The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

  • Allison Hartz

Trevor DeHaas is a self-taught adventure photographer with a passion for traveling and the outdoors. His companion Kahlúa, a Catahoula-Leopard Dog mix, inspired Trevor’s love for photography, travel, and adventure. Before Kahlúa came into his life, Trevor took his health for granted in an effort to ignore his kidney disease. He pursued his idea of normalcy, which included working a corporate job and living in the city. With Kahlúa, he began exploring the outdoors, learning to stand up paddleboard and go backpacking. Trevor began taking pictures of their adventures with his phone and fell in love with photography. Trevor also realized that when he was outside with Kahlúa, he didn’t think about his kidneys. He wasn’t ignoring his kidney disease, like before. While he used to take his health for granted, Kahlúa motivated Trevor to take better care of himself so that he could be here for her. In 2017, Trevor quit his secure-but-unsatisfying job and the duo traveled around North America, hiking snow-covered mountains, soaking in natural hot springs, and paddleboarding on glacial lakes. Using their unique photos, Trevor and Kahlúa hope to inspire others to fall in love with the great outdoors and to spend more time with their four-legged companions. They currently live in Santa Cruz, and Trevor is on a waiting list for a kidney donation. Anyone interested in becoming a live kidney donor for Trevor can begin the process here: http://stanfordhealthcarelivedonors.org/.

Story and Photos by Ruffwear Ambassador Trevor DeHaas

Waiting for my water to boil, I watch the sunlight of early morning turn the clouds soft pink. Next to me is my tail-wagging, wet-nosed, furry best friend Kahlúa. Steam begins to billow from my stove, and I scream at the top of my lungs, “YES!”

Trevor and Kahlua sleep in the back of the car while water boils on the jetboil.

A question had been unfolding in my mind. It blossomed and multiplied, like an explosion of dandelion seeds set free by an exhalation. The questions stemmed from my decision to leave my comfortable, secure, and unsatisfying job in pursuit of a more meaningful way of life.

Kahlua in Blossom Print Climate Changer fleece looks out of back window up to Trevor at front of car.

When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with kidney disease. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I saw my disease as a burden that kept me from a normal life. I wanted normalcy, and I thought that a steady job and a 401k was my path to happiness. Then, Kahlúa came into my life and changed my perspective.

Trevor and Kahlua in a tent by a lake.

Kahlúa inspired me to venture away from my warm cubicle and constant supply of hot coffee. Together, we spent more and more time outside - paddleboarding, longboarding, and hiking.

Trevor and Kahlua in the distance standing in front of a turquoise alpine lake.

I began documenting our outdoor adventures with my camera and discovered my passion for photography. In 2017, I quit my job and spent 8 months on the road with Kahlúa, exploring the outdoors and photographing our experiences.

Kahlua in approach dog backpack stands on rock by beautiful alpine lake.

At the end of our road trip, we settled in California. I went back to work full-time, but I learned that, for me, a fulfilling life is not waiting at the top of the corporate ladder. It is outdoors with Kahlúa.

Trevor cannonballs into small lake while Kahlua stands on the dock looking down on him.

Kahlúa showed me that my kidney disease was never a burden. It is a gift. She taught me that normalcy is not my life’s path. I was always meant for the road less traveled.

Trevor and Kahlua stand on gravel road looking out at granite boulders and mountains.

In the past year and a half, my kidney function has dropped from 42% to 16%. I’m now eligible for a kidney transplant and am currently looking for a live donor. While I wait for a transplant, Kahlúa and I go on road trips. We go paddleboarding and backpacking.

Trevor carries Kibble Kaddie and Highlands dog sleeping bag onto the beach while Kahlua runs alongside.

When Kahlúa became my co-pilot, she navigated us to The Road Less Traveled and we haven’t looked back. I used to tell myself that “someday,” I would follow my passions. I know now that “someday,” I won’t be able to do all of the things we love to do. That’s why I appreciate what we can do together right now.

Kahlua in webmaster harness gives trevor a hug from behind up high on rocks at Smith Rock.

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