All Posts By

Erin Sullivan

INSPIRATION

Fall in Love with the Unknown

Do you know what’s next? Me neither.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I do a lot of things, and that the line between my work life and my life life is very blurry, and often non-existent. I turned my passion into my career and I can’t remember the last time I took an easy way out. I’m a writer, photographer, trip leader, speaker and coach. Many hats is an understatement, and I choose to wear them all. Every day.

I used to run from uncertainty. I used to make the safest choices, especially when it came to my career. I took an office job because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I listened to “should,” I listened to expectation; I listened to stories that were not my own. And in doing that, I ran from myself. I ran from my truth.

I tripped and fell face first into the unknown when I got fired from that job. It was the first in a series– the first of many back-flops from the high dive.

How can I possibly express just how much I have come to love the unknown? Just how much it has become me, just how much I use it as my baseline, as my compass for knowing where to go next? I know it by heart. And I’ll learn from each mistake. When you view failure as just another teacher of the most intentional kind, true failure is impossible.

The unknown says: Jump. Let’s see what you are capable of. You will never know what surprising things are buried under your safe foundation until you start to dig.

The unknown doesn’t say don’t plan. It doesn’t say leave everything to chance. It says: intentionally step out into me, be hyperaware of what works, and set your intention to learning as much as possible. Leave room for me. Let me be your guide.

The unknown invites us to jump, but we have to take the invitation. Please, please jump. It doesn’t have to be accidental. You can choose courage. Sit in it, play in it. The unknown will offer you a series of moments when you just have to figure it out. It doesn’t promise you fulfillment, prosperity or security. It only promises itself. But whatever you uncover is infinite, and up to you.

There is little that I know for sure, but I know that I prefer passion over stability any day of the week. We only grow when we are stretched, and we stretch by getting uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t really see the purpose in it until we get to the other side. Or until we have to jump again.

Do not discredit the voice inside you asking you to take a risk, or to pursue something unfamiliar, or to revisit a passion that time may have faded or turned into background noise. Put it front and center. Step into your lane and sprint toward it.

When we are OK with not knowing, we are receptive to all options. We are open. We don’t discredit the possibilities, or label them as wrong, or push them to the side.

None of this will ever promise you comfort. None of it will promise you safety. But what would happen if you fell completely in love with not knowing? What if you learned to adore the unknown? What if you made it your confidant– the friendly ghost walking beside you? Know that it’ll smile anytime you stumble.

Accept the invitation and see what the unknown has for you.

 


 

Feature photo by Ali V.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

You are Qualified

I get a lot of questions about my lifestyle. What do I actually do for work? How do I travel so much? How did I get to where I am?

They are questions about my path, about what I’ve learned along the way, and about the boxes I needed to tick in order to get to next level upon next level.

And I always answer the questions–  but it’s never been about the boxes. It never will be.

A couple of summers ago, I got fired from my first attempt at a 9-5 office job. My first reaction was panic. I had taken that job because it was what I thought I should have done. It was a stepping stone while I figured out the next step. It was logical. It had a steady paycheck and health insurance.

Back then, this blog was my hobby. It was a way for me to process my experiences, to connect with people, and to contribute something, even if it was just rambling from my restless mind. I wondered what it would be like if the blog was my full-time job. I looked at other bloggers and wondered how they did it.

I didn’t think I was qualified to make Erin Outdoors my job. I had no idea how I would even go about that. I had no experience in journalism or photography or social media or freelancing. I didn’t have any friends doing anything remotely similar.

So I took the full time job because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was my obvious next step– a way to buy time while I prepared for a freelance career I might someday pursue.

Getting fired really expedited that process.

My options were to go get another full-time job, or to try out a more mysterious creative path. The latter had less knowns and less security, but I was done buying time. The longer I waited, the more I realized that waiting to be “ready” was just some bullshit excuse I bought into. So I made a list of my skills and ideas for how to monetize them.

At first, things were slow so I got busy learning. If I had time to be frustrated with a lack of progress, I had time for another job.  I was an intern. I was a volunteer. I was an assistant. I took every opportunity to learn a new skill. I found people I looked up to online and paid attention to everything they were doing, down to the last detail. And I stayed consistent with my craft. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing. I worked for free if it meant getting my name out to the right people.

I wanted blogging jobs, so I started calling myself a blogger. I was my only advocate, so I had to be really good at it. I had to be good at telling people why I was a perfect fit for their project. Why I had so much to contribute. Even when I didn’t believe it 100%, I knew I would work hard. I knew I would do my best.

I was often terrified. I thought someone would see through me– that they’d realize I wasn’t qualified. What I now know just a short time later, is that the most successful people are often not the ones with all the degrees and qualifications. The most successful people are just the ones who work hardest. The ones who don’t take no for an answer. The ones who stay up late and wake up early in pursuit of their dreams.

People want to know how I got to where I am. It has nothing to do with ticking boxes, and everything to do with experimenting. I’m not here because of where I have studied, or because of what cameras I use or what platform this website is hosted on. I’m here because I decided to take a leap, pay attention to what worked, and do more of the things that did.

I have learned over and over again that there is never a perfect time for you to pursue your universe-sized dream– the thing you don’t know how to do, but feel pulled to anyway. Take as many classes as you want, put it off for a few years, tell yourself you’re not ready. It’ll still come chase you down.

How many blogs had I written when I started calling myself a blogger? Two.

You decide on your title. Identify yourself as who you want to be, and go do the thing.

Don’t you dare call yourself unqualified. Nobody knows if you’re “qualified” or not– qualify your damn self.

The life you want to create is yours to make. You already have every qualification you could ever need. Curiosity, ambition, and the vision of the dream is more than enough.

INSPIRATION

Life Lessons from My Restaurant Job

RSP_4624

I’m laughing, because this is a really personal piece for me. Does that seem weird? Does this seem off-topic?

Since I started this blog, it has been the place where I have expressed the discovery of my true self– through travel, the outdoors, and pursuing a path that might be a little more complicated than most. I’ve shared honestly about my freelance career, about figuring out next steps, and about taking risks when you don’t even know if there’s a reward on the other side.

I have had many side jobs on this path. Many of them had cool titles, or seemed glamorous. But the best side job I ever took on was working at a restaurant.

I needed the money and I wanted to tick it off my bucket list. I had been working on the blog a lot and doing some social media freelance work– it was all screen time, and all solo. I wanted something social for the weekends, so I started looking.

The goal was to work at a brewery, and there are lots of options in Colorado. But I didn’t want to work at just any brewery, I wanted to work at the best brewery, so that’s where I applied. And well, that brewery also happens to be a restaurant. A big restaurant.

I was honest– I didn’t know a lot about beer. But I was enthusiastic and willing to learn, and they hired me.

So for the past year, I worked 20 hours a week at a restaurant. And this is what I learned.

I learned how to efficiently do a lot of things at once, because there is no other option. The only room available in my brain while I was at the restaurant was for things that had to do with… being there. It was a constant exercise in prioritization and mental organization. Always figuring out the most efficient way, always reconfiguring and re-inventing.

I learned to listen to people and gracefully navigate conflict. It’s in your face in different capacities all the time– both with guests, and with the people you work with. You can’t delete it and you can’t avoid it, so you better learn how to deal with it or things are going to be really uncomfortable for you.

I learned not to dwell on mistakes. I broke pint glasses, I garnished dishes wrong, I dropped drinks at the wrong tables. My bad. Let go, learn, and move on– that’s what everyone expects of you. It was so weird to me that everyone moved on from my mistakes so quickly when I was used to being hard on myself. It seems simple, sure, but it gave me permission to let go.

I learned not to take things personally. Because it was never about me– it was about the bigger picture. Everyone was doing their best. And most people wanted to make my job easier. Nothing was personal. Everything was about the team.

I learned what happens when a group of people come together who love something a little or a lot (but mostly a lot), and when they are committed to being great. I learned that when it’s for the right reasons, people proudly take more responsibility than they have to, because they know that they can, and that they are supported.

I learned what a real leader does. How a real leader acts when nobody is watching. And how closely a real leader listens to people and actually hears them. I watched with joy as real leaders led, no matter the size of their arena.

I learned what a team actually is. What it looks like, how it behaves. How a team shows up for each other when someone is overwhelmed, when things get complicated, or when life happens. Not because they feel obligated, but because they understand their place within its fabric, and because they know that it’s important.

I was reminded of the story within every individual; the things that make us tick that other people might not get to see from the outside. I wanted to know about the dishwasher’s trip to Australia and the line cook’s Master’s degree and the host’s daughter’s favorite coloring books. How the chef got married standing knee-deep in a glacial lake on a sunny day in the mountains.

We are so much more than people think we are.

And of course, it wasn’t perfect. No company is. But I learned that it’s possible to very quickly become very attached to a large group of extremely different, unique people. That it’s possible to not only call them family, but to feel it and believe it.

I was reminded in a big and bold way, that lessons are found everywhere, especially in places you never think to look for them. And that I have to remember to leave room for surprises– to know that they are not only possible, but probable, every single day I walk this earth.

I learned more in my part-time restaurant job than on any rugged outdoor photoshoot or fancy media trip. No “cool job” I’ve had could ever stack up.

I’m not saying that every restaurant experience is like this one. But I want you to know that it’s out there.

And above all, I want you to know that in life and in any side job you might have, there are always opportunities to learn, and always opportunities to be surprised. They are endless.

It’s just on us to see them.

 


 

Feature photo by Rebecca Slaughter, and my deepest thAnks to the team at Avery Brewing Co. for all of the above and all the other stuff I couldn’t put on the internet.

INSPIRATION

Getting Out from Overwhelm

E13A2922

“I just can’t. I’m just stuck.”

I have felt this way more times than I can count.

This week, a writer friend of mine had an assignment. A big assignment. A career-changing assignment that she’s been working toward for years. When she got the assignment, she celebrated– and certainly, she deserved to celebrate. It was a milestone.

But then she had to write it. And that was a different story.

She built it up so much in her head that she felt completely paralyzed when it came to writing the damn thing.

I am sure this has happened to you. Planning a trip, writing a thesis, booking a huge job. It’s all very exciting when you find out you’re going to do it. You think about how great you are, and how great the outcome will be. You think about what it means in the context of your success.

And then you realize that you actually have to do it. You look at the other things on your to-do list. How are you supposed to prioritize? What will happen if you fail? What will happen if you don’t? What does success mean? And what is its place in your life?

I find that the people who really don’t want to be stuck tend to fall into Overwhelm for one of two reasons.

1. WE DON’T KNOW THE “RIGHT” WAY TO GO

You have some idea of your endgame– some idea of where you want to end up. But you have no clue how to get there. If you only knew the right way to go, the right path to take, the right

I hear this one as it relates to travel. People don’t know how much money they need to save, so they don’t save anything at all. Options are overwhelming, so they don’t plan.

We seem to think that successful people are successful because they had a plan. Like they had a magical ability to always make the right decision.

I promise, they didn’t. Everyone is just doing their best.

Most decisions don’t become “right” until after they’re made. There aren’t right decisions– there are creative and intuitive people.

2. WE ARE AFRAID TO FAIL, SO WE AVOID RISKS AT ALL COSTS

Dreaming about booking a huge gig? Awesome. Fantasizing about your dream career? Easy.

Dreaming is easy because it requires no follow-through. It doesn’t require action or risk. But when you actually try something out, you also actually risk failure in a major and often public way. You materialize and admit to your intention, and that’s scary.

Usually, we really care about our dreams. Obviously– they’re our dreams. So, we also really care if they don’t work out like we hoped and planned.

Our big dreams are also tied intimately to our sense of ourselves. Our big dreams are woven delicately with our identities. So it’s totally understandable that fear of failure is a real thing– a real, paralyzing thing at times.

WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO GET UNSTUCK FROM OVERWHELM?

Today I’m giving you some tough love.

Do something. Do anything. Momentum is real. Eventually, you’ll find something that works. And when you do, you’ll do more of that thing.

When you are in the process, when you’re distracted by it, you don’t have time to look up and see how far you have to go. You celebrate your accomplishments amongst the failures, because that’s what you have to do in order to keep moving.

Overwhelm happens. It should be celebrated. It means you have big dreams. But in order to change a direction or find one that feels good, you have to be moving. So get moving.

 


 

Feature photo by Elisabeth Brentano.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

Why I Went to Maui (and What I Did)

If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d have way less friends. Seriously, credit for most of my friendships goes to the Internet. Specifically, social media.

The relationships I have made as a result of social media have challenged me, they have brought out the absolute best in me, they have taught me a lot. And they have also gotten me to see some pretty amazing places. One of those places is Maui.

_DSC8246

I met Elisabeth Brentano at the Outdoor Retailer trade show last summer. We chatted for a few minutes and went our separate ways. That was it. But fast-forward seven months and we’re sleeping in a Jeep together on the top of a volcano. What?

Life is full of connection, and connection is awesome. Connection is the reason I do most things in life.

The trip came about because we’re both freelance bloggers and photographers, had some free time, and wanted to go to Hawaii. We kept in touch on Instagram and started talking about our plans. February was open. We both had airline miles to spend, so we bought flights and got curious. We outlined an itinerary, emailed places and people that seemed interesting, flew to Maui, rented a Jeep from Avis and hit the road.

Elisabeth and I both work with sunglasses brand Sunski, and one of their team members lives in Maui. Huge thanks to Raja and Rachel for letting us crash for a few nights! Their house was our first stop, then it was off to Heleakalā for sunset.

Haleakalā is an incredible volcano that I struggled to pronounce on more than one occasion. We drove up for sunset, slept in the car (campground info here) and drove back up to the top at 3am to attempt some star photos and catch sunrise. You have to do this if you go to Maui.

Next up: the road to Hāna is a famous for its stunning views and waterfalls around every (hairpin) turn. There are plenty of places to stop and marvel– do some research here and you will be rewarded. The drive takes 2 hours, but more if you stop at places like Wai’anapanapa State Park like we did.

It’s worth staying overnight in Hāna– a day trip would feel like too much time in the car, especially because the roads are windy. We had a beautiful stay at Travaasa in Hāna. Our bungalow was straight-up gorgeous.

snapped by Elisabeth at Travaasa

Kihei is another place you’ll probably visit when you’re in Maui. We spent a lot of time on Big Beach, aka Makena Beach, where we saw a couple of beautiful sunsets. For food, we had a recommendation for MonkeyPod in Wailea from a few people– and we ended up going back more than once. It has an awesome beer selection for a craft beer nerd like me, plus great food (butternut squash pizza please).

In Kihei, we stayed at a couple of beautiful vacation rentals. I never think about searching for rentals before a trip– I always go straight for AirBnb or to looking at campsites. This was a reminder that sometimes it pays to reach to to individual property owners. I saw Tracy’s Tropical Treasures online and sent Tracy an email. She got back to me right away. We stayed in two of Tracy’s locations, and had the opportunity to photograph a new property for her. The only thing nicer than Tracy’s properties was Tracy herself! I highly recommend that you reach out to her if you’re planning on going to Maui.

Next up we headed to Lahaina. I took surf lessons with Abner at Hang Loose Surf Club. Abner is a rad dude– a go-getter and native Hawaiian who runs 3 businesses. I was super inspired by him. It was also my first time ever *really* standing up on a surfboard. I’ve taken surf lessons before… more than once… but never actually had much success. I recorded the lesson and will be sharing it on YouTube in the next few weeks!

In Lahaina, we stayed at the Plantation Inn, a lovely B&B with gardens and a picturesque pool & jacuzzi. Dinner at their restaurant, Gerard’s, was one of the best meals I have had in recent memory– they’ve been serving some of these dishes for over 30 years. Breakfast was also delicious (get the french toast) and a great start to our last full day.

We had heard amazing things about the Iao Valley, but it is currently closed (Feb 2017) due to heavy rains a few months ago. We opted for the Waihee Ridge Trail, and it did not disappoint. Lush green jungle and views from an impressive ridge. We didn’t hike to the top– we were too busy marveling at the view of the valley below the clouds.

Overall, this trip came about because we got creative with the resources we had, and ultimately because we made it happen. We asked around and stayed flexible.

I wanted to write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we did, but also to share the “Why” behind the trip. I went to Maui because I was curious and because frankly, I didn’t have a good reason not to. On the trip, I took photos all day and edited at night. On more than one occasion, I pondered the idea of a 9-5 job so that I could go on “real” vacation and not have work obligations follow me around everywhere I go. But it’s all about chasing and building the life you want to create, and this is the life I am creating.

A life of adventure. A life of Yes. A life of defining my Why. My lifestyle wasn’t something that happened overnight– it’s something I’ve been working toward ever since I realized I had a choice. You have choices, even if they look like small steps right now. What life do you want to build?

INSPIRATION

The Person You Want to Be

I have never found motivation in comparing myself to someone else.

And I am really good at comparing– I seem to do it a lot, especially when I’m feeling insecure or when work is slow. Maybe it’s a product of society, my own insecurities and doubts, my own judgment. My own hopes and dreams and the ways I’ve realized them, or the ways I haven’t.

There are still moments when I am diluted by the trap of comparing my struggle to someone else’s success.

One day in college, I was sitting in this loop of comparison and judgment. I already knew I had a long way to go, I just didn’t really know where I was trying to get to. I wrote down this question:

 

Who is the woman I want to be? What is she like?

 

I made a list of things about the person I wanted to be– the things I wanted to be defined by.

The woman I want to be is gentle. She does not judge others for their demons. She does not judge herself for her failures.

The woman I want to be is graceful and confident. She doesn’t wait for new cards, but plays big with the ones she already has.

She knows her greatness, and doesn’t waste time on those who undervalue her. She is tall, so she wears heels. She sings in the car and the shower and the grocery store.

She is humble. She seeks feedback and listens. She wants to be better and knows that self-improvement does not always flow easily.

She gives graciously even when she does not have much to give.

The woman I want to be wakes up and is thankful before she is anything else. She makes her coffee before the sun rises. And at midnight, she drives up to the lookout above town, just to be closer to the stars.

She is a firecracker, but she is tactful when it matters. The room feels different when she walks in.

She has strong boundaries. She understands her needs and makes them known. She does not settle.

The woman I want to be asks questions. She asks them well and she asks them often. She listens to the experiences of those who are different than she is, and she takes no answers personally.

She is thoughtful with her friendships and with her love. She gives neither away without consideration. She invests deeply, but is not afraid to walk away.

She is willing to be wrong. She is willing to sound stupid. She knows that she isn’t right all the time and that she never will be. She finds strength in vulnerability.

The woman I want to be says no when she is overextended and asks for help when she needs it.

She stands up and speaks out for what she believes in, even when it is tiring, because it is the right thing to do.

She chases her dreams, every day, without apology or restraint. She looks doubt in the face and declares, “I see you, and I’m moving past you.”

She is a powerhouse; a warrior for her truth. And I will work to be more like her every day.

You are living in the space between the person you are and the person you want to be. The only one worth comparing yourself to is past versions of you. Who are you today? Who do you want to be? Who will you be tomorrow?

 


 

Feature photo by Ali V. – website and Instagram.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

Do The Thing

One question I have consistently gotten over the past two years goes something like this:

I want to blog. But where/how do I start?

This question is bigger than blogging. It applies to any new thing you want to do– anything you want to launch, anything you want to say to the world. A freelance career. Traveling for the first time. Launching a new business. Anything at all that you haven’t done before. Anything that’s a little scary and a lot unknown.

When I started this blog two years ago, I was a 25-year-old about to enter into her first full-time office job, trying to shift an existential quarter-life crisis into a quarter-life revelation. I had spent the past three years living out of a backpack guiding adventure trips. It sounds glamorous, but I was really hard on myself for not having a “real job” and not knowing what I was going to “do” with my life, as if it was that simple.

I started this blog from parent’s couch over Christmas. My first few posts aren’t my best work, but I haven’t changed them. Because it takes guts to put yourself out there, and looking back, I’m proud of 25-year-old me. Because there was a time when this felt really awkward. There was a time when I had to stretch myself to do something that feels easy now. If you want to start your thing, whatever it is, you will need to stretch yourself too.

It’s uncomfortable, I promise. It feels weird. You’ll doubt yourself, you’ll feel anxious, you’ll invent all the things people are saying about you. But don’t worry, nobody gives a real shit about your struggle. The only thing most people see is courage, and that is remarkable.

Just starting your thing is enough to inspire someone. Acquaintances from high school will take interest; they’ll watch your come-up from afar and wish they had the guts to do their thing too. And remember that successful people fail. We fail hard. We get up. Over and over again. You will too.

And we commend successful people for failure because being publicly real and honest is hard. Taking risks is hard when you have the option to be comfortable. But it’s way worse to have to answer to that part of you that knows what you truly want to put into this world– to have to tell that part of you that you chose comfort, instead of following your truth, is heartbreaking.

I want to tell you exactly how to do the thing. But I can’t. Because I don’t have that answer, only you do.

And it’s not really important how you do the thing, it’s just important that you do it.

The most important aspect of starting, is that you start. Begin with your whole heart and get truly invested. Investment leads to progress and failure, in bigger amounts than you can imagine. Both offer invaluable learning.

Do the thing.

 


 

Feature photo by Garrett King.