in Africa. And it just to lay the groundwork. And then, you know, after we got married, you know, we'd do 10-day backpacking trips in New Zealand. We did ministry work together in Africa with our church.
Eli: And so we were very active. And then having our first child, it was, you know, I was now with the sole provider which, owning my own business was a bit of a stretch. Or at least with stressful, which puts stress on the family because I was, you know, you know, I was pretty rigid about, I have to go to work now, you know, and I have to leave, go into the office. I can't be bothered. And my wife felt left alone with the, with our son. And it was a very sort of a season of life where we really started to split off and, and in some ways be very disconnected from each other even though we were in this really great season of life. Now with our firstborn son, we just kinda started losing track of, with each other.
Eli: And you know, there were ways that I coped with that, that weren't healthy. And then there were ways that she coped that weren't healthy as well. And we found ourselves in a place where we'd need to change and we needed something to happen and we didn't know how to make it happen necessarily. One other effect or lean into it is I did a fair amount of travel for my work. And so not only would I go into the office all day, but I would also be leaving for 5 to 10 days at a time and she'd have to make it work. And my wife is very extroverted.
She's very much a people person. And, you know, being stuck at home with a small baby and he's vomiting, you know, spontaneously and she's staying up late at night, cleaning up vomit and I'm off in India doing a documentary. It just wasn't for everybody. So so we started looking at how can we, how can we do life how can we do work and bring the family along. So how can I get from Oregon, Colorado, up to Seattle, down to LA, back to Colorado for work and not have to just be flying? So the motor home was that, I think that's where we started to talk about a motor home, you know, and that's the only way we can actually bring the family.
Aaron: So let me just loop the, our friends listening in. So I think where we can resonate with your story a lot is the thing that you dreamed about getting married, having a family, the original vision of it, and then the actual practical application of it they looked for, it looks very different. Right? So it wasn't, and that feeling of really, is this it? Is this what I was and how did we get here? And you've mentioned even relationally too.
I think it's very common for people in a relationship, people in a marriage to say, man, this isn't going that great. We are splintering off, dividing off and yet we're still connected, married, but we're not like connected. And that I think where people can relate a lot is to find ourselves in a place in a season in life where things are not what we intended.
Aaron: And so I think what's really cool about this story and why I wanted to share it with listeners is I want them to hear, this is another example of everybody runs into these same kinds of things. And how we choose to respond is what changes the course of how the future goes. So, in this case, you already had this career of cinematography and film. You guys were adventures at heart and the idea of, hold on, timeout.
What if we just hit pause, jump in an RV and let's just kind of see what unravels or what happens. Maybe the way Leith and I talked a lot about our story is if we keep doing what we do, we're doing, we know how this is going to end and it's not gonna end well. So we better do something very disruptive to our normal to get to a place where we can get back connected and start to chart a new course because the course we're on is not one that's going to be very life-giving and probably will end potentially.
Aaron: I don't know if it was going to end in our divorce, but it was at least going to end in some continuation of what separation looked like and maybe that was mailboxes so we were going to be separated by, or maybe that was just you know, two people living in the same house but actually not living in unity together. And that was not a story we wanted to be part of, which is what fueled our reboot, which is ironically where we left here, sold our home all our belongings and moved to Wayne Vista down the street from where you are right now.
Eli: Yeah. We're in the same town that you moved up to sort of reboot your life. Yeah, I'd love to. I'd love to hear just briefly, just what, what did that look like for you when you came up and volunteered at a young life camp and, and called, you know, started rebooting in that way?
Aaron: Yeah. Well I had been in, in my corporate career I was kind of at the crescendo of promotions and responsibility and, and with that came a lot of stress and also concurrent to that stress in the workplace. I also was gone a lot, so I was traveling a ton. Then at home, our son was in a drug rehab center and our daughter had, Hadley had already passed away. So my wife was, she was actually recovering.
She was starting to do a lot better. And then my youngest daughter, she was pretty young and she was doing well personally. I just became less and less available and the cumulative stress, the cure of trauma, the cumulative everything and the way I was choosing to live in it and deal with it just reached a point of crisis. Where what had happened was I had gone on a trip to London for work and right beforehand my wife said, I don't even know how it came out, but she said, it's easier when you're gone then when you're home.
Aaron: And it was really if we didn't even argue about it, it was just a reality and it was hurtful to hear. But I also, I don't even remember, I don't even know that. I think we just, we weren't really speaking very much. So when I left to go to Europe, I had a, a business meeting there that went South and it was kind of the final straw for me of what am I doing here? You know, I'm doing this in the name of my family, but I'm losing my family simultaneously doing this thing that is supposedly for them and for us.
So that was where I just came back and subsequently had some experiences there that really reframed a challenge on a soulful, spiritual level. I just knew it was like, man, God, this is not, this is not what I had in mind. This is not what I wanted to do with my life.
Aaron: And I'll chunk this whole career path if it means that I'm about to lose my family and lose the very life that I care most about. I can find another career. I don't want to find another family. So that was the honest truth. Yeah. And so I came back and within a matter about two or three weeks called Brett that you just mentioned there and went to Vista and I just said, Hey, we've been friends a long time.
We're really banged up. We're in really bad shape and we love the work of young life. And we had both individually and then as a couple spent time working for him, volunteering for young life. And so he said, Hey, what if we, what if we got outta and came over and help you guys? And we'll just kind of lick our wounds and be available, chip in help.
Aaron: And at the same time just have a place where our biggest thing was we wanted to be part of a joy engine that was happening around us because we viewed that our joy was just really hard to access. And so we thought, man, if we're around a young life camp or there are 500 campers every week and it's all about joy, I bet we'll have a fighting chance of finding some joy again if it's not dependent on us. So that was our launching point. And then subsequently we ended up liquidating all of our belongings beforehand before we ended up there on the doorstep of a frontier ranch. Yeah. So that's the story.
Eli: That's, I mean, that's a big step. It's a huge step. And I love to hear your thoughts on, you know, and I have my own too, but just your thoughts on what does it take for someone to recognize the need for change and take drastic steps to make those changes when the status quo is to just keep plugging away and make it work. I think, you know, just the fact that you sold all your belongings. You, I went up and volunteered somewhere, you stepped away from a successful corporate position and like what you said, you know, I'd rather change careers and change my family.
I mean, I think it's such a deep statement, but yeah. What does it take for someone to take that step? I mean, is it a personality trait that someone's willing to do that or is it the people they surround themselves with or, I just think that there are so many people who find themselves in a place where things are breaking and there's, there's a person who will step out into the unknown and try something different and there's the person who will hang tight to everything they know until it all crumbles.
Aaron: Well tell, tell us, because you're out touring your film. And so I'm guessing these conversations are happening a lot after you're showing the film, right? Cause people in these private showings, which we'll talk about more, I'm sure they're coming up to you and saying, Oh my gosh, I want to do what you've done. Or Oh my gosh, I'm terrified to do what you've done. I don't know that I can. So I'd love to hear from you and then I'll weigh in on it as well.
Eli: Yeah, it is true. After, after we share our film, there are a lot of people who say you know, how do, how do I do this in the midst of X, Y, and Z, you know, these commitments I have. And then there's also the people who say, Oh man, I can totally relate to this because you know, I was at this point in my life and did this and that and it really helped, or whatever. There has to be a willingness to embrace change. And I know that my personality is one, and, and I share this in the film too. My personality is one that I'd like to just on find a routine that works, find a job that works, find you know, a daily schedule that works and sort of just stick to it. And that's, that's kind of a security for me.
Eli: But to step out into the unknown is where I actually experienced the most change and it's necessary to grow as a, as a human and not necessarily to go on a big road trip but just to be open and willing to do something that's completely outside of my comfort zone puts me in situations where I can grow. You know, I think that I want to be a much more whole person when I'm 80 than when I'm 36 and I look back at how I was when I was 20 and I almost chuckle like I can't believe I was that way.
And so I don't ever want to stop growing. I don't want to stop learning. I don't want to stop challenging my own perceptions of reality and how I fit into that reality. I think that there's that willingness there that if a person has that willingness to say, I'm not, I'm not the epitome of who I will be, I'm willing to try something new, whether that's counseling or a job change or a new faith journey or whatever.
Eli: I think that in an RV or you're in an RV, I mean, it'll change you. When I was in this place before moving into the RV, our marriage was struggling, but my business is going really well. I was getting a lot of affirmation from a successful project and I would say I was a pretty decent parent. When, when my wound, my wife and I would talk, it was like, everything's going well except our marriage. Right?
But there's something wrong with that. When, when whenever, when we're, when other things are, are doing better, you know when the yard looks better than our marriage. And, and so I think just being able to recognize what are, what are the biggest priorities in life. As you said, it was you who wanted a new career over a new family.
Eli: When I got to the sober place of realizing my marriage is struggling, whether that's my fault or her fault who, whoever's fault, I need to do something about this, that became the priority over my career. And I think for us, man, it's like, you know, careers just such a big one. It's a place of identity, an affirmation of power, of feeling like a man. That whole like providing things. Like, I'm doing this for my family to provide. I'm doing this for you guys. I'm doing this for you guys. I'm going off on these trips and having a great time. And clients are buying me dinner and, you know, just a, you know, I feel like it's a PR, I don't share about this in the film, but I feel like it's appropriate now just to share. But part of my journey at that time before the RV was that I was working around a lot of female models for my job.
Eli: I, I was, I was doing Christian work like I was, I was making book films for a leading Amish fiction author. And I was directing female models and I was being sent the female cue sheets of their photos. And it was, it was a very unhealthy place for me because, especially when my marriage was struggling and you know, we were dealing with trauma and stress of parenting. Some of those places that I went to as a youth with the last in pornography, it was like this open door to coping in a, in a very unhealthy way. And so while I was finding success in my work as a cinematographer, it was also exposing me to a sort of very, very dangerous place to be while trying to be faithful to my wife
Aaron: Yeah. In harm's way. Yeah. That makes sense.
Eli: Much in harms away. And I did have a time where I kind of like shared some of my struggles with her and it just blew us out of the water. It was one of the other things that we didn't share in the film because it felt even just a little too personal that I share here now as friends because that was also a very key part of it. And it's also a very key struggle among every man. And I think that was part of my career change too.
So I stopped doing a number of jobs that were bringing me a lot of sort of affirmation in that way. You in harm’s way that kept you in harm’s way. And I cleared that away and you know, it was all scary for me because I built a business on doing those types of films. But it actually opened the doors to some really other cool new opportunities.
Aaron: I love it. Thanks for sharing that story. I think, again, back to folks listening, what I really believe that they'll resonate with and what I resonate with is that your initial question, Eli, was when we're headed down a path, why do some people make severe course corrections and they'll kind of do anything it takes and others don't and they'll just kind of do whatever they can do to hang on and cling to whatever is whatever semblance of normal that they currently have.
And I do think there's a distinction that you're drawing here, which is sometimes there is actually actually is a crisis. I think it's actually easier to make severe course corrections and severe decisions when there's a crisis feeling it. And so in my case, there was a crisis. In your case, there was a crisis. Now everyone may not be privy to those crises and even while there, we may not have a lot of clarity over them, but we do know this.
Aaron: This isn't going to go well, this is not. And then I think there's another class of people that are living their lives where it's just a tolerable good enough and it's like tolerating a low, dull gray head headache every day, dual grade headache, and that's kind of tolerable. My son talks about how you can have a rock in your shoe and until you take the rock out of your shoe, you didn't even notice it because it had been in there so long.
And I think that's a lot of how people just live is, it's whatever they're up to. It's no crisis, it's just a small headache and they're just so used to it. Whereas for what we're describing now, I do know one of the guys who came to our reboot, I ran into him, let me just think here for a second this summer, and he came up and, and I hope to have, mom's name's Rob and he said, I want to talk at your next reboot.
Aaron: I'm like, what? He's like, I insist. I'm like, tell me more. Their story, I won't share the details of, I let him do that. But basically what he said is when we came to the reboot and we spent three days going through this experience, what I realized is all of the internal turmoil I fell over trying to make a big decision was worse than the actual doing the decision itself.
Now they had some things that kind of unraveled outside of their control and doing, but they were the things that they feared the most, that if these things that fear the most, that would end up with these kinds of terrible results. Well, it turned out those things happened and it forced them into some change, but then they went ahead and just embrace the change and went for it. Oh my gosh. They said they haven't been happier ever.
Aaron: He was up out to go do his first half iron man. He was super fit, look great work. It sorted itself out. They were living with friends like so all these things that looked terrible, they were trying to prevent from happening, ended up happening, whether by their own choice or by some circumstances and then it ended up being way better than they ever imagined.
So I think going back to that decision of when people are faced with, do I or don't I make a change whether small or gradual. I think a lot of times it does take some real belief and faith, hope, genius and just going ahead and pulling the cord. And I also think it does help circumstances stop working to such a severe degree that you're kind of forced to do something about it. So anyway, that's my riff on your question.
Eli: Yeah, yup. Yeah. I'm, I'm practicing the art of, I say practicing cause I'm, I'm far from there, but the art of recognizing where things are going before they turn into a crisis and making course.
Aaron: Yeah. Oh, that's good. before it's a full-blown crisis. That's good. Well, transition for us and tell us what these private screenings you're doing. So we've talked a lot about maybe about a, I'd call it like kind of ethos about life and about these reboot approaches. Yours is in an RV, but tell us about the film a little bit more and tell us about how people can find it.
And then specifically about some of these private showings, you're doing and some of the film festivals you're part of and kind of this new chapter that you have found yourself in that you would've never been able to envision a day one when you're just embarking on this. I gotta save my marriage to her.
Eli: Yeah. I guess before I jump into that, I do need to, I do kind of need to say that the film is about our one year journey and it didn't save our marriage. Like we got to the end of it and we needed counseling. We ended up getting in with Dan Allinder who's a great counselor up in Seattle area. I got to know him on a film shoot called a story worth living and he got us in for a week, marriage counseling.
And that really, that was like a huge catalyst to us actually moving in the path, of healing. This one year on the road was, it was like a diversion to allow us to sort of have some fun together again. And, you know, just kind of put a pause on the crisis and, and, and enjoy some time together. And so anyway, I just wanted to,
Aaron: Yeah, that's good. Thanks for, thanks for saying that. Cause you're right, neither of us intended to cue it up as this cured anything, but I think you said it has put a pause on the crisis to just enable for you guys to be, that was very similar for Leith and me too, when we went to the frontier ranch, it didn't cure anything. It just helped, it was part of the process of beginning to heal and just doing it in a shared context without all the normal distractions of life.
Eli: Yes. Yup. Yeah. So getting back to the film the far green country you can check out the trailer find out a number of things about it at our website, www.thefargreencountry.com. And we have a mailing list there that if you sign up, we'll just keep you up to date with what's going on. Essentially, our film right now is still in a prerelease stage.
I'm a first-time filmmaker as far as producing it. So I'm kind of just learning the ropes as I go. But we have yet to release it in any sort of public formats like Amazon or iTunes or anything. And we're trying to just kind of do our own grassroots marketing effort and get it out there. Cause we find that once people watch the film, they just want to sit and talk and like relish in the moment of like, wow, this was powerful and I don't know where to go with it but I just want to keep talking about it.
Eli: So we're half-hour to hour Q&A sessions afterward. Some people are in tears, some people just ask us what our favorite national park was. But then some people, you know, ask us, how do I get out of this situation I'm in? Or people will come up to Kelly especially cause Kelly's so you know, she's, well women, women connect to and on this level. So people will come to Kelly and just want to stand in line and talk to her about their own stories.
And that's kind of the epitome of what I want to do as a, as an artist, as a storyteller, and just as my presence in the world is to, to open the door for people to have that kind of conversation. So these private showings have been like really powerful in themselves. I'm almost if the film doesn't go anywhere other than having the opportunity for a couple of months to be doing these it's been worth it.
Eli: We also have been accepted into the Bend film festival, which is in bend, Oregon. So our film, we’re premiering there on October 13th. That's really exciting. You know, just to have a premiere to film festivals is a big step for us. We didn't know how that would go. Congratulations. Thank you.
And then, you know, we're just pursuing how, you know, where, where the film has a place, it's not typical Hollywood and it's not typical avant-garde film and it's not Christian film and it's, you know, it kinda has in some ways a bit of its own place. And so, you know, we don't know if we're going to find ourselves leading marriage retreats or making another one and you know, kind of doing the same thing and just touring around with it. W we don't know where it's going to go. We're kind of on that, on that journey of it too.
Aaron: But I think even that Eli's worth mentioning for, again, for friends listening, because of a lot of the reason, back to the question, why don't people make a change is because they don't have guaranteed results and answers of what will happen when they do. So I think one of the number one reasons people stay stuck and keep doing the same thing over and over and over, even though they tolerate rocks in their shoe and Dole grade headaches is because they're afraid that, well, what if I do X, Y, or Z?
What will happen? And the truth is I don't know, is the answer. So while we're out here touring this film and we don't really know what's going to happen, maybe it will be on another film festival and maybe we'll be leading marriage retreats and maybe it'll just be for a few months and we'll have this Yahoo season for a bit.
Aaron: I have no idea. And I think that's the part that is the scariest for people to embrace is the lack of certainty. What I find to be really compelling is that although we're afraid of the lack of certainty, if I make a change, it is 100% certain nothing will change if you do nothing different. The same rock in your shoe, the same dull grade, the same marriage, the same job, the same relationships, the same financial situation, same physical health, whatever that category is, nothing will get better if you don't do something different.
So it doesn't mean these things work, they're not prescriptions, they're just journeys and adventures to say, what's the biggest story? Here is the biggest story. Really. We're just supposed to white knuckle our life until retirement until we're age 60 plus something or other. So we can play golf and go to visit grandkids.
Aaron: No, that's not the only story. The story is along the way. We're actually supposed to enjoy what we do, make a difference, connect, definitely love. And some of us are gonna, you know, kill it financially and most of us won't. So that's, that's not the biggest story. What car we drive, what house we live in, what zip code, what they cations. We go on. There's a way to live a life that can actually be gratifying and fulfilling.
That doesn't actually involve materialism. And I feel like the bill of sale, the bill of goods that we've bought into in our culture, especially American culture, is that the shit we own is supposed to be satisfying to us that we have because we adhere to some hierarchical rung on the ladder and it's like time out. If it works for you, great. But if it's not working, then be brave enough to stand up, admit that and begin asking some different questions, which I believe this film will help people do.
Eli: Yeah, it does. It does help ask those questions. And it sounds like your conference, the reboot conferences also provide the space for people to explore those questions as well.
Aaron: Yeah. And it's okay to ask the questions. It doesn't even mean by asking him, you're committing to doing something about it. But it is the first brave step is just ask them, be willing to be open to something different. People end up taking a crack at something that feels taboo or sacred cows that need to get burned down anyway, send to the slaughterhouse.
So I'm super passionate about these questions and I'm super passionate about sharing stories and films like yours with listeners here at work-life play because I really believe all of us are after the same thing. And it just takes a lot of curiosity, a lot of bravery, a lot of courage to be able to move forward. There's a path to a life that's worth living, but very few find it. And I think a lot of it is because the culture feeds us a line and a story that's actually not very helpful. So thank you for telling us a different story.
Eli: You're welcome.
Aaron: You've been listening to Work Life Play. If you'd like what you've heard, please do us a favor and rate us on iTunes. It really does help. You can get more information about this and other episodes at Aaron, mcu.com thanks for listening. Thanks for being part of this adventure for being part of braving the pioneering work of discovering sustainable work life, play rhythms, love your work, live your life, and play a whole lot more. I'm Aaron McHugh. Keep going.