Tag Archives: backpacking

VPODCAST EPISODE 3: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

Episode 3:  Am I Too Old for a Grand Adventure?

In this episode, Brown Gal Trekker tackles the fear of aging. Is it a factor when it comes to going after your dream? Yes and no. Tune in for this special Mother’s Day Episode.

Articles referenced in the podcast:

I Turned 40 and Became a Superwoman

Why Your 40s is the Best Time to go on a Grand Adventure

Accepting Myself Through My Mother’s Eyes

To learn more about this series, see VPODCAST INTRO.  Also see

Episode 1: Why I’m Leaving My Career

Episode 2: What Am I Afraid Of? Solitude.

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

7 Reasons to Try Hammock Camping Instead of Tents

A Guest Post by Rich of Rolling Fox

Summer is just around the corner and that means camping season is almost here! I’ve got my camping weekends marked on the calendar and this year my plans include a new essential piece of equipment: a hammock.

My love for hammock camping started when I noticed my camping trips were relaxing, but left me bone tired from nights of poor sleep. A friend suggested I try it and it totally changed my experience.

You don’t just have to take my word for it. Here are 7 reasons you should give hammock camping a try.

1, The Ground Can Be Uncomfortable

Sleeping on the ground in a tent means bumps under your sleeping bag, overnight moisture, and curious bugs creeping around your tent floor. Sleeping in a hammock gets you up off the ground, away from all those annoyances and can actually be good for your health. Experts in sleeping posture found the angle of incline and lack of pressure points in a correctly installed hammock can increase circulation and oxygen during sleep, and can dramatically improve back pain. After a day of hiking or chopping wood for a camp fire, anything that makes my back happy makes me happy.

2. It’s Lighter

An average hammock can fold up into a pouch smaller than your water bottle and weighs less than a pound. That means you could hit the trail with your bed in your back pocket and what tent could say the same? With a hammock comes the freedom from a bulky tent leaving you able to take longer hikes without the heavy gear. See more undiscovered off trail areas or get to higher elevations where carrying extensive equipment would be too physically demanding.

3. You Can Sleep Better

A great night’s sleep can literally transform your camping experience when you wake up feeling rested and physically ready for the next hike or a long day of swimming. When I first started camping I went sparse on the sleeping arrangements: just a tent and a sleeping bag. Soon I upgraded to an air mattress, and then a double air mattress with the battery powered pump and a padded mat and a leak patching kit… You can see where this is going. No matter how much more gear I bought and dragged with me, I never really slept well outdoors until I started hammock camping.

There are the obvious benefits, like being elevated off the rocks and tree roots that inevitably complicate tent sleeping, but there are properties of the hammock itself that make your sleep better. Studies show you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper in a hammock and the gentle swaying motion can actually change your brain during sleep to help you stay in a restful state longer.

4. Create A Better Connection with Nature

One of the main allures of camping for me is the uninterrupted time to connect with the way nature changes throughout the day. When I spend the entire night and early morning cooped up in a stuffy tent, I miss some of the most magic experiences. My first hammock camping night, I lay awake staring up at the stars in utter comfort listening to an owl serenading the night. In the morning I awoke not to the sight of errant bugs trapped in my tent net, but to the soft dawn light slowly warming the air around me. Yes, a tent gets you out of the house and into nature, but a hammock gets you out of the tent to experience more of those rare moments that really make camping magical.

5. There Are Plenty of Accessories to Keep You Warm

A simple hammock will be enough for many camping scenarios, but if you want four-season comfort, there are many affordable add-ons that can make your hammock the most versatile piece of gear you own.

Staying warm starts with staying dry. With an optional rain cover, a hammock neatly sidesteps moisture problems, keeping you off the damp ground and letting air circulate without condensing. If it rains or snows, there are no walls to drops to seep in and no floor to collect puddles. And tearing down a nice dry hammock when you’re ready to break camp in minutes is a mess-free experience. A mylar blanket can function as a rain fly, but also works as a layer of heat retention under your sleeping bag.

Get some easy insulation between your sleeping bag and the elements with a sleeping pad. If you have the funds, an underquilt will keep you warm and toasty even in the coldest camp sites, but you may want to choose your product based on the temperatures you expect to encounter.

6. Camp in More Locations

It’s no secret for anyone who has tried tent camping that the roots and rocks are only one element of what makes the ground uncomfortable. Uneven soil, cold puddles from rain or condensation, and even the slant or grade of your site can make your tent awkward for relaxing. Without a tent to consider, you can set up for the night on a slope, over water, and in rocky terrain without sacrificing comfort. You can even set up your hammock camp in places without any trees!

7.  Fast Setup

With a little practice, you can set up you hammock and be ready for bed much faster than a traditional tent. Some seasoned hammock users can get set up or torn down in less than two minutes! Think of all the extra time this will leave for exploring, making a delicious campfire meal, or just relaxing in the wilderness.

Now that you’re familiar with the main benefits of hammock camping, you might be ready to ditch the tent for your next camp out. I personally can’t wait to hit the trails this summer and see what new experiences my hammock allows me to enjoy. If you enjoyed this list, or are ready to try a hammock yourself, let us know by sharing this article.

Photos via Creative Commons

Author Bio

Rich is a hiking and camping enthusiast who runs the blog over at Rolling Fox. Rolling Fox is regularly updated with outdoor guides, recipes and gear reviews. You can find us on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please see the guidelines here.  Looking forward to your articles!

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V-PODCAST EPISODE 2: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

EPISODE 2: What am I afraid of?  SOLITUDE.

In this episode, Brown Gal Trekker tackles one of the fears with going for an unconventional dream of traveling for a lifetime.  She shares her thoughts on what solo traveling means from a “fear” standpoint and some ideas to mentally conquer it.  Would you add anything else?  Questions? Thoughts?  Feel free to share them!

For more, check out 8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for a Solo Adventure

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

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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.

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

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!

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

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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: Andrea of Andy in the World

We, hikers, are more similar than we think.  If you ever doubt that, please let me give you some arguments to support that statement.

I took one year to travel and trek.  Andy did as well.

I have trekked the Inca Trail.  Andy has done the same.

In fact, I’ll add Mont Blanc in Europe, Torres del Paine in Chile, Banff in Canada, Haleakala National Park in Maui and Yosemite.  We both have trekked in those places.

Add Kilimanjaro, South Africa and Nepal, which I’ve been to.  These three are on Andy’s bucket list.

Obviously, Andy and I have similar tastes when it comes to mountains.  Not only that, but we are also both fortunate to be part of the same supportive community of female hikers called Hike Like a Woman.  And, I’m quite happy to add, Andy is also part of the Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks project.  Who knew there is such a thing as being twins in the trekking world?  Well, now you know.  With all that said, I’m excited to share Andy’s hiking story.  She’s truly an adventurer and a source of inspiration; hence, I’m thrilled to have her featured on this series.   After all, Andy has already inspired a significant number of people.  Need some proof of that?  Check out her Facebook page and see for yourself her number of followers.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice

Andrea “Andy” Buzeta is from Kennesaw, GA who currently resides in Canton, GA.   Andy is back in the working world after a full year of traveling and hiking.  But not for long.  She already has some adventures in mind. Her next trip will be in Colorado for a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.   Locally, Andy hikes around North Georgia mountains, metro Atlanta and the Smokies.  She usually takes 1 to 2 hiking trips a year abroad or to a U.S. National Park.  When off the trails, Andy loves traveling that entails experiencing other cultures and cuisines.  She’s also fond of biking, kayaking, salsa dancing and reading.

How did you discover hiking?

I first started hiking 8 years ago- 2008. I had moved from the city (Atlanta) to the country (North Georgia) when I had first got married to my then husband. I was bored and having culture shock because there was nothing to do- no crowded bars and nightclubs, no international restaurants, it was even hard to find a gym. While I was out driving one day, I found Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked some of the trails.  Upon hearing that the Appalachian Trail starts there and goes all the way to Maine, I was fascinated!  Also the 2 mile loop I did with 600 stairs in the middle made me realize that I was out of shape!  It became my goal to be able to do that 2 mile loop without feeling like I was going to die.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?

My most memorable hiking experience to date was my trip to Chile in January 2015.  It was supposed to be a 6 day backpacking trip called the “Trail of the Neighbors”, trekking Chile’s famous Futaleufu River Valley.  The trip would depart from near the little town of Futaleufu and take me to a camp located at the confluence of the Futaleufu and Azul rivers.  It would be a circumnavigation of the Teta peak along side the Espolon lake, while experiencing deep immersion of Patagonia culture with homestays in remote ranches. Well, that’s what I went to do.  But I ended up on an expedition from the Andes to the Ocean on horseback, because the route was too dangerous on foot. A volcanic eruption a few years before had left the route too dangerous, with rivers unsafe to cross on foot.  I later learned that this was a bucket list trip for horseback enthusiasts. I had never even rode a horse before. It was way out of my comfort zone to trust an animal to carry me up high mountain passes and to cross rushing rivers.

That’s quite a surprise – from walking to horse riding!  That’s why it’s memorable indeed.  

What do you like the most about hiking?

What I like most about hiking is the mental meditation that it is for me.  It completely clears my head and rids me of my anxieties.

I couldn’t agree more with that.  To me, the meditative part is the most alluring aspect of hiking.  

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

It depends.  I enjoy hiking solo more as a general rule, when I am just going out for a hike on the weekend.  On trips, especially international trips, I enjoy the group comraderie, meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sharing the experience.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

First, to be truly present in the moment.  Put away the IPhone. Put one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the scents around you.  Second, some things seem impossible when really they aren’t, it is just your brain telling you so. For example I look at a pass and think wow, there is no way I’m going up and over that. But you just put one foot in front of the other and next thing you know, you’re there!  Third, when you’re lost and cannot find the way, sometimes prayer really is what works.

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

1) Always go prepared- with water, rain gear, etc. 

2) Don’t not go hiking because you don’t have anyone to go with, go alone anyway. Start at your local state parks and get comfortable there, then you will have more confidence to venture out for hikes in other places.

Please share with us your 3 favorite hiking photos and the reasons why they are your favorites.

This is in Banff National Park, Canada, in July of 2014.  This was the day I went over my first real high mountain pass. I was very happy because I had accomplished something new. The scenery around me was so very beautiful!

This is going up Macchu Picchu Mountain in Peru, in April 2016.  This was a very challenging hike, because you have to climb 2000 stairs above 10,000 feet in altitude.  The air was thin and it was hot and humid.  But about halfway through I got this crazy second wind and zipped up to the top!

The next picture is from the Tour du Mont Blanc in August 2015.  This was right near the border of Switzerland and France. Our group was about to close the loop we started 10 days before. The weather was just gorgeous this day and I was enjoying every moment.

With all these beautiful trekking experiences you’ve had, what other treks do you still have on your bucket list?

I would like to do a trek in Nepal in the Everest region or Annapurna region.  I would also like to do a trek in Africa- either Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or something in South Africa.

What is your favorite hiking gear and why?

I love my Merrell Moab Waterproof shoes.  They have taken me all over the world.

Andrea shares with us 3 favorite trails.

In July 2016 I took a trip to Yosemite National Park in California and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Panorama trail, which starts at Glacier Point, passes Nevada Falls, and ends in Yosemite Valley.
 

In February 2016, I took a trip to Hawaii (Maui and Lanai) and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Sliding Sands trail in Haleakala National Park, which is a dormant volcano.  The terrain of this place is the closest you can be to walking on another planet!

In October 2015, I hiked a 100 kilometer section of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, starting in Sarria and ending in Santiago de Compostela.  The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.   This walk was 8 days, 2 of which were in the pouring rain.  This hike really tested me.  Even though the terrain was flat and much easier than trekking in the mountains, the 2 days of rain and amount of time walking on concrete really took its toll on my feet.  This was also my first solo trek.  On others I have typically gone with a group.  It was a great experience.

What was the toughest hike or trek you have done?

It was actually the section I did of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  It was physically more challenging to me because walking on flat terrain, sometimes paved, for longer distances was harder on my feet and legs than walking up and down mountains all day. I got leg cramps that I had never had before. I walked 2 full days in very heavy rain so I got blisters also. It was also mentally challenging. I expected to be meeting and connecting with lots of people, but the rain had everyone just trudging along only focused on getting to the next town. This was also my first solo trek, so when my phone died from getting too wet, it did increase my anxiety.

Yikes!  That is one heck of a blister.  I do agree with flat paved paths as a challenge.  I’ve had that same issue in the past myself as it can be mentally challenging due to the lack of variety of the trail.  

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

 No, not really.  On one of those really rainy days walking on the Camino, I did have a man pull over and offer me a ride to the next town.  I asked the pair of hikers behind me and the pair in front of me if he had offered a ride to them and they said no.  I’m pretty sure it was just a nice person offering me a ride, but being a female alone, my guard was up and I declined.

One last thing, Andy leaves us with her favorite quote from one of my favorite authors to inspire us all.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” 
                                       – Paulo Coelho

Andy manages to document all her adventures via her blog,  Andy in the World which launched in August of 2015.   In her blog, she documents not only the treks that she has done but also her non-trekking travels.  I do enjoy the fact that she is eclectic in that she does combine her love of the mountains with regular traveling.   With us being so similar in tastes and with my social enterprise (Peak Explorations), I get the sense our paths will cross sooner than later, and that’s something I look forward to!  Until then, you and I can follow Andy via her blog to see what mountain trails or cities she’s exploring.  And if you did end up checking her Facebook page earlier, you would then have discovered that she has over 17,000 followers!  Proof enough of her being a source of inspiration in the traveling and trekking world.

You can follow Andrea via her blog, Andy in the World and social media:  Facebook 

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.

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Jessica of Bravely Wild

Self discovery goes hand in hand with hiking.  You may not even realize this is happening but it’s inevitable the more you immerse yourself in the outdoors.  Sometimes self-discovery can be frightening; however, if you stick with it, you’ll soon realize how wonderful the process is.  The latter rings true for our feature, Jessica.  With life’s twists and turns including the breakdowns of relationships, we gradually emerge to be the stronger and more adventurous versions of ourselves.  And when you least expect it, hiking may surprisingly turn out to be one of your passions in life.

I can totally relate to Jessica’s story as hiking crept into my life right after an important relationship came to an end.  The loss hit me hard and left me feeling confused.  But that painful moment led to taking small steps, literally on the trails and in real life.  The next thing I knew, I discovered this new kind of love for life and myself.  Jessica’s story takes me back to that moment in my life when I first encountered my love for hiking as part of my self-discovery.  What was once a bitter experience has now turned into a pivotal moment in my life that I will be eternally grateful for.  I hope by reading Jessica’s hiking story, you’ll feel that same gratitude towards all challenges, whether big or small, that enter your life.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice 

 Jessica Guth is from Naples, Florida.  She’s most definitely a busy bee!  A single mom of two, she works and attends school full-time.  Florida is where she hikes locally but she spends every 6-8 weeks to take a bigger backpacking/hiking trip elsewhere.  When not on the trails, Jessica loves to write, fly-fish, shoot archery and attend concerts.  She’s also learning the ins and outs of hunting small game.  Her love for the trails includes trail running which involves doing trail half marathons.

How did you discover hiking?

I first started hiking after I separated from my husband, about 2 years ago.  I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors. I was not in a healthy marriage and he discouraged me from doing things I loved. I would always ask him to go camping/hiking/do outdoors things, but he had no interest, so I never went. Once I separated from him, I did a lot of soul-searching – it was a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. During that journey, I discovered a lot of things about myself, including just how strong and adventurous I really am. Since this discovery and pursuance of my love of adventuring and hiking, I have greatly involved my 2 kids (ages 6 and 10) and they have developed a great love of it too.

What do you like the most about hiking?

Hiking brings me a sense of peace, self-awareness, and connection. I feel so very connected to myself, to whoever I’m hiking with, and to nature.

Below, Jessica talks about some of the places she’s hiked.  The photos definitely look amazing! Well, minus the alligator!

A local trail that I hiked in April 2016 was in Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, which is just about 1.5 hours away from where I live. My daughter and I backpacked 13 miles over 2 days and spent the night in a secluded area. We had an alligator come join us around dinner time! He walked right up to our tent, and plopped himself down for over an hour!

 In September 2016, I took a trip to California. I took a ferry out to Santa Cruz Island which is part of Channel Islands National Park. I camped 2 nights on the Island and did a lot of hiking during those 2 days. We hiked to the highest point accessible to the public, called Montanon Peak. The views along our hikes were breathtaking! 

In April of 2016, I hiked up to Lava Lake near Big Sky, Montana. Armed with bear spray, I attempted this hike while I was quite sick with a bad cold. About 2 miles into it, I turned around and headed back because I was just not feeling good at all. 2 days later, still sick, but feeling better, I tackled that hike again. It’s an out-and-back trail that is 8 miles total. The last mile was interesting… It was fairly steep, the snow was about knee deep, and there were steep drop off’s on the side of the trail. I didn’t have snow shoes or hiking poles, so I had to very carefully take each step as to not slide off the side of the trail. I never thought the trail was going to end and it made me grouchy. When I was least expecting it, we came across an opening to the frozen lake – I could hear angels singing as I took in the view… All I could keep saying was “wow! 

 I’m going to add one more because I love the pictures from this hike. This hike was also near Big Sky, Montana and is called Storm Castle Peak. This was a beautiful 10 mile roundtrip hike. The views along the entire trail and at the top were stunning! At the peak, I lied down on a big rock to just take in the 360 degree views. 

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

I have learned to take the trail more traveled (or end up lost otherwise), and to connect with the people you come across on the trail, you might just get some trail magic from them like I have in the past. I have also learned that hiking is essential to my well-being.

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

I really enjoy getting to share a hiking experience with someone else. When I hike with another, we generally don’t talk much, we just have a shared understanding of the specialness of what we’re doing.

Jessica shares with us the most memorable hiking experience for her to date, which I hope to experience myself one day!  Her photos from the trip look very magical indeed.

My most memorable hiking experience, so far, was hiking thru White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. It was like being on another planet. The hike to the campsite where I was camping for the night was only 2 miles long, and all through sand. The sand (it’s actually gypsum) is so buttery soft and cool that I hiked barefoot and didn’t even bring any shoes with me. That night, we hiked up to the top of a dune and had dinner as the sun was setting. And then later that night, the sky was so clear and the moon so full and bright – it was an experience I will vividly remember forever.

Jessica has some great advise for first time hikers:

Thoroughly enjoy it – enjoy the sounds, the smells, the feeling (inside and out) that you get from being on a trail. Also, be smart – be aware of your surroundings, carry some kind of self-defense (pepper spray?), and always tell someone your plan before you head out.

And here’s her favorite hiking gear:

I love my boots – Keen Marshall’s that I got brand new on eBay in an attempt to save money. My “P” Thing (a silicon funnel to aid woman in peeing while standing up) this allows me to pee without taking my backpack off and while standing up. It’s something I will never hike without because it is just so convenient! My Resq Link beacon – this is a lifesaver, literally. I won’t ever hike without this either, especially when I’m with my kids.

Jessica’s favorite hiking photos below depict wonderful memories for her that are quite personal to her.

It was so difficult to just choose 3! I love the picture above because I am genuinely happy. This picture was taken at a trailhead, right before trekking to the top of a mountain to spend the night. I was so happy to be there in that moment, starting off on a trekking adventure.

I love the picture above because, well isn’t it obvious – it’s my babies hiking! We were hiking on the Appalachian trail that day, on our way to a waterfall where we had lunch. This was such a beautiful and special day.

If you could only read my mind in the picture above… This was the devil’s backbone trail leading up to the summit of Mt. Baldy in California. It was the toughest hike I’ve ever done and I am wickedly proud of this picture because of that reason.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (which I will be doing in March and will be my first hiking trip outside of the US!), Storm King trail in Olympic National Park in Washington state, some 14’ers in Colorado, Mt. Whitney in California. I would love to hike in Norway and Iceland, and also do the Gibbon Experience in Laos. (This is just a sample of my never-ending bucket list!)

I asked Jessica about her toughest hiking experience and she notes that to be Mt. Baldy.

In September 2016, I hiked to the summit of Mt. Baldy, right outside of Los Angeles. This was a 15-mile, steep, grueling hike. The descent was tougher than the ascent because of the steepness and so much loose rock (I fell a few times!) We went the route of Devil’s Backbone trail and it definitely lived up to its name. We ended up taking a wrong trail to get back down the mountain, which made us lose elevation that we had already gained – that frustrated me, but I knew my only option was to just deal with it and put one foot in front of the other. It was both mentally and physically tough.

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

Yes – At times, when I’m either hiking solo or with just my kids, I often get a little leary of people I come across. I think if I was a man, I would not get that feeling. I addressed these challenges by always being aware of my surroundings and hiking with a sense of confidence.

In overcoming challenges, Jessica shares her favorite quote when it comes to being on or off trails:

 I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m just telling you it’s going to be worth it.

                                                     -Art William

Jessica chronicles her adventures via her blog, Bravely Wild.  She launched this blog a little less than a year ago as an outlet for her self- discovery after her separation from her husband.  She’s a huge advocate for women and loves to write about different issues facing women.  Hence, the blog has evolved into a means for her to express her thoughts on various subjects and hiking tips to encourage and inspire others.

But the most important aspect of being a hiker for Jessica is to spend time every year, as a tradition, with her kids.  The three of them go for an 8-day camping/hiking trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee/North Carolina.  They hike every day (and on parts of the Appalachian Trail) while on their annual trip.  While recognizing that every hike she does is special, the ones that are the most special to her is when she gets to hike with her mother and daughter – that’s 3 generations of strong, powerful, badass women tackling the trails together!  As you can see, Jessica is so passionate about getting outside and encouraging others (especially women and children) to do the same.

You can follow Jessica via her blog Bravely Wild and her social media account via Facebook and Instagram.

Is the Classic Inca Trail Trek on your bucket list?  Check out the upcoming treks & adventure tours through BGT’s social enterprise, Peak Explorations. Also, read more about why you should trek the Classic Inca Trail HERE.

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:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Sarah D. Tiedemann

Often, as hikers, we hit the trails to clear our minds, to connect, or to reflect on our daily lives.  We also hike to create stronger bonds and lasting memories with friends, families and pets.  Our hiking experiences fall under any of the above categories.  Today’s feature is about creating memories with people that matter the most and cherishing the memories of those who are no longer with us.   Either way, hiking is about love for the activity itself, for those around us and for ourselves.  I’m honored to be touched by Sarah’s hiking life. I hope she touches your life the same way by reading her story.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice

Sarah D. Tiedemann is from Trenton, NJ.  Off the trails, she works as a paralegal, writes on the side and enjoys hibernating for the winter.  Sarah spends time in North Jersey and Adirondacks for her hiking adventures.  In addition to hiking, she enjoys crocheting and crafting.  Sarah’s love for hiking started at the age of 17.  Let’s hear more from Sarah directly about her hiking life.  Enjoy!

Sarah’s discovery of hiking appears to be inspired by the location she was in at the age of 17.

I moved from New Jersey to Hawai’i when I was 17. The beauty of Hawai’i encouraged me to get on my feet. There was so much to see and I wanted to see it all.

What do you like the most about hiking?

The quietness. I’m an over-thinker and being outdoors quiets my nagging, obnoxious inner voice.

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

Though I can appreciate the merits of hiking solo, I’m in the “strength in numbers” camp. I’m a scaredy cat and it feels safer for me to hike in a group. I typically hike with my husband and we mostly have a “together but separate” experience. At first, we’re abuzz with excitement and conversation, then we slowly quiet down and it becomes a more intrapersonal experience.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

The biggest lessons I’ve learned were about myself. I’m much stronger, tenacious, and more capable than I give myself credit for. I’ve learned to appreciate what I can accomplish and to not be so hard on myself.

Sarah shares with us three places that she’s hiked accompanied by photos.

Mt. Marcy, Adirondack Mountains, New York: This was my husband and my first high mileage hike and we were total noobs. It’s pretty funny to go back to the pictures from that day and look at what we were wearing and what “gear” we had. Aside from my bloody blisters that soaked through  to the other side of my boots, it was a great trip!

 Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawai’i: I was totally sure I was 100% prepared for this hike. It often makes lists that detail the world’s “most dangerous hikes”. I didn’t take that lightly- I was prepping   physically and mentally for months beforehand. We ended up taking a wrong turn at a trail junction (in retrospect, it was totally obvious) and long story short, we hiked back to the trailhead in the dark, rather than spending 3 nights at a secluded beach.


Sun Fish Pond, Worthington State Forest, New Jersey: My husband’s family has been hiking this  trail for decades. It’s their “power spot” and where we spread my father in law’s ashes. It’s the perfect hike for a quick jaunt in the woods.

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

There are certainly things that are different for women when it comes to hiking, but I think a general rule for those who are just starting out would be to plan for the worst and hope for the best. A lot of times, feeling apprehension is a normal reaction to something we’re inexperienced in. The best remedy for that is both physical and mental preparation.

Sarah takes us to her view on hiking as a female and any challenges that it entails.  Curiously enough, the challenge doesn’t come from the outside. 

Honestly, the biggest challenges I’ve run into have been self imposed and internal. Whether it be a big scramble or a feat of upper body strength- I consistently question my ability as a woman. And, every time I question myself, I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make it happen.

Any gear recommendation?

Smartwool base layers. They are absolutely amazing in any weather. You stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

Kalalau Trail 2.0- We’ve got to get back and finish what we started. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I had originally gone to school for anthropology before life got in the way, so now it’s just a fun hobby.

For the most memorable hiking experience, here’s one of hers.

Cascade Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in the winter. I was terrified to hike in the winter- I was imagining all the things that could go wrong, and coupled with the cold, I was sure it would be a disastrous experience. We prepped to the gills and I was pleasantly surprised- that was the best hike I had ever taken. It was a perfect winter’s day- sunny, still, with plenty of snow on the ground. The stillness of the woods was incredible. We’d hiked the same trail in the summer and it wasn’t an easy one. Blanketed in snow, it brought you up the mountain on an easy slope. It was not what I was expecting at all!

Check out below Sarah’s favorite hiking photos.  Favorite doesn’t always mean the “best” shots from a photographer’s standpoint.  At times, it means the photos that depict the most meaningful memories in our lives.   I tend to agree with that as some of the most important photos in my own life remain tuck away for now.   Photos exude their own power of allowing us to relive moments, whether it’s a feeling of joy or sadness.  Sarah’s candidness in sharing her personal stories behind each photo is certainly appreciated.

This is a candid shot of my husband and I dancing upon our summit of Algonquin Peak in the Adirondack Mountains. It was such an incredible day that I think back on fondly. My sister-in-law was with us on the trip, so she made sure to take some photos of us without us knowing. It was a nice treat to look through them!

This is my father in law on our last hike together to Sun Fish Pond before he passed. He just exudes happiness in this photo. It means a lot to us!

This was from a trip to Yosemite when my husband proposed – that speaks for itself

Sarah graciously shared her toughest hike yet that was closely intertwined with her life off the trails.  At times, that happens.  Our lives on the trails coincide with some moments in our lives off trails.  Usually, nature provides the comfort or extra layer of meaning that we seek.

There were countless hikes wherein I had to push myself both physically and mentally, but the one that stands out the most is the hike we took to spread my father in law’s ashes at Sun Fish Pond. He died as a result of a work accident- he was still young and vibrant. The whole family, ranging in age from 20-70 made the trip up there to say goodbye. Coincidentally, my husband’s uncle had died years before and his father still had his ashes. We spread both of their ashes at the top.

Dad’s death felt final and real that day. It was a surreal experience, but we did it to honor him and his wishes. It was something we had to do and that made it a little easier to handle. We haven’t been able to get back up there since.  It’s far too painful- but we hope to be able to make the trek in the future.

To get her through daily challenges or any moments of fear on the trails, Sarah reminds herself of these two quotes, the latter of which re-energizes her spirit:

“Everything is true just as it is. Why dislike it? Why hate it?”

“When plans fail, blaze new trails.”

Sarah’s philosophy has led her to expand on her own creativity.  On an outdoor-related project, Sarah recently wrote a book about hiking and the outdoors for those who experience fear and anxiety when adventuring outside.  The book is called, Traveling with Baggage: A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker.  She notes that the book was written partly based on her experience growing up in the city where opportunities to get outside were scant.  It’s also based on Sarah’s experience of venturing out for the first time.   Sarah adds the book also has a  specific section that addresses how to be prepared mentally and physically as a female hiker.  Make sure to check it out on Amazon. You can also follow Sarah via her website: www.sarahdtiedemann.com

Thanks to Sarah for sharing her hiking life and personal journeys.  Her feature is a great reminder to never take anything for granted, be it on or off the trails.  Hiking is one of the most effective ways to create and maintain bonds with people, however short lived any hiking moment may be.

For more hiking stories & inspiration, read Why I’m Not That Superficially Hot Gal on the Trail.
 

To prepare for your first solo adventure, see 8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your First Solo Adventure.  

Is the Classic Inca Trail Trek on your bucket list?  Check out the upcoming treks & adventure tours through BGT’s social enterprise, Peak Explorations.

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.

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HIKER’S PARADISE: Colorado

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 if your passion has to do with spending time in the mountains.  Our featured hiker’s paradise is: 

COLORADO

by Logan & Kallsy of Pages of Travel

Upon arriving in Colorado you will be instantly welcomed by a beautiful skyline and lush snow capped mountain ranges just begging to be climbed. With approximately 58 14ers, four U.S. national parks, nine national forests, four national historic trails, 42 state parks, and one national recreational area – Colorado is an outdoor junkie or hikers dream come true! Colorado parks offer a variety of trail lengths, difficulties, and scenery.

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Storm Mountain, Estes Park.
Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs.

In Estes Park, you will be surprised by the scenery and wildlife of all 350 miles of trails that weave throughout Rocky Mountain National Park; while in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park will make you feel as if you’ve glided into the Arabian Desert with it’s golden sizzling hot sand that delicately touches the outline of the mountain ranges behind it.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Red Rocks Ampitheatre.

Thinking of living in or near a city? Popular Denver even has it’s own trails near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a hiking and yoga area by day, concert venue by night and nearby Boulder has the challenging, yet astonishing, Flatirons. In Colorado Springs you can enjoy free admission to a local favorite, Garden of the Gods, or prepare to ascend a well liked 14er, Pikes Peak. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner you won’t have a problem finding a trail to hit in Colorado!

Maroon Bells, Aspen.

 

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

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Peru’s Ausangate & Rainbow Mountains: A Hidden Gem for Trekkers

When I had the opportunity to do the Classic Inca Trail in Peru with a group of 30 people, I decided to add a more off the beaten path trail to the experience.  The Inca Trail is a classic for a reason and you can read about the reasons why you should go HERE.  However, I wanted to also experience more remoteness and a wilder trekking adventure that is opposite of the experience from the Inca Trail.

My nature of being such a curious hiker ultimately led me to discovering Ausangate.  BestHike.com, which is  a website that compiles the best treks in the world named Ausangate along with Pacchanta (also known as Rainbow Mountains) as one of the top 10 hikes in South America.  The great thing about it is that it only takes 5-7 days to do so combined with the Inca Trail, you can do a decent 9-11 days of hiking, which makes for a solid two-week trip in Peru.

To get to Ausangate, the starting point is Cusco.  There are many flights to Cusco via Lima.  You can also opt to spend a few days in Lima and book a local flight from there to Cusco.  Either way, the flight costs are quite reasonable.  Once in Cusco, it’s recommended that you have a day or two of acclimatizing to the altitude.  Cusco is at an elevation of 11,152 feet, which is high enough to experience the symptoms of altitude mountain sickness.  For tips on how to prepare for altitude mountain sickness (AMS), read THIS.  Spending time in Cusco is heavenly anyway so you should take a day or two to enjoy the cobbled stone streets and its historical sites.  Typically, people visit the Sacred Valley nearby to see the ruins as  an easy day trip.

To do the Ausangate trek, one must book a reliable tour operator who will provide a guide, an assistant guide, cook and horses to carry the gear.  The price includes tents, basic sleeping mats, all the meals while trekking, dining tents, toilet tents and transport to and from the trail.  The starting point is at  Tinki village, which is only a few hours of a bus ride from Cusco.  We did the 7 day itinerary.  You can do a 5 or 6 day variation of the trek.

How difficult is Ausangate?  It’s a REAL trek.  When I say that, despite the fact that you only need to carry a day pack, it is a much harder trek than the Inca Trail.  Here are the things to keep in mind about Ausangate:

It’s freezing cold!

It’s often below freezing at night from the first day until the end.  While the Inca Trail trek is a pleasantly mild experience when it comes to weather, think “extreme” for Ausangate.  Every night, we all struggled to keep our water bottles from freezing, to no avail.  We huddled in the warmest part of our campsite – the dining tent or our respective sleeping bags.  Campfires are not allowed for good reasons, of course.  Due to the cold, we didn’t manage to stay up too long which meant long nights in the tent.  You wait eagerly for the sunrise each day as that’s the only source of heat you can rely on.

It’s very high right from the start

You start at a high elevation of about 12, 500 feet and it doesn’t go below that until the end.  The highest point is the pass at over 17,000 feet.   Plus, the challenge is to go over a few passes, four in our case, that ranged from 15,000 to 17,000 feet  in altitude.  This is the exact reason why I combined this trek with the Inca Trail.  Doing the Inca Trail first allowed for some way to acclimatize.  Even though my group still dealt with some symptoms of AMS, I’m certain that the symptoms would have been far more severe had we not trekked the Inca Trail beforehand which went up to almost 14, 000 feet in elevation at its highest point.

It’s remote

It’s remote, as in when my group of 15 people did it, we did not see a single hiker on the trail.  It’s beautiful indeed to be in the middle of nowhere.  That’s what attracted me to do Ausangate in the first place.  But as hikers, we all know that the more remote a trekking destination gets, the more safety issues you’ll potentially deal with.

It’s easy to get lost

The trail is unmarked and there is no clear path.  Hence, you really should have a guide.  Some hardcore hikers have done this without a guide but you better be an expert on navigation as there is nothing up in those mountains that will give you a hint of where to go.   To do this alone is risky as there’s hardly any locals in the area.  Although you will see villages at the start and end of the trek, there are no locals to be seen in-between except for one or two shepherds and their herds of llamas; therefore, help will be difficult to get if you do it without a guide.

It’s roughing it

There are no facilities during the trek.   No showers for sure or warm streams to bathe in.  You set up camp in the wild like a true wilderness backpacking experience.  You rely on the natural water sources for drinking water.  Everything must be carried in and out, which is done by the use of horses. Going to the toilet means searching for a spot in the wild or there’s the infamous toilet tent.  The toilet tent will be your source of privacy but it can be an unpleasant experience if you have 15 people sharing it.  It sounds petty but it can get mentally  challenging to deal with this aspect when you’re actually there.  The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the time there are no bushes or trees given you’re up at a high altitude so you’ll need to resort to the use of the toilet tent.  The best approach is to do your business as much as possible without having to use the toilet tent. It’s not that sanitary as you can imagine.

Having said all this, I don’t want to discourage you.  Avid mountaineers know this universal truth:

Mountains make you work hard so you can enjoy their magnificent beauty to its utmost level.

Frankly, I still blush and glow with a smile when I think about Ausangate and Pacchanta.  This part of the Andes is rather spectacular and less visited compared to the nearby treks that take you to Machu Picchu due to reasons noted above.  However, the toughness of the trek undoubtedly adds more value to the experience.

Now, enters the best part – You immerse yourself in a spectacular and unique mountain scenery that only a few souls can ever see in person.   See below for yourself, and always remember:

Mountain trekking is not meant to be easy.  Facing challenges is what we do because while we’re in it, nature always has a way to remind us that we can conquer just about anything with persistence and determination.

Photo credit: Flavio H.



Photo credit: Flavio H.
Photo credit: Flavio H.
Photo Credit: Flavio H.
Photo credit: Flavio H.

Brown Gal Trekker’s social enterprise, Peak Explorations, has a join-in group set to go in May, 2017 for the Ausangate & Pacchanta Trek.  To join, see THIS LINK.

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