Tag Archives: inspiration

VPODCAST EPISODE 7: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

Episode 7:  I Love the Mountains and You Should Too!

VPODCAST: ON MY WAY! FROM A LAWYER TO A MOUNTAIN NOMAD. Why is Brown Gal Trekker obsessed with mountains? And why you should be too! Learn about the reasons why BGT launched Peak Explorations and her take on her alter ego.

References:  Peak Explorations community via Facebook. 
Women Explorers on the Move Meetup.

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.

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

Episode 4: How to Approach Money.

Episode 5: The Money Talk

Episode 6: I Love the Mountains and You Should Too!

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: Enjoylight Mafuwe

WOMAN TRAIL LEADER FEATURE

Meet Enjoylight Mafuwe.  She lives in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and works as a porter for Kilimanjaro climbs.  The video-podcast features Enjoylight’s story as a porter for Kilimanjaro treks.

BACKGROUND

In February of 2017, my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, organized a group to trek up Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit route.  Enjoylight was one of the only 3 female porters out of 24 porters in our group.  She has been working as a porter for at least 3 years.  The job is unpopular for women but some women like Enjoylight pursued such kind of employment out of necessity and due to a lack of employment options.  Porters earn very minimal wages – usually below $10 a day.  Life as a porter is difficult.  One obvious reason is because of the physically demanding nature of the job as porters have to carry a load of 30 pounds or more up the mountain for several days.  At the same time, you would have to subject your body to varying types of elements outdoors, from rain to snow or hot to freezing temperatures.

For Enjoylight, the next natural step to take is to become a lead guide for Kilimanjaro.  To do so,  one must obtain certification and licensure by taking a one year course and a year or two of field training.  The costs associated with this are exponential for the locals in the area.  Many cannot afford to pursue a job beyond being a porter.

Enjoylight talks about her dreams of becoming a lead guide.  She has not been able to pursue her dreams of being a guide due to lack of finances to fund her education and training.  Her story is all too common for the very small number of females working in the mountains of Kilimanjaro.  Female guides are few and far between, mainly due to the lack of money to afford additional training.

KILIMANJARO WOMAN GUIDE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

Inspired by Enjoylight’s story and the women of Kilimanjaro,  Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker lauched the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program to raise funds to help the women who have a passion for the mountains in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region to pursue their dream of becoming a lead guide for Kilimanjaro climbs.   Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker jointly aim to empower women to pursue leadership roles on the mountain trails while improving the lives of the locals.

We have partnered with a female owned local trekking agency in Moshi and a guide training school in Arusha to establish this project to support women like Enjoylight in pursuing a better paying job in the mountain trekking/tourism industry.  Oftentimes, local trekking agencies overlook women for the opportunities to train as a guide.  By doing so, we are also  elevating the roles and status of women in a predominantly male driven industry.

The total cost for the guide training and licensure is $1100.  This will cover the one year course, boarding, field trip fees and exam/licensure.   With a goal of $2200, we can provide scholarships to two women.  Women who are selected for these scholarships will have to undergo a formal application process.

Upon successfully securing the funds, the founder of Peak Explorations, Marinel de Jesus, will be flying to Kilimanjaro region in February of 2018 to meet with the selected applicants and our local partners to initiate the training program.  This meeting will be documented and filmed which will then be shared with our wonderful supporters and donors.  A group of female hikers from U.S. who are joining us for the Kilimanjaro Women Only Charity Trek in February, 2018 will also get to personally meet our selected applicants. (See below for more information on this charity trek).  My social enterprise will continue to monitor the selected applicants’ progress with their training program to ensure a successful completion of it.  All donors and supporters can follow along by subscribing to our media outlet, Brown Gal Trekker.

Support the women of Kilimanjaro region by donating to our GoFundMe campaign HERE.

Enjoylight and the small community of women in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region wish to thank you in advance for your support.  Your donation will affect the lives of women in this mountain region in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.  So, thank you!

KILIMANJARO WOMEN-ONLY CHARITY TREK

In addition to this donation page,  Peak Explorations has organized a women-only charity trek of Kilimanjaro, which is set to occur in February, 2018.  5% of the trip cost will be donated to the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program.   The hope is to establish this program as an ongoing social project through Peak Explorations and expand its scope to women working on the mountain trails in other parts of the world such as Nepal and Peru.  You can also support us by joining this trip!  To join and learn more, go HERE.

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VPODCAST EPISODE 5: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

Episode 5: The Money Talk with Gigi Griffis.

Learn about money matters as a nomad with Gigi Griffis – a freelance copywriter and a nomad who took the leap of faith 5 years ago. Not only does she give great advise on finances but also how best to prepare and approach the idea of living a nomadic lifestyle…and some advise on having pets as a nomad!

You can follow her via the website, The Ramble .

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.

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

Episode 4: How to Approach Money.

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.

VPODCAST EPISODE 4: On My Way! From a Lawyer to a Mountain Nomad

Episode 4: How to Approach Money

How does one handle the finances to live a nomadic lifestyle? Tune in for the next upcoming episodes as Brown Gal goes over the approaches, challenges and ways to address the financial part of her journey.

Read also Trekking Made Me Lose Things to Gain More

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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

Quit your career when you hit your 40s.  Seriously, quit it and take on some grand adventure.  Take  a break from it all and just indulge in guilt-free freedom.  I know. That sounds so against the norm.  After all, it makes more sense to tell you–

“don’t quit your job, pretend you like it, pay your bills, and if you’re single , then hurry, and find that partner!”

Two years ago, I wrote an article about how it felt to be a global backpacker in my late 30s.  In that article, I confessed my feeling a tiny bit awkward carrying a 70 liter pack as I mingled with the millennials at hostels.  Two years later, I’m thinking, why the hell not?

While so many in their 40s re-evaluate their progress in life by looking at the increase in their income, their career progression, the success of their marriage and the existence of children in their lives, this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone who reaches this age.

In my world, my 40s is meant to be spent outside playing.  To be more exact, it’s meant to be spent hiking and trekking countless mountains, and then some.  At first, I too, felt this was such an insane idea.  And perhaps, my dream of becoming a mountain/digital nomad frolicking around the globe was simply too late for me to pursue and that maybe I missed my chance in my younger years.  It took time for me to realize that doing this at an unpopular age of 40  is actually a blessing in disguise.  In fact, it’s the best time to partake in a major extended travel or adventure.  If you are in your 40s and  are fortunate enough to get a chance to partake in a grand adventure, then I’d say go for it!  Here’s why:

  1. In your 40s, you are past many of the insecurities you had in your 20s. Your 30s typically are spent challenging the existence of every insecurity you might have that was carried over from your 20s.  As we enter 40s, many of us have more or less learned how to deal with our insecurities and hopefully most of them were outgrown in the process.  By getting to this point, our adventures tend to be more meaningful and devoid of unnecessary stress.  Forgetting to bring that nice evening attire to look good on a trip wouldn’t dampen our spirits nor do we care if we need to skip showers for the sake of enjoying a life-changing trek.  Petty things dwindle as we age and that’s priceless.  Anyone who has yet to reach 40 should be jolted with excitement to look forward to a much more carefree version of themselves.
  2. Assuming you have spent part of your 20s and all your 30s building your career, by the time you’re 40 you know you have built yourself a solid career.  There’s no longer a question whether you’re a real doctor or a lawyer or an accountant because you are!  We manage to shrug off the other set of insecurities – those that challenge our ego as to whether we are good enough at what we do.  Heck, yeah, we are!  So, go on that adventure and remember if you tire of it, you can always come back to that career that you built. If not, chances are, by the time you’re 40, you have established skill sets that can be transferable to other types of endeavors.  If that company doesn’t rehire you, with creativity and persistence, you can even start your own company and run it in your own way.  Either way, you come out on top.
  3. With over two decades of adult life experiences under our belt, being 40 should render us more courageous and fearless.  We’ve been hurt, disappointed, criticized and fired.  But we lived and survived. We ought to know by the age of 40 that failure is merely a redirection.  We no longer cry or get angry over it.  We just strive to find another route that we believe will take us to where we need to be.  By this time, we experience lesser amount of invalid fears and worries.  We trust life more and allow it to bring us closer to our desires.  In our travels, we then find no reason to stress out when itineraries fail.  We lived long enough to realize that unexpected events happen for a reason and so we refrain from fussing in the same manner that we did when we were in our 20s.  We just let most situations be, regardless of whether they’re wanted or not.
  4. We are likely to be richer than the younger version of ourselves, and in some cases, fortunate enough to pay off a mortgage or student loan.   When we compare ourselves to others, sure, we might say we’re broke but if you were honest with your situation, you’d soon realize that graduating from college or grad school had led you to incur thousands of dollars of student loan debt.  By the time you’re 40, you would have had at least a decade to pay off some or most of the loans.  That’s something to smile about since that only means more money to put towards that grand adventure.  And if you’re the savvy kind, you may even have an investment or two which will then afford you more disposable cash for your grand adventure.  Lucky you!
  5. Do you feel wiser now that you’re 40 or older? I hope so.  That’s the point of living – growing and learning and then growing, and learning, and so on and so forth. By the time we’re 40, the expectation is that our life experiences should have taught us a thing or two about love, loss, success, failure and everything else in between.  By 40, we’re likely to know ourselves and our goals better.  But if not, we ought to have enough tools to figure out our own destiny in our own way.  All that therapy and counseling should have yielded the outcome we hope for by now.  We are ready to re-do everything – relationships, career, and even ourselves.
  6. Simply put, when you’re in your 40s, you hardly give a damn.  Nothing will ever be as serious as when you were in your 30s.  In your 40s, you begin to realize life starts over again.  But, this time around, you’ll makes sure it’ll be done in a more lighthearted fashion.  After all, this is the age when your health becomes more relevant and therefore stress is your number one enemy.  In your 40s, you naturally start to value your time and how you spend it upon realizing that life is limited and that success is defined by the frequency of joy in our lives.  You also begin to enjoy the authenticity of being “you” without giving into societal pressures and living our lives based on others’ expectations.  True to not giving a damn, you do what your heart tells you even if it’s unconventional and weird.  Doing so doesn’t at all make you feel uncomfortable; rather, it makes you feel empowered to be “you.”
  7. As a result of wisdom gained over the years, you know what you want when you reach 40.  When you decide to travel extensively or become a nomad of some kind, you mean it.  You have never been this sure in your entire life!  Since you now value time more than ever, you wouldn’t just quit a career that you put forth effort, money and time just to travel without a purpose.  You are deliberate in your decision to travel on an extended period of time or even for a lifetime!  When you decide to venture into some kind of an enterprise to give you that freedom to roam the world, you initiate it with all your might.  In fact, you have never felt this driven in your life because this time around you are answering to the calling of your deepest desires.  And you simply know you have to go that direction even if the path can get bumpy along the way.  You know that if you traveled in your 20s, it would only be temporary because you have yet to experience the contrast of the life of a 9 to 5 to decide honestly whether a life of travel is for you.  In your 30s, traveling is a break from the 9 to 5 but you may still be uncertain as to your true desires or unskilled at the endeavor you wish to pursue or still in need of wisdom to learn how to succeed or have yet to muster the courage to risk it all.  So, rejoice in taking a leap of faith in your 40s because chances are you’ve gone through all the necessary steps to finally be ready to experience a real adventure.

As you can see, being in your 40s should not be  the reason not to travel; rather it should exactly be the reason to do so!  You’re in the prime of your life and you have nothing to lose except the opportunity that you can create for yourself to experience the greatest adventure of your life.  Don’t hesitate for a second to hop on that adventure.  Don’t doubt yourself, and most certainly, don’t doubt your desires. Do it now!

To learn more about Brown  Gal Trekker’s plans on leaving her job and becoming a mountain nomad, check out her podcast:

ON MY WAY! FROM A LAWYER TO A MOUNTAIN NOMAD (intro)

Episode 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go?  Reasons To Leave My Career

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: 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.

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