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She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild (Solo Travel Guides, Travel Essays, Women Hiking Books)

She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild (Solo Travel Guides, Travel Essays, Women Hiking Books)

by Gale Straub


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For every woman who has ever been called outdoorsy comes a collection of stories that inspires unforgettable adventure.

Beautiful, empowering, and exhilarating, She Explores is a spirited celebration of female bravery and courage, and an inspirational companion for any woman who wants to travel the world on her own terms.

Combining breathtaking travel photography with compelling personal narratives, She Explores shares the stories of 40 diverse women on unforgettable journeys in nature: women who live out of vans, trucks, and vintage trailers, hiking the wild, cooking meals over campfires, and sleeping under the stars. Women biking through the countryside, embarking on a road trip, or backpacking through the outdoors with their young children in tow.

Complementing the narratives are practical tips and advice for women planning their own trips, including:

• Preparing for a solo hike
• Must-haves for a road-trip kitchen
• Planning ahead for unknown territory
• Telling your own story

A visually stunning and emotionally satisfying collection for any woman craving new landscapes and adventure. Beautiful, empowering, and exhilarating, She Explores will inspire even the most outdoor-averse woman to connect with the landscape, take a leap of faith, and find her community.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452167664
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 153,695
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Gale Straub is the founder of She Explores, a media platform for curious, creative women who love travel and outdoor adventure. She lives in New Hampshire.

Read an Excerpt



Who do you picture when you think of an outdoorswoman?

What clothes does she wear?

What vehicle does she drive? Does she live in it? Does she pull a tent out of the back, arranging it under the stars?

MAYBE SHE'S A REALIST, MAYBE SHE'S A dreamer. Maybe she's an artist and the varying landscapes she crosses inspire creativity within her. Or maybe the changing landscapes are overwhelming at times. She wants to slow down and stay awhile.

Perhaps she has a family. She's a mother, orienting her children to the world so they can figure out how to orient themselves on their own one day.

Or her children are all grown up, their compasses set. Her time is suddenly all her own.

She's a biologist, a wilderness ranger, a computer programmer.

She's grieving: a loved one, a relationship, a piece of herself.

Maybe she's working tirelessly to share the stories of others. Or perhaps she's articulating her own.

When you imagine this woman, do you see yourself in her? The outdoors is so special because it does not cultivate an archetype for the outdoorswoman. And while society is always tempted to shape us in its image, to create an "ideal" way to look and love and be, on cur best days, when we're out there alone in nature, we get the opportunity to define ourselves. Do you see all the possibilities for your own life?

I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. My earliest outdoor memories include digging up potatoes in my dad's garden and tromping through the woods with my twin sister and older brother. We didn't travel a whole lot, but my dad took us on winding drives through our small state. We were encouraged to peek over stone walls and take the back roads home. My mother is an artist. She turns her interior world inside out by experimenting with new mediums: textiles, pastels, watercolor, pen and ink. My parents instilled in me a quiet curiosity and I'm grateful for that.

In college, I wouldn't have identified as an outdoorswoman, even as I spent weekends hiking in the White Mountains and found solace on long winter walks through the city streets of Boston. I had no sense of who I was or what I wanted from work or relationships, but the time I spent in motion, in open air — that's when I felt most at ease with myself. The pleasure I took from spending time outside was magnified by a deep appreciation for its beauty. Using my dad's old 35 mm Pentax camera, I began taking photographs on those long walks and watching them come to life in the campus darkroom.

I graduated from college in 2008, a turbulent time in the American economy. Aimlessly armed with a psychology degree, I applied to grad school for a crash course in accounting and finance. From there I spent several years working at a "Big Four" accounting firm and then a venture capital firm in Boston. I enjoyed the stability of this work and the direction that came with it. I love problem solving, and accounting has it in spades. In my free time, I continued to hike New Hampshire's worn trails. I escaped to Maine to swim in its clear, deep lakes And almost every night I wandered my neighborhood with a camera, capturing shadows and bright spots.

By 2013 I'd lived in Boston for almost ten years, and I was starting to feel restless. In certain ways I was lonely, too. I lacked community, likeminded people whom I could share my interests and curiosities with.

Craving new landscapes and adventure, I made the decision with my partner, Jon, to travel in a Sprinter van for a year. We owned no house, had no kids. The timing felt right for us. I saved for more than fifteen months, and with careful planning, I was fortunate to be able to save money beyond my student loans and rent. I was nervous before we left. I was leaving behind my profession and I was only in my late twenties. As I packed, my landlady, a conservative woman in her sixties, asked me what neighborhood I was moving to. Hesitantly, I told her that I was going to road-trip with Jon.

Her response surprised me: "My husband was a taxi driver. He was happiest behind the wheel. When he retired, we were going to travel the country together in an RV. He died right after he retired. It was so unexpected. Good for you for doing it now. You never know what's going to happen."

We weren't retiring, but I took her sentiment to heart.

I learned so much about myself during those months on the road. I redefined my boundaries. I discovered that I'm bad at recognizing what I need. I moved too fast and my camera shutter released too slowly. Sometimes the blurry images I took mimicked my headspace. At first I was afraid of almost everything, but slowly I found myself exchanging fear for confidence. I cultivated my most intimate relationship in a small space. I traced the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts by road.

My respect for the outdoors grew, as did my interest in trying new, adventurous activities. I hiked South Sister, the third-highest mountain in Oregon, and marveled at ho v thin the air feels above ten thousand feet. I floated on a surfboard in salt water off Los Angeles and tried to catch a wave. Day by day, I found myself a little less inhibited. When the trip ended and I returned to New England, I brought that feeling with me.

I started She-Expiores.com when we set off on the road trip in 2014. My vision was to create a content site for and about inquisitive women in the outdoors and on the road. The inspiration for the site was multifold. In preparation for our trip, I'd searched the Internet and social media, but I couldn't find many resources for women like me. I had all this pent-up creative energy that I'd harnessed in photographs that I wasn't sharing with anyone. I wanted to find a community of women who love the outdoors and its beauty as much as I do, so I created a platform that allowed women to share their work and their thoughts with others. I hoped to grow an audience that cares about each other and celebrates our successes.

From the beginning, I knew my story wasn't enough to fill the site. I researched and reached out to women who were inspired by time spent outside. I connected with writers, artists, photographers, and fellow travelers. I wanted to hear women's stories, stories that historically have not been highlighted as often as men's.

At first, the site and the stories were largely aesthetic, shaped by the romantic pull of the outdoors. But over time, I learned more about the outdoor space and its political and social nuances. Women actively carved a place for themselves within the outdoor industry by starting their own companies and spearheading grassroots organizations. The essays I received grew more reflective. They were hones, and revealing, indicative of the transformative power of nature. After two years, I extended this vision to a She Explores podcast. It's allowed me to have dynamic conversations about diversity, hiking solo, mental health, adventuring with kids, conservation, and more. After three years, I collaborated with the thoughtful Laura Hughes to start a second podcast, Women on the Road, which highlights life on the road from the feminine perspective. Audio is an intimate medium; I'm grateful for the women who choose to share their personal stories of adventure, creativity, hardship, and growth with me.

To date, She-Explores.com has featured hundreds of women and highlighted the myriad of ways they experience the outdoors. And it's thrilling to imagine how many more of us are out there.

This book is a compendium of curious, creative outdoorswomen and travelers. I've divided the collection into groups: enthusiasts, creatives, founders and professionals, nomads, transplants, and advocates. But I recognize that we are not one thing; each woman featured is entirely herself, and yet there are overlaps in their interests. She can be a conservationist and an artist. She can be an accountant and a thru-hiker. She can be a climber, a writer, and a traveler. I like to think of the overlaps as the connections between us.

In addition to the personal stories from remarkable women, I share some of my own lessons from time spent in the outdoors and on the road. In the following pages you'll find sidebars with tips on solo hiking, outdoor etiquette, travel photography, and more. It's a healthy mix of practical how-to and honest first-person narrative, as told to me.

My hope is that the advice and stories in She Explores will inspire you to plan that next backpacking trip, on-the-road adventure, or transformative journey: whether it's an artistic, entrepreneurial, or exploratory venture. I hope that by reading about their passions, you'll dive deeper into your own.


You, a natural resource.

You who feels like the best version of herself at sunset when the air is crackling and the dirt's between your toes.

You who, as the sun's rising, promises to be quiet and let the dawn share its secret with the day on its own.

You who, at high noon, have almost-but-not-quite dared the sun to burn your skin, imagining the cracked patina leather it would someday become: signs r. a life outside. But you know better than to dare the sun anything.

You who have pulled on crusty socks unceremoniously and brushed off those who notice.

You, who know that all the bruises and scrapes from scrambling and rambling are the best because they remind you of being alive. Someone may even point it out: "How'd ya do that?" And you shrug your shoulders, because you honestly don't know.

You who have shed tears on the trail without really knowing why.

You who look at the mountains and think they must know everything about you, and you who look at the sea and are sure that it doesn't care about you at all.

You who have surprised yourself by falling behind the group, and you who have surprised yourself by charging ahead. The trail is the same, but each time, you're the one who's different.

You who, however gracefully, made it. Sometimes it's ugly, and sometimes you move across the water or rock and have never felt lighter.

You who smiles as someone tries to understand why you have to be barefoot at least some portion of the year, or come in with rosy cheeks and wild hair and dirt clinging in clumps to, well, anywhere it can get. And you who don't really need them to understand anyways.

You who have found your remedy — you lucky girl. It takes some years to know about the cure-all of dried sweat and moon-stains.

You, a natural resource, supplied by nature, and made up of it, too. I am proud of you.

Bravery Can Be Messy

The very act of achieving ambitious goals — doing the hard work, working past the failures, and remaining open to adaptation — transforms us and builds character.

THRU-HIKING THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL with no prior hiking experience was my first big outdoor goal. While I failed to thru-hike the trail in one season, the process of trying, failing, and going back to complete the remainder of the trail in a second season gave me the spark to tackle other ambitious goals like long-distance biking, thru-hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail, and completing a half Ironman. When I began delving into the outdoors, it started as the pursuit of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but since then it ha' evolved into a full-time way of life. It is where I go to meditate, share experiences, accept a challenge; to sweat it out, get the blood flowing; to balance my mood, get re-inspired, grieve, and reflect.

Doing things that scare us-whether physical or mental-is the very definition of bravery. Growing up, I thought bravery was about being bold and fearless, but as I've explored the backcountry, I've discovered bravery can be messy. It makes us come face-to-face with our most vulnerable selves, it asks us to sit in discomfort, and it asks us to try, fail, get back up, and stretch ourselves. Embracing fear has greatly affected and enhanced my every experience in the outdoors, and it has urged me to share these experiences and thoughts with others. These lessons I've learned have become even more powerful when translated into a template for everyday living. When I'm afraid to tackle things in my career, relationships, health, and beyond, I am reminded that even with trepidation, I can move forward and slowly but surely take one arduous step at a time. Only then will I be able to look back over the hills and valleys and see how far I've come.


My Injured Brain on Nature

I realized that, when I was removed from my daily overstimulated and fast-paced life, I could continue to recover from my brain injury.

FOR THE FIRST FOUR YEARS I had post-concussion syndrome, I suffered from daily migraines, cloudiness, vertigo, fatigue depression, and issues with memory and retention. Over time, I learned to identify my triggers and, with the help of a few incredible doctors, developed ways to manage my physical symptoms. More recently, an amazing traumatic brain injury (TBI) community I found through the organization LoveYourBrain has provided me with the emotional support I craved. Today, eight years after my college lacrosse injury, my symptoms no longer present themselves on a daily basic, and I work hard to control them.

The first two years with my injury, I couldn't drive, be in direct sunlight, or look at a computer or television without inducing symptoms, but it was my inability to exercise that I obsessed over. I held on to the hope that I might wake up one morning and feel like my old self again, and my progress was always tracked against my past sense of balance as a full-time athlete. As time passed, I forgot what that old balance even felt like and, eventually, began to carve out ways to feel comfortable in my new body.

The first shift came during the Adirondack Semester in college: for thee months, I lived with eleven other students, no running water, and limited electricity in a secluded yurt village. I realized that, when I was removed from my daily overstimulated and fast-paced life, I could continue to recover from my brain injury

When I signed up for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming a few years later, my sole intention was to test this theory. Up to that point, I did not have energy to spare for exercise, and I was hyper-aware that should the course prove too much, my migraines would most likely force me to be evacuated from the Wind River Range. This was terrifying.

But it was time for me to take ownership of my injury.

The last day of my NOLS course was the proudest day of my life. I made it through all four weeks on the course without a single migraine, and I left the strongest and fullest self I had been for more than six years. I know my body and mind better than anyone. The NOLS course reminded me to trust in that knowledge.

But most importantly, I was reminded of what it meant to be in control of my own life. That my brain does do better when I spend more time outdoors and less time behind a screen. When I decide to take the time to step back, reflect, and reassess, my body responds positively. I am a stronger person because of my injury not just in spite of it.


In Constant Search of Foliage

Seeking out and engaging with nature in the urban environment helps me reset my perspective on a daily basis and reminds me that there's beauty worth exploring and protecting right here.

NATURE SEEKERS' FAVORITE DESTINATIONS are usually awe-inspiring, pristine, and remote. These are the places we yearn to explore and strive to protect. The city on the other hand, is often seen as a place to escape from, the place you 'eave behind when you want to "get away from it all." But nature exists here, too. We are nature — my family, my neighbors, and the millions of other people of color who, like me, call this place home. This — my city, my street, my weed-covered front stoop — is nature, too. Seeking out and engaging with nature in the urban environment helps me reset my perspective on a daily basis and reminds me that there's beauty worth exploring and protecting right here.

Finding nature in the city isn't as hard as you might think. It's not always grand. Sometimes it's small, gritty, spiky, unkempt. Sometimes it's the stubborn Lots of clover that push up through cracks in the sidewalk or the patches of prairie that take advantage of every sunny empty lot. Sometimes it's a gorgeous forest preserve a mile from home or the overgrown tomato plants in the community garden down the street. When I started looking for nature in the city, I found it everywhere. And I found it all beautiful.

I've been a gardener my whole life. My mother filled our home with giant, lush indoor plants, was always picking up abandoned bits of greenery, and checking the local nursery for sales. I absorbed my love of plants (and by extension, nature) from her. Plants were my first connection to the earth and remain my strongest link. They are so powerful and so unassuming. Most people don't even think about them, except as backdrop or window dressing. Without plants, though, we wouldn't and couldn't be here. They make so much possible for us and ask for so little in return.


Excerpted from "She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road And in the Wild"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Gale Straub.
Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Beginnings, 15,
Enthusiasts, 25,
Creatives, 57,
Founders and Professionals, 91,
The Simplest Tools, 138,
Transplants, 173,
Advocates, 199,
Thanks, 237,
Contributors, 238,
Credits, 239,

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