Tag Archives: wanderlust

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

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

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

Articles referenced in the podcast:

I Turned 40 and Became a Superwoman

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

Accepting Myself Through My Mother’s Eyes

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

Episode 1: Why I’m Leaving My Career

Episode 2: What Am I Afraid Of? Solitude.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

FREEDOMPRENEUR: Danielle of WorldSmith

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

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

Danielle Bricker of WorldSmith

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

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

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

What are your interests and passion in life?

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

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

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

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

How was the process like to quit something so stable?

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

What are your current plans?

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

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

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

When did you launch your site?

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

What is your website’s mission?

Live creatively. Travel more.

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

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

What hurdles have you faced thus far with this project?

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

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

How did you overcome these hurdles?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us more about your traveling life.

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

Tell us about the travel component of your website.

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

Danielle shares her favorite travel moments below.

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define success in your case?

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

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

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

How do you manage to afford traveling?

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

Do you have other future projects in mind? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To wrap up, I asked Danielle the following questions:

How many countries have you been to?

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

What other countries are on your list?

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

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

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

Which do you prefer, mountains or city life? 

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

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

Conviction. Perseverance. Flexibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

9 Things Every Traveler Can Do in Kentucky

A Guest Post by Louise Brown

The first thing that people think of upon hearing Kentucky is probably fried chicken. Although that’s a very valid association, there’s a lot more to this state than that.

Bourbon, horse races, tobacco, and bluegrass are just some of the popular things that make up Kentucky’s character. Aside from that, there’s deep love for music, arts, food, and the outdoors.

Here are some of the things you should do when you’re in Kentucky.

#1 Have a Taste of Good Old Kentucky Bourbon


The Russians have vodka while the Americans have bourbon, and Kentucky is one of the best states for it.

You can stop by any distillery, but for an even better experience, go on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It’s probably one of the unique experiences you’ll have in Kentucky.

The Bourbon Trail consists of 9 of the state’s top distilleries. It lets you experience the culture of Bourbon, from the ingredients, to the process, to having a taste of the best Bourbon.

Many facilities have stunning surrounding landscapes too! If the trail doesn’t interest you, that’s okay. Just don’t leave Kentucky without having at least, a taste of Kentuckian Bourbon.

#2 Saddle Up

Horses are not only a big thing – they are one of the defining things of Kentucky. This state is, after all, the Horse Racing Capital of the World.

All year, you can enjoy horseback riding in the hundreds of miles of horse trails in the state. It doesn’t matter if you are a pro or a beginner, there’s a trail just right for your skills.

Many stables offer horse rentals, as well as horse camps for those who have horses of their own. Horseback riding is also a great way to see the outdoors. Most horse trails and horse camps offer stunning scenic views and peace and serenity.

#3 Kentucky Derby

Every year on the first Sunday of May, crowds of people from all over the nation and the world, come into Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is one of the state’s most popular event, which takes place at Churchill Downs.

Either before or after the event, you can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum to learn even more about the sport.

#4 See the magnificent Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls is also known as the “Niagara of the South.” The waterfall is 125 feet wide and has a drop of 68 feet into the Cumberland River.

The Cumberland Falls State Resort Park also offers other activities and attractions aside from the waterfall. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise! It has hiking trails, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, and camping.

#5 Go camping

The Kentucky State Park System has 31 campgrounds all throughout the state, so wherever you are, you’re never too far from one. Most grounds are open year-round, with sites for RVs, cabin tents, traditional tents, and even hammocks.

You can even lay your sleeping bag right under the stars. Also, many of the campsites are also equestrian-friendly.

After you set camp, you can do some exploring. Depending on which park you’re in, you might be able to go hiking, see lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, go horseback riding, or go biking.

#6 Explore Mammoth Cave

Did you know that the world’s longest cave system is Mammoth Cave, which is in Kentucky?

I didn’t know until just recently. From simple walking tours for families to strenuous spelunking for experts, there are lots of opportunities for exploration. It’s one of the many unique activities you can do in Kentucky.

#7 Go extreme at Hidden Rivers Cave

Another cave adventure you should do is the one at Hidden Rivers Cave. However, this one is not for the faint of hearts. Part of the adventure is zip lining across the cave’s sinkhole.

You can also go rappelling from the start to the mouth of the cave. That’s about 75 feet high!

The tour doesn’t get easier, but it’s still worth the thrill. A guide will lead you on a walking tour of the cave where you’ll be passing through wet and muddy surfaces.

Along the way, you’ll see some eyeless cave creatures too! Be ready to bear crawl, scramble, and have a memorable experience!

#8 Eat Hot Brown

We all know world famous food chain that originates from Kentucky – KFC! However, the state has other food that they are proud of. One of this is Hot Brown.

It may not sound so appealing, but this open-faced sandwich is a must-try! It’s made of turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and covered with Mornay sauce.

Many restaurants serve Hot Browns. However, there’s no better place than where it all began – the Brown Hotel. Nevertheless, do not leave the state without having a Hot Brown.

#9 Explore The Music Scene

Music in Kentucky runs deep, especially since it is the birthplace of Bluegrass music. It’s also the birthplace of many stars, including Billy Ray Cyrus, The Judds, and Loretta Lynn.

Being so musically inclined, the state has many museums that showcase the history and the music culture. At the end of your visit, you will have a new level of appreciation for this genre of music.

If you’re lucky, you might visit during the music festival.  If it is, don’t miss it! Many international and local artists share the stage and play all sorts of genres.

Conclusion

You’ll find Kentucky has so much more to offer than fried chicken and horse racing. It’s a state that is so diverse and has something for all sorts of travelers. It’s also surprisingly such a great place for outdoor adventures.

I’ve only named a few, but I’ll leave the rest of the exploring to you. Don’t miss out on what Kentucky has to offer!

Author Bio

Louise is the founder of TheAdventureLand.com, where she and her associate’s blog about Outdoor experiences, tips & tricks that will help you have an exciting adventure. She is also a tour guide of travel company where she learned many things about wilderness. “Let’s pack our bags and explore the world!”. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+

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

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: Anjali of The LITMO Life

How many of you knew what you wanted to become early on in life?  In my case,  I must admit that becoming a lawyer wasn’t a dream of mine from the start.  My parents wanted me to become a doctor and throughout my childhood that was an idea that was ingrained at a very early age.  However, it turns out in life no one can dictate who you should be.  No matter how much you defer to people’s advise on how you wish to live your life as an adult, the answer never comes from the outside world.  It’s all within.

Fast forward to now, I still work as an advocate in the legal field and as much as I have enjoyed my time fighting for a cause I truly believe in (i.e., child protection), I have set my future goals to include spending time on the mountain trails and promoting my outdoors-focused social enterprise as I have explicitly shared with the world via this piece.  Another lesson learned – it is never too late to shift focus and pursue a new endeavor despite the illusion of fear that tells you otherwise.

I say all this as a way to introduce Anjali who initially started as a lawyer only to discover that her passion has more to do with freedom, flexibility and self-reliance.  Anjali bravely left her law firm job to venture out into the world on her own terms.

Brown Gal Trekker Meets Anjali

I met Anjali through a blogger networking group online.  However, before that meeting and by coincidence, I have read a powerful article written by Anjali on Washington Post that speaks to a specific female view on dating.  You can check out her thought-provoking article here.  Needless to say, the opportunity to feature her is yet another wonderful coincidence.

Anjali Sareen of The LITMO Life

Anjali Sareen was born in New Jersey (a fact she rarely shares with people) and grew up in Florida since age 2.  Anjali is currently in Cuba and was in Florida shortly before that.  She’s a freelance remote writer and lawyer that quit her traditional firm job so she could travel around the world full-time.  She writes for a few publications on the web and now she has her own fully remote law practice.

Tell us a little bit about your background and your 9 to 5 life.

I’m a former “traditional” lawyer that decided that living for the nights and weekends was utter bullshit. I grew up in an Indian family – my parents were both born and raised in India and came here in their twenties. They met and got married here, so my brother and sister and I were all born in the States. My childhood was great – my parents were the perfect mix of loving traditional and open hippie. They wanted us to get educations, and be good people, and live a good life, but they also encouraged us all to think for ourselves and carve our own paths and – most importantly – to question why we did things. It was that encouragement to question that led me to change my life.

What are your interests and passion in life?

Of course, traveling! But not just traveling for traveling’s sake – traveling to help make the world a smaller place, to help us realize that we’re all the same and that we should be loving and supporting each other at every turn – no matter our races, genders, sexuality preferences, socioeconomic status, or anything else. I’m also a writer and reader – on any given evening I can be found with a book or my journal in hand. Veganism isn’t just a passion of mine – it’s one of the things I believe most strongly in: living a life in which we behave the best we possibly can to all sentient beings, not just humans. And one of my truest loves is fitness – I’m a runner and CrossFitter and hiker. I find my bliss being active.

Tell us how you ended up with your 9 to 5 job and your thoughts about having that typical career.

I went to undergrad at NYU and graduated in 3 years. I wasn’t even 21 the day of my college graduation, since my birthday was a month later in June. I didn’t want to be in the real world. The honest answer is I went to law school because I was encouraged by my parents to get a professional degree and when I graduated college I didn’t want to grow up. So I thought more school was the answer! Not a very thoughtful path, I admit. I went to law school knowing I didn’t want to be a lawyer in a traditional setting – I just didn’t know what I actually did want to do and I chickened out of finding my passion – I took a set path. I didn’t like 9 to 5 life at all – I didn’t (for the most part) like other lawyers. I didn’t like the arrogance and assholery of the profession. I didn’t like that you were considered a shit lawyer if you didn’t give up your whole life for it. I did like my actual practice areas – intellectual property and animal rights – but not enough to keep me trapped in a firm.

As a lawyer myself, I can totally relate to the complexities of such a career – the attitude, the expectations and pressure.  How was the process like to quit something so stable?

Scary – but SO, SO exciting. Of course, you would expect that it would be kind of scary, but it was also very thrilling and freeing. I went into it with the mentality that even if I was going to be poor, at least I would be poor and free!

What made you decide to quit your 9 to 5 job?

The honest truth, which I talk about in my book “Quit Your Job and Travel The World” is that it was a few different things – I didn’t have ONE really big aha moment. But if I could pinpoint it, I would say after I got my tubes tied (I never wanted kids and always wanted the surgery!) I woke up and it hit me: who was I living this life for that I didn’t like? I didn’t want to get married again, I didn’t want to have kids…there was no one to worry about but me and my puppy! That sealed the deal for me to change my life.

Anjali will talk more about the book she wrote below.  Before that, I asked her about her current plans.

Indefinite travel until I get sick of it!

Anjali launched her enterprise called LITMO Life in May of 2016 when she made the decisionn to quit her job to travel full-time.  Here, she tells us more about it.

I run a travel blog at The LITMO Life. LITMO stands for “Live In The Moment Only” and it’s something my dad used to say to me when I was a kid. At the blog, I don’t just talk about traveling – I talk a lot about how to design a life that fits you so that you can help make the world a better place. I touch on everything from the best vegan snacks at airports to politics!

What is the mission for your enterprise?

I really want to help people – at the end of the day, if I can look back and say that I spent my entire life helping people, that would make me very happy.

What challenges have you faced thus far with your enterprise? How did you overcome them?

It’s hard to find the time to work on the blog when I’m also working a full-time job, that’s my biggest issue at the moment – finding time to work and travel and work on my love (the blog). That said, I’ve largely overcome that by waking up earlier! It sounds nuts, but I get up at 5am to work on the blog and other miscellaneous work like social media before I start my normal work day.

How do you balance traveling and working on your enterprise?

Very carefully! I make sure I schedule time for sightseeing a little every day and I get out into the local restaurants and coffee shops to meet people even while I’m working. It’s easy to get wrapped up in just wanting to work all the time and I try really hard not to do that.

Tell us about your traveling life. How did you become interested in traveling?

My parents were into traveling when I was kid and they are Indian. I grew up here in the States, but we traveled back and forth a lot to India when I was little and we would often make stopovers in Europe. I think I always had a desire to see the world – and I always thought there should be more to life than just a 9-5.

Who or what inspired you to travel?

I think the desire for a better life inspired me to travel. I say “better”, but I mean better for me – maybe just different for other people. Letting someone else dictate my time by going into an office every day at 9 am and leaving at 5 pm and only having time to “live” on the weekends wasn’t my idea of a full life. I thought there should be a better way to live, so I went in search of it.

How much did you travel before quitting your 9 to 5 job?

A bit, when I could, but not nearly enough! It’s hard to get away from the office as a young lawyer so I rarely did.

Where are you now? What’s your next stop?

Currently in my home town of Fort Myers, FL – I came home for a bit for the holidays and am about to head to Cuba next!

In terms of how she funds her travels, Anjali now works remotely as a lawyer while working on her writing projects which she discusses further below. But before moving on to that, Anjali shares with us her favorite places that she has been to thus far.

My favorite place in the entire world is Costa Rica. The country has no standing army – the abolished it in 1948 – and because of that, it truly feels like the most peaceful place in the world. The locals are incredible – open, welcoming, hospitable – and the lifestyle of “Pura Vida” really suits me.

In the Tabacon hot springs in La Fortuna:

On some of my domestic travels through the States, I picked up hiking as a free, easy thing to do in certain of the cities. One of my favorite hikes was up a mountain just outside Seattle – the weather was crisp and cool and getting to top just made me feel like I was on top of the world.

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

That I can do anything! Hopping on a plane to a foreign country completely alone is exciting – but also scary! Getting there and realizing that I cannot only handle it, but that I’ll also have the time of my life, is something incredible.

Any regrets so far?

Not a “regret” so much as a wish – I wish I could travel and still be with my friends and family all the time. It is so nice to continually meet people and make more friends, but then, with full-time travel, you inevitably have to leave again and there are times you can’t be home for special events like birthdays and holidays. That’s the only thing I would change, if I could.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve done as a traveler so far?

I don’t know about courageous, but I went boarding down a volcano in Nicaragua and that was pretty amazing. The volcano is called Cerro Negro and you hike all the way and sit on a sled to speed down. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

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

DO IT! Today. Right now. This moment. Don’t wait until you are “ready” because you never will be ready, you just have to get up and go and the “readiness” will find you.

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

Yes, 100%, but I think that is because I didn’t have many expectations. I believe expectations are the mother of disappointment so go in expecting nothing and hope for the best. If anything, all I envisioned was a life that was different than my old one – and I was really hoping it would be a better fit. And it really is. Sure there are some unexpected things along the way and some bad days, but every life has those. The freedom of working for myself and traveling the world is unbeatable.

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

Yes. Even though I am still working full-time, I work when I want, so little things like getting up when I want and taking a break when I want – those are really critical to a life full of freedom. I also not only have the freedom to travel the world, I have the freedom to go home any time I want – to spend more time with my family, which is really important to me

Anjali noted she will never go back to that 9 to 5 kind of world.  To be successful in sustaining a traveling lifestyle, she believes one needs to have the following:

Curiosity. Authenticity. Kindness.

When asked about her favorite quote to inspire her on her journeys, Anjali shares the following:

“When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

It’s perfect and encapsulates this lifestyle completely – to find a life that’s truly a fit for you, you have to think outside the box of what everyone else tells you you should be doing. I also have a tattoo going down my ribs that says “Semper Ad Meliora” which means “always towards better things” in Latin.

You published a book as well called Quit Your Job & Travel the World:  The Complete Guide to Making Your Dream a Reality. What is the book about? 

It’s about how to live this lifestyle – or really, at the end of the day, about how to be more free. It guides people through the exact process of how to quit your job and travel the world, if that’s something you want to do. It’s chock full of resources to help guide you at every stop of your journey. 

What inspired you to write this?

I want to help people. I feel like we’re all too wrapped up in the idea of living the life that we think we should be living, not the life that we want to be living. It’s not hard to create this lifestyle, it just takes dedication and work, and anyone can do it.

How was the process like to publish a book?

It was fun! I wrote it like a banshee, working 13 hour days. Then I worked with several editors and graphic designer to make it look perfect, and I loved it.

What do you hope people will get out of the book?

I hope, at the very least, they will start to realize there are other ways they can live their lives and that they don’t need to do what people have always done or what people have always said. We’re here to design our own lives and live our own truths.

Do you have future publications that you are pursuing?

I actually just released my latest project – a travel journal just for the travel junkie! It has journaling prompts, inspirational quotes and places to jot down your own thoughts. Check out more information here.

To wrap things up, I asked Anjali the following questions. 

What do you miss the most with a traveling lifestyle?

CrossFit! Sounds crazy, but my scheduled fitness routine, along with the community and love I got from my gym, is something I miss every day.

Please describe the word FREEDOM.

Freedom means living and choosing your own adventure book – every moment of every day. Not in the evenings, not on the weekends, but EVERY moment.

Best food you’ve had on your travels?

A jackfruit taco in Vegas. I’m vegan, and I’m very easy to please – this taco was incredible!

Least favorite place you’ve been to.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The place was BEAUTIFUL – don’t get me wrong. Very gorgeous beach town! But so many people I met there just wanted to drink and drink and drink – not my vibe!

What’s your best travel tip?

Be authentic and radically honest – immediately, with everyone you meet. The only way to connect with people on the road is to be who you are and be open and accepting of who they are. The world is a beautiful place when we value each other more, and the only way to be that is to be who we are and building real connections immediately.

Thanks Anjali for sharing us your story!  You can follow Anjali via her website, The LITMO Life and Anjali Sareen and through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube & Instagram.  You can also check out her new book, “Quit Your Job & Travel The World: The Complete Guide To Making Your Dream A Reality” via Amazon. 

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

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

 

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.

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

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: 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:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

 

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.  

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: Jacob of IntroverTravels

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Truth be told, I tend to flip back and forth between the two.  I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing but being in between keeps life rather complex and interesting to say the least.  I ask you this question because for our feature on Freedompreneurs, I am ecstatic to introduce the person behind IntroverTravels.

As you may or may not know, in the world of entrepreneurship, there’s the inevitable truth that entrepreneurs must faced:

Define your niche.  

Jacob, the founder of IntroverTravels, exemplies exactly that notion.  The thing is it’s not just about creating anything unique because you must also consider the level of marketability of your idea.   So, one must think thoughtfully before deciding on a niche.  For Jacob, his company is focused on marketing tours and travels to introverts.  That’s as unique as you’ll ever get.  When I heard about his idea, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

Brown Gal Trekker Meets Jacob

I met Jacob via his travel group page on Facebook.  Meeting Jacob was one of the amazing moments I’ve had thus far since I launched Brown Gal Trekker.  For one, Jacob’s  travel company resembles my own social enterprise, Peak Explorations in a lot of ways.  Although we have differences in terms of our target audience and the manner of traveling we do, I feel the differences are easily overshadowed by the significant amount of similarities we have in terms of our end goals and purpose for our respective enterprises.  Needless to say, meeting Jacob is almost akin to holding up a mirror and seeing myself in him.  In that, I find comfort, inspiration and reassurance that my version of living life, though unconventional, is rightfully the path I should be taking.  After all, there’s Jacob who’s doing the same thing!

Once, I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Jacob and talk about our respective projects and travel blogging.  It was insightful to chat with him as he’s super knowledgeable about the marketing side of the travel business.   Jacob didn’t hesitate to share his ideas and provide sound advise from someone like me who’s a novice in the arena.  From that conversation, I gathered that Jacob is by nature a kind person who is more than willing to help others.  It appeared evident to me that he finds value in being of service to others, be it his clients or fellow entrepreneurs in the travel business world.  Being a newbie at this, I was extremely pleased to learn that there are people like Jacob in this business who welcome the idea of collaboration and supporting one another.  In exchange for receiving advise from him, I was flattered that Jacob sough my insight on blogging.  I hope I equally paid him back with some useful ideas.  If not, then perhaps one day I can contribute to his website as a guest writer which I’m sure will happen at some point in time.  Soon after that conversation, the idea of Freedompreneurs series came up and Jacob quickly came to mind as a prime candidate for this series.  I’m very delighted to share with you Jacob’s journey thus far with his enterprise, IntroverTravels.

JACOB MAREK of  IntroverTravels

Jacob Marek grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Later on, he spent‭ ‬10‭ ‬years in Minneapolis,‭ ‬Minnesota and‭ ‬5‭ ‬years in Miami,‭ ‬Forida.‭  ‬Nowadays,‭ he spends much of the year traveling and living abroad as he gains on-the-ground experience in various destinations for his business which he’ll talk to us in detail about below.  Jacob deems himself as #Entreprenomad!  That’s close enough and a good reason for me to feature him on this series.

As a true nomad, Jacob is currently preparing to spend 3 months in Cuenca,‭ ‬Ecuador and another month in Cusco,‭ ‬Peru‭!  I can only imagine how busy his life is since in addition to traveling, he is building his travel business,‭ ‬IntroverTravels,‭ ‬and his travel marketing agency,‭ ‬45‭ ‬Degrees Marketing.

Running your own travel business requires so much dedication and so I’m excited for him to share with us his experience thus far. Here’s Jacob’s take on how it’s been like for him as an entrepreneur in pursuit of freedom via a nomadic lifestyle.

You recently launched your own travel company.‭ ‬Tell us about it.

I launched IntroverTravels this past summer‭ (‬2016‭).   ‬I design‭ ‬life-changing,‭ ‬nature-inspired travel experiences for introverts‭!‬ With an emphasis on great travel photography,‭ ‬we also have a professional photographer on the sidelines of our group trips,‭ ‬taking photos of and for our guests.

What inspired you to start your company‭?‬

I was inspired to launch IntroverTravels because,‭ ‬as an avid traveler myself,‭ ‬most travel experiences were designed implicitly for extroverts.‭ ‬I wasn‭’‬t comfortable with the way group trips were organized,‭ ‬nor the rushed-pace of most travel experiences.

What are your goals for your company‭?‬

My goals for IntroverTravels,‭ ‬ultimately,‭ ‬are to help introverts re-think the small-group travel experience.‭ ‬But I‭’‬m also passionate about creating custom travel experiences for individuals‭ ‬– whether it‭’‬s singles,‭ ‬couples,‭ ‬families,‭ ‬or groups of friends.

Your company provides travels to the outdoors as well.‭ ‬Can you describe the kind of outdoor related trips that your company offers‭?‬

Sure‭! ‬All of our trips are inspired by nature‭; ‬personally,‭ ‬my favorite style of travel is the African safari‭! ‬But I‭’‬m also extremely excited to help plan trekking experiences in places like Patagonia or New Zealand,‭ ‬exploring Easter Island by bicycle,‭ ‬witnessing the aurorae in Iceland,‭ ‬or wildlife viewing in the Galapagos‭ ‬– just to name a few‭!

At Easter Island.
Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island.

What makes your company unique‭?‬

IntroverTravels is unique in that we are the first company to make ones personality type the focus in the trip.‭ ‬My style of travel is unique because I prefer to plan using a‭ ‬2:1‭ ‬ratio of relaxation and mind-blowing experience‭!‬ I also love beautiful travel photography‭ ‬– and I know many others want to have some incredible photos,‭ ‬too‭ ‬– so I include a professional photographer in all of our group trips,‭ ‬taking candid photos of our guests and stunning nature portraits.

I love the idea of having a professional photographer to take shots of places I trek or visit.  After all, the next best thing is having photographs after experiencing the place first hand.  I proceeded to ask him further about this “niche” that he has chosen and how it came about.   ‬

‬The idea actually came to me while I was on a solo hiking trip in Capitol Reef‭ ‬National Park in Southern Utah.‭ ‬I was trying to think of why this particular trip seemed so life-changing,‭ ‬and I realized that it was the combination of raw nature,‭ ‬expansive space,‭ ‬solitude,‭ ‬and moving at a comfortable pace with enough vigorous hiking and relaxing appreciation of solitude.‭ ‬So the idea was born to incorporate those elements into the trips that I plan.

As you can see, Jacob shares the same passion in terms of his love for nature and hiking.  He’s confessed to being a hiker as well.

Are you a hiker yourself‭?‬

Yes‭! ‬I love to go on moderate to moderately-difficult day hikes.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date‭?

Aside from the trip mentioned above to Capitol Reef,‭ ‬my most memorable hiking experience was in Grand Teton National Park.‭ ‬Hiking is one of my favorite activities to do with my brother,‭ ‬who is an even bigger nature nerd than me‭! ‬We decided to hike up to‭ ‬10,000‭ ‬feet on the Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail.‭ ‬When we reached the top,‭ ‬we were just a few hundred yards from a glacier‭ (‬in late-Summer‭) ‬and got that vertigo-induced rush of adrenaline.‭ ‬When we came across a quail,‭ ‬sitting silently in a bush,‭ ‬we stopped for a few minutes‭ ‬– in absolute silence‭ ‬– appreciating the cold,‭ ‬crisp air and the sound of nothing but wind blowing between the granite peaks.‭ ‬Transcendent‭!

What do you like the most about hiking‭?‬

My favorite part of hiking is the feeling of‭ ‬connection to nature.‭ ‬I enjoy taking the time to actually experience nature‭ ‬– whether it‭’‬s smelling the juniper or listening to a chorus of birds or dipping my feet in a cold mountain creek.‭ ‬As Oscar Wilde once wrote,‭ “‬It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much,‭ ‬and live with her too little.‭”

So, I was curious to ask Jacob one thing – whether he enjoys hiking solo or with others more.  After all, as an introvert, the idea of a group outing can be tricky.   Here’s his response:

It depends‭; ‬I would say,‭ ‬counterintuitively as an introvert,‭ ‬that I enjoy hiking with others more.‭ ‬First,‭ ‬it‭’‬s a safety issue‭ ‬– I prefer to have‭ ‬someone with me should something go wrong.‭ ‬But I also enjoy experiencing a life-changing hike with someone else who can comprehend the enormity of what we just hiked.‭ ‬That said,‭ ‬I do enjoy a solo hike very much as a way to escape the normal busy-ness of the Real World and clear my mind for deeper thinking.

What are some lessons you‭’‬ve learned from hiking‭?‬

I‭’‬ve learned that I‭’‬m good at decision-making and that when you remove the stimuli of our daily lives in the city‭ ‬– and get in the middle of nowhere‭ ‬– your brain can have the space to think of your life,‭ ‬and where you fit in,‭ ‬in a very meaningful way.

At Great Smoky Mountains.

What advise would you give to those new to hiking‭?‬

I would encourage people to do their research before hiking‭; ‬always have a plan of where you‭’‬ll be hiking,‭ ‬bring along the right supplies‭ (‬shoes,‭ ‬bear spray,‭ ‬rain gear,‭ ‬etc.‭) ‬and to always bring more water than you think you‭’‬ll need‭!

Jacob shares with us some of his favorite hiking photos.

Zion Observation Point

Devil’s Tower Prayer Bundle

Machu Picchu via Inca Trail

What treks/trips do you have on your bucket list‭?‬

I have so many hikes on my to-do list‭! ‬Near the top,‭ ‬I would list Glacier National Park,‭ ‬New Zealand,‭ ‬and several different areas in Patagonia.

What would you say are some of the challenges that arise as an introvert when you‭’‬re traveling or trekking?

The biggest problem I come across as an introvert hiker is the issue of crowds.‭ ‬Especially at the most popular national parks,‭ ‬some trails can be incredibly crowded.‭ ‬To avoid this,‭ ‬I try to travel during the shoulder season‭ (‬I typically avoid the low season if the weather is particularly inclement‭) ‬as well as hike more difficult trails.‭ ‬Typically,‭ ‬the higher the difficulty,‭ ‬the fewer people attempt the trail.

In that respect, I wouldn’t advise Jacob to hit the trails in China’s  National Parks. Personally, when I ventured there solo I was quite overwhelmed by the massive size of the crowds.  I think that’s when I realized how introverted I can be.  

At Yellowstone’s Artist Point.

On that note, I moved on to ask Jacob about his pursuit towards this dream of living a nomadic life.  You obviously veered away from the regular‭ ‬9‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬job.‭ ‬Can you describe the process that led you to have the lifestyle you now have‭?

I‭’‬ve always had the motivation to have my own business‭ ‬and escape Corporate America.‭ ‬After a few years in financial marketing,‭ ‬and several years in travel and tourism marketing before that,‭ ‬I knew that I needed to open my own business.‭ ‬In order to live more affordably and build my business,‭ ‬I left Miami in order to travel throughout the year building my business.‭ ‬Traveling abroad works so well because it is more affordable than living in an expensive city like Miami and it allows me to gain on-the-ground experience in destinations to better sell them to‭ ‬my clients‭!‬

I have heard plenty from travelers about Jacob’s notion on living cheaply abroad.  There’s certainly truth to that.  If research is done properly, one can execute such a cheaper kind of lifestyle successfully, which leads me to ask Jacob as to his definition of “freedom.”

For me,‭ ‬freedom is the ability to make the choices that make me the happiest and that help me achieve my own goals.‭ ‬I love that technology now allows so many of us to build our businesses and pursue our passions online and earn a living from anywhere in the world‭ (‬with wifi‭!)‬.

At Zion National Park.

‬How do you see yourself accomplishing your own definition of freedom as you noted above‭?‬

I see myself building IntroverTravels,‭ ‬at least for the first few years,‭ ‬while on the road traveling to various destinations.‭

What advise would you give to someone who is thinking about leaving their‭ ‬9‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬job to pursue their passion‭?‬

I would say to build up a nest egg and have realistic expectations‭; ‬most businesses take at least a few years to get off the ground to a point of self-sustaining profitability,‭ ‬so be sure to plan for your cash flow.‭ ‬But once you‭’‬ve done that‭ ‬– just do it‭!‬ As they say,‭ “‬If you take the leap,‭ ‬you‭’‬ll learn to fly.‭”‬

As an end note, I asked Jacob to name 3‭ ‬things that are the most important in terms of pursuing one’s dreams.‭

‬For me,‭ ‬the most important things are courage,‭ ‬passion,‭ ‬and persistence.

I hope Jacob’s insights have helped you get a better sense of how an alternate world in which one chooses to live an unconventional life looks like.  We all have various ways of defining freedom in our lives.  There’s no one right way to define and live it.  For Jacob, it’s rather clear which way he needs to go by following that deepest desire of his to live a life on the road while sharing the same passion with others through his company.  I admire his audacity to take that leap as I know for a fact it is one of the most intimidating steps one can ever take in life.  After all, jumping into the abyss of a world full of uncertainties and unknowns to leave a life that’s so familiar and stable is almost a deliberate way of challenging ourselves to embrace the authentic version of who we are.  It’s not a small feat. No, not at all.

To follow Jacob’s travels and know more about his current and future projects, see IntroverTravels .  You can also follow him via Instagram, Facebook page and Facebook group page.

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

If you enjoyed this post, then read more about the Inca Trail and Easter Island.

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s freezing cold!

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

It’s very high right from the start

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

It’s remote

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

It’s easy to get lost

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

It’s roughing it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Flavio H.



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

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

Follow Brown Gal Trekker via:

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest