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.


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.

Congratulations– You Get to Fail

Failure. A pure blessing when I can see the beauty and heavy baggage when I can’t.

It’s the thing I learn from most.

Failure: the times I’ve been lost in the woods– when I was supposed to be the leader. When it was supposed to be just a simple trail.

The times I fucked up big orders or missed the mark. The times I said the wrong thing.

I failed my way through entire summers. There were conversations with disappointed parents. It wasn’t always my fault fully. But I own it. Because even when it’s hard, it’s teaching me.

Failure was the thinking I’d be happy, if only I moved here or there– if only I changed, in this way or that.

It’s overspending on trivial things and prioritizing badly and getting stuck in circles where I judge myself over and over again. It’s the spilled coffee on my white shirt. Maybe none of it is failure objectively, but to me, it couldn’t have been anything else.

So congratulations to me– I mean that truly and I mean it fully. I got to fail. I got to fail so many times. We have the opportunity every day.

You get to wake up every day and try. You get to try and fall flat on your face. You get to fall 100 times and get up 101.

You get to experiment. You get to finger paint on the walls and get in trouble for it. You get to have a rough night out and embarrass yourself. You get to sit in disappointment, pick through it and find the secret gold within it.

Mess up hard, learn hard.

Say the wrong thing? Learn to apologize.

Get rejected? Make “no” an opportunity.

Don’t like who you have become? Re-invent.

Not fulfilled by your past? Invest in the excitement of your future.

Feel like you’ve done nothing? Choose something instead.

Get hurt? Choose how much you harden because of it– hopefully, you choose softness instead.

Choose today. Choose to know that everyone is living out their stories the best way they know how to. Choose yours, choose your impossible fight, built specifically for you and presented to at your feet. Pick it up and wave it like a banner: this is my impossible fight, I will fail in 100 ways today and it might hurt. This is who I will be today, even though I am tired, even though I fought yesterday and I lost. Even though it feels redundant and messy.

You get to hurt so you can love.

You get to struggle so you can learn.

You get to wake up every day in the nervousness and fear of being mid-leap, and you get to fight for it.

You get to sit with your fears at a candlelit dinner and tell them that it’s all going to be OK, even when your voice trembles and you don’t believe it.

This is all for you. It’s all available. It’s yours, so take it and make something with it. Something that scares you, something bigger than you know how to define.

Because failure is a wise teacher– one that helps you start a new chapter as often as you want to risk for it. Congratulations.

You get to fail.



Feature photo by BC Serna.


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.


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.


Life Lessons from My Restaurant Job

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.


Getting Out from Overwhelm

“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.


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.


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.


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.


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?