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INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

17 Inspiring & Adventurous Women of Color to Follow in 2018

Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many amazing and inspiring women on Instagram. And I’ll be honest that in the beginning, most of the women I followed looked very much like me.

The thing is, if diversity is truly one of your values, then your belief should absolutely extend to your Instagram feed.

These are some of my favorite women to follow for inspiration in travel, the outdoors, photography, advocacy, leadership and life. They also happen to be women of color.

They are travel bloggers, photographers, athletes, adventurers and business coaches. Some of them are friends, some I have talked to online, and some probably had no idea I existed until now. 🙃

If you are looking for inspiration, these gals are serving it up by the ton, every day.

Enjoy!

INDIVIDUALS

Glo Atanmo | @glographics | theblogabroad.com

If you enjoy travel and are not following Glo, please advise what rock you have been living under, you need to get on that! Glo’s adventurous outlook on life is contagious, her sense of humor relatable, and her writing refreshingly honest. When Glo tackles a more serious topic, which she does often, she does so in an educational manner with a humorous flair. Glo’s posts always leave me feeling inspired, or give me something to think about, or both.

 

Why have I been so happy lately? I want to talk about two simple words that have some real weight behind them; Personal. Growth. Take a moment and think about the last time you took a step back and did a real, honest life evaluation. Are you doing what it takes to get to where you want to be? We all have high and low seasons (life happens in waves) but I want you to think about if you’re can be making better daily choices to push yourself out of your comfort zone and thrive. Are you being challenged? Are you learning new things? Are you living with a positive mindset? Are you setting yourself up for success? These past weeks, I’ve been making a lot of small changes that have me feeling fantastic about where I am right now and what’s on the forefront. Sometimes all you need is to start taking action with one thing and watch the rest fall into place. So, let me here it… what’s ONE way that you want to challenge yourself in the upcoming weeks? #siempregirando Photo by @rico.png

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Sienna Brown | @siempregirando | siempregirando.com

Since finding Sienna on Instagram a couple of months ago, she has become someone I look forward to seeing in my feed every day. Her stories are always injected with positivity and productivity–– helpful and necessary reminders for me as a freelancer. Sienna is an ex-pat currently living the digital nomad life in Spain, and she talks a lot about creating a life you love wherever you want to base yourself. Overall she is a ray of sunshine. If you love motivating and inspirational content, check her out!

 

As I hiked 23 miles this weekend with the bare necessities on my back, I thought about my first backpacking trip at age 14. After my grandma picked me up from a weekend in San Rafael Swell, Utah, I could not stop raving about it. I told her about filling my nalgene with river water that had bugs and dirt, but using iodine tablets to make it drinkable. I gushed about sleeping without shelter for the first time, about watching shining celestial bodies shift above me as the night wore on. I explained that we weren’t allowed to bring technology, not even watches, so we went to bed when we were tired and cooked when we were hungry and woke up with sunrise. I effused about the rock art and horse skeleton and campfires and crossing the river with 30 lbs on our backs and fiery canyon walls. And that night as I washed red sand from my hair and cleaned dust from my ears, I was grinning as I came to a realization… I didn’t need much to be happy, just some food, friends, shelter, and beautiful surroundings.. That was enough to make me feel more at peace than I could ever remember. That was enough to make me feel alive. // Feeling alive in Haulapai and Havasupai lands ✨ 📷 : @caitlinrathbun

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Ashleigh Thompson | @ashanishinaabe

I met Ashleigh last summer through our mutual friend Len Necefer of NativesOutdoors. I enjoy following her for her colorful images and personal reflections from her time spent outdoors. Ashleigh is a runner, hiker, climber, and she writes beautifully. I have learned a lot from her honest perspective as a Native woman in the outdoors, especially when it comes to recreation.

 

My world. #reflectionstories

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Paola Franqui | @monaris_ | monaris.me

You will rarely find a photo of Paola without her camera. Paola’s work is a kaleidoscope of streets, windows, and fleeting glances from strangers. Her work makes the viewer feel as though they are peering into a private world. She is truly talented, and someone I look up to when it comes to travel photography.

 

Remember those times when you were praying and begging on your knees for things that you have now? Gratitude does not solely revolve on being thankful for things when received. It’s about being thankful for everything around you even when it’s bleak. I have observed and witnessed countless of times in my life that when I am wholly vibrating in gratitude, that’s when doors open up and abundance comes rushing in. And when I’m not, the doors stay shut. It’s something so simple, yet we get in our own heads long enough that it turns complex and we just forget. When your bank account is down to two digits, when you lose someone you love, when traffic is churning your head, when mundane routines suck the juice out of your life, when things are falling apart and things aren’t going the way you had plan. It’s easy to forget. Yet we tend to focus on things we don’t have enough of, instead of things we already have. It brews in the small moments that most go unseen. Small, tiny mindful moments that has the magnitude to shift realms. Like waking up to the golden light shining through your window and watching a galaxy of dust float through it. Or eating your food mindfully and slowly, imagining how it grew and how a golden star fed it to feed you. Or remembering to look up at the night sky when it’s so dark that you can see the Milky Way. Or when a complete stranger gets out of their own way to help you when you need it the most. Or when you watch people in public transportation and you become fully aware that they are living a life as complex as your own, you realize that they’re not that much different to you because you’re both sharing the same air and breathing it the same way. Or when you’re diving under the ocean waves and they bring you the sudden clarity of how tiny you are in the universe yet how significant it is that you have this life. Or the way the last light of the day disappears into the ocean as dusk consumes us, turning skeptics into mystics. That’s when you feel it. That’s when you close your eyes and feel gratitude settling in your bones. Then something twists the doorknob and the universe comes flooding in. @KEEN #Aphlex #FollowYourFeet

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Stephanie Dandan | @stephanie.dandan | stephaniedandan.com

Stephanie’s work is a breath of fresh air and a tall glass of cold water in one. In her images, she captures moments and emotion so well. They carry a sense of thick nostalgia that makes you wonder if you lived inside that moment in a dream once… or was it real life after all? Stephanie’s writing is vulnerable, gritty, and unapologetic. Seeing things through Stephanie’s eyes is a treat, and a multidimensional one at that.

 

Lee Litumbe | @spiritedpursuit | spiritedpursuit.com

Lee’s photos transport me across the world. I love that her feed is a mix of photos of her, food/views, and the people she meets along the way. She travels to and writes about many locations I don’t see tons of travel bloggers visiting (especially in Africa, but not exclusively)–– her intention with this to challenge society’s assumptions and stereotypes. The respect she has for the places she visits and people she meets is obvious through her thoughtful photography and captions, as is her attention to detail. An added plus: her outfits are always incredible.

 

Today at a meeting my boss asked what made us smile today. I instantly thought of watching lightbulbs go off in my students heads today. (We’ve managed to get to a special place in math where I’m actually teaching them new topics instead of rebuilding skill and reviewing and I love it) Even two of my students who generally struggle, were able to understand the concepts. AND IT WAS THE GREATEST FEELING EVER. 🎉🎉🎉 It’s an insane feeling to watch connections be made right in front of your eyes, and it instantly makes all the fighting and eye rolling and frustrated glares completely worth it. In those moments, there’s nothing that could put a bigger smile on my face. So tell me, what made you smile today? 😁

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Ari Watkins | @ariiiwatkins | ariwatkins.com

Ari and I met when she came as a participant on my Greece adventure last summer, and wow were we lucky to have her. Think of Ari as your virtual supportive friend who will give you a hug and make you smile when you need it most. Online, she shares her journey of living abroad in Thailand and finding purpose, meaning and gratitude along the way.

 

believe it or not, i had multiple pre introductions to fly fishing. once in the tenth grade i convinced my English teacher to take me out of study hall and teach me how to cast. i was not interested, i was skeptical. i was tired of reading Walden and could not for the life of me understand the man’s obsession with fishing. i liked time spent with D.White, i tried harder at the comma splice rules as a result…it obviously did not last. # earlier this year post 100k in Argentina my boys were fly fishing, we camped near a lodge kind enough to let a ragtag little bunch stay a couple nights. the boys went upriver to flyfish… i drank fernet in hammocks w/ @elliot_wr # then i needed to learn to flyfish and i found myself out on the river with @_chadbrown_ . and i fell in love with river time, with distilled moments, with the focus and patience required, with the opportunity to begin to understand river ecology. this is what we share at @soulriver_runsdeep. this summer there will be six mission driven experiences in wild spaces at risk of environmental threat. we are looking to bring PNW based inner city youth and veterans together for leadership development, healing & learning. there are definitely some chance for folks from further away, so don’t hesitate b/c of that! super proud to be a part of this organization. please hit me up with questions, tag someone who might be a good match and please share my info with anyone curious! we are accepting applications for participants until January 21st!!! really hope we can share some river time! # ✨📸✨: @_cammcleod_

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Faith Briggs | @faithevebee

I started following Faith about a year ago when she became one of Columbia’s new Directors of Toughness, traveling the world on serious expeditions and testing their gear. Faith is frequently on the trail, and her Instagram stories remind and motivate me to go outside and get moving. In addition to photos and IG stories of her adventures, Faith shares her journey in writing, from reflections on her athletic accomplishments to discussing the many layers of privilege people in the outdoor industry need to unpack. She’ll give you something to think about and some motivation while she’s at it.

 

To be compassionate, is to be brave. Compassion asks questions, and waits patiently in the uncomfortable silence of unknown Compassion creates space for growth and change and movement And affirms the unexplained One time I sat in child’s pose for an entire yoga class In pain from an illness that I’m still learning to live with Angry, tears pooled beneath my face on my purple mat Then the teacher touched the small of my back and said softly “Meet yourself with compassion.” So I stayed there, for another hour, forehead pressed to the ground. Compassion calls us to stem the gap of unfamiliarity And resist the culturally conditioned response of fight-or-flight To love beyond reason, and rally against judgement. Every day my job requires me to extend compassion to those on the outside But I’m still struggling to follow the guidance my teacher gave me that day And I’m ok with that…so, I guess I’m getting somewhere.

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Noël Russel | @noel_russ

Noël has one of the most beautiful hearts I have encountered in this crazy online world. Her photos are lovely, but it is Noël’s writing that will really move you. Her storytelling is soft and nourishing. Her words are intentional and their meanings are deep–– she muses on everything from her connection to nature and God, to her family and ancestry, to her life and her work at a homeless shelter. I deeply admire Noël for her kindness and strength: both obvious in anything she posts.

 

It’s easy to think that my life is all sunshine salt water and rainbows judging from the places I’ve been or the photos you’ve seen but trust me when I tell you that this isn’t always the case. I am not always fearless. My life is far from perfect. Most of the time when I’m writing or sharing words of encouragement, it’s because I am the one who needs to read them. There are days when I feel broken or simply not good enough and today was one of them. There are times when I need a shoulder to cry on and a vent session with a friend, times when I get worried or anxious of the future or regretful of my past. No one’s life is without a certain percentage of pure bullshit – the point is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move the hell on. I don’t want to dwell on the things that have gone wrong. I am actively choosing to invest my thoughts into what can go right – how I can succeed in whatever tiny ways I can. And it takes work. Sometimes putting a smile on your face and walking out of the door is the strongest thing you can do, and that’s okay. So if you are feeling alone in your doubt, your pain or your sadness – know that you are not alone. We are all in this together. ☀ #projectinspo

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Jinna Yang | @projectinspo | projectinspo.com

I first encountered Jinna’s work a few years ago when she traveled the world with a life-size cardboard cutout of her father as a tribute to his life. From there I was inspired and motivated by Jinna’s writing, which continues to be uplifting and supporting whatever she writes about. Her photos are crisp, cool and clean; I especially admire her underwater and abstract images. Jinna’s perspective is unique, always finding light without ever having to invalidate the darkness.

 

“What can I do?”. “Que puedo hacer yo?”. These are questions I get asked every day! “What can I do to fix and protect our planet?” “How can I, as a single individual, make a difference if millions of others are not?” Well, I’m here to show you how easy, important, fun and beautiful it is to incorporate consciousness into your lifestyle. 4 years ago, these words never crossed my mind! I used to order 3 to-go coffees per day to stay awake in the corporate world without thinking about the waste I was creating on a daily basis. Over 1000 cups per year to be exact! I was one more human caught in my own world, not paying attention to anything going on outside of it, until the day I started reading more about sustainability, watched many films, and understood that every action I take can either continue to exploit our home or can help heal it. Easy steps and little shifts in routines and mindsets that CAN have a positive and healing impact on our planet. Think about this for a second: We, globally, use and discard 1 million plastic bottles PER MINUTE. 91% of this is NOT recycled. In the US only, we use and discard half a BILLION plastic straws per day! This is plastic that takes 400+ years to decompose. Plastic that always finds its way into our oceans; killing and poisoning sacred animals needed for our survival and to keep our oceans healthy. Why are our oceans so important? They absorb 93% of the CO2 emissions we produce, making our oceans our main protector against global warming! Now, what can YOU do to protect your home? Our mother. Head to my blog to read all about the eco products I carry with me 24/7 or my ways of reusing and getting creative, like the skirt I’m wearing. It’s a tablecloth transformed into a skirt! I had unused tablecloths from Bali and India, so…I took them to my seamstress and asked her to give life to a skirt and a pair of pants from those unused fabrics! That easy! Click the link in my bio to read more, tap the photo for conscious brands, and make sure you follow the non-profit I’m an ambassador for, @sachamamaorg. They are a must-read for information on sustainability and climate change! 🌎🌿💚♻ Ready to #gogreen? 😍 #ecofriendly

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Valeria Hinojosa | @waterthruskin | waterthruskin.com

Valeria is a blogger focused on making her lifestyle as sustainable as possible. I met her on a retreat in Costa Rica, and her passion and commitment to an eco-friendly life is incredibly contagious and encouraging. She is always sharing her favorite tips, products, and thoughts about living more consciously. Valeria proves that it is possible to create a life you love in a sustainable way.

 

10 whole years ago this month I left my corporate job with salary, bonus and benefits worth six figures, I shaved my head, and I moved to Japan to teach English. That single decision ten years ago changed my life. Since then I have lived, worked and studied on four continents and I have traveled to six continents multiple times, reaching 110 countries and territories. Travel is so much of the fabric of who I am, thanks to my awesome parents who took us on international trips fairly regularly from my first trip to Uganda when I was six. What has transpired over the last ten years has been a journey of self-discovery and understanding more about the world around me. I know myself better than I ever have and I am happier than I’ve ever been. It took a long time to get here and A LOT OF HARD WORK, but I am happy that I have arrived. I have made soooooo many new friends and had brief but meaningful exchanges with strangers all over the globe. Thank you to all of my friends who have supported me via couches, beds, spare bedrooms, airport pickups, happy hour dates, late night convos and photography skills. As I embark on the biggest journey of my life this year I look forward to more interactions with strangers, friends and family, more self-discovery and more global exploration. If I’ve met you before I would love to know where and what that initial meeting was like!! Put it down below. This should be fun! #THEcatchmeifyoucan ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪🔵⚪⚪⚪🔵⚪⚪🔵⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪🔵⚪⚪⚪⚪🔵

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Jessica Nabongo | @thecatchmeifyoucan | thecatchmeifyoucan.com

This woman is on fire. Jessica has traveled to (easily) over 100 countries and territories, writing and sharing her vibrant photos along the way. She also founded Jet Black, a travel agency that creates trips and curates itineraries to countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. On Instagram, you will find Jessica’s photos and captions to be bold, full of life, and unapologetically real. Her posts are lively reminders to keep pursuing the life you want on purpuse.

 

Hola todos! Just thought I would take a moment to reintroduce myself on this platform.. whether you personally know me or we just met here’s a little info about me: -My name is Karen Ramos I was born on the central coast in California but both my parents are from Oaxaca. -I just finished up shooting in Mexico with @rei for a summer campaign we’re working on, they sponsored my trip down the coast and in return I create content. -When I was 24, I founded, with the help of all my amazing friends, a 501(c)3 nonprofit called @getout.stayout It connects youth and kids of color to the outdoors through experiential educational outdoor excursions. (Follow us!) -This is my personal Instagram page and my political opinions are not a reflection of @getout.stayout .. from time to time there are posts that you may see and not agree with. That’s completely okay 🙂 I believe that something as simple as the outdoors is political and has had some deep rooted problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. -I am a @nativewomenswilderness ambassador, I believe in what they stand for and if you haven’t already go check us out. -I have the cutest, craziest, adventure pup named Frida. I picked her up off the streets in Oaxaca two years ago while on vacation. -After this trip I don’t really know what’s next, I have a free semester before I start school again and I quit my job to be out here… so I think I’ll just play it by ear.. And lastly I try to keep it as real as one can on an online platform, sometimes I make mistakes and I am sorry .. but I appreciate all the support the community has built around this page. THANK YOUUUUUU!!!! • • • • • • • • • • • • • #naturechola #LatinoOutdoors #getoutstayout #naturechola #getoutstayout #LatinoOutdoors #WylderGoods #diversitynadventure #everyoneshike #melaninbasecamp #unlikelyhikers #hikeitbaby #vasqueview #sponsored #nativesoutdoors #nativewomenwilderness #cholaxbomb #sup #diversifyoutdoors #indigenousrising #bajaroadtrippin 📷: @llituma1

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Karin Ramos | @naturechola

Karin lovingly shares her adventures in the outdoors and in the realm of advocacy–– the non-profit she founded, Get Out, Stay Out, seeks to get kids, especially kids of color, exploring outside. Karin’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoor industry is both important and inspiring, and something we can all learn from.

 

I’m 25 today. My mum’s spent an entire year reminding me I’m going to be “a quarter of a century” (she’s put a lot of effort in making me feel old 😂) but today is that day. I’m not a big birthday person and I’m not that great at planning things out. So I can’t say I had many life goals for 25, other than wanting to be happy and I’m glad I didn’t. Nothing has turned out as expected and the best thing that ever happen to me was that turning point leaving university, feeling completely lost, broken, confused and not knowing what to do. I don’t know why we place so much pressure on young people to have it all together, to plan out their next 20 year career move when I can’t even plan out what I’m going to eat for dinner 😂 …if I could give you advice it would be to breathe. It’s okay not knowing what on earth you want to do. I’m so glad I gave myself time. I wasn’t just burying my head in the sand (though it was lots of that too 😅). I spent time pursuing interests, which happened to be taking pictures. I made friends with guys who had those same passions and I was spurred on by a mother who never said I “can’t” but asked me “how?” and gave me the time to work it out. I’m still working life out, but I’m so blessed things are slowly coming together. I’m not sure what my next 25 years will look like, but I’m trying to give myself the patience, faith and grace to act on just the next step, without always knowing the bigger picture. *breathe* _ Self portrait, January 2017

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Holly-Marie Cato | @h_cato | hollymariecato.com

Holly is a photographer with a talent for capturing the perfect moment.  Her images tell personal stories, challenge stereotypes, and inspire connection. Holly’s work has inspired me to push myself in travel photography, and to share the images that feel more raw and real to me. Though her photography can be serious, Holly’s Instagram stories usually aren’t. Pro tip: Don’t watch them anywhere it might be inappropriate to burst out laughing.

 

 Ambreen Tariq | @brownpeoplecamping

If you are involved in the outdoor community, I sure hope you have heard of Ambreen. Though her feed is full of lovely outdoor scenes, it is her vulnerable and candid writing that I enjoy most. Ambreen shares openly about her experiences in the outdoors: positive, challenging, peaceful, whatever it might be. And she doesn’t only share her own opinions, but objective truths that are important for people of every background to read and consider.

 

Thurka Gunaratnam | @thurka | thurka.ca

I recently stumbled across Thurka’s Instagram account and found myself cracking up watching her story highlights. She is a filmmaker and educator, and is also definitely one of those people who seems to do just about everything (how this is physically possible, I’m not sure). Thurka’s videos on YouTube shine a (very funny) light on her culture and personal experiences. I am looking forward to following more of Thurka’s adventures!

 

I did a short interview with @outdoorresearch [link in bio] for #sheadventures month and to briefly touch on how media often portrays women, my personal challenges in climbing and managing a busy schedule. Three things I wish I had noted in this piece are: . 1.) There are so many incredible groups and people who relentlessly, selflessly give to the community, improve the lives of countless people, and seek to encourage more diversity and support for underrepresented groups. @thegnarwall and @j00kab00 with @verticalgeneration, @browngirlsclimb, @boccrew, @melaninbasecamp, @shelmatic with @heyflashfoxy, @indigenouswomenhike, @missmeghanyoung, @gleeabel, @paulinadao… The list is endless. I wish I had mentioned that these groups and individuals do so much more than any one person’s (my) singular goals for themselves when it comes to championing important issues. . 2.) Representation is important. Climbing media is largely homogenous and often reinforces stereotypes of what it means to be or look like a climber. These issues are important. If you find yourself angered by mentions of diversity or inclusion, ask yourself why. It is also important to note that many stories are being published about the entire female experience while really only speaking about the experiences of a select few. We can support more women by making sure we consider how different each woman’s experiences and struggles can often be. 3.) Too many women of color grow up feeling ashamed of our features that don’t fit into the *standard* portrayal of beauty. It’s a narrative woven into so many of our personal experiences. I’m ready to see all of these issues continue to be discussed and challenged. Future generations do not need to repeat this. #brownisbeautiful #browngirlsclimb . 📸: @forestwoodward

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Melise Edwards | @meliseymo

Melise is a rock climber, and though I am not a climber myself, it would be hard to not appreciate the photos she shares of her outdoor accomplishments. But what I love most about Melise’s feed is how openly she shares about her journey, whether she is talking about mentorship, inspiration, failure, representation for women and POC, or her challenges and accomplishments in a scientific field. I guarantee you will find something to relate to in what Melise so graciously shares.


GROUPS

There are so many epic groups celebrating WOC on Instagram. Here just a few, some women-specific and some not:

@indigenouswomenhike

@nativewomenswilderness

@melaninbasecamp

@browngirlsclimb

@travelnoire

@outdoorafro

@latinooutdoors

@blackgirlstrekkin


 

Don’t see your favorite inspiring WOC here? Please share in the comments below, or add a link to your own Instagram/blog!

BLOGGING INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

You Will Have Haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.

INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

Say Something More on Instagram

Instagram has become a part of my daily life. And what a sentence, what a weird sequence of words to watch myself write.

Over the past year, thousands of people decided to follow along with me on Instagram, on this little app you scroll through when you’re in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. On this thing you look at when you’re not looking at the other person in the elevator. Thousands of eyes chose to include my content in what they want to see.

I am flattered that people like my photos, but what matters to me is the story. And that somehow, that story teaches someone something, or asks someone a question they’ve been asking themselves but didn’t have the words for.

I hope that what I share on Instagram is not only a window into my life, but a voice that says, “You Are Understood.”

This hits me deeply.

I want to talk about life. I want to talk about the people and places that have changed me. I want to talk about what made me feel something so hard my face turned red and my eyes watered, and the hair on my arms stood up like I was about to be struck by lightning. Because that stuff is electric. It is. Not just in feeling, but in the way it moves through you and anyone you touch.

I want to talk about travel; what I felt on that winding road or distracted by that untimely romance.

I want to talk about my experience and my fear and my struggle– sometimes in equal parts and sometimes not.

I want to talk about learning constantly, and assure you that perfection does and does not exist at the same time, because whatever your experience is in this very moment, is already whole.

I want to talk about how improbable it is that you and I are here, how the events of our lives have unfolded, and how this ride will never stop or slow down; how it feels to be on it as it goes faster than we could possibly comprehend.

I want to talk about what is hard, what makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, bruised or broken, because we learn from ourselves and each other in difficult times.

I want to talk about what is easy, when beauty is everywhere and flows out of me and into me, because it truly does exist every day, whether we notice it or not.

I want to give you something to think about, about your journey, the path you are on and where you have come from.

I want to give you something to smile about, something to cry about, something to assure you that you are understood. That you are not alone.

Words and images are how I choose to tell my story right now, but I live it every day.

That’s just me.

You may use social media as an escape, and if you do, I want you to ask yourself why.

You may not think you have a message. Find out what inspires you instead.

And if you then have something to say, say it.

Use your platform, whatever the size, for something you believe in.

Tell your story, the one that brought you to this point. You choose the medium. Those who matter want to see it through your eyes.

Say something that made you laugh. Say something raw and vulnerable. Say something ugly or beautiful. Say something that surprises you. Say what you are thinking; say what you thought yesterday and give yourself the permission to be constantly vulnerable and constantly changing.

So Instagram is an app. So it lives just on our phones, on these little devices that keep us plugged into so many things that don’t really fundamentally matter. So whatever you are saying, make it matter.

And have the courage to say something. Because our world is rapidly changing at every moment, and it needs you to speak up for what makes you feel most alive.

What is the story you are telling?

Featured photo by Jess Dales.

INSPIRATION ON THE ROAD SOCIAL MEDIA

The Reality Behind My Instagram Photos

You’ve probably seen my Instagram. It’s full of photos of my travels, the outdoors, selfies with inspirational captions and personal stuff about my life. It’s like that on purpose– I curate my Instagram carefully, and I want my feed to look the way it does. But I hope you know: my life doesn’t look like that every day.

I never thought that was big news to anyone. I assumed everyone knew that social media usually only broadcasts the best or most interesting parts of people’s lives. I think I was wrong.

Yes, this was stunning. But I also hadn’t showered in six days.

In my case, I use Instagram to show photos of my travels and experiences. I aim to be honest and yes, inspiring. Because I find that people want inspiration. My account is Erin Outdoors, not Erin Sitting in Coffee Shops, Erin Making Smoothies or Erin Decorating Her Apartment. So I generally only post outdoor or travel photos, because that’s what my audience wants to see.

There’s a lot more happening than what you see on my Instagram, and that’s why I try to be honest in captions, and why I have this blog. I try to tell the whole story– one that the photos alone simply could not tell.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

The night before this was taken, I was camping by myself in the forest and was terrified of serial killers.

My life is full of amazing places and people. I have a lot of good stories. And it didn’t go this way just by chance; my life is the way it is because of the choices I have made. Choices I want to empower you to make, if you want to.

You might know that I’m currently wrapping up a solo road trip across the Western US and a bit of Canada. I’ve been on the road for six weeks, and have seen some incredible stuff. I’ve also been scared out of my mind, eaten PB&Js for every meal to keep costs low, and slept in countless Walmart parking lots. I’ve been lonely, I’ve felt lost and questioned everything, I’ve been terrified of my future and my bank account.

Beautiful, but when it's pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

Beautiful, but when it’s pouring rain on the road, I have no warm house to dry off in.

It’s so easy to romanticize anybody’s life based on what you see on social media, but know they have ups and downs too. Because that’s life.

The message I want to send– the message I think is incredibly important– is that you already have everything you need to create the life you want. You have the power to be the boss of your own life, to decide where it goes and what it looks like.

If you look at my Instagram and say, “Wow, I want my life to look like that,” please know that it can. Go ahead and create a life full of Instagram-worthy views, but know that it will be full of less glamorous moments, too.

I want you to know that my life is so much more than my curated Instagram of beautiful photos and selfies. I try to show you the big picture as much as I can. I show a lot of it on this blog. I try to have a sense of humor about the less-than-amazing moments, because they happen… and they are important.

Gorgeous sunrise after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Thank goodness for a gorgeous sunrise. Took this after a stressful night trying to find a place to camp.

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions about how I made my travel lifestyle a reality. How have I seen so many places and done so much? Stay tuned. If you have specific questions about my life, where I’ve been, or anything else, please shoot me an email. I’d love to answer them.

If my Instagram account is “#goals” for you, I’m truly flattered and honored, so thank you. I hope you appreciate the whole story, too. I hope you know that there might be a sleepless night or a broken windshield behind that beautiful photo. And I hope that makes it even better for you. I hope me sharing the whole story gives you the inspiration to create beautiful moments in your own life. Because you can.

What’s stopping you?

SOCIAL MEDIA

Deep Thoughts: Socality Barbie is a Mean Girl

If you have Instagram and follow any outdoorsy accounts, you’ve probably heard about Socality Barbie. Socality Barbie is a parody account, satirizing the hipster Christian community Socality for being inauthentic and taking lots of the same photos of waterfalls, trendy coffee shops on rainy days and people standing outside with blankets in absurd outdoor locations.

kinda like this, except we didn’t have a blanket.

Socality Barbie makes some excellent points. She is an incredibly creative idea, and her account is perfectly curated for the purpose of calling out those who are “inauthentically” posting all the same photos in all the same places. It’s true that some images are pretty ubiquitous within the Instagram platform. If you haven’t seen a photo of someone wrapped in a blanket on a beach or drinking coffee out of a battered mug at a waterfall… well, you probably don’t have Instagram.

At first I thought Socality Barbie was funny. But then I thought: Isn’t this a lot of effort to make fun of people?

Before Socality Barbie, I didn’t know what Socality was. I did some research. From what I gather, Socality is a Christian community trying to build relationships through social media to spread their message of love and Jesus. I’m definitely not trying to be a part of their community for all eternity. But I’m not trying to actively make fun of them either.

Socality Barbie is doing a great job at being a joke. But is it a harmful joke? The creator of Socality Barbie is obviously brilliantly creative, intelligent and receptive. If you have that much passion and talent, be funny in a way that doesn’t deprecate someone else. The Socality community is not harming anybody with their posts. If you don’t like it, don’t follow them. If what they are doing bothers you, that’s a reflection on YOU, not them. Socality Barbie is mocking a group of individuals trying to find strength in community, their faith, and redundant folky images (I guess). Why does it matter? Maybe you find strength in burritos. That’s also fine, and doesn’t deserve to be criticized by someone else, because it’s YOUR decision.

looking for burritos.

The world doesn’t need more people who are funny at the expense of someone else. We’re not learning that way. We’re not growing.

When we participate in stuff like this, kids see that this is okay to do. This says “it’s okay to publicly shame a group of people.” This is the same way that cyber bullying is done in schools. Yes, there’s irony in Socality Barbie. Yes, there may be some truth to it. But spending this much time and effort to call out a group of people just trying to do what they feel is right, frankly sends a message that it’s alright (and even celebrated) to make fun of people.

“But Erin, you’re taking the time to criticize Socality Barbie. Why do YOU care so much?”

I care so much because I think this is a greater comment on how our society reacts to things that mildly bug us. We do it with bullying. We disguise it in humor. I am trying to be supportive of people expressing themselves in any way they want to. I don’t care how they do it if it’s not hurting anybody. Socality Barbie is hurting somebody, and that matters. She has a growing following of almost one million people. If her humor was directed at one individual, it would easily be considered bullying.

I’m asking for a little bit of reflection on something that owes its success to criticizing the behavior of others. I agree that we shouldn’t take social media too seriously. It’s healthy to laugh at ourselves. But it’s worth it to look a little deeper.

Do you agree? Do you think I need to chill cuz it’s the internet? Let me know in the comments!