Extraordinary women is what makes Dirt Barbies thrive and behind each extraordinary woman is a tale. A journey to find themselves with a whole bunch of un extraordinary moments. But its somehow coming out of these moments and still somehow ending up on top that make these women extraordinary. So here is where we begin our tales, each story carries a life of its own and a journey of its own, we hope to teleport you deep into these stories as the heroine of the story guides you through her map.
Be a disruptive woman. I am.
By: Megan Harrod
But I’m not extraordinary. Really. I’ve never have thought of myself in this way, and I don’t think I ever will. I wear the same clothes multiple days in a row. Like, literally, right now. I’ve been wearing the same wool camp socks for the last week straight. I call it “homeless chic.” I’d like to think I just know what I like. I dream a lot. Multiple times a day. I drink too much espresso. I have a mad love for cheeseburgers. I still sleep with the blanky my grandmother made for me when I was born. My favorite color is alpenglow. I can be a handful. I’d say I’m simple…but that would be a lie. I’m not. I make mistakes. And then I learn from them. And sometimes I make mistakes twice. I am far from extraordinary.
I do, however, like to notice extraordinary things, and tackle extraordinary missions. Asked recently about how/what I create in life, my answer came quick and was quite simple, “I’d like to think my art – my superhero power – is creating connections between things and people.” What I didn’t add is that I like to make people smile…and that my favorite moments in life have been those in which I’ve witnessed a shift in someone’s facial make-up when the corners of their mouth turn up just slightly followed by a transformation of the course of their day. I love. Hard. And with my entire heart and soul. People are a source of energy for me, which is a great thing when I surround myself with positivity. Creation of something from nothing was a challenge I’d be quick to accept.
If you were to stop for a moment and think about what you wanted to be as a child and reflect on where you are now, what would come of it? I was never normal. I always wanted to be an explorer. Quick to travel down the exact opposite path all of my friends were taking led me to trouble, or adventure depending on how you look at it. I chased after my big brother on the ski hill, skate rink, pavement…everywhere. I approached situations differently than most and never thought anything was impossible. And so, I’d be an explorer when I grew up. Because, after all, there wouldn’t be any other way.
In college I created my major: “Gender and Media in Contemporary Sport”. That was a mouthful when interview time came. I continued my competitive ski racing career – which had started when I was 7 years old – throughout college and also met my first love: foreign travel. First to live in Sweden, and then to study abroad in England and travel to Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Czech Republic, and beyond. I was hooked. I was definitely an explorer. I distinctly remember the moment in my university career when my advisor told me “Soon, you will settle into a routine. When you graduate, you will start your career, wake up every morning, go to work from 9-5, work out, eat dinner, sleep…rinse…repeat.” I am convinced he was telling us this to stir something up from within that would rise above the routine. Reverse psychology. It worked for me. Routine sounded appalling to me.
But it soon began…I was sucked in. Wide-eyed, Pollyanna-positive-like, and ready to conquer the corporate world, I looked at every situation with an open mind and an annoying amount of positivity. Before I knew it, though, I was in falling down the deep black hole that is routine. Corporate America swallowed me up and regurgitated me. Consumed my soul. 80-hour work weeks for what?! More money? I didn’t care about money. I wanted experience. I wanted to live and work abroad. Awareness was my savior. I made changes in my life to get me there. Got out of a long-term relationship. Started seeking counsel from everyone around me. I had 50,000 coaches like Akeelah and the Bee. I learned more in that formative time of my life than I ever realized. But I was insanely impatient. I am far from extraordinary. All I wanted was to jet. I wanted the world to be my playground…and experience its foreign sounds, smells, and sights. One failed opportunity led to another and to another and yet another…and then it happened. I moved to Prague in 2009 to lead marketing for a group of independent boutique hotel/hostel fusion properties. In the meantime, I met a boy. And said boy was just as jazzed as I was about my experience, even though it meant long distance for nearly two years. That’s what happens when you surround yourself with individuals who share dreams, passions, and inspiration. They’re supportive. So, I moved to Prague.
Life abroad wasn’t easy. As an adaptable individual who was finally enabled to do what she wanted when she grew up (re: Explorer), transition was rough. There were days I wanted to escape back to the states. It didn’t take long for Prague to take my heart, though. And I fell deeply, deeply in love…with its cobblestone streets, its architecture, its charm, its quirks, and most of all – its people. That’s why my favorite Czech word is Zmena. It means change. I learned to appreciate the process and not merely yearn for the end result. I traveled all over Europe. Oftentimes, by myself. A special place called Cesky Krumlov became my second home. I wanted to see new places, yet constantly felt a pull to existing places that I knew.
Working in the hostelling industry, I soon realized that it really was the people that made a place. And community is totally my thing. I am endlessly surprised by the effects of human connection and the importance thereof. I was an expat, which is so very different than a traveler. If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country, you understand this sentiment. At the end of my nearly two-year journey, I couldn’t imagine leaving. I felt a pull back to the states in the form of a man whom I loved and who had proposed to me. I was leaving to get married. It brought back the painful memory of the single, most awful notion to me: routine. I was scared. No…I am not an extraordinary woman. I am, at times, selfish.
But aren’t we all a little bit selfish? I traveled back to the states to be entirely consumed by another kind of love: the love of a man. And with the good, came an even harder transition. Zmena. I was in a place that didn’t feel like “home” anymore. In fact, no single place really felt like home anymore. A child of the universe. I was forever changed. The world was now my playground. I had caught the travel virus and I was passionate about being this kind of sick. I resolved at that moment that I wouldn’t let it end.
Thrust back into a world that felt more foreign than my Czech Republic home, I made the one decision I had promised myself I wouldn’t make: I went back to agency life. And, yet again, it swallowed my soul. Whole. What killed me most inside is that I knew fully that this life was a life so many yearned for: a work environment boasting brilliant and talented people, an inspiring group of individuals who loved me and cared about me, and more. But it never felt quite right. Something was always missing and these words were never truer: “No I am not where I belong. So shine a light, guide me back home.” I’d escape the everyday routine and travel to faraway places in daydreams until I could escape to faraway places in reality. And escape I did…to foreign lands as much as possible. Copious amounts of curiosity. Perpetual exploration. That’s my jam.
As is often the case when your mind and heart are open to the universe and its gifts, curiosity and exploration soon led me down a path that made my soul feel alive. Through a series of serendipitous events, I found Ethnotek. The journey began as a “Tribe member” myself. My grandfather bought me a pack for Christmas, and shortly before Christmas passed away. As we were memorializing him on Christmas day, my grandmother handed me a box telling me that my grandfather had my name and “This gift is special, because grandpa actually picked it out himself. He looked at your list and told me he couldn’t spend $100 on a scarf, so he spent $150 – over our gift limit – on this pack.” Utilitarian as he was, this made me smile. I also felt a visceral connection to this brand, and the pack meant something to me that it wouldn’t mean to anyone else. I’d carry it with me on the Inca Trail…my grandpa would travel with me. Special. And so I shared my story with Ethnotek, not knowing who they were or where they were from…and they shared my story. Turns out owners Jake and Josh were from Minnesota. We kept in touch and they told me to keep my eyes peeled for textiles in Peru. I traveled there and ended up visiting a remote village – the Amaru village – learning about Quechua dying and weaving process. Serendipity. And, I felt what Jake felt when he visited villages in Sa Pa, Vietnam. I felt connected to these people, and their practice of handmade craft. A craft that is, unfortunately and sadly, dying. This was my calling. This was my home.
I’ve always thought of “home” as a relative term. The only time I’ve ever really felt at home is when I’m traveling. Bizarre as it is, it’s the truth. Until I found Ethnotek. I knew I was home. When passion collides head on with career it’s a thing of magic. A very small percentage of people in this world work to make this happen. We get stuck in a never-ending cycle of convention and complacency and comfort. And there we stay. Hell no…not me. I arrived at Ethnotek and never left. My journey led me to ownership and – eventually – full time employment as well. I celebrated my entire last week in the structured, corporate world by wearing leggings of all different patterns and colors. I have never felt so free. Never felt so at home. I haven’t and won’t look back. I have arrived.
This is not the end of my story. It will twist and turn and I will explore unfamiliar nooks and crannies of the world. I will be uncomfortable, I will be stretched and I will find epic pee views wherever I travel. The one thing I do know is that it won’t be fueled by passion and lacking exploration. I will always travel, but I will no longer escape. I will always journey and wander, but I will do so with intention. I will always take the beaten path, but I will soak in my surroundings and learn as much as my brain will allow. And then I will share it with whoever will listen.
I will always be disruptive. I am not so sure about extraordinary. Come wander with me…
Story Addendum, Saturday 30 May, 2015:
I originally wrote this piece for my friends at Dirt Barbie Adventures last year when they asked to feature me in an “Extraordinary Women” column they have on their blog. I kind of giggled—and maybe even blushed—when they asked me to contribute, but I wrote the above piece regardless. Since then, obviously a lot has happened. I moved my life with Tom from Minneapolis to Dallas last May. I was a time of struggle emotionally and physically for me, as I was suffering from extreme panic attacks and anxiety. I was sad. I was unhappy. And, most of all, I was confused. One week after moving to Dallas I started a solo journey of self-exploration. I traveled to L.A., back to Minneapolis and then onward to Europe. While I was in Europe, I was let go by Ethnotek…a company that I cared intensely about with a Tribe that was my family. This happened over Skype while I was in my favorite small village in the world, Cesky Krumlov. Fitting, seeing as though this was where Tom proposed to me. It felt like the entire world was crashing down on me. Suddenly, something I was so sure of was taken from me. And I had nothing. Instead of wallowing in despair, I chose to move forward with a clean slate. I’d come back to the states with no car, no husband, no home, no job, no insurance…but full of hope. I recently wrote a story about my journey for Elephant Journal. It was a crazy summer. I traveled over 25,000 miles in just a few months—to places like Sarajevo, Istanbul, Prague, Amsterdam, Squaw Valley for Wanderlust, and beyond. I lived out of a bag and I loved it. My guardian angel of a friend came down to Dallas and helped me pack up my life into a 10’ Uhaul moving truck and schlep it up to Salt Lake City, where I slept on couches of the community I had built through traveling to Salt Lake for, ironically enough, Ethnotek Outdoor Retailer adventures. Then I moved into an old polygamist compound with a bunch of ski bums at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and lived in a gypsy room with no door. My best friend in Salt Lake Ana employed me at her landscaping gardening business and I had plans to write my book, #vagablonde. And then a gig fell into my lap. I was offered a job with the U.S. Ski Team to manage the PR/media for the men’s and women’s alpine teams on the World Cup circuit, aka the “White Circus”…definitely a dream for someone who had grown up in the ski racing community and with an extreme passion for the sport of ski racing. And all of the pain began to melt away. Movement healed me. Movement hiking in the sunshine and the Wasatch mountains, and then movement on the road in Europe with my Audi named Gita-Jan. I made connections and laughed and danced and wore a unicorn mask and crazy leggings and learned and grew immensely, and sometimes cried too. One year, three new addresses, four new countries and thousands of miles in the air and on the road later, and I am healed. I am happy. And now I’ll be visiting a fourth new country in the last 12 months: India. I can’t wait. My adventure starts on June 2nd—one year to the date I arrived in Dallas and my thoughts were jumbled and all awry. I shaved my head and am starting anew for my 32nd year on this earth. Death and rebirth. India, here I come.
What are you afraid of? There’s nothing to fear. We’re all fighting battles daily. The most important thing to remember is that YOU ARE (STRONG) ENOUGH. R.M. Drake once said, “Tragedies will always be found in the things we love. And if we are not willing to see the beauty in losing something that means the world to us, then imagine how terrible it will be to live for them. We must always welcome the end of all things. For sometimes, knowing nothing lasts forever is the only way we can learn to fall in love with all the moments and all the people that are meant to take our breath away.” I believe that.
Follow my journey at vagablondebasecamp.com
Surrounded by the stressful buzz of the Granville Street Vancouver, I got a phone call. “Do you want to head up to Squamish tonight?” through the muffled receiver. “Yeah, what time?” was my immediate response. Jumping on the vague plan of adventure and the chance to get out of the hectic city. My friend Eric and I loaded up the Jeep with rock climbing and camping gear and drove the gorgeous sea-to-sky highway at sunset. Driving along the coast of our evergreen rainforest we call home always makes me feel gratefully reflective.
Darkness fell as we strapped on our headlamps and wandered into the forest. We met up with climbing friends and worked the “Dyke Surfer” boulder with spotlights. We must have been the only people in the forest at that point. What’s cool about this night adventure to me is how completely unexpected and unplanned it was. The fact is, everyone is on earth for a short amount of time and there are countless ways to die. You can live two ways; scared of how it will end, or in search of what gets your heart beating faster.
The sun beat down early on the Jeep in the spit of Squamish, the heat and moisture made the truck unbearable and we peeled ourselves out of the makeshift bed. Dark clouds rolled in, cheekily threatening our plan to traditionally climb the face of the Chief. With our usual light- hearted perspective we persevered. One pitch up, it began to rain. Then it poured. The granite slab wouldn’t grip with the rubber soles of our shoes. Two more pitches and it was officially too dangerous to consider continuing. Feeling defeated by the rain, we down climbed to the base.
The storm cloud passing by created havoc but left a gorgeous sunny day behind. We waited for the rain to evaporate off the granite rock face before ascending through the trees, picking up where we left off. The next five pitches were exhilarating, and both mentally and physically draining. Climbing taught me to control my brain processes. There are times you need to turn off the waves telling you it’s physically impossible and too dangerous. On the flip side, there are times when you need the sheer emotion and determination to get past cruxes. Sitting on top of that mountain I felt for the first time that I had truly surrendered. I gave myself to the mountain and allowed it to shape me. The world can teach you all you need to know. All it asks is that you allow it to.
Debbie Ford describes surrender as “the ultimate sign of strength and the foundation for a spiritual life. Surrender affirms that we are no longer willing to live in pain. It expresses a deep desire to transcend our struggles and transform our negative emotions. It commands a life beyond our egos, beyond that part of ourselves that is continually reminding us that we are separate, different, and alone. Surrendering allows us to return to our true nature and move effortlessly through the cosmic dance called life. It’s a powerful statement that proclaims the perfect order of the universe. Surrender is a gift you can give yourself. It’s an act of faith. It’s saying that even though I can’t see where this river is flowing, I trust it to take me in the right direction.” In conclusion, don’t live in fear of death and surrender yourself to adventure.
My name is Kirsten Logan and I am a Dirt Barbie
We introduce you to our next guided tale. Leading this excursion will be Tressa Langford. Before we set out on this Journey we want to give you some background on your adventure guide
“I grew up on a small ranch in Montana riding horses, camping up our valley coupled with the dreaded work of fixing fences every summer. My parents instilled a love of travel at a young age when I was in 3rd grade by taking us, my 4 siblings and I, to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Singapore with stop overs in Malaysia and Indonesia. By 16 I had been to 10 different countries and was officially hooked. My freshman year of college, I heard about an opportunity to take a semester in Wilderness Medicine in the Costa Rican jungle and I jumped on it. I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica working toward my EMT with a small, eclectic group of students most of whom I’m still very close with (shout out to Dirt Barbie Savannah Cummins!). The second part of our course took place in snowy Montana backcountry. That experience taught me two things. 1) Backcountry isn’t just for the boys. Sure, I’d grown up camping but it was the boys who always pitched the tent, collected wood and stoked the fire. This was the first time I’d met kick-ass women who not only did it all themselves, but were pumped about it. 2) I have an itch that can’t be scratched. I say that because this was my first big trip without my family and it offered a new kind of freedom and independence I hadn’t found, even at college. Little did I know it wasn’t short-lived. Not even three years later I would return to the same, beautiful Costa Rica I love so dearly”
NOW THAT YALL ARE NICE AND AQUANITED, LETS TAKE A GUIDED TRIP THROUGH SOUTH AMERICA