With over fifty-two thousand followers on Instagram, Brekenridge, Colorado native Hannah Rheaume is going places. Literally. The connection between women and wilderness is a strong and unique bond. Rheaume explores and experiences this relationship through a life of travel.
Having never traveled outside of the U.S. prior to 2016, starting a travel blog felt like a leap into the unknown. However, with trips to Thailand and Hong Kong, Hannah quickly realized that she wanted to share her newfound passion for travel to connect with likeminded people the world over. Six months later, Rheaume quit her public relations job and booked a one-way ticket to Australia to begin her new career and new life.
Now, her blog, Women & the Wilderness showcases everything travel-related, including destination guides, road trip highlights, travel tips, and resources for living and traveling more sustainably. Rheaume’s podcast also highlights women in the wilderness and focuses on self-growth, self-doubt, overcoming fears and obstacles, love and loss, and journeys up mountains, through forests, and across oceans. For Hannah, Women & the Wilderness is a reminder that being a woman in the wilderness has everything to do with discovering the wild within.
In a revealing and relatable exchange, Face the Current and Rheaume discuss the power of fear, the practicality of accessible sustainability, the call for ethical travel, and finding the path to happiness in the here and now.
Sasha Frate: You’ve shared reflections on the notion of “missing” a person or a place, observing how part of what you miss is who you are in those moments in that place and/or with that person. Some people prefer to leave it all undocumented and simply immerse in the moment, while others (myself included!) love to capture as many details as possible to be able to revisit and relive moments and memories. What is it about the person you are in those moments and the “in betweens” that feels so worth holding onto?
Hannah Rheaume: For me, photos have always been my time capsule; a way for me to remember details. When I look at a photo of a past trip or experience, I am immediately transported. I can remember how I was feeling, what I was thinking, the smell of the atmosphere, all of the little details that I would have otherwise forgotten.
Life moves so quickly, especially when you travel for a living—it’s always the next thing, the next place, the next experience, so it’s easy to forget little moments. But those “in betweens” are where the soul of the experience is. You might think summiting a mountain is the peak of the experience, but when I think back, I first think about all the hard work, the moments I wanted to turn around, what I was thinking, and how I was feeling. A single photo brings all of that back for me.
SF: Your community compiled the following list of advice that they’d give their younger selves:
- Explore, do more
- Be patient: the love you deserve is coming
- There are so many beautiful days ahead that you will want to be alive to see
- Don’t put your dreams on hold for anyone; go after what you want despite others’ opinions
- Slow down, there’s no rush
- Don’t waste money on “things”
- You are beyond worthy
- Stress less—it always works out
- Do the things that make YOU happy
- You’re not mean or uncaring if you set boundaries and say “no” to something
- Be brave
SF: What are your personal top three?
HR: Slow down, there’s no rush; be brave; you are beyond worthy.
There’s so much pressure to “figure it out”, whatever “it” is for you, but there is no rush. I am a firm believer that everything works out as it should, in time.
I’m often told “it takes guts to do what you did” (quit my job to travel and move across the country, solo), and it wasn’t until recently that I really identified it as bravery. It was always just the thing I did.
The feeling of being worthy is a doozy of a lesson to learn, but it is essential. Without self-worth, what do you stand for? How can you show up in the experience that is this life?
They are lessons that I learned in the first twenty-eight years of living, and first four years of traveling.
SF: Fears can be so gripping and create barriers that prevent us from reaching the places and accomplishing the feats we desire. It can also be difficult to trust, let go, and move through it. You shared a beautiful capture of facing your fear of deep, dark water to enjoy an amazing hot spring in Utah, but aside from murky waters (yes, this one gets me too!), how have you moved through and beyond other fears that you’ve faced, and do you feel you were “rewarded”?
HR: Honestly, I’d say I’m scared more often than not. When I first started traveling, I won an Instagram contest that allowed me to travel (out of the country for the first time) with a complete stranger for two weeks. I’d never left the U.S. before, and to do so with a stranger? Terrifying. Something told me to go for it anyway, and so I did. Without that one experience, my life would likely look entirely different today.
I’ve often found that taking those risks is worth it, and that’s something I remind myself even when it comes to the little fears. Right now, I’m working through hiking alone in a new wilderness (Colorado) that I’m not familiar with. It feels a lot like hiking for the first time— unfamiliar and new—which is strange because I’ve been doing it for so long and I am used to solo hiking! But I think you kind of said it: moving through fear is the best way to get through fear. The saying, “Be afraid and do it anyways,” really hits home for me.
SF: You’ve mentioned that your interest in sustainability really hit over the past year, and you’ve implemented a long list of changes in your routine to support this. It’s great that you’ve also made clear that “sustainability is accessible” and doesn’t have to involve major changes like solar panels on your home or buying an electric car. How did the snowball effect happen for you?
HR: My interest in sustainability really happened in early 2020. When I could no longer travel, I found other ways to satiate my need for constant learning—sustainability was it for me. I read the book How to Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum, and my world was instantly turned upside down.
I’d always viewed sustainability in the large ways you mentioned—solar panels and electric cars—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. That book shows how accessible more sustainable choices are! Furthermore, the author provides facts about plastic use followed by actionable, affordable ways for consumers to decrease their use and eventually give it up completely—in every facet of your life.
And beyond sustainability in terms of plastic, it overflowed in ways I never imagined. I switched over to non-toxic cleaning products and laundry detergent, use natural beauty products, limit hormone disrupters, shop organic, thrift shop more than ever before, and quit fast fashion (for the most part). How to Give Up Plastic was just the start; a snowball effect of sorts.
SF: “If you’re not careful, your whole life could be, ‘I’ll be happy when…’”
While 2020 was a year-long (and counting) wake-up call, many people reassessed their lives and made major changes toward doing more of what makes them happy (within the new boundaries of a pandemic, of course). Not everyone has the luxury of hand-picking their dream job or having all their bucket list experiences, but what are some rules of thumb you like to live by that help guide people on this path towards doing and being happy NOW?
HR: I’ve always said, “If it doesn’t light you up from the inside out, it isn’t worth it.” And totally—accessibility is a thing. But everything is within your power. I didn’t get to where I am overnight, I didn’t come from a wealthy family, I was raised by a single mother, I asked for advice from people who were where I wanted to be, and I took the small but necessary steps and things began to align. Whether it’s a trip you want to go on, a job you want to apply for, a house you want to build—anything—take the necessary steps to get there. It’s all within reach.
You’ll make mistakes, you’ll have good and bad days along the way, but keeping the goal at the forefront will remind you it’s all worth it.
SF: “Go to the places that remind you how tiny you and your problems are.” What was this place for you, and can you share another favorite “lesson” from mother nature, (who seems to be so great at putting things into perspective for us when we spend time with her)?
HR: India was that place for me. It reminded me how big this world is; how there are so many different corners of the earth filled with people living a completely different life, oftentimes with so much less.
And when it comes to Mother Nature, not a day spent with her goes without a lesson. For me, most lessons come when climbing mountains. Every time I summit, I’m reminded: you can do hard things—mentally and physically.
SF:“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul,” is a well-known and popular quote by John Muir that is widely repeated by “forest bathers” and nature lovers. While the focus of this quote leans on the notion that we can become more heart-centered and less driven by our minds if we let go of monkey mind and reinvigorate our spirit, might you say that it is in these forest bathing moments that we find more clarity in our mind? Essentially, we don’t lose it, we find it, correct?
HR: I couldn’t agree more! We totally find our minds, our true essences, when we return to nature. It’s almost this primal experience of returning to that from which we came. Whenever I need clarity or a solution, I always find nature helps. It always has the answers. It always calms the monkey mind.
SF: You once said that you’ve, “Always been someone that does things a little differently;” that you feel too much, love too hard, and dive head-first into all the things you’re passionate about. Isn’t this what we need more of—more empathy, feeling, compassion, love, and living life with passion and purpose?
HR: I totally think it’s what we need more of! But I also think that’s an unpopular opinion/way of thinking when it comes to mainstream society. Some people really view those things as “too much”. I’ve always wanted to be the “too much” kind of person rather than the “not enough”. I don’t want to reach the end of my life thinking, “I should have done more.” That would be so disappointing.
SF: In terms of showcasing travel experiences, social media (particularly Instagram) has really created quite a juxtaposition for many content creators to sell “the dream” while also questioning if it is their dream. You spoke to this in a recent podcast episode—can you share a recap?
HR: A juxtaposition indeed! The last year has really been a wake-up call, as we mentioned above, in terms of doing the things that really light you up. There’s a lot of pressure on creators to constantly share all these experiences. More often than not, we don’t even have time to digest the experiences we’re sharing, my past self included. When it comes down to it, being a content creator is a job, and a full time one at that! With that definitely comes perks and pits, but I think a lot of people from the outside looking in only see the perks of it—they don’t get to see behind the lens, per se.
SF: Tell me about your podcast, Women & the Wilderness. What types of guests do you invite on, and what are some of the things you discuss and share?
HR: Women & the Wilderness is inspired by my own search for stories about women and their deep connection to the outdoors; a connection that has completely changed my life. Cultivating this relationship and harmony with the wilderness has given me the space to discover its innate importance and connection to this life. When I couldn’t find this kind of podcast, I created it myself!
The limit does not exist on topics we cover. I’ve had a naturopathic doctor on, a woman that’s working toward summiting the Seven Summits, a content creator that visited every national park in the U.S., the list goes on. It’s not so much about the wilderness, it’s about the women, their stories, and how the wilderness and outdoors contributes to the way in which they show up in their day-to-day lives.
SF: How has the podcast evolved from your own initial search for stories about women and their deep connection to the outdoors, to a current growing community?
HR: It’s really been a jump-off point. It’s morphed from conversations on the podcast to conversations happening in my DMs, in the Facebook group, and now group trips! I am so excited to see where this next year brings Women & the Wilderness.
SF: The three Rs have typically been “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but you recently shared a twist on that with “Rewilding, Reusing, and Regeneration”. What was your takeaway and reflection on that discussion, and do you think this “twist” on the three Rs could be a useful/inspiring perspective and mantra for sustainability?
HR: Totally! We are creatures of habit, and until we shake it up, we really don’t look outside of our bubble. It doesn’t take more than five minutes outside to realize how connected we are to this planet, and that is why I love spending so much time outside! When we go outside, this interconnectedness is hard to ignore; it’s blatant. And for me, it was no coincidence that when I started spending more time outside, I started to explore sustainability more.
I realized how much joy, peace of mind, and balance five minutes in the forest was bringing me, and I simultaneously realized the ways in which I wasn’t treating this planet with respect. That disconnect just didn’t sit well with me, and like I mentioned before, sustainability can feel super unattainable, almost elitist, until we step back and find ways to make it accessible to our individual lifestyles. It’s all about making it work for you while creating a healthier, happy planet.
SF: The mountains have really called you in many directions to explore! What are the top three mountain regions you’d highly suggest?
HR: The Rocky Mountains! For me, these high peaks represent so much, but the sheer magnitude of them leaves me speechless. The challenges they pose and the unspoiled beauty and mystery of them are things I will be in awe of for the rest of my days.
The Appalachians! Growing up in Maine, I really got to know these mountains. Rough, rugged, rooted, and rocky terrain—I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. They might not be as tall as the Rockies, but they are no less beautiful and awe inspiring. They are certainly challenging in their own right.
The Himalayas. I haven’t been, but I’ll get there one day. These mountains are home to some of the most spiritual people on this planet. Their personal and cultural connection to the mountains that surround them is something I want to understand and experience myself. It’s this unspoken understanding of how powerful mother nature truly is.
SF: Eco-tourism is becoming increasingly known and sought after, but you speak to ethical travel as being important as well. How do you differentiate eco from ethical travel, and what would you describe as key factors for people to take an “ethical” approach to their travels?
HR: Travel itself is harmful to this planet, whether we’re talking emissions, single use plastics, displacing animals for human infrastructure, chain restaurants infiltrating locations that are becoming popular for the sake of profit, loss of languages and sacred land—the list goes on. Because we travel, these things happen. But, with awareness of our impacts on the environment, local people, and the local economy of the places we visit, I truly believe we can create positive change. Awareness is the first step to taking a more ethical approach to travel. Here is an entire blog post about ethical travel.
Check out our Partner Offers to support and benefit from some of our favorite brands!