Brazen Backpacker: Emily Pennington

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Emily Pennington (otherwise known as Brazen Backpacker) is an adventurer, solo traveler, quote collector, and all around lover of things that get people out of their comfort zones. She was put on her first international flight at 3 weeks old, and has been adventuring in one way or another ever since! From wandering the forests of Sweden alone at the age of nine, to solo trekking in the Himalayas of India, to joining the circus as a professional aerialist, Emily is a big fan of the “just get out there and do it” mentality. In her mind, life is too short for fear, hang-ups, or anything other than the pure pursuit of your passion. It is her biggest mission in life to explore as much of the earth as possible and to inspire others to go outside, travel, and get curious about everything!

How did you become passionate about participating in outdoor adventures? 

I’ve always been adventurous, independent, and athletic, but I really got into the outdoors when a boyfriend took me on my first backpacking trip a few years ago. I was instantaneously hooked, researching weekend adventures and mountains I could climb when I wasn’t imprisoned by my day job. I noticed that my anxiety decreased and my creativity increased each time I set off on a big adventure, and I wanted to share that with other people! So, I’ve made it my mission in life to shake people up and get them outside. Who wouldn’t want a cheap and easy way to stay fit, lower depression, and explore with their friends?

Your most recent big adventure was trekking the Inca Trail. How would you describe your experience there?

It was simultaneously invigorating and frustrating. I’m so used to lightly-trafficked trails in the backcountry that being around hundreds of people while in the wilderness for 4 days became a bit overwhelming. However, the trek itself is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and it traverses through high elevation passes, fields of alpacas, and tropical cloud forests. It was like being in a tropical Yosemite, set 6,000 feet higher.

What were some of the hardships of the trek, and what would you recommend people do to train?

The most difficult park of the trek is, hands down, Dead Woman’s Pass. It sits at 13,828 feet of elevation, and the path to get there traverses over rocky, uneven steps. I highly recommend acclimatizing in Cusco for at least 2 days before the start of the hike. While still at home, you can prep by hiking/trail running 10 miles a week (at least) to make sure your body is strong enough to kick-ass at altitude. Jumping onto a stair master for 30-60 minutes a few times a week with a 20-40lb backpack on is also great for simulating climbing at elevation. Pressed for time? High intensity interval training 3 times a week for at least 2 weeks has been proven to increase your VO2 max and help you exert at altitude.

What are some of the most memorable stories from your travels and adventures?

Oh man… There are too many to count! Getting abruptly approached by a large black bear in Sequoia National Park when I was solo-trekking on the High Sierra Trail made my hair stand on end. Doing yoga on the rooftop of my guest house in Udaipur, India as the sun rose over lakeside palaces was pure magic. Experiencing severe altitude sickness in Peru as I climbed Vinicunca Mountain made my stomach churn as I felt my mind sink into a near-drunken state. Often, I find it’s the tiny moments that seem inconsequential that stick with me the longest like flying kites on the bank of the Ganges River or topless sunbathing by an alpine lake in Yosemite.

Who do you look up to and how do they inspire you to live your life to the fullest?

Right now, my absolute heroes are Jon Krakauer and Mark Jenkins. I’ve been devouring all of their outdoor writing in my spare time. It is striking to me when people are both fearlessly competent in their sport while being able to write like a motherfucker. On my best days, I’m a novice mountaineer, and I feel so humbled and inspired to seek bigger goals and write about them. I also admire Cheryl Strayed for having the courage to be earth-shakingly vulnerable about her experience on the Pacific Crest Trail. I feel her writing gave me silent permission to take risks in my articles without worrying whether or not I would be well-liked.

We at This Adventure Life want our readers to live life fearlessly in the pursuit of living their ideal life. What would your advice be for someone who wants to live fearlessly and pursue their wildest dreams? 

Start today. Right now. You will never be any younger than you are at this exact moment, so whatever it is you dream of experiencing needs a road map that starts immediately. I would suggest that people get into the habit of doing a small thing that gets them out of their comfort zone every week, whether it be climbing a new mountain, navigating a route without a trail, or even bicycling to work! As soon as you get into the habit of acquainting yourself with voluntary discomfort, it becomes easier to venture farther from home.

Where is your next big adventure?

My next big adventure will likely be completing the High Sierra Trail with my climbing partner and hopefully managing a few off-trail summits along the way. I am utterly enamored of the Great Western Divide; it’s the only landscape to date that has brought me to tears with its sheer magnitude, so finishing the trail that traverses through it and ending on Mt. Whitney will be a special treat. In terms of international adventures, I’ve got my eye on either The Andes or New Zealand in the winter.

Check out her blog:

Follow her on Instagram: @brazenbackpacker

Follow her on Twitter: @BrazenBackpack

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