By Marian Dennis, The Mercury
PHOENIXVILLE >> Trevor DeHaas has some big plans for his lifetime and the 9-5 grind was not about to stand in his way.
Anyone who knows the Phoenixville native could have guessed that a weekly schedule of routine and desk work wouldn’t keep him occupied for long. That’s why it was no surprise to any of his friends or family when the 26-year-old decided to leave his corporate job and take his dog, Kahlua, on an adventure to experience and photograph different sights across the U.S.
DeHaas was born and raised in Phoenixville and after attending college in Reading, was offered a job with a mortgage investment company where he said he was perfectly happy for the three and a half years he worked there. After getting his dog in August of 2013 and making trips on paid vacations, DeHaas got the travel bug and continued developing his self-taught skills in photography.
But a desire to see the United States wasn’t the only thing prompting DeHaas’ trip.
DeHaas was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at the age of 10, an ailment that he said he has worked hard to ignore so that he wouldn’t be judged by others. So far, it had not affected much of his life, but a recent visit to the doctor pushed him to change his ideas about where his life was going.
“A year ago I had a sprained ankle three times in a row and when I had a meeting with my kidney doctor he said I have gout, which really surprised me,” DeHaas said in a phone interview, as he sat in a secluded area of Utah.
“It was my kidney disease progressing and it can’t filter out toxins as well. It put a little scare in my mind and every 6 months I get a blood test done to see how everything’s going. When I saw they were functioning at 49 percent that really scared me, and I’ve had the disease for 15 years so, do the math, and they might be at zero in another 15. I changed my diet and they were levelling off. It really made me realize life is too short and when my kidneys get to the point when I’ll need a kidney transplant, it’s just not a high quality of life,” he said.
After the appointment and his occasional trips, DeHaas could not ignore his desire to travel.
“I tried winning a permit to see The Wave and I’d been trying ever since. Dec. 1, I got notice I won a ticket for March 1. I took it as a sign,” he said.
The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in Arizona near the Utah border. The landmark is famous for its colorful striations and unique curves.
On Jan. 22, DeHaas handed his boss his two weeks notice.
On Feb. 23, DeHaas left Phoenixville to embark on his new lifestyle, spending four days in Colorado and arriving in Arizona by March 1. DeHaas said that one of his biggest challenges so far has been expenses such as food and finding somewhere to sleep every night. He manages to get around by mostly living out of his car, only staying in hotels once in a while and cooking food using a grill he brought along.
“We’re not trying to stay in a hotel every night because it adds up. It’s a daily challenge but I try to plan out my weeks so I know ahead of time. A lot of it is trying to save money to travel as long as possible. I brought a propane grill so I do a lot of cooking,” DeHaas said of his travel lifestyle.
But it hasn’t all been difficult. DeHaas told The Mercury Saturday that in addition to his friends and family showing their support, he has met numerous strangers who have not only praised him for his decision, but offered a helping hand.
“Everyone’s been completely supportive of it. I haven’t had anyone say it was a bad idea. They were all super happy and know I’m doing what I’ve always wanted,” said DeHaas. “A lot of older people say, ‘I wish I did that when I was younger. I wish I did it when I had the chance.’ I don’t have anything to tie me down so basically everyone I talked to, even strangers, love it. They’re all for it. Strangers have even offered me a place to stay and shower. I still don’t know if it’s a smart or dumb decision but I’m thinking it’s smart.”
His second biggest challenge; his travel partner, Kahlua.
“Travelling with Kahlua has posed some obstacles. Even just like shopping is hard. We do it at night when it’s cooler. She’s usually good in the car but if someone thought it was too hot they could smash my window to get her out. Finding places that are dog friendly has also been a struggle but it’s all part of the adventure. In Colorado we wanted to go to Rocky Mountain National Park but dogs aren’t allowed on any of the trails,” DeHaas said. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way with her.”
Though DeHaas’ adventure has only been underway for about a month, he has already had some unforgettable experiences, including meeting two of his biggest role models.
“I met two of my biggest influences in travel photography while paddle boarding, Keith Ladzinski and Chris Burkard,” explained DeHaas. “I told them my story and getting to meet them was really, really cool. They’re totally supportive of it. It was really awesome. It was one of the biggest highlights so far.”
DeHaas explained that he has saved enough to hopefully continue travelling for the next six months and, in the meantime, is trying to figure out a way to earn money to continue his lifestyle. Having already hit Arizona, Colorado and Utah, he hopes to visit New Mexico, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as well as Alberta, Banff, and Calgary in Canada.
“Life is too short not to follow your passions. I’d rather take a chance on it than end up not doing it and regretting it for the rest of my life. Not that I’m lucky but it’s something that made me realize I want to live life to the fullest while I can. I don’t want people to wait until they get sick to follow their passions,” he said.
Though DeHaas has no current plans to travel overseas because of Kahlua and the expenses, he said that he hopes to one day be able to visit somewhere where he can see the northern lights as well as eventually making his way to Chile, one of the places he says is on his bucket list.
“You should live your life how you want to and don’t let anyone else tell you how to live it. When you’re older you’re not going to remember the days in the cubicle. You’re going to remember the days you spent traveling and being with family, not making money,” said DeHaas.