Chapter 1 – Alaska
I was born and raised on Denai’ina Athabascan land in Chugiak / Eagle River, Alaska, where I lived for 26 years.
My childhood is 100% stereotypical of what you’d imagine growing up in small-town Alaska is like. You know, like walking to school through the woods and cautiously avoiding the family of moose blocking my path. Or, having my dad hook up a sled to his actual body (yes, like a sled dog) and cross country skiing to the supermarket with my sister and me in town because our car was buried in snow. When my mom said to be home before dark, the long summer nights gave us the free pass to stay out all night. We spent our time as a family outdoors, camping, fishing, hiking, and driving to the lower-48 to visit national parks.
During my childhood, I was raised with an inherent sense of practical sustainability before I knew what that was. I mean, it doesn’t get more sustainable than eating roadkill moose every day for an entire winter – these practices were just part of daily life.
Chapter 2 – Leaving Home and Losing Myself
I worked as an Alaska tour guide for some time during university. Then, after completing a BA in Journalism and Public Communication from the University of Alaska, my three best girlfriends and I packed backpacks and headed to Europe for a backpacking trip summer of 2010.
Everyone has a story about how their first trip changed them, but let me tell you, coming from a small town in Alaska and seeing different approaches to life from cultures around the world was, for lack of a better word, eye-opening. During that trip, I started a personal WordPress blog where I word vomited all my mishaps and adventures. It would be the first of many blogs I created for my travels, including one for solo backpacking in Brazil, backpacking SE Asia, and many more.
When I returned from Europe, I knew I was too big for my hometown, but I never found the courage to leave. Then, during the 2008 economic downturn, I struggled to find work in Alaska, I was losing friends to drugs and violence, and I knew I needed to start somewhere fresh.
So, I packed everything I could into my Subaru and drove to Las Vegas to move in with one of my best friends and to work at a magazine. Thus began a very brief era of what I considered total freedom. I lost many sustainable practices from home and became lost in selfish indulgence. Looking back, I needed those two years to understand what kind of adult I wanted to become, but my days were full of plastic and mass consumerism. I had to get a second job in corporate management to get health insurance, and I was working 50+ hours a week and still squeezing in time for a robust social life. I was skating on thin ice.
I launched my official public travel blog during this time, but it was a hot mess. I never had time to invest in it. I had no idea what I was doing. I lost interest in blogging many times.
Chapter 3 – Moving Abroad and Finding Myself
Moving to Germany with Ganesh (that story is below) allowed me to take a step back and reflect on my wasteful lifestyle. I am forever grateful to Germany for showing and allowing me to develop into the adult I always knew I wanted to be – a responsible and caring adult. One who truly reduced, reused, recycled, and cared for people and the planet. I began thinking critically about my travel and my role in the destructive travel industry. Many people talk about how hard moving abroad is, and yes, it is hard, but for me, life in Germany made perfect sense. I became someone I am proud of and comfortable in my skin for the first time since I was a kid.
I took the time to invest in myself and my blog. But, I realized my blog didn’t embody the type of traveler I wanted to be. I was trying to be like every other travel blogger, which made me fall out of love with travel. So, I changed how I blogged and traveled to align with my values. I fell in love with traveling and writing again. I recently rebranded to a fully sustainable travel blog, but it wasn’t enough.
I decided to go back to school ten years after getting my BA for an MSc in Biodiversity, Wildlife, and Ecosystem Health from the University of Edinburgh. I just finished my thesis in 2022. My topic was utilizing the principles of nature-based solutions to help degrow tourism and refocus it on sustained growth that equitably benefits biodiversity and the local community. I now travel with careful intent and purpose and find much more joy in my experiences.
Chapter 4 – Moving Abroad (Again)
After six years of loving life in Germany, Ganesh and I knew it was time to be closer to family. So, we made a move to Vancouver, Canada. I am graduating from UoE this winter. Initially, I thought I would ditch the travel blog and go on to do ecology fieldwork (that may still be in my future), but for now, I plan to combine my journalism and environmental science degrees and use my education and communication skills to change the travel industry – starting with you – a travel enthusiast who is ready and willing to do better for yourself, the planet, and the destinations you visit.