Tag Archives: outdoors

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Kaila & Wyatt

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

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

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

Outdoor  Woman’s Voice

Kaila (& Wyatt)

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

How did you discover hiking?

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

What do you like the most about hiking?

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

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more? 

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

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

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

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

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

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

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

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

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

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?

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

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

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

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

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

Wyatt

When did Wyatt start hiking?

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

How did he get started on hiking?

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

What trails has Wyatt hiked to date?

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

What is the terrain like for these hikes?

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

How do you coordinate and plan his hikes?

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

As parents, how do you ensure his safety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of Wyatt’s favorite hikes?

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

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

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

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

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HIKER’S PARADISE: Meteora, Greece

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

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

METEORA, GREECE

by Romy of Brunette at Sunset

Before I get into the hiking trails, I have to tell you a bit more about Meteora. Meteora is an incredible phenomenon in Greece. A landscape where the wonders of nature and man meet. Rock formations form this landscape and monasteries were build on top of them. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. Monks had to climb the rocks to reach them as there where no stairs then. It somewhat of a mystery how they did it. They must have been incredible rock climbers, because the rocks are steep!

Many people come just to visit the monasteries, but this area has some of the most scenic hiking trails. You can walk the trails that monks may have used centuries ago. Some of the trails are more challenging than others, but they are all beautiful. This place feels magical and I’m sure the monks felt that magic and serenity when they build the monasteries. A couple of the trails lead up to one of the monasteries and a few up the rocks in the area. I’d highly recommend:

Aghio Pnevma

One of my favorite hikes was up the Aghio Pnevma rock, also known as the Holy Spirit. There are a couple of companies advertising hiking tours, but this is one you can easily do yourself. Our hotel staff told us we could do the trail in about an hour, but it definitely took us a lot longer than that. I’ll leave it up to you to judge if the hotel staff was wrong or if we were just out of shape;) The rock is situated in the middle of the valley. Early on in the trail you already get to see amazing views of the monasteries. When you continue you’ll eventually reach a gate, but don’t worry, it is open! You can just open the gate and continue. A rugged trail leads to the top where you can find caves that were once used as prisons for monks. Take a short moment to imagine what it must have been like for the monks to be locked up there, before you finish the trail. You’ll have to climb the last bit of the rock to reach the flag on top. From the top you’ll have breathtaking views in every direction.

How long do you need?

A lot of tour groups have stopover in Meteora for just a few hours, but they are crazy in my opinion! I would recommend at least 2 to 3 days. You need at least one day just to visit the monasteries and maybe do a tour to get to know the history of this magical place. There are a lot of incredible legends. The other days you can explore the hiking trails and view the area from a different perspective.

How to get there:

You will probably arrive in Athens. I would recommend booking the train from there. The train takes about 4 hours to get to Meteora. Just make sure you make the reservation well in advance, because they sell out quickly. We were the suckers that were too late to book the train and had to take the bus. The bus takes about 5 hours and is harder to get to. There’s no easy way to get to the bus station in Athens so we ended up taking an uber there.

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Fire & Zen: STROMBOLI

Stromboli was special. It always will be.  On my journey through Europe, I was trying to decide where I wanted to spend the last year of my being in my 30s.  Stromboli was my birthday peak.  I wanted something that wasn’t a major chain of mountains to trek; rather something a bit simpler. What can be more appealing than hiking up one of the most active volcanoes in the world to witness it spurt lava and smoke?  Hence, Stromboli.

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I was actually in the middle of trekking in the Dolomites when I went to Stromboli. In a way, it wasn’t the most efficient means of traveling as after Stromboli, I returned to the Dolomites to do the Alta Via 1 trail.  Nonetheless, I was very glad I took that break in terms of scenery.  I ended up spending time checking out Sicily as well, and some of the Aeolian Islands which were beautiful in their own right. Stromboli is one of the Aeolian Islands and so riding the boat is the way to get there.  Luckily, the island still has cheap stays for budget travelers like me as I found a dorm bed stay for less than $30 per night.  The rest of the options appears to be pricey.  As I settled into my dorm bed shared with 4 others, I booked a night hiking tour to the top of Stromboli.  One can easily book it via local operators in the main center of town.

I only had a few days to spend in Stromboli and the plan was simply to go hike up the volcano and witness the crater and lava.  I was told by the locals that Stromboli had been quiet lately and that there might not be so much to observe on the top. However, it turned out in reaching the peak of the volcano, I was treated to a few bursts of eruptions here and there as I stood with the crowd at a safe distance from the fuming crater.  In addition, the sun was setting behind the clouds.   After sometime just watching the fire show and the sun setting, we then descended with our headlamps via the volcanic scree-filled trail and made it back to town in no time.   The hike up started around 4 p.m. and it took 2 hours or so to get to the top.  The hike up was quite pleasant but the going down another path of very loose scree was a bit tough on the knees and you do it in the dark! My birthday could not get any better than that.

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Well, it did actually.  Stromboli had the ambience of a small community of nature lovers and adventurers.  I met some locals who used to be tourists themselves but fell in love with the island that they either decided to make the place their own or they frequented it so often over the years or decades that they had to proclaim themselves to be natives at this point.

IMG_20160520_112328Stromboli’s streets are narrow with a small town where everyone can be seen at the end of the day drinking or eating after a day of beaching or hiking.  There are plenty of sandy black beaches to be had.  I must confess I’m not a big fan of black sand beaches and I didn’t expect to like Stromboli’s beaches for that reason. However, I fell in love with the beaches in Stromboli. The water was so clear (even though rather cold) and something about that combined with the sand that comes from the volcano itself made it so “earthy” and “pure.”  The island’s inhabitants are unsurprisingly earthy themselves as they believe in preserving the beauty of Stromboli.  There are no cars in Stromboli – just golf carts.  In the event of an eruption, the locals have been trained how to evacuate the island for safety.  Conserving electricity and water is a must.  Time moves slowly in Stromboli, and in fact, it is such a small place that you can easily see everything in just a few days.  Beyond that, you will be living day to day on the same routine – hitting the beach, strolling into the town center to eat, and jogging/hiking around.  But that’s what makes Stromboli special.  One can indulge in silence and peace; the means to meditating and spending time within yourself.   And if you wish to know – no internet!  The inner peace was reflected back to me by the locals.  No stress in Stromboli, unless of course there is ever a major eruption.

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What strikes me about the people who have decided to make the island their home is how they seem to be excited and fueled by the notion of danger associated with living on this island.  Because of the potential for life to end anytime mother nature chooses so, they are living their lives in the moment and happy at that.  No one I encountered on this island talked about what they plan to do the next day or month or year.  They simply sat next to you and stared at the sunset or the water or the fumes coming out of the volcano.  Once in a while I made a mundane comment, “what a nice sunset,” to which the other replied, “but it’s always like that every night.”  “And what about the volcano’s fumes?”, I’d asked further to which the other would say, “Oh, she does her own thing…we can never predict.  That’s why I love it here.”  “Of course,” which I said with a smile.  “Me too.  I’d love to come back,” I thought to myself.

Compared to other parts of Italy, Stromboli doesn’t get as much tourism.  But if you manage to go which I think you should, I promise there is some major beauty to be had.  So, see the photos of the lava below, but better yet, see them in person if you ever get a chance.  It isn’t the easiest place to get to within the country but it is truly unforgettable in its own right.

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OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Victoria “Vix” Harris

In the years I’ve been trekking, I’ve been wanting to use the activity itself as a means to an end, not only for the purposes of taking people to trek globally through my social enterprise, but also to support a cause and be an agent of “change.”  When I met Vix on one of the social media sites and learned about her project to do a solo trek  of a lesser known long distance trail in Jordan to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, I quickly gained interest in her project.

For one, I am a believer in utilizing our experience outdoors as a way to have a positive impact on others.  Secondly, Vix’s idea for a project is not new to me since I intend to do a trek of the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal to interview women in the villages along the GHT as a way to share with the world their voices through a documentary or a book publication.  Knowing that such an endeavor requires determination, meticulous planning, stubborness and enormous amount of time, I can completely relate to Vix’s aspirations of supporting a cause while undertaking a major trek in the process.

Without a doubt, I admire her courage to pursue this on her own and her deliberate intention to make a difference in the world in doing so, especially in the current global state that we’re all in.  I’m excitedly anticipating the start of her journey which is set to commence in April, 2017 and will for sure be following Vix as she does a solo trek of a newly developed trail in Jordan.  Let’s hear from her directly about this project and her hiking life.

Feature Outdoor Women’s Voices


Victoria “Vix” Harris grew up in Scotland, but have been nomadic for the last 10 years.  At the time of her interview, she noted she’s in West Africa but then will be heading to Geneva before returning to Cape Town, where she will live for 3  months.  Currently, Vix is wrapping up some Ebola projects for work and planning an epic 640 km solo hike through Jordan to raise £6400 for Doctors Without Borders.

When and how did you start hiking?

I grew up in the Scottish Highlands, in Helmsdale, a small fishing village on the ocean and surrounded by hills. I was a very hyperactive kid and I was always running, jumping and climbing trees. I would spend hours walking along the beach or climbing up hills. I learnt basic mountain skills through the local army cadets and Duke of Edinburgh Scheme  but after I graduated, I stopped hiking and didn’t pick it up again until I moved to Australia.

Learning to hike was harder the second time around. I was older and more cautious. I wanted so much to do a multi-day hike and to do it solo, but I had talked myself out of it so many times, I was convinced that I couldn’t. That was until I stayed with an avid outdoors friend, who basically told me to get over it and go do it. He lent me a bunch of gear and drove me into the Australian desert and left me there with a promise to pick me up in 4 days at the other end. I walked, I got blisters and got scared and maybe I sat down and cried. But I got up and walked and camped and met other hikers who also had blisters and had been lost and wanted to sit down and cry. A few days later, my friend picked me up, handed me a cider and laughed at my blisters. I had survived. And I was excited to do more.

Wild camp on the Larapinta trail during my first solo hiking adventure, nobody else around, just me the stars and a rather loud red kangaroo who came by to wake me up in the morning.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date? 

Every trip is memorable, there are moments from each hike that I find myself coming back to, time and time again but it’s the kindness of strangers and the camaraderie of other hikers on the trail which is most memorable. I’ve been offered shelter from the weather, taken into people’s homes or yurts, carried across rivers by donkeys, brought home-cooked food and shared many fires, whiskies and tall tales. Other hikers have taught me lessons simply by allowing me to walk with them some of the way. It hasn’t mattered which country I’ve been in or if I could understand the local languages, it’s the people I remember most. The kindness of new friends and total strangers has made me more generous and giving myself.

The kindness of strangers in Kyrgyzstan – I speak very bare bones Russian yet I was welcomed and very well fed.

Kindness of strangers- yes, I couldn’t agree more on that.  It’s a universal fact that people, regardless of where they’re from, are by nature willing to help whenever and however they can.  

What do you like the most about hiking?

I like to be alone and self-reliant. I like the feeling of conquering something difficult where I’ve had to overcome my own fears or push my limits. I love those moments when you experience something special and you are the only person there to experience it. It could be a stunning sunrise or a surprise animal encounter but that moment is yours alone.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

The outdoors has taught me how small I am in the world. I stand and look at 6000 meter mountain peaks and I’m a mere speck. Yet I know the smallest things can be the biggest motivators. When you think you are too small and insignificant to direct change remember that the tiny Scottish midge can motivate anyone to change their plans! And if you have never had the pleasure of a midge swarm at your beautiful Scottish wild camp you are not missing out.

What advice would you give to those new to hiking?

Take some lessons, there are great resources out there, or start with a group. The success of your hike comes down to preparation and safety: you have to know how to navigate and how to cope with bad weather and injuries. Hiking should be fun but you have to know how to avoid problems and how to cope with the unexpected. Knowing you have those skills means you are free to relax and enjoy the walk.

Vix shares with us her favorite hiking photos.

Facing your fears – This picture just can’t convey the pain of arriving at this spot or how steep this final section actually is. 25kms at over 4000 meters in altitude, one dead horse and the final ascent is a scree bowl. I have nightmares about this kind of terrain, I’m convinced all the rocks will just keep sliding and I’ll be cut to 1000 pieces falling down the mountain. But it has to be done, even if I hate every moment of it.

At least the view from the top was amazing! 80km, 6 days, 5 people, 4 passes between 3500m- 4800m, 3 kg of chanterelle mushrooms,  2 sore knees, 1 trek

Scotland in May! Overcoming this section of my walk across Scotland in 2015 really boosted my confidence. (It helped that only a dozen km away was a pub with an open fire and a large Scottish breakfast!)

River crossing selfie – one of the biggest challenges of hiking solo is getting any good action shots. Kidding. In Scotland, you have to be prepared to ford a river or two, which comes with obvious risks, but makes you feel like an absolute champion when you cross it safely.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

Greenland, the Arctic Circle trail, 170km. It’s remote, beautiful and I know almost nothing about Greenland so I want to find out more.  

You can read more about Greenland here.

The Cape Wrath trail is my nemesis. It’s the trail I most want to experience, it’s almost on my Scottish doorstep and it’s a massive challenge because being remote you need excellent hill skills and to be confident wild camping. Then there is the weather which can destroy the best laid plans on a whim. And if you survive that there are always the dreaded midges. 

More information on Cape Wrath can be found here. 

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

The most annoying thing on a trail is coming across a guy who thinks you shouldn’t be out there on your own. Oddly, these guys are usually on their own and that isn’t a problem, but they see me as a delicate liability. I’ve been told by an Australian ranger that I should turn back now as he doesn’t want to have to come out and rescue me later. I was 5 days into a multi-day trail, I had all the correct gear and nothing other than being female gave him the impression that I would get into trouble. I usually shrug and carry on, there is no point debating, and in the case of the ranger, I reported him at the park exit, the woman behind the desk knew exactly who I was describing. This was not the first time he has tried to send women back.

Ignoring the sexist ranger meant I got to enjoy this view during the only 5 minutes of sunshine on my 3 capes track walk.

Getting your period on a trail is challenging – do we talk about that?

Yes, YES! Please do so.  

The ethos of leave no trace includes sanitary products, and that means storing your waste and carrying it out, which let’s be honest, is a bit gross. I’m not a fan of menstrual cups as keeping them clean in the backcountry can be difficult, but others swear by them. If I can’t avoid hiking on my period I carry spare ziplock bags and make sure they are packed careful away from my food, then dispose of them when I reach civilization. But that is only half the problem, you won’t be able to keep the same hygiene standards in remote areas especially if water is scarce. Wet wipes are great, remember to carry out the waste too, it’s a pain having to carry extra weight and but nobody wants an unwelcome yeast infection or UTI.

Even finding a concealed spot on a trail to deal with these and bathroom issues can be difficult if hiking a busy trail or with others. Sometimes you just have to get on with it…. Or buy a she-wee.

Or a Go Girl which I personally took with me on my one year trekking trip.  Also, just so you know the ladies from Animosa have developed a solution to address some of the sanitary issues.  The hassles of being a woman on the trail are clearly self-evident.  

I’d like to move on to the future trek in the horizon for our feature.  Vix is set to trek  640 kilometer of the Jordan trail over a period of 30 plus days, which will commence in April of 2017.  This trek aims to raise fund for Doctors Without Borders.

Tell us about this upcoming trekking trip you have in mind?

I will be walking the 640km of the Jordan trail. it starts in Um Qais and ends with a dive into the red sea. The trail traverses the length of the country and one of the highlights is hiking into the ancient and world-famous city of  Petra. The trail was developed with the support of USAID and only opened in its entirety in 2016. So far, nobody has done the walk solo, (although I’m sure that will change before I get there) and only 3 women have completed the whole trail in one go. I’m going to do the whole trip on my own but I will take rest days especially in Petra so I can do some sightseeing and eat some of the amazing Jordanian foods.

You can learn more about the trail HERE. 

What is the itinerary like?

The trail should take me around 33 days to walk end to end and I hope I can do it in less time by using a light and fast approach. But, I don’t want to push myself too hard and fail early so I’ll play it by ear depending on the weather and how many of the sights I want to take in along the way. It could take up to 40 days.

What are the logistics?

When I arrive in Jordan I will have to pick up some last minute items such as stove fuel and then drive to Petra to drop of a resupply box and a number of water containers with a local guesthouse. Then I can drive back and head to the start of the trail in Um Qais. 

For the first time, I’ll have to navigate 100% using GPS as there are no detailed maps of the trail have been published yet. I’ll need to carry a backup GPS as well as new batteries. And a compass, just in case.

Tell us about the accommodations along the way? 

I plan to mostly wild camp, but also to regularly stay at guesthouse stays so I can shower and get an amazing cooked meal. The Jordan trail website has all the details for guesthouses along the route. I’m going to be carrying my sleeping bag, a bivvy bag, sleeping mat and yes, a pillow. Comfort is important on long walks so I’ll be able to camp when I find a nice spot or carry on to a village guesthouse.

I plan to stay a few nights in Petra, where I will spend my days visiting the Petra site and eating my way through the Jordanian menu!

How do you deal with the food and water?

For the first part of the walk, down to Petra, water and food can be found in numerous small villages which the trail passes through. Although I will still have to carry a lot of water, I expect it to be similar to hiking in the Australian outback where I carried 5L as standard – that really makes your pack feel like a brick after refilling everything! I am looking forward to the Jordanian food, I’ve just found out about Kanafah, a Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, which I am super excited to try. I might actually gain weight while hiking!

For the second part I will need to hire a driver who is familiar with the trail, to fill water containers and drop them into the desert along the trail so I can refill when I walk to the spot. This will give me an additional safety margin in the remote region. During this stage I’ll rely on dehydrated foods and shed the extra weight gained in Petra.

Will you be receiving any help or support from anyone or any organization to accomplish this?

I’m not receiving any formal help but so far, everyone has been very helpful. The folks responsible for the Jordan trail are providing advice and contact details for drivers familiar with the trail and on social media several people have reached out and offered advice and help when I am in Jordan. Again, I’m relying on the kindness of strangers and I will welcome all the support I can get!

How did you come up with this idea of a trek/project?

I love to travel. I travel for work more than I stay home, but I needed a personal challenge and wanted to take on a new hike. At the same time I didn’t know where to go. Being a geek I set criteria, the hike had to be over 500km in length and in a country, I had never visited. When I thought about Jordan, I knew I’d found my next destination. The trail is new, but well-documented on their webpage, and not yet crowded with thousands of reviews of every step along the way. There’s still a lot to discover. Also the thought of walking into Petra, really grabbed my imagination.

In Swaziland.
In Ethiopia.
In South Africa.

What inspired you to do this?

I woke up and realized that if I want to see change, I have to act as if I can effect change – hence “be the change you want to see”. I hope I can reach out to others who want change, who want to help, but don’t know how. I’ll walk the walk so they don’t have to!

What is the purpose?

I want to “be the change I want to see.”  To me, that means doing something more than clickbait social activism.  I want to walk the walk and not talk the talk. I can’t just sit and watch as the world builds walls and demonizes groups of people. I can’t solve those issues myself but I can do more than repost angry tweets by raising money for a cause I believe in so people with the right skills can reach and help more people.

Why are you doing this SOLO as opposed to group?

I’m doing this solo because I prefer to walk alone, although I’m not sure I could persuade any of my friends to come along if I asked them. They all support me, but mostly they think I’m a little crazy.

Have you hiked solo before? 

I usually hike solo as a preference, I’ve walked across Scotland and several Australian trails. I love setting up for a wild camp and being the only person around, where possible I use a bivvy so really can sleep under the stars.

How would you measure the success of this project?

Initially, I thought I would aim to raise £640 just £1 per KM of then trail, but my mum hearing my plans, offered to donate £500, basically my wedding fund, to the project. At first I thought she was offering to donate it if I didn’t do the walk! But happily it turned out she is really 100% behind me. Then my friends and family chipped in more and I broke the initial £640 in a few days. So now I am aiming to raise £10 per Km I have to walk, a total of £6400.

What do you hope to accomplish on a more personal level?

Other than raising funds, I want to have fun, I want to enjoy Jordan and meet people along the way. I want to do the walk safely and dive into the Red Sea at the end of the trip. I want to walk every step of the way, so no cheating and hitching when the trail follows a road! Safety first, then fun will come and completion is a bonus.

What do you anticipate to be the challenges? 

The biggest challenge for me is being active and engaged on social media and contacting people to support my cause. I’m a science nerdy lab rat, not a social butterfly, so I don’t have a huge media following, I’m not famous and I’m not setting out to climb Everest or Kilimanjaro which everyone has heard of. But I have set a huge goal which I won’t reach with donations from friends and family alone so I have to be bold, loud and proactive. And that is scary. But I’m putting myself out there anyway and I’m already surprised by the generosity and kindness of strangers.

It’s great news indeed to know how supportive folks are for this kind of project.  Given that there are tons of options for organizations to choose from in terms of fundraising, I wonder how she decided to support Doctors Without Borders (or Medicines Sans Frontiers).  Her response echoes my own sentiment about the current struggles around the world and the feeling of helplessness and search for empowerment as individuals.  

I didn’t decide to raise money for Medicines Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders until after I knew I wanted to hike the Jordan trail. I was frustrated at the world and feeling powerless in the face of Brexit, the American elections, the war in Syria, the escalating humanitarian crisis in Burundi and so many other terrible situations. I can’t personally change these things, But I can donate to an organization that helps people around the globe and that shares my values. I’ve worked with MSF three times and seen firsthand that almost all money donated to MSF goes directly to saving lives, instead of big salaries or fundraising appeals. They won a Nobel Peace Prize for their work but they still need more support to help more people. Because of their neutral and independent stance, they do not accept money from governments, and instead they rely on the public. As some governments build walls and fences and cut aid spending, MSF will become more and more vital to those in need.

You can read more about the reasons why Vix is supporting Doctors Without Borders via this ARTICLE. 

Curious and wish to track Vix’s project before the trek?  She’s put in some serious time to create this outline below.  

Vix is raising the funds through JUST GIVING. 

She’s also hoping to raise some funds from personal collections after the trek by giving a couple of talks which have yet to be arranged. All funds raised will go directly to Doctors Without Borders or MSF.  Not one penny will be spent by Vix to fund her trip.  She also intends to add to the donation funds any gratuities she receives during the trek via free food, accommodation and other expenses as saved cost.

How can individuals support you on this project?

You can support by sponsoring me per KM for just £10. In return you can request something from me on the trek.  For example, I can dedicate KM 100 in your name as posted on my social media, or you can ask for a specific picture at a certain place, or challenge me to do 20 push-ups on film when I reach your KM. You can be creative, as long as it’s respectful.

To support Vix’s project, you can either help her through spreading the word about her project or via donation HERE It’s a secure website and donations from UK have a bonus 25% gift aid tax relief that allows UK charities to reclaim an extra 25% in tax on every eligible donation made by a UK taxpayer.  

Make sure to follow Vix’s journey via her blog, Vix’s Jordan Jaunt and through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Vix’s aspirations are truly inspiring.  I wish her the best, and the most life enriching adventure yet as I look forward to interviewing her again after her off the beaten path trekking experience! Until then…hit those trails, enjoy the journey to the fullest and leave nothing behind except a positive impact on the world.

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: 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:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

FREEDOMPRENEUR: Cory of You Could Travel

Most of us can only imagine of a traveling lifestyle where one gets to travel frequently and have the financial resources to do so.  In the brief period I’ve been writing and connecting with other bloggers, it became apparent to me that there is a huge community of nomads, expats, lifelong travelers of every kind.  In the Freedompreneur series, my hope is to debunk the myth that it is close to impossible to live a life filled with travels.  With creativity, passion and perseverance, many aspiring nomads do achieve their dream of a traveling lifestyle.  This achievement is exemplified by our feature Freedompreneur, Cory Varga, from You Could Travel, a website that provides travel inspiration and advise.

Dreamy in Madeira, Portugal.

Brown Gal Trekker Meets Cory

When diving into the world of travel blogging, one can easily lose his or her way.  I don’t blame you.  It’s a rough blogging world, after all.  By luck, I met Cory via one of the blogger groups when I posted my search for features for the Freedompreneurs series.  Unbeknownst to Cory, I did know of her even before then due to an article she wrote that caught my attention.  The article,  aside from being well-written, somehow left an impression on me.  Her article spoke of the hurdles that bloggers face, and despite of it, deciding to to take the higher ground, nonetheless.  As a new blogger, I have yet to get a full understanding of how collaborations work with fellow bloggers.  Cory provided an opening for me to get somewhat of a view of how that world works.  Since reading that article, I have always kept Cory’s advise nearby as a resource for future mishaps in the world of blogging.

Cory Varga of You Could Travel

Nature in Seychelles.

Cory Varga is a Romanian born British citizen from Bristol, UK.  She   grew up in Bucharest, Romania.  She was an only child which enabled her “to keep all treats for herself and not having to share them with siblings (haha!).”  According to Cory, she had a very happy childhood as her mother dedicated 7 years to stay home with her, raise her and teach her about the world. As a child, they used to travel to the seaside and mountains a lot, which she believes made her the traveler that she is today.

Cory loves writing and photography.  She always had some sort of inclination towards arts, but her parents told her on many occasions that without mathematics and sciences, she can’t make a decent income. For many years, during school, she dedicated her time to learning mathematics and computer science, whilst using her spare time to visit art galleries, museums and read A LOT.   When she turned 18, she pursued her passion to learn languages whilst pursuing a degree in law with criminology. Years later, she settled for what she truly loves: design, photography and writing.  

Hence, it isn’t a surprise that You Could Travel came into existence.   Cory is a UX designer for her own digital studio in the UK, as well as, a travel blogger and photographer for You Could Travel, which she deems  as her epic soft adventure website.  Let’s learn more from Cory about her enterprise and traveling life.

Are you still working a 9 to 5 job? 

The answer is not quite as a black and white. Together with my husband, I own a digital studio in the UK, whereby I am the creative force in the office. This is my main source of income and I absolutely love designing. As a hobby, I started writing on my travel blog about my travels, whilst sharing my photography with friends and family. A few months later, my blog took off and became my second source of income. I am now sharing my time between both businesses so in a way, I work from 8am till 11pm.

What are your current plans?

I want to continue to grow both 42droids (my digital studio) and my travel website, You Could Travel. I also want to focus more on monetizing my photography skills.

In Madeira’s Pico Ruivo.

I’m curious to know more about You Could Travel. What led you to start your travel website?

It all started at the end of March 2016 when I decided to write down everything about my trip to Japan. Before visiting the country, I found little information about what a foreigner should actually be aware of. Beyond the tourists attractions and a few Japanese words, there is a lot I wish I knew prior to my arrival. I wanted to share this with the world. My website has only honest information, and I only write about personal experiences. I make mistakes so others don’t have to.

What is the mission of You Could Travel?

To encourage others to travel safely, learn new ways to enjoy various destinations and avoid making the mistakes I made during my trips. I want to educate through my blog.

What type of content do you have on your website?

I mainly write about my travels to Japan as this is my main niche. I am obsessed with this country and one day I hope to live there. I obtain my content based on personal experiences and I usually spend at least a week figuring out a proper travel itinerary. I read other blogs, books and ask around what’s best, then tailor this to my own requirements.

What hurdles have you faced thus far with this project?

The competition is fierce and sometimes I feel that blogs are about who shouts the loudest as opposed to ethical and quality writing. In the end, great content and a solid business plans wins the race.

How did you overcome these hurdles?

I created a solid business plan, dedicated a lot of time A/B testing to ensure I know what works and what doesn’t. Also, I followed my gut and continued to create good content as opposed to short targeted articles.

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

I am grateful to several blogging communities from which I learned a lot about the business aspects of having a website. I spent a lot testing on my website to understand what works and I was not afraid to try new things. I kept an open mind and embraced useful advice.

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

I am keen on slow travel so I prefer to travel one month out of three, as opposed to travelling somewhere just for a weekend. As it stands, on average, I travel every month for at least a week.

Cory shares with us some amazing travel moments:

Mount Hiei when my husband proposed to me.

Tokyo arrival when we realized how amazing the city was.

Driving in Madeira because their roads are crazy narrow and sometimes close to 90 degrees upright.

How do you define success for You Could Travel?

The more visitors read my content, spend time interacting with my website and email me for further advice, the more successful I deem the website to me. Of course, I need to make a living so kind readers using my affiliate links make a difference, but I strongly believe that when people press that share button, it means my content left an impression. That is what my website was created for.

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

I discovered that I love a good challenge and I am relentless until something works the way I want it to. I also learned to be more patient, because let me tell you, I usually want things to happen yesterday!

How do you manage to afford traveling?

As I mentioned before, I make a living from my digital studio. Together with my husband, we offer a lot of fantastic digital services which clients love. This leads to more recommendations, which translate to more clients and ultimately more revenue. Since we own the studio, we can work from anywhere and are location independent. We also get clients though You Could Travel which helps us a lot.

Do you have other future projects in mind? Tell us about it.

We are redesigning 42droids Ltd and we can’t wait to put the new website live very soon! I also want to launch my own ecommerce brand. Next year I will have a space on You Could Travel dedicated to photojournalism, through which I want to sell my photography. Now that is what I’m mega excited about! Want even more? I have almost completed my first book and going to Japan for a month to research for my second one!

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

Stop dwelling, stop finding excuses and just take the first step. Don’t be abrupt and change your life all of a sudden, but it is important that you take the first step towards following your dream. One step will lead to another, and then another, and ultimately, this is how we all start pursuing our passion.

The coastline of Madeira.

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

It really did. I was working a 9 to 5 job when I met my husband, already a freelancer who enjoyed a free lifestyle. Together we put together our digital studio and the moment we had our first client, I quit and never looked back since. There are a few downsides and you have to be cut for this lifestyle. Whoever tells you it’s all pink and flowers will lie to you. If you do it with you partner, you have to know you can work and live together almost 24/7. You have to be relentless and perseverant and know how to do your research. You have to be good with budgeting because you can have a huge contract today and nothing for 6 months down the line. It works for me and my husband and I would not do it any other way.

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

Of course I am and it’s epic. I can take holidays whenever I want, budget the way I think is fit and have the flexibility to shop on a Thursday and work on a Sunday. Well, I do tend to work most of the time but that’s not a bad thing. The important part is that I can tailor my schedule to fit my needs and avoid busy times at the market, busy weekends in the mall or peak times on vacation. I can travel during the cheapest dates and work from anywhere in the world as long as I have internet.

Finally, any unique travel advise you can give everyone?

Don’t start travelling because you seek to discover who you are. Travel because you want to get to know the world, because I promise you one thing: by discovering the world, you will inevitably discover yourself.

To wrap it up, I asked Cory just a few more QUICK travel-related questions:

How many countries have you been to?

You know, I never kept count of this. Over 30 but the more you focus on quantity, you start forgetting about the quality.

What other countries are on your list?

Canada, Nepal and Mongolia.

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

My tea!

Which do you prefer? Mountains or city life?  

I’m an outdoors lover. I would take a hike up the mountains over shopping in a city any day.

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

Patience, perseverance, relentlessness.

As you can see, choosing to live a traveling lifestyle is not as easy as one would think.  It’s possible as long as you are aware and open to the challenges that it brings.  Thanks Cory for the insight and encouragement!  I’m definitely looking forward to what the future holds for your project and mission.  Undoubtedly, you’re well on your way to your dreams, as we speak.

You can follow Cory via You Could Travel and her social media accounts: Facebook & Twitter.

If you wish to be featured or know of someone who should be, let Brown Gal know & email her at bgtrekker@peakexplorations.com

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HIKER’S PARADISE: Moab, Utah (USA)

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

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

MOAB, UTAH (USA)

by Heather of Explore With Heather

The town of Moab is mentioned and instantly everyone around begins dreaming up mountain biking on slickrock, climbing spires, hiking to awesome petroglyphs, or jeeping along some of the toughest dirt roads in America. This is your ultimate tourist destination, especially April through October, and serves as the gateway into Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. 

My main love for Moab comes from hiking, though it is definitely a town for any outdoor enthusiast. There is actually a trick to Moab that helps get the most bang for your buck as far as hiking goes. Tons of the awesome trails are all under three miles throughout both National Parks and all around the area. Your best bet that provides the biggest variety of hiking in a day is to string together two or three of these.
The perfect day of hiking in Moab involves waking up early to catch the sunrise at Mesa Arch then driving along the Colorado River to hike Fisher Towers. After that take some time to explore the town of Moab and refuel with a bite to eat on the patio at Peace Tree Café. End your day hiking the three miles to the iconic Delicate Arch to watch the sunset.

For bang for your buck on hiking availability, Moab is sure to be your next home. Whether you want to hike in deserts or drive 45 mins to the La Sal mountains to bag a peak you have all your favorite options in one place.

See you in Moab!

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

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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.

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HIKER’S PARADISE: New Zealand

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

We’re glad you’re here!  This series is where you’ll find some of the best recommendations by guest writers 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: 

NEW ZEALAND

by Birthe of Wandering the World

New Zealand is a country filled with stunning nature. From the bluest lakes to the biggest glaciers, New Zealand has them all. A road trip is a great way to see lots of amazing views, but to get to the real good parts you’ll have to hike.

New Zealand has tons of awesome hikes, most of them maintained by the Department of Conservation. Their website, along with the NZ Frenzy guidebook, is a great source to find the best hikes together with some practical information.

During our one month road trip through New Zealand we did a whole range of hikes throughout the entire country. The shortest were 5 minutes, the longest up to 6 hours. There are multi-day hikes as well, but we decided to skip those (for now!).

One of our favourite hikes is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park. This (very) popular 6 hour hike takes you up and down over volcanic terrain, along awesome views. You’ll pass Mount Doom (you have seen Lord of the Rings, right?), the Emerald Lakes, and Blue Lake. Prepare for steep climbs, strong winds and lots of hikers, but it’s still a must do hike!

Another awesome hike is the Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The scenery during this 3 hour hike is just breathtaking. You’ll cross swing bridges and see Hooker Glacier, all against a Mount Cook backdrop.

The last hike we’ll describe has another glacier: the Rob Roy Glacier Track.  This 4 hour return track takes you through beech forest, along the turquoise coloured West Matukituki River, up to a viewpoint over the Rob Roy Glacier. The drive to the trailhead is almost as awesome as the hike itself, but do check the weather before you leave.

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

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

An Open Letter From The Girl Behind Brown Gal Trekker

Dear Reader,

This can easily be a 2016 in review note but it’s not.  It’s just that my alter ego, Brown Gal Trekker, has taken over much of the time recently and I finally feel compelled to comment and express my views as “me.”

Hi, I’m Marinel, the girl behind Brown Gal Trekker.

If you have been following my blog, you may get a sense how preoccupied my life has been with writing and marketing via social media.  First off, I apologize to my Facebook friends who have to witness the crazy amounts of social media networking from my end via Facebook.  I’m sure you’re devoid of enjoyment seeing me clog up your feed.  Trust me, I do feel a bit old for such things.

Brown Gal’s mission and pursuits have taken over the spotlight.  I had taken a back seat and witnessed every move she’s made to push forward with her agenda – one that constitutes inspiring others (albeit at times preachy) to hike up mountains, promote diversity, women, solo hiking/traveling and offbeat topics such as blood types, aging and menstrual flow.

The blog launched in September of 2016 and since then I’ve seen the possibilities emerge for someone like Brown Gal Trekker who all these years held doubts about her place in the world of outdoors and traveling.  Sure, no doubt, she’s been traveling for almost two decades and spending time in the outdoors half that amount of time.  But, Brown Gal Trekker had doubts about how she fit in all these for the simple fact that she is a conundrum in many ways.  She’s a world traveler who happens to be obsessed with mountain trekking.  That’s quite expansive in terms of coverage.  While many travel bloggers talk about spending days in Rome, she’ll only talk about Rome as a stopover to get to the Dolomites.  While most outdoors bloggers have a specific niche and location for their hiking adventures, Brown Gal Trekker tends to cast a wider net and trek all over the world.  She has no loyalty to a specific trekking region or country for that matter.  So, that begs the question, where does Brown Gal Trekker fit in?

I was afraid for her to be honest.  

Afraid for her to be disappointed to find out that the world may not be welcoming of her eccentricities.  The fact that she talks about places that no one has heard of such as Zhangjiajie, Yading, Ausangate or Prokletije.  The fact that she wants to talk more about the meaning of life as it relates to the experiences on the mountain trails than talking about the logistics of the trek itself.  The fact that she constantly needs innovative ideas pouring out of her senses to tell a story about an adventure she’s had in popular places like the Inca Trail or Kilimanjaro.  Darn it! Why can’t she just relay the story like everyone else?  Why be so difficult?

Hence, I wondered – is there room for someone who doesn’t follow the crowd?

I watched my alter ego go at it, every moment she gets outside her 9 to 5 job.  I watched her unleash her poetic side and bravely write a heartfelt piece about being a girl who treks but feeling misunderstood oftentimes for her passion and yearning to find other women who can relate.  I watched her agonize at her lawyer job for feeling out of place among a herd of ambitious lawyers who all aspire to become judges when she could care less about being the next one in line.  I watched her in deep thoughts as she debated in her mind the nuances of gaining wisdom from formal education versus traveling and feeling more in tune with the latter.  I watched her criticize traveling for its imperfections knowing she’s so imperfect herself.  I watched her feel overjoyed from the fact that despite reluctantly opening up through her writing, that level of vulnerability actually led to some like-minded humans out there to reply back to her and say, “Hey, we hear you!”  Truthfully, these were some amazing forms of validation to be had.  Naturally, Brown Gal Trekker experienced immense feeling of appreciation from it.

Then, at some point, she faced the realization as to the significant amount of work involved to follow such a unique path.  

Her building an empire via Peak Explorations in which she gets to share with others the experience of mountain trekking requires enormous amount of effort and time, after all – one that goes beyond what she initially thought. There were also issues along the way from the usual hurdles of launching a business to learning how to accept that her specific niche of marketing trekking tours can be the riskiest thing she’ll ever get herself into.  Not to mention the sense of isolation inherent in the world of trekking business as a female founder where men dominate the field almost entirely.   “What can you  (who’s a woman and a person of color) contribute differently of value with your enterprise?”  This was the question Brown Gal Trekker had to constantly deal with from the business world which is how the external world demands in a subtle manner that she prove herself to those who don’t totally embrace her being a person of color and a female in a entrepreneurial capacity.  So, why do it?

Based on all of that, fear pops up every so often, uninvited nonetheless.  I’ve seen her tell fear to take a hike verbally and in writing.  She trudges on and I continue to watch to see how much she can handle the pressures, the rejections, and challenges that came by along the way.  One thing that seems to instill fervor in her determination to succeed is this sense of freedom that she firmly believes she’ll acquire at the end of it all.  For the sake of freedom, she’s learned expeditiously to be unwavering and decisive.  I get exhausted just watching her trudge on the uphills of her endeavors; and yet at awe at every second that she’s still at it with no end in sight.

But so many wonderful things happened in the 3 months Brown Gal Trekker has been in existence.  

She’s now connected with leading entities in the outdoors and is thrilled to work side by side with them in various projects such as this one in the past and this one that is currently underway.  She’s more inspired than ever by fellow bloggers who she met along the way to continue assuming the role of an advocate for women, for those seeking freedom by becoming their own boss and inclusiveness in the world of mountain trekking or in the media.  She’s strengthened her relationship with local trek operators globally to market trekking tours of great value to avid mountain trekkers.  She discovered her allies outnumber the critics.  As such, she forges ahead without a single ounce of energy wasted on those who doubt her dreams.   She learned to trust that when one’s intentions are pure, the world conspires to lead you to the right door way and even unlock closed doors as needed to pave the way to your goals.

As Brown Gal Trekker and I venture into 2017, I anticipate more challenges and setbacks for her to endure.  2016 was just the start -the warm up and the prep for the big year coming up.  For one, there’s Brown Gal’s determination to bring a group of American hikers to Pakistan to trek up to K2 base camp to be amazed by nature’s beauty in that part of the world despite the hurdles of obtaining visas and the constant need to monitor safety.  It’ll also be a curious endeavor to lead a group to trek in Pakistan as a female because the country is male dominated in many aspects of life.  But, I can assure you, at least for now, the negotiations and dealings are going well with utmost respect emanating from both ends.  This rare pursuit is all being done as part of the mission of her social enterprise, Peak Explorations.  On a lighter note, alongside all these challenges are more innovative ideas, treks, collaborations, friendships, partnerships, growth and abundance in the work she does, both with her blog and social enterprise.

In closing, I had a ridiculously busy and yet magical year with Brown Gal Trekker.  Despite the confusion that greeted her in the beginning, I believe that she managed to carve her own space amidst the vast landscape of the blogging world.

In it, she effectively found her own voice, and to her that, in and of itself, is success.

Somewhere between the world of travelers and the hiking world, you’ll find Brown Gal Trekker.  She hovers over both worlds the same way she did at the very start of this journey except at this juncture she’s fully learned to embrace the uniqueness of her purpose of bridging the gap between the two worlds.   She realized that both worlds have welcomed her ideas with open arms, be it conventional or otherwise.  For that, she’s eternally grateful.  Finding her voice is akin to finding a sense of eternal belonging, and in her mind, no longer would there be a moment in which she would succumb to the senseless allure of self-doubt.

Knowing her, she never started her pursuits of becoming a blogger and a founder of a social enterprise just for the sake of fame or popularity.  She values privacy; hence, it took her years to decide to make her blog public which is in all honesty a reflection of her own inner journey to fully accept and love her authentic self.  From the start, Brown Gal only wanted to pursue blogging and her enterprise for the purpose of leaving a positive impact in the world, which is the same idealism that she holds in her role as a public servant on her day job.  After all, Peak Explorations was born out of her passion for trekking in the mountains, at the urging of local operators who she met along the way to promote local tourism and due to the need to create treks to encourage solo travelers to take their passion on mountain trails outside of the U.S.

To her, these were the underlying motivations from the start.  Likewise, Brown Gal would have easily dropped the idea of blogging if there was no gap or need for her to fill and serve a purpose for, and instead pursue a different dream such as starting a hostel or anything to that effect.   She adamantly opposes filling the role of a carbon copy.  If others have touched upon a topic, then she would rather not write anything that will merely be a repetition of the same idea devoid of any sense of creativity.  As a promise to herself, she will not write for the sake of producing content as quality over quantity has been her mantra.

In the three months of actively writing, Brown Gal Trekker quickly learned to adapt the best way she could to the ultimate shift – from being guarded to accepting the beautiful connections she has developed out of allowing herself to be raw and and vulnerable.  So far, she feels no regrets about such a personal decision and the manner in which she has learned to write and share her hiking or travel stories as unapologetically herself.

As for me, I’m in it for the ride.  I’m still doing the 9 to 5 job to support my alter ego but frankly I can’t wait for Brown Gal Trekker to  get to where she needs to be so I can take a back seat forever and simply be Brown Gal Trekker’s alter ego.  Until then, I will continue to encourage her to take the much deserved break as called upon by her spirit to meditate and enjoy life apart from her being Brown Gal Trekker.

If you managed to read up to this point, thanks.  I figured you also realized by now that this was essentially a year in review of the Brown Gal Trekker blog  (more 3 months in review, to be exact), if only in disguise.

Sincerely,

Marinel

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