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.


“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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.