Author, photographer, and athlete Andrew Muse has long been drawn to the wildest places on Earth. At age 25, he took a leap: he moved out of his master bedroom and into a 1976 truck camper with his beloved golden retriever, Booter, and began traveling to locations of natural beauty and wonder across the country. Muse also launched a travel YouTube series, Tiny Home Adventure, to document his journey.

In his photograph-filled new book, Life Is Golden (Gibbs Smith), Muse reflects on his time traveling with Booter, the devastation he felt at his tragic death, and new adventures with his puppy, Kicker. Muse shared his thoughts on recovering from the loss of a beloved companion and the lessons he’s learned about what truly matters.

You write so beautifully about the joys of canine companionship, as well as the pain of losing a dog. Why did you ultimately decide to get another dog after Booter’s death?

I was rather apprehensive. I know that the joy and love of having a dog outweighs the pain of losing one, but that pain is absolutely devastating. I write in Life Is Golden about the tragic car accident in which I lost Booter, my first dog, and my very best friend. Months after the accident, one of the firefighters who pulled me from the car wreck told me his story of losing the best dog he could ever imagine. His parents got him a dog even though he didn't feel ready—and, unexpectedly, that actually helped him heal. When that same firefighter encouraged me to get a new puppy, I certainly did not feel ready. I wanted to continue to honor Booter and not just move on, but it felt like the right thing to do as my shattered life started to piece back together.

Where do you think your love for exploration and adventure originated, and how have your dogs enhanced your experiences?

Growing up, I found a lot of solace in the woods. I built forts, climbed rocks and trees. It's just where I felt alive. As I got older, the forts got wheels, the trees got taller, and the mountains got bigger. Dogs have enhanced this adventure by pushing me towards paths less traveled; venturing out of national parks and into some of the wildest places in the world. Plus, there’s nothing better than having an adventure buddy along for the ride.

How has downsizing and giving up material possessions changed your life?

For over a decade, I’ve lived in a home with wheels. I’ve been able to save money on rent, buy the gear I need, and take weeks off at a time to immerse myself in the things that make me feel most alive. Having a big comfy house is a small price to pay for the experiences and freedom I have the privilege of enjoying by living this way.

Share a little about the concept behind Tiny Home Adventure.

The Tiny Home Adventure series is an action/adventure travel series on YouTube. Each episode follows me and my dog living out of a vehicle for six-plus months, and our wild experiences. We focus on obscure adventures and action sports, like back-country snowboarding, paragliding, and ice climbing. The show is really about doing our best to live life to the fullest, sharing some positivity, and inspiring others. All while showcasing the not-so-perfect Instagram moments.

When did you first decide to document your experiences in a book? What was the most challenging aspect of writing Life Is Golden?

I have always wanted to write since I was a kid. I've experienced a lot of hardship and taken a lot of risks. Ultimately, I want to inspire people to build the life of their dreams. I have a lot more to share with the world. The hardest part of writing Life Is Golden was reliving the car accident where I lost Booter…thinking about how much I still love and miss him.

Did you know right away that Kicker would take to exploring the way that Booter did?

I knew Kicker was not going to be Booter, and I was worried that he might not like playing outside or hiking. And, ultimately, I knew there was no replacing Booter. When I first brought Kicker home, I plopped him down in the snow and he started having the time of his life, running circles, burying his face in the snow, slipping and sliding all over the place. It was a huge relief. I immediately smiled and said out loud "We are going to be great friends." I thought there was no way I could experience the same kind of bond I had with Booter with another dog. I was thankfully proven wrong.

How can we honor the animal companions we have loved and lost?

I say that our lost dogs would want to be remembered with a smile and not tears. They would want us to be happy. They would want to be remembered for bringing us joy. They would want us to move on and give another dog the best life we possibly can. I think the best thing we can do is give them that when possible.

What’s next for you?

We're currently getting ready to head back to Baja for a couple of months to shoot with the new Ford Bronco. After that, I think we'll settle down a bit. I am currently looking for land to build a small pole barn with a shop and apartment. Maybe get a friend for Kicker.