I love reading stories about outdoor women who lead bold, passionate and fun lives. When Lisa, an Ambassador on our team submitted this story about her friend Eileen I knew that you’d love it…and think that Eileen is rad.
I hope you enjoy the interview!
When my friend Anna Johnson told me I needed to meet her new housemate, I thought that was nice, that she still thought of me as new people came into her life. You see, Anna and I were close friends, and then life happened, I started traveling and farming, and while Anna and I are still friends, we’re not the nightlife-crazy girls we once were. In spring 2014, Anna introduced me to Eileen Fitzsimmons, a fun, fearless, adventure-ful, outdoorsy, food-loving, optimistic animal lover … and I understood immediately why Anna said we needed to meet.
Since that day, Eileen and I have gone on a few close-to-home adventures together in Kentucky, and we’ve each had our own far-from-home solo journeys that have taken us to lands where we don’t speak the language and scenes we didn’t know existed in real life. Some day (soon?) Eileen and I will get to take a larger adventure together, but for now, I’m happy to have a good friend who I can share my stories with and who I can hear stories from—it’s one thing to tell your friends from home about the stranger you met on the cross-border bus and instantly connected with, but it’s another thing to tell that story to someone who knows exactly what that experience is like. Her stories—particularly now that the traveling portion of my life has slowed down—are an inspiration to me.
Eileen is just 26—that’s … ahem … a few years younger than me—but she’s seen and done more things than most people I know. Her degree in animal science (the same degree I have—hers from Morehead State University, mine from Delaware Valley University) and passion for horses has led her around the U.S., and her drive for adventure and love of the outdoors (and yoga) has led her around the world.
Eileen is one of my favorite adventurers, and I’m happy to introduce her to the HLAW community! (You can follow her on Instagram [https://www.instagram.com/eileenkfitz/] and Tumblr [http://eileenkfitz.tumblr.com/], too.)
What or who inspired you to make the outdoors part of your life?
Growing up, my parents were a huge inspiration, incorporating the outdoors into my life. We lived in a rural area where I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of my time playing in the woods or creek. The neighbors owned horses, so I essentially lived in their barns. We also took camping trips every summer, packing up the car and driving west. Being in nature and the outdoors is a constant inspiration. It feels like breathing … I can’t picture my life any other way.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Hiking/trekking. When I am in the mountains, I’m home. Ideally, camping is tied right in, too.
If you could hike with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Hmm, well, since I will be in Patagonia within the next month, I think Francis Mallmann. A chef coming from southern Argentina, he is an expert in all things culinary. I’m not certain how he feels about hiking, but he knows the land, food and wine. That is surely the combination for a good time!!
Where are you right now? What are you doing there?
I’m on a 25-hour bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama, an immense desert region in northern Chile. I will be staying in a hostel and exploring the area over the course of a few weeks. There will be plenty of trekking and stargazing, and it is also a base for traveling into Bolivia.
Where have you lived and traveled before this?
I lived in Texas for a bit, working on different horse and cattle ranches, and I was in New Mexico, as well. As far as traveling goes, I have been able to see majority of the West and national parks with my family. In 2014, I spent a couple months traveling in Italy and Germany, then in 2015, I traveled throughout Ecuador for two months. In June of this year (2016), I left with a one-way ticket to Guatemala and have been traveling through Central and South America since.
What do you want to be “when you grow up”?
Well, I don’t believe “growing up” is a final point that anyone reaches. I believe it’s a continuous process, happening every day, and we have the power to shape our growth. And I am having a blast growing up! But if I have to choose something … then I want to be a healer. Yoga has played a huge role in my life, and I am so excited to teach and share not only the practice but the lifestyle. Helping others heal is something I feel very called to do, so I’m excited to be working toward this goal.
Are there any major trails or adventures you’re dreaming/scheming about?
So many places! Spain, Morocco and India are some countries I would love to explore next. As for trails, I have been dreaming of hiking the PCT, or at least parts of it, within the next year.
You have had a lot of adventures in just the few years that I’ve known you. Do you have a favorite?
I have had a lot of adventures, and it’s hard to name a favorite because they have all been so unique! Traveling in Ecuador has a special place in my heart, though. Bus rides going awry, hiking in the Andes, swimming in the Amazon and hitchhiking through towns really opened my eyes and my heart to the amazing world we live in. From that experience, I gained so much courage to begin pursuing my dreams.
Can you talk about a time when a trip didn’t go as planned?
Yes. A few months ago I set off with several others on a trek to El Mirador, a lost Mayan city in the jungle of northern Guatemala. The ruins are only accessible by foot; in total, hiking 80 km over the course of five days. It seemed like my kind of adventure. On day 3, we were greeted with the aftermath of Hurricane Earl that struck Belize. I believe it was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached us (but I can tell you the reporters weren’t in the jungle, and they were wrong). To say the least, my rain poncho did little good. I did not plan for a hurricane in the Guatemalan jungle.
You are doing a lot of solo traveling and big things that scare the socks off of a lot of men and women. What advice do you have for someone longing for adventures like those you’re currently seeking?
If it’s still on your mind and in your heart, do it. Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing the things you love—not even yourself. Leaving will be the most nerve-wracking decision you’ll ever make, but you know what else it’ll be? Worth it. Its scary to step out of your comfort zone, but that’s what we have to do in order for change to occur. We have to take risks. “But what if (fill in the blank) happens?” It could. Traveling teaches us we aren’t in control. The world is a big place, and sometimes we just have to throw our hands up and go with it. The good news: No feeling is final. Keep going, there is magic everywhere.
Life is too short to be anything but alive and happy. The world needs more people pursuing their passion. And the great news: You don’t always need a plan! Let life surprise you. When you put yourself out there, good things are bound to happen.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your adventure or outdoor self?
Traveling South America has been my dream for over a year, and I could not be happier that I am doing it. Traveling solo is an amazing way to learn about yourself as well as the world we live in, and I truly would encourage everyone to try. It’s not always easy, it’s not always comfortable, but that’s okay. As you travel, you are opening your eyes and your heart to people and places and hopefully discovering we aren’t so different after all.