This blog post was updated on December 4, 2017.
In the world of travel blogging, advocating on behalf of America’s National Parks isn’t exactly unusual. You’d be hard-pressed to find a travel blogger who hasn’t written a detailed screed about their hiking adventure through a place like the Grand Teton in Wyoming (complete with photos of themselves pensively looking out to the horizon) or a backpacking social media influencer who hasn’t posted on Instagram with a selfie in front of icons like Old Faithful or Zion Canyon.
But then there’s Vik from I Am Vagabond.
Throughout the I Am Vagabond blog and social media posts, there are countless pictures and photos taken from U.S. national parks, but none feature Vik in front of the camera. In fact, it seems that Vik prefers to keep most everything about himself…to himself.
An article like this one should use the person’s full name, but when asked over email I Am Vagabond’s proprietor gave his name as just “Vik”. And the only personal information he shared, both publically and in private communication, is that he’s a local of Los Angeles who’s passionate about travel and photography.
Such a selfless approach to content seems almost unconscious. There’s no overt or direct reason given for why Vik doesn’t show himself (both literally and figuratively) to his audience. But it does seem fundamental to his style. When asked what he would say to convince someone to visit a national park, Vik replied: “I won’t say a thing, rather I would just show them those wonderful pics from our parks.”
And if there’s anyone with plenty of “wonderful pics” from national parks, it’s Vik — who also runs the website NationalParksImages.org and claims to have been to nearly 40 national parks. And while that might seem like a lot — the National Parks Service currently operates 59 areas that are designated as national parks — they span more than 84.4 million acres. So even if someone were to visit every single national park in the U.S., they’d likely only scratch the surface of what began when Abraham Lincoln signed a bill requiring California’s Yosemite Valley in 1864 “be held for public use, resort, and recreation…inalienable for all time” and has now grown into, as documentarian Ken Burns called it in the title his 2009 PBS series, “America’s best idea.”
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Vik says the first national park he visited (and where he fell in love with U.S. parks system) was Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stretching from east-central Tennessee to southwest North Carolina, the park is famous for its hiking (about 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through it) and attracting millions of visitors every year. “While there I realized how blessed we are to be in a country where we have such wonderful treasures of nature being preserved and protected,” Vik said.
According to Vik, heading into the wilderness can be akin to a religious experience. “Just to get there, close to nature and feel the power and beauty…makes you realize how very small humans are and that feeling makes us humble,” he said. And for him the preserved wild of America’s national parks is perfect for experiencing that cosmic connection. “From Grand Canyon to tall Sequoias to Yosemite Rocks,” Vik said, “they are all such powerful symbols of nature at work.”
“These are great places to reflect and look beyond our day-to-day lives,” he added later.
Still, even Vik will admit that not all visits to national parks are awe-inspiring experiences. During one trip, early in his travels, to Arches National Park in Utah, he learned the hard way about coming properly prepared for staying outdoors.
“I still remember that day like it was yesterday,” Vik said. “Somehow I forgot any bedding or rain cover” — camping equipment that would have been essential when it began raining during the night. “And it was not a drizzle, but full-blown rain that soaked the ground wet and my camp was filled with water….I was totally wet along with all my gear.”
But despite any negative experience, Vik is still adamant that those looking for unique travel experiences should make a national park their next destination. He bemoans the fact that so many travelers set their sites on famous American cities and don’t really consider the national park alternative.
“What they don’t realize is all our national parks are gorgeous and breathtaking with numerous activities for individuals or families,” Vik said.