We will all face obstacles in our life; it is how we react to them that determines our outcome.
I grew up in California, raised on the great outdoors and classic rock n’ roll. I feel so lucky to have been born to parents that passed on their adventurous spirit to me at such a young age. They introduced me to a world of hiking, surfing and skiing; they always encouraged me to never give up. And trust me, there were many times I wanted to!
When I was 12 I had spinal fusion surgery for moderate-severe scoliosis. I remember laying in the hospital bed; I had no sense of time as everything seemed to stand still. I was bored, and went into my mind a lot. I could feel life pass me by. When I was sitting in a hospital room watching documentaries on TV (because that’s all I could really do), looking at other people living their extraordinary lives, it inspired me to get out and really live life. I didn’t want to just exist. There is a whole world out there to explore, and life waits for no one.
Well, I didn’t just start fully living my life right after my surgery. In fact, I missed out on a lot. I missed out on a lot of school, sports and having any kind of social life. I was on bed rest and in a back brace for three months and restricted to limited activities for a year. When I went back to school I endured bullying. Most days I was called a variety of names and fought kids who wanted to kick or steal my rolling backpack. My self esteem was horrible; I remember days where I would stand at the mirror and pick myself apart, feature by feature. I would tell myself that I wasn’t attractive, that I wasn’t worth it, that I just wasn’t enough.
This mindset continued well into my twenties, but I had managed to hide it well over time. I was ashamed of the image I had created of myself based on other people’s actions and words. I had tried so hard to be anything but my authentic self, and entered a dark place where I often used partying as my escape from reality. I had been oblivious to the amazing opportunities that I had been given; I ended up missing classes, failing courses and lost a few friendships.
I found my love for the outdoors again in an outdoor adventure club and photography classes during my third year at UCLA. I started exploring Southern California in search of the perfect photography spot or a new adventure. Places like Joshua Tree National Park, Mohave National Preserve and Death Valley drew me in with their other worldly landscapes. Any excuse I could find to go to a new beach, paddleboard and take photos I used. I felt drawn to hiking and nature for the first time in years, and each time I put on my boots and geared up, I felt a sense of true happiness that could not be found anywhere else. I traded the nightclubs and parties for the trails and art studios, and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride as I continued living my truth.
Right after college I had this strong urge to leave the world as I knew it and start traveling on my own. I had dreams that were bigger than myself: I wanted to explore the world, make a difference and share my story. I ended up traveling across Europe, and quickly fell back into the party scene. I just wasn’t ready to fully accept and overcome my story and self-doubts.
A few months later, I lost one of my good friends, one who introduced me to a world of acceptance and friendship, to an overdose. I had an epiphany that day. I could continue existing, wasting each day trying to live as someone I wasn’t or I could live each day as a gift, and live it fully. That day, I chose to not only accept myself, I chose to love myself unconditionally.
I stopped drinking and partying almost at once. I started eating a healthier diet. I started going back to the gym, and back to the trails. I turned all of my negative energy into becoming a better version of myself. I started sharing my story, unashamed this time. If I started to feel bad about myself, I would go outdoors to escape my thoughts. I started finding solace and happiness again in hiking, paddleboarding and exploring new locations for my photography and art.
Month by month my goals became bigger and bigger, and I decided to pursue them at full-force. I decided to leave fear and self-doubt behind, and let nothing stop me in the pursuit of my dream life. I decided to live my truth.
I backpacked solo in Australia. I conquered the Inca Trail in Peru. I got my solo skydiving license. I learned to paraglide. I tried ice climbing in Iceland. I went freediving in Mexico with whale sharks. I backpacked in the Canadian Rockies, hitting various stunning summits and exploring turquoise lakes. This year I have my sights on a much bigger goal: I will be attempting to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in honor of my grandfather, an avid adventurer who didn’t make the summit due to altitude sickness. I hope it will lead to even bigger adventures and help me grow stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. I hope it will inspire others to never give up on themselves or their dreams.
Finding true happiness through adventure inspired me to create This Adventure Life. In the beginning it was just a personal blog so I could share my adventures and stories with friends and family. Over time I became bored just posting my adventures and looking at my photos; I actually was spending more time reading other people’s blogs than building my own website. I knew then that I wanted to create an online community where people from all walks of life could share their adventures and inspire others to get out and start living their ideal life. I wanted to share the stories ranging from the expert mountaineer who has conquered the word’s most famous summits to the person who recently got involved in outdoor adventures.
It has evolved into more than just an online community, and is still growing every day. It is a platform where people can share their adventures and be inspired to create their own through stories and media. It is also a place to make lifelong friends in adventure, which is why we created our local meetups. I wake up every morning amazed by the stories of the people we have featured, and the people we continue to encounter online or in person. I still get super excited when someone has heard of the website or contacts me to share their story; I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.
Obstacles in life are there for a reason. If we aim to overcome them with positivity and love, these experiences can shape us into stronger versions of ourselves. We start to see the world in a different light, and are filled with appreciation, gratitude and humility. But we have to choose to become stronger. It doesn’t happen overnight, and sure doesn’t happen on its own. You must pick yourself up and turn your perceived negatives into something positive. You must keep going and never give up.
Charge fiercely towards your dream life. Don’t ever waste precious time doubting yourself and think “I can’t do this.” Be fearless in the pursuit of your passions. Know your truth. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and share your story. Never let anyone dull your sparkle and smile. Laugh at yourself. Laugh often. Know that life is completely ridiculous. Embrace change. And most importantly choose love. Choose to love yourself, to love your life and to help others live and love fully. Every day. Starting now.
Find Kirsten on Instagram @kirstenalexisadventures
Check out This Adventure Life webpage