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.


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.


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?


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.


You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.



Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.


There Is Room For You


One day a couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to share my experiences in photos and writing.

I had recently bought my first (cheap smartphone. I downloaded social media platforms I didn’t know how to use. I picked a name. I bought this website. I didn’t know what it was going to become. I didn’t even do anything with it for six months.

In December 2014, I posted my first article here.

What was I thinking when I started this blog?

I was 24. I was dealing with a recent breakup, questioning my career path and working with a lot of the things I felt I “should” have been doing. Grad school. Finding a “real” job. Figuring out the next step.

The blog was just an experiment. A hobby. I spent a lot of time looking at travel, adventure and lifestyle bloggers. I took note of the big influencers within each space and I tried to learn from what they were doing. I paid attention to the parts of their work that really spoke to me. I was interested in how people shared their passions and what went into a story worth telling.

But I firmly believed that there was no room for another adventure blogger– and even if there was, I never thought I’d get to the level of “success” that I saw in those folks I used to stalk the s$!t out of. I thought the market was already saturated. I thought someone out there was saying what I wanted to say, but better. And I didn’t think anyone would read my blog– how were they even going to find out about it in the first place?

Reality, two years later:

  • I wasn’t trying to make this my job, but now it is.
  • I never thought I would call myself a blogger, but that is now how I describe my profession.
  • I didn’t think it was possible to reach people from all over the world with my work, but I now do (where are you reading this from?)
  • I never thought that the very people who inspired me online would be my real life friends, but they now are.

And it wasn’t like I didn’t want that stuff to happen, I just didn’t believe that it could.

Two years later, this means something much more than I ever expected. What this journey has showed me is that there was always room for new ideas, new people, new relationships, and new experiences. It was on me that I didn’t believe in that.

There is room for you in whatever you decide to pursue, because nobody can do it exactly like you will. Nobody can tell your story like you can, because they haven’t lived it. Nobody can share your heart because they don’t know the whole of it.

There is always room for your vision because it’s yours, and if you follow the trail of your own passion, you will make room for yourself in whatever area you are seeking.

In no way does this happen overnight. But when you do something you are passionate about consistently and for a long time, room is not only made for you, but the path often feels as if it’s laid out in front of your feet.

For there to be room for you, you first have to believe that there is. Then you work to make that room. And when you get there, it won’t be a coincidence.


Feature photo by BC Serna.


The Right Way to Pick Someone’s Brain

There are so many people I look up to. Incredible, amazing people who create and write and speak in ways that I admire immensely.

I used to ask people I admired for advice out of the blue. I used to expect a response. Here is exactly what was wrong with that.


“Hey! I would love to pick your brain sometime about that thing you’re really good at that I have no idea about, but would like to be good at as well.”


“Hey! I would like some of your time and information for free, even if it took you years and a ton of energy to learn that information.”

Time and energy are the most valuable currencies we have. Requesting that someone sit down with you and give you their time and knowledge is a big ask. They might even charge money normally for that type of thing.

If you are looking for guidance from someone you look up to, here’s how to ask.


How do you know about this person and their work? If you read their blog, tell them. If you’ve heard them speak, tell them. Tell them what you like so much about whatever it is they do– why does it speak to you? Why are you compelled to write them?


Someone’s experience and knowledge is precious, and there is a good chance this person has shared at least some of it somewhere– whether that’s online, in a book, video or some other medium. Do your research so that you’re not asking something they have already covered.


Concise, pointed questions are way easier to answer than open-ended ones. “How did you book your first paid collaboration?” is easier to answer than, “How did you become a blogger?”; “What was your biggest challenge with starting your business?” is much easier to approach than, “How did you start your business?”


Most people want to help each other out, and hopefully the person you reach out to will graciously answer your questions. But thank them. Be polite. Understand that they are taking the time to help you. And if you have anything to offer them (buying their book, sharing their articles with your friends, writing about them for your school newspaper), be generous with that too.


For the record, I absolutely love getting emails and messages, and I love answering your questions. If I can help give someone information they need in order to pursue their dreams, I do. But if you’re looking for the right way to reach out, this should help.

In pursuing anything, understand you will use resources where you have them and ask questions where people generously give you their time. But no one person will give you all the answers you need– only you can learn that yourself over a long period time, collecting experience that is full of trial and error.

There is immense power in mentorship and helping each other. So when you do start figuring it out– when people start asking to pick your brain– pay it forward in the way that someone else once helped you, and believe that there is always more to learn.



Feature photo by Ali. V. Follow her on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.


How to Start a Blog (or Do Anything)

I launched this blog on December 19th, 2014 from my parent’s couch. About twenty months later, it is a very solid part-time job.

It always baffled me how people made money as bloggers, so I’ll clear that up first. I make money by writing, taking photos, and posting on my social media channels for companies and brands, mostly in the outdoor and travel industry. I very occasionally do sponsored posts on this blog– but generally I prefer to preserve this space for my voice, unfiltered. Make no mistake that I am straight up busy– I work hard at this. I am never not doing something.

These are my guidelines for doing anything successfully in life:

  1. Do it well
  2. Do it consistently (for a long time)
  3. Do it with passion (or ditch it)

First of all, you should know that two years ago, this blog was just an idea I had. I was sitting where some of you might be– scouring the internet for “how to blog” articles. I thought there was a list of checkboxes I had to tick in order to get started. But what everyone wrote about– what all the bloggers I looked up to said– was that there was no real formula.

This is the closest I’ve come to having a formula.


…and when you don’t know what you are doing (i.e., me, most of the time), fake it.

You have to do it well. Do a ton of research. If you want to be a food blogger, read food blogs until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. If you want to start doing makeup tutorials on YouTube, I hope you are watching them like it’s your job– because it might be someday if you do it well enough.

Learn your market. Survey the demand in that market. Ask yourself who your audience will be. Then, create stuff that really, really matters to you and cater it to that audience so they come back begging for more. Align your passion with whatever you see as the demand, without compromising. Do it like nobody else is doing it, and do it the best way you know how.

Hold yourself and your work to a high standard, but accept that your craft will be evolving forever. Do it well and always believe that you can do it better.


Two years ago, I was stalking travel and outdoor blogs daily to see what their new posts were, if they changed anything on the formatting of their website, how the bloggers described themselves. I paid attention to things that I wanted to click on, because I figured that other people wanted to click on that stuff too.

So I started writing. I started writing things for me and for people like me. I did it consistently– at first, I was blogging twice a week. I did that for months. I posted on Instagram daily and whenever I could, I spent hours liking and commenting on stranger’s pictures to get my name out there even though there was no promise it would ever work.

After a couple of months, I started getting questions from readers– readers that were, surprisingly to me, not just my direct relatives. I based most of my content on what my readers wanted to know about me, and if I helped one person because of it, that was enough for me (it still is). I started caring less about what people thought. I started being more real, more honest, because that’s what I wanted to see more of, and as it turned out, what other people wanted to see more of too.

I put out good work, consistently, for a long time. Because of that, people noticed. Because of that, I have a track record that I am proud of. Because of that, I can write this article and truly believe that it is good advice, because it has gotten me where I am today.


Whatever you are doing, you better be passionate about it. Especially when it comes to sharing your story and your thoughts on the internet. People see right through the fake stuff. If you are posting something because you feel you should, that is going to come across.

Has this blog ever felt like work to me? Duh. But most days, I sit at my computer and feel luckier than I know how to describe. Writing, creating and sharing with purpose has never felt like work. It has felt like purpose itself.

I once thought I wanted to get a PhD in marine science. I eventually realized that it wasn’t the 7 years of studying that I was interested in– it was those letters after my name. It was the validation, the people-knowing-I’m-smart, the credibility and notoriety. Surprise… I ditched the PhD idea, because I was in it for the wrong reasons. Apply this here: if you want to blog just to get Insta-famous, do something else, because it’s not going to make you happy.

You have to do the work because you love the work, otherwise, it’ll feel like a chore. It’ll feel like a stretch, like it’s fake. You will know what the right topic is because it will feel right– it will feel like purpose.



But to do any of that, you have to start. People (even your close friends) will smile at you and shake their heads. They will think your project is a cute hobby. They won’t take you seriously. This is what happens when you courageously start something that you believe in. The nature of starting anything is that you have to start small. And you definitely have to start caring less about what people think, and caring more about what you think.

The hard part isn’t the technical stuff; the hard part is the creative stuff and the vulnerable stuff. Know that there is space for you in whatever industry you choose. You have a unique voice, so never think that the world is too full for you. It’s not– carve out your own niche and then fill it.

People ask me how I know all of this. I know all of it because I learned it the hard way– by just diving into the deep end and learning how to swim.

I recently heard a great analogy that I find to be incredibly true. I apply this to blogging, but it really makes sense related to anything creative. It’s like you’re paddling out to a wave. It takes a long-ass time to get to the wave, and then you’re waiting for this wave. You paddle some more. It’s hard. You’re sore. You paddle more. You wonder why you’re even out there.

But then that first wave comes. And the waves don’t stop coming.

That’s how it happened for me.

I hope this was helpful, and that a couple of years from now, you are writing a how-to guide for whatever it is you decide to pursue with passion. The reality is, you become a blogger by blogging. You become what you want to be by being that thing– by doing it.



More questions on this topic? Send me an email at so I can answer them in a future blog post or video.