Isabel Suppe: Climbing Past the Impossible

Amazing Women - Isabel Suppe

by Christine Perigen | March 20, 2013

Isabel Suppé is no dweller. She doesn’t dwell on the negative. She doesn’t dwell on the past. And she sure doesn’t dwell in one place too long. Optimistic, reflective, and full of hilarious stories, it’s no wonder Isabel has picked up motivational speaking. She can turn the most terrifying, difficult, and impossible situations into a comical and refreshing opportunity. If you don’t feel like getting off your ass and doing something amazing after hearing even one of Isabel’s “Oh, this is my average day” stories, I don’t know what else will.

While climbing in July 2010, Isabel fell 1,100 feet off Ala Izquierda del Condoriri´s southeast face in the Bolivian Andes. After spending the next two days crawling over the ice with a severely exposed fracture at 16,000 feet above sea level, Isabel was finally rescued. Soon after, she was told that she would never climb again. Three weeks later, she was climbing up a rock wall in a cast.

Isabel's fall is highlighted in red. 1,100 feet
Isabel’s fall is highlighted in red. 1,100 feet

Isabel, when I first read your story, I thought, “Holy shit.” I was blown away by how resilient you are.

The fall while climbing was actually the easy part. Everyone hears the story and thinks, “Wow, so brave.” And, of course, I was really lucky because I could have just broken my neck and been done. I have to say, if you take such a fall and are lying on a glacier and you only have two options: either die or fight for your life, of course you do what you can to fight for your life. It starts getting hard when you are lying in a comfortable hospital bed. If you lay back and say, “Well, I’m not going to go to the gym because it’s hard to get there and I have to hold crutches and everyone stares at me;” that’s when it starts getting harder.

Isabel in the hospital and practicing her climbing hold

Why go back to climbing so quickly and against doctor’s orders? 

In a way it was my anchor to life and to sanity. It was also a way of making the universe more graspable and understandable. I took such a fall and then was rescued and everything had suddenly changed. I was always used to having a tremendously healthy and well-trained body. To not be able to walk all of a sudden is a very severe change. If you can at least keep on doing things that are really important to you, for instance climbing, it helps you not to lose your mind.

Isabel climbing a rock wall with a leg cast.
Isabel climbing a rock wall with a leg cast.

How did you motivate yourself to begin again?

It wasn’t a choice. I have always felt that climbing is my identity. If I stopped climbing then I wouldn’t be myself anymore. If you lose your identity, then it’s almost as if you have died.

The summit of Illampu, Bolivia
The summit of Illampu, Bolivia

Your climbing partner’s injuries resulted in death. Just saying that is difficult.

There has always been a sense that the best tribute to a friend who didn’t make it off the mountain is to keep on climbing.  I don’t want to dwell on his death. In the past, I lost a friend who took a 2,000-foot fall. That was very horrible and it was the first time I had any contact with anything serious happening on a mountain. I was very devastated. I started to get better when I went back to the mountain. I knew that I needed to do that this time, too. I had to spend several days and nights fighting for my life and I also had to deal with serious physical injury myself. Having to fight so much for your life, somehow you also start dealing with the other person’s death. Even today, it still does not seem real.

Isabel climbing in Brazil
Isabel climbing in Brazil

Back on rock, did you feel that you were risking it all to climb?

There is a story my first grade teacher told us. Two little worms were living under the earth and they knew that if they went outside to enjoy the sunshine it would be dangerous. One went and enjoyed the sun and got eaten by a bird and the other stayed underground. I always thought it would be better to go out and enjoy the sunshine than die underground.

Where does this spunk come from?

Spunk? What is spunk? I do not know this word. [insert short explanation]. Oh, I was just born that way. My grandfather taught me to climb but he was a different type of adventurer. My grandfather had two passionate loves. One was mountains and the other was my grandmother. When Germany was defeated, he was stationed near the Black Sea, near the front lines. He got the note that the German army was defeated. He thought, “Great! I can finally go home.” He left immediately and walked all the way from the Black Sea back to Germany [approximately 1,500 kilometres]. That was in 1945. No Gortex, no high end gear. He had to be careful so he was not caught. He had no food and had to hide in the woods so he would not become a Prisoner of War. I asked him, “How did you survive?” His response was, “Well, I wanted to see my rocks again!”

Isabel and her grandfather in 1980.
Isabel and her grandfather in 1980.

Over the years, he kept on climbing and was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. They gave him one year of life. He kept on climbing and stayed alive for more than 25 years. The day he couldn’t put on his harness anymore is when he shut down and just died.

I say the germ for climbing I got from him and grandmother but really my life changed after I moved to Argentina. I had never even conceived it would be possible to go to the mountains without my grandparents. Living in Buenos Aires, I had extra vacation time and I had been saving money to buy a fridge. I didn’t have one in my apartment. Fall was coming so I decided I could just put my food on my balcony and use my money to go on a trip. So I bought a flight to Patagonia. I didn’t even have proper gear.

I went trekking around El Chaltén. It was fall so I was the only person around. It was snowing and really cold. I had on corduroy pants and had nothing that would be used for mountaineering but I thought, “Hey, this is what I want to do.” And I just kept doing it. And this is how it all started.

Your grandfather, Walter Lenk, was famous in East Germany’s climbing world.

He was a locally famous climber. He definitely was not world-renowned. I was six years old when my grandparents took me rock climbing for the first time. I was going on easy treks ever since I was born. My parents and grandparents took me on picnics before I could walk. They took me to rocks in Southern Germany and then after the Berlin wall fell they took me to Eastern Germany. My grandparents are from Eastern Germany but they fled when the Russians built the Berlin Wall. When I was 11, they took me back there.

Isabel's grandfather leading a climb in 1947.
1947: Isabel’s grandfather leading a climb

When I was 19, I graduated from high school in Germany and moved to New Jersey on a scholarship for my undergraduate studies and finished in two and a half years. When I was about to finish, Bush was elected president and I said, “Okay, that’s it! I am leaving this country!” I wanted to see more of the world. I had taught myself Spanish so I thought, “Where shall I go for graduate studies?” I had been to Spain so I wanted to see something else. I saw the name Argentina and all I knew was that the capital was named Buenos Aires, it was in South America and there were some writers I liked from there. That’s how I got to Buenos Aires. I started to do longer expeditions after I moved to Argentina.

Living in Buenos Aires, you are surrounded by millions of people and are not close to mountains. Are you a city person at heart?

Living in Mahwah, New Jersey, I was going into the city every Saturday and to the art museums all the time but the problem was there were no mountains. Mountains are perfect if you are only into outdoors stuff.  The city is perfect if you are only into culture and having a cultural life. But if you need to have some of both worlds then your life is complicated. I was about to sign up to do a PhD in Argentina and in the end I wrote the research project and everything. To be honest, my life is not supposed to be trapped in the library. I need to learn and have contact to cultured people but I need the mountains. I knew I wouldn’t dedicate myself to research the way I would need to. I moved to Mendoza and survived by translating menus for restaurants and doing mountain guiding. Living in Mendoza, I always missed something. It was contact to culture and to people who can talk about artists like Van Gogh. I still haven’t found the perfect place but I do miss Argentina a lot.

Where do you consider home?

Nowadays, since I have had to be away from Argentina because of medical conditions, I have been traveling and living in my tent. Right now, I am visiting my dad in Munich (he doesn’t make me stay in a tent here!) but my permanent address is my tent.

A makeshift "tent" during a sand storm in the desert (USA)
A makeshift “tent” during a sand storm in the desert (USA)

 When doctors told you that you would never climb again, did you think, “Heck yes, I will!”

I actually did not believe it for one second. I just couldn’t. When I was on the glacier, it took me more than 12 hours to realize I was losing a lot of blood. I kept thinking it looked like a lot but it couldn’t be that bad because I would be dead by now. I had to be careful and wanted to avoid frostbite so I didn’t take my shoe off. I accepted the loss of blood. I needed my foot. I didn’t get frostbite at all. Nowadays, I know even if I had lost my foot, I would still go climbing. I don’t know how the surgeries are going to turn out but I know that if I can’t climb the way I want, then amputating might be an option because it is true that sometimes you can be better off amputating a limb and using a prosthetic than keeping a limb. I have a friend who had to make this decision. He said, “Well, better to be an amputee than a cripple,” and chopped off his foot. He goes rock climbing and ice climbing. I am not saying that’s an easy decision. I’d much rather not have to make that decision but I know should I have to, I will take it.

East face of Vallecitos. Photo Máximo Kausch (2009)
East face of Vallecitos. Photo Máximo Kausch (2009)

How many surgeries have you had since your fall in 2010?

 After the accident, I spent six months unable to walk. Then I learned how to walk. Then they had to operate again. That was a one-month recovery. Then I walked again. After that, I had three more surgeries in Spain. January 25th was surgery fourteen. This surgery will have a three month recovery and then I have to learn how to walk again. That also takes time.

Isabel making the best out of a hospital stay. Photo by Ian Grant
Isabel making the best out of a hospital stay. Photo by Ian Grant

As the first woman to solo climb Nevado the Cachi, you became one of the “firsts.” Is this important to you as a woman?

Actually, no. It was important to me not because I was the first woman. Not because it was solo. That climb wasn’t technically difficult. It was just high and isolated. Climbing Nevado the Cachi was important to me because I was standing up there on my two feet and on my crutches after the doctor told me I wasn’t going to be able to go back to the mountain, especially at high altitude. That was the important thing. If you look at the important climbs, this was a very easy mountain. It’s true that it is very isolated so if anything happens, forget about it. No one will find you for a long time after you are dead. It takes several days of walking to return to civilization. The wind is very, very extreme and temperatures are extreme but it is not a vertical climb. I guess no woman has ever done it on her own because of fear or the loneliness. It requires a lot of exposure.

One of your best known climbs is the new route you created on your birthday, after the accident.

I felt that it was much more important to open the new route in Bolivia with Robert on the anniversary of the accident. It was included in the American Alpine Journal as one of the world’s greatest climbs. That was one of my greatest accomplishments. After a year of hospital and rehab, I hadn’t meant to do anything that difficult. I wanted to do something but not the classic climbs because I had done almost all of them and they are too crowded. He said, “Oh yea! I know what we can do. I have not been to this climb. Let’s go there!” He is a really crazy guy. He knew what I was getting into. He had climbed on crutches before, too. I am sure he thought, “She climbs on crutches. I like that, so I will take her.” What I liked about him is that he is the only one mad enough to trust a climbing partner on crutches.

Isabel and Robert called their line "The Birthday of The Broken Leg" (TD+/ED), which climbs 500 meters up the southwest face of Serkhe Khollu in Bolivia. Photo by Isabel Suppe´
Isabel and Robert at the summit of Serkhe Khollu, Bolivia on their line “The Birthday of The Broken Leg.” Photo by Isabel Suppe´

 Do you see yourself as a “female climber” or a climber?

Just as a climber. I don’t think it’s necessary to separate that out. If you really want to change something or feel that more women should be represented, it’s better to set an example than it is to blame. In most athletic disciplines, women compete among women because, of course, there are biological differences. We have different bodies and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that but for everything else – there are parts of the world where it is still important for women to fight for their rights but in the United States or Europe it is less the case. I’m, of course, against patriarchy, but I don’t want a matriarchy either.

When I was about to get into my PhD program, my director wanted me to get into gender studies and I said no way. It’s not my cup of tea. Cycling across the US, I thought about this a lot. It’s really true that it’s all linked – human rights. It’s not women’s rights. It’s human rights. Mental issues, gay rights, environmental issues – those things are linked because whenever there are rights that are abused, everyone suffers.

Isabel and Rocinante on the George Washington Bridge, NYC
Isabel and Rocinante on the George Washington Bridge, NYC

What do you have to say to those people who are just dreamin’ to quit it all and go?

Dream. Ask yourself what do you want and how do you go about making that dream come true? What is really important? Sometimes, if you take a close look, it’s not really all that important to worry about a broken dishwasher. Sometimes, if you look at it closely, you can live pretty well without a dishwasher. You can say, “Screw the dishwasher! I can hand wash my plate for a while or buy a new one but this weekend I want to have a good time.” You can go anywhere.

 Tell us about Rocinante.

Rocinante, the bicycle
Rocinante, the bicycle

Rocinante is the name I gave my bicycle. [Rocinante was Don Quijote’s horse] It is actually my German grandmother´s old bicycle. I was at the German-Swiss border to Spain. I needed to get to Spain and thought the air flight was expensive. The doctor said I should cycle a lot to help in rehabilitating so I thought I could just cycle there. It is just tremendously depressing after you have been through so many surgeries to be told that you have a non-reversible condition and it can only get worse. So, you need to do something positive. I thought, “Hey, I am going to cycle there and try a new method of treatment.”

After Spain, I needed to get to an airport with a really cheap flight back to Germany. On my way, I found a sign that said ferry to Africa. I thought that was really cool and thought it would be great to cycle there. I called my brother and they had cheap flights to the southern tip of Spain. I asked my brother if he would like cycling through Morocco together. We started in Morocco and then cycled from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert. After I finished that, we returned to Germany and I went to Spain to present my book and then left for the US and finally cycled across the US. On September 29, 2012, I finished.

What was it like riding across the US and coming across other cyclists?

Isabel with Rocinante in Colorado
Isabel with Rocinante in Colorado

I really didn’t meet any cyclists. I met this one guy who had no weight on his bike and his wife was driving behind him handing him soft drinks and booking his hotels for him. I thought that was funny. I cycled across Nevada on a really lonely road. I went through Tonopah and took the Extraterrestrial (ET) Highway and ended up in St. George, Utah. Then, I did a presentation in Boulder, Colorado and went through Nebraska and traveled as far north as Niagara Falls and then headed towards New York City.

US Cycling Tour - Photo by Chris Anthony
US Cycling Tour – Photo by Chris Anthony

I was traveling and doing these presentations. In Nebraska, I found myself speaking to local farmers in a barn. I had to give the speech in my cycling outfit because my clothes had been shipped ahead and I was just passing through. I spent two hours answering questions. Along the way, I spent some nights camping in a ditch or a bathroom and other nights in a millionaire’s mansion. Everything is relative.

In Boulder, I had met a climbing partner and he said he would climb in Devil’s Lake but I would have to skip some of the Midwest because of climbing. I said, “Okay! Let’s go for climbing!” I crossed all of Michigan and Ontario and re-entered the US at Niagara Falls and then dropped into New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I finished the ride in front of Van Gogh’s, Starry Night at the MoMa. [Starry Night is the name of Isabel’s book about her climbing accident and recovery]

Isabel in front of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh at NYC MoMA
Isabel in front of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh at NYC MoMA

Why travel around the world? Why visit all of those places?

 I haven’t traveled around the world. I’ve just traveled a lot. To me, it is about living the way you want to live. It’s sometimes good that more people are not like me because no one would work in the office or …well you wouldn’t be able to visit your friends anymore. They would all be traveling and you would have nowhere to stay! I love that I’m a nomad and I always know where to find my friends. It’s so hard to get left behind.

Isabel on ice
Isabel on ice

TP: Crumple or Fold?

I have never stopped to think about it. It seems too trivial! I bet I am not an orderly person. I bet I would crumple it.

isabel suppe profile pictureIsabel Suppé is a high-altitude climber, writer, and motivational speaker. Her book, Starry Night, is being released in English in April 2013. She is a true survivor and nomad who follows her love of climbing all over the world.


For more information on Isabel and her adventurous life, visit her website.

Isabel will begin her US TOUR in June, 2013. Stay tuned for notifications on events in your area. 

To read the full story, order a copy of Isabel’s book, Starry Night. Click the Buy Now below.

$16.50 + shippingBook Cover - Starry Night“A daring reimagination of the typical disaster narrative, Starry Night portrays a world in which pain and unsettling beauty become inextricably intertwined.” – Katie Ives, Editor of Alpinist Magazine

Shipping Date: May 8, 2013

Emma Frisch: In the Kitchen and on the Peaks

by Christine Perigen | January 16, 2013

Emma Frisch’s joy is contagious. Her big smile jumps through the phone and makes you think about her delicious cupcakes and the good work she’s doing through her organization, PEAKS. Just married and having just attended her twin sister’s wedding in the same year, Emma’s had a lot of reasons to smile, laugh, and celebrate.

Your wedding photos looked like they were straight out of Wedding Magazine – you couldn’t have had a more fun and gorgeous time. Tell us about the event.

I’m lucky to have married my partner of eight years, Bobby Frisch. We met while we were both at University of Pennsylvania. He is my fellow business partner and project dreamer. We’ve travelled all over the world together and created all sorts of cool things. He started a hotel that I helped him work on and that’s where I opened my first and only restaurant, to date. He’s now getting an MBA at Cornell, which is how we came to Ithaca. It’s a place we both love.

Did you know you’d be planning such a large wedding?

Absolutely not. I thought it would be small with an intimate group of people. It just didn’t turn out that way. We both come from enormous families that we love. We had 125 people attend and the majority were family members. We still managed to stay true to our values. We had the wedding at Millstone Farm, a place I worked at for several years and I’m really close with the owners and farmers. All the food was prepared by our friend who is a chef that partners with the farm and uses food grown from Millstone. All the guests were given a tour of the farm. The wedding tent was made out of used sail cloths. We were married in the horse field amongst horse jumps with a blue grass band playing. We celebrated until the morning with all the people we loved the most.

Your identical twin sister just got married in the same year?!?

Emma and identical twin, Dimity

Yes! This was a totally unexpected coincidence. Her husband, Nolan, was planning to propose the same day Bobby proposed to me but Bobby got to it first. So, Nolan pocketed the ring for another four months. Neither of us were expecting it so it was really special to share that process. She had the opposite wedding: a city wedding, half the size of mine, at the Brooklyn Winery. We enjoyed great food and drinks with a multi-cultural and eclectic, amazing group of people.

Twins: is it true that they are telepathic with one another?

It’s true that we are definitely connected. We think and feel the same way. When we share things, we are sharing the joy, burden or sadness. Our lives are uncannily in sync. An example of that was getting engaged and married at the same time. Similar things are always going on like that in our lives. We’re connected beyond being best friends. She is part of me. I feel that people don’t fully know me until they have met her.


You started an organization called PEAKS. How did it all start?

PEAKS started, quite literally, with the idea of reaching new heights and overcoming major obstacles. My colleagues and fellow mountain hikers, Steve and Chris, and myself saw a unique opportunity to raise money for EkoRural, a small non-profit in Ecuador working on climate change issues with indigenous mountain farmers. Thousands of adventure tourists were pouring into the Andes, with little awareness that the trails they hiked on were farmers’ footpaths. We found a way to bridge these two worlds by launching our first climb-a-thon.

At the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, Ecuador 

In September of 2010, PEAKS was officially launched. I climbed to the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, which is nearly 20,000 ft. Steve and two friends ran the “seven hills run” in the Netherlands. Another group of climbers in Colorado climbed a series of peaks. We shared our stories and pictures with family and friends through the PEAKS website, and collectively raised over $10,000 for EkoRural. For me, PEAKS was a way to combine two of my greatest passions: climbing and agriculture. After our launch, I took on the lead role for PEAKS development.

What have you learned from starting your own company?

The biggest lesson for me is this: you need to have a really committed and solid team working together to achieve success. I felt like I was flailing on my own alongside a full time job for quite some time; our volunteers and board members were incredible, but having salaried team members that you can depend on is critical for growth. The past six months of growth have proven this for me. But I am really appreciative of the people who have helped build PEAKS since the start. PEAK has been a team effort through and through.

What are the most successful campaigns on Peaks?

 Sustainable Neighborhoods Nicaragua, a student group that is part of Cornell University’s Sustainable Design Program, recently raised $25,000 to build an ecological housing community in Nicaragua. Eight days into their PEAKS Campaign they raised over $5,000, and hit their $25,000 goal in less than 45 days. We didn’t have a single customer support question from over 60 Champions and nearly 300 donors!

You have a side project that I love reading about: Cayuga St. Kitchen.

Food is my biggest passion. More so than rock climbing or anything outdoors.

Emma climbing

It’s my creative outlet where I can share food adventures I have with family and friends. I love cooking and I love eating even more. I’ve been involved in farming systems since I was 18 and in college. Cayuga St. Kitchen is a fun way to bring all that experience together and give myself an excuse to keep learning…and cook more food.

What has been the most fun dish you have created?

Gluten Free & Vegan Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes

This past weekend we made vegan and gluten free cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. It was like learning how to cook for the first time. I had to use totally new ingredients. Gluten free cooking is a totally different pantry. I found myself cooking with potato starch and xanthan gum. I had to clear the whole food bank and start from scratch and use my own flavors. I was determined to not stick to the recipe. The frosting was supposed to be a vanilla frosting but I turned the frosting into almond cream. It was fun to light all of them with candles and eat them together and celebrate.

Where do you find your ingredients?

 Food is so much about the story and where it comes from. It’s important to cook with quality ingredients; it makes a difference. The food I use always has story or is connected to people I know. I love going to The Piggery and I know Heather, the owner. She tells me about the meats and they raise these incredible pigs in environmentally and animal friendly way. I’m always asking where the best Brie is or where the best food comes from. I try to buy food from anywhere and everywhere: Asian market, Ithaca Farmer’s Market, I’m always looking to try something new. It’s an adventure every time.

What change do you want to bring to the world?

It’s hard to know if you are actually creating change. The change I want to create is helping people feel empowered to make change happen themselves. Giving people tools and space to feel confident in making their dream and mission come alive.

Reaching New Heights: Emma climbing in New Paltz

Through Peaks, it is those little encounters that happen now and then that make you realize you are making change happen. Sometimes there are weeks or months where I feel that this is a dream in my head and it’s not actually creating any change but then someone will write us a letter and let us know that they think it’s amazing and they met their goal and they’ll thank us. There are lots of moments that show it is the little things that matter and if you keep plugging forward with your dream then you can create change.

What is your travel essential when you are on the road?
My advice is to pack as light as possible and be open to any new experience. One thing I have to bring with me…[long pause]…I know!! My fanny pack. Dead serious. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. I have the coolest one. Everyone should have a classy little fanny pack to store all your valuables and what you need on hand. None of that stuff under your waistband.

When in Ecuador…do you Crumple or Fold?
I’m a crumpler. I wish I was a folder. I’d probably use less. I guess I could be an in between but I’m more of a crumpler.

Emma Frisch is the Director and Co-Founder of PEAKS, an organization that provides the platform and audience for your fundraising campaigns. She also manages her food blog, Cayuga St. Kitchen and continually is experimenting with ingredients to make new dishes. She lives in Ithaca with her husband, Bobby.

For more information on Emma, PEAKS, or Cayuga St. Kitchen, click on the links!

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Noel Knecht Shares Survival and Adventures

 September 20, 2012

Meet Noel Knecht, a 10-year cancer survivor, fashion merchandiser, marathon runner, soon to be Half Ironman finisher, and the only woman and only cancer survivor to ride every year in Tour de Pink since it’s inception in 2004.  Noel has cycled and explored destinations all over the world and is one of the most humble and understated people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. The more Noel talks, the more you want to listen. And listen I did.

A woman who met you at Tour de Pink recommended you for our Amazing Women series because you are considered, well, amazing.

Only special kids play with Winnebegos and dream of traveling…

I never considered myself special. I consider myself ordinary but I’ll take it.

I was diagnosed [with cancer] on January 15th, ten years ago. Basically, I look back at that year and I have to laugh because it was just one of those pretty crazy years.

July of that year I broke up with my boyfriend of ten years. Then a couple weeks after that, I lost my job and then, I actually enjoyed my summer. It was a transition time and then September 11th happened and I lived right in New Jersey right across the river and experienced and lived that whole event.

After all that, I met someone who I really liked. At the same time, I started going through some tests. My gynecologist had found a lump. I always hated my OBGYN so I kept going to a different one and a different one. I always felt guilty talking to them – they were these old guys…and so I found a woman and she found a lump. I said, “Oh it’s just fibrous. I’m young and athletic.” She said, “No, I want you to go check it out.”

I went to Hackensack University Medical Center, which I feel blessed that I went there because it was just so amazing. I went through all these crazy tests.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor said, “You are going to fight it, you are going to beat it, and you are going to live a long life.”

I had gone alone because I thought it was just a routine test. My breast surgeon sat me down and said, “Well, you have cancer.” I looked at her with disbelief. The first thought was, “I’m going to die.” I didn’t cry or anything but then she said, “You need to call someone. I am not letting you drive home.” I called my mom and I couldn’t even tell her. I started crying. It was a big change.

I remember going into surgery and all the nurses called me while I was on the table and said, “You know, we’re thinking about you.”

How has this experience changed you?

It’s amazing how many people you meet that have been touched by cancer. I think in my whole circle of friends everyone knows someone close to them that has been affected by it. You naturally find your support group. It just kind of happens. It’s the one lucky thing that happened.

West Coast Tour de Pink 2011, Noel with her lovely friends pedaling for a cause.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor said, “You are going to fight it, you are going to beat it, and you are going to live a long life.”

Noel and friend, Diana, who is also a Breast Cancer Survivor. Having met through the Young Survival Coalition and Tour de Pink, both share the passion of travel and headed across the pond to cycle southern Ireland together.

I ended up having over two centimeters of tumor on the left side. On my right side, it was like a Christmas tree lit up. I was infested with calcifications. I had a double mastectomy and then had a positive result on a lymph node which led me to the oncologist who gave me the same diagnosis. She said that the best doctor to help was the one I had been seeing in Hackensack so I stayed with Dr. Capko. Dr. Capko and Dr. Alter, my oncologist, are both amazing people. I look forward to seeing Dr. Alter every year for my check ups.

I became friends with the nurses and I remember going into surgery and all the nurses called me while I was on the table and said, “You know, we’re thinking about you.” It was a great feeling. I was 32 and my diagnosis meant a more aggressive form of treatment for chemotherapy. I did chemotherapy for 6 months. At the same time I was going through expansions for breast reconstruction and getting those filled up. I think the hardest part was losing the hair. I didn’t care about my breasts; it was more about the hair. I don’t know why, I think it was just more visible.

 I ended up having over two centimeters of tumor on the left side. On my right side, it was like a Christmas tree lit up.

Everything you read says that day 14 is when you lose your hair. I was on a date with a guy I had been seeing and he went over to kiss and caress me and he put his hand through my hair and a clump came out. I was horrified. He was great. He had dated someone before who had cancer. This was also why he ended up breaking up with me. He just couldn’t handle going through it again. It was good for me because it was almost a soul searching time for me. I was always with someone and I learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of independence through it.

When I die, I don’t want to be known for working 80 hours a week. I want to know that I lived my life to the fullest.

That’s where I started to thrive as a person. It changed my outlook a little bit. I think I ran every day up until my last two weeks of chemo. I was so tired. I stopped running. I stopped running for a couple of years. I just let it get away from me.

Cycling Morocco. A stop to pose with a shepard and his son. Notice the goats in the tree!

When you lost the ability to run, what did you find to replace it?

From Noel’s trip: Women of a Women’s Argan Oil collective in Morocco. They work and manage their own business. Talk about inspiration.

The new thing I did was started traveling alone. I always have to have something on the calendar. My life is empty without it! I can be very shy at times and I have a lot of friends that were shocked that I just would go and do it. It’s like my own little challenge to myself that I can do it. I can go to a foreign country where no one speaks English and survive and see new things and meet new people. That’s how I’m living life now. I live to travel. I don’t over work myself anymore. I think that’s the other thing I learned. I have my job and I like my job but it’s not my end all be all. When I die, I don’t want to be known for working 80 hours a week. I want to know that I lived my life to the fullest.

What made you move from trying to become healthy to wanting to complete a Half Ironman?

I’m training for my first half triathlon. I have a new found respect for people who are doing these things because it is HARD. It’s such a commitment. I hired a coach [shout out to Shawn and Aly!] and everything. It takes a lot of time and it’s exhausting. I just want to finish it and that’s it. I’m doing that on September 23rd in California. I figured if I am going to do a triathlon then I want to have a nice view and enjoy the scenery.

Route 66 Medal – Corny or rad??

I also ran my first marathon in January. I am probably going to do another one – this is the corny piece of me. There was one here in Oklahoma [the Route 66 Marathon] and I really liked the medal they have so I really want to do it. It’s really corny but at least it motivates me.

You have a tremendous commitment to ride every year in the TdP. What makes you come back every year?

I think it’s the people. When I did the first year, it was more about the challenge and kicking cancer’s butt. Saying, you know, you aren’t going to stop me. The first year there were only five of us. We went from Boston to NY (Original YSC story). It was really grass roots because we stayed at peoples’ homes. I’d ridden a bike before but never really cycled seriously before. I don’t think I even really trained for it. I just did it.

Noel just doing it.

There is a unique attitude for women that are going out and riding bikes for the first time. They are so proud to just be riding.

You know, each year it grows and grows but each year you meet these amazing people that have these amazing stories. I think when you are a survivor you can think you have it the worst and you meet others and you hear their stories and they handle them differently and they are all so important and amazing and inspiring. I think that’s the part that keeps you going.

There are a lot of cancer organizations and events. Why did you choose to bike?

There is a unique attitude for women that are going out and riding bikes for the first time. They are so proud to just be riding. Every year, it feels like a family reunion. You won’t talk to someone all year but then you see them for Tour de Pink and it’s like you saw them yesterday. They are family.

2011 West Coast Tour de Pink completion in Santa Barbara, CA.

You are riding through these towns and people are asking you what you are doing and we tell them we are riding for the Young Survival Coalition focused on young women with breast cancer and they tell you their stories.

Photo courtesy of YSC Tour de Pink

They ask for information and we pass it on; we get donations while we are on the bikes. It keeps me focused and healthy as a survivor. Meeting new survivors that come and do the ride I’m able to work with them and inspire them to keep moving on.

It’s incredible how many men do the ride. I think because it is a cycling event it attracts men and they have stories as well that their wives or sisters or someone they know has been affected. For them to hear each other or meet other women that are survivors gives them hope and an extra kick. It’s pretty amazing.

How did you become affiliated with the Young Survival Coalition?

I feel like I owe the YSC a lot because it’s the first organization I found when I started looking for support when I was diagnosed. It’s difficult enough to go online and research cancer – you have to be careful what you find – it can be depressing. Besides the American Cancer Society, YSC is the only other organization I found. I partnered with them and I remember seeing the request for Tour de Pink and they were planning to do this whole ride. I thought, “Okay, let’s do it.” I made some really amazing friends and connected to really great resources through them. Now, I share it with everyone else. It can be scary when you are young.

Noel after completing her first marathon celebrating her 10 year anniversary of being diagnosed.

Cancer can be the best thing that ever happened to me. If I never had cancer I never would have met all these people that are in my life. It sucks that we had cancer but we got to be in each others’ lives. My boyfriend, Dustin, I met at a Tour de Pink event. His ex-fiance (cyclist and friend to many in the industry, Michelle Weiser), passed from cancer. We talk a lot about her to keep her memory alive. It’s interesting how all these things interconnect.

As a traveling adventurer, do you have another trip ahead of you?

I’m planning to go away in December. It’s a trip that Dustin and I are looking at – Thailand. We just did a trip to the British Virgin Islands. We went to a different island every day and explored. For me, I have to see something new every day and explore. I can’t just sit in a hotel. We went to Virgin Gorda and there is this small café on top of this mountain. I swear, it was something out of a little post card. It was this little white shack.

Follow your dreams: Mad Dog Cafe

A woman from the US opened it and she just makes sandwiches and serves the best piña colada ever. Some of the locals would go there with their dogs and hang out. Sitting and talking to this woman was amazing. She had just decided to come to the island with her husband and there she was. I was almost envious because she was so happy. I just remember the breeze and perfect blue sky and the sun and the view was stellar and amazing.

When I travel, I love architecture and buildings but really it’s just the people. The people are amazing.

What is a good morsel of travel advice?

People don’t travel enough. They need to get out and meet these people to get over these pre-dispositions for what these people are. Some of the best experiences I have had were in Muslim countries. You need to travel because it will totally change what you think. The people you meet are amazing and you’ll be surprised by how they open up their homes and meals to you.

You meet the most wonderful people….this man didn’t know his age. He was such a happy, content man.

I did a back roads trip in Morocco and Portugal on a bicycle and I got to see so much. I spent a couple of days in Marrakesh by myself. I had one issue with one gentleman not letting me in because I was a woman but everyone else was so friendly and wonderful.

 People don’t travel enough. They need to get out and meet these people to get over these pre-dispositions for what these people are.

When I was in Turkey I got to celebrate Ramadan. These people I met said I needed to come and celebrate. I was nervous because I didn’t know what it meant but for them to open their homes and share this with me was so cool.

Your story is incredibly inspiring to people. Many people say, “I wish I could do what you are doing.” What advice would you give to those wanting to make their life more meaningful?

You can do it. It’s all about finding who you are and being brave. It might be starting small and doing small things every day first. If I think about how I formed and did a lot of these independent things it started small like, going to the movies alone. Or going to eat dinner alone. And going to a restaurant and sitting. I think it’s also starting to love yourself and really taking care of yourself. I was always putting everyone ahead of me and it probably hurt me. I think it’s going deep within and saying, “Yeah, I can do it.”

Talking to your friends about it and say, “Hey, I did this today.” That’s what kept me going. The first vacation I did by myself, I was nervous. The first Tour de Pink I did, I was nervous. When it came down to it, it didn’t matter. It was about going there and meeting people and having that support because you naturally find that support where you least expect it.

Letting the adventurous side through to the other side of the Atlantic – Noel in Valencia

It’s amazing where and how people want to help other people and they are there and no one is judging you. I think people need that extra push and someone to say, “You know, you are going to be okay.” I was nervous and am still nervous but it’s not going to stop me. I think once you start telling people your stories they get it. I even think about this whole triathlon thing and the training. It was so hard to start and to find the time and someone else told me, “You’ll find the time.” I dedicated time to it and I get tired and would rather stay in bed sometimes but I have found the time.

A few on the road questions: What’s the best meal you’ve made on the road?

I make this crazy salad. I call it my “antioxidant omega three salad.” I love cherry tomatoes. I like to take those and cut them up and get English cucumbers and chop them up with avocado and dark meat tuna. Then I add anchovies. I like them, I don’t know why. And then I add some peppers, olive oil, and red wine vinegar with sunflower seeds. It’s easy, refreshing and super healthy with protein. It always makes me feel energized.

TP Question: Crumple or fold?

I’m a crumpler. I thought you were going to ask me if I was over or under. I am probably not very sustainable in my tp needs. I don’t know what a lot is when it comes to tp because to be sustainable does anyone really use one sheet? Honestly, but I live alone and I go through a lot of tp. Maybe I just don’t keep track. I might not be doing the environment very well.

Noel Knecht is an adventurer, cyclist, cancer-survivor, and amazing woman. She is currently training for her first half triathlon and the Route 66 Marathon. Preparing for the 2012 Tour de Pink (both East AND West), Noel continues to bring people together and awareness to cancer.

To follow Noel (or better yet hit the side lines and cheer her on), here are some upcoming events:

September 23: Orange Man Triathlon, Dana Point, CA

September 28-30: YSC East Coast Tour de Pink, Philadelphia to DC

October 12-14: YSC West Coast Tour de Pink, Foothill Ranch to Oakley, CA

November 18: Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, OK

To fight cancer and be a part of the YSC Tour de Pink this year, donate to Noel’s fundraising page . All proceeds go to the Young Survival Coalition and helps young women fight and f*ck cancer up.

To learn more about Dustin’s story (Noel’s dude) and about more ways to help the fight,  visit

Roam Life: Roam Your Soul’s Amazing Women Series began with one small story about one amazing woman. Since then, we’ve interviewed many every day women doing amazing things and have shared all of our stories here. To learn more about Roam Your Soul, visit

copyright 2012 * Roam Life, Inc.

A 2014 Olympic Hopeful: Kimber Gabryszak

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:


Kimber is an athlete that has a natural yet friendly determination to be the best. Whether it’s mountain biking, skeleton racing, or her newest hobby, curling (yes, curling!), Kimber quickly becomes competitive.  What I found interesting about Kimber is that she has tried all of these sports based on chance, invitation, and word of mouth. Kimber’s adventurous spirit and fun-loving personality make it easy for you to invite her along on your journey as well. The Roam Life team was able to catch up with Kimber right after her return from her Cabo wedding.

You just got married! Your husband seems to be a big support for you in your career. Who’s the lucky dude and how did the two of you meet?

Kimber & Brad

Brad [Stewart] and I met on in the fall of 2004 and we have been together ever since. He’s a huge support and I try to be one for him. We do skeleton together and we try to keep it balanced so that when we’re both competing we try to stay out of each other’s way but if one person is competing the other is their hugest fan.

Kimber & Brad sporting 2009 Regional Championship belts with pride.

What’s it like to be dating a fellow Skeleton racer?

We’ve been together for over 7 ½ years. Brad does a lot of new ventures and tries new things all the time. We like to travel together and scuba dive.

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck.

One thing that is really cute is that we adopted a dog when we were together about a year and I’ll come home from work and find Brad in his office with Jean Luc (a 60 pound dog) in his lap in an office chair. Our dog is totally not spoiled (wink).

Tell us about your Cabo wedding.

It was awesome. It was perfect. We had originally planned a wedding here in Park City, Utah. When we started planning the wedding it was kind of a blessing and a curse to know a bazillion people all over the world. People we knew from work, skeleton, and family, really every aspect of our lives started merging into this huge wedding. We were trying to cut down a list of over 300 people to something manageable – like 150. We were having the hardest time ever cutting people out and scratching them off the list.

Kimber, a beautiful and sporty bride

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck. They are great in some ways and in others they just suck. Not to mention that you don’t really get to see the bride and groom so we just pulled the plug on the whole thing and booked an all inclusive resort in Cabo and didn’t invite anyone except our parents. It was nice to have the parents there but we didn’t invite any siblings or friends or husbands or any of the other people that we didn’t even know that well. We kind of said, “You are all not invited. All of your feelings can be hurt equally.”

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well…

How was it to have the parents at your wedding and on your honeymoon?

My parents never have really had a real vacation so to see them relax and have fun was awesome and we all enjoyed the beach together. The two sets of parents were able to get to know each other. Three hours before the wedding we were all sitting by the pool relaxing together. It was the perfect wedding.

Speaking of your parents, you had a pretty unique childhood living in the mountains of Alaska. What was it like to grow up at the Station House?

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well and solar panels for electricity. Before electricity, we had ice house and ice blocks – it was very 1800’s-esque. I was home schooled and didn’t really have any access to sports. I didn’t discover sports until my early 20’s. I was always pushing myself hard academically and I think that transferred over, along with a lifestyle of hard labor (shoveling snow, cutting firewood) into athletics.

You somehow went from living in the wild forest of Alaska to joining civilization. How did that happen?

When I started college in Alaska, I was technically a high school drop out because I didn’t finish home schooling. I went to community college and then the University of Anchorage. A friend and I were on a fundraising walk for a non-profit and we were rounding the bend of a major road and we were talking about where our next trip would be and decided it would be China. So the next semester I registered for a Chinese class. Fast forward a few years later and I got my Associates in Chinese and obtained an internship on a cruise ship in China!

You were a pretty rad pro mountain biker. Tell us about how you got involved in mountain biking?

Kimber, 2008

A lot of our friends mountain biked so a good friend of ours convinced me to register for a downhill race at Deer Valley on my cross country bike. It turns out I was the only beginner so won by default but my time was better than some of the sport girls so I got hooked. I got my first “squooshy” bike after that. The bike had seven inches of travel and a few of us girls went around to a bunch of races and we kept moving up in ranking and moving up again. In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other. It’s not the same in skeleton.

In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other.

Kimber, riding for Velo Bella, 2008

From heading downhill on a mountain bike, you ended up going head first into skeleton. At what point did your (then boyfriend) Brad convince you that pummeling head first down an icy shoot was a great idea?

Kimber, doing her thing

Brad and I had been dating for about 6 months and he worked at the Olympic Park part time. He came back from work one day and said, “I think I want to take this skeleton class.” I didn’t even know what skeleton was and said, “Yeah! That sounds fun.” He couldn’t talk me into it then so he took the intro class himself, which was four days of sliding. He was so excited and grinning ear to ear that he finally managed to talk me into trying it.

I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?”

Skeleton racing looks intimidating, but it’s more like flying.

The following November I took my first run down and I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?” It was the scariest thing I had done in my life. The instructor gives you a little push and you start pummeling down at 55 mph. For me, that was all she wrote. I was hooked. I joined a local club and we slid for fun and then we were getting better and better and started competing. Then, we were all of a sudden going to US national races. We thought about quitting here and there because it’s really difficult to make money at skeleton and it can be expensive to compete but instead we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to keep at it.

It is so fun to skeleton and as a competitor you are an ambassador for your country. When you are at a race you are surrounded by people from all around the world. When else do you get so many different nations in a room? When you make friends and are joking around together…you really are an ambassador. The potential to go to the Olympics is phenomenal. 

When did you realize that you were an Olympic hopeful? 

Once you do well enough at regionals (Western or Eastern), you qualify for team trials and then work up the ranks from there. The top 2 or 3 people at team trials go to the Olympics. You start thinking, “It’s a possibility.” If you manage to make that leap into the top loop then you know you have a chance.  One thing we encounter a lot with skeleton is that people think it is easy and that if you keep sliding and sliding you’ll get better. You will, but there is also a physical component you have to have and you have to cultivate an athletic talent to make it. If you don’t push yourself and train then you won’t make it from the C or B group up to the A group.

I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves. Last year I struggled on tour because I had some hamstring issues but I was 1/10 of a second off from the puck (head pusher) which showed I had potential. I worked out 3 hours today – before work and after work. It’s a huge time and energy commitment. I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

Where’s the most unique place you’ve competed?

Without hesitation, Switzerland. Every year the Saint Moritz build a track from scratch. Usually a skeleton track is concrete with a layer of ice over it and a refrigeration system keeps it all together. In Switzerland, they take ice from the river and make the track from scratch every year, purely of ice.  You slide at 85-90 mph but it feels like you aren’t going that fast at all because it’s so quiet and your runners feel like they aren’t touching anything…you feel weightless.

 We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves.

Is it easy to get into skeleton racing?

Most people don’t know what skeleton is. We, as competitors, have to first overcome the question of “What is skeleton?” in order to gain support. I started taking skeleton seriously in 2006. You pay a fee into a club for the year and you can use a rental sled. I bought my first sled at the end of 2006 and bought a new sled this last year. Thanks to help from a couple of local people and fundraising, I was able to cover half the cost of a new sled. I was also grateful to have won a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation for a portion of the sled. A sled can cost between $7,500 and $10,000.

What makes skeleton racing unique?

The fact that it is unique. You can only do it on certain tracks in the world. The rush, the speed, how challenging it is are all unique to the sport. If you turn your head one way or flex your quad and something happens, the sled moves direction while your careening down a track at 80 mph. I ski and snowboard and do all the other winter sports but skeleton is unique in and of itself. Not a lot of people get to do it.

 You travel a lot to compete. Any must know travel tips?

We don’t get to do a lot of sightseeing for the most part. We’ll drive to a race site and then have one day to settle in and train and then three days of official training and then we race and drive to the next location. Some of the coolest experiences have been in Germany and Austria during pre-Christmas time. They have crazy customs where they dress up in hand-made monster masks and run around the streets. There are parades where they bless people who have been punished. The Christmas markets are amazing. Germany and Austria around Christmas are phenomenal.

Through your travels, who have you met that has been most inspiring?

There are a lot of really inspiring people in the sport and around it. A conglomeration of small acts of kindness and helpfulness from a lot of people all over has been inspiring. Martins Dukurs is the top man in the world and is pretty much unbeatable but he’ll still do things like hurry to get his sled on the truck because you have to change your runners at the top. He’ll inconvenience himself a little to help you out a little and it’s impressive that he’ll do that. You’ll see things like that all the time.

Martins Dukurs, Olympic Medalist

Any travel snack indulgences you tend to hide away in your pack while on the road?

There are a couple of things. One thing I travel with is Werther’s originals. I love caramel. I love chocolate too but if it’s chocolate with caramel I’m hosed. I also pack a little tea kettle and herbal tea. Once in a while I get a hankering for a box of Corn Chex. I love Corn Chex.

TP question: Folder or crumpler?

I’m actually both. I start off folding and I end up crumpling. I am one of those that tries to start off organized and then it just falls apart at the end.

Kimber Gabryszak is a member of the US National Skeleton Team and is a 2014 Winter Olympic hopeful. She lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, Brad and her dog, Jean Luc.



Life, Lemons, & Laughter with C.J. Feehan

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:


I met C.J. in a ski mountain lodge with decent food and great beer. She came in loud with big hugs, which is how C.J. operates pretty much every day. She has an endless supply of in-your-face stories and always has something exciting, interesting, or weird going on. Last year, C.J. decided to quit the daily 9-5 and try her hand at independent, out-of-the-box work and has, so far, survived while adding a multitude of new and quirky stories to her repertoire. With her new book officially funded, we wanted to get a chance to hear more about the book, the experience, and how C.J. has been developing as a professional athlete and writer.

You have a new book that did pretty well on Kickstarter.


Yea, it was an exercise where I learned about people, marketing, and leveraging relationships and social networking. I learned it all in one month and I was self-taught. I sought publication through a traditional route for about a year and everyone wrote back and said you have a great voice in your writing and we were really entertained but it seems like a niche market.  These publishing companies would tell me that it appeals to outdoor adventurers or people that would read Jon Krakauer. All these traditional publishing houses were like, “We don’t even know what to do with that. It’d be great if you were already famous.” That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

With a lot of encouragement with the editor that I will be working with I decided to go the self-publishing route. I could have easily just gone the e-book route but as an educator, I always felt it was critical to actually have an idea in physical form.

That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

I decided to give Kickstarter a shot. Everyone told me, “$12k, you’ll raise that no problem.” I put the video and Kickstarter page together and launched it. It went nowhere. The first three weeks I was very discouraged. And then I hit this point where, they say after 60% is funded the rest comes in. I wasn’t 60% funded until I had 4 days left and it was during the 4th of July week. I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch. At the end I was raising about $2,000 a day but I was freaking out. I didn’t sleep for, like, four nights.

Now that the book is funded, when does it go into publishing?

The book is 75% finished. I have 25% to go. I like writing for long amounts of time over short periods of time. I once wrote a thesis in 10 days. The last part of the book will go fast. It’s been 2 years in the making.

I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch.

Give us the elevator speech of why you wanted to write this book.

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box. When people ask me what I do for a living…it’s hard to explain. I don’t have a one sentence answer that is what I do. I am a teacher, a coach, I take classes myself, and I ski and I bike and I paddle…it goes on and on.

I came to the discovery that when I would tell people stories about my life they found it really funny because it was misery to me. I was entertaining telling these stories and I thought it would be interesting to run a blog and then convert it to a book. I always had a book in the back of my mind.

 I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!”

Nora Ephron was a great influencer in my writing the book. She died in the middle of my Kickstarter campaign. I was really devastated by that. It took some spiritual motivation and I thought, “Maybe it’s a sign.” She has a quote in one of her books, “My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.” So I started to frame my life into funny stories to share so I wouldn’t feel so bad anymore.

The epitome of that was a story that is in the book. I went to a five-mile charity race in Island Pond, Vermont with staff members from Burke Mountain. The town is dominated by a cult. They own stores and businesses in town so the vibe is strange but the town is nice. So at this charity race they are giving out prizes. I look at the prize table and see a picture with a ballerina. I wonder, “Do you win the frame or the picture?” It looked like one of those pictures in the frames you pick up at the store. Like it was just a stock photo they threw into a frame. The prizes were pretty hokey. Is it a frame or a painting?

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box.

They call my number and I picked up the picture frame and I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!” I gave it to my friend, Jodi, and this woman taps me and asks to trade her the picture for her maple syrup. I really wanted the syrup but wanted to play up the joke about winning the ballerina. Then she told me it was actually a picture of the woman that the race memorialized that had died. I destroyed the sanctity of the whole event. We ran away completely feeling terrible. The only way I can make it right in this world is to write about it so people can laugh at my humiliation.

How did you come up with the title, “Life Gives Me Lemons?”

I didn’t think about it for that long. I called my brother and told him I wanted to write a book about being an idiot in all my outdoor adventures. I told him it had to be something about how life gives you lemons and you have to make it into lemonade. I wanted to make other people laugh about it.

It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do.

Who do you want to read your book?

Anyone who has an interest in an outdoor or active lifestyle. The stories would resonate with them. Even the weekend warrior or the couch person who just pages through Outdoor Magazine. Anyone who has an interest in camping, hiking, paddling, skiing, the stories would resonate with them. The book is written somewhat like Chelsea Handler’s books: short, first person non-fiction stories. There is an edge to them with romance and heartbreak.  I think they can relate to stories about being an idiot.  I want to be like everyone man or every woman. Anyone can do this. Someone said to me, “You have the most amazing life ever.” It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do. I am a vagabond to be able to do so – it can be drawback where I feel isolated. I travel all the time. There’s no way to keep a relationship for more than six months.

What do you want to tell your audience through your book?

It’s a two-fold message: I’ve had great adventures but anyone can do that. And second, if something really bad happens in your life you can re-frame it into a funny or entertaining story. When you do that, it is a liberating perspective to have on life.  You can learn from your experience and share it.

What does it mean to have a liberated life?

Sometimes I say to myself, “I hope something bad happens to you today.” It’s how I find my stories to write and also how I learn in life. When I lived in Killington, I skied and coached. People would say, “You are so lucky!” and I would say, “Yea, they have a lottery. They choose one person every year to move here and I got the ticket,” (insert heavy sarcasm).

Everyone gets too comfortable in what they do and we don’t have a lot of control over what happens in our lives. I have very little control over disasters in my life – I would have avoided them if I had control. I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives and they can read my book and feel like they live vicariously through me but I hope it’s inspiration to try something out of their comfort zone.

Roam Life is all about that. How do you get someone motivated to move?

A lot of people say they want to go to South Africa to race. (Editor’s Note: Josh completed the Cape Epic with partner, Jackie Baker this last April) But how many actually want to do it? How many people really want to pack the bike in the box, pack the clothes, be that in shape, and travel all the way there to race? Most people don’t want it as much as they say they do. To live more extreme you have to want it really badly.

I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives…

I took a huge risk in leaving my job and thinking I could float myself on a year in freelance writing. If it doesn’t work out I can go back to education. People said, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” Nothing is guaranteed. To me, that’s a risk.

When you travel is there anything essential that you travel with?

I definitely don’t have any superstitions or things I have to travel with. If I can find a good latte wherever I am, I’m a happy person. Anywhere in the world. I don’t’ go to super exotic destinations. The most exotic place I’ve been was Morocco but I couldn’t get a latte there.

Where was the best latte had?

Oh, wow. Tough call. I had a pretty good one in Les Deux Alpes in France. The best latte I have had so far. But I’m still in constant search of a better one.

TP time: are you a folder or a crumpler?

 I guess I’m a crumpler. I’d say I’m a crumpler of everything. I’m not really tied to physical things. I don’t feel like they have to be folded.

E-Mail Update from CJ: Here’s a good TP photo for you. My dad jokes that I’ll never run out. I just figure if I actually get to use a toilet, I better be well supplied.

C.J.’s stockpile of TP.

CJ, we have the same first name which, I would argue is the best. So why the CJ?

My name is Christine but I write as CJ because there is a famous vampire romance novelist with my name. It’s a college nickname and once I wrote as that name people started calling me it, too. I always sign e-mails Christine. So people don’t know what to call me. People are thrown. I have so many other nicknames, no one really calls me Christine, anyway.

Christine J. Feehan is a freelance writer and media professional who currently resides in Vermont.  Her non-fiction work primarily focuses on outdoor pursuits, and she is a contributing writer at Ski Racing Magazine and as well as a media specialist for the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association. She’s also a professional alpine ski coach and a competitive cyclist who races for Team Elevate Cycles.

To order C.J.’s book: [email protected]

Rachel & Jessica Pedal Against the Grind

 by Christine Perigen


Jessica and Rachel started a cross-country bicycle tour in September, 2011. Terrified yet anxious, these two women rolled down Rachel’s family driveway, each with over 100 pounds of weight to carry down the road on their bikes. Uncertain of the journey ahead and thinking about all the unknowns to come, Rachel and Jessica pedaled away from Wisconsin and headed south.

Catching up with Rachel and Jessica during a break they took in February, Roam Life got to ask a few questions about cycle-touring, what these two have learned on the road, and what they plan to do once the pedals stop turning.

You started planning this cross-country trip because you knew there had to be something more out there for you. So far, what has that something been?

Rachel: I don’t know that I would necessarily phrase it that way.  However, I knew that I wasn’t satisfied with my life on the path it was headed.  I wanted to do more than just work in film.  I am an activist in my downtime and I find it very important to place meaning into my actions and affect others to do the same.  This was a manifestation of this belief.  We are using our filmmaking skills and storytelling skills to share and encourage other women to think outside their lives and look for something special.

Jessica: I think I was hoping to adopt this nomadic lifestyle and never look back.  In reality, I’ve discovered that this trip has show me what I miss the most about staying in one place (friends, family, having a full kitchen, not worrying where we’re going to sleep at night, etc) and taught me that people who like where they’re living and are happy where they are aren’t complacent.

What did it feel like to get on the bike and ride down the driveway and out on the road to this huge journey?

Rachel: I was pretty giddy.  I remember thinking, this is really happening! I didn’t express this until about 5 miles down the road when we stopped to fill out a permit form for the bike path we were using.  I don’t know why, but I wasn’t scared or worried, not in the way that I can loose sleep before an international flight or anything.  It just seemed natural since we’d spent so much time building up to this point!

Jessica: I was terrified!!  I was almost in tears because I was so uncertain about if we would actually be able to do this without giving up or getting killed.  I think about a whole month went by before I stopped asking myself every morning, “Can we really do this???”.  I also remember feeling extremely excited too, though.  I remember riding past farms in Wisconsin thinking, “This is it!  We’re living on our bikes!  This is what total freedom feels like!  All my friends are working, but I’m living on my bike!!”  I think that feeling lasted about a month, too.  But I still get that feeling when I’m somewhere especially beautiful (like New Orleans or Savannah) or doing something amazing (like swimming with manatees or interviewing someone really inspiring), but now the most exciting parts are by far when we’re off the bikes.

Putting aside actual dangers and concerns, how did you address the fears and concerns that people may have had about two young women heading out on this bike trip alone?

Rachel:  I was always certain they were overreacting.  I can’t remember now, though, whether I actually felt like we should take them seriously or not.  At least, not until we were actually on the road in rural Georgia and Tennessee and that little banjo ditty starts playing in my head.  I do remember simply chuckling and telling anyone who expressed concern that we would be checking in on a regular basis, that someone would know where we are at the end of each day and that we were taking a really big knife along with us.  Thankfully, we’ve been able to prove that the world really isn’t that scary so far.  Knock on wood.

Jessica:  I agree with Rachel.  There’s nothing we can do but thank people for their concern and try to assure them that it’s not as hard or scary as it looks and that we’re trying to be as careful as we can.  Everyone always tells us, “Be careful!” and I always respond with, “We try!”  I mean, that’s the best we can promise anyone– that we’ll try to be careful.

How has the use of bicycles impacted your interaction with people on the road?

Rachel:  I’ve dubbed this issue “Celebrity and Spectacle.”  Either people think what we are doing is immensely cool and think we are the neatest thing since sliced bread or people gawk.  It’s a conversation starter that’s for sure.  And I’ve had some really great conversations as a result.  The best ones are the two instances that a woman has stopped us on the road and invited us to stay with her (or in her community).  We’ve ended up spending the day with them and it’s really been life changing.  They are the reason I keep going because it reminds me how special it is.  I would have gone my whole life never having met them if I’d just driven through their state instead of bicycled through it.

Jessica:  We’ve had people pull over to take photos of us with all our gear.  We’ve also experienced the kindness of strangers that I don’t think either of us really believed in before this trip.  Just a few days ago, an elderly couple payed for two nights at a campground for us, and took us out to lunch and dinner both days!  We’d never met them before, either– it was a “friend of a friend of a friend of a friend” situation.  One of the hardest parts of the trip for me has been accepting the help of strangers, knowing I don’t have anything to give in return.  No one expects us to though– that’s also what’s amazing.

How has your journey changed since you started?

Rachel:  Quite literally, the trip has shrunk.  We (me especially) have realized the simple joy of a bed to call your own, a dresser full of clothes and a warm shower every day.  We originally planned to travel indefinitely, but now we have set a very hard end date that we can’t break without loosing a lot of money.  And we’re okay with this.  We know that we’ll be getting back on those bikes again, just not for a year or so (aside from commuting, since neither of us has a car).  Probably just for a few weeks maximum.  That way, we’ll still eventually see all that we’d wanted to see on this trip, but will still have a bed to which we can return.

Jessica:  So many things can effect a bike trip.  Anything from the weather, to the direction the wind is blowing, to the amount of sleep we’ve gotten, to if we’re in dire need of a shower or laundry can effect how slow or fast we go.  It’s been difficult to make plans for more than a few days in advance and our plans are always changing.  We were initially going to bike for 1-2 years.  Now, due to sheer exhaustion (no matter what you might believe, I swear bike touring can be monotonous after a while!) we’re looking at about 9 months.

What is your biggest hope for this trip?

Rachel:  My biggest hope for this trip is that we really will be able to use it to keep the message going for women everywhere that taking a big leap like this is totally doable and worth it.   This is by far the most difficult thing I’ve done ever, and likely ever again, and while I can pretty much say I hate every day because it’s that hard, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I want to take that message and sing it from the mountaintops.  We have a plan for the next stage of Against The Grind that we’ll announce once it’s more set in stone that will do this for sure and I’m very excited about that!

Jessica:  My biggest hope for the trip is to have lots of awesome videos on our website featuring lots of amazing women!  I’d also like to make it to California in one piece.

Your story is incredibly inspiring to people. Many wish they could do what you are doing. What advice would you give to those itching to take the plunge?

Rachel:  If it’s bike touring in particular that’s the plunge, the simplest answer is to start by reading all the blogs that are out there.  They really helped me get over the big stuff like, “Where do we sleep?” and “Where do we go if it rains?” and “What kind of bike might I want?”  Stuff like that.  If it’s anything big, just start early with the planning!  I think it really helped us to start the blog and filled it with all our thoughts and plans.  We then were able to get feedback from people who have already done something similar and amend our thoughts on things.  It also made it real, like we were now responsible for going through with our plan since the world knew about it.  And most importantly, don’t let your friends and family talk you out of it.  They’re just jealous you’re actually getting off your butt and doing something.

My other piece of advice is to be willing to make mistakes and accept that!  We have made so many mistakes on this trip.  I think half our time is trying to make up for them and make things better by finding other solutions.  For instance, a solution could be to find an abandoned barn at mile 12 of 45 and stay there for the night despite the rats because the wind and rain are creating a hypothermia risk!  (When we really should have just stayed another night at our motel…)

Jessica:  My biggest advice is to have realistic expectations!  There are going to be days that are boring as hell, that are hot as hell, and you might even have a few near-death experiences.  Adventure is never easy.  People we meet often remark that we’re “living the dream” or tell us that they’re jealous of what we’re doing.  I always think, “you wouldn’t be jealous of us last week when it was freezing/raining/10000 degrees/insanely  windy/thundering”.  There’s a saying I’ve heard: “There are only two guarantees in bike touring: there will be hills, and there will be wind.”  But not to scare you away from bike touring!  I’m still having a blast, but the best part of bike touring isn’t the miles you put down but rather the people you meet and the serendipitous experiences you  have.

Also just know that despite what many blogs will tell you, you don’t have to have super expensive gear to bike across the country!  Rachel and I have panniers made out of kitty litter buckets and use a tent that was on closeout sale at REI.  We’ve met people biking across the country on $50 beach cruisers.  No matter what your budget you can make your bike touring (or plain old adventure) dreams come true.

Planning a trip is one thing. Starting a trip is another. How did you contemplate risk and what steps did you take in order to move from your comfort zone into your adventure?

Rachel:  I wasn’t really worried.  We set a date and I knew we were going to leave.  I wasn’t going to have gone through a year of publicly planning, of selling my belongings, moving the things I kept across the country to my parent’s house just to say, “Nope, not going today or tomorrow!”  Maybe that’s the secret.  Do it all in baby steps and make those steps pretty permanent so that backing out is literally impossible.

Jessica:  I’d been saving up for a cross-country bike trip for almost a year before I met Rachel.  I voiced my dreams to lots of people.  I bought a good amount of gear (including my touring bike).  However, I’m convinced that if it weren’t for Rachel basically inviting herself along I’d still be sitting at my desk job in Boston, squirreling money away, and saying “Someday I’m going to bike across the country!”  For me, I think it really took having someone else to plan this adventure with me to really get the ball rolling.  Once Rachel got involved, we got a website, started blogging, and opened up facebook and twitter accounts.  I don’t think I’d ever have done any of that on my own.

What is an important reflection you have had about yourself along the way?

Rachel:  The thing I reflect on the most about myself as this journey goes on is how I think I’ve grown to be a much more open and willing participant in speaking and getting to know people outside of my current circle.  When I moved from the Midwest, where everyone strikes up conversations everywhere with anyone, to the East Coast where that doesn’t happen, I loved it.  I never liked just talking to a person in a grocery line or somewhere.  This trip has forced me to talk to people even when I’m tired and beat down by the road.  It has gotten me to go out on the town with people when all I wanted to do was stay in and read.  Now I see how this is a good thing for me and I like it!

Jessica:  My biggest reflection about myself is that I’m homesick for Boston.  I miss my friends and I miss the life I had there.  I’ve realized now that back in Boston, I NEVER had any bad days.  I was basically relatively happy all the time.  Bike touring has shown me a lot of extremes.  There are times when I’m deliriously happy (like more happy than I could ever imagine myself being) and there are also times when I’m completely miserable.

A quote of yours that I love is when you decided to give it up in the trenches of the Everglades in Florida and rent a car out of the swamp. Rachel, you said, “You have to learn…when you’ve had such a break down that sometimes the solution is not to continue in the direction you are going but to find another way.” Jess followed up with, “I don’t think there are any rules to bike touring…there are no set regulations that people have to follow to have a successful bike tour.” Please discuss.

Rachel:  I have always had a mantra in my life:  You are in control of your own life.  If you aren’t happy, make a change.  And this has been incredibly reliable and important to my sanity over the years.  I know that if I am not happy that I can turn around and walk out the door and will never live with regrets.  Why beat myself up over driving ourselves out of a miserable situation?  I don’t beat myself up over not finishing a book I didn’t like or not staying in a job where I didn’t feel fulfilled.  I’m the only person who is going to judge my actions at the end of the day, so if driving a car is the solution, then it’s a great solution!

Jessica:  I’m a LOT harder on myself than Rachel.  I’m always worrying about how my actions look to other people.  Driving out of the Everglades was really hard for me because I was worried that the people reading our blog would think we were cheating or that we had failed at bike touring.  In the end, I’ve been able to reconcile it with the fact that this is MY bike tour.  Not anyone else’s.  And you know what?  No one’s said anything to us about cheating or failing.  Everyone we know is amazed we’ve biked over 3,000 miles.  I just had an irrational fear, I guess.

You guys recently took a break to rejuvenate and spend time with family. How did it feel to be off the bike? Was the break helpful? Did you ride while you weren’t touring?

Rachel:  The break solidified my feelings about this not being a lifestyle I want anymore.  I am glad to be getting back on the bikes to finish this trip for myself and for the people who have invested their love and money into it as well, but I’ll be glad to start the next stage of my life too!  It’s funny because I sort of always feel like I’m just going through the motions waiting for the next stage to arrive, and I certainly felt that way before our break.  I realize now, though, that finishing is not about simply killing time before we go back to Boston this summer, it really has developed into a special event in my life to cherish.  (Even though I’m miserably sore!)

Jessica:  I think the break was nice, because it gave us both a chance to visit our parents and replace some of our warn-out clothes.  We didn’t ride while we were in Wisconsin though (way too cold!).  I think we were both ready to hop back on the bikes in the end because we’re really excited to check out the Western United States.

Back in Austin, you were back on the bikes. How did it feel to go to a life back on the road?

Rachel:  Austin was fun, and I really loved it, which I think surprised me because people had told me I’d love Portland, OR but I didn’t really.  But we’re back on the road now and out in the middle of Texas as I write this and boy is it brutal out there!  The roads are pretty much gravel, which makes for a bumpy ride.  But I know that in the end, I’ll have this beautiful little thing that’s mine and Jessica’s alone and that makes it worth it.

Jessica:  Life back on the road is pretty good so far.  The scenery is starting to change pretty quickly, which is always exciting.  We’re really entering the desert now and I’m really looking forward to the national parks we’re going to be visiting very soon!

A few on the road questions: What’s the best meal you’ve made on the road? TP Question: Crumple or fold? Any TP stories from the road?

Rachel:  The best meal?  Jessica’s the cook, so I can’t claim credit for any of it, but there was one night when we added rice to this cheesy potato soup mix.  Jessica will roll her eyes at it because she is so sick of soup mixes it makes her ill, but that was probably the most memorable.  As for TP stories, I really only can think of how grossed out and freaked out I was when I brushed off a deer tick in the panhandle of Florida after venturing out for a wee.  I really am terrified of a bug the size of a pinhead!

Jessica:  Once I made really delicious cheesy garlic bread out of pancake mix.  Another favorite is kale sauteed with carrots, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and a ginger dressing (store bought) over rice or noodles.  I LOVE cooking with fresh vegetables.  I also really like to cook “Mexican Rice Surprise”, which is really just rice, refried beans with fresh garlic, cheese, salsa, and, if we’re lucky, an avocado.  No real TP stories, although I do recommend using a pee funnel (I use the Whiz Freedom) so you don’t have to squat.  It’s not as inconspicuous as I was hoping though– someone in Illinois honked at me very angrily as I was using it on the side of the road.

Rachel and Jessica are two independent women traveling across the country on bicycles. Part documentary, part public engagement, and part cross-country bicycle trip, they are on a mission to explore and find a “new normal.” They hope to inspire other women to do the same.


Spiritually Speaking with Liz Grover

Amazing Women Doing Amazing Things:

Spiritually Speaking with Liz Grover


Liz Grover is one of those reflective and airy souls that tend to migrate to the Portland, OR area. She’s an activist, spiritualist, centered individual that has a slew of stories she can tell you but you have to ask. She’s non-pretentious like that. Her travels and spiritual quests are how I became connected to Liz and how I came to interview her on a snowy afternoon in March.

Do you consider yourself a part of a community of amazing women?

Modern young men in Kabul

I consider myself part of the global community. Women travelers are a unique breed. We have a lot of unique experiences and more restrictions in traveling.

I was treated really well in Afghanistan and in Kabul better than I thought. Sometimes though, I was treated as an object while traveling with a male friend and he wasn’t treated the same way as me. I didn’t like that feeling of inequality. There is a need for community within women travelers and I build it as much as I can.

Women’s empowerment outside of the US is the way that we’ll make the world a better place. It’s really important. Even the UN said that there is a huge imbalance of male and female energy on this planet.

How do you feel like your travels will help move the imbalance to balance?

When people in villages in Asia see me traveling alone they are almost in disbelief that I am traveling by myself and I’m welcomed because of it. I’m an oddity to them but they think it’s cool that I’m out there doing it on my own because women in their own society wouldn’t be travelling like I do and staying with strangers.

Liz Grover

I think I impact people on an individual level. Also, I think that I have helped women to realize that they can be empowered and they can do a lot on their own. I was in Kabul where it isn’t culturally acceptable for women to ride bikes. It wasn’t the safest thing for me to do but living in Kabul was a gift and I had a lot of freedom but I also had some cultural constraints. Riding a bike was one of them. So I felt restless and took a bike ride through Kabul a couple of times. Women would look at me and giggle and smile and they were excited. I think it was putting myself at risk but it was good for them to see.

Women travelers are a unique breed. We have a lot of unique experiences and more restrictions in traveling.

The men were mad at me and were asking me, “Why are you doing this?” and a small child threw a piece of food at me just because I was riding a bike. I wanted to show women you can ride a bike and it’s not a sexual act.

I’ve impacted people on the individual level over the years and hopefully as I grow bigger in my work and my reach it can affect people on bigger levels. In America, I have done things that not even my society wants to do or expects me to be like. Our society has restrictions too. When I was 18 I drove across the country from Maine to California by myself and I was doing it as a job for this woman who thought I should have a man with me and it would be safer that way. I went by myself and I had a great time and it was very liberating.

When we first chatted, you mentioned you were writing a book. What was the inspiration and who is your ideal reader?

I wanted to go to Afghanistan to this place that had so many media stereotypes from America and I wanted to know what was really going on. I am experiential so I wanted to go experience it. I wanted to find positive stories to share with people in America that no matter where you go you can attract some amazingly positive, loving people. There is no “we’re good and they’re bad.” I wanted to come back and share that.

I have been sharing it through the internet and talks. And being a unique story where a young American woman went to Afghanistan in the middle of war, on the main stage in the world – I decided to share it as a book. It’s a unique story and it’s inspiring. Finding a publisher has been difficult and I feel it’s because I’m not famous enough. I thought unique and inspiring would be enough. I hope to turn it into a screenplay.

I interviewed a woman who was forced to cook for Pol Pot, the leader of the Cambodian genocide. It was either cook for him or die.

Who’s your ideal reader?

My ideal readers would be young adults because I want them to understand that anything is possible. It’s a really important age bracket where you can either wake up and say, “Anything is possible,” or go the other way and say, “I have to get the office job and a mortgage and plug into the American program.” As people get older, they get stuck in that culturally.

What projects are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on some serious film projects that will be public at a later date. One is a project I’m working on and the director is an Indian man who is out of the closet and proud of it. He’s in India and it’s harder to be “out” there than it is here. He has more of a challenge. He started the first gay film festival in India. The story is about an intercultural couple where an American loses his Indian partner and has to go to India for the first time in his life to tell the family of the loss. He has to tell the family that their son was gay. I like the story a lot because the Americans can’t claim that he’s not legally married to him. It also brings up issues of marriage rights for all.

You spent some time studying under the Karmapa, the supreme leader of one of the major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Tell us about that.

I was in Notre Dame, France for three months before I went to Nepal where I met Kali Baba.I’m not religious but I was in Notre Dame because I wanted to speak with someone in French. I went to confession so I could practice my French. Going to confession it’s their job to listen. I had frustration at the time because I could speak French but I was having trouble with sentences and felt the French didn’t have patience for me.  My confession was that I wanted inner peace.

I always wanted to travel to places with extra money but in that situation I only had about $100 in my pocket and I realized that this is me experiencing what the Karmapa lives by.

Liz and Kali Baba

That was the beginning of my journey for finding my inner strength and I just told the guy in French, “Yea, I want to get over my past and childhood and be a people person.” He prayed for me and I feel that meeting this teacher in Nepal was the answer to that. I was 21 in Nepal when I met a Hindu mystic in a mud hut in the Himalayas. He’s living in pure joy. I’ve never seen anything like it. He is in a place of joy and not worrying about a thing. His job is to be joyful. People take care of him because of that. People give him money and take care of him. He never asks. When I met him he was only eating one meal a day but he was healthy and strong and had a glow about him. I was really inspired by that and during my time with him my energy was turned on.

He would travel around Asia: India, Pakistan, Nepal with nothing but he always had faith that things would work out in the universe. This is not an easy belief to always carry. That’s why I went to Afghanistan with nothing. I always wanted to travel to places with extra money but in that situation I only had about $100 in my pocket and I realized that this is me experiencing what the Karmapa lives by.

You have met some amazing people through your travels. What is a story that was shared with you that changed or affected you?

Victims of the Khmer Rouge

I interviewed a woman who was forced to cook for Pol Pot, the leader of the Cambodian genocide. It was either cook for him or die. She had to cook for him for  three years. She got separated from her family and even though I never experienced that it was one of those sobering moments when you realize, “Wow, I have so much freedom and such a gifted life.” What is amazing is that she survived a genocide, her brother was killed, she was away from her family for two years, and had no idea if they were alive. She couldn’t sleep the whole time. The Khmer Rouge (Cambodian solders) turned children into spies. Every time she would leave her hut she would see kids trying to hide out to find information and they would be eavesdropping.

After all of this, this woman was hopeful and smiling and happy. She became a prominent activist in Cambodia. If she can come out of that experience positive and hopeful, I think, for the rest of us who haven’t experienced that, we can follow in her footsteps and live life in positivity.

Talk about traveling responsibly and how traveling has opened your eyes up to how you impact a society.


Any traveler that goes to Asia goes to the beach. If you don’t know what’s going on in these places it seems like a pretty innocent thing to do. Sihanoukville is the capital of child sex trafficking in Cambodia and is a big beach town. I went there when I was 21 not knowing this. I felt weird and I didn’t want to be in the town but I was passing through and you could tell something was wrong but I couldn’t tell what it was. When I went back six years later, I found out it was a sex trafficking town and most of the hotel owners look the other way. People go there to prey on these kids and they pay off the hotel owners to look the other way. It makes me think about my choices and where I stay as a traveler and because I don’t want to pay money to a hotel that supports those kinds of things.

It boggled my mind why I didn’t take a stance against things like that . I know it’s almost impossible to stop it because there are just sick people in the world but it would be nice to have some kind of civil system and get these people out. When I went to stay in the town my friend told me which hotels to stay in that are against trafficking and unfortunately all those hotels were full. I ended up in a hotel and later as I was going around with an undercover detective, he pointed out my hotel as a traffic hotel.

There is a group of travelers, unintentionally or not, that don’t even have knowledge or don’t know where they are going and don’t realize what they are supporting. They go out to party and don’t think about these things. As far as interconnectivity, my choices as a consumer and a traveler directly affect people in Asia.

What is your favorite meal to cook/prepare on the road?

I like making Indian curries for people. Most people can’t find the curries that I make – they aren’t done in restaurants.

TP question: Folder or crumpler?

A crumpler.

Alright. We’ll add your vote on TP to our ongoing research analysis. 

Liz Grover travels the world as a spiritual activist, specializing in sharing the voices and events of social movements through writing, film, photography, and Internet media. She is an established speaker as a voice for peace and an inspiration for others to dare to face their fears by saying yes to their destiny. She is now producing her first feature length narrative film called Scarlet Poppy.


Bringing out the Gloves with Angel Bovee


If you sat down for a cup of coffee with Angel Bovee, you’d never guess that she was one of the most accomplished female boxers in the USA. With a dimpled smile, contagious laugh, and a heart of gold, Angel is one of the most unassuming national champions you’ll ever meet. Although Angel and I used to meet for the occasional beer and chat-fest, we’ve since moved far away from one another and we recently had to have our beer session via telephone. I decided to sit down and ask Angel a more formal set of questions and realized even I didn’t know all of her amazingness. She truly is an amazing and inspiring woman and is now featured in our Amazing Women Series.

Angel was an Olympic-style boxer from 1999 – 2007 and it was her dream to compete in the 2004 Olympic games, predicted to be the first time women’s boxing would be included. At the time, Angel was ranked #1 in the country and was one of only 6 athletes to represent the USA at the first two women’s world championships ever held for Olympic-style women boxers. She was captain of Team USA for the second world championships in 2002 and won national championship status. Unfortunately, even with all the hard work in promoting equality in women’s boxing, it was still not included in the 2004 summer Olympics and Angel was still unable to compete.

2007 Golden Gloves Champion

Angel’s award winning boxing career ended bittersweet.  Due to the upper age limit of 35 in Olympic boxing, Angel had to hang up her gloves without having the chance to realize her dream as women’s boxing was still excluded from the Olympic Games.  Just before her birthday in 2007, Angel chose to finish her impressive career in her own backyard by becoming the NY Golden Gloves Champion for the third time at Madison Square Garden.

Redefining her dreams, in 2006 she was voted as the only woman on the 10 member USA Boxing Board of Directors which is responsible for Olympic-style boxing in the United States.  The focus and driving force behind Angel’s competitive career and now with her position on the Board, has been to try and promote women’s boxing and gender equality in sports, both in and out of the ring. She would like to see women get the same respect, training, resources, media exposure, and competition opportunities that male boxers receive and then increase these opportunities for both men and women boxers around the country.

We asked Angel to rap with us and here’s what she had to say:

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always thought I would be a private detective.  The TV detective shows always focused on the problem solving, the physical nature of it as well as the sense of adventure seemed like the perfect fit for me.  Only later did I realize that really only existed on TV.

In meeting you, I’d never guess you were a champion boxer with several titles on your resume. What are people’s first responses when they find out you are a boxer?

I think that is a common response when people meet me, which just goes to show you the stereotypes involved when you hear someone is a “boxer.”  I had a reporter once say to me that they had never met a boxer who smiled so much.  Boxing, like other sports, defies labels as people from all walks of life are involved. ESPN recently rated 64 sports for levels of difficulty, and boxing came out as #1. This difficulty and challenge attracts a special kind of person to enter the ring.

ESPN recently rated 64 sports for levels of difficulty, and boxing came out as #1.  This difficulty and challenge attracts a special kind of person to enter the ring.

There was recently a controversy about women boxers being required to wear skirts in the Olympic competition. What’s your opinion on the proposed requirement?

I think it is a huge slap in the face.  A bunch of us worked so hard for years to finally be the last sport in the summer Olympic Games to get included . . .and when we finally do they say they can’t tell the men from the women so the women need to wear skirts?  It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, but it shows you the kind of entrenched sexism and challenges we have had in trying to get women included in the last bastion of male dominant sports. The message they are sending is that you can’t be a woman elite athlete with an athletic body because it makes society uncomfortable.

This particular fight we fought in the press and our International Federation finally backed down and are making skirts for women optional.  This is still problematic because for many countries, where women are lucky to have training facilities and boxing gear, the choice won’t be optional.  They are so happy for the opportunity to compete, they will do whatever their national organizing committee will tell them to do.  For example, Poland has their entire team wearing skirts.  Even in our country, there is undue pressure on our athletes to wear skirts as some of the older men in power mistakenly believe it will give our athletes some type of advantage with the judges.  We have done the statistics on this and proven that it’s just not true, but they don’t seem to be willing to listen.  Before the 2010 World Championships, one of our athletes who was the only athlete to go on to win a gold medal, was in tears because the US male coaches wanted her to wear the skirt.  That is not something an athlete should be thinking about before their world championship bout.  I am embarrassed for our sport.

What’s your opinion on prize money for male vs. female boxers?

As of 2010, Olympic boxing was an amateur sport and you received no money for competition.  Professional female boxers make about 3% or less of what their male counterparts do at the highest levels.  I managed a three-time world champion female professional boxer.  At that time she was receiving about $10,000 for a world title fight.  That was before she paid her coach, cut-man, etc.  She had a full-time job and also had to take a week off of work to compete so the small amount of salary was a wash.  A male fighter fighting for the same title makes millions.  Promoters use the excuses that women don’t sell tickets, yet they don’t put women on the cards, so they don’t have an opportunity to build fan support—it is a Catch 22 seeped in sexism.  When a woman does find a way to compete on a card, you often hear fans say it was a much more interesting and entertaining fight than any of the mens’ bouts.  The fighter I managed happened to box as the main event on the Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show, and that episode had the highest rating of the season.  Women enter the ring for the love of their sport, NOT for the money, which inherently makes better fights!

Who handed you your first set of gloves?

I was a martial artist and kick boxer and kicking was always my strength.  AT 25 years of age I decided that I better improve my hand skills so I walked into a dirty, dark, smelly boxing gym. . . looked around. . . didn’t see a single woman in the place.  I picked up a pair of gloves and I never left.  I fell in love with the power, strength, speed and grace of boxing.

Boxing gyms historically been a place where individuals from different ethnic and religious backgrounds could come together and work at a time in this country when that wasn’t true of society at large.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that ideal didn’t hold true for a woman in the gym.  Up until that point, getting in the ring was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.  Years later that got replaced by trying to gain gender equality in the sport, in which the boardroom replaced the ring and became the hardest challenge I ever had faced.

Gleason’s Boxing Gym, Brooklyn

You had your sights on competing (and winning) in the Olympics, 2004. How did you manage the disappointment of women’s boxing not making it there?

It was my dream and I lived every waking moment moving towards that dream.  At 25 I had no business thinking I could ever be competitive enough to compete in an Olympic Games, but I really didn’t think about that.  Lucikly, I grew up in a household where no one ever told me I couldn’t do something because I was female, because I was gay, because I was old. . .My parents were on welfare when I was real young and never were well off, yet they were such out-of-the-box problem solvers I never felt  that we were economically different than anyone else.  I grew up in an atmosphere where independence and resiliency was fostered. . .you set a goal and then work extremely hard to achieve that goal, no matter what it was.  I credit my parents and being a lifetime member of the Girl Scout organization for helping to foster those skills within me. People always look at me like I am crazy when I told them I quit my job as a television producer and moved out of my apartment and moved into my Plymouth Sundance at the Poughkeepsie Train station so I could commute everyday to the famed Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn and train full-time to achieve my dream.

People always look at me like I am crazy when I told them I quit my job as a television producer and moved out of my apartment and moved into my Plymouth Sundance at the Poughkeepsie Train station so I could commute everyday to the famed Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn and train full-time to achieve my dream.

Gleason’s, Brooklyn

Others saw it as an incredible risk but for me it was an easy decision.   Anyone can have a job for 40 years working towards the house and the white picket fence.  To me, the zest of life comes not in saving for retirement, but having as many unique life experiences as I can, when I can while trying to do some good along the way.  Boxing has allowed me to travel the world, and have so many experiences that I would not otherwise have.

Angel and Evander Holyfield, 2011

I am fortunate enough to have been open to certain experiences and have had the extreme pleasure of having experiences like: hanging out with Billy Jean King in her box at the US Open, have taken a team of 16 and 17 year olds to compete in Ecuador, another team to Istanbul, trained in Merida, Mexico for 10 weeks in a tiny gym under the stairs of an outdoor sports stadium, managed a 3-time professional world champion boxer, spent three weeks in Toyko while participating in a pay-per-view event, lived in a Clarion hotel in Scranton, PA for a month because the women’s Team USA wasn’t yet allowed to train at the Olympic Training Center, driven- by myself, without a coach, across country numerous times to compete,  assisted  in opening the Boxing Resource Center a unique athletic and educational facility, in Nashville, TN,  and just got to participate in an NBC shoot for boxing promos they are going to air for the Olympics. . .on and on. . .and those are the good experiences. . . it has been a wild ride!

Boxing has allowed me to travel the world, and have so many experiences that I would not otherwise have.

Boxing has been the conduit not only for me to have a platform to discuss and fight for gender equality in sports but also to be a positive example of an openly gay and out role model.  It is a way to show young girls and women that you can do anything you want in this world, if you are willing to fight the good fight.

When the IOC (International Olympic Committee) denied women’s inclusion in the Olympic Games in 2004 and again in 2008, boxing became the only summer sport not to have women on its Olympic program.  As you can imagine, it did not set well with me that I wasn’t allowed to compete on the worlds largest stage, not because I wasn’t good enough, but simply because I was a woman.  Of course I was angry, absolutely pissed that I could work so hard and not be able to complete my dream because someone deemed boxing wasn’t appropriate for women.  How dare they!

After a period of anger I realized it was my responsibility to restructure my dream and do everything within my power to not let any other young boxer be denied and have to feel what I was feeling.  So I got elected to the Board of Directors of USA Boxing in 2006.  I served as the only woman on the board from 2006-2010.  And boy I thought boxing was hard!  Serving on the board, up until today, has been the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none.  The sexism that exists at the top level of sport organizations is so deeply entrenched that it becomes very difficult to convince people that have been allowed to think a certain way for so many years without challenge, to change their way of thinking to be inclusive.  They see it as a personal affront to their power.   Being on the Board I have learned things I never was interested in learning—how to play politics, how to pick your fights, what issues exist that you simply can’t compromise on and have to fight to the end even when it takes a large personal toll.

I am still on the Board today and I am happy to report that in 2012 you will see the inclusion, although on a limited basis, of women’s boxing in the Olympic Games, making this the VERY FIRST Olympic Games that will include men and women in all sports.  We still have work to do to gain equality in the number of weight classes and number of female athlete slots in the Olympic Games, but we have broken through the glass ceiling.

Just in the past month, women’s boxing has been on NPR, NY Times, BBC, the View, NBC Nightly News, and almost every national news outlet there is, including a full spread in this weeks TIME magazine.  When is the last time you saw a men’s Olympic boxing story in one of these outlets?  We kept telling them this would happen but they refused to listen.  I will be in London to witness this historic first and hopefully close the chapter of that part of my life.

What was your biggest challenge as a professional boxer?


Boxing is not all you do. You’ve had a career in television as well as an advanced degree in Recreation Management. What was the worst job you’ve ever had?

The worst jobs I have ever had were working in the dish room at the dining hall in college, delivering Auto Trader magazines to gas stations around Albany, NY, handing out towels and keys in an exclusive health club at 5am in the morning, and being a certified pool operator for another health club which involved lots of chemicals and manually draining and scrubbing the hell out of the 12 person hot-tub every week so I could have enough hours to get health insurance.

You’ve definitely influenced women’s boxing and the advancement of the sport. What has been your most valued accomplishment?

Besides being a part of getting women’s boxing included in the Olympic Games, I think representing athlete rights on the Board of Directors has been one of my biggest accomplishments.

How have you seen boxing positively impact women from other countries? 

5th Annual IOC Women in Sports Conference

It is amazing that countries like Afghanistan, Syria, China, India, and Egypt have established women’s boxing programs.  What we are doing goes so much further than just a sport.  These woman are changing the social norms of a culture.  That is so powerful.  Last month I attended the IOC’s 5th annual Women in Sports Conference where 800 delegates from all over the world attended.  To hear their stories of struggle were not only empowering, but you start to realize that you are simply one spoke in a wheel of social change in the world and you are not alone.  I have visionary sisters fighting all over the world.  While I often find myself extremely impatient for this change, it is happening, while albeit slowly, and that keeps me going!

Women’s boxing has gotten some great media coverage since entering the Olympic arena. Tell us how the Olympic battle was won.

The battle was won by all of us standing on the shoulders of the pioneers that came before us.  In my sphere of influence, it was a group of women that have been fighting since 1995 for this to happen.  I am proud to be a part of this group which includes volunteers from around the world that have been working without pay and without recognition and with numerous roadblocks from our own boxing organizations.  Women’s boxing appeared in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics and it has taken 108 years to appear again.

I am so proud to announce that one of the leaders of our group and one of the hardest working women I know, was recently recognized by the US Olympic Committee and selected as this years winner of the prestigious Olympic Torch Awards.  This Award has been won by President Gerald Ford, Bonnie Blair and other incredible individuals that have contributed to the Olympic movement.  As she was recognized by this prestigious award in a dinner hosted by NBC’s Bob Costas, our own organization, USA Boxing, didn’t even acknowledge the achievement, so you can see the types of sexism and challenges we still face.

RYS has a foundation in self-advocacy. Explain what self-advocacy is to you and why it’s been an important part of your career.

Angel and 1988 Olympians Gold Medalists Andrew Maynard and Ray Mercer at the 2011 Men’s Olympic Trials

If I didn’t learn how to be a self-advocate I would have never made it out of the local boxing gym.  To move towards my dreams, I had to learn so many skills other than boxing.  I learned early on that when you have a dream, it is contagious.  If you believe in yourself and that comes across in your body language and your passion, other people flock to you like a moth to a light.  I am not sure why that is, but excitement and passion are contagious.

Self –advocacy was crucial to my success.  Olympic boxing is an amateur sport and you receive no money for competing.  You have to fund all your own travel and training fees.  I often call my time in boxing my first master’s degree.   I had to learn how to do graphic design and photography so I could create press kits, a website, publicity photos, and marketing materials to promote myself.  I had to learn about sports performance so I could open my own personal training business to help fund all of my competitive travel as well as make sure I was optimizing my training time.  I had to learn how to fundraise and how to talk to potential sponsors and to the press, not only promote myself and women’s boxing but to also promote women’s equality in sports.  I was fortunate that these skills that I learned as well as the contagious nature of a dream kept me in the press and helped me gain many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I simply just “boxed” and didn’t learn these other skills.  You can be modest and still live your life very openly, very truthfully, and the simple sharing of your experiences can help other in unexpected ways.

For instance, when PBS “In the Life” did a documentary on my partner at the time and myself, we got so many e-mails after it aired about the importance of being out gay role models.  So many people that watched the documentary contacted us to say that we really inspired them to come out and live open and honestly and the sense of empowerment that that gave them.  We were just living the way we knew how to live.  I never knew I would have that kind of voice as a boxer.   So you really can influence people in unexpected ways simply by honestly sharing your life experiences—the good and the bad.

Important question: TP, do you crumple or fold? 

Crumple-I have no time for folding. I don’t fold my underwear, handwraps, or socks either!

What’s the future look like for Angel Bovee?

I just started a new job working for Adecco and the US Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs administering the Team USA Career Program.  I place Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls in part-time jobs that are flexible with their travel and training schedules so they can gain some career experience to help not only fund their Olympic and Paralympic dreams but also help with their transition out of sport.  Even thought I have a master’s degree and experience representing athletes, I have no HR experience and I  got the job primarily because I was an elite athlete myself.  Never in a million years would I have guessed my boxing experiences would have lead to a job.  That makes me chuckle.

I hope my future is one of great life experiences.

Money has never been a driving force in my life so that leaves me open to all sorts of non-traditional experiences.  I have also chosen to minimize fear in my life.  We only have so many minutes on this Earth, I don’t want to spend any of my minutes being afraid—afraid of being judged and hated,  afraid of not having a 401K, afraid of picking up and starting over in a new location . . .I do plan on trying to simply and get some projects off my plate.  I am learning the difficult lesson of just because you can make a difference doesn’t mean you say “yes” to every project that comes along.  I want to finish the multitude of projects I have on my plate and spend a little more time on myself and spend time strengthening the relationships in my life.

You’ve chosen “fighting” to create a sense of identity and a sense of empowerment within yourself. Discuss. 

I guess I was born a fighter.  Fights inside the ring are unique because at the end of the day, you are in there competing against yourself.  Can you be faster, stronger and more skillful than the last time you stepped through the ropes?  That is thrilling to me!

If we all had equality and were afforded the same opportunities and civil rights, I guess none of us would feel the need to fight.  My biggest fights have occurred outside the ring and I really don’t enjoy the process, but just like in boxing, knowing you can make a difference and learning from the fight makes you more effective the next time.  As you learn to become effective, your sense of responsibility increases.  I am continually surprised why people and organizations don’t just do something because it is the right thing to do.   That guiding light should be brighter than economics, personal politics, fear, or anything else that typically is used in making decisions within organizations. Things that seem so simple to me sometimes end up being my biggest fights.

Angel Bovee  was an Olympic-style boxer from 1999 – 2007 and holds multiple and impressive titles from her career. She is heavily involved in women’s Olympic boxing in the USA and still sits on the US Olympic Boxing Board of Directors. For more information or to contact Angel, e-mail [email protected].


13 Questions for Eleanor Moseman

Amazing Women Doing Amazing Things:

13 Questions for Eleanor Moseman

Websites:  &

In my search for amazing women to highlight in our Amazing Women Doing Amazing things, I knew I had to reach out to Ellen. I knew she was an amazing woman. Her story of traveling across China on a bicycle captivated me. I wrote Ellen to ask if she’d be a part of our community.

Ellen responded with heart and truth that I’ve learned is to be her engaging personality. Ellen is real. She’s a straight shooter. She has heart, guts, and a seriously insane sense of humor that makes me laugh when I’m alone and anticipate her next e-mail installment.

Ellen with Uyghur family

Eleanor has been in China since 2008 snapping photos and living life and a couple of years ago, she set out to from Shanghai on a project she labeled 2wheels4girls in an effort to raise funds for girls’ education in China. 18,000km later, Ellen is still on the road.  This year, she was named one of Jupiter’s Travellers and her work has shifted to a new endeavor of documenting cultures and customs that are slowly disappearing in China.

Ellen making oatmeal on the road

We sent Ellen a list of 13 questions to ponder while she was making her way along the Silk Road in the Taklmakan Desert. Wind burned and dodging police in Hotan, China, Ellen found time to respond.

1. Your cause, 2 wheels 4 girls brings to light the disparity in educational opportunities for girls in the US vs. girls in China. What impact do you hope to have through this project and what would your dream outcome be?

It was mostly to just bring about awareness to under privileged and under served children, especially girls. The goal was 10,000 miles, which I’ve already accomplished. The journey has now developed into something else. I’m a photographer and I spent my summer in Tibetan areas, Kham, Amdo…which people know this as Western Sichuan and Qinghai…along with an illegal entry into Tibet. I found myself living with nomads and the hospitality and love from them was immense. It was a total enlightening experience. So, I’m actually in the process of changing my site to the “Wander Cyclist” because I don’t really have a route. I speak/read Chinese so I go basically on what folks tell me or people I meet and chat with. The journey is now continuing as a photo project dedicated to documenting the minorities of China, especially those that are under religious persecution, and learning about the disappearing customs. Western China is on a brink of rebellion right now and things are changing, quickly.

2. How did you learn about the education of girls in China and what inspired you to create change?

I’ve done some volunteer work and living in China, I took notice of how driven these young girls were to succeed and learn. Whenever I’ve had problems, if I found a high school aged girl, she could generally speak English. I would spend time with local girls, whether eating ice cream or even going to their home for dinner.

3. You are doing something so unique and so solo, how do you get your voice heard?

I talk loudly…ha…um…I don’t know. I’m in a very unique situation and my stories and experiences are extremely unique because I have lived in China, for nearly 4 years and I can speak the language. I’m also very accustomed to the culture and what is expected of me. Networking accounts for a lot, but it’s been slow. I’ve been at this project for almost 2 years now. But I’m never solo…there have been so many people behind the scenes to help me. It would be impossible without them.

People write to me asking about photography and cycling advice and I have to tell them…China is an old shoe to me. I really go off the beaten path to find villages. There is no fear of getting lost because my language skills. Sometimes I feel a little weary of giving advice because I don’t want to be responsible for someones death.

4. Have you always been into bicycles? 

Always had one…just used it as a commuter bike. In college, between my roommates and I…we would have a large collection in the corner or hallways. I just found it as the best way to really interact with local people. When I’m on a train in China, I have to close my eyes because it’s frustrating to see all the good stuff go by.

Winter (in April) – Kashgar to Sary-Tash via the Irkeshtam Pass

5. How has the choice of using a bicycle influenced your experience and the interaction you’ve had with those you’ve met?

Of course. I get a lot of thumbs ups, a lot of “lihai” which is kind of like “cool” in Chinese. Most everyone in China has a bike or motorcycle. It’s always a conversation starter and a great way to get free meals and water.

6. What is the most commonly asked question of you when you are on the road?

In this order: “What country person are you?” “How old are you?” “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?”

7. Solo travel can be a lonely and desolate road. What keeps you going in those moments when solo feels very alone and difficult?

I make jokes or remember stories. I think a lot about past people I’ve met. Although, I’ve had a couple temporary partners along the way. At 18,000km now…I’m tired of pushing along alone. After my last partner, I realized how awesome it is to have camp company and someone to share experiences with. There may be someone joining me in a couple of weeks/months. He’s not sure yet…but I would love to have company again. It keeps some of the attention off of me when I want to sneak around for photos.

8. What’s the easiest, go to meal that you cook on the road? What’s the most difficult you’ve tried?

easiest: instant noodles
most difficult: rice pudding

9. Let’s talk TP: Do you crumple or fold?

haha, if I was Tibetan I would tell you I don’t use anything. But I’m not…I’m a folder.

10. You are inspiring and carry with you a very inspiring story. What inspires you?

meeting new people and getting some amazing stories on “film”. The Tibetans were very easy going with the camera. Loved it. Now I’m in Muslim territory and everything has been flipped for me. I’m not really sure where the hell I am right now.

11. In order to be an advocate, you have to have a strong sense of self-advocacy as well. How would you describe self-advocacy and how have you practiced it in your life?

Life ain’t easy. I come from a humble upbringing. The first to attend college on my father’s side of the family. Working class, blue collar family. I excelled at art but when college came about…I couldn’t afford the good schools I got accepted to. I found myself going to a mediocre public university that I really pushed my boundaries with. Education was really pushed on me by my parents. They didn’t care what I went to school for, just go to school. I don’t regret not going to those good schools, because I love the life I have now. But education is expensive, and can be really heartbreaking when you can’t go because of money.

Besides this, I’ve been working, near full time, since I was 18, and summers since I was 16. So, I’ve been clawing my way to the top for the past…um…awhile.

Some people may think a journey like this is vain or selfish…but I needed something epic in my life. Something to help me find me. And well…I did. I told myself I had to do something at 30. I’m pretty glad I waited because I think I enjoy this and appreciate it more than a young 20 something. No offense to any of those. But I do get a lot of girls in their early 20s wanting to do something like this. No rush ladies…when it happens, it happens.

I’ve had help from family and friends too. This has been very much a group effort.

12. One of the things we do in RYS is look at life from a new angle. How have you looked at things from a new angle since beginning your trip?

We have too much shit in our lives. Material, mental, emotional. Just way too much. It feels great to be traveling with the only necessities I need. Besides those care packages my mom sends out to me. I’m stronger, independent, self-sufficient, and somewhat fearless.

13. We’re planning a cycling trip around the world in 2015. What advice would you give to those just starting out on their journey?

You may not figure out what you are doing until about 10,000 km in…at least it took me awhile.

Also, laughter is a universal language. The past couple of weeks, these carts filled with Muslim men are just staring at me as they ride by. I started smiling and laughing and they return it. It really lightens a heavy mood.

Eleanor Moseman is an American photographer, nomad, and world traveler. She is currently cycling through Asia documenting hidden communities, disappearing traditions, and cultures in danger of being erased.



Update from Ellen on the road 3/8/2012:

Christine, I hope that made sense. I’ve been, primarily alone, in the desert for 2 weeks.

Side note. A lot of Chinese parents do not want their daughters to pursue Masters or Phd programs because, and I quote…”who would want to marry you?!” So highly educated women here are usually single, or have accepted that there may not be a man suited for her. Shameful.

I was talking to a young girl who said, “yes, my sister has a Phd and she is very lucky to have found a man that would marry her.”

Glacier is noted as being 7000m (Not Everest but close) and the lake is Namucuo, the highest in the world.

“It’s the differences in each of us that makes this world so beautiful” – Ellen Moseman

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Ellen’s Adventure Continues!

Meet Abigail Anderson

How I Found my Way Back to Adventure as a Stay-at-Home Mother
by Abigail Anderson 

The day I turned twenty, I bought my first car.  It was a white 1991 Honda Accord, with only 99,000 kilometers on it.  Within the first year I owned it, I added another 50,000 kilometers to the odometer and many more in the years that followed.

In my early twenties, I travelled anywhere my little car could take me, and my adventurous spirit would lead me.  It took me to numerous towns where I could try out independence as a young adult; it carried me home when I missed my Mom and Dad; it brought me closer to old friends who had moved away to form their own adventures and to new friends whose adventures were crossing paths with mine; and it carried me from one new job to another so that I could discover my skills, abilities, and passions in this life.

It’s been twelve years now since I bought my first car for my 20th birthday.  I still have the car, though it doesn’t see many adventures anymore.  These days, a little worse for wear and speckled with rust, the odometer slowly climbs to the 400k mark as it takes my husband to and from work, so I can enjoy the first few years of my children’s lives before they start wanting independence of their own.

But I digress.

This story is not about a car.  It’s about a journey, and even though my wonderful little car carried me safely to each destination my wandering heart desired, somewhere along the road, I forgot I was the one driving the car…

When I was 24, I went back to school, and I met my future husband.  Within a few years, we bought our first house, got married, and had two beautiful children.  This was the life I had always dreamed of.

So now what?

I started feeling lost, purposeless, and guilty – guilty that I felt purposeless while being a mother to two helpless and wonderful babies, and lost because it never occurred to me to have a ‘next’ goal after having children. It was as if in my mind, my life would be complete at that moment on, and forever more.

Needless to say, I was in need of an awakening of the spirit.  As a mother, I simply knew it wasn’t enough.  How was I going to teach my children to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals if I was too chicken to step out and show them not only how it’s done, but that it’s important?  How but by taking risks, would I teach them if the reward is great, the effort is easy.

Although I had become aware that I needed to start pursuing goals in my life again, the thought of taking any risks was terrifying.  It had been so long since I’d had any adventures.  I hadn’t met any new people in years; I hadn’t been to any new places, or travelled on my own; and because I was a stay-at-home mom, I hadn’t been supporting myself financially either.

So, I started small.  To get inspiration, I read story upon story of women and mothers who are taking the adventurous road, following their passions, and facing their fears.  To grow, I challenge myself.  I challenge myself physically by learning about fitness; I challenge myself mentally by picking up some new hobbies like painting, and going back to some old hobbies like playing guitar, writing, and crafting; I challenge myself psychologically by opening up to people about my goals and dreams and in so doing, I hold myself accountable to loved ones who have my back; and finally, I challenge myself emotionally by learning new skills to increase my compassion and understanding for both myself and for others.

I am driving the car again.

Even though my adventures look very different from the ones I had in my early twenties, I feel excited, scared, and every bit as uncertain as I did then.  But, from those small steps through the door to adventure, I am once again finding meaning in my life.  I am becoming braver with every step I take and change has once again become a love in my life.  I am filled by a sense of mystery and anticipation of what my life will look like in the coming days, months, and years.  With compassion for myself, I move forward knowing that though I will stumble here and there, memories will be created, and others will be inspired just as I have been by all the brave women I read about and hear about on a daily basis.

Final thoughts….

Whether your idea of an adventure is trotting the globe, getting out and meeting new people, or doing something different from anything you’ve ever done before, if you don’t open the door, you’ll never get out of your box.  If you’re scared, do it anyway.  And remember: just as no two people are the same, no two adventures will ever be the same, so seek out your adventure, not someone else’s.

Abigail E. Anderson is a mother, wife, blogger, and motivator, who is constantly learning new ways to enrich her life through change.  She is currently working on her first novel. To learn more about change, find out more about her story, or to simply connect with another adventurer, visit