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Georgina Miranda | 07.10.2019

Katie Boué is an outdoor advocate, writer, speaker, and influencer on a mission to get more people that recreate outside to also protect and care about the places that give them so much. She has created a unique role and career for herself in the outdoor industry, and in her own words the outdoors is who she is.

At Outdoor Project, we've made it part of our mission to celebrate and amplify the voices of women in the outdoors, and Katie is a leader for the next generation of activists taking action to protect our public lands by educating others as to how we can all play a role in driving positive change. In our third year of Women in the Wild, we are proud to share our platform again with courageous and inspiring female figures who are making a difference in the outdoor industry and the world at-large. It’s been an honor to be a guest editor this year for Women in the Wild, and I am grateful and inspired by all of the remarkable women that I got to connect with and interview. They are shaping a new narrative daily, and they show us anything is possible with tenacity, creativity, and purpose.

 

Whether you make money from selling gear people use on public lands, or posting photos taken on public lands, or leading trips on public lands, or even if you just use public lands to relax from your day-to-day life—you are indebted to public lands.

—Katie Boué

 

In this interview, we talk to Katie Boué about life as an advocate, crafting your dream career, and protecting mother earth and public lands. This interview has been edited for clarity.

 


Photo by Jake Wheeler.

Georgina Miranda: Tell us about Katie Boué. How would you describe your connection to the outdoors/adventure?

Katie Boué: My connection with the outdoors isn’t linear nor easily expressed in words. The outdoors is ingrained into my being. The sea and salt and desert are the marrow in my bones. The pursuit of adventure is the pulse of my soul. What I’m trying to say is, I am inextricably connected to the outdoors, professionally, personally, spiritually, and everything in between. It’s who I am.

GM: Tell us more about The Morning Fresh. Were you always drawn to a life of the outdoors and advocacy? How did your journey get you to where you are today?

KB: My childhood is built upon memories of playing outside, traveling with my family, playing frogs, and sailing across my pool in a homemade raft during hurricanes. The outdoors were always in my bones, but it really galvanized when I started climbing at Tallahassee Rock Gym in 2009 during college. Climbing indoors begets climbing outdoors, and climbing outdoors begets an obsession with the outdoors. Living in Florida, the nearest climbing area was a 7-hour drive away—and I road tripped every weekend to spend time outside in the boulder fields. My passion for climbing spurred a year-long road trip to explore America’s public lands, and that road trip sparked the idea that I could build a career in the outdoor space. After taking a social media job with the Outdoor Industry Association, I was introduced to policy and advocacy—and the rest is history.

GM: What initiatives/projects/goals are you focused on?

KB: I took a big leap this spring to step away from my work at OIA to focus all of my energy on outdoor advocacy work. It’s been a major life shift, but I truly, deeply feel called by the universe to dedicate my life to outdoor advocacy. What fascinates me most about outdoor advocacy is the potential we have to change outdoor culture through storytelling and education. Social media is a powerful tool, and I am a believer in our ability to use it to do good.

As more and more people are discovering the joy of the outdoors, I want to be on the frontlines of providing education and empowerment to those future advocates. Every new person hitting our trails is an opportunity to get more people involved in advocacy, and I want to convert as many outdoorists as possible.

I’m spending the summer developing an initiative called the Outdoor Advocacy Project. It’s a community movement and comprehensive education campaign aiming to shift the way we identify as outdoorsy people. I want to weave stewardship, sustainability, and community ethics into the bedrock of what it means to call yourself an “outdoor person.”

GM: Share more about your advocacy work. How can people support your work?

KB: The Outdoor Advocacy Project is the most ambitious and exciting thing I’ve ever worked on—and every follow, like, share, comment, repost, sign-up-for-the-emails makes a huge difference. I’m currently seeking funding to be able to fairly pay contributors for the resource library, and to support the project at large. So I’ll take every bit of contribution I can scrounge up. Follow us on social media via @outdooradvocacy and start tagging your photos #outdooradvocacy! Join the conversations, provide feedback, join the community, share the advocacy stoke. It’s been challenging for me to have patience while this project fully bakes, because I am beyond stoked about the potential it has to help us better the outdoor culture.

GM: Where do you draw your inspiration/motivation from? Has that changed over time?

KB: I am first and foremost inspired by this planet I am advocating for. The resilience of the desert, the humid fortitude of mangroves, the urgency of our changing landscapes, the loud and clear messages our Earth is sending us—that’s what motivates me to my core. I’m also blessed to be surrounded by a community of makers, shakers, and leaders who uplift and challenge one another in our outdoor work.

And then the ultimate motivator: seeing small kids wearing Junior Ranger badges in national parks, proudly learning about public lands and their duty to protect them.

GM: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome related to your outdoor pursuits or your career? What helped you overcome those challenges?

KB: I believe that most issues require heaps of nuance and empathy—and my tendency to prioritize nuance often leads to folks on both sides of an issue being upset with me for “not taking a side.” I used to take it personally, feeling conflicted and upset about simultaneously receiving critical feedback about going too hard on an issue and also not being hard enough. A crucial piece of advice I received from a dear friend Erin Sullivan was: “It’s not about you”—and that’s changed my entire perspective. I’m practicing not taking criticism (or praise) too personally.

GM: What do you see as the most important issue or set of issues affecting women in the outdoor/adventure space? Where do you see yourself having the biggest impact on these issues?

KB: One of the biggest issues affecting womxn in the outdoor space is our lack of intersectionality. For too many of us hoping to make strides within gender equality, the buck stops at gender and doesn’t do justice to truly uplifting all women. We have a lot of work to do in working to ensure that “for all women” means brown women, trans women, young girls and old women, fat women, disabled women, black women, Indigenous women, migrant women, poor women—all of us, not just the privileged ones. I foremost see myself needing to listen and learn, but I believe I have a responsibility to make an impact here by passing the mic and using my privileges to uplift the women around me.

GM: What can the greater outdoor community and companies like OP do to better amplify and celebrate the voices of ALL women in our community?

KB: We need to continue to diversify our content and what we’re putting out into the world, but we also need to make sure that our organizations are being diversified, too. Don’t just feature a woman of color in a marketing campaign, hire her. We need to work toward true power shifts, not just marketing facades.

GM: How do you keep your pursuits going? How did you get it all to a point where this is a feasible lifestyle for you? How do you support your adventures/passions? Has this changed over time? 

KB: First, I made up the idea that I could build a career around outdoor advocacy. Then, I convinced myself I could make it sustainable. Somehow, it all worked. The drive to constantly hustle is a key factor of keeping my lifestyle feasible. I am always looking for the next project, the next opportunity. Over time, my work has shifted from social media management contracts supporting other brands to more work directly on my own platforms. I take sponsored partnerships often, because those handful of sponsored posts on Instagram allow me to fund an entire month of non-paid advocacy education on my platform. I also do social media campaign consulting, freelance writing, public speaking and workshops, etc. It’s a hodgepodge quilt of a career that somehow continues to chug along.

GM: What’s been the most useful advice given to you along your journey? What advice do you wish you were given when you were younger?

KB: I mentioned it earlier, but the best piece of advice I have ever received is: “It’s not about you.” One of my best friends, Erin Sullivan, shared that with me, and it has become a mantra I repeat every day. It’s a reminder not to take things personally, but it also serves to keep me humble. Working in social media with a large following tends to invite inflated egos, but remembering that this isn’t about me helps to keep things in check. This isn’t about me—it’s about protecting public lands. This isn’t about me—it’s about the greater outdoor community. This isn’t about me—it’s about us.

Advice regularly shared among the advocacy community is to always make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Working on politics, policy, and deep community issues is exhausting—especially during this Trump administration—and it’s vital to keep ourselves charged, and to give ourselves space and time to recharge when we’re worn down. Burnout is the biggest obstacle in continuing to pursue my work, and although it feels like I should just keep going, going, going, sometimes the most helpful thing I can do for my work is to shut my laptop, lie down outside, and take a nap.

GM: Any other tips/advice/encouragement do you have for women looking to embark on a similar career or path or wanting to make a difference in the world?

KB: I am frequently asked “how do I get a job like yours,” and it’s a difficult question to answer because the truth is: I just made it all up. I carved my career out of a chaotic vision I had that I could make a difference through the outdoors, and I don’t think anyone could replicate it—and that’s a beautiful thing. No one can follow the exact same path as anyone else, but we can draw inspiration from one another’s journeys in forging our own. Be bold. If you want something, ask for it (the worst that can happen is “no”). If you don’t see the career you want, create it. There is always room for more of us out here, and we can all uplift each other in our pursuits. You can do this.

GM: At Outdoor Project, we put a strong emphasis on the phrase “adventure like you give a damn,” which refers to putting effort into responsible recreation. How can others “adventure like they give a damn” in their own way?

KB: Ways you can Adventure Like You Give a Damn: Every single time you go outside, pick up one piece of trash. Spend your money in ways that support local economies when you travel—example: Eat at mom-and-pop shops instead of chains. Teach your friends and fellow campers about Leave No Trace ethics and encourage them to practice stewardship. Start committing to at least one volunteer trail day a year. Use a reusable water bottle, and invest in a reusable utensil set. Give a damn loudly and proudly.

GM: What’s been your favorite outdoor/indoor adventure to date and why? What’s on your adventure bucket list and/or coming up for you?

Favorites is a hard game to play—but my 4-month solo road trip around the West in 2016 remains top of my list. I convinced my employer to rent me a retrofitted van and let me travel around the West Coast to meet with our members, host sustainability happy hours, and explore the on-the-ground stories of the outdoor industry. That summer I learned so much about independence, hustling, and the power of solo travel. It changed my life, sparked a vision for advocacy work, and led me to where I am today. And, I got to see President Obama speak about the power of the outdoor recreation economy while standing in the meadows in Yosemite National Park—so that was pretty rad too.

GM: What is the message you would like to share with the world, the outdoor community, and other women in general? Or what is a story you hope to tell in your lifetime?

KB: The outdoor community and industry is so powerful, and it’s time for us to take responsibility for these places we love and profit from. Brands, consumers, influencers, policymakers—we all have a duty to protect public lands. Whether you make money from selling gear people use on public lands, or posting photos taken on public lands, or leading trips on public lands, or even if you just use public lands to relax from your day-to-day life—you are indebted to public lands.

Want to hear more from Katie Boué? Follow her on Instagram @katieboue​​​​​​, and be sure to follow her new project @outdooradvocacy​​​​​. For more interviews with inspiring outdoorswomen, check out Women in the Wild 2019.

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Brought to you by:

Women in the Wild 2019

Women in the Wild is a movement that recognizes the amazing women who enrich the outdoor community with their passions, inspirations, and accomplishments. Outdoor Project is proud to grow this campaign in 2019 with the help of guest editor and 2018 #womaninthewild Georgina Miranda, adventurer, entrepreneur, mountaineer, and founder and CEO of She Ventures. We're proud to open our platform once again for the incredible stories and photography of women throughout our community. From in-depth interviews with outdoor advocates, influencers, and athletes to female-focused content from the community, Women in the Wild 2019 aims to amplify the voice of women in celebration of female fortitude, strength, and camaraderie in the outdoors.

For a complete list of content published in correlation with Women in the Wild 2019, visit Women in the Wild 2019: Amplifying Women in the Outdoors.

More content from Women in the Wild 2019