Adventurous women of color to follow on Instagram

as i was writing an intro to this list, my thoughts evolved into something more meaningful to me than a list of instagrammers to follow. this post became a reflection on women of color in the outdoors community. it's just the tip of my iceberg surrounding this topic, but this is a good starting point. 

It's clear that there's an awesome group of adventurous women who live courageously, embody an adventurous spirit and take awesome photos on Instagram. I follow a lot of them because I found them on lists like this and this. I feel excited to go explore the mountains again and breathe in that amazing fresh air when I scroll through their images. The pictures are not just beautiful; their lives are inspiring. You know what I mean?

But can I be honest here? Those lists also disturb me. 

Because when I click through "The Coolest Outdoor Women on Instagram" and see no women of color, it simply bums me out that there's no diversity of outdoor women represented. I want to see awesome Latinas, East Asians, Southeast Asians, South Asians, Blacks, Middle Eastern, Multi-ethnic women all in the mix because simply put, it's important to show that the outdoors welcomes everyone -- because it does; it's supposed to. 

I believe it's important to see people who look different - in the color of their skin, the shape of their body, their personal style, the age worn on their faces, the color and texture of their hair...everything. It's important to represent diversity in marketing and content pieces like "Women to follow" because I think it gives hope and it inspires, especially when you're just starting out. I think it simply feels more welcoming to see people I can relate to doing something I'm unfamiliar with. You know? 

Think about Misty Copeland or Serena Williams and how they are inspiring the next generation of young black girls to break into a traditionally predominantly white fields. Or look at Valerie Sagun (a yogi who I came across recently). I absolutely LOVELOVELOVE how she inspires ten of thousands of people to love their bodies through her own sense of confidence in who she is. She's a yogi who looks like no other yogi I've ever seen in any catalog, company or brand. Ever. And she's absolutely inspiring! 

Plus, nature isn't exclusive. It's very nature is to invite us all in to come and partake and be healed by it's wonder. Research shows that spending time outside can change our brains and deeply affect our mood. So seeing more diversity of women outside gives me hope that a wider variety of people are gaining access to a hobby/lifestyle that can provide so much healing, perspective, awe, and self-confidence. Imagine what could happen if an entire generation of female urban youth fell deeply in love with the wilderness. 

This is obviously a much larger discussion which I won't get into here, but in my little corner of the internet, I wanted to highlight some women who I think are living inspiring outdoorsy lives who are worth following. 

1. Kathleen buenviaje  |  @goodvoyage

A photo posted by kimnamoojung (@kimnamoojung) on

3. Olivia hsu  |  @olicow

A photo posted by Olivia Hsu (@olicow) on


A photo posted by Joyce (@hikergirl76) on


A photo posted by Alice (@aaliceinwonderland) on


7. MADHU K. MCNIEL  |  @rockin_the_wild


9. Paulina Dao  |  @paulinadao

A photo posted by Paulina Dao (@paulinadao) on


11. Tiffany Nguyen  |  @tiffpenguin

13. KATHY KARLO  |  @inheadlights

A photo posted by Kathy Karlo (@inheadlights) on

15. CAREN PECK  |  @carenpeck

A photo posted by Caren Peck (@carenpeck) on

16. MARIELA  |  @the_bodhi_tree

A photo posted by Mariela (@the_bodhi_tree) on

17. MINA YOUNG LEE  |  @minayounglee

18. SHARON YOUNG  |  @sharonmyoung

A photo posted by Sharon (@sharonmyoung) on

BONUS #1 DEAR KATE  |  @dearkates

(The only company I included on this list because of their intentional use of a wide variety of women in all shapes, sizes and colors. I so appreciate Dear Kate for this reason.)

A photo posted by Dear Kate (@dearkates) on


A photo posted by @biggalyoga on

What other outdoorswomen of color inspire you to go outside? I know this is just a short list and there are many ladies out there who I haven't discovered yet. Please share your inspiration in the comments below!


Chanell's Story / Starting at "I want to go backpacking"


I reconnected with a college friend recently and while gabbing on about what we're up to now, she said she wanted to go on her first backpacking trip...and go solo! I squealed internally and then we decided that we'd do this together: I'll give her info and guidance and she'll follow them. Basically I'm going to be her private backpacking tutor, if you will. 

I want to see if I can give Chanell the guidance she needs to get on the trail and we'll learn together about all the questions and barriers a complete newbie has to overcome to get from "I want to go" to "I can't believe I'm here!"

She'll be guest posting about her progress every other week(ish), so I hope you follow along! Here she is... #GoChanellGo



Hi Snowqueen & Scout Community!

My name is Chanell and I want to backpack in the wilderness. 

*Whew* That’s something that I've never shared publicly. Ever.

I know a lot of friends – and family – who would be surprised, even incredulous at that statement. And I completely understand. Over the years, I’ve watched friends journey into the wilderness and I've found myself looking at them skeptically too.

But recently I've found myself wanting to do something similar. OK, before I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning because some background will help give context…

Over the years, I’ve used many adjectives (and some nouns) to describe myself. Today, at age thirty-two, the most consistent ones seem to be: quirky, idealistic, spontaneous, and thoughtful. Also, African-American. I want you to know that I identify as a woman of color. [Note: Chanell will be writing sharing more about this topic of being a Black woman and what that means for being in the wilderness in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned!]  I’m a military brat by birth. I was born in Fort Gordon, Georgia and moved around the mid-west until I was ten. But I’ve been in Northern California for twenty-two years so I’m officially claiming “Californian."

It's safe to say that as a child, my family was definitely NOT into the outdoors. We didn’t go camping or hiking. While we spent a lot of time in the county (rural Mississippi to be exact) and went on a good amount of cross-county road trips, we weren’t the type of family that was going to pitch a tent and hike around the mountains. In fact, there was a healthy (or strong?) fear of the wildness. It was bit like, "Why would you go walk around bear country and wonder why the bear ate you?" kind of mentality. The logic was basically: the bears and ticks and God knows what else could have the wilderness, we’ll take the roads and streets and suburban tract homes. And I was A-Okay with this logic.

Even when I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2001 – which was literally living in the redwoods – I had NO desire to explore anything. In fact, I spent a good amount of time complaining about how many hills and trees and (fear of) mountain lions I had to deal with just to get to class. I had a number of friends who couldn’t stop talking about the natural beauty of Santa Cruz and offered to take me on hikes through the campus. I remember thinking, "Hmm, do I want to hike through God knows what or take the asphalt path to the coffee shop?" For me, it was a no-brainer! Coffee shop wins every time! After Santa Cruz, I moved to very urban places filled with transit, buildings, and concrete. That was an intentional decision: I didn’t want to live in suburbia but I didn’t want the rustic lifestyle either.

Fast forward – right around 2007 – my life was pretty difficult. I was living in San Jose but I felt so confined by my profession, my (perceived lack of) choices, and the tension between how people saw me versus who I wanted to be. I remember the tears and pain around being silenced, not being supported, and not being able to find my true self in my current situation. An old friend invited me to North Lake Tahoe in the midst of this difficult time and I happily accepted.

In my ten years of living in Northern California, I had only been to Tahoe once. And it was an extremely short trip in the middle of summer. So when I drove up this time, I took my time. I wanted to experience something different from my current life and Tahoe exceeded my expectations! It was winter and the landscape was stunning. I was driving in snowstorm and I remember feeling such excitement at seeing Mother Nature at work. I remember pulling over and walking through the storm. I felt such childlike delight at the flurries, the blinding whiteness, and the rough bark of the trees. For the first time, I could breathe. I felt free.

My friend lived a very rustic lifestyle and for the weekend, and I was a part of that lifestyle. When the weekend ended, I told my friend I wish I could stay up here. But I didn’t. I went back to my life in San Jose. I know that trip sparked something inside of me: a deep appreciation for nature – in its many forms – and a strong sense of wanting to live my life in a way where I felt free.

Eight years later, I’ve made a lot of strides to becoming who I want to be, who I am meant to be, and - most importantly – who I feel called to be. But life is a journey and things don’t happen overnight. As I get older, I am more and more humbled by that knowledge. As I stay on this path for my own journey, I am embracing the knowledge that I want to spend more time in nature.


Over the years, I’ve seen friends do the John Muir Trail (JMT) and felt an urge within me to do something similar. I’m looking for a transformational experience within myself. When I was in Tahoe in 2007, I was on my own for parts of it and I was free from the distractions of my life to really grapple with my sadness, my frustration, and my heart.

I’ve found Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart to be magical in its teaching. It is a religious text but the knowledge (at least in my mind) is universal. He states, “Solitude is the furnace of transformation.” And that’s what I’m ready to experience on my first backpacking trip in the wilderness.

I hear the call for me to be in the wilderness, to release myself from distractions, to appreciate the simplicity and beauty, and to see myself for who I was, who I am and who I want to be.

But in the midst of this call, I’m realizing I have no idea where to begin!

These are my top five questions on my mind as I think about my first solo backpacking trip:
    1.    What do I need?
    2.    How do I find where I want to go?
    3.    Where do I get what I need at a reasonable price?
    4.    What am I missing?
    5.    It can’t be this simple – what else do I need to be asking?


Part of what I admire about Chanell's story is her background. Having not spent much time outdoors or even desired to, I love how she's walking towards this new challenge. 

What do you resonate with about Chanell's story? I'd love for you to share your thoughts! #GoChanellGo

Reflections / What does it mean to be an outdoors woman?


Jeanine Pesce, Founder of This is Range posted an interesting long-form essay about what it means to be a modern outdoors woman. In her interviews with various women in the industry, she came to this description:

"The Modern Outdoors Woman is inquisitive, kind, and willing to introduce her less experienced friends to the outdoors...She is beyond stoked to collaborate, and her competitive nature, although present while in motion, is more passive when creating content. She finds strength in her femininity, and doesn’t feel that words like 'tomboy' define her. She is just as comfortable casting a line as she is shopping online, and is constantly daydreaming about trips and adventures."

What surprised me in the description was the characteristic of "willing to introduce her less experienced friends to the outdoors." I wouldn't have initially thought to include that, but I completely resonate with it. In essence, I think what that highlights is the characteristic of hosting, of welcoming someone into a new space with the hopes of making them feel at home or at ease. I believe this is a defining characteristic of femininity -- (to clarify, this doesn't mean being female).

At our best, I think women are incredibly supportive and nurturing. (Yes!) Have you ever been in the company of women who make you feel like you can be fully yourself? You feel accepted and there's not a single ounce of judgement or pretense. You can just be. It's a feeling of being loved for exactly who you are. It's incredibly nourishing to be in the company of those women.

But at our worst, we can tear each other down with gossip and a misplaced competitive spirit. Anyone know what I'm talking about here? :( 

The essay goes on to summarize some interview findings:

"All the women we spoke with were different, but they all had the same things in common: a unified, deep-rooted love of life and an absolutely pure appreciation of nature and the great outdoors.

Simply put, we are on a journey to discover something deeper and more meaningful."

(OoOh, I love that last line and completely resonate with it!) I might expand on Jeanine's description to define the modern outdoors woman as a woman who journeys into the outdoors seeking a deep experience of life and of greater acceptance of oneself.

How about you? How would you define the modern outdoors woman? 

Inspiration / Important Places

" always remember the path that leads you back to the important places."

If you haven't seen the short film Important Places yet, I want to highlight it here. It's less than 10 minutes of your time, and it will be 10 minutes well spent. Trust me, you'll want to watch this.