The Comfort Zone Chronicles: Moon Over Moab

“On the micro, it’s all about self. Self-awareness, self-improvement, self-mastery. On the macro, it’s so, so much more. It’s about helping every single person live their dreams.”-abk

I had two things I personally wanted to do: golf at Sand Hollow, Utah’s number one ranked and insanely beautiful course, and explore Santa Fe and its artistic weirdness. Otherwise, this wasn’t my trip. I was just along for the ride.

10 days. 3 guys. 4,000 miles. 8 states. No real plans. That essentially summed it up. The boys had some things they wanted to do. I had the two above. Otherwise, there was no roadmap for the journey. So we literally made one for ourselves and embarked on The Great Southwestern Adventure of 2019.

Five years ago, I never would have done this. I would have been too scared. Way too scared. If you read last week, you know I was afraid of everything.

But after proactively facing all of my fears over the past couple of years (and some 150,000+ miles of extensive adventure), I was ready. To my knowledge, I had never been proper camping in the great outdoors, so it was time.

Within the first five seconds of walking into our first campsite, we almost stepped on a tarantula. Not five seconds later, we saw a scorpion. (I killed it, James Bond style.)

“Ok, ok. Overcoming fear is one thing, dudes, but just remember to respect nature.”

Cousin Kris loves his big truck. He loves to drive it, and he loves to show it off. Brian, Kris’ friend, knows camping. He loves hiking and the great outdoors. Me? Per usual, I add very little other than the abk mindset. Help maximize these boys’ experience, push limits, learn something, and make sure this trip will never be forgotten. That meant extreme off-roading for Kris and gorgeous hiking for Brian, amongst others. But more importantly, it meant limited rules, plans, or rigidity. (I call them trip killers.) We’re just not going to do that nonsense. I’ve seen many a trip die a very quick death that way.

Miraculously, we did everything, and I mean everything, with no schedule and without feeling rushed. I’m certainly not going to list it all, but here are my top ten excursions from the trip, in no particular order.

1. Golf at Sand Hollow in Hurricane, Utah. Especially the back 9.

2. The buffalo in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge outside of Lawton, Oklahoma.

3. The handmade jewelry and delicious food in New Mexico.

4. Sunset with the European and Asian crowds at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.

5. Sunset drive through Zion National Park.

6. Hiking Rainbow Point in Bryce National Park at 9115 feet, 55 degrees, and 40 mph winds.

7. The teamwork at Fins-n-Things extreme off-road course in Moab, Utah to ensure an adventurous, yet safe experience.

8. Being a passenger on Shaffer Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Honestly, this was terrifying.

9. Hiking to and then chilling at Grand View Point in Canyonlands National Park.

10. Hiking to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

These were the biggies, and please notice, the Grand Canyon didn’t even make my top ten. But what about the small stuff? The challenges? The nuisances? The camaraderie? The journey?

For over 50% of the trip, cell phones had no use. Primitive to semi-primitive tent camping for six nights is quite uncomfortable. If you want to get into the windmill business, head to Texas and Oklahoma. Santa Fe tamales and Tucumcari red chiles are spicy, and we finally got Kris to In-N-Out Burger. We visited seven national parks. Most of Arizona has its own time zone part of the year due to its refusal to acknowledge daylight saving time. You can easily do this trip in under $1,000 per person (way less if you don’t buy Santa Fe jewelry lol). We booked every place we stayed day of, on-site. Get the $80 national park annual pass. I showered once in eight days. There are lots of hot air balloons in Albuquerque. We ate black hot dogs. Nights in Moab can get cold and super windy. Brushing my teeth with no water was a new experience. So was going to the bathroom in a hole with flies circling everywhere. There are more foreigners than Americans at these national parks. And eating dinner on Friday night on the old Route 66 is legendary.

As we sat at our campsite the last three nights in Moab, we were just about as one with nature as humanly possible. We saw Saturn and Jupiter looming large. My neck and back hurt from all of the off-roading, but my soul was on fire. I was uncomfortable as hell, but fully at peace with myself.

Do I all of a sudden love camping? Nah. Do I all of a sudden love hiking? Nah. Do I all of a sudden love eating with no utensils, sleeping on hard dirt and rocks, not bathing, and using the bathroom in a hole? Nah. But before you yell “gross”, I was you five years ago.

Would I do it again? Certainly. I had a wonderful time with the boys. It’s important to feel and beat discomfort. It’s the path to understanding.

Well, alright. Excellent journey, friends. I need to make an unscheduled trip to NC now, and then it’s 3rd Annual Golf Week next week. BL, please have a bed and bathroom ready.

Have a great week.- Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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20 Questions with anything but khakis

1. First off, where are you right now?

The Grand Canyon

2. For first time readers, what exactly is anything but khakis?

It’s an attitude. It’s a conscious decision to NOT take the comfortable or popular path on life matters. To really think through who you are and want to be. It can be as simple as what’s for dinner and as complicated as politics, religion, career, family, life, etc. In many cases, it’s doing the complete opposite of the mainstream. It’s finding freedom from the noise. It’s constantly evolving. It’s owning your life story.

3. Isn’t that uncomfortable?

God, yes. It sure can be. Until it isn’t any more. I’m getting real close (800+ days so far), and then I’ll probably start over again.

4. Do you sell something?

It’s all free, except for the hat design. That’s a few bucks. I’m not doing this for money.

5. Why are you doing this then?

To SHOW that 1 person, those 10 people, those 100 people who have unique interests or passions that they are not alone. And that it is possible to pursue them, even “later” in life. At mid-30s, I’ve started over and am actively making my own path. And the key is I’m actually doing it, not talking for the next 40 years about possibly doing it.

6. Describe your attitude towards life.

Intentional and passionate

7. You are gone a lot…

Traveling is who I am, and you have to be who you are. After about 3 weeks of “sitting still”, I need some new perspective. And this should go without saying now, but traveling has the best ROI of any investment I make. Not even close.

8. What’s your biggest priority in life?

Whatever the current step of the journey is. And happiness.

9. Are you ever going to get a job again?

Stay tuned.

10. What’s your pet peeve?

Lack of action and being told something isn’t possible

11. Do bad things ever happen to you?

You seem to live in fantasyland.

First off, it’s only fantasy if you don’t turn it into reality. Now, back to the question, yes. Plenty of bad things happen to me. I just don’t believe in negativity. There is room to be upset and time to mourn, but negativity baffles me. It’s a disease.

12. Where do you get your perspective from?

I’m physically uncomfortable every day. It would be a pretty shit life if I just moaned about it. I choose to be positive and push every limit that I can.

13. Tell us some personal goals.

Become a scratch golfer. Explore all 50 states. Explore as many countries in the world as I can.

14. What is your current golf handicap?


How many states have you explored?



2 handfuls

15. What’s your favorite thought right now?

“Did your life choose you or are you choosing your life?”

16. How do you pay for all of this?

Bitcoin. Just kidding. I can’t be the only person out there who has saved a few bucks. I’m just not waiting until I’m dead to spend a little bit of it. I’m heavily investing in my personal growth, and I am so much better today than I was even a few months ago.

17. What’s one thing we don’t know about you?

If it were totally up to me, I would live in a hotel. 100%.

18. What’s evolved most along your journey?

Other than everything, fear. I used to be afraid of everything. Now it’s the complete opposite.

19. Did you give away all your clothes?

No, I still have all the museum pieces and pieces from my travels. I hope one day to have a room or something that can visually showcase my journey.

20. What’s your ultimate goal?

The abk Foundation. Give everything back. What exactly does that mean? I’m not sure yet. But I’ll figure it out. Just another part of the journey way on down the road.

Have a great week.- Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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The Ultimate abk Fantasy

“Often when you step out of reality into fantasy, you come face to face with reality.”-The Elder Statesman

If you have read along for any period of time now, you probably know that I don’t blindly follow many cultural and societal norms anymore. I’m a little bit contrarian and a lot bit non-conforming. If society zigs, I usually zag.

But not with football season, and to be specific, college football season. For that, I am 100% in.

Like many categories of my life, I have no specific allegiance. I’ve always liked Penn State football, but I’m not a maniac. Instead, I follow for the environment, the drama, and the emotion. I follow for the freshman walk-on kicker from Nevada that took down Purdue Friday night with a 56-yard game-winner and then immediately got a scholarship.

But I really do it for the travel, working to one day turn my ultimate fantasy into reality.

As soon as I wake up on a fall Saturday morning, as long as Manchester United is not playing, I immediately turn on ESPN College GameDay. I want to know where they are, what the atmosphere is like, what color the leaves are behind them, and what local joints they have eaten at that weekend. It’s my ultimate fantasy. No, not to work for ESPN (I have already done that for a very brief stint thanks to my friend, David Sherwood). But I do want to travel all over the United States for an entire fall reveling in that environment.

A year or two ago, I got into a workplace conversation about ultimate fantasies. Bucket lists. Road trips. So on. It was my turn to pipe in, so I happily shared mine. From Labor Day until the Super Bowl, from Thursday through Sunday, I would travel the nation with whomever would like to join me in the name of football. I would pair the best college towns with the best college games with the best NFL games to create one of a kind experiences each long weekend. No two would remotely resemble each other. I might even throw in a west Texas football Friday night.

There would be cold weather and hot weather. Orange leaves, no leaves, and pine trees. Big cities and the great wide open. Snow and excessive heat. Nail biters and blowouts. Heart stoppers and snoozefests. Plane rides and car rides. Po boys, clam chowder, bratwursts, and more. Cold beer, really cold beer, and maybe even a shot or two. Side outings to golf courses. Naps in The Grove. Walks around campus. I could go on for days.

My heart is pounding just writing this. It won’t be this year, but if you know anything about my penchant for turning fantasy into reality, it will happen.

Over the past two weeks, we have hosted my sister and her family on a rather bizarre 8 day vacation in the Deep South culminating with my brother in law being in the hospital for two days.

I then surprised my father back in North Carolina for his 70th birthday, stopping along the way for a beautiful (and crisp) round at RTJ Grand National in Opelika, Alabama (Auburn country).

On the ride back, I detoured to Selma, Alabama and walked the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, mulling over the past, present, and future climate of a very messy subject.

Over the next four weeks, it’s more of the same, yet always a little different. Camping out west. More golf. Visiting with a friend or two. And then the 3rd Annual Boys Golf Trip, finishing with Mississippi State at Auburn, assuming we are still alive.

But in between all of this hoopla, I got this past Saturday all to myself. Woke up. Turned GameDay on. And literally immersed myself in this idea all day.

My imagination went from Ames, Iowa to Raleigh, North Carolina to Lincoln, Nebraska to El Paso County, Colorado to State College, Pennsylvania (pause, went and played 27 holes) to Laramie, Wyoming to Arlington, Texas to Los Angeles, California.

I’ve been to so, so many places over the past few years, yet I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’ve been to even more places in my head, painting pictures of what one day it will be like to visit.

My oversized imagination used to be an oversized pain in my side, because big imagination without action can feel very stifling. But once I went all in on action, I now feel very different. It feels like with a little focus, a few bucks, and a little planning, at some point in the future, that will definitely be the greatest autumn ever.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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The Story of abk golf

5/15/17- decided I was going to own my life story and launched anything but khakis, initially as a fashion blog.

12/30/18- launched abk golf as a branch of anything but khakis, initially to share golf course photos.

2/11/19- sold house in Charlotte, NC.

2/26/19- played Torrey Pines North and South courses in La Jolla, CA. Shot 94 and 96, respectively. Blown away by sunrise and sunset. Played the South course with the current QB at SDSU.

3/7/19- played East Lake in Atlanta, GA with my friend Justin. Shot 99. Hit my tee shot on 9 into the employee parking lot. Birdied 14.

3/17/19- played Pinehurst #2 in NC. Shot 109. Made an 11 on the first hole and my hands never stopped shaking. One putted 18 Payne Stewart style.

3/22/19- final day of employment at the bank in Charlotte, NC.

3/22/19- played East Lake again with my friend Ben. Shot 103. Hit the green on 9 this time…and five putted. Formal exhaustion set in.

3/22/19- arrived in Mississippi that night with an unofficial 14 handicap and went on the disabled list within the next 2 weeks. I was fried.

—Rest and rehab—

4/17/19- decided I was going to give it a go. How good could I get at golf, a sport that I hadn’t grown up with but had fallen in love with in adulthood? Official Day 1. Shot an 85.

4/19/19- joined Shell Landing Golf Club in Gautier, MS, but alternated play between Timberton Golf Club in Hattiesburg, MS and there for weeks. Major posture and swing change.

—practiced and/or played 87 of the first 120 days totaling 240+ hours and another 75+ hours of strengthening and stretching—

5/1/19- 13.2 handicap

5/15/19- 13.1 handicap

6/1/19- 12.5 handicap

6/15/19- 11.9 handicap

6/16/19- son got me matte blue Maxfli golf balls for Father’s Day. They have become my thing (and are quite the conversation starter).

6/21/19- shot 79 in Iowa with my friend Jay.

6/22/19- tested the game at the very narrow Dakota Dunes in South Dakota with my friend Jay. Shot 89.

6/27/19- major grip change. Hit balls sideways for a few days.

7/1/19- 11.2 handicap

7/2+7/3/19- shot 37/40 for combined 77 over 2 days

7/8/19- tested the game at World Woods Pine Barrens in Florida with my brother in law Jonathan. Shot 84.

7/10/19- started working from back tees (7024 yards) so I could practice every club in my bag on the course.

7/15/19- 9.3 handicap. Single digits. Goal 1 ✅.

7/24/19- decided to pack up the Jordan 11s and wear them only for special golfing occasions.

—some time in July, I stopped walking and started riding a cart due to right foot and hip pain—

8/1/19- 8.9 handicap

8/8/19- (highly) tested the game at the beastly Grand Bear Golf Course from the Grizzly Bear tees (75.5/143). Shot 92.

8/12/19- shot 79 back at the ranch

8/15/19- handicap currently 8.1. Hip getting better. Foot still hurts.

8/18/19- trending 7.7

When I started “my new life”, I was going to be a fashion blogger and golf course photographer. Turns out, I wasn’t that interested in or good at being either of them. I likely embarrassed myself multiple times. However, out of taking that first big leap, it eventually got me to writing and golfing, which both set my heart on fire.

That first step was quite frightening, but look where it has taken me. To a new life. I’ve done it. I’m doing it.

People may laugh, people may judge, people may gossip, and people may wonder. I just smile, put my head down, and get back to work. To be continued…

Have a great week.- Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website .

Now That’s Art

When I broke the news months ago about the move to Mississippi, most people had a similar joking, yet serious, response. “What are you going to wear down there, dude?”

Honestly, I was a little concerned. I doubted that the locals would be able to handle my fancy style, but then again, where in the hell would I ever HAVE to be fancy again?

(Nowhere is the answer. Down here, absolutely nowhere.)

But I HAD to be able to express myself via my clothing, or this just wouldn’t work. It’s a massive part of how I communicate with the world, and since I didn’t know anyone down here, I needed to start some conversations.

On the one side, there are certain parts of the day that dressing requires no thought. Chilling. Grinding. Happy Hour under the big oak trees. It’s hot AF. Don’t go nuts. Just wear whatever.

On the other side, there have been a couple of surprises where I have really been able to let my freak flag fly, and that makes me very happy.

First, at the golf course, it’s a daily laugh. Maybe it’s the blue balls that I use. Or maybe it’s the long, fitted (non-khaki) pants in 100 degree heat. The Jordan XIs. The jewelry. They usually start a “What do you do?” conversation, and then we are off to the races from there.

Next comes the boating gear. Oh, hell yeah. This is a category I never experienced before but where I’ve learned that anything goes. I’ve pulled out all sorts of stuff. Bright fishing shirts, bandannas, colorful sunglasses, hats, and so on. For me personally, this takes self-expression to a whole new level.

Lastly, and the biggest surprise of all, there is a town about 15 minutes away called Ocean Springs. It is artsy, with an artsy vibe, and artsy people. It even has a bona fide art museum, which I am yet to visit, but it is on the list. Who freaking knew? I wore one of my paint-splattered hats to dinner there the other night, and I could see the locals eyeing it down. It’s fun giving people something different to look at and talk about.

Mississippi was never going to be New York City. No doubt. But I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to express myself down here. My clothing, my tattoos, my hair, and so on are such a part of who I am, I needed this. I really did.

It’s also been one hell of a place to write. The words just flow underneath the sun and along the water.

Next week, my sister and her crew are coming to visit, and we all hope to spend some time at Horn Island. Horn Island, for simplicity’s sake, is a beautiful, uninhabited island some 5-10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Years ago, the artist Walter Anderson, for whom that art museum in Ocean Springs is named, stayed out there for days on end to do his painting and writing, ensuring his work would be untarnished by the real world. I am smitten.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? You’re damn right. That’s next on my list. Grab a cooler, some quirky clothes, a few hats, and head out to the island. And just write. Get lost, let the words flow, and not worry if a single soul ever reads them.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Taking (Much) Less

“The Truth is always the truth.”-Somebody (my favorite quote)

What is your obsession with unlearning behaviors and beliefs? Was your life bad or something?

My life was not bad, but until I started unlearning, it wasn’t TRULY mine. The amount of outside influence on our souls is staggering if we aren’t paying attention. Do you know how freeing unlearning is? But do you know hard it is? In my experience, it is unequivocally, indisputably, undeniably, flat out harder to unlearn a behavior or belief than it is to learn a new one. Oh, and also, I am now fully paying attention.

Go on.

Think of the last time you had to say something just because it was politically correct, but it wasn’t you. Think about the last time you put a post up just to get more “likes”. Think about the last time you sold your soul for a dollar. Think about the last time you bought something because the marketers said you needed it. Think about the last time you did something that makes absolutely no sense in 2019 because your 3rd grade pastor’s voice is still in your head. Think about the last time you said, “Well, Mama always said…”. Do you agree with what she said, or just because she said it, it must be gold?

I could go on for days, so be careful when you say “Go on.”

So what’s your point?

I wanted to put myself in a position so that I could eliminate or, at least, minimize any need for me ever to be inauthentic again. To never have to think or act in a manner that is contradictory to what I actually believe.

To accomplish this, it was important for ME to get away from it all. I needed to fully rewire and refocus, and I was willing to sacrifice a ton (paycheck included) to align every single move and thought with who I really was. I had to OWN IT.

The premise of inauthenticity holds people captive every single day. And instead of unlearning, we are told to learn and consume more. How To this and How To that. I’ve gone the other way (surprise, surprise). Focus on clearing out the bullshit first. Life changing, obviously.

You said that was hard?

For my regular abk friends, you know it took 671 days. For my abk golf folks, today is day 110, and I am still fighting like hell to rid myself of bad habits.

Of those 671 days, 85%+ of that time was spent unlearning. I wasn’t out there reading Aristotle and Socrates to learn more and sound fancy. I was asking myself “why” in every single life category that already existed.

Once I decided that nonjudgmental, open-mindedness was going to be my North Star, the vast majority of my evolution became very simple. Unlearn everything that didn’t fit in that category. So simple. So, so incredibly difficult.

I used to be a big consumer. I definitely took more from the world than I gave back. Now, I’m in the process of flipping that. Other than massive quantities of BBQ, I consume very little now.

I watch very little TV. I don’t consume the news. I basically browse Instagram, listen to or watch comedy, and watch sports. I’ve traded in everything else for sunlight, water, grass, animals, and trees. I love seeing my alligator buddy on the 10th tee every day.

It keeps my mind clean and clear to produce the writing and the encouragement and the wry laughter that I want to give to the world.

How do you know what’s going on in the world then?

In three minutes max, I can gauge the pulse. I don’t need the details. The body and mind weren’t built for all these details. It just brings people down. Worries them. Scares them.

I’ve learned so much more by consuming so much less. I’ve learned that my refusal to compromise or conform comes from a good place and not a bad place. It has allowed the bad habits to slowly die. By DOING more and not consuming more, I’m quieter. I talk less. I like the silence. It aligns perfectly with what I am trying to do. Inward happiness, peace, and calm. I imagine that must be very difficult to find when consuming all the noise.

Are you worried unlearning all these behaviors will offend the folks who taught them to you?

I actually NOW think they would be proud. Parents and teachers are supposed to equip us with the skills to navigate life, not tell us what to do or how to live our lives. My dad, in particular, is a genius at this. All of these good peoples’ imprints are all over me, and I’m very thankful. I’m just going to make my own decisions.

Any last words?

Successful doesn’t necessarily mean happy, and rich doesn’t necessarily mean free. Free means free, and it takes lots of work.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Me, NYC, and Volume 3?

“I told myself before the start that this was either going to be the dumbest thing I’d ever done or one of the greatest. And it was.”-abk

Well. THIS👆🏽 is where we left off last November. I had just finished the New York City Marathon Volume 2, exclaiming both how incredibly wonderful and ridiculously stupid it was that I had done it again.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday, and there, sitting in my inbox, was this year’s invitation from Team Arthritis Foundation ready for Volume 3. Run again. Raise some money. Let’s go!

Nope. Not this year. I can’t. And it kills me to have to say that. For one, I loved it. Volumes 1 and 2 were both mind-blowing and life-changing. But more importantly, to have to say “I can’t” to anything, which is a phrase not allowed in this household’s vocabulary. Because as you should know by now, I believe anything is possible (no matter how far-fetched), and I’m on a journey to live it.

But not this year. Not with my foot and my shin and my hip. I’m not going to register. I’m not going to convince myself. I’m not going to think twice about it. Because as much joy, fulfillment, and perspective as the two experiences gave me, both races beat the absolute shit out of my body.

Pounding my joints on the pavement over and over is literally one of the worst things in the world for an arthritis patient. So when I told Team Arthritis Foundation two years ago that I wasn’t running in honor of anyone and that I was the one who was actually afflicted, they almost passed out. What? Good God, man. Isn’t it painful?

Yes. Yes it is.

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates.”-Forrest Gump

“I don’t care what mama said. What did mama do?”-abk

On the Saturday before the first marathon, I vividly remember sitting in the NYC hotel room, watching Penn State vs Michigan State football, talking on the phone with my sister. Christy and Banks were out visiting friends in the city, and I had my feet up nervously awaiting Round 1. My sister asked me, “Why are you doing this?”, and I had no answer that day. Well…I do now.

I observe a lot of idle dialogue, and for whatever reason, it is a massive pet peeve of mine. Lots of “you can do anything you put your mind to” rah rah and not as much actually doing it. I got to thinking, “I rarely pay attention to a talker talking, but I always pay attention to a doer doing. Maybe I should DO more myself. Maybe that might help someone.”

Case in point: I hardly ever listened to a word my mother told me (she knows this), but I undeniably admired and still admire the fact that at age 69, she LIVES her passion (piano) daily. She doesn’t talk about it. She just does it. And that has been a silent, guiding influence for my entire life.

My son got the “doesn’t listen” gene also, and I just giggle, because of course it came from me. But he watches every move I make and every single thing I do. So instead of telling him he can be whatever he wants, I’m just going to show him by how I live. He’s smart. He’ll get it.

“I’m a citizen of the world.”-Benj, 2017

“You can’t write that. It’s not true.”-Christy, 10 seconds later

I wrote this sentence in the initial “About Benj” section on the website, and Christy, rightfully so, put me in my place. Her comment stuck with me because it turns out I was writing what I WANTED to be, not what I was. And to get where I wanted to be, I had to get to work. Action. So I haven’t stopped for a day since then.

Two of those days, Race Day, I felt like a true citizen of the world, mixing and mingling with anyone and everyone. I’ll miss that this year. I really will.

But I’ve got bigger fish to fry. My continued quest to play extremely high level golf. 10 more states to explore to hit all 50. Refocus on the international exploits. Become a true citizen of the world. And if I have any chance to do and enjoy all of this, I need a healthy hip.

So will you tell your son that you COULDN’T do it this year?

Ha! No chance. He wouldn’t listen anyways. I’ll just go do something else. He’s smart. He’ll get it.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website .