BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN After suffering 12 concussions while playing various sports, Delano native Eric Dahl was growing weary of the side effects.
Fatigue. Chronic pain. Depression.
“I was sitting up in Calgary dealing with a bunch of post-concussion symptoms,” Dahl said of his time working for Texas Instruments in Canada. “Fatigue was the worst. I’d have a good half hour of a day. The rest of it, I would have to rest and not feel good. I thought, ‘This is not a very good life.’”
So, he decided to do something about it.
After researching how to combat concussion symptoms and saving money, Dahl decided to quit his job, travel the world, and blog about it along the way at www.deepsmiles.com.
“The biggest reason for the traveling was to improve my health,” Dahl said. “ . . . There were some really rough times for quite a while, but especially in the last couple years. I was on a quest to improve my health and find out what it means to be healthy and what it takes to be healthy.”
His family and friends were skeptical at first, which caused him to pause and evaluate whether he had saved enough and was ready for the change.
“As I’ve done it more, family and friends are saying, ‘What you’re doing is awesome. Take advantage of it while you can and see the world,’” Dahl said.
And yet, the first question many people ask is, “When are you going to quit traveling and get a job?”
“I find it interesting that’s the first thing on people’s minds versus asking about the adventure or thinking about places they want to go and suggesting them to me,” Dahl said.
Since December 2016, Dahl has traveled to Guatemala, the western United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Dahl spent a total of five months in Guatemala learning Spanish.
“One of my goals was to become fluent in Spanish,” Dahl said. “I figured that was a good way to start working on that.”
He then embarked on a road trip in the western US and Canada.
“I wanted to see the solar eclipse,” Dahl said. “That’s how I ended up on a big road trip. I didn’t end up seeing it because I was having such a fun time in Vancouver Island.”
Vancouver Island has been his favorite destination thus far.
“I absolutely fell in love with Vancouver Island,” Dahl said. “I met a friend in Guatemala, and we decided we wanted to hike the North Coast Trail. We hiked it and I stayed there a while. It’s a Mediterranean climate. In mid-August, it was 73 degrees and sunny.”
That’s not all Dahl found on Vancouver Island.
“I met this girl, who is also having time off, in Vancouver Island,” Dahl said. “We really connected. I asked her if she wanted to travel in South America, and we’re doing that.”
They’ll start in Colombia and tour Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.
“This will be the first time traveling with someone else,” Dahl said. “I’m excited. There are different things to think about. When you’re on your own, you can change your mind and do whatever. Now, there’s someone else who’s equally important in the decisions.”
Throughout his travels, Dahl has met a number of people.
“What I love is connections I get with people as I travel,” Dahl said. “When I’m at these places, I’ll strike up conversations with people. Some people I’ve met, we’ll have conversations for two hours while we’re sitting outside somewhere in nature. It’s awesome to hear those other people’s experiences.”
He has also met a number of people who have helped him out along his journey.
“Something else I’ve learned is people are nice,” Dahl said. “People are going to help you out.”
He shared a story about himself and friends looking for a farm on Vancouver Island, where they planned to buy garlic. When they stopped at a house to ask for directions, the man there gave them garlic for free.
“Through things like that, you see the goodness and magic in the world,” Dahl said.
He hopes to share that positive attitude with others through his blog, which is why he named it Deep Smiles.
“It’s just what I enjoy about life,” Dahl said. “I like smiling. People feel better when they smile. I was looking for something unique that wasn’t taken, and Deep Smiles was there.”
Dahl hopes to subsidize his travels and raise funds for concussion and mental health-related causes through a link on his website. If people click on the link and use it to make an Amazon purchase, Dahl will receive 6 percent of the purchase, and he pledges to donate half that amount.
“Anything related to Deep Smiles, 50 percent will go to charity for concussion research and mental health research, not just awareness,” Dahl said.
He hopes to raise $25,000 for his cause by the end of 2018.