Rule number one of backpacking around the world: don’t bring too much stuff. Much easier said than done when you’re faced with leaving a hard-won closet behind! When my husband, Jeff, and I decided to quit our jobs with the goal of not only traveling around the world, but trekking around the world, rule number one was almost immediately broken.
We were carrying enough clothing and equipment to hike and camp in both heat and cold in addition to all of our other necessities for an entire year of traveling. Sleeping bag, Thermarest (camping air mattress), tent, a stove, layers of hiking clothing, gloves, the list goes on. I somehow managed to only bring along one pair of jeans!
However, all those items add up to the opportunity to see amazing places around the world. So far I have trekked in Zion National Park and climbed Mt. Whitney in the United States, hiked to Machu Picchu in Peru, seen Monte Fitz Roy in Argentina, completed the circuit trail through Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, and witnessed some of New Zealand’s best multi-day hikes.
I wasn’t always ready or willing to quit my job, to leave everything behind, and take on physical challenges abroad. Growing up in the suburban south outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, I was very sheltered: my life was a small circle of influence consisting of home and school. Not only that, but I wasn’t very daring. I quit gymnastics because I was too terrified to complete a forward roll on the balance beam! The coach let my mom down easily about my lack of a future in the sport. When my little sister climbed shelves in the grocery store, I took the opportunity to tattle on her. And P.E. class became an exercise in avoiding exercise. Running cross country was my only sport – no balls or physical contact! – and that was more than enough “outdoors” time for me for many years.
When I turned 26 though I decided that I needed a challenge. I needed to shake up the rhythm of my life in urban Philadelphia where I had lived for four years after college graduation. I decided to push my own boundaries and do something that I had read so much about, and in fact, owned an entire bookshelf about, but always said, “It’s not for me.” I needed to stop being an armchair traveler, and just do it.
So, in May of 2012, I climbed and summited Mt. Rainier in Washington state, a glaciated mountain that towers over Seattle at more than 14,000 feet. Standing on top of Mt. Rainier, my guide explained, “I like to climb to see what I can see from the top.” That’s become my motto, and my guideline.
Unfortunately, it’s not a sentiment I hear too often from women. We’re getting bolder and traveling, taking on new roles in companies and politics, but we still trail men in exploring the farthest regions of the earth. I believe that women can and should be the world’s next great adventurers and explorers. More than anything else, I know my future lies in supporting women to explore our world.
For now, my main goal now is to take on more challenges in the mountains. But before you can climb, you have to walk. So walking I am: starting in the steppe lands of Patagonia, I’m planning on traveling to Australia and Vietnam. It’s an epic journey, but hopefully only the beginning of great adventures to come in the mountains.