Rily looking at mountains

Into the Wild

An Interview with photographer and traveling minimalist Rily Sanders

Interview by Jeremy Lux, article by Eric Gasa

If one thing could be said about Rily Sanders, it’s that the guy is a transient. Growing up in Oklahoma, Sanders spends his days roving around North America in his car, pitching tents, making fires, sleeping outside, even waking up to grizzlies on occasion, all with a bit of a monastic charm. A self-described minimalist, Sanders doesn’t own a TV, hardly prescribes to any social media, and even has to think twice before “splurging” on a soda. But if it’s anything that this lifestyle affords him, it’s a lifetime of serene experiences in the wilderness that beat any newsfeed.

On this episode of Life in Motion, Jeremy Lux sits down with Sanders to discuss his lifestyle, his adventures in the Great White North, and why everyone should probably learn how to patch a flat tire.

Rily & Al on ferry

But before Sanders traveled the continent, home was the small town of Piedmont, Oklahoma. Here, Sanders was interested in BMX, skating, and building ramps with his two brothers. After college he applied to work at Camp Woodward, the world renown action sports program in Pennsylvania, where he met Lux in 2011. The two have been good friends ever since.

“It’s an amazing place,” Sanders says about Woodward, “I know the pay is not what everybody wants, but that’s not really why you’re there…you can’t put a price tag on the people you meet and friendships that you develop there.”

Friendship and travel go a long way in Sanders life. His spark for travel started when he was 19. He remembers he and his friends hopping in his mom’s Suburban and heading to Colorado for a week of camping out. Today, Sanders’ outings have gotten longer and more elaborate thanks to his minimalist lifestyle and mantra. For him, saving money is the name of the game; a buck saved at home is one that could be spent on the trail.

Rily camping in Canada

“It just depends on how bad you want to travel and how long you want to go,” says Sanders, “…and even with the savings, like I don’t have a TV, I don’t have any videogames, I really am a minimalist for sure…Every bit I can put back just goes that much further. Even down to like ‘man, do I want to splurge on that soda today?’… It adds up amazingly.”

Yes, you read that correctly, Sanders contemplating about “splurging” on a soda. Sanders is also a guy who sleeps outside in 20-degree temps, wakes up covered in frost, and thinks about maybe investing in a better sleeping bag. On all accounts, he is very frugal camper.

Camping by the fire

Sanders explains that not everyone needs to follow such a strict budget to afford to travel but making simple adjustments like not eating out, buying generic brands, and planning a dedicated travel fund can make a huge difference.

Sanders has also learned some lessons from being out on the road. A big rule is to always have a tire patch kit and know how to use it. Sanders learned how really quickly when he was stranded out in Newfoundland one time with a flat and no civilization in sight for 300 miles.

But the Great White North isn’t all flat tires and no-mans land either…there’s also plenty of grizzly bears. One time in Glacier Park, Sanders and his friends happened upon a line of cars stopped in the road while a grizzly prowled 100 yards away. A pack of hunting dogs in the back of one of the trucks seemed to get the bear’s attention.

Grizzly Bear

“Well, these dogs in the back start barking really loud and then the bear’s head just goes straight up and charges for the truck,” retells Sanders, “He comes over the fence and up the road, the split is just three seconds. He’s in the road right there with us, 50, 60 feet away and the truck just blasts off.”

Armed with only his DSLR, Sanders managed to snap a few close-ups of the animal before it bounded away. The entire exchange may have only lasted seconds but for Sanders it was a moment of pure adrenaline.

From the red dirt of Death Valley to the frosty plains of Cologne, Canada, Sanders continues to happily drift and travel through North America with just his friends, gear, and camera at his side.


To follow Rily Sanders’ journey check him out on Instagram at @rilesdialed87. To hear more of Sanders’ stories including his run-in with the Canadian border patrol check out the full interview with Jeremy Lux on the Life in Motion podcast.

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