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INSPIRATION

INSPIRATION

Keep Going

I woke up with this message on the tip of my tongue, but I don’t always wake up with something clear on my mind. Sometimes I don’t feel like trying, to be honest.

Keep going. This message is for you, but it’s for me, too. Because there are days that it’s a challenge to do anything that feels productive. I end up wasting my own time, doing things that aren’t important. And I think as entrepreneurs, we don’t talk about this part of the gig nearly as much as we could.

This blog has always been me, always been real, always been the high highs and the low lows. I’ve been writing here for nearly three years, and when first I started it, I did not look at my future in a crystal ball and see my life as it is right now. I didn’t see much of anything. I had just moved back to the States from traveling full time, had taken a job I wasn’t really sure about, and wasn’t clear on any kind of vision. I started this blog on a hunch that people might find these words helpful someday. That hunch never promised me a clear or straight shot to success. But it did prove to be a foundation for something–– I just had to decide on what to build, and then get to building it.

Today, I just want to offer you some encouragement. Whatever it is that you are fighting for, dealing with, working toward: keep going.

Nobody promises you ease or flow, it’s up to you to find it. We don’t get the final product dropped on our front doorstep, or success delivered in a package. It’s up to us to create it, and to struggle and learn with it in the process. And I do mean process–– something that takes time, energy, patience, and a little bit of luck along the way.

If you’re pursuing a path less traveled, be prepared to commit. Be prepared for it to last a lifetime. Be prepared to take your best guess most of the time. Be prepared to sit with yourself throughout your seasons of both loving and hating the journey. Of successes and inevitable failures, both of which you will learn from. I’m telling you this because I’ve been through it.

Part of my work involves writing. There are days I don’t write, and there are days I write and I don’t like any of it. I don’t wake up feeling inspired every day. And there are certainly periods of time when I don’t think my work is very good. That is just how all of this works. There are days when you think you’re a genius. Those are balanced out by the days you think you’re a total failure. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. (and no, you’re not a total failure.)

Do not discredit your journey, today or ever. Look at the big picture. Look at how far you have come. And keep going, because the world needs your innovation, your creativity, your words, your love, your ingenuity.

If there has been any key to my success, it’s that I’ve been doing this consistently without giving up. Hard stuff takes discipline. And creativity is, well, hard. So notice what is working, ditch what isn’t, and pursue what is. There is no magic pill, no secret key I possess that you don’t. It’s just hard work and creativity over time. It’s not like the people who you look up to have “made it.” It’s not like they live in a perpetual state of having “made it” after they booked that one gig or had that one photo published in that one place. Everyone is looking for their next mountain to climb.

My friend, we have to bet on ourselves. We have to make joy a habit. We have to let it be easy when and where we can. Sharing truth matters. Bold, real, gritty truth and experience. Connection fuels this world and its movement and you are invited to be a part of that by doing whatever it is that you do.

I come back to a lot of the same themes from time to time–– but I do so because they are important. A creative and adventurous life is often also full of doubt and fear. We can’t let those things get in the way of actually doing or actually creating.

If you feel like you have lost your momentum, it is up to you to find it again. Movement inspires movement. Remind yourself that you have taken many steps before, and many more are required of you. So take another step, and keep going.

INSPIRATION LIFE ADVICE WITH ERIN

Your Question: Is there time for everything?

Hi, Erin!

Do you think there is enough time for “it all”? By that I mean, personally, right now I’m 24 and I want to go back to school and finish my bachelors degree then get my PhD in either psych or history. I also want to be a full-time adventurer and environment advocate. At some point I want to hike the PCT from Oregon up to Canada. Want to join the Peace Corps too. Then there is the simple dream of working at a brewery and sleeping in an old Toyota Land Cruiser and reading the books and research studies I WANT to read and writing things I WANT to write. Is there time for all of this or do you think we have to narrow our dreams down to one or two manageable things? My mom tells me if I want something badly enough and I’m willing to work for it I’ll get it but I still feel this pressure that I should be settled down by a certain age and, even at 24, I feel like I’m running out of time. My priorities in life aren’t to get married or have kids, it’s myself but there’s still that voice in the back of my mind that says I shouldn’t hike the PCT after a certain age or backpack across Europe when I should be writing a thesis. I’m lost. I get chastised for feeling passionate about too many things then I feel ashamed for craving so much out of life that I don’t chase anything that my heart desires.

–M.


Dear M,

I totally get it. I’ve been there. There is so much out there. So many roads to explore. And it feels like they are one-way streets, but they aren’t. Let me explain.

At 22, I had the same question. There was a feeling of having to do it all right then and there. What was that urgency actually rooted in?

It can come from the fear of falling behind. The fear of never being “successful,” and an unfair definition of “success” in the first place. The fear of having to start over if you make a “wrong” choice. Why do these fears feel true when there are plenty of examples that show us otherwise?

You can always change your mind. Write that down and make it your mantra. We need to shift your thinking from a stressful space to a fun one–– your life is full of opportunity, how f*ing awesome is that?! It is important to recognize that this sense of overwhelm is coming from an immense place of privilege. You are blessed to have so many choices and resources. Don’t mistake this for a guilt-trip–– it’s not meant to be–– but it’s important to recognize the broad opportunities you possess.

“Which of these awesome things should I pursue?” is a fun question, so let’s take the pressure off. Let’s let it be fun. The fact that this is a worry for you tells me that you’re a passionate and dynamic person with a lot to offer, and that is something to celebrate.

First, look at your list of things. Your list of possibilities. What’s the Why behind them? Answer the following honestly.

  • Why do you want an advanced degree?
  • Why do you want to pursue full-time adventure?
  • Why you want to hike the PCT?
  • Why do you want to join the Peace Corps?
  • Why do you want to work at a brewery and live in a Land Rover?

When you answer these, identify which things you’re wanting for the right reasons. Not for prestige, for recognition, or to prove something to yourself about an insecurity. Get really stinkin’ honest with yourself here and see what comes up. Ditch the things you feel drawn to for the wrong reasons and keep the things that feel fulfilling to your soul.

What is the theme throughout the answers that remain? Is it creativity, adventure, giving back? Is it environmental? Does it involve you working behind the scenes, or standing on the stage? Connect the dots and identify the common themes, especially the Why. You can’t go wrong when you are connected to your Why. So can you soften? Can you stop being so hard on yourself?

I know that you want to get it right the first time. Listen: it’s OK if you don’t, and it’s a hell of a lot easier if you get used to the idea of failure right now–– because we rarely do things right on our first attempt. There aren’t right or wrong ways to do this whole Life thing anyway. You can change your mind anytime, remember? You can turn around whenever you want. Failure is only failure if you decide to purpose it that way. Repurpose your failure as a learning opportunity.

Is there time to do all the things? Yes, you’ll make it work! Why does it have to be so black-and-white? Could you work part-time at a brewery, read and write what you want, apply for PhD programs and take a semester off to hike the PCT?  Stop overthinking it, pick one thing to start with, and go for it. It will become clear if it’s the right path once you’re on your way.

Sitting and stressing about a lack of time is a gigantic waste of time. I know because I’m an expert at overthinking. In college, I had six months to write a thesis. I spent one week writing it (the week before it was due, obviously), and spent the other five months and three weeks worrying about not having enough time. The reality is that I always had enough time, I just convinced myself I didn’t.

So start doing. Start trying the things. Where do you feel the excitement? The real excitement–– not the stuff you feel you “should” do. I’m taking about the stuff that tugs on your heart, not your ego.

Your mom is right. If you put your mind to something, you’ll do it. Look at what your own history tells you–– if you always got shit done in the past, there’s no reason to doubt that you’ll get it done in the future. It’s time to put your energy somewhere it can be used. Choose one thing you are curious about, and the answers to your questions will reveal themselves over time.

If you only take one thing from this, here’s what I want you to hear: Stop overthinking and start doing. Don’t let indecision stop you.

If and when you do fail along this journey, take it as a blessing, learn what you can, and get back up. You got this.

-Erin


Have a question you’d like me to address on this blog for everyone’s benefit? Email info@erinoutdoors.com with the subject “Advice”.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

How to Monetize Your Passion

I work as an adventure photographer and writer. The biggest question I get about what I do… is HOW.

How do I travel so much? How did I get started as a photographer? How do I get paid to blog? How did I make this my job? How do I live such an adventurous life and still eat food make a living?

If you’re curious about what I do and how I do it, see my FAQs here. But let me make it clear that there was a time when these questions plagued me. The career that I currently have would have absolutely baffled me in my early 20’s. How the hell was I supposed to make money doing something I actually liked?!

It turns out it was pretty simple. I had to answer a few important questions for myself really thoroughly and often (they’re coming, keep reading), then I had to take action.

Before we dive in, just a note on this whole analysis paralysis thing you’re probably going through that brought you to this post. In order for anything to happen, you have to do something. This article isn’t meant to be passive. Read it, then answer the following questions.

Let’s go.

WHAT YOU DO THAT PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR?

Make a list of your potential products and services. What are you good at? What do people ask you for advice about? What are you known for in your friends group? What kinds of questions do people come to you with naturally? What are you good at making or creating? What do you enjoy doing?

And which of these things can you make money from?

Are people always asking you for travel advice? For exercises to get a firmer butt? For smoothie recipes? For gardening tips? For super sweet video editing techniques? For makeup or hair? For help figuring out what’s wrong with their car? You don’t have to do all this stuff for free.

Make a list of items you could potentially charge money for.

WHAT IS YOUR THING WORTH?

When I first started blogging for brands and companies, I had no clue what I should have been charging. At first, I worked in exchange for exposure because it was worth it to me at the time.

I get that this is hard. I get that you can’t exactly reach out to a complete stranger and ask them for their rates– not everyone is comfortable talking numbers. Maybe you have to get a little creative. Make sure your questions are specific. Who do you know that does what you want to do? Find some kind of connection to that person and explain where you are coming from. Maybe they can give you some insight.

Do some market research using whatever resources are available to you. That includes Google.

Eventually, you have to pick a price and go with it. “I didn’t know what to charge” is a dumb reason for not selling a product or service that people want. Whatever you charge is probably more than you’re getting right now ($0.00, right?).

If everyone is saying “oh hell yeah” to your rate without trying to negotiate with you, then you’re charging too little. If nobody is responding, or if your pricing is shutting down the conversation altogether, then you’re charging too much or you’re in the wrong market. Change something and see what works.

Next to the list you just made, write the range of what you can charge for each item.

WHO WILL PAY YOU FOR YOUR THING?

Figure out your ideal consumer/demographic. Who are they? How old are they and where are they located? What are they going through in their life? What do they do in their spare time? How much money do they make? Where do they shop? Why do they need your product or service?

You need to identify your target demographic for a couple of reasons:

  1. You might need influence
  2. You definitely need people to buy your thing

If what you do/make is made more credible or valuable by having a large audience, you need to attract this audience (side note- do not buy followers) and give them value. How can you be most valuable to this group of people? How will you attract them? And why will they want to buy your thing?

For each item you could potentially sell, write a sentence or two describing your perfect customer.

WHERE WILL YOU SELL IT?

Where do you want your thing to be available for purchase? If you’re a consultant, how will people know you exist and how will they contact you? If you sell a product, is your store online? Do you sell at pop-ups, craft fairs, trade shows? If you lead workshops, how do people book those?

However people are giving you money, make it easy for them. Look at your own spending patterns. How do you spend your money and why? When you think about your own purchasing experience, what makes it smooth and seamless? What makes you want to buy something again?

Give your customer options, but make the best deal clear and obvious– all they have to do is say YES.

Make a list of how and/or where you will sell your thing.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?

Look at your answers to all of the questions above. They should give you some clarity on your next step. It should give you some idea of the options you have and the avenues you could potentially go down. It will also give you an idea of how scalable your thing is– and scalability matters if you are looking to make a fully grown career out of your passion.

If this feels overwhelming, ask yourself which of the things you wrote down is low-hanging fruit, i.e. which one of them feels easiest? Which of these could you start selling this week? Which of these could you start selling today?

Pick one of your products or services, and write yourself a 5-step plan from creation to sale. Here is a personal example:

Getting a project-based photography or collaboration job

  1. Make a list of 5 specific target brands
  2. Shoot or compile images I have taken that are consistent with their branding
  3. Make a portfolio specific to that style
  4. Send portfolio with package rates (& make one of the packages stand out as a great deal)
  5. Negotiate prices and packages

It won’t always be 5 steps– sometimes it’ll be 3 and sometimes it’ll be 10. Monetizing your passion can be big and scary. Breaking it down into actionable steps can make things seem much more attainable. After you make your plan, the next step is setting times or dates for when each of these will be completed.

CREATE, TRY, REPEAT.

Not everything you do will be a huge hit, and you have to accept that right now, otherwise failure will bog you down every step of the way. You can love it or hate it, failure is a crucial part of the process.

Do I think all passions can make you a ton of money? No. Do I think everyone should try to monetize their passions? No. But if you want to do it, now is the time. You are most likely not going to get any more clarity than what you now have. Entrepreneurship, creativity, starting a business or a side-hustle– these are not endeavors that come with a guidebook. You have to see what works and take it from there.

Get to it. And don’t forget to have fun.


 

Feature photo by William Reed Olds-Benton.

INSPIRATION JOURNAL

How to Do it All

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You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I don’t love that– it’s unlike me. I stick to deadlines, even when I set them myself.

This is about balance, something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I knew this summer was going to be a hurricane; I mean, I designed the storm myself. I pushed the boulder down the hill in the first place, so I can’t be surprised that it picked up momentum. I balance my photography gigs, this blog, social channels, trip leading, a coaching practice and my life (i.e., my car getting totaled in a hail storm). I don’t always do it well, but hi, I’m here, so I’m obviously doing it in some general capacity.

An alternate title for this article might be “How to Keep Your Shit Together,” and SPOILER ALERT!!! I don’t actually know the answer. But if you continually launch yourself into the deep end, well, ya better learn how to swim.

“How do you do it all?”

Clumsily. Blindfolded. And on too little sleep.

My attempt at balance is messy. It’s a lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall— a metaphor I use all the time because what a visual… and that’s how it feels. It feels like pasta everywhere, with my laptop and cameras somewhere buried in there too.

It seems glamorous to travel the world and write and take photos. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it feels easy. Do not mistake this article for a complaint. I am in love with what I do for work and I wake up thankful every day. I also recognize the great privilege that has been present in my life allowing me the opportunities that got me to this point. But you can get run down or burnt out doing literally anything, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun or easy all the time.

Sometimes life turns up the volume on every channel at the same time. Sometimes you wish just one thing would slow down. Sometimes you just want to catch one little break, but the punches keep coming. You cannot always control the volume. It becomes really important to look at what is actually in your control, and act in your own best interest, because nobody else can do it for you.

The following points are written in the first person, as affirmations. That’s on purpose.

I NEED TO ASK FOR HELP

I’m accustomed to being a one-woman show. I over-commit, over-volunteer, over-extend. I can do it all! WATCH! Then upon finishing “it all,” I promptly start laugh-crying into a large pizza (that is, on good days).

Sometimes even the highest achievers need to ask for help. Willingness to ask for help is a strength. And shocker… sometimes you can even hire people who will do something better than you can, allowing you to spend your time doing the things you are best at.

Ask your friends for help. Ask specialists for help (and, ahem, pay them accordingly). Ask the people in your life for help who have told you over and over that they are here for you. It’s usually not an empty offer.

I NEED TO SAY NO

Time and energy are the most precious commodities we possess. You do not have time for bullshit, you do not have time for people who do not show up for you, you do not have time for things that drain your energy and give you nothing in return. You do not have time for people who poke holes in your dreams. So say no to all of it, because it’s not making you better. And it’s most definitely not helping you keep your shit together.

Say no to jobs that do not pay you what you’re worth, say no to people who suck up your time and energy, say no to shitty food and giving up on yourself. Say no to the wrong things so you can make space for the right things.

I NEED PERSPECTIVE

When was the last time you felt small? When was the last time you reminded yourself that we’re all just floating on a rock in Space? When was the last time someone reminded you that your problems are just not that big?

It’s not always about you. And don’t allow yourself to feel bad about that fact– that’s not the point here. The point is that this world, your life, everything you’re connected to, is much bigger than whatever is stressing you out. Listen to a podcast. Watch a movie. Read a book. Do something that puts things in perspective. Remember to celebrate your wins when you can. Remember that this isn’t the first time you’ll have to deal with something hard. And remember that you are not in this alone.

I NEED TO STOP COMPARING MYSELF TO OTHERS

Comparison does not make you better. It doesn’t. It puts out your fire because it convinces you that other people have better ones. It dilutes you, makes you feel small, and makes you feel like you’re not enough. Comparison does not improve you or your work– it doesn’t lighten your load.

I do not know a single person who does not struggle with this. I compare myself to other people in my industry, to people I know and people I don’t know, to my best friends, to people my age. It has never helped. We have to just stop. Don’t get sucked into it, and notice when you do so you can pull yourself out.

I NEED TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF

You must have energy to do work that matters. So take the requisite time. Decide to eat well, to exercise, to devote time to your spiritual practice or mental health, whatever that means to you. Notice what you need– do what you can to make rest possible. If you’re working multiple jobs, I feel you. It’s hard. It sucks. It feels impossible. Do what you can.

I don’t believe in Hustle Till You Die. If The Hustle is killing you, change what you are doing. It doesn’t matter how “successful” you are at the top if you sold your soul or your health to get there. You have a limited amount of time and energy. Spend some of it on your personal well-being.

I NEED TO STAY FOCUSED ON MY VISION

Why are you here? What makes you feel fired up? What gets you out of bed? Maybe you don’t have a super passionate idea of what that is right now, and that’s OK. But follow the clues your life is giving you. And stay focused on the purpose-driven stuff. Don’t get distracted by the shit other people are doing, gossip, negativity, or the million reasons people will tell you your goals won’t work out.

Listen. The storm will never stop, it just changes form and intensity. That’s life. Life will bring you challenges, then push you into the deep end and throw the entire pool off the cliff. It’s your job to learn to swim regardless.


 

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, or if you know someone who would find it helpful, please share it– handy share buttons below.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Pursuing My Dream Job

I don’t know what your dream job is, and this article definitely has to do with blogging, but it’s also applicable to you if you want to start anything.

Three years ago, I bought a smartphone and downloaded Instagram. I bought this domain name and thought it might be rewarding to start a blog.

I used to spend hours reading the work of other adventurous people– folks who made a career out of their travels. It seemed unrealistic and a little outrageous. And when I started, I didn’t intend to make this a full-time thing. But I’m here, three years later, and it’s a full-time thing.

“What do you actually do for work?” is a question I receive a few times a week. I am mainly a writer and photographer, working in the travel and outdoor industries. I document incredible places and experiences, working with brands making awesome stuff, hotels with beautiful properties, and non-profits doing meaningful work in their communities and in the world. It’s my dream job, it’s a lot of work, and in pursuing it over the past few years, I have learned a few things.

1. IT’S STILL WORK WHEN IT’S YOUR DREAM

“When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I disagree. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Just because it looks glamorous from the outside doesn’t discount the more difficult moments. Passion and drive will never fully soften stress or worry. It’s still work, and as a result, it still feels like work. When you do what you love, you’ll work many days in your life– it’ll just be more enjoyable.

In fact…

2. IT’S OFTEN HARDER THAN SETTLING

I struggle to think of a time in my day when I don’t think about my work. I juggle a lot. I have writing projects, I have photoshoots, I edit those photos, I pitch new ideas and trips, I run a coaching practice, I write on this blog. I spend a few hours a day doing things for my businesses that I don’t necessarily get paid for– reading, researching, making connections, writing blog posts like this one, answering non-job-related emails. And I don’t have one boss to report to– instead, I have a dozen of them, all with different needs. It’s more complicated. It takes more energy. Frankly, my 9-5 was way simpler and easier.

3. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN

Believing in yourself is part of this job. You have to be your number one fan. This is on you. It’s on you to make it happen. Even if you don’t believe in your success, act like you do. Find a new confidence and let it lead you everywhere. Tell everyone about your thing. Get business cards. Be proud. And please, identify yourself by whatever you are trying to be– nobody hires people who are “starting out in photography,” or “trying to be a blogger.” People hire photographers. People hire bloggers. Your title is whatever you decide it is. Believe it.

4. IT TAKES DISCIPLINE

If you want this to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. Be on time– even if you work from your couch. Have a schedule. Know your calendar. Have boundaries. I don’t believe in the “hustle till you die” strategy. I believe that we need to re-charge sometimes and we need to stay in touch with ourselves when we are working toward something big. Discipline means you know when you are working and you know when you are not working. But when you are scheduled to work, make sure you actually work. And when you are working, always always do your best.

5. THERE IS ROOM FOR YOU

This is so important. It’s easy to look at everyone else in the field you want to be in and to decide that there simply isn’t room for one more. But there is. You are the only one who has lived your story. Nobody can create exactly like you can. I remember a few years ago, looking at all of the people who were doing what I wanted to do. At the beginning, I didn’t think I’d get there. And looking back, I actually didn’t have a solid reason to discredit myself. When you keep going at it for a long time, you’ll have these moments of “this could actually happen,” followed by moments of “this is actually happening.” Know that there is room for you.

6. YOU WILL GET REJECTED

In order to really succeed at this thing, you’ll have to reach out to a lot of people. And you will have to be your own best fan, because you will get rejected. A lot. And as you make your way up, you’ll experience bigger levels of rejection. Some will start to matter less, and some you will take personally. Understand from the beginning that it’s never personal, and that you’re signing up for this. I still get rejected often. It means I’m trying, and I’m constantly reaching higher. It’s just part of the process.

7. YOUR CHOICE: FUN OR STRESSFUL

This whole thing can be fun, or it can be stressful. Honestly it’ll definitely be a bit of both– that’s what happens with uncertainty. But what if it could be fun? What if you could play in the unknown? What if you loved it? Let it be fun, understanding that your worst-case scenario probably doesn’t mean the world will end. The whole entrepreneurial journey is full of unknowns, and that’s a given. It’s on you to decide how you will cope with them.

8. YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS WILL CHANGE

When you are defining your own career, success is a moving target. It changes as you change. It evolves as you become more skilled and explore new avenues. You might be surprised how your ambitions shift. A goal you had a year ago might feel really easy now. It might feel just as far away. Set benchmarks and check in with yourself. Stay ambitious, but always remember where you started and how much you have learned.

9. YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE PROCESS

Why are you actually in this thing? Is it to get a lot of followers? Is it to work from a beach? Is it to get famous? Are you just as in love with the process as you are with the result? If you don’t love the process, it will feel old pretty damn quick. If you don’t yet know if you love the process, you’ll find out as soon as you start, I promise.

10. IT’S WORTH IT

And honestly, there are times when I really wonder about this. There are late nights and early mornings when I’d simply rather sleep. There are weekends I’d rather do a million things than respond to emails or edit photos. There are weeks and months when I wonder if I should go get a more stable job so I didn’t always have to think about my next project. But I know what I want my mark on this world to be– connection, motivation, beautiful images, stories that enrich and empower. So I do this. Every day. And it’s worth it.

photo by BC Serna.

photo by BC Serna.


Know that this isn’t an overnight success kind of thing. And know that you most definitely are not alone. Going after the things you truly want is hard work, and nobody ever promised it’d be simple or easy. It might feel impossible, but you will never know unless you start.

Whatever your dream job is, and wherever you are in the process, I’m rooting for you.

Thanks to Katie Boue and Tiffiny Costello, who helped me brainstorm for this post. Feature photo by Rebecca Slaughter.

INSPIRATION

The Forces of Nature I Know

This post was written in partnership with REI and the Force of Nature campaign.

A lot of you reading this know me well.

You might have read my thoughts on this blog. You might have seen a few of my YouTube videos. You might have seen me goofing off on my Instagram story with my roommate. You might be completely new here. Regardless of how you got here or how well you know me, this is where I write what I know to be true. Everything I write, the things I have learned, and my willingness to share– these things are not inherently in me. They have developed over time. They have developed over time because I was able to look ahead to women who have gone before me– who courageously shared their stories, or who blazed new trails, who took big risks and who were willing to fail, or to be wrong.

So I wanted to write an ode to the women who have showed me what a force of nature is, what that means, what it looks like. These are the women who made me feel a force of nature myself. The women who inspired me, who showed me courage, who taught me what it really means to try. The women who took chances on me though they didn’t have to. Who gave me their time, their patience. Who listened. Who stayed on my team. Who showed me how deeply rooted beauty is within strength and humility.

They came from every corner, and they showed up consistently for my whole life.

My mother is where I learned confidence and tact. She taught me how to raise my hand, and that I can raise it as often as I want to. She showed me how to advocate for myself– how to show and tell people that I was next up, that I was valuable and that I didn’t have to prove it to anyone. I learned grace from my grandmother, who puts others before herself not rarely, but every day. And though I didn’t know her, I learned risk from stories of my great-grandmother, who arrived on Ellis Island with no family at age 19 to become a nurse.

I learned from women I have never met in person. Women of history and women of today. Women who started movements and who drive them, with or without credit. Women who have suffered great loss unjustly, and walk with grace and vulnerability. Women who face marginalization in a way I never could, and still persevere in the face of high risk. Women who continue to fight the injustices they live through every single day. And I want to be clear: I don’t understand their experiences, because it is simply not possible for me to live them. My life is easier many ways. Resources, race, circumstance. And words do not equal action, but they matter.

I learned grit from the women I met on the road and on the trail. The woman who runs her own beef farm in New Zealand, 65 years old, hauling ass on an ATV down a dirt road cussing like a sailor. The women who were told they couldn’t, and did anyway.

I learned what was really important from the teenagers on trips with me. I talked them through their first time peeing in the woods, and I laughed with surprise when they told me it meant a lot to them– really. I learned about vulnerability when a high school freshman told me about her eating disorder, when she confided in me, when she let me share in her firsts. I learned from her when she cried angrily on the side of the mountain she believed she could not climb. But she would get there. She did. And she’d get to many more and I’d watch along proudly from my computer screen, thousands of miles away.

I learned compassion from women on the internet. The bloggers I silently stalked for years before starting my own website. The women who fearlessly shared their experiences of being differently abled, homeless, fat, queer, scared, anything at all that was real for them. Women who have experienced trauma. The women who were honest because they knew it could help someone else.

I learned about listening from nature herself. She thunders loud and rains down hard, and still surprises you with hot days and cold nights. Her greatness will tower over you like what you know is God. Like love. She’s a heartbreaker and a healer and her genius is found in seasons. She’ll blow down your barriers. She’s wind in the trees, she’s your face in the snow, and you’re in the eye of her hurricane.

And those who may not identify as female, or who may be questioning, I see you.

I want them to be seen. I want them to be heard like the way I’ve heard them.

Watching them fail and get up gave me permission to try. Watching them laugh at themselves. Watching them risk and lean into discomfort. Watching them give themselves to others– their creativity, their passion– more than they had to. I have watched them speak on what they know is right. I have watched them be too loud, too outspoken, too crass, too much. I have watched them in the face of the criticism. And I have watched them fight and love fiercely throughout.

If I didn’t have these women to look up to, I don’t know what I would be. And I don’t compare myself to them, because that wouldn’t be fair. But I didn’t learn these things on accident. They inspire me to be a force of nature because that’s just what they are, and what they showed me to be.

These are the forces of nature that I know. They are everywhere. And they are worth far more than infrequent praise.

 


 

 Thank you to REI for making a comprehensive effort to change the imagery of people in the outdoors, for committing $1 million to community organizations that create opportunities for women and girls in the outdoors, and for sponsoring this post. 

Feature photo by Raja Iliya.

INSPIRATION

Cheers to the Chapters of Your Life

Two and a half years ago, I moved to Colorado in search of a new chapter.

Before the move, I worked as an adventure trip leader. It was how I traveled– I’d pick a place I wanted to go to, find a job there and book a ticket. The job was complicated and dynamic, but after a while, my life felt relatively simple. I’d get a job that lasted a few months, travel in between, then get another job, then travel.

Temporary houses, airports, living out of a backpack.

It was an amazing way to see the world and those years are invaluable. But I got tired. I was ready to put roots down. I was looking for home. I was looking for friends, for community, for routine, for consistency, for a new story to write.

I had a full-time job offer in Colorado, and it seemed like the next step– like a safe place for me to build a foundation. And that’s what I did, just not in the way I thought I would. I thought I’d move out here and start my job. I thought I’d find a group of friends who liked what I liked. I thought I would get into some hobbies on the weekends. I thought that was what putting roots down would be like.

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There was the plan, and then there was the amazing, blessing-in-disguise, wonderful and massive wrench thrown into the plan. The wrench was getting let go from my new but-it’s-the-reason-I-moved-here job. And thank goodness. It was the first unknown of many. It was my permission slip to backflip off the diving board into the deep end of something I knew nothing about.

I said yes.

I said yes to sunrise, to parties, to internships, to things I thought I was too old to try and things I wrote myself off from– things I felt disqualified from. I said yes to hard work, to wine, to friendships I felt were unlikely– some of them the most important and honest friendships I’ve had.

An example of Yes: Rebecca and I and a Kenwood Sonoma County Pinot Noir in Nederland, CO.

I wasn’t home all the time– I wasn’t home, because I was on a plane or driving 6 hours to the desert. I wasn’t home all the time because I was going somewhere with the people I met here. Because we decided Tuesday was the perfect day for a picnic. Because we were on the road to somewhere or nowhere, and none of it was according to my plan.

I wasn’t looking for an adventure when I moved to Colorado. I was looking for stability and I found adventure anyway. I learned that it just takes many forms. I now know that I don’t need a permission slip to take risks. I learned that I can’t outplan the lessons life has for me. I couldn’t have planned this– the friendships, the jobs I found and then quit, the communities I have been a part of, the ways I learned to engage, the travel schedule to keep up with, the love in so much of it. And I wouldn’t want to try to plan any of that. I would do a really bad job at it anyway.

For a long time, I was the person who knew how things were “supposed” to work out. But I couldn’t have predicted or planned how these years have unfolded. I never could have imagined the moments they were made of.

Adventure comes in many forms. Be open for it when it comes to you. You can try to plan as much as you want, but life is richer and better than your plan. And you will discover yourself over and over again along the way.

So cheers to you. Cheers to these chapters. The ones that form you, that challenge you, that ask you why you’re here and make you better.


Thank you to Kenwood Vineyards for sponsoring this post. Kenwood’s spirit is defined by avid curiosity, a love for the land and above all else, a belief that there’s always something more to discover. Passion for adventure and the thrill of discovery is at the core of Kenwood’s wild experience. Some favorites:

  • 2014 Sonoma County River Valley Pinot Noir raspberry, cherry and red currant aromas, with spice notes of nutmeg and vanilla for a smooth and elegant finish.
  • 2013 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, plum and cherry flavors, joined with notes of nutmeg and star anise.
  • 2015 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc – aromas of passion fruit, lychee and white peach, with subtle notes of lemongrass and fresh ginger root. The intense bouquet is complemented by zesty citrus and tropical flavors that give way to a crisp and refreshing finish.