Frost on sleeping quilt near Williamson
Cold hiker eats oatmeal on Mt Whitney summit

Hi there, my name’s Alissa. I’m a thirty-something-year-old Californian obsessed with outdoor adventures and thoughtful travel. I mostly explore solo, but it’s always a special treat to be joined by my husband or a friend or two.

In a former life I studied physics and engineering, then built a career as a software product manager. Then I “temporarily retired” in order to travel solo through Africa, and one thing led to another.

Today I’m a writer, web consultant, small-scale entrepreneur, and just another human trying to put the messy pieces together into an exciting and satisfying life.

I’m introverted, nerdy, and more risk-averse than you might think. I have cranky knees and hate being cold. I used to think all this stuff was only for people braver and tougher than me. If I can do it, you definitely can too.

About Exploring Wild

In short, this is a website about adventure. But what kind of adventure? Backpacking a long trail or day hiking a short one. Bikepacking across a state or bicycle touring across a continent. Traveling solo through West Africa or exploring beautiful outdoorsy destinations in the United States. And whatever else I think of next.

To me, it’s all powered by the same energy: a drive to explore new places and parts of myself, expand my comfort zone and engage with fear, and fully embrace the range of available experiences as a human on this planet. I created Exploring Wild to help others discover the power of these experiences too.

I believe outdoor adventure and thoughtful travel can make our world a better place, one step or pedal revolution at a time. When we learn to feel at home in nature, we become interested in protecting our planet. When we experience other cultures up close, we become more thoughtful and open-minded. When we feel our own strength, we grow into more skillful and satisfied humans. How could good things not come from all that?

How It All Started

This website began as a travel blog after my first long solo trip: five months in Africa in 2018. I was reluctant to create it, and those who know me personally were surprised. I didn’t – and still don’t – share my personal life on social media. My adventures are for me and me alone.

But after five months of blundering through seven different countries, some rarely visited by travelers, I had gathered some very important information that needed to be shared.

I was told my destinations were too poor, too disease-ridden, too politically unstable… In short, too dangerous for a nice young lady like me to explore on her own.

And yet, over and over, I was greeted with kindness and curiosity and hospitality. A few challenging situations did happen, and I figured out how to deal with them. It all worked out just fine, as I had suspected deep in my heart that it would.

Upon returning home I struggled to explain all I had learned. I wanted to shout to the world that most people everywhere are kind and good, that rich countries are not necessarily safer than poor countries, and that women are capable of doing whatever we damn well please all on our own.

I felt moved, almost obligated, to add my voice to the online community of travelers and writers whose own stories had inspired my trip. Without their blogs and books, especially those written by women, I would never have dared to try.

So now here I am, offering my own voice as proof and encouragement to others on the same path: Yes, you really can do it!

Shortly after returning from Africa I discovered bicycle touring, which led to bikepacking. My new enthusiasm for big adventures rekindled my love of hiking, backpacking, and outdoor activities of all kinds. This website covers all this and them some, and will no doubt cover whatever fun method of adventuring I discover next.

My own life is vastly improved by the adventures and activities I write about here. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I’m helping others as they navigate a similar path.

Readers sometimes message me with their stories, and I sense that my approach has connected with them. I’m not the most well-traveled, I haven’t biked through every country or hiked all the long trails. I definitely don’t have all the fanciest gear, and I haven’t left everything behind to be a nomadic full-time adventurer.

I’m a thirty-something woman with a husband, a (small) house, and at least some semblance of a “normal life.” I often feel underprepared, unqualified, or scared – sometimes all at once! But I get out there anyway, like so many others, and I suspect that might be why so many people seem to appreciate this website.

Read More: A Brief History of My Adventures

How This Site Earns Money

When this website started getting traction I began pouring tons of time into it, to the point where I cut back on other paid work. We all have to pay the bills, and it takes a surprising amount of time and effort to build and run a website like this. So Exploring Wild needs to earn money in order to exist, and this is how that happens:

  • Ads: These are ugly and distracting (sorry) but they are the primary way I’m able to financially support this site.
  • Affiliate links: This is where I link to an item of gear I’m referencing or recommending, and if you click the link and buy something I may get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). I’m careful about what products I link to and always share my true opinion about them, regardless of affiliate status.
  • Paid products: I’ve compiled several in-depth planning guides and eBooks for backpackers and bikepackers, available for purchase in the store.
  • Tip jar: If you love what you read on Exploring Wild and have some extra change in your pocket, your contribution to the tip jar is much appreciated.

Your trust means the world to me, which is why I never publish sponsored posts or insert links for money (yes, that’s a thing!). Everything on this website is based on extensive personal experience, sometimes combined with curious conversations and careful research. You can trust that I’ve been there, done that, and learned from some mistakes. I’ve done a lot of things, but I don’t claim to be the fastest, best, or most well-equipped at any of them. Chances are, neither are you (no offense!) and that’s exactly why you might find my perspective helpful.

Common Questions

I tend to focus more on places and activities on this site, and less on the mechanics of my personal life. A person’s got to have a little privacy, right? But there are a few questions I’m often asked that I would like to answer here.

How do you pay for all this?

With my savings. In my “former life” I was fortunate to acquire a good education and a career in the software technology industry. After a decade of working and living a relatively frugal lifestyle, I had saved enough money for “temporary retirement.”

My current lifestyle isn’t sustainable forever, but I’ve made the conscious choice to focus on flexibility over money for now while I have the opportunity. If I eventually start a family, traveling for months at a time may no longer be feasible and my priorities will shift.

Between periods of travel and adventure I work as a WordPress consultant and a software product management consultant, do a bit of freelance writing, and run this website and a couple others. I also travel cheaply and keep my expenses minimal when home. All of this stretches the savings account a little further.

You say you’re married but you travel solo for months at a time? How does that work?

Communication, negotiation, and an amazing husband. He chooses to focus on a more traditional career, which is his passion. I choose, for the moment, to focus on pursuing these other directions, which are my passion. He is my favorite adventure partner and we take a lot of shorter trips together, but I am also immensely grateful for the months I’ve spent traveling solo and developing myself in an individual context.

We don’t have anything magic figured out. We are just feeling our way step by step. Here’s an interview where I talk about this a bit more.

How old are you?

Mid thirties. Some people find this confusing – too old for a gap year, too young for retirement – but for me it’s the perfect time.

In my twenties I was too focused on education and career to develop other interests. My forties may be the right time to focus on family and other long-term commitments. For the time being, I am old enough to have some good sense and a savings account but young enough to savor freedom and flexibility.

I notice you’re female and do a lot of things by yourself. Aren’t you scared? Isn’t this dangerous?

Yes and no. Yes I’m often scared, because I was taught to be and because we do live in a world of unbalanced power. Though society has come a long way, there are still undeniable social and physiological factors that work against women, even in the US and especially in many other parts of the world.

But also no, I’m not always scared and I don’t think solo adventures are as dangerous as most people think. Our society and media sensationalize female vulnerability and make the world seem far more dangerous for solo women than it actually is.

I won’t give you the “almost all people are good” line – even though it’s mostly true – because it sweeps too much under the rug. If you’re interested in more of my thoughts on the nuance of this subject, you can read them here.

What is “Exploring Wild” supposed to mean?

It’s meant to be more evocative than literal; on one level it’s just two words and concepts I appreciate. When something or someone is wild it is free, untamed, uncomplicated, at peace, a bit dirty with windblown hair. To explore is to adventure curiously, independently, without rigid goals or destinations.

Have you heard the expression “running wild?” For me it evokes a feeling of freedom and exhilaration, like running around barefoot outside. Exploring Wild is kind of like running wild, but more general: traveling wild, hiking wild, biking wild…

Finally, “wild” has multiple layers for me. We might be exploring the wilds of nature, of cultural complexity, or of our own internal depths.

Plus, the domain name was available and relatively short, which is hard to find these days.

I love what you’re doing. How can I support your work?

How kind of you. 🙂 I certainly don’t expect to get rich from this website, but a bit of extra income helps justify all the time and expense I put into running it. You can help financially by buying from the store or contributing to the tip jar. You can also help by sharing the site with your friends or linking to it in your social media posts. Thanks so much!

In Conclusion

I’m glad you’re here and I’m impressed that you read all the way to the end. Perhaps you recognize part of yourself in this story? If so I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message.

Other Projects

This page is about my website Exploring Wild and my personal adventures. If you’re looking for my other projects (I love to create stuff!) you’ll find them at:

Bike Sleep Bike: growing directory where bike travelers can share their travel blogs and discover others

Bay Area Bikepacking: work-in-progress resource for bikepacking routes and bike-friendly camping in the SF Bay Area

Namer.ai: nerdy experiment, co-created with my husband, in using machine learning to brainstorm domain names

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