A huge part of travel for me is the people I meet and the friends I make in the places I get to experience. Some of, well most of my best friends are people I have met while living overseas or travelling and the number one thing we have in common is that we get it. Get what? The whole travel life. The coming and going frequently, the moving towns often and regularly. The fact that we will rarely if ever live in the same place for long. And the feeling of saying goodbye/reuniting with each other. Soo when I meet people who share this passion and understanding I immediately want to know more about them and where their adventures have taken them. I find myself drawn to these sorts of people even if I've never even met them in real life, enter Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. The whole wide World of blogging has given me the opportunity to (virtually) meet people I would never have if it wasn't for this passion project I have.
Where to even start with this month's feature?! Emily of Brazen Backpacker is an absolute badass! Not only does she conquer every mountain (literal and figurative) she encounters but she is a beacon of inspiration for all those who want to get out and explore. Whether she's hiking in her own backyard, exploring the beautiful back country in Iceland or trekking the trails of Nepal she is always sharing her story. Her words have graced the pages of magazines, the online world of her blog, a few podcasts and so much more. To hear more from this Wandering storyteller scroll down for Novembers WanderWomanWednesday!
Alright girl, tell all these wanderers about yourself…
First of all, thanks so much for having me! I love this series you’re doing.
I’m Emily Pennington, a writer, adventurer, backpacker, and soon to be van-lifer hailing from Los Angeles, California. I’m stoked to have written for Outside Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, The Outbound, Outdoor Project, Territory Supply, and many others as I travel around this weird, blue marble called earth.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I hate the sensation of falling! While cliffs-edge trails and steep snow climbs may feel like no problem for me, I still can’t seem to bring myself to skydive or bungee jump!
Did you always want to travel/what made you start?
Well, my mom is from Sweden, and I’m an only child, so I was blessed with the gift of travel from a young age. She threw me on my first airplane at three weeks old to visit my relatives up north, and I haven’t stopped exploring since! Growing up, even when we were strapped for cash, my mom always made sure to save enough money to go on one big adventure each year, which took me all over – Amsterdam, London, Hawaii, Paris, and even the Canary Islands as a small girl.
How do you decide where to travel to?
Part Instagram, part magazine ogling, part personal recommendations.
In general, it all starts with a killer photo of some exotic locale that makes my mind shout, “I want to go THERE!” I start researching, search around to see if there are trails or camping options in the area, and begin planning the adventure.
What is your travel style?
Oh man, I wish I could be one of those breezy, fly by the seat of your pants travellers, but I’m far too type-A! My travel style is pretty darn planned out. I love research, and I’ll often book a plane ticket 6 months in advance to save money. Then, I map out a big list of which cities I want to hit on which days. I may not have an hour-by-hour schedule, but I’ll generally have a gaggle of sites I’d like to see in each place.
Top 3 bucket list places you’d love to visit?
New Zealand, Bhutan, and Switzerland.
I’d love to do trekking and glacier travel in NZ, tour the mountain monasteries of Bhutan, and spend two weeks walking the Haute Route in the Swiss Alps.
You’re quite a storyteller and fantastic writer, is this something you have always had a passion for?
I’ve career-jumped a lot in the past 10 years, from actor to aerialist to writer, but storytelling has always been at the heart of what I do. I’m addicted to the notion that our shared catharsis is ultimately what connects us and makes us human.
What is something you wish you could share with your pre-travel life self?
Learn how to slow down! Life is about savouring the sweet moments as much as charging towards your goals.
Best & worst travel moment?
Best? The hike into Chame on the Annapurna Circuit. I had this completely magical moment where I was listening to Krishna Das on my headphones, strolling along the bank of a river, and passing through tiny villages full of small puppies, friendly locals, and cute toddlers. I looked up and to my right, and there were toothy, high Himalayan peaks all around me. It was one of those seemingly insignificant seconds that reminds you how blissful it is to be alive.
Worst? Hands down, breaking up with my boyfriend in the middle of a 72-mile thruhike deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Try huffing a 40-pound pack up the back of Mt. Whitney while sick, on your period, and sobbing about your relationship’s impending doom. I gave the full story on a podcast called HumaNature a while back. It’s an accomplishment I hope never to repeat.
Tips for anyone who hasn’t done much hiking before but wants to get into it?
Don’t be afraid to jump into random meet-ups in your hometown! The hiking community is generally very friendly, and most groups will specify how difficult the treks will be. Also, outdoor stores like REI and Adventure16 often host classes to learn wilderness skills and first aid, all of which are fantastic resources for new hikers. Lastly, I did a 4-part series on my website (www.brazenbackpacker.com) called “The Basics of Backpacking” that breaks down all that need-to-know info.
Do you think social media has changed travel, and if so, how has it changed?
It 100% has. Even in just the last few years, you can see how apps like Instagram have dramatically altered the way we interact with the outdoors and travel hot spots. Go to Yosemite, and you’ll be shoving your way past throngs of tourists trying to get a selfie at Glacier Point, but hike just 3-4 miles out of the valley, and you’ll find yourself alone with the trees. I think the number one way we can combat this phenomenon is to leave space to explore a random trail or to ask a local for their recommendation. Some of the best meals I’ve had and most spectacular views have been the ones I didn’t plan for.
Famous last words for all the wanderers out there...
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’ll help you in the default world just as much as when you travel.
To find out where Emily is off to next, where she has been and just what amazing story she has to tell be sure to click on her social below and give her a follow!