Things You Can Make with Lemons


Leading adventure trips means I’m gone for long periods of time. It means that when I’m gone, I’m dedicating all my time and energy to my participants. This summer was no exception.

Where have I been? What have I been doing? The short story: leading trips (i.e. my normal summer gig) in Costa Rica for six weeks. For the the long story, keep reading (and read the whole thing).

I’ll start by saying I’m feeling pretty vulnerable sharing this. At first I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to divulge about this summer. It’s taken me a while to find the right words. But as it turns out, something people like about me in real life (and on the internet) is that I’m honest. So I’m gonna do that instead.

So, you know when you go into an experience knowing it could potentially be a little crazy? That is how I felt leaving for Costa Rica. It was happening, and I was excited to do an awesome job and have a ton of fun with my campers. I jumped in just like I have jumped into leading many trips before. My trips this summer were two back-to-back 21-day trips.

So let’s first talk about staff training, which happens a week before trips start for the summer. My boss tells me I need to SHINE at training, and my response is “Of course!”. A week before staff training I come down with a cold. Staff training comes and it’s awesome, even though I am getting over The Sickness. At staff training, I do a great impression of the Neature guy, talk to all the trip leaders about feelings, and have lots of genuine conversations. I leave staff training feeling great about the connections I made and the way I represented my company.

Then it’s time to go to Costa Rica. My kids arrive, I love them and we start the trip. The kids are awesome, but I have to send a few home early. This is because sometimes, believe it or not, teenagers try to get away with stuff! I stay up all night to get these kids home, and as a result, I start feeling sick again. In between trips, I chug lemon and ginger water and go to the pharmacy and buy everything they tell me to. I make phone calls to my next group of campers and hope I sound normal. My attitude is that I’m definitely going to kick whatever this is and crush my second trip. Woohoo!

My second group of kids arrive, and they are amazing. On the first day we play Settlers of Catan and they teach me how to play Kent, which is probably my new favorite card game of all time. The second trip is different from the first, AND just as great.

I still have a cough and it’s super annoying. I go to the hospital and they tell me I have bronchitis. I buy more medicine from the pharmacy. Everyone tells me my cough is “feo” (ugly) and “fatal” (fatal), which aren’t the best words to use when describing anything. All that being said, the doctor says I am fine to continue leading my trip, I’m not contagious and I should just take care of myself.

Throughout all of this, my grandma dies, which is really difficult and I wish I could be there for my dad. But there is nothing I can do about this.

Fast forward through beaches, forests, laughing, crying, singing, smiling big, and lots of rice & beans. The end of the summer comes and I send the last of my campers back home. I am super proud of them and feel fulfilled, because leading trips and watching teenagers grow is a deeply rewarding job, however tiring. Suddenly I am not surrounded by ten teenagers, so I spend a day finishing paperwork in Costa Rica and fly back to Colorado. I go in to the office the next day to close up my trips for the summer. I hug my work buddies and my boss and go talk to him in his office.

I wasn’t ready for this next part.

He tells me he is not renewing my contract. I try to understand. He tells me that it’s not a good fit and that I didn’t make an impact. This is extremely surprising to me. I respect my boss a lot, and I feel totally blindsided. Over the next few days, I don’t really know where to start, and I don’t really feel like this is reality. I wonder when I’m going to wake up from this bizarre dream. Suddenly I am unemployed with no plans.

I still respect my boss, and I respect his decision to let me go. I’m sure that eventually I will unpack my experience of my time at that job. I’m sure that eventually I will no longer take it personally. But right now it’s hard.

Every time something would happen this summer, I would think “Whoa! Crazy! Well, at least this is the last thing that could possibly happen.” …And it was never the last thing. I’m not even sure if me being let go is the last thing.

So here you go:

I never thought I would be let go from a job, but I was. What happened was quite frankly shocking, and I didn’t plan for it. But I’ll come out of this stronger and better. I already am.

Life happens. It might break you, it might make you fragile, it might make you weak. Let it make you vulnerable. Let it then make you stronger. Let it fuel your fire. Let it reveal the things in your life that truly matter until you can be yourself again in your best, purest, most genuine form. Ask yourself what each challenge is here to teach you. How can you hold yourself accountable? What can you learn?

Life is giving me some big lemons. The saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Instead, I am going to make a massive citrus mojito. Then I’m going to laugh, cry and have a party with life’s lemons because life is full of crazy, amazing, achingly beautiful moments and that is EXACTLY what I want to do.

This change was not expected. This change leaves me disappointed in many ways, on many levels. It’s not simple. I haven’t unpacked where the fault lies. But I don’t think this is really about me losing my job. It doesn’t matter what brought about this change or how it happened, it only matters that it is happening. This change is allowing me to explore. It’s allowing me the time to think, to write, to treat myself really well and re-visit the extremely important question of what do I want? This change means showing myself that in fact, I can bounce back. Like I said, I am feeling very vulnerable right now. I’m terrified. But I am also so excited to see what is around the corner, and how I am going to get there.

Whatever cards life deals you, you can decide to be okay. Honestly, the other options are nowhere near as good. It might take time. You might have to be really gentle with yourself at first. Then, decide to be brave. Decide to be stronger.

Thanks for the lemons.

Note: Leading adventure trips is a serious job that requires a huge amount of energy. I am a professional in this field. I take this responsibility extremely seriously and would never, ever lead a trip if I felt it was dangerous for myself or my participants. Being sick this summer was an annoyance, and only that.


Why I Gave Up Travel for a 9-5

For me, the road has been home for the past two and a half years. In November, I moved to Colorado until further notice to do office work at a teen adventure company. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone somewhere without an expiration date. I have furniture and a CostCo membership. Things are getting weird.

Why in the world am I trading in my get-up-and-go life on the road for a 9-5 and car insurance?

I loved living my life out of my backpack, but I was getting to a point where I wanted to have nice things, cook in my own kitchen and be in my own space. Moving around all the time is exciting and offers new learning opportunities every day. I began to want the learning opportunities that come with staying in one place.

I work in the Adventure Travel industry, a place where, at some point in your career, you will be everywhere. But when I thought about my goals for the next year, they had grown beyond leading trips. I wanted to learn business. There was a time when I thought working in this industry would be temporary. I no longer think that. I pretty much guzzle the Outdoor Education Kool Aid on a daily basis.

With: self, friends, boys. I have met some of my best friends traveling. But my next step required building steady, meaningful friendships that last for more than a few days. I’m also at a point now where I am pretty stoked to be dating again. Please file that under Things I Never Thought I’d Say. My ex-boyfriend and I broke up almost a year ago, and it has been a massive year of growth and change. I have a whole new relationship with myself that I didn’t have before and I love it.

I wanted to be close to it. All the time. And to be able to go (safely) on a solo hike whenever I wanted, or to plan incredible expeditions with friends where I get us a little bit lost but nobody is mad at me. And then I wanted to be able to go home and cook and sleep in a wicked comfortable bed.

The flatirons and my fingers

As much as I try to justify any decision with logic, it always comes down to gut for me. Ultimately, if it doesn’t feel right, I’m not going to do it. And this move feels SO RIGHT. I’m seriously stoked for this new adventure full of house plants and bedding, and I can’t wait to meet all of its challenges and opportunities.

I’m pretty excited for this new chapter. Meeting people and being able to make plans without the expiration date. Exploring the places where I now live. Stoke is at an ALL TIME HIGH.

This move isn’t the end of my rolling-stone-ness. It’s about creating a fuller life. I’ll always be a traveler. Adventure just takes different forms sometimes.

Thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments!


So You Want to Be an Adventure Trip Leader

This is a follow up to my post 7 Ways to Get Started in the Outdoor Industry.

If you don’t know already, my official job title is Trip Leader. I’ve led trips on four continents and seen some amazing places in the company of some inspiring teenagers. I lead adventure programs for 14-18 year old kids, ranging from backpacking in Europe to ice climbing on a glacier in Alaska. It’s freakin awesome! Sound like something you want to do?

This is the BIG PICTURE. Here’s what you should know.

Getting to do cool stuff outside all the time is a huge perk of this job, but if this is your main reason for wanting this job, please run far far away. You will burn out in the first five minutes. You need to have a contagious passion for sharing experiences in the world and in the outdoors.

And it isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s really draining. Sometimes you don’t want to be outside in an ice storm cooking everyone dinner, but there you are! You need to be on your game all the time. You need to be the whole package. Additionally, this job does not stop! When you are on a program, you don’t have time off. You need to make time for yourself to stay sane.

Spot the yawn!

If you plan on working with kids like I do, awesome. They’re great! You are a guardian and that is a massive responsibility. Not only do you need to be the King of Logistics, but you also have to care a LOT about your kids. You, my friend, have many hats to wear. Someone who is good at this job will keep in touch with their campers for years after their trip, and make a meaningful impact. (If you don’t plan to work with this age group, the take-home message here is to know your clients.)

Not pictured: van full of 13 screaming teenagers blasting Miley Cyrus

Scheduling yourself will be a game of Tetris! Jobs range from 2 weeks to 6 months, and you’re always finding the next one. This means always thinking ahead, being great at money management, researching the next thing and often applying for jobs while you are on a trip… or whenever possible. I’ve had phone interviews in some pretty weird places.


If you are a person who thrives on making connections, being a role model, and instilling passion and appreciation for the outdoors in other humans, this could be the job for you. Trip leading is the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had.

Lots of folks want really specific information. They ask, “But how do I actually START?”

The answer is… you just DO. I could give you a list of awesome companies to apply to, but ultimately, if you want to have this job, you need to research the crap out of this industry. You need to apply to a buttload of companies. You need to have an idea of what age group you want to work with and what you’re looking for in a job. It’s probably not going to just fall into your lap.

You got this. Jump in and get after it!

Questions? Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments!


7 Ways to Get Started in the Outdoor Industry

I work in the adventure travel and outdoor education field, and I love it. I’m a trip leader, trip advisor, logistics lady, van driver, gear packer, photo taker, activity facilitator, meeting planner, and stuff maker upper. It’s not the easiest job ever, but I get paid to camp in gorgeous places and travel the world. Not bad!

There are many hats to wear in this industry, literally and figuratively. It requires a lot of flexibility.

But it’s also a job that allows you to be active, be challenged and make a massive difference in another human being’s life. Super!

I often get questions about how to get a foot in the door doing this type of thing.

So, how do you start?

Yep. If you don’t already (wait, why?), do outdoor stuff in your free time. Go hiking. Biking. Canoeing. Join a climbing gym. Try as many outdoor activities as possible. Yes, people want to hire folks who actually like and do this stuff!

NOLS offers awesome programs and is widely respected throughout the industry with courses for every level and interest. Outward Bound is another great organization running action and information-packed outdoor courses. A Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is required in many outdoor jobs and will make you an appealing candidate. Wilderness Medical Associates, SOLO and NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute all offer great training. I’ve never seen a candidate with too many certifications. Scuba, skydiving, level 500 basket weaving… whatever it is, go for it.

Oh just doing some fashionable WFR scenarios

Dundundunnnnn. Working in a bike shop, climbing gym, or in outdoor retail will help you build familiarity and credibility with the gear needed for outdoor & travel pursuits. Customer service experience will also help you tremendously!

Tutoring, babysitting, coaching. A lot of trip leading involves teens! If you don’t like working with kids, you reeeally might want to re-consider this whole thing. They drive a lot of the industry! (Yes, there are absolutely adult trips and programs out there, but be aware that this is a specific type of work.)

kids: love them or love them.

Nature centers, aquariums, zoos, state parks, Fish & Wildlife, Audubon Society, and local outdoor centers are just a few places that offer volunteer opportunities. Anything that gets you outside interacting with your community is going to be awesome experience for your future as a hero guide.

By volunteering on a trail crew, you’ll gain experience working in a team outdoors, something employers will look for on your resume. Plus, you’ll meet like-minded people in a beautiful setting, while doing something good for The Nature.

So many people that I know in this industry got their start by working at a summer camp, including myself. If you’re in college, this is wicked easy to do and super fun. There are tons of camps looking for counselors in large numbers, and often these jobs don’t require a ton of experience (babysitting will do).

Working in outdoor education and adventure travel is a demanding and rewarding job. If you’re determined, flexible and outgoing, you already have a lot of what you need to succeed in this industry.

It’s a wild ride. Enjoy it!

“weeee! I have no time off!”

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