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Travel

General travel, North America, soul searching

Redefining Sexy by Brooke Edwards, Wild World Wanderings

September 15, 2017 • By

This is the first post as part of a new series featuring strong and determined women travelers and guides. Today’s guest author is Brooke Edwards of Wild World Wanderings on “redefining sexy”.

Fantasy aisle, Brooke Edwards in deep snow redefining sexy

Redefining Sexy

Alaska Girls Kick Ass reads the hot pink bumper sticker donning many a vehicle in the 49th State and beyond.  And it’s actually true, Alaska girls DO kick ass.  I truly feel honored to be a woman amongst some of the strongest, most athletic, interesting, hard-core, sexy, feminine, beautiful, talented Renaissance women of Alaska.

Being sexy here is not the curve of your breasts, nor is it what ridiculous amount of money you spent on designer jeans. Alaska Sexy is how a woman skis a more jaw-dropping line than most dudes. It’s how she rows the rapid and pulls over to catch, fillet and cook her salmon over a fire.  It’s how she owns the dance floor with wild confidence, secure in her own skin and extra tufts.  Alaska Sexy is a goggle tan and sunburned lips.

Alaskan women are wilderness guides, hunters, fisherwomen, carpenters, adventurers, endurance athletes and more. They build their own homes, catch their own fish, chainsaw their own firewood and fix their own trucks.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy by Brooke Edwards, Brooke with skis on a mountainside

Photo Courtesy of Heather Thamm. Brooke

In 1998, life presented me a quandary: move to Montana to chase a boy, or embrace the wild unknown of my lifelong dream to go to Alaska and guide.  I chose the wild unknown, and, with what little savings I had, managed to purchase my first home: a small hippie shack dry cabin in a bog on railroad ties with the address Toadstool Turnpike, Girdwood.  Hearing that I would have to heat my cabin with wood and haul my own water, my dad gifted me his 25-year-old Stihl chainsaw with a big red bow on it as an early Christmas that year.  He wanted to provide me with the gift that heats you twice: gathering your own wood and burning it later.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy, The Girls Gone Girwood logo on a t shirt

The Logo as part of Girls Gone Girwood

When I first moved to Girdwood, Alaska, I was expecting to find a bunch of dudes who fit the state saying “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”  I steeled my resolve to keep my independent status while I survived being the fresh meat in town.  Instead, I found an incredible group of inspiring women, from boat captains to bush pilots, heli-ski guides to firefighters.  They took me in, taught me real skills that in 20 years of wilderness guiding in Alaska have proved invaluable.  Namely, skills that are hard to define, such as perseverance, tolerance for adversity and following your passion over money.

Fantasy Aisle, redefining sexy, girls of Girls Gone Girwood in skis on a mountainside, photo courtesy of Ralph Kristopher

Photo courtesy of Ralph Kristopher. Girls Gone Girwood

I am grateful for my Girls Gone Girdwood, the funny name we called ourselves back in the day.  Without the GGG, and other phenomenal women getting after it, I would still be struggling to redefine sexy from what society has stuffed down our throats–the airbrushed, manufactured, far-too-skinny magazine model female–to the different vision I embrace today; of strength, power and inner beauty shining from inside out.

To get a sense of what I’m talking about, check out this short 9 minute film highlighting two of my favorite girlfriends and mentors: Leighan Falley and Kirsten Kremer.

The last two summers, I was lucky enough to guide Colton Smith and Jack Steward with the TV show Rock The Park on ABC Saturday mornings.  One year, I took them on a remote river trip on the Aniakchak River where you fly into a lake in the crater of a volcano and raft it out to the ocean.  The next year, they asked me [to join them] for another adventure and this time we ventured on foot deep into the heart of the brutally rugged Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of The Arctic.

Their show is an educational TV show aimed at families with the mission of inspiring more folks to get out and enjoy our National Parks.  Their motto is “If we can do it, so can you!”  To me, this couldn’t have rung more true as I pondered the impact on little girls nationwide watching me, a woman, guide these young fit men in some of the wildest corners of our planet.  I thought to myself, “pay attention, girls: If I can do it, so can you.”

Here’s to redefining sexy and owning our power in the wilderness and at home, ladies.  Let’s Do This!

–Brooke

Brooke Edwards of Wild World Wanderings hails from the Great Pacific Northwest, where her passion for all things outdoors was born. Alaska has been her home for the last 20 years. You can find her year-round exploring mountains and rivers in both the vast wilderness of Alaska and international wild locales.  Brooke has an M.S. in Environmental Education with a primary focus on Ecotourism from The Audubon Expedition Institute. She’s spent over 2 decades incorporating these principles in her guiding.  Brooke would love to share her passion for all things travel by custom designing the perfect itinerary for you.

 


Do's and Don'ts, Europe, General travel

My First Trip to Europe

September 1, 2017 • By

Right now, I am in Spain.

The last time I visited Spain it was 1996.  I was 22-years-old and a recent college graduate.  I didn’t have a job lined up and I informed my parents that a job could wait but my trip to Europe could not. College proved a rough four years and study abroad was not the norm during the dark days of the 90s.  I wanted to seize the day.

Fantasy Aisle, before my first trip to Europe, Graduation Day at Michigan State University with my parents

Graduation Day at Michigan State University with my parents

After a drunken debacle at Rick’s (or maybe Crunchy’s) on Michigan State University campus weeks before graduation, a friend hatched an idea to backpack through Europe.  I thought it sounded fun and agreed to join the adventurers.

We decided our first stop would be Paris and armed ourselves with a two-week Eurorail pass and an international student discount card.  We would depart in July with no itinerary.  Dr. Seuss’ book, The Places You Will Go echoed in my head.  Happy graduation to me!

Our group of bold travelers consisted of a few Spartan alums, all connected through one particular woman and her friends.  I flew to Paris with Amy, a fellow MSU graduate who I did not know.  After an eight-hour plane ride, we were fast friends.  We landed in Paris, groggy and disoriented, but somehow found our way to the hostel.  I had already determined the backpacking thing was going to cause problems, and I made a mental note of what to send home.

Once we unloaded our belongings, my new friend Amy and I headed out for lunch.  We picked a pizza place near our hostel.  It’s an American first-time traveler thing:  Go to the familiar, the safe.  New to the international scene, I did not know Parisians considered meals a leisurely experience.  We were starving, wondering when and if our food might arrive.  It eventually materialized, and the waiter placed a heart shaped pizza on the table.  My eyes rolled.  We ate it.  I assumed the pizza contributed to my overnight diarrhea–or maybe it stemmed from the highly aromatic smell of urine on the streets–but either way Paris did not leave me with the best first impression. (And that would not change until 2006.)

If you guessed I over-packed for my inaugural backpacking trip, you would be correct.  It’s a common mistake and one I regretted.  I shipped home $100 worth of clothing and hours later wished I had shipped the entire bag.

I did not take to backpacking. It was 1996 and designers had yet to style affordable wheelies and light weight ergonomic bags. (I am old but did not walk through the snow like my parents).

Fantasy Aisle, my first trip to Europe, Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

After the obligatory visit to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Musée d’Orsay and several tastings of street vendor baguettes, Amy and I rendezvoused with the rest of the group for a wild night on the town.  Traveling with a large mix of people can be challenging, and I learned quickly that I’m a person who does not adapt well to others.  I want to do what I want when I want to do it.

That has not changed.

Amy and I were not pleased with the perceived rudeness and inconsideration of the French people, and when our travel companions opted for partying rather than sightseeing, we planned to take our American snootiness and dollars elsewhere.

I realized it was time to go when Amy shouted to a Parisian, “Do you speak the International language?” Hint: it involves a finger.

Consulting our Let’s Go Europe guide book, we decided to head to Spain.  We boarded a train from Paris to Madrid with a change in Bordeaux.  It was an overnight train.  Back then, people smoked openly on trains and we didn’t have the luxury of a private sleeper car.  I remember standing on the platform in Bordeaux around midnight, exhausted, trying to stay awake ,thinking we’d acted a bit irrationally.

If my memory serves me, the trip–with smoke-filled cabins and upright seats–to Madrid took about 12 or 13 hours.  The journey left us battered but excited for our adventure and with a new stamp in our passport.  We exchanged our money (this was when each country in Europe had its own currency and also prior to the universal ATM) and found our hostel.  Amy and I both spoke high school Spanish and we delighted in trying to communicate with the locals.  The Spanish people smiled and packed entire plazas, eating and drinking.  I loved it.  It would be an entire day, two meals, and an onion-filled Spanish omelet before we resorted to a meal at McDonald’s.  We told ourselves we could eat at McDonald’s because the facilities provided free bathrooms.

I can still remember savoring that bite of my cheeseburger.  We failed the European immersion course.

Amy and I tackled Madrid and Barcelona together before heading to southern France. I lost track of her in Germany when I met another friend and she moved on to Prague, where I heard a man robbed her.

I often think of our first European experience and laugh at our innocence.  We got lost, overpaid for everything, misunderstood the language and learned a little about life in a foreign land.  I have no idea where Amy is now and, while I possess a few Kodak moments to preserve the memories of the trip, it’s the pictures ingrained in my mind that I treasure.

What I remember from Spain 21 years ago holds true today:

  • Catholic Churches – there are lots of them
  • Picasso is a big deal
  • Women sunbathe topless
  • Spaniards eat lunch at 2:00PM and dinner late like really late.  Think 10:00PM
  • There is a real thing called siesta
  • Stores shut down from 2:00PM – 7:00PM, with most businesses like banks and government offices only open from 9:00AM – 2:00PM
  • McDonald’s is still prevalent although Burger King and Starbucks have joined the fray

 

Where did you go on your first trip to Europe? Was your adventure like mine? Or if you haven’t gone yet, where do you think you will go?