Everything, Everywhere: Trippin x Vans MTE on a 24 Hour Journey Into the Italian Alps
As once highlighted by John Berger, there are different ways of seeing.
The outdoor landscape has changed. No longer reserved for enthusiasts, it’s not only become more widely embraced but also perceived to be an aspirational lifestyle. From skateboarders to visual artists and fashion designers, the outdoors has become synonymous with an evolving aesthetic that represents our collective desire to explore the world outside of our screens. A longing to travel comes naturally for the likes of skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers, who view the outdoors differently; often using sports as a means to explore new surroundings and form connections. This mentality doesn’t stop in the wilderness. At Trippin, we wanted to examine how creativity is influenced by our environment, and how we can reimagine our surroundings through different ways of seeing. We partnered with Vans to test their MTE range in the outdoors. Designed to help people embrace the elements, we also formed a small group with a Vans rider, a London native and Italian photographer to test out the products in nature.
For photographer Teo Giovanni Poggi, his creative practice is intertwined with his mindset. As a boulderer and artist who photographs natural environments, Teo’s creative practice is inspired by his vantage point on the natural world; how it enables him to view it from his own unique perspective and embrace the elements. Photographing sweeping vistas and minute details, through travel and exploration Teo’s perspective is constantly shifting and evolving. Born in Rome in 1993, he moved to London at the age of 18 to work as a push bike courier. After four years in the city, he gained a high rope access certificate and began travelling between Europe and Asia. Years later, in 2019, he moved to Milan and began pursuing photography as a full-time practice.
Image maker Zaineb Abelque carries this ethos into her work too. As the founder of Athene Club, she connects women with outdoor spaces via organised hikes. Her work is rooted in the perception that time spent outdoors is enriching for our lives. Travel is often associated with flights and Athene Club reinforces the notion that local travel can be just as immersive and allow people to have deeper connections with nature. The collective was formed during the pandemic with the aim of motivating women to explore the outdoors.
For Sparrow Knox, a Vans snowboarder, this link between nature and mindset runs into his field, with Sparrow using outdoor environments as a means to explore and expand his mindset. Born and raised in London, snowboarding has enabled Sparrow to travel across the world, zipping across the snowy expanses of regions such as the Alps.
We wanted to engage with the elements in ways that Teo, Sparrow and Zaineb do. Like Sparrow, we decided to gear up for a journey wearing Vans, particularly the MTE range as it’s designed to enable travellers to embrace the elements. Across two days we asked Teo to take us through various chosen spaces, where he showed us how we can visualise and see things differently in new environments by exploring them deeper.
Val di Mello
For the first part of our trip, we drove from Milan to the nature reserve Val di Mello, chosen for “the feeling of wonder and amazement” Teo first felt when he visited. “It's the quintessential fairy tale, forest and lake scenario,” he elaborated, “and so it's something that I want to share with everyone because it represents that type of feeling that we look for to be somewhere that looks straight out of a fairytale.”
On capturing the elements, he explained, “I like to always jump around rocks and get especially high or get really low somewhere in between rocks. This gives us more opportunities for angles and for starting to play as well. This worked well with being in such an environment where you have huge, steep cliffs, rocks and paths.”
For Sparrow, Val di Mello was a highlight. “We were just messing around, no real plan. We’d end up crossing little rivers or in some mud bog or something similar, feeling like clueless city folk having the time of our lives,” he recalled. “Standing under waterfalls, climbing rocks, dangling freely from trees, I even drank some mountain fresh river water using [our] SK8-Hi trainers as a vessel.”
Zaineb followed up: “Any moment I get to spend surrounded by something new is always a blessing! Was surprising how close the mountains were to Milan. Have an itch to now get to the other side of the Alps!”
The Forest of Bagni Masino
“[Nature] makes me feel both calm and alert. It is a very specific sensation of oneness with the surroundings but it requires a different kind of focus and attention,” Teo said as we trekked to the mossy terrains of Bagni Masino.
Growing up in Italy, visiting the Forest of Bagni Masino provided him with a new environment to explore, exacerbated by its juxtaposition to his home city. “[This is] quite a spectacular place and a bit otherworldly. It's full of green mass and mushrooms. I wanted to share with the guys because it looks like some of these old growth parts that you have in America.”
Agreeing, Zaineb commented, “Being out in nature always evokes a sense of tranquility and acceptance. It’s freeing, but also inspiring. Nature is a place you can let your curiosity run while also letting your mind wander.”
Preda Rossa Valley
The day after, we drove to Preda Rossa, situated at the top of Masino Valley. The area was spotlighted by Teo for the vastness of its landscape. “It's basically the only place where I use long lens,” Teo explained, “because there's this huge, big, wide open space, which is what you see as soon as you drive up there. A long lens shows how far and how big these other mountains are.” On identifying shots and angles, he added, “I like to move around a lot and let things unfold organically, paying attention to how the talent moves and what they are drawn to. Then it’s a case of stripping it down to a simple image.”
“As a practice, climbing teaches me to be appreciative of the little things and hard to notice narratives that take place even when we're not looking.”
From Cataeggio to San Martino
Teo chose to travel from Cataeggio to San Martino by van next, while Sparrow skateboarded part of the way. “It was fun to see him skate down these roads,” Teo recalled, “which are really steep and winded, with heavy hairpin turns and bends. That was fun, because I always drive slowly and carefully in this roads, and he was just smashing downhill with the skateboard.”
Ways of interaction differed between the group, too. “It was fun to see them interacting differently with the same spot or the same rocks to jump from. Or even the water can be cold or not so cold to some other people. It’s about letting them do their thing and see how they would interpret the same spot that I know so well.”
We navigated our way through the rocky beaches, wide meadows, granite boulders and peaks. “Being so close to these breathtaking mountains was a trip in itself,” Sparrow said, “leaving a humid and scorching hot Milan behind.”
Reflecting on the two-day trip, Zaineb exclaimed, “The outdoors is a means of exploring! It’s where everyone can start from, and you can find the outdoors all around you.”
The highlights, for Zaineb, were “the moments where I could feel my surroundings; jumping into the icy cold water and holding my breath for a moment; scratching my hands on the rocks as I run up them.” The trip reinforced the idea that the outdoors is ours – a world that continues to surprise with new details. With a product range such as Vans MTE, the outdoor world feels more accessible, available to those who are seeking new horizons. Taking non-conventional routes into these outdoor worlds allowed us to delve deeper, to see new sights and practice different ways of seeing.