Category Archives: BGT Features

FREEDOMPRENEUR: Sofie of Wonderful Wanderings

Living a life of freedom takes many qualities including persistence, faith, courage, among a few others.  But when you really think about it, even if your original plan to live a freedompreneur type of lifestyle doesn’t work out long term, you will always be okay no matter what.  Luckily for our feature,  Sofie, her leap of faith into the world of traveling full-time worked better than she anticipated and she continues on with her journey in which she’s able to sustain her traveling lifestyle.

Let’s hear from her directly on how she made this transition and how she’s able to make it work. She has a new project worth knowing about as well that has to do with chasing one’s dreams!  Sofie is from Belgium and is a full-time travel blogger and copywriter.

Sofie of Wonderful Wanderings

Before I dive into questions regarding your online business/project, tell us a little bit about your background and life growing up.

I’m afraid there’s not much exciting about my childhood. I grew up happily in a small Belgian town between the cities of Leuven and Brussels. My parents kick ass and my little brother’s not too bad either 😀 I went to the same school my entire childhood and teenage years before going to university in the city of Leuven, where I now live with my boyfriend.

What are your interests and passion in life?

Travel, obviously! And aside from that I love everything language-related. I studied Literature and Linguistics and am fascinated by how languages is used and how it changes throughout time. I love helping people put their ideas into words and crafting texts that do exactly what they need to do, whether that’s sell, inspire or inform.

Related to that, I also always loved reading fiction but have to admit I’ve let that slip ever since I started blogging. Most of the books I read nowadays are related to marketing.

And lastly, I love dancing. I’ve been taking dance classes for more than 10 years now and although I only dance a couple of hours a week, I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Are you still working a 9 to 5 job? 

Nope! I handed in my resignation letter December 1, 2014 and left the office February 5, 2015, less than a month before my 3-year anniversary at the office. The company I worked for was the Belgian branch of an international publishing house specialized in B2B publications concerning “dry matter”, as I call it: personnel policy, property management, business legislation… Basically everything that had to do with money and law for businesses.

I started there as a copywriter and marketing coordinator for the Flemish region of Belgium and the Netherlands, writing sales copy in Dutch and overseeing our direct marketing campaigns from creation until the moment they went to print. Later I transitioned to doing the same for our campaigns in France and Spain, with the difference that I then had local writers delivering the copy.

It was a very typical office 9-to-5.

How was the process like to quit something so stable?

Liberating, really. It was so unlike me to quit. I’m someone who hesitates for ages before taking a decision on just about anything and for most of my life, I’ve always taken the safe route. I did well in school, went on to study what I’d always planned to go study, found a job right after in-line with my studies and then… I got so terribly bored.

I launched WonderfulWanderings.com as a passion project but it soon turned into a way out. When I quit my job, I knew it had potential but I wasn’t nearly making enough yet to sustain myself. Yet I had the biggest smile on my face when I handed in my resignation letter and wasn’t nervous to do so at all. I’m pretty sure that was the first and only time in my life I did something important without dying inside.

In terms of finances, I did have savings. Being Belgian, it’s kind of in my blood to save up and I’d always been saving for something important. The first two or three months after quitting my job I used a bit of that money for living expenses, but quickly earned it back and I haven’t had to touch my savings since.

What are your current projects/business/plans?

I’ve just launched #Anydaysgood, a year-long project going against all those posts that tell you you need to visit x countries before you’re 30 or do y things before you’re 25. I want to tell people any day’s a good day to start chasing their travel dreams and to prove that life doesn’t end at 3° (I’m kidding, of course it doesn’t), I’ll be chasing 30 travel experiences I’ve always wanted to had but never went for while I’m 30.

While some of them are pretty “big”, like wanting to ride a hot air balloon, others are much smaller and personal, like wanting to spend a night out partying with a local somewhere.

The goal is to get people to create their own list of travel goals and to motivate them to check those of one step at a time, and to help them not to postpone those steps indefinitely 🙂

I’m curious to know more about your project (this can be a travel website, business etc). What led you to start this project?

A few months ago I was talking with a friend and she suddenly remarked that I should throw a party for my 30th birthday. I absolutely didn’t want to do that, but it did make me aware of the fact that even though it’s just a number, that birthday might be a good reason to start a new project and do something cool. When I later bumped into one of those “30 before 30” articles, I knew what that something had to be.

When did you launch your project?

I’ve actually just launched it as my birthday is February 12 so I’ll be doing the #Anydaysgood challenge from now until February 12 next year!

What is your project’s mission?

To inspire people to chase their dreams no matter where in life they find themselves and however silly they think those dreams might be.

What hurdles have you faced thus far with this project?

Because I only got the idea late November, it’s been a bit challenging arranging everything logistically. I was stressing about it rather badly in the beginning but now I’ve just decided to plan things as I go. I know I could just book everything, but as I don’t want this to be about having to money and time or not to go after your dreams, I’m also trying to partner up with some cool brands along the way. It adds a difficulty level – but I need to look out that it doesn’t become an excuse to postpone things!

How did you overcome these hurdles?

I’m still working on them 😀 As it’s a year-long project, I’ll be planning, traveling and reporting all-year-long. Maybe you should ask me again in 2018 🙂

Who or what helped you along the way to make your project a success?

So far I’ve gotten great responses from the travel community, which is really motivating.

Tell us more about your traveling life. How often do you travel?

My friends and family ask this all the time and I always say the same: it depends. Sometimes I’m home for a month and sometimes I make four different trips in a month. I really depends on the projects I’m working on, the assignments I get and my mood, really.

How does your project complement your passion for traveling?

It’s all about having special experiences while traveling the world. There are definitely things on the list I could do at home in Belgium as well, but that wouldn’t really be a challenge 🙂

Sofie shares with us her favorite travel moments.

My first trip to Los Angeles. It opened up a whole new perspective on life for me, making me realize there’s more than the traditional path I’d always envisioned I’d follow.

My trip to Quebec in winter with my Boyfriend. It was the first time I tried skiing and snowboarding and thus also the first time I really tackled my fear of heights. He’s passionate about winter sports, so this trip really allowed me to connect with him on another level while doing something I’d always been afraid to do.

Every first 15 minutes in a new city. No matter how much I hate the whole getting there part, as soon as I’m walking around in a new place, I’m reminded of how much I love to travel.

How do you define success for your project?

It’ll be successful if I manage to experience all the things on my #Anydaysgood list and inspire people to create their own list and go through the challenge together with me. Even if just one person has an experience they’ve always put off until now, it will have been a success.

What have you discovered about yourself as part of this process?

It’s not really a discovery, but I’m quite the chicken. I love interacting with locals and doing new things, but I’m often too shy or not confident enough to take the first step. This project really forces me to get out of my comfort zone and do exactly those things.

How do you manage to afford traveling? 

As a travel blogger, I earn money in several ways. I do freelance travel writing for other websites and magazines, I work with travel brands and destinations on marketing campaigns, I have Adsense up on my site and I do a bit of affiliate marketing. Aside from that, I also do copywriting and the occasional translation work (English <-> Dutch).

What advise do you have to those who are thinking of pursing their passion that require quitting their 9 to 5?

Before you do, ask yourself if your passion can be a job and if you’re sure you even want it to be a job. Maybe you love doing what you do exactly because you do it in your downtime. Or maybe you’re crazy about it but only five other people in the world are. Make sure there’s a demand for what you want to do and… make sure you save up first.

It might work out, it might not. Either way, it’s easier if you don’t have to worry about rent and being able to buy food.

Did quitting the 9 to 5 kind of career and working for yourself turn out the way you envisioned it to be? 

Better, actually. I honestly thought I’d give it a go for a year, but would fail and then have to find a new job. Luckily, that’s not how it turned out. I love the freedom and being my own boss. It’s hard. I have the occasional panic attack and the “I’ll never really make it” thoughts, but I never consider quitting. Doing this energizes me just as much as it occasionally wears me out 🙂

I realized that I’m a bit of a loner when it comes to work. I never liked the structure of school: not being able to advance at your own pace, needing to be there at specific hours of the day and not being able to choose who I surrounded myself with. But I loved university: planning my work as I saw fit, having a much more flexible schedule and mingling with like-minded people. I guess you could compare school to the 9-to-5 and university to freelancing – although there’s still a lot more freedom in freelancing.

Are you living a life with more freedom now than before? Feel free to elaborate.

Yup, see above 🙂

 How many countries have you been to?

I always have to count because honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. There are people who’ve been to 80+ countries but they’ve only been there once for three days. I tend to travel a lot around Europe and visit the same countries over and over again to really get to know them. But so to answer your question, 20, I think.

What other countries are on your list?

There’s hardly a place I wouldn’t want to visit.

Name one thing you miss the most when on the road?

My boyfriend.

To wrap up, I asked Sofie a few more questions:

Which do you prefer? Mountains/nature or city life?

City liiiiiife! I honestly don’t know why. I like discovering new bars, new eateries, cultural things… I guess that’s more related to cities. I love being in nature too, but there has to be something to discover or eat 😀 I’m not someone to go hiking for days at an end just to look at a green scenery.

Describe the word, FREEDOM.

Freedom comes from choice. As soon as you can choose, you can choose freedom.

Name 3 qualities that you think are the most important in accomplishing one’s dreams?

1.Persistance – to work hard and keep at it even when things don’t go well
2. Down-to-earthness – to realize what’s achievable and what it takes to get there
3. Patience – lots of it

Thanks Sofie for the wonderful and real insight on how it’s like to transition into a life with more freedom.  Many of us are intimidated by the thought and you just proved that no matter where you are in the process, with faith and persistence, it is possible to sustain a life where you get to be your own boss and travel on your own terms.  Goodluck!

You can read about Sofie’s travel life via her website, Wonderful Wanderings and social media:  Instagram and Facebook

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

V-PODCAST EPISODE 1: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

EPISODE 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Reasons for Leaving my Career

Welcome to Episode 1 of the V-PODCAST SERIES: ON MY WAY! FROM A LAWYER TO A MOUNTAIN NOMAD.  In this episode, Brown Gal Trekker tackles the question, “Why leave a stable career for pursuit of an unconventional dream?”

Tune in and share with us your own reasons or thoughts about the topic! Thanks!

To learn more about what this v-podcast is about, check out the INTRODUCTION.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

WOMEN TRAIL LEADERS: Summer & Lezley of Fat Girls Hiking

The outdoors appeal to most of us as a safe haven to let ourselves go from our day to day routines and stress in life.  But the reality of it is that life in the outdoors is not as perfect as any paradise we conjure in our minds, especially when, as a female hiker, we don’t fit the looks of women as portrayed by the outdoors media.

That has been the case until Summer and Lezley came into the forefront of leading women entities in the outdoors world to serve as the voice for women who may feel different, weird, strange, unsuitable or unacceptable.  Summer and Lezley not only love hiking but they also made it their mission to encourage women of all backgrounds to find pride in who they are as women hikers.

From my own personal experience, my being featured on Fat Girls Hiking’s Inspiring Women series clearly demonstrated that feeling of belonging and self-acceptance.  I’m no exception to feeling different as a woman of color who continues to wait for inclusion in the media.  Fat Girls Hiking provided a voice on my behalf and echoed my presence to the social media world of the outdoors. That’s a good start towards a long road in promoting diversity and women in the hiking world.  For that reason, I’m absolutely delighted to come across these two lovely souls and be a part of their mission to promote diversity in the outdoors.

Women Trail Leaders: Summer & Lezley of Fat Girls Hiking

Summer is from Minnestoa while Lezley is from New Mexico. They currently live in Portland, Oregon.  Off-trail, Summer works as a nanny while Lezley is a Data Analyst.  They typicall hike in the Portland area, and around Oregon and Washington states.  They also have traveled overseas for on trekking trips.  Summer is also a writer, a photographer, crafter and reader while Lezley is a sports enthusiast, daredevil, traveler and a board game and film geek.

When and how did you first start hiking?

Summer: My love of hiking started about 4 years ago.  I had been on a few hikes before then but not on a regular basis.   At first, I didn’t like it.  But it grew on me. 

Lezley: I started hiking 10 years ago while living in Nevada after getting a taste of hiking while in Zion.  My uncle was an avid hiker in New Mexico & would take me with him but I didn’t appreciate hiking until I got older & moved to Nevada. Now I hope to hike more in my home state to experience the things I missed when I was younger.

What do you like the most about hiking?

When we hike, we feel strong & capable.  Worries & stresses of everyday life are wiped clean.  We hike to be connected to nature & our selves.

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

Summer: I like hiking alone a lot. There is something therapeutic about being out there by myself that makes me feel self reliant. When I face challenges & solve problems on the trail, I feel empowered.  But I also love leading hikes with Fat Girls Hiking, I love watching other people gain confidence & feel inspired in the outdoors.

Lezley: I prefer hiking with a group or another person. For me, I feel safer being with others. Plus, I like getting to know people or spend quality time with people away from the distractions of everyday life.  Also, having another person on the trail with me motivates me to keep going when the trail gets challenging.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

Summer: Hikers are creative problem solvers.  When I am miles away from civilization on a hike, if something goes wrong, I have to figure it out.  Also, I love feeling small in the grand scheme of the world. It puts any silly or trivial problems in my head in check when I can look around from the summit of a mountain and say, “Those things don’t matter, not really.”

Lezley: Sometimes trails can be intimidating but if I keep on pushing myself forward, then there always seems to be a reward at the end.  It’s a daily reminder of life off the trail: keep pushing forward, no matter what might scare you.  The other lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the aspects of nature that we often take for granted.

Summer and Lezley share with us their favorite hiking moments.

Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. 

We had spent the night before the hike sleeping in the back of the truck in a 24-hour grocery store parking lot because all the campgrounds in the park were full.  We wanted to get up early to beat the crowds because we heard this was a busy hike. 

On the hike in to the lake, we counted seeing only 5 people. It was amazing to witness the sunrise over the mountains onto the clear lake cluttered with logs at the bottom. We ventured around the still lake and the mountains were reflected perfectly.  There were glacial waterfalls above us that we heard would be extinct in less than 10 years.

Then we met another hiker who was gathering sand from the beach, he said he proposed to his fiancé at that spot & they were getting married later that day in the park. As we were heading back to the trailhead & the sun began to shine onto the lake, it was a bright green color that matched the leaves on the trees.  On the way back to the trailhead, we counted 207 people making their way to the lake.  So glad we hiked early!

Saddle Mountain, Oregon.

We were so excited to do this hike.  It was the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago & we were ready to conquer one of the Oregon Coast Range’s biggest mountains.  The hike starts out really steep & 2 minutes in we were taking layers off.  This is the most elevation gain we’ve ever done on a hike, it felt good & really difficult.  We were stopping a lot but enjoying ourselves.

About 45 minutes into the hike, Summer’s stomach started to ache.  Oh no.  The trail is mostly switchbacks & there isn’t any spots off-trail to dig a cat hole.  Ugh.  Finally, we found a spot where Summer scrambled up to some bushes for privacy to “use the bathroom.” 

Much better…Ok, let’s do this.  We get to the summit & WOW what an amazing view.  There’s the ocean to the west, and it’s a clear day so Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are visible.  It was incredible.  Then we notice the trail keeps going.  Oh. Shit.  This is what they call “the false summit.” Ok, we can do this.  We are tired & the rest of the trail feels painstakingly steep.  The trail is covered with chain-link fencing, and there is ice in some spots, but we make it to the real actual summit. 

The exhilaration of the view, being up there with the wind as it whips our hair around. We know we are strong enough to carry our bodies to the top of a mountain. This is the reason we hike.

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Canada.

We knew this hike was busy & touristy.  The photos we had seen online were amazing & we really wanted to see it for ourselves.  So we got up really early to beat the crowds.  The trail is paved almost the entire way. There’s no “roughing it” on this trail. There are catwalks along the side & bottom of the canyon that allow access to the canyon in a way that usually could only be accessed by repelling.  The natural beauty of the rock & the pure clear water was stunning.  However, the trash & plastic water bottles underneath the catwalk were less than desirable. Nature Tourism is over rated.

Sometimes the crowd of inconsiderate tourists can overshadow the beauty around us. Well, at least it changes the experience. We carry on. There are three waterfalls along the trail that we enjoy & then decide to turn back & head to a less busy trail.  The trail was really crowded  the last half mile & there is a group of twenty slower hikers ahead of us.  We just want to get out of the crowds.  Summer finds an opening & jogs around the tourists & Lezley gets stuck among the crowd. 

After Summer jogs by one of the men Lezley gets stuck behind says, “Wow, you could really feel the ground shake when she went by.” It’s attitudes like his & comments like these that intimidate plus size people from feeling safe in the outdoors.  Even though we are avid hikers, most likely more experienced than the man who commented on Summer’s body size, this comment changes our experiences on trails.  It’s easy enough to shake off an ignorant comment from someone who arrived via a tour bus & carry on with your love affair with the Canadian Rockies.  Needless to say, we found many other gorgeous places to explore while we were in Banff National Park but Johnston Canyon was the most memorable.

What advice would you give to women who are new to hiking?

Start out on some easier trails with a fabulous reward at the end (waterfalls & viewpoints are good).  Don’t worry about how fast or slow you hike.  It’s not a race.  There are no prizes at the end.  Research the trail & the weather before you go. Have more than one source of information on hand (a screenshot on your phone is good, but a backup is never a bad idea). Print out driving directions & don’t rely on Google maps.  Many trailheads do not have cell service which is a blessing in our overly “connected” world, so make sure you know where you’re going.  If you are hiking alone, tell someone specifically where you are going & when you are expected to return.  Bring enough water, snacks, and weather appropriate clothing. Most importantly, listen to your body.  If something isn’t feeling good, don’t do it.  Savor your time on the trail & have fun!

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

Summer: All the hikes are on my list.  Seriously, all of them.  If I could travel endlessly & hike everywhere I went, I would. I definitely want to spend more time in the Canadian Rockies & Glacier National Park. 

Summer at Falls Creek Falls.

Lezley: Patagonia and Machu Picchu are on my list. But any time we travel, we like finding a hike in the area so we get to enjoy that peaceful part of a city.

Lezley at Oregon Coast.

What is your favorite hiking gear and why?

Summer: As a plus size hiker, finding gear that fits is not easy.  There are such limited options for women’s plus size outdoor gear that I usually end up buying men’s gear. Ill-fitting raingear is the only option I have.  However, I do have an amazing Granite Gear backpack that fits well and has hip pockets for little things that I need accessible while hiking.  And I love my Platypus hydration bladder—it’s really easy to clean & dry out. Black Diamond trekking poles are my new favorite gear…wish I would have gotten them sooner.  And of course, my Canon 5D.

Lezley:  I like my Granite Gear day pack.  Everything else I’m still testing out.  I haven’t found the exact right gear for me yet.  My $1 bandana is pretty sweet though!

What is your favorite quote that motivates you on and off trails?

Summer:  As an avid reader with a degree in writing, words always motivate & inspire me. Mary Oliver, Cheryl Strayed and Audre Lorde are among my favorites. My recent favorite quote is by Judith Thurman, “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

Summer at Mt. St. Helens.

Lezley: “Why you crying? Are you bleeding? But did you die?” –traditional Mexican words of inspiration.

Lezley at Oregon Coast.

Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?

There are many challenges to being a female on the trail.  Often in our society, women aren’t taken as seriously as men. In any athletic endeavor, women can be even more patronized.  The idea that women aren’t as tough or as knowledgeable about the outdoors is merely an extension of our sexist society.  Women are still treated as novelty in the outdoors. We face these challenges by going outdoors anyway, by proving them wrong.  For the most part people are kind on the trail & there’s a wonderful community feeling while hiking but these challenges can be intimidating for women to face on the trail.

Summer and Lezley are the women behind Fat Girls Hiking – an important female led entity in the outdoors world that promotes diversity.  Below they tell us more about FGH. 

Fat Girls Hiking started on Instagram in early 2015.  We were hiking a lot & looking to social media to find outdoor communities that represented us, but they didn’t exist.  There were a few accounts that focused on women but they were very homogenized & always featured a specific type of woman that we couldn’t identify with.  We are both fat queer women.  One of us is covered in tattoos, one of us is a woman of color.  We do not look like typical hikers.  But the lack of any diversity was staggering.  So, we decided to change that.  We wanted to celebrate all these amazing, beautiful people who aren’t usually featured on blogs or outdoor Instagram accounts.

What is the mission of FGH?  

Fat Girls Hiking is a body positive outdoor community. We believe that all folks should be represented in outdoor media.  We want to take the shame & stigma out of the word FAT & empower it.  Our motto, Trails Not Scales is to focus on self love in the outdoors instead of weight loss.  Trails Not Scales reminds us that the more we hike, the more love we have for ourselves & our bodies just as they are.  We want all people to feel comfortable outdoors & to be able to claim their space on the trail.  We know that bodies of all shapes & sizes are capable of anything.  Our community is for those folks who have felt like they didn’t fit the typical hiker mold. We encourage & support folks who want to get out & hike, to do so!

How do define success with respect to FGH?

Empowering people through group hikes is how we define success.  Any time we get an email saying “thank you for including people who look like me” is how we define success. People who don’t feel represented in outdoor Instagram accounts commenting on a photo & saying, “I love this account” is how we define success. Watching people who come on group hikes grow & gain confidence is how we measure success.

What are the current and future projects that you have for FGH?

Fat Hiking Club is a documentary about Fat Girls Hiking that is still in production.  Some amazingly talented filmmakers from Vancouver, BC contacted us about FGH & filmed a hike we did with our group & interviewed us about body image, the outdoor community and why it’s important to create this space for fat folks, queer folks, people of color, trans & gender non-conforming people and women.

The Fat Girls Hiking Adventure Club is a new endeavor that is starting January 2017.  We love hiking & will continue to lead group hikes once a month but we also want to have other outdoor adventures with folks in our community.  Parasailing, fat tire biking on the beach, kayaking, snowshoeing, high ropes, climbing and many more activities are on our bucket list of adventures.  The Adventure Club will sometimes be a body positive yoga or dance class, other times it will be a weekend getaway with outdoor activities or a group camping trip.

Besides Fat Girls Hiking, Summer and Lezley also have a blog called Be Heard and they tell us below what it’s about.

We have a blog called Be Heard.  On the blog, we post photographs (taken by Summer) of people in the Fat Girls Hiking community or other body positive folks & have them answer a few questions about themselves.  We want to hear people’s stories & photograph them in a space that feels comfortable for them.

Thanks Summer & Lezley! Fat Girls Hiking certainly symbolizes the awakening of women to loving themselves more in the outdoors.   Without your organization, the hiking world would be less celebratory and appreciative of women who are different and unique in their own way.  I can’t wait to see what other projects you have in store for us.  So, keep doing what you do to inspire women of all types.  After all,  for the rest of the world to love us, we have to first love ourselves.

You can follow Fat Girls Hiking via their website & social media: Facebook & Instagram,

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the WOMEN TRAIL LEADERS SERIES, OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES or FREEDOMEPRENEURS SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

FREEDOMPRENEUR: Danielle of WorldSmith

Listen to that voice.  It’s the one that tells you what you really desire in life, be it travel, a partner, family, a pet and whatever else.  But when you’re a city dweller or someone who thrives in the chores and busy nature of life, there’s a chance we may overlook what our intuition is telling us.  That’s when a moment in silence helps retrace our steps back to our voice.  In my own process of discovering my path, the voice was the instrumental tool in arriving at the direction I wish to take from here on – the life of a mountain nomad who runs her trekking/adventure travel social enterprise.  The process takes time as opposed to the romantic notion that passion strikes you overnight.  Once you discover your passion, creativity becomes the key to get you there.  Our feature today exemplifies both notions – allowing your passion to find you and relying on your creativity to get you there.

I’m very excited about our feature for Freedompreneurs series.  Danielle has the exceptional ability to maintain authenticity towards her passion amidst the chaos in this  rather noisy world that we live in.  Danielle shifted from a typical work life, trying to make ends meet with two or more jobs to a life of instability “in her own terms.”  The good news is the shift turns out to be much easier than she has anticipated and as it stands Danielle found “stability” and a way to sustain her long-term travel through freelance writing – a rather happy outcome of her journey.

Danielle Bricker of WorldSmith

Danielle Bricker is from Charlottesville, VA.  She is currently traveling in Southeast Asia and working as a freelance writer.  She also writes via her travel site, WorldSmith.

Before I dive into questions regarding your online business/project, tell us a little bit about your background.  Where did you grow up? How was your childhood like?

I lived my entire life in Charlottesville, Virginia – a small-ish liberal college town where 20 minutes driving in any direction will land you in the middle of nowhere. More than that – my mother has lived her entire life there and her mother before her and so on past the point of our recorded family history. This is actually pretty unusual. Being a college town, Charlottesville attracts a lot of students and academics who form a very transient population. I, on the other hand, had very deep roots I couldn’t wait to break free of. While one side of my family had known no life outside Virginia, my dad’s side was the polar opposite. He grew up as an army brat, moving from base to base every few years, even spending three years in Bangkok. Even after the active duty days, my paternal grandparents continued traveling frequently, so I (quite luckily) grew up knowing that places like Peru and Egypt and China were places people actually visited.

What are your interests and passion in life?

1) Travel. 2) Writing. 3) Travel writing.

A lot of people moan and groan about ‘How do I find my passion in life?’ which is ridiculous. Passion finds you. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, then you’re not listening to yourself. I always listened. I listened when I was in first grade and knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I listened when I was a freshman in college and wanted to declare my major in English, despite the snorts of derision that I would be majoring in unemployment. I listened when I interned at a travel guidebook publisher and realized I could unite my two greatest loves in a career. Following your passion may not always be easy, but finding it should be.

Are you still working a 9 to 5 job? If not, when did you quit? What kind of a job was it?

Since I graduated into one of the worst economic downturns in American history, I technically only had a 9-to-5 job for a grand total of 10 months. After I got laid off, the only way for me to stay in my field (writing, editing, and publishing) was to take unpaid internships or super minimal part-time work and cobble together a living from whatever odd jobs I could get. I’ve done everything from pouring wine at a vineyard tasting room to redesigning the website of a public sculpture program (and a whole lot of less sexy things, too, but who wants to read about bookkeeping?). Somewhere along the way, I also started freelance writing on my own, whenever I had the time for a personal project. I cut ties to my last desk job in June 2016 and committed myself to freelancing as my only source of income, so I could embark on a year-long round-the-world trip.

How was the process like to quit something so stable?

I didn’t have much stability to begin with. When nobody will hire you full-time, it’s not that hard to say ‘Bye Felicia!’ There were points where working two jobs to make ends meet would have been a break for me. I sometimes had three or even four part-time commitments on my plate at once. I finally got fed up and decided that since I couldn’t have a stable job, then the lack of stability would be on my terms.

What are your current plans?

I am six months into my year-long RTW trip. I will be in Southeast Asia for the next two months, and will then move on to South and Central America for four months. After that, I will return home, but am not sure whether it will be for a short visit, a long visit, or permanently. When I left the U.S. in July, I thought my freelancing would help me get through the year, but I’d have to return to the 9-to-5 world after that. Through a lot of luck and a lot of hard work, I’m at a point where I can meet my expenses and even turn a profit in Southeast Asia. So I’m now looking into what it would take to make full-time freelancing a permanent career change.

I’m curious to know more about your site, WorldSmith. What led you to start your travel website?

While I long had the vision of WorldSmith becoming a celebration of creativity and travel down the road, I actually launched the blog as part of Bootsnall’s Indie Travel Challenge. I had been planning my RTW trip for two years and it still seemed so far away. I needed to blog about that planning process as a motivational tool, to keep me from giving up. It worked. Blogging held me accountable to the point that I left a year earlier than I thought I’d be able to.

When did you launch your site?

November 2015 – a date reflected in my social media handle @worldsmith2015

What is your website’s mission?

Live creatively. Travel more.

I think everyone is creative in some form. Maybe it’s writing or drawing or music. Or maybe it’s not as easily recognizable. Maybe you create your lifestyle. You find clever ways to budget your money. You forsake the status quo and find ways to generate income outside the 9-to-5 bubble.

WorldSmith is very much a work in progress. But I’d like to see it become a resource and inspiration for creative professionals, digital nomads, and traveling artists.

What hurdles have you faced thus far with this project?

I am my biggest obstacle. All that pesky training in journalism has made me a bit of a snob regarding the ways blogs can monetize. I just can’t bring myself to enter the realm of sponsored posts. I think the whole ‘advertorial’ setup, no matter how honest you are, no matter how many disclaimers you publish, ultimately skews the presentation. It seems to be feeding a culture of ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,’ which isn’t always useful to readers. And I also wouldn’t feel right telling readers to spend their money on something I got for free. I prefer to have some skin in the game when I make a recommendation.

Because my self-righteousness has eliminated a major stream of monetization, however, I don’t make money off my website and therefore have next to no time to spend developing it. I have to focus on the freelance projects that grant me income, and if I have time leftover, then I can maybe get a post published.

How did you overcome these hurdles?

I’m sure a lot of people would tell me to just get over myself. Instead, I’ve accepted that my blog is just going to be a long labor of love. It will probably take years to become what I want it to be. But that’s okay. I started it because I believe in its principles, not because it’ll make me rich and famous.

Who or what helped you along the way to make your website or your travel lifestyle a success?

I don’t think I can call WorldSmith a success. Not even close. So I’ll pivot a bit and talk about how I’ve made my freelancing career a (moderate) success.

I rely on the Upwork platform to get freelance work. It has a lot of haters and many of their complaints are valid. There are a ton of clients who want to pay peanuts for top-quality work and it’s easy to get discouraged amid all that. The platform takes a big percentage of your earnings at first, which can make it seem not worth the effort. Personally, the security Upwork provides me is worth the fees. I don’t have to worry about a client refusing to pay me for my work. If there’s a problem between me and a client, I have mediation resources at my fingertips.

What’s really made me successful on Upwork has been finding ongoing projects. I can work with the same three clients every month and have a steady income flow. Developing those long-term relationships means I don’t have to go back to the drawing board (and that pool of poorly paying clients) every few days. I can settle in and know I’ll have work for months at a time.

Tell us more about your traveling life.

I currently travel full-time. I’ve been doing so for six months, and plan to travel continuously for six months more. Before learning about long-term travel, I would take one big international trip every year or two. After learning about long-term travel, I went without a vacation for two years to save for a year-long RTW trip.

Tell us about the travel component of your website.

I write about my experiences on the road, detail my exact budgets, and draw from my experience to compile a Creative Professionals’ Guide to artsy cities around the world.

Danielle shares her favorite travel moments below.

Jeez. I’ve always been terrible at the favorites game. I don’t even have a favorite book or movie, let alone a favorite travel memory.

Three moments from the start of my RTW trip I often reminisce about – particularly on hard days – are as follows.

Walking onto Dritvik Beach in Iceland. I planned part of my RTW trip around touring the Golden Circle in Iceland. Once I was in the country, however, I impulsively decided to first tour Snaefellsnes, the country’s western peninsula, which I knew absolutely nothing about. We had several stops over a 12-hour day, but Dritvik was the most spectacular in my eyes. You wind through these towering craggy formations before the beach opens up before you, a huge swath of lava turned to perfectly round, smooth pebbles where the fiery flow met the ocean. It was the first moment of my RTW trip (probably the first moment in a very long time) I felt completely happy and I broke a cardinal rule of responsible travel. I slipped a pebble in my pocket as a keepsake. It’s been my good luck charm through 15 countries and counting.

A surprise encounter on Barceloneta beach. The second stop on my RTW trip was Barcelona, and my two weeks there were rough. My week in Iceland was just like taking a vacation. When I moved on to a new destination instead of going home, it finally sunk in just what ‘year-long RTW trip’ really meant. I wrestled with a major life change and some crippling anxiety issues. The turning point came about halfway through my second week. Back home, I’m a swing dancer. I ran my college club and the swing dance group in Charlottesville is how I met my boyfriend of two and a half years. So I was completely surprised to walk down the boardwalk at Barceloneta beach and find a large group of people swing dancing in the street. I impulsively walked up to a man between songs and asked to join. My lindy hop was rusty, but it was still great fun. Having that kind of spontaneous connection completely lifted my spirits and I started to get more comfortable with traveling alone.

A luxurious dinner in Paris. Even after my night dancing on the boardwalk in Barcelona, I struggled with dining alone. I think many people really fear eating alone and at the start of my trip, I was no exception. It’s just not something you do in the United States. It is something you do in Paris, however. I looked up in advance a couple recommendations of restaurants for solo diners. In Paris, that’s actually most restaurants. It’s not unusual for Parisians to treat themselves to a nice meal, and I found that ‘treat yo self’ attitude to be the best way of overcoming the solo dining hurdle. Starting with my glass of Bordeaux and duck confit at Au Pied de Fouet, narcissistic as this is, I started approaching dinner as a solo date. I could be interested in myself, as I would be another person. I wanted to do something nice for myself, as I would for other people. Damn it, I could even love myself, as I do my friends and family. I could go out, enjoy a nice meal, and enjoy my own company.

How do you define success in your case?

I think I’ll feel successful if and when I meet someone who has already heard of WorldSmith before meeting me. I feel semi-successful as a freelance writer in my ability to earn enough to cover my expenses in Southeast Asia. I’ll feel completely successful as a freelance writer if and when I can earn enough to live in the U.S. or Europe.

What have you discovered about yourself as part of this process?

In the years of part-time jobs outside my field, I realized I have a tendency to over-invest. Whatever my job is, I throw myself in mind, body, and soul. I actually developed high blood pressure at one job, I cared so much. I don’t know if I’m better at letting go yet, but I am better at choosing where my energy goes. By moving into freelancing full time, I insure that only the projects I sign on for get my investment.

How do you manage to afford traveling?

I spent two to three years saving for my RTW trip. I relied on my savings for the first six months of travel, and now rely on my freelance income.

Do you have other future projects in mind? 

In January, I’m launching a new series of monthly profiles on WorldSmith. I never wanted the site to be ‘me, me, me.’ So I’m fulfilling another piece of the vision and featuring others’ work. Each month, I’ll tell the story of another traveling artist or creative professional. I want to celebrate creativity in all its forms, and provide readers with a fuller picture of how you can pursue art and travel.

What advise do you have to those who are thinking of pursing their passion?

A lot of people will tell you to ‘Just do it.’ I think this is overly simplistic, and sometimes just plain wrong. If you know what your passion is, great. But if you’re guessing, it’s a recipe for disaster. Take your time. Read everything you can. Talk to people who have gone before you. Plan. Save. Read some more. Know without a doubt that this is your calling. It could take years, but that’s all part of the journey. I don’t regret for a minute that it took me nearly three years to go from the pipe dream of long-term travel to the reality. I needed that time. You might need the time too.

Did quitting the 9 to 5 kind of career and working for yourself turn out the way you envisioned it to be?

Since I freelanced on the side before taking the leap into full-time freelancing, I had a very clear picture of what it would be like. I even surpassed my own expectations. I thought my freelance income would help me get through a year of travel, and I’d have to go back to a desk job afterward. Now there’s a chance I might be able to sustain it as a permanent career change.

Are you living a life with more freedom now than before? 

Abso-fricking-lutely! Though there are days when having to work while I travel feels burdensome, I am really in complete control of my life. I feel like I can wake up in the morning and more or less decide what I want to do that day. There are consequences. I don’t get paid until I finish my work. But I’m not tied to an hourly schedule or to a particular workspace the way I often was back home.

Finally, any unique travel advise you can give women out there?

Traveling as a woman is different. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for that fact. We have different health concerns. (Accept that your menstrual cycle will be affected.) We have different safety concerns. (Trust your instincts and take solace in female-only spaces when you need to.) We also get to connect with other women, which in more conservative countries male travelers may not be able to do. We cook and weave together. We protect each other. I feel so much more sisterhood as a traveler. Enjoy those moments.

To wrap up, I asked Danielle the following questions:

How many countries have you been to?

23 – United States, France, Monaco, United Kingdom, Italy, Vatican City, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Iceland, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Greece, India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos.

What other countries are on your list?

I have concrete plans to go to Vietnam in January, Indonesia in February, and Peru in May. I have plans in the works to visit Cambodia in January, Japan in March, Argentina in April, Chile in May, and Costa Rica and Mexico in June. Beyond the plans of my RTW trip, I won’t waste your time. I’m one of those people who wants to go everywhere.

Name one thing you miss the most when on the road?

I miss having a set reliable group of friends I can call on and spend time with at any given moment. I have plenty of contact with my boyfriend, my family, and my close friends. But when I want someone to have dinner or just hang out with, I have to rely on new acquaintances. I’m pretty introverted, so this constant flux of a support network can get very tiring.

Which do you prefer, mountains or city life? 

I love getting into the mountains as a break from ‘regular’ life, but I spend most of my time in cities. It’s just more practical for the purposes of working on the road. And coming from a smaller town, large cities have an undeniable allure for me.

Name 3 qualities that you think are the most important in accomplishing one’s dreams.

Conviction. Perseverance. Flexibility.

You need to believe in your dream 100%. It can’t be something you adopt from anyone else because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do. Traveling full-time isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay! But as someone who could never stand to live in the same place for more than a couple years, I knew always having something new on the horizon would be perfect for me.

You have to always keep going. It’s so easy to get discouraged, especially in the early days of figuring out what it will take to make your dream a reality. Find ways to motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable. For me, blogging was broadcasting to the world that I was going to travel – I would have been so embarrassed to just give up after that.

Finally, at the end of the day, you have to know when it’s time to compromise. Nobody’s perfect and neither is any dream. I would have liked to have enough in savings to cover my entire year-long trip, so anything I made freelancing would be extra. But I reached a point where it was leave now or never, so I let go of that piece of the vision in order to hold on to its core.

How can we continue to follow you and your work/project?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram as @worldsmith2015. Instagram is probably the most accurate and up-to-date reflection of where I am and what I’m doing at any given moment. You can also subscribe to a monthly newsletter at WorldSmith  and never miss a beat.

Danielle notes that we don’t look for our passion but rather passion finds you.  I couldn’t agree more.  In her world, traveling spoke to her.  Danielle trusted her instinct and went for it.  Every freedompreneur can appreciate the courage that it takes to take that plunge.   In the end, no matter where the path leads you, we’re destined to come out of the experience with more wisdom.

Thanks, Danielle for sharing your freedompreneur life with us.  We wish you the best as you continue to create your own unique journey.

If you know of someone who you think should be featured on FREEDOMPRENEURS SERIES (yourself included), you can find out more here.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

V-Podcast Series: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

Do you wish to quit your career and change shifts? Have an off the beaten path kind of dream? It’s never too late to change paths.

Marinel (Brown Gal Trekker) starts on her journey towards retiring from her 14 year career as a lawyer to become a mountain nomad and run her mountain trekking/adventure travel social enterprise, Peak Explorations. She plans to go full time as a nomad in August, 2018 at which time the podcast/vlog series will end to launch her into the world of a nomadic lifestyle.

Tune in via YOUTUBE (subscribe HERE) every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month for her ongoing updates on her journey to becoming a nomad including her reasons for the decision to make this shift in her life, the steps she’s taking, her future plans as a nomad, challenges, joys, ups and downs of the process to get to an off the beaten dream plus featured guests to inspire her to forge ahead.  If you’re planning to quit the 9 to 5 and go for your dream as an entrepreneur or a nomad, Brown Gal Trekker would love to hear from you!

For more inspiration, check out her article, She Becomes a Judge, I Become a Mountain Nomad.

 

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

WOMAN TRAIL LEADER: Rebecca of Hike Like a Woman

I must admit – life can be hectic.  But what happens when your passion takes over most of your waking life?  Since the inception of this blog and my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, any minute I get outside of my legal career has been dedicated to building the foundation for both entities.  Luckily, my effort to do so is inspired by so many wonderful women who thrive in the spirit of the outdoors.  Rebecca happens to be not only an inspired hiker, but also an INSPIRER for many women who love the outdoors.

To be honest, life before meeting Rebecca was like living in a bubble with the presence of such frequent thoughts in my head:

Am I the only one who is obsessed with hiking?  Why can’t I be normal like the rest of the single girls back in Washington, DC?  Why do I preoccupy myself with the idea of mountains and summits?

Shortly after launching this blog and Peak Explorations, I met Rebecca through her women-focused outdoors website, Hike Like a Woman.  This discovery was completely by accident which happened through a network of bloggers on Facebook.  From the HLAW website, I gathered that there are more women who care about hiking that I could have ever imagined.  In fact, I discovered through HLAW that there IS a community of women supporting one another in their pursuit of the outdoors.  How did I overlook the idea of the existence of such a community?  From there, I gained interest in getting involved and contacted Rebecca about the Ambassador Program with HLAW.  I then contributed a few articles to HLAW and eventually became a contributor for the website.

The thing is I never really thought of the possibility that networking with other outdoor bloggers/leaders would be feasible.  But, Rebecca through HLAW managed to pave the way to connect many of us and create a community that continues to grow as time passes.  As I learned to get to know Rebecca and her mission behind HLAW, I began to sense that Rebecca’s role within the hiking community for women is irreplaceable.  

Rebecca embodies the role of an icon for women as a reminder of the possibilities out there for us, be it in the world of the outdoors or in our personal lives.  There is no limit to what we are capable of as women – whether we choose to be a trail leader, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother, or to simply be a hiker.  In the most authentic version of ourselves, we have the power to be what we wish to become.  HLAW is a testament to the empowerment of women that we embody individually and celebrate as a whole.  The sum of all the parts leads to HLAW as the vehicle to promote the voices and the relevance of women in the outdoors.  HLAW’s success, of course, goes back to the founder herself.  It’s a reflection of Rebecca’s commitment to be of service to the community of diverse women who share her passion – hiking and the outdoors.

There are plenty of individuals and organizations I’m grateful for since the start of my blogging life and entrepreneurship.  As such, undoubtedly, Rebecca and HLAW are on top of the the list of those who I’ll always be grateful to in terms of inspiration and support.

So, with all that said, I’m thrilled to share Rebecca’s hiking story, her role as  a trail leader and her experience as an entrepreneur in the outdoors world.  As I learn about Rebecca’s insight and passion for all the above endeavors, I quickly came to this realization:

When our passion takes over our lives, it may very well be so damn exhausting. Yes, indeed it is.  And yet, alongside with it, is a feeling of immense joy- after all, it is all about going after what is truly dear to our hearts.  Hence, we rest, if needed, but no matter how tired we may be, we never stop forging ahead.

Outdoor Woman’s  Voice, Woman Trail Leader & Freedompreneur: Rebecca of Hike Like a Woman

Rebecca Walsh grew up in Bozeman, Montana.  She currently lives with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 3 in Laramie, WY.  As our feature, it’s a pleasure to have Rebecca because she not only is a voice for outdoors women, but she is also fitting as a feature for the Women Trail Leaders and Freedompreneurs series of the blog.  Rebecca has founded several outdoors entities: Hike Like a Woman, Little Laramie Hikers and Just Trails.  She’s also a published writer.  Rebecca’s love for the outdoors is unquestionable as any activity that she partakes in almost always has everything to do with the outdoors.  Talk about passion!  It’s amazing how she manages to find time for all these things.  It must be true love!  So, let’s read on about Rebecca’s hiking life and learn about her amazing projects that have become instrumental to the hiking community.

When and how did you start hiking?

I grew up in a really outdoorsy family so I don’t really remember when I started hiking but I’ve seen a lot of picture of me as a baby in a backpack carrier on my Dad’s back. So I guess it started from before I was born. It’s just kind of in my nature to want to be outdoors and on the mountain.

What do you like the most about hiking?

I like that it’s something that can be done almost anywhere there is a dirt path and that there’s minimal equipment required. After all, a hike can be nothing more than just a walk in the woods. You can make it as extreme or as easy as you want just by varying the terrain.

Rebecca shares with us her most memorable hiking experience to date.

A few years ago a group of my Mom friends and I decided that we needed a break from hiking at the pace of our toddlers and young children. So we planned a quick trip to Colorado where we climbed four 14ers in one day. Mt. Democrat, Cameron Lincoln and Bross. We showed up at our campsite late at night on a Friday after working all day and then woke up at 4 am to begin the climb. It was a long day, with breathtaking scenery and lung-busting ascents. The whole adventure lasted maybe 24 hours but it was exactly what we needed to do something a little bit challenging and have some fun together.  

See the full story here.  

14er trip/Democrat: Twice/year the moms in our hiking group plan a girls-only trip where we leave the kids at home and do something epic. Mt Democrat was our first 14er together.
14er trip:The entire group.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned lately is how to slow down. When I’m on the trail my email isn’t buzzing, my phone isn’t ringing, my to-do list disappears. It’s just me and the trail with nothing to do except enjoy the beauty that surrounds me and become lost in my own thoughts. My best ideas don’t come when I’m busy, they come when I’ve taken a few minutes to slow down, breathe and walk.  I’ve also learned to listen and just be at peace with who I am.

What advise would you give to those new to hiking?

Just lace up your boots and go. The hardest part for me is getting out the door, so I have to put hikes on my schedule so the space doesn’t get filled up with work. If you’re new to hiking find an experienced friend to show you what to pack and where to go. If you’re a new Mom and looking to start hiking with your baby don’t wait, hiking is so good for children of all ages.

Rebecca shares with us some of her favorite family photos while playing on the trails.

3 year old Finn
5 year old William
We don’t shy away from difficult trails as parents because we like to push ourselves. This is the summit of Medicine Bow Peak at 12.016 feet.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

Definitely Kilimanjaro. I turned down a trip there last year and totally regret it. I’m also planning to do Rainier in a few years to celebrate my 40th birthday.  But yeah, if there’s a big mountain I want to climb it.

What challenges have you faced if anything as a female hiker?

This is an interesting question, because after all I do have a website called Hike Like A Woman. But honestly, I  grew up in a family where all of us hiked. I live in a place where I see just as many women (if not more) on the trails as I do men. I feel really comfortable and safe on the trails, and I’ve never experienced any sort of gender discrimination on the mountain.  I guess I’m lucky, not all women experience that.

You have a hiking group called Little Laramie Hikers in Wyoming. What is it about?

Shortly after my husband and I left our careers to move to Wyoming I noticed a few things. First, I noticed that my entire town seemed to hibernate for the winter. I rarely saw any women and children on the trails once the snow started to fly. Second, I noticed that occasionally I’d see a family on the trails but only on the weekends. There were a lot of outdoorsy women in my town who love the outdoors but weren’t comfortable taking their children on a hike without their spouse. I wanted to change this culture so I started a family-friendly hiking group.

The friendships that my children are developing with other children in our hiking group are invaluable. I think they will explore with this group of children for a long time.

What made you decide to start this group and tell us what activities does the group do? 

I started the Little Laramie Hikers because I’m passionate about connecting women and children with nature and local trails. I also wanted a way to make friends who had similar interests (like the outdoors) and I wanted to provide a fun way for parents to meet up and hike.

Right now, we hike together every Friday morning. We alternate between different trails, we have a lot to choose from and sometimes we throw in other activities or environmental education lessons. Our hiking group went to look at dinosaur bones and fossils with a paleontologist last year and that was amazing for the adults and the children. We’ve also learned about pikas with a wildlife biologist, tadpoles, hiked with a senior citizens hiking group, hiked in Halloween costumes, had picnics, learned about wildflowers, and sometimes we hike deep into the woods and read our favorite children’s outdoor books. We’re fortunate to live in a college town so grad students are always looking for fun ways to come out and hike with our group.

The kids in our hiking group love hiking to a place and then stopping to read outdoor stories. I like combining literacy with the outdoors, it’s fun.
This was a joint hike with the Little Laramie Hikers & a local senior citizen hiking group. It was a huge group, we had so much fun. Multigenerational hikes are great.

Do you have other folks organizing?

Right now it’s pretty much just me. There are 200 families in the group, but someone always steps up to lead if I can’t make it to a hike or to help plan a fun outdoor adventure for the group. It’s really a sub-community of outdoor families within our larger community and I like that.

Where do you hike with the group?

Everywhere! We try to keep the driving distance to less than an hour but we’ve hiked all over Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado.

What do you like about being a trail leader?

I feel like one of my goals as the leader of the group is to make sure that I get to know everyone who hikes with us and to make sure they feel comfortable and welcome. I like meeting new people who who up for a hike the first time.

What are some of the challenges of being a trail leader?

Naturally I wish I could do more for the group. I wish I had more time to find us gear sponsors for our lending library, or more time to coordinate hikes with other groups but that’s just life. I do what I can.

Also, our hiking group is really family-oriented but since we usually hike on Friday mornings we tend to attract the work-from-home and stay-at-home spouses, so it’s usually a big group of Moms and children. Once we got mistaken for a daycare! I actually love having the support of a good solid group of outdoor women and mom’s and I’ve found that they have developed into my closest friends. My biggest challenge is being able to lead hikes on weekends so I can get more women who work during the week involved.

What advise do you have for women who are interested in starting a group?

Go for it, set up a communication platform that is easy (we have a private Facebook page to communicate) and tell your friends to come out. For the first 6 months only 2 women joined me on hikes and sometimes no one would come at all but that’s okay, we kept on hiking and planning hikes and eventually the group grew. Now I think our hiking group is one of the best things going on in my town for families.

Name 3 qualities that will help to be a successful a trail leader.

Patience, kindness and organization.

You started an enterprise called, Just Trails. What is it about? 

In 2012 my husband and I left our careers are Army officers. We had deployed to Iraq a bunch and had a new baby and just needed some time to decompress. We also loved to hike, cross-country ski, mountain bike and explore so we wanted to combine our love for the outdoors with a small business that we could pursue while deciding what to do with the rest of our lives.

What is the purpose of Just Trails?

Our goal was and always will be to help people explore. We had noticed that wherever the Army sent us we had a hard time finding accurate and useful trail information so we spent our precious weekends researching where to go instead of actually exploring. So our goal was to map out every single trail in Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado to provide a mega data base of local trail information.

What made you decide to initiate this enterprise?

Honestly I think we were just in this weird transition phase after leaving the Army where we just weren’t quite sure what to do. We had saved some money and wanted to work for ourselves so we just went for it.

How has it been like for you running this enterprise?

It’s been amazing. It’s been hard and we’ve learned that it’s not a sustainable business model, so we made a lot of mistakes financially. But at the same time everyone in our local area knows that they can find reliable trail information on our website so it’s quite popular locally. I don’t really know what the future looks like for Just Trails but we really enjoy it.

What do you enjoy about your role in running Just Trails?

I like working closely with my husband on a project. I think it’s been good for our marriage, it’s taught us both how to communicate with each other better.

What are some challenges?

The biggest challenge is funding Just Trails. After a few years with my husband and I running it together we decided that he needed to go back to school and find other employment, so for the past 2 1/2 years while he’s been in law school the bulk of the work has fallen on me. As a result we haven’t been able to put up any new trail maps, or launch a few other projects we have brewing on the back burner. But we’re hoping to hire a few employees someday to help us expand and grow. There’s interest in it, it’s just a matter of being strategic with our funds.

How did you overcome them?

I think it helps to have a long term vision and strategy. We’ve built the brand, we have a solid reputation, the next step is just growing smartly. We’ve cash-flowed the business and are committed to keeping it debt-free. Because we want to keep the risk low it limits the speed by which we can grow and expand.

What 3 tips would you give to outdoors women who are thinking of starting an outdoors-related business?

Chose your business partner wisely. Have a plan. Don’t go into debt, it’s just not worth it.

How do you define success as an entrepreneur?

Do you work hard to provide a good service that helps people? If so then you are a success.

What keeps you motivated in running a business?

I guess it’s selfish but I really like being my own boss, I don’t really want to work for someone else.

How hard is it for a female to run a business in this niche?  Any challenges?

Since it’s been a partnership from day #1 I haven’t noticed any challenges related to being a female. I like to think that if you want to pursue your passion and work hard nothing will stop you.

As I met Rebecca through her organization, Hike Like a Woman, I definitely had to ask her about HLAW, its beginnings and  how she envisions it evolving over time.

What inspired you to start HLAW and tell us about its mission?

A few years ago I felt like I needed to find my own voice in the outdoor community so I started HLAW.  The mission of HLAW is to build a community of outdoor women inspiring each other with stories, tips and advice.

Where do you see the group heading in the future?

My ultimate goal is to have all-women guided trips and tours. I’d especially like to start something geared toward helping female Veterans, because as a Veteran myself I know that there’s a huge need for that.  But HLAW trips, tours, retreats –  it’s on my horizon. For now, however, I just want to keep building the community, sharing experiences and providing good information for outdoor women.

You have successfully launched a community for women in the outdoors.  Can you share what factors led to the success of HLAW?

Bringing a group of women on board as Ambassadors & Contributors to help share their experiences is the first thing that comes to mind. It helps the website feel less about me and more about the community. The next thing would be partnering and collaborating with other outdoor bloggers, especially my friend Amelia with Tales of a Mountain Mama. I love bouncing ideas off of her and a few others. The last thing would be to know your people, I have a photo shared by one of my readers. She’s a heavy-set middle aged woman who hikes in a blue jeans, she’s a real woman. Her photo is printed off and I look at it when I write blog posts and record podcast episodes. She reminds me to speak to her when I write and podcast. It’s not about her, it’s about the thousands of women just like her who read my blog and listen to my podcast.

Rebecca then shares with us some of her favorite moments through HLAW

Since it’s a visual community one of my favorite moments was the first time when my group of Ambassadors hopped on a google hangout. It was like meeting my readers for the first time, I couldn’t stop smiling.  

See the article HERE.

What have been some of the challenges along the way in running HLAW?

Sometimes I get haters and everyone is always pointing out typos. I do my best but I’m not perfect. If someone wants perfect I’d prefer the they didn’t read my blog 😉 If someone wants honest and real, then they are in the right place.

Tell us about some of the upcoming projects for HLAW.

I launched the podcast earlier in December, 2016. Growing the podcast and getting to know my readers is my goal for 2017. In 2018, I’d like to take the show on the road and maybe travel across the country hiking and interviewing inspiring outdoor women.  Maybe a kickstarter is in my future.

You have expanded the HLAW community through the creation of the Ambassador program. How does it work?

Last summer I took Darley Newman, the host of Adventures With Darley, a show on PBS on a hike when she was in town filming an episode of her show. I noticed that while the show had her name in it, it wasn’t about her. It was about the areas she was exploring and the locals who were guiding her. At the time I decided that I needed to change HLAW, it needed to be a place that wasn’t about me, that’s boring. It needed to be a place where others could come and share their stories. So I invited my community to apply for a chance to be an Ambassador for HLAW, basically someone to contribute to the website and be more involved with planning on the back end. I thought no one would apply but 118 women did! I selected 35 of them from all over the world. Since the program is new I’ve decided to add a group of contributors, as well.

How can women get more involved with HLAW?

Definitely follow along the website and hang out with us on Facebook 🙂

This is a photo from a trip last winter where we skied or snowshoed into backcountry cabin for the weekend. There was wine, chocolate and a lot of fun.

You also write yourself.  To date, which piece of writing by you is your favorite? 

Speaking of haters, a few years ago I published a post about hiking with kids on HLAW. One women freaked out about it in Facebook, she said something about how it was dangerous to hike with kids. Her comment got me all sorts of fired up so I wrote a post called, “Why I Put My Babies At Risk By Taking Them Hiking” it’s been my most popular post to date. And while I wrote it out of anger, it was super honest and I think that’s why people love (or hate) the post.

What advise would you give to female bloggers who are new to writing or blogging?

Find a blogging mentor, someone who has been around that you can throw ideas at or find a blogging group that is supportive and fun.

Share with us your favorite quote that keeps you going whether on or off the trail.

“What if you fall, but darling what if you fly?

                                                      -Erin Hanson

How do you see yourself in 5 years with HLAW, Just Trails and Little Laramie Hikers?

I hope I’m just still getting outside as much as possible, encouraging others to get outside and having fun.

I love camping with my family and just being able to unplug and focus on what’s most important in my life, them.

On that note, I think it’s clear that Rebecca’s passion for the outdoors will continue forward for a lifetime and is easily a calling for her.  Not only does she create the world that is safe and supportive for us women hikers but also she lives life true to her passion for trekking.  That, in and of itself, is the real inspiration that she sheds on all of us.

Going back to my initial thoughts before discovering HLAW and knowing Rebecca, I’m happy to say that they have dissipated in my mind.  After all, the hiking world turns out to be pretty darn amazing for women!  I’m no longer the only insane person who is obsessed over hiking and neither am I alone in my continued pursuit of my own calling and commitment to living an authentic life.

Thanks, Rebecca!  I look forward to seeing you flourish in your momentum of empowering women.  I can’t wait to see your creative ideas come to fruition as you forge ahead to inspire the hiking community.

You can follow Rebecca via Hike Like a Woman and Just Trails.

Hike Like a Woman is one of the collaborators for BGT’s Film Project, Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks.  Learn more about the project here.

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the WOMEN TRAIL LEADERS SERIES, OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES or FREEDOMEPRENEURS SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

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Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Kaila & Wyatt

One is never too old to hike.  But then, can one ever be “too young” to hike? 

Our next feature, Kaila, found inspiration from hiking through making a choice to live a healthy lifestyle and discovered hiking in her adult life.  However, joining Kaila, is her 4 year old son, Wyatt, who started hiking at 8 months!  Of course, not literally as he was too young to walk then but his parents have exposed him to the outdoors from that very young age.   So, are you ever too young to love the outdoors?  According to Wyatt, no.

Before officially meeting Kaila and Wyatt, my first encounter with Wyatt was through reading a Huffington Post article on him.  Wyatt aims to hike Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia’s Borneo – the  youngest to do so.  I personally did a solo hike of Mt. Kinabalu years back and it’s a strenuous trail not to be taken lightly as it goes as high as over 13,000 feet.  Luckily, it appears his parents are mindful of his safety and deems that to be the number one priority.  Wyatt’s pursuit of hiking and just being in the outdoors is certainly inspiring for the young and old alike.  Also, it’s a testament to the fact that having kids should not halt our passion for the outdoors as adults, especially for women.  After all, it’s the healthiest way to raise a young person.   So, I’m rather excited to hear from both Kaila and Wyatt about how hiking has been instrumental in their lives.  In addition, their hiking stories take us to the Philippines and Asia (for now).  In case you do wonder if there are trails to trek in that part of the world, the answer is yes, most definitely!  It’s not the easiest terrain either with frequent muddy conditions and steep climbs.  Nonetheless, it’s a heavenly place for any avid hiker.

Outdoor  Woman’s Voice

Kaila (& Wyatt)

Kaila Sharlene de los Reyes – Bedural was born in Santa Cruz, Manila and grew up in Quiapo, Manila.  She is currently residing in San Pedro, a city in the province of Laguna.  Kaila is a freelance web developer, web designer, SEO specialist, and marketer.   Kaila started hiking in 2011.  She hikes in nearby mountains and around Batangas, Laguna and Rizal as time allows.  She also has ventured into the Cordillera mountains in Benguet and explored some of the peaks in Mindanao.  When off trails, Kaily loves collecting banknotes of the countries she has visited and old Philippine banknotes.

How did you discover hiking?

I saw the hiking photos of my officemates and I suddenly feel envious with them. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to join but I suddenly got invited by one of them, so I immediately said yes!  After that, I didn’t join them anymore and I just searched for groups and events on facebook where I could join and I eventually became a solo hiker.

What do you like the most about hiking?

I was born and grew up in a city so I seldom experience being with nature during my childhood and teenage days. When hiking, I loved how I can see different views of nature. Also, there’s an overwhelming joy once you reach the top of the mountain. Next, it helped me have a healthy lifestyle. Our family is prone to being obese. In fact, I’ve been overweight since I was a child. But because of hiking, I’ve lost a lot of weight. However, in 2015 when I became too busy with work and we seldom went hiking, I gained back some pounds again. Third, hiking helps me relieved some stress, especially when spending the night camping in the mountain. Fourth, hiking is our major family bonding.

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more? 

When I didn’t have my own family yet, I enjoyed hiking solo. Hiking with big groups delayed the itinerary and I want to follow my own pace. If spending the night in the mountains, sometimes it’s too noisy at the campsite if there are too many people. So without a doubt, I loved hiking alone. However, it changed when I’ve got a husband and a baby. Hiking as a family is the most enjoyable thing for me now. I no longer care about my own pacing because we enjoyed every step with our Wyatt.

Kaila shares with us 3 places locally and abroad that she and Wyatt have hiked. 

Fansipan in Sapa Town Lao Cai, Vietnam is our first ever hike outside the Philippines. It is called the “Roof of Indochina”. It was winter season (December) when we went there and although there’s no snow, the climate is really cold especially at the top. But we’re prepared and equipped with proper gears so we didn’t worry about the cold weather.

Next is Mt. Talomo traverse to Mt. Apo. It is known as Mindanao Megatraverse because of its tough trails. Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and potentially-active strato-volcano. There are a lot of trails to get there like the Kapatagan trail (easiest), Kidapawan trail (a little challenging) and a lot more. We did the Mt. Talomo-Apo traverse when we decided to hike Mt. Apo because it’s like hitting two birds in one stone. Before getting to Mt. Apo, you have to hike a series of mountain peaks so it’s hard. The usual itinerary for it is 4 days and 3 nights. But because we have a toddler with us, we extend the itinerary to 5 days and 4 nights

Third is Mt. Ulap Eco Trail. It is one of the most famous hiking trails in the Philippines because of its spectacular views. There are pine trees, grasslands, ridge, hanging bridge and you can also see burial caves. It is just near Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

Never underestimate the mountain. Be prepared always. Learn not only the basics of hiking but also the advanced skills. Have more patience.

What advise would you give to women who are new to hiking?

Enjoy the trail and the nature in general. These are the things that no amount of money can buy. So we, as a family, invest on these experiences rather than gadgets and other unnecessary things in life.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?

Every hike is memorable for us. But the most memorable perhaps is our Mt. Kitanglad traverse to Mt. Dulang-Dulang. It is also a tough hiking trail in the Philippines. And because we have a toddler with us, it is much harder than usual. The weather forecast in the place was sunny but we still experienced moderate to heavy rain in the middle of the trek. We couldn’t go back anymore because we’re too far already so we have no choice but to go. There are steep descents and ascents so we have to use ropes. There’s a part with big rock with cliffs on both sides. An existing rope is available but it’s too muddy making it slippery. Same goes with the rock. We couldn’t ask any help as well because the local guide already went ahead of us and there are no other hikers during that time. I wasn’t afraid for myself but for my husband and our little one. I went first and I managed to surpass that obstacle. While at the top, I kept praying to God and saints to protect both of them. Thankfully, nothing bad happened.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

We have lined up Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, then Lantau Peak and Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong for 2017. Hopefully, more international climbs for 2018. Nothing specific yet because we’re just relying on promo fares and we’ll go whichever place I get the most affordable fare. Of course for the bucket list, we have the Himalayas – Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp; but that’s too expensive so not a priority.

Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker? 

When I was still a single woman, there are people who underestimated my capabilities as a female. I was turned down to join a hike simply because I was a newbie and a woman; they thought that I couldn’t do it. I felt so hurt so I decided to go on my own way and proved to them that I can do it just like them (men).

Wyatt

When did Wyatt start hiking?

He was only 8 months old when we brought him to our hiking activity.

How did he get started on hiking?

When we already knew that I was pregnant, we stopped all the outdoor activities until my CS wound was completely healed. We were on hiatus for about 1 year and 5 months. We really wanted to go back to what we used to do before and we really missed outdoor activities. We don’t have a nanny for Wyatt, and since there are only three of us in the house, we decided to go camping with our baby. Surprisingly, Wyatt showed interest being one with nature. He’s really happy with the trees, the environment, and the people we meet on the trail. The funny part is that he didn’t want us to stop walking. Yes, he didn’t want to rest. We had fun climbing together as a family so we decided to do it often when the schedule and budget permit. Aside from the fun that climbing brings, we noticed that Wyatt’s stamina is getting stronger and he was able to resist a lot of sickness. Unlike other kids, he seldom gets sick and never been hospitalized.

What trails has Wyatt hiked to date?

A lot. 43 mountains as of this writing. You can find his hiking log here: http://www.wyattmaktrav.com/climb-log/

What is the terrain like for these hikes?

Mountainous, grasslands, mossy forest, open fields, muddy trail, and river crossings.

How do you coordinate and plan his hikes?

Of course, extensive preparation has been done before we go on a climb. We consider the type of mountain whether it’s only a dayhike or a multi-day climb. We avoid mountains that are rocky and have limatiks (leeches). We choose mountains where baby Wyatt can walk/climb by himself in most parts. As a result, his legs are full of muscles even as a baby. There are more preparations in major climbs because we need to make sure that we won’t run out of supplies for the entire duration of the hike. Aside from the allotted food for the estimated days, we also have some buffer supplies (emergency food) just in case there are unexpected circumstances. We have to know the weather forecast on the location of the mountain, although we know that mountain has its own weather that we can’t control. In fact, we have scheduled climbs in the past that we aborted due to bad weather in the area. We’re also searching for some locals in the area who will assist us, especially for the logistics such as the transportation going to the jump-off and processing of permits so that our focus will be on our internal preparation – mostly for our baby.

As parents, how do you ensure his safety?

We carefully choose the trails that we will hike. As parents, we don’t want him to be in danger. So when hiking, both of us are very attentive to his every step. If there are hard parts on the trail and he’s too tired, we carry him. If the mountain is a major one, we used to seek help from friends to accompany us so we have somebody to rely on in terms of cooking of meals, etc. so our focus is purely on our son. We also take time in the trail. Before, we used to run but now, we just follow our son’s pacing. Very enjoyable!

You also launched a website – what is the goal for your site?

At first, it was a private site because Ed and I were both busy so we couldn’t write anything to be published on that blog. We just wanted to compile Wyatt’s photos of his climbs, travel and other adventures through it. I’ve purchased a domain with his name and made it public in May, 2016. Then eventually, the website helped us establish media presence for Wyatt (TV shows, magazines, and other blogs).

How has the outdoors community responded to your son’s love for hiking?

We’ve been receiving both positive and negative comments about bringing our child in the mountains. For the positive comments, they said they are inspired, amazed and wanted to do the same. For the negative, there’s a lot. They said we are putting our child into danger, some even said we’re not a good example, that it’s a bad parenting, etc. Even so, we’re not really affected with the negative comments because they don’t know us, they don’t know what kind of preparation we do, and they didn’t experience it themselves.

You can read more about this topic via this article on Wyatt’s website.  What future hikes do you have planned for Wyatt?

For nearby mountains, we usually go unexpected. For those that need airfare tickets, I’ve already booked promo fares in advance so we have plans for Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia (May), Lantau Peak and Dragon’s Back Trail in Hongkong (July).

What are some of Wyatt’s favorite hikes?

 Wyatt loves water so his favorite hikes are those with falls, river, and lake.

What advise do you have for parents who have a child who’s interested in hiking and who wish to start going outdoors?

Hiking with a child, let alone a toddler or infant, is not an easy task. So if you are interested to start going outdoors with your child, make sure that you have tried it yourself. The most important thing is that both parents should love what they are doing. Be prepared not only with the supplies but also physically and emotionally.

It’s been a pleasure to have Kaila and Wyatt on this feature and learning more about the hiking life in the Philippines.   The outdoors are meant for any age and stage of life as long as preparations are made.  Wyatt sure has more hikes to pursue and so it’s worth following him via his social media accounts:  Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.  You can also read about Wyatt’s adventures via his own blog.

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

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Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

HIKER’S PARADISE: Oregon (USA)

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

We’re glad you’re here!  This series is where you’ll find some of the best recommendations for places in the world to live in or visit if your passion has to do with spending time in the mountains or nature.  Our featured hiker’s paradise is: 

OREGON (U.S.A.)

by Tarah & Tip of Fit Two Travel

Oregon is one of the best places to live if you enjoy hiking. It’s should be a sin to visit Oregon, without getting out on one of the many hiking paths. From forests, to waterfalls, to breath-taking views, Oregon hikes has arguably some of the most gorgeous scenery in the World. A few of our favorites are Misery Ridge Loop, Angels Rest, and the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park. 

Smith Rock State Park is 3 hours from Portland, located right outside of Bend. Misery Ridge is one of the more popular trails at Smith Rock, at just under 4 miles round-trip. Consider yourself forewarned as it is an intense climb with a mile of straight uphill hiking. It’s all worth it when you see the view at the top! From the top on a clear day, you can see multiple mountains in the distance, including Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters.

There are many beautiful views in the Columbia Gorge, but our favorite is Angels rest. Just under 5 miles, it’s not too long, but it does have a steep incline. Silver Falls has 10 waterfalls and over 24 miles of trails to explore. Silver Falls is the largest park in Oregon. With so many trails, you can pick your difficulty level. We highly recommend doing the trail of ten falls, where you can see all 10 falls. It’s a longer trail at 8.7 miles, but it doesn’t have much elevation gain.  

Oregon is a beautiful state to explore, especially when you’re surrounded my nature and incredible views. The many trails of Oregon need to be on your list to see.

If you have a place that you wish to be featured, read THIS for submission guidelines.  

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HIKER’S PARADISE: The Amalfi Coast (Italy)

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

We’re glad you’re here!  This series is where you’ll find some of the best recommendations for places in the world to live in or visit if your passion has to do with spending time in the mountains or nature.  Our featured hiker’s paradise is: 

THE AMALFI COAST (ITALY)

by Isobel of Testaccina

Not everyone knows that southern Italy’s idyllic Amalfi Coast was formed from a mountain ridge, the Monte Lattari, which juts out into the Mediterranean Sea between the town of Naples and Salerno. But the mountains are there, though almost disregarded beyond the coast’s brightly coloured, popular resorts, which attract tourists all year round. The peaks touch their highest altitude at 1,444 metres with the Monte San Michele, and you can also catch a cable car up to Monte Faito, at an elevation of 1,131 metres, from Castellammare di Stabia.

While the coast is around 55km long, you’d be hard-pressed to find any hiking routes that take you the entire length of the coast from Vietri sul Mare to Nerano in the west. Despite that, there are plenty of day excursions under 10km which are popular with locals and tourists alike. Where else can you start out in an idyllic town such as Ravello, and finish your hike by throwing yourself into the sea from the sandy beaches of Amalfi?

The most famous walk of all is nicknamed Il Sentiero degli Dei, The Path of the Gods, and comprises a stunning 8km walk from the tiny hilltop town of Agerola to Nocelle, a village nestling above the pretty coastal town of Positano. Ideally, you should plan to start in Agerola rather than Nocelle, as the route runs gently downhill from this direction, with breathtaking views across the towns of the Amalfi coast and across to the island of Capri. The route doesn’t feel particularly steep, but there are stone steps to tackle in a number of places and they do add up.

The actual starting point of the hike is a hamlet called Bomerano, on the outskirts of Agerola. To get there, catch a local bus run by the Sita group from the town of Amalfi, down on the coast. Ask the driver to let you off in Bomerano, before you reach the town. As soon as you alight, you should see green trail signs which lead you to the beginning of the hike. The signs suggest that this is a 180 minute walk, so bring drinks and snacks.

Once you reach the trailhead, the walk is well signposted by red and white numbers which count down towards Nocelle. Orange and white signs have also been painted on the rocks so you know you’re on the right path. The weather can be changeable up here, so even in the summer (and always in the spring or fall) a light waterproof jacket may be necessary as showers and sun alternate rapidly.

When you arrive at Nocelle, which is a tiny town 400 metres above sea level, there are a couple of bars and restaurants to quench your thirst and sate your appetite (but these may close after lunch, so be aware of this when planning what time you set off).

If you don’t make it to Agerola on your first visit to the coast, there are also plenty of informal walks linking towns along this stretch, including a lovely walk from Ravello down the hill to Amalfi, which is less than 5km and should only take you an hour or so. 

For more information on this latter walk  from Ravello to Amalfi via the town of Scala, please read more HERE. 

If you have a place that you wish to be featured, read THIS for submission guidelines.  

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FREEDOMPRENEURS: Alex & Sebastiaan of Lost With Purpose

Iran. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Kyrgyzstan.

These are places that not many travelers go to and given the political instability that is happening all around the world, many adventure travelers are disheartened with the thought of visiting such places.  It takes plenty of research and courage to navigate such countries and experience travel at its finest.  As travelers, we’re behooved to exercise our innate nature to roam the world freely but what happens when political and cultural views get in the way?

I must admit that I have yet to go to these countries. In particular, as an avid mountain trekker, I’m highly interested in the trekking opportunities in Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan.  As an American, the recent change in the political and cultural climate towards predominantly Muslim countries have posed a mental challenge – despite what have been presented on the  news, would you allow this to compromise your desire to see the lesser known parts of the world, the ones that are especially known for warm and friendly locals (despite politics) and rich in history, as well as, stupendous landscapes?

In light of the world’s despair over varying political views on the state of said countries, reading travel stories from bloggers who have been to the places in dispute provide a hint of hope and connection.  It is more important now than ever before to continue sharing travel stories from these countries that are constantly berated on the news as being “dangerous” and “unwelcoming” to the rest of the world.  (Read this Matador article on bloggers’ roles in promoting humanity). For us, travelers, we are now faced with the difficult question as to how to delicately balance safety versus our desire for freedom to roam.  If we do manage to venture into these countries, it would be incumbent upon us to share with the world the beauty and generosity of the locals and the world-class sites and nature that abound within these countries.

I’m delighted to feature two travelers who have done exactly that, whose mission is to tell the world about the wonderful experiences they’ve had in countries that remain unjustifiably questionable to the majority of travelers.  Perhaps the negative perceptions will dissipate one day, even if takes years or decades or more.  Regardless, bloggers and travelers have a critical role to play in that process.

Alex and Sebastiaan of Lost with Purpose

Alex (short for Alexandra) is a 25-year-old American girl, and Sebastiaan is a 28 year old Dutchie.  They’re full time travelers and bloggers over at Lost with Purpose.  They’ve been on the road for nearly a year, traversing the Caucasus, Iran, Pakistan, China, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. Currently they’re in India, alternating between sweating profusely, devouring curries, and basking in brilliantly bizarre culture.

Hitchhiking near the Kolsai lakes in Kazakhstan.
Sebastiaan

Sebastiaan grew up in the Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At age eight, his family moved to the Caribbean island of Curaçao.  After two years of island life, they moved back to Zandvoort, a beach town in the Netherlands. He continued to travel, both with family and without (in later years), and took not one but two gap years in Australia and Southeast Asia after high school.

Alex

Alex grew up in an “international” household in Pennsylvania; her mother is Filipino, and her father is English. Her father was also a professor, and the family often tagged along when he went to international conferences. Their travels took them to comfortable destinations such as Hungary and Denmark, as well as far-flung locales like Mongolia and the Philippines.

Their paths crossed on a university exchange program in Bangkok, Thailand.  They hit things off, had a stint of awkward dating-not-dating while traveling around Southeast Asia for several months, then decided things were meant to be and suffered a year of long distance post-travel while they finished their bachelor degrees. After graduation, Alex got a British passport (thanks to her father) and moved to the Netherlands so they could be together. Now, almost five years later, they’re on the road backpacking once again!

What are your interests and passion in life?

Our passion is what we first bonded over, and continue to explore today: traveling!

We both love traveling, especially to uncommon destinations. Once off the beaten track, meeting new people and exploring new cultures becomes much easier and more organic. It’s what motivates us to travel to more “difficult” or unconventional countries!

At a shrine to Hazrat Ali in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Aside from our shared love of travel, Alex is addicted to ice cream, and I spend a good part of my waking life devouring manga.

Are you still working a 9 to 5 job? 

Nope, we’re jobless—and homeless—bums. We quit our jobs before we started traveling and blogging.

Before adopting a life of vagrancy, we both worked in Amsterdam. I had a marketing and sales position at a food-related company, and Alex both freelanced and worked as a designer and occasional web developer.

 How was the process like to quit something so stable?

It was surprisingly easy. We knew we wanted to do this for a while, and never really thought about it as something difficult to do. We’re used to change, thanks to my multiple gap years and Alex’s relocating for school and to the Netherlands.

The most difficult part was figuring when to tell our bosses. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad—we both had very encouraging, understanding bosses. We ended up telling them about three months in advance so they had ample time to find and train replacements.

 What are your current projects/business/plans?

We’re mostly focusing on monetizing our blog, Lost with Purpose.

The blog is a combination of photo-heavy storytelling, as well as practical information and advice for other travelers. The focus is on covering less visited destinations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan; i.e. places lacking in up-to-date information for travelers. To supplement our direct income from the blog, we sell articles to publications, and Alex does a bit of freelance writing if an opportunity arises.

I’m curious to know more about your project.  What led you to start this blog?

When planning our trip, we were surprised to see how little useful or up-to-date information was available for the places we wanted to visit. There are hundreds of blogs covering Europe and Southeast Asia, but hardly any covering Georgia or Iran or Pakistan. We decided we could fill that gap.

The blog’s name, Lost with Purpose, comes from our tendency to get lost. We find the most memorable experiences occur when lost… so instead of bemoaning it, why not savor it? Our purpose: enjoy getting lost.

Getting lost in Georgia’s Truso Valley.

When did you launch your blog?

We officially launched when we started traveling: February 24, 2016. The blog was nearly empty though, and the only people reading it were our mothers.

What is your blog’s mission?

It started out as helping other travelers find their way in uncommon destinations.

However, the purpose of the blog shifted since its inception. In our travels, we visited several countries struggling with terroristic stereotypes such as Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Despite the negative connotations, we met so many people who were ecstatic about our visiting, and were eager to show off their country and mind-blowing hospitality. We wanted to give the world a chance to see what people in these countries are really like.

Surrounded by crazy friendly locals in Lahore, Pakistan.

Now, we write to show people how awesome the world and its people are. People are fundamentally similar no matter where you go, and most will greet you with a friendly smile if you let them. In today’s polarized society, this is often forgotten or purposefully suppressed. We hope to be a voice of positive reason, one article at a time.

With a friend we met through Couchsurfing in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

We still give plenty of practical information (how-to guides, budget reports, transport information, etc.), but many of our stories focus on the human element.

What hurdles have you faced thus far with this project?

We’re on a perpetual hunt for working wi-fi! Seriously, we’ve probably spent more money on coffee and drinks while attempting to find wi-fi than anything else.

The wi-fi in Iran was terrible, and to top it off, many major websites are blocked by the government!

Another problem: traveling full-time and trying to start a business don’t play well together. You want to fully experience your surroundings and meet new people… but you also have to write articles, maintain social media, answer emails, etc.

Another hurdle is monetization. No matter what those articles peddling travel blogging as an instant source of money or free travel may say, making money from a blog is not easy. At the moment, most of our money is made from writing for other publications, not our blog.

How did you overcome these hurdles?

Whenever we find a place with decent wifi, we take over. Sometimes we’ll stay an extra day or two if it’s working really well. Other times, it’s impossible to find any connection. In Pakistan, for instance, some places only have working electricity for a couple of hours a day! Good luck getting any work done.

The Hunza Valley in Pakistan: gorgeous, but connection-less.

That plays into finding our work/travel balance. No wifi = focus on travel, and offline tasks such as writing and editing photos/video. We’ve learned to focus on doing what’s possible at the time, which saves a lot of stress and misery!

As for monetization… we’re still working on that one! Most of our money comes from selling articles, but more sponsored opportunities are coming in as we become more established, and we’re currently focusing on better integrating affiliate sales into our existing content.

Who or what helped you along the way to make your project a success?

The blogging community has been a great help to us! There are several travel blogging Facebook groups that we frequent, such as We Travel We Blog and Female Travel Bloggers. They’re filled with (mostly) good-hearted people willing to help each other out and point each other in the right direction.

We’ve also developed a relationship with a couple of other bloggers in our niche, and they’ve pumped us full of all kinds of useful advice and tips.

Tell us more about your traveling life. How often do you travel?

Full time! We quit our jobs, stopped renting our apartment, and sold all our stuff, so we don’t have anything in the Netherlands to go back to. Our travels stop when the money stops, but we hope to indefinitely postpone that date with blogging.

Waiting for a (potentially nonexistent) bus in Armenia.

Before this big trip, we tried to travel at least three times a year, money permitting. Traveling to foreign countries wasn’t particularly difficult or expensive when we lived right in the middle of Europe.

How does your project complement your passion for traveling?

We travel the way we like, and we write about it so that others can do the same. It’s pretty straightforward!

Alex and Sebastiaan share with us their favorite travel moment. 

There are so many moments… where to begin? We’ve been taken in by complete strangers who gave us food and a bed, we were almost killed by Georgian hospitality (AKA alcohol), and we were treated like movie stars in Pakistan, stopping every 10 meters for selfies and chats.

Our favorite moments are the ones with people we didn’t expect, like when a stranger helped us and fed us in a train station in Pakistan during Ramadan, or when were invited in for tea, melon, and loads of hash by some shepherds in Afghanistan. We’ve met so many brilliant people that have given us the world and then some in our travels—it would be unfair to choose just one!

Chilling with some shepherds in Balkh, Afghanistan.

How do you define success for your project?

Success, for us, would mean our blog is regularly making enough money to fund our travels. The way we’d travel, we’d need to make about $1,500 – 2,000 a month to comfortably carry on, plus put away some savings.

What have you discovered about yourself as part of this process?

We’ve learned all kinds of things! I, for one, have learned that I hate taking pictures… but you’ve gotta do what you gotta do, right?

Alex’s discovery has been a bit more positive. Blogging has proved to be a combination of multiple things she enjoys: photography, web design, and marketing. She’s definitely addicted to it, but in a good way.

How do you manage to afford traveling? 

Before we started traveling, we saved money for about 1.5 years, and ended up with around €12,000 each. We’re traveling on those savings, and supplement them with income from blogging and freelance writing. Our money stretches far because we try to travel cheaply. Previously, our budget was $25/day per person. In India we’ve lowered it to $15/day.

Being hosted for free by a family in Shush, Iran.

Blogging has also helped save a lot of money. When people get to know us through our blog, they often invite us for dinner, or host us in their home. This happened particularly often in Iran and Pakistan, and we’re getting plenty of invitations in India as well, though we haven’t been able to meet up with anyone yet.

Do you have other future projects in mind?  

We’ve tossed around several ideas, such as selling Alex’s photography, offering some kind of consulting services based on our skills, or writing guides to some of the places we’ve visited. The blogging world tells us offering some kind of digital product for sale is the way to go… but we haven’t decided on one yet!

Travel gets in the way of productivity more often than not. Not that we’re complaining!

What advise do you have to those who are thinking of pursuing their passion that require quitting their 9 to 5?

Make sure it’s something you really want to do. A lot of travel bloggers preach about how easy it is to quit your job, leave everything, and start a career on the road. Well, it’s not.

There are plenty of things travel bloggers don’t tell you. Many don’t actually travel full-time, but rather live in foreign countries for most of the year. In our opinion, not living in your country of birth doesn’t equal traveling.

Others make most of their money from secondary sources, such as writing for other publications or working part-time while on the road. They make their blogs look glamorous and profitable, which is, in those instances, a lie.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t do it—just don’t believe the hype. Quitting your job and traveling the world for free isn’t real. You have to work hard, forego the luxuries of home, and ultimately be stationary for long periods of time. Besides, it’s okay to have a 9 to 5 and pursue your passion. There’s nothing wrong with stability.

Did quitting the 9 to 5 kind of career and working for yourself turn out the way you envisioned it to be?  

Blogging has turned out to be more work than we initially thought it would be. We thought we could just post quick how-to guides every once in a while, write a story or two a month, that sort of thing. Far from.

No digital detox for us!

There’s writing, editing, social media, promotion, affiliates, pitching, networking… the list goes on. We spend just as many hours traveling as we do sitting in the glow of our laptops. We’re more glued to our phones now than we were before we left. But, it’s a challenge we enjoy, and if it can fund future travels… so be it!

 Are you living a life with more freedom now than before?  

Of course. We travel where we want to, when we want to. We can work late at night, or early in the morning. We write articles in cafes, do social media on trains, and edit photos from the comfort of a bed. If we want to stop working and go off and explore something interesting, that’s fine—it’s all part of “the job”. I’d say that’s more freedom than traveling to and from the office during the week!

Laptop? Check. Beer? Check check.

The only limiting factor is internet. We could travel to the furthest edges of the earth… but we’ll need to rush back to find internet eventually!

To wrap up, I asked them a few rapid fire questions.

How many countries have you been to?

We don’t really keep a close count, but Alex has been to around 50, and I’m in my 40s. Our current backpacking adventure has taken us through 10 countries so far.

What other countries are still on your list?

The offbeat islands of Indonesia beg to be explored, but we’d also love to explore more of the Middle East—think Iraq and Lebanon.

Name one thing you miss the most when on the road.

Cheese. Real, delicious, properly aged cheese.

Which do you prefer? Mountains/nature or city life?

Alex is a nature girl—she’s happiest when she can relax in some sunshine to the sounds of birds chirping (and she’s averse to humans). I, on the other hand, love cities for their endless opportunities and architectural marvels (and I don’t like hiking much).

Alex in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Describe the word, FREEDOM.

To do what you want, how you want, when you want.

Name 3 things that are important in pursing one’s dreams.

Motivation, persistence, and creativity.

Thanks Alex and Sebastiaan for a wonderful overview of your experiences in off the beaten path parts of the world.  I hope this will encourage some of us, travelers, to take that leap of faith and visit a lesser known destination despite the negative perceptions being promoted on the news.  Having said that, safety is always a priority so as travelers we all have to learn to find the balance between that and our freedom.

You can continue to follow Alex and Sebastiaan via their blog, Lost With Purpose or via social media: FacebookInstagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  They’re always happy to get messages from readers, and do their best to respond to every comment and message… or you can just say hi!

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