Building an Outdoor Career

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Hi, I'm Erin!

I am a photographer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, creativity and intention in all things. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the world and all the magic within it.

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I always wanted a job that would allow me to go on adventures.

I knew I wanted a job that would take me to the places I only saw in movies and magazines, to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds. To be fully transparent, I had no idea where to start. But if I wanted an adventure, well, I got one, and I’m still on it.

As real as I try to be online, most of the time what you’re seeing is just a version of a final product–– not the journey itself. If you had seen the process alone without the result, I don’t think you would be very impressed. It would’ve looked like me juggling part-time jobs and relationships. Attempting to find my place in the world in what felt like the messiest ways. This path has been as complicated as it has been beautiful. If you looked at my journey alone, I’m not sure it would make sense.

Though I wanted to be a photographer from the time I was in high school, I buried my dream in favor of being “realistic”. I still wanted to be outside. I still wanted to travel. So I looked at my skill set and my work experience, and went from there. It turned out to be one of the most roundabout ways I could have come up with to ultimately become the thing I avoided: a travel photographer.

I worked at a small coffee shop in my hometown from the time I was 16, and decided to do something else after my freshman year of college. I took a job as a camp counselor, and in a way, that was the start of my outdoor career.

A year later, on my first major wilderness trip (Wyoming with NOLS), I learned just how powerful nature is. That trip was far more challenging than I had bargained for, and not just because of the physical aspect, but because it tested me as a leader and as a member of a team. It was like all my shortcomings, which is just to say, the things I needed to work on, were put under a microscope. I left the trip not knowing if I should hate being outdoors or love it.

The big picture of my career so far has been one foot in front of the other. Like putting a puzzle together, but only a few pieces at a time. I knew I wanted to be outside. I knew I wanted fresh mountain air and to swim in glacial rivers, and to feel the sun on my face in the desert and marvel at the sight of a truly dark and starry sky. Ironically, following those things is what brought me back to what I wanted to do in the first place. Following those things was not comfortable, nor do I expect it ever will be, but it’s the journey that showed me what matters.

I chose to pursue a career that would take me outside my house and outside my comfort zone, because I know what I learn there. It’s not the most easy or simple or comfortable, but it has showed me that I am capable of far more than I think I am. Travel and the outdoors made me feel alive and connected to this world and the people in it. It’s no wonder I followed that feeling.

To anyone wanting to build a career on something they love, here is my advice:

Identify the thing that makes you feel most excited. The thing you keep coming back to. It doesn’t have to be just one thing. Do that thing a lot, even if it means you have to self-fund it. Especially if it means you have to self-fund it, because that will show you what you are capable of, and more. Don’t sell the farm or quit your day job just yet… see if you can make money from this thing. List all the ways. Work on them during your free time, and keep some back-up plans. Jump when the time is right.

When you do what you love, you will work a lot. You’ll probably work way more than you would have if you stuck with a job you felt neutral about, or even one you didn’t really care for. And when you love what you do or where you do it, it still feels like work, trust me. But there’s meaning behind the work, and that meaning makes all the difference.

I hope that you find the articles on my blog to be helpful. But it’s these types of pieces–– the ones where I spill my guts on something I care about–– that I think are most special, not the listicles I write about packing your camera, or how to start a blog, or what I did in Hawaii.

When I was living in Australia at 23, my mom told me that living in a tent might eventually get old. If you want my honest response to that comment six years later, well, it has. I no longer want to live in a tent. But the feeling of waking up in one somewhere beautiful is pure joy to me. And that is a feeling that has no age.

Ever since I started out working in the outdoor industry, I have trusted Backcountry.com as a great source for quality, well-priced outdoor gear. Below are some of my favorite pieces for fall, or anywhere you go that you might need layers.


Prana Diva Bomber Insulated Jacket

I have been wearing this jacket everywhere since I got it! I am often going to multiple countries with the same bag/suitcase, so I am always looking for versatile layering pieces that work in a variety of circumstances. This jacket is great for outdoor pursuits, but is nice enough to wear in the city. The lining is super soft fleece and it has a water repellant coating.


Patagonia Organic Cotton Quilt Crew Sweatshirt

This is a beautiful quilted sweatshirt for layering and is super soft and comfortable. I love the color and Patagonia products are always well-made and last forever.


Sorel Ainsley Chelsea Boot

These Sorel boots have replaced my Blundstones this season! They are comfortable for walking around cities all day, totally fine for hiking, and waterproof, which is awesome. I wear these with leggings, jeans, or dresses. They are a great all-in-one boot for travel.


Prana Transform High Waist Legging

For me, a good pair of leggings is an essential piece for layering.


LifeStraw Universal Bottle Adapter (2-Stage Filtration)

I found out about this filter on my recent trip to Mexico with LifeStraw. It is compatible with any water bottle, making it perfect for any trips you may take where the water quality is questionable.


Peak Design Everyday 20L Camera Backpack

Perhaps this one is an obvious pick for me, but it continues to be my favorite camera backpack. I like that you can customize the dividers, and that the bag itself is water resistant.

More fall favorites:


Big thanks to Backcountry for sponsoring this blog post, and prompting me to write about a topic that is so close to my heart. For 15% off your first order, you can use code ERIN15 at checkout. Code expires 12/31/18.

This post includes affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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  1. Lauren says:

    Ah love reading your pieces as always. Its always such a good reminder for people like me that what we see on an Instagram feed is a product of hard work over many years. Something that we should looked up to, maybe aspire to but not compare to.

    I love that peak design bag but pretty pricey
    Thanks for sharing Erin!

  2. Amelia says:

    Such a great article! I can completely relate to the whole juggling part-time jobs while pursuing what you love to do while wondering, “Am I being unrealistic? Should I just get a regular old 9 to 5?” Thanks for the inspiration! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in taking an atypical path in life.

    • Jane T says:

      Really inspiring! Some days I wonder how big your blog gotta be to drop all of the part-time jobs and just pursue your passion? I.e small gun blog like https://gunicorns.com/ but something bigger like yours probably can? Just interesting stuff all around

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Hey, I'm Erin.
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If you’re interested in travel, the outdoors, artistic expression, or want to learn more about photography, you’re in the right place. I’m an adventure trip leader turned photographer, passionate about learning & sharing the real stories from the places I visit (real or imagined).



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