It’s Official: I’m a Speaker at the Peak’s Foundation Women’s Leadership and Adventure Summit

Throughout my personal journey as female adventurer, there have been many moments of both empowerment and doubt. Am I really putting myself out there? Is my story something people really want to hear? Does this one-woman trek through life and the outdoors truly matter? Sometimes, the questioning is relentless – but every once in a while, there comes a moment that confirms to me that yes, it’s all worth it.

I am beyond proud to announce that I was asked by the Peaks Foundation to be a speaker at their annual Women’s Leadership and Adventure Summit conference in Golden, CO on July 10-13th!

The WLAS ’14 event is an incredible weekend designed to bring 50 women together for three days of personally challenging adventure activities, engaging speaking sessions from 9 successful outdoor women, and building inspired connections with fellow females who seek adventures beyond four walls. There will be yoga in the mornings, cocktails in the evenings, and a jam-packed schedule that offers women a chance to experience their choice of climbing, trekking, fly-fishing, paddle-boarding, slacklining, and more. Womens summit-usa-print

My 45-minute speaking session has been dubbed The Year of The Van: Roadside Lessons on Personal Empowerment & Building a One-Woman Brand. I have so much work ahead to transform my presentation into a tool to motivate women to find their own adventure (both on the road and through social media), but here’s a quick overview: “Spending 365 days living in a van and traveling across the country on a climbing trip offers more than just insights on adventure – it gives us the experiences and tools necessary to inspire ourselves and others to reach higher towards success in all aspects of life.

Applications have officially opened for WLAS ’14, and I would love to see some of my readers at the event. Women are invited to apply now through June 1st, but only 50 women will be accepted to the summit – so APPLY NOW!

Miami to Denver in 4 Days: Thoughts on Solo Adventure and New Beginnings

If living in a van for a year taught me anything, it’s how to adapt to change. Since the beginning of March, I’ve been rolling with life’s punches (a few of which were way more painful than I’d like to admit), and it’s brought me here: to my new life in Colorado.

But I digress.

First, there was Florida. Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of my transition from journeying with a partner for four years to adventuring as a single woman was the process of packing. Folks, it was just plain awkward at times – and incredibly stressful. The moment all my belongings and gear were stuffed into boxes, I jetted south (again, I had literally just returned to Tallahassee from Miami when sh*t hit the fan) for some spiritual rest in Miami. I soaked up one final week of empanada feasting, dog beach romping, and family festivities before making my final departure from the sunshine state.Soaking up the sun at the Virginia Key dog beach in Miami, FL.My two favorite pups in the whole world, Rusty and Amble.

I made the 2,106 mile road trip from Miami to Denver in four short days – but during those 96 hours, I learned a lifetime of lessons. I spent a lot of time making sacrifices – small ones, like not listening to the (admittedly terrible) music I love to jam to while driving; and big ones, like being with someone who doesn’t ever want to get married. When Niko ended things, he was really just setting me free. And I’m really grateful for that.

Suddenly, I found myself with an abundance of time and choices. Buy two new pairs of boots, just because? Sure. Sushi for dinner three nights in a row? Why not. I had this epiphany moment one morning when I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen and had this nagging feeling like I was supposed to be doing something or checking in with someone – and then it hit me: It’s just me now. Every choice, feeling, and action is my own decision to make. I can do whatever and be whoever I want.

I feel liberated. As Amble and I crossed over one of my favorite American landmarks, the Mississippi River, on our drive out to Colorado, I rolled down the windows and let out a little victory whoop. I was exactly where I wanted to be in that very moment. Crossing the mighty Mississippi River on my drive to Colorado.

My friend Mike said something to me this week that really resonated with me. He told me, “You said you were going to move to Colorado and you went out and did it. You wanted to live in a van, you did that too.” I think I put out a perception that I truly just do what I want and make my all of ambitions a reality – which wasn’t always true, but now it will be.

This year, I’m going to focus on myself. I’m going to become a better adventurer, a healthier woman, and a doer. And what I do won’t be for anyone but myself.

But before I get all me, me, me – I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to everyone who lent me their ears, hearts, and storage space these past few weeks. I wouldn’t be having this empowered personal moment without all of the support and love I’ve recieved. Even when you’re excited about being alone, it’s nice to know you never have to feel lonely.

PS: Consider this the official end of my little social media/writing hiatus. It was wonderful to take a break and reconnect with myself and really do some deep soul-searching – but I’m ready to hop back on the wagon and get these wheels turning.

Fresh Morning Monday: Florida Farewells, Adventures in Oil Pulling, and San Diego with Honda!

Who me? Back in Miami, again? After rolling with the punches during a very quick period of life changes, I’ve found myself tanning on the patio at my childhood home in Miami during my last week in Florida for the foreseeable future. As eager as I am to get out of this flat state and dive into the world of mountains and boulder fields, it has been great to relax and rejuvenate down here.

What makes Miami so wonderful? Here’s a peek:

photo4 photo3photo1

In a nutshell, my week is going to be full of playing in my backyard with Amble and Rusty, feasting on my mama’s outrageous homemade meals (crab legs, what!), exploring by the sea, and refreshing my spirit before my road trip from Florida to Colorado begins. Life is good, folks.

While I’ve been down here, I finally went to Costco and bought a giant tub of organic, cold-pressed coconut oil – and totally got lured into trying the whole oil pulling thing. What is oil pulling? It’s basically an old-school method of detoxifying and promoting oral health by swishing some coconut oil in your mouth for 2o minutes every day. I know a few ladies and gentlemen who are big fans of it, but I’m waiting at least two weeks before I decide if I think it’s worth it or not. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone else who has tried it!

Continuing with my new quest to be healthier and spend more time focusing on my body and wellbeing (because hey, single life has some perks – like all the time in the world to proritize you), I was stoked to arrive in Miami to a package from Skinourishment waiting on my bed. There were were a few great new products in the box that I can’t wait to review for y’all – starting with a big head-to-head-to-head climbing salve review I’ve been putting together for a few months. Stay tuned for more from Joshua Tree Organics, Giddy, and ClimbOn!

From Miami to Tallahassee and all the way to Denver, March is bringing a lot of travel and adventure my way – but the journey won’t stop once I arrive in Colorado. I’m really excited to share with y’all that at the end of March, Honda is flying me out to San Diego to test drive the new 2015 Fit! As someone who has experienced long cross-country road trips driving everything from Honda Pilots and Scion tCs to last year’s epic Dodge Sprinter, I know that it takes a special car to be an adventure-worthy vehicle. Can’t wait to share my thoughts on the 2015 Honda Fit, and put it to the road warrior test down in Southern California!

Do you have any big adventures on your March agenda?
Has anyone else ever tried oil-pulling?
And most importantly: Who wants to play with me in Miami?!

A Little Twist in Life’s Plot: I’m Moving to Denver (Like, Now!)

I’ve been teetering on the fence of whether or not this is something I really wanted to write publicly about – but after being bombarded with questions and messages and phone calls (y’all are the best!), I figured I really just needed to clear the air and let the cat out of the bag for good. Folks, I’m moving to Denver – like, within a few weeks.

I'm moving - to Denver, Colorado!
We can all agree that relocating to Colorado is probably the best decision I’ve made all year, and it’s going to open up a whole new world of adventure. I’m already planning coffee shop writing mornings at Cafe Europa, hiking my first 14-er in the summer, napping on the grass at Wash Park with Amble, and spending every weekend playing in the mountains. This new chapter in life surely won’t disappoint - and my sister is moving to Denver in August!

Here’s the band-aid that needs to get ripped off: all this joyful anticipation and excitement comes with a dash of sadness. After a year of traveling together, living in a van, and sharing a life of adventure, Niko and I have ended our four-year journey together. It was unexpected (and not my idea), but it is ultimately going to be really positive for both of us. He is such a wonderful person, and the best adventure companion I could have ever asked for – but it’s time for us to trek forth onto our own separate paths.

So there it is. There’s the reason I totally failed us all with the relaunch of the blog, why I’ve been kind of absent from the social media scene, and why I’ll continue to be a little off for the next few weeks. I considered taking a formal hiatus from the blog until I settle into life in Denver – but instead, I’m trusting y’all to forgive me if I just don’t post for a week or so. I’ll keep you posted, and can’t wait to share my new life in Colorado with everyone!

PS: Can I get a collective “UGH!” at the idea of packing everything I own and moving again after I just finished moving into our house in Tallahassee! So not fun.

Something Wicked (Awesome) This Way Comes to The Morning Fresh…

There are a lot of things that can be said about doors opening, new chapters being written, exploring new horizons, and all that metaphorical jazz about change. It’s part of an ever-ocurring evolution that all adventurers experience in their own capacities – and for me, the time has come. For what, you ask?

The Morning Fresh is getting spruced up + refreshed, and relaunching on March 3rd!The Morning Fresh is gettin' fresh on March 3rd - stay tuned!

Don’t worry, there won’t be any offensively radical changes that will force you to relearn how to navigate the site website, but I think y’all are going to really like what’s coming in these next few weeks. I’ve had so many reader requests for more content, so get ready for more healthy homemade recipes, weekly adventure stories and photo essays, lady dirtbag-approved gear reviews, and even a little training for climbers thrown into the mix.

Here are some of the things to look forward to: a sweet new logo, easier to navigate content, a fresh and consistent aesthetic, and a steady flow of ways to find inspiration for adventure and everyday life. I’m working with a fantastic graphic designer/all-around-crafty-queen/lovely old friend, Jania from The Secret Art Den – and I can’t wait to share her creations!

For more teasers and updates, be sure to follow me on
Instagram + Twitter + Facebook!

Happy 97th birthday, National Parks – and welcome to the world, Parks Folio!

Today is the 97th anniversary of the creation of America’s beloved National Parks system, which means three things: all National Parks are offering free admission today, we have a great excuse to eat cake in its honor, and Trail Sherpa is officially launching its newest project, Parks Folio!

Visiting as many National Parks as possible has been a huge priority for my yearlong adventure, and as my tick list grows larger, so does my appreciation for these slices of natural wonderland. The Trail Sherpa crew shares my love for National Parks, which began with the Trail Sherpa National Parks Series, a series of photos (and stories) curated by Dave Creech. The project sparked an outpouring of images, stories, and experiences that readers wanted to share with Dave and Tim Miner (the brains behind Trail Sherpa), so the fellas got to work creating a digital space where adventurers could come together to create a collaborative National Parks experience.

And thus, Parks Folio was born. Parksfolio

The site invites users to submit their best National Parks photos, and share the story behind the image. It’s an incredible venue for folks to experience National Parks through the adventures of others. You can get an eyeful of a bighorn sheep in Yellowstone through Tim Miner’s close-up shot, rediscover the Great Smokey Mountains with Val Joiner, imagine solitude at Zion through Terry Tyson’s account at Emerald Pools, and more. I love this project because while it was under-wraps for a good chunk of summer while a solid database of content was harvested, it’s going to continue to grow as adventurers get outside and collect new photographs and stories.

I have to send some extra love to Dave and Tim for their dedication to this project. They are some of the hardest working people I have ever met, and are true warriors fighting the good fight to inspire folks to get outside. Cheers to you two!

Want to get involved? Contribute to Parks Folio today!
You can also connect with Parks Folio on Facebook and Twitter.

Defying numbers: Your salary doesn’t define your happiness

An old post from the Wall Street Journal has resurfaced and infected my social media community this week: it’s called “What Salary Buys Happiness in Your City?– and it’s a load of crock.

The piece is accompanied by a chart listing all the major metropolitan areas in the United States, with a column called “Happiness Threshold” that claims to define the amount of money you need to make in order to achieve satisfaction in your life. I scanned through the numbers, and saw that my old city of residence, Tallahassee, required me to make $75,000 in order to be happy. Last I checked, I only made about $18,000 the last year I lived there – and I was happy as a clam (with the obvious exception of a lack of nearby climbing).happinessthreshold

It infuriates me to see my peers devouring this notion that a salary buys happiness. There is no denying that money enables us to invest in the tools required to facilitate happiness, but it is impossible to quantify one’s ability to achieve personal satisfaction based solely upon their salary.

Perhaps what this article really identifies is a much larger societal issue: are Americans judging their happiness based upon the ability to acquire material objects, superficial status symbols, and frivolous things that bear no marker for true happiness? Do I need to make $75,000 so I can have things that give me the appearance of achieving maximum happiness – even if my true levels of happiness may be subpar? Is this Wall Street Journal article (and society at large) confusing the satisfaction of affording luxuries with the true feeling of happiness?

In 2013, I have made about $300 total – and that’s probably exaggerating it a bit. Even with all of my savings, my bank accounts peaked out at less than $10,000 this year – and I have never been happier in my life.

One of the happiest people I have ever met is a climber I met in Joe’s Valley. His spirit is so infectious that I’ve since climbed and camped with him in Indian Creek and Squamish. Jeremy’s life plan is simple: He works hard for a few months each year to afford a lifestyle that grants him experiences most people engage in for a weekend or two. His life is what most folks dream of while they slave away in a cubicle. He travels where he pleases, climbs whatever moves him to action, and shamelessly indulges in the finer things in life – like a luxurious box of 40 Tim-Bits. He understands that no salary can equate to happiness.

Happiness is a state of being you create for yourself – it isn’t an emotion accompanied by a price tag.
You don’t buy happiness; you make it.

When is the last time you were sublime in happiness, created by an experience that wasn’t attached to monetary costs? What is the last joy that you didn’t buy?

Money is an undeniable necessity in this culture – it was vital in acquiring the van I live in – but I think that rather than succumbing to the call of sacrificing your life for a paycheck, we ought to start thinking more about balance. We aren’t all cut out for the vagabonding lifestyle that Jeremy enjoys, but consideration needs to be made for whether your life’s scales are weighted too heavily towards making money to fill a void where happiness should naturally occur. Would cutting back on superficial material indulgences allow you to spend less time working and more time living? Would a smaller salary actually lead to an increase in happiness?

Your salary is not a measure of your happiness, and it certainly can’t buy you satisfaction to replace those moments you should be experiencing instead of sitting in an office. Then again, I can’t deny how badly I wish I had enough money to buy myself a big old wooden desk with a leather chair to sit and write at – but still, it wouldn’t take $75,000 to afford the things I “need” to be happy, not even close.

Redefining digital photography with the Lumia 1020 at Nokia’s #ZoomReinvented press event in NYC

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the warm sand at Lost Rocks beach in California when I received an unexpected e-mail: Nokia wanted to fly me out to New York City to attend the press event unveiling their newest technology. I immediately accepted, but frankly, wasn’t sure why Nokia would reach out to me of all people. How does living in a van on a yearlong climbing trip relate to technology and phones?

Heidi Henry and I getting ready for the big Nokia press event announcing the Lumia 1020.On Wednesday morning, I packed my bags, hopped on a plane to New York City, and quickly found out why Nokia had chosen me: I was part of a small group of influential bloggers and social media personalities with adventurous lifestyles that would be excellent test-subjects for Nokia’s latest innovation (don’t worry, we’ll get there). We checked into the hipster Hudson Hotel, got cozy over cocktails overlooking Times Square, and prepared for the next day’s big press event.

I had done some digging about the rumors surrounding Nokia’s high-anticipated announcement, and the number 41 kept popping up – as in 41 million megapixels. As the press conference began, it was quickly unveiled that Nokia has created something incredible: the Lumia 1020 – a 41 megapixel camera smartphone, that fits in your pocket, offers a creative studio to instantly edit photos, allows you to zoom like never before (and then zoom back out even after you’ve snapped a close-up shot), and much more. I was floored by a video taken by one of the Nokia folks, who is a beekeeper. The video she took on the Lumia 1020 shows impeccable details like pollen stuck to a bee’s furry legs.

Stephen Elop announcing the new Lumia 1020 camera phone from Nokia.

Suddenly, it all made sense. This event was relevant to me, a traveling climber, because it was a tool that could revolutionize my experience documenting and sharing my adventures. The Lumia 1020 will virtually eliminate my need to lug my bulky Nikon DSLR up approaches to climbing areas. I’ll no longer spend weeks toiling over photo collections agonizing over the thought of editing them – I can quickly create the perfect photo as soon as I snap it, then instantly share it with the world. The process, machinery, and experience of photography and video is about to go through some very, very big changes. My photography and social media are no longer separated by different equipment – it’s all compacted into one sleek device.

Introducing the Lumia 1020 from Nokia.Photographers at the event hailed this as a game-changer for the world of professional vs. amateur photography, some even claiming that camera companies are about to have a big problem on their hands. The Lumia 1020 is closing the gap between professionals armed with expensive equipment and novice photo-takers – this is the beginning of a revolution.

One photographer I met on the trip, Jeremy Cowart, tweeted this: “Big camera companies should be very afraid of this Lumia 1020. Or else they better turn their cameras into phones.”

To celebrate this enormous announcement, Nokia threw a #ZoomParty, complete with live music – and party we did. You all know how loyal and smitten I have always been with iPhones, but by the end of the evening, I found myself chatting with Nokia’s US President, Chris Weber, and told him, “Damn you, I think you may have just converted me.” And I meant it.

At the #ZoomParty celebrating the Lumia 1020 with Heidi Henry, Kim Miller, and Chris Weber, President of Nokia US.

We haven’t been hooked up with the Lumia 1020 just yet, but as soon as I get my hands on it, I’ll be putting it straight to the test. From awkwardly-lit climbing portraits to snapshots of meals made over the campfire, I intend of testing this device to the fullest. It might just become an adventurer’s must-have smart phone, but I can’t make any promises until I put it through the ringer – so you’ll all have to stay tuned.

I can’t resist teasing you with a big of the action, so here’s a shot displayed at the big press event. This beautiful photo was taken with the Lumia 1020 and blown up to an impressive size – all while maintaining a pristine image quality that screams “professional camera” rather than “pocket-sized phone.” Checking out all the art created with the Lumia 1020 was astounding. Check it out:

A photograph taken with the Lumia 1020 camera phone from Nokia.

I do believe I owe a huge ‘thank you’ to Jason Harris and the entire Nokia social team for flying me out to New York, spoiling me in a hip hotel, running all over New York City for food at odd hours, and welcoming the travel blogger community into the world of technology with open arms and a clever plan to use our social influence to help demonstrate the power of the Lumia 1020. Thank you, thank you! 

Come chat adventure travel (and win a great prize) with tonight’s debut of #ATQA on Twitter!

I’ve been hyped about the mysterious new #ATQA chat for weeks, and the big launch day is finally upon us – but..

What is #ATQA?

#ATQA is the newest chat to hit the Twittersphere. It’s all about adventure travel, from overland exploration and outdoor hikes to camping, climbing, road trips, and everything in between. Basically, if you’re my kind of person, this is your kind of chat! I’m co-hosting the chat alongside J. Brandon, and our great discussion is sponsored by Overland Expo.

I can’t spoil the fun and reveal our exciting questions for tonight’s chat, but I can tell you this: we’ll be spending the afternoon talking about driving through beautiful landscapes, sleeping under the stars, exploring new cultures, our favorite adventure activities, and more.

So what’s in it for you?

Besides enjoying a great chat and meeting some new adventurous friends, we’re giving away a great prize to one lucky participant. Our phenomenal sponsors at Overland Expo will be sponsoring the chat leading up to their big event May 18-20 in Flagstaff, AZ. They’re hosting a weekend-long convention and celebration of all things outdoor travel. And we want to send you there!

We’ll be giving away a great day pass to the Overland Expo event!

For your chance to win, all you have to do is tweet us your best, most creative, witty, and kind thoughts during the chat. Make sure you’re also following @ATQandA, and we’ll announce our winner at the end of the chat.

If you have any questions about the chat, feel free to leave a comment, shoot me a tweet @themorningfresh, or send me an email at

I’ll see everyone tonight!

Watch ‘Sketchy’ Andy Lewis bring slack-lining to the mainstream during the Superbowl halftime show

I admit it, I totally watched the Superbowl. Originally, I was in it for the mango habañero hot wings, tequila shots, and my homemade guacamole – but then, the halftime show came on and I was riveted by an unexpected sight:

Sketchy Andy slacklined with Madonna during the halftime show?!

Image courtesy of the International Business Times.

While his feminine toga get-up and golden jewelry made me giggle a bit, I was stoked to see slacklining highlighted during such a huge national event. Along with climbing, this unique sport has been gaining recognition as folks begin to embrace the thrill and adventure of outdoor extreme sports. Andy’s performance was one of the most raved about portions of the halftime show – and let’s face it, with that sweet back-flip dismount, Sketchy Andy Lewis rocketed himself into immortality.

Were you too busy crushin’ granite or daydreaming about faraway crags to catch Andy Lewis slacklining during the Superbowl? Check out the video of the entire halftime show – naturally, I’d suggest you do yourself a favor and skip to the 4:00 mark to watch Sketchy Andy in all his splendor.

Pretty sweet gig, dude. Plus, according to the Sender Films blog, Andy is slated to tag along on Madonna’s latest tour with over 100 additionally booked performances. While I struggle with the idea of climbing and slacklining becoming more mainstream, it is undeniably badass to see such a humble sport highlighted during a major event like the Superbowl. Hats off to you, Sketchy Andy!

PS: To be fair to his true style, it must be know that Andy Lewis doesn’t always don a silky toga and golden necklace – check out this video of Sketchy Andy high-lining in the desert, base jumping off cliffs, and generally being the ultimate redheaded badass.