ACAI ADVENTURER: Carrie, The Serial Traveller

When you are browsing Instagram and stumble across a profile with images that take your breath away, bio description ‘hiker and photographer’ and a link to a blog site emboldened with ‘I am an adventure girl who loves hiking and the outdoors. I love the mountains and exploring the wilderness’ you are left with no option but to investigate further.

It was from that point that we discovered an inspirational adventure seeker with a passion for travel, nature and photography who has embarked on travels around the States in a Campervan and sets herself challenges such as completing all 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers – which are 48 very high mountains!

Carrie was raised in New York City where she would spend her weekends in the Adirondacks; hiking trails, climbing peaks and swimming in the lakes. This planted a seed that would grow into a love for the outdoors and spending time in the cradle of nature. However, as an adult Carrie began work as a teacher in a New York school and without a car, found herself trapped in the city with little means of escaping other than following pictures of like minded people on Instagram.

When Carrie met her now husband Steve, she decided to move to Boston to be with him and was quickly introduced to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Accessible by a 2-3 hour car drive, Carrie and Steve would escape at the weekends with the intent of conquering a few of the New Hampshire peaks, but as Carrie explains, they soon found themselves hooked.

“As a lover of to-do lists, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a massive to-do list of 48 mountains, each containing incredible beauty, intense workouts, and unique experiences.

Over the next four years, Steve and I drove up to lovely towns like Woodstock, Lincoln, Gorham, Jackson, and North Conway, which would be the basecamps for our hikes. We hiked during spring rainstorms, on hot summer days, in the gorgeous foliage of autumn, and even on snow covered winter afternoons. Some hikes were quick and included one summit (for example Mount Hale which is a 4.4 mile hike and took only three and a half hours) whereas other hikes took multiple days and hit multiple summits (for example the Presidential Traverse which hit 7 summits and was 23 miles of hiking with 9,000 feet of elevation gain). Each hike was incredibly unique, considering they are all within a short distance from each other, with lovely wooded trails, occasional ponds and lakes, and many beautiful views from the summits.”

The dedication that Carrie poured into this project was to pay off. Not only did it lead her to discover places of natural beauty, peace and solitude it also lead to a wedding proposal as Steve popped the question on an over night hike!

Not content with staying so close to home, Carrie was soon planning their next adventure and after contemplating backpacking in Europe and exploring the Pacific Crest Trail in Mexico they decided that there was far too much they wanted to see of their own country and that the best way to see those places would be from the windows of a Ford Cargo Van!

The couple planned a trip that would see them travel to the Florida Keys, west to Arizona, north to the Pacific North-West, up to Canada, Montana and then back east. She explains her reason for this decision,

“Our list of “must see” (also: “must hike” and “must photograph”) spots in the United States had been growing out of control. Whenever we had a week long vacation to plan it was overwhelming trying to choose where to go. The Pacific Northwest? The Rocky Mountains? The Southwest? National Parks? Every time we chose one place, there were hundreds of places we were brushing aside. So this trip felt like the perfect opportunity to see/hike/photograph as many of these places as possible all at once, while we were still in great physical shape.”

The journey that Carrie and Steve took is documented extensively in her blog, which contains stunning photography and frank accounts of each destination. However, it’s not always the destination that defines a person, it’s more the experiences and lessons that you learn along the way, so we’d like to highlight the ways and means that Carrie travelled to these amazing places and the mindset it created within her.

Adhering to a conservative budget, which excluded hotel, motels and Holiday Inns, they decided to opt for a Ford Cargo van and a small watertight tent so they could access more remote areas. As ever, there are challenges and rewards gained from taking the road less travelled and the couple had to cope with things that we often take for granted in our world of comfort – particularly around the subject of bodily functions and hygiene! As Carrie outlines,

“ The most challenging parts of living on the road were learning how to cope with being dirty and smelly! We had a nation wide gym membership so often showered at the gym but couldn’t always rely on finding one; this was often the case with toilets too! Food on the road would be quite bland and we tended to go over board on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was also tricky keeping on top of the van, making sure all of our stuff was clean and organised and then having to think each day about where we were going to sleep that night. You have to be constantly on the ball and one step ahead, which can be tiring.

However, the challenges were always over shadowed by the rewards and we soon adapted to having no schedule or deadline to adhere to, arriving somewhere in the dark and waking up somewhere completely new, infinite views of sunrises, sunsets and golden hours, having the freedom to go wherever we wanted, and of course meeting other travellers who were on similar journeys with similar mindsets.”

Carrie also talks very openly about how her trip helped her appreciate life and the importance of being present in the moment – something that we very seldom do in our fast-paced media driven lives. For Carrie her 6 months journey enabled her to focus on this skill and here she shares with us some inspiring tips on how to really soak in everything that surrounds you in the here and now.

“So here is what I do. When I find myself with a moment to pause in a beautiful location like at a sunset or at the summit of a mountain, I make a pointed, conscious, and purposeful effort to think about what all of my senses are experiencing in that moment. I push away thoughts about dinner, social media, photography, politics, and plans for the future and focus on what is happening right here and right now. I usually do this for about 5-10 minutes, depending on the situation and I try to step away from other people briefly so that I can focus.

Now I know most of us do all of these things all of the time in all degrees of magnitude. But what I’ve been working on, which I guess you might think is pretty corny, is to narrate each of these senses in my head, as if I were narrating an overly descriptive book. And I have to tell you it has actually been really wonderful. I find that I notice more of my surroundings and feel in tune with the moment and the experience. When I do this, the scene actually becomes more complex and more beautiful. I also find that I remember details of the event much better afterward than previously when I was just looking and taking photographs. This process, like meditation, helps to push away all other worries or thoughts that may be floating around in my head and truly allows me to be present and focused on the current moment.”

Many women travel, many challenge themselves physically and mentally to define what they are capable of, pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to rediscover who they are. Carrie does all of this with passion and grace, following trails into the unknown, exploring incredible locations and respectfully sharing them with her followers. However, she does so in a questioning way, often challenging the very mediums that she uses to promote herself, questioning the way that we as humans approach nature, the impact that we have on it and finally examining life’s challenges and pushing through them to enjoy the rewards that lie just outside our every day comfort zones.

For more information about Carrie’s adventures and hiking recommendations please visit her blogsite or her Instagram account @carrieoutdoors

All photography Copyright of @carrieoutdoors