Katherine Donnelly | 06.06.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I aim to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Kelsie DiPerna.

Outdoor Project Contributor Kelsie DiPerna has just wrapped up an eight-month solo stint backpacking around the world, and now this Woman In The Wild calls Hawai'i home and continues to integrate her passion for conservation and adventure with her talents for storytelling. Get the full scoop below.

Photo from Kelsie DiPerna.

OP: Give us the skinny on who Kelsie DiPerna is:

Kesie DiPerna: I’m a nature lover first and foremost. I grew up on the beach in California and now reside in Hawai'i. I studied ecology at university, and that love for conservation and wildlife works concurrently with my love for the outdoors. I’ve worked on a reforestation project in the rainforest of Madagascar and worked in sea turtle protection on the beaches of Mexico. I recently completed an eight-month adventure backpacking solo trip around the globe that took me trekking 21 days into the Himalayas of Nepal, diving with whale sharks in the Maldives, and out into the deserts of Morocco under the grandest of starry skies. I’ve been working hard the last few years to find a way to cultivate a career in what I love: photography, conservation, travel, and adventure.

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?

Kesie DiPerna: During the summers of my childhood, my happiest memories were spent playing in the ocean for many, many hours at a time. My mom would call from the shore, and I never wanted to get out. I still don’t! My family traveled around the country in an RV for a summer during my childhood, and I became enamored with the changing landscapes around the national parks of the U.S. It’s a goal of mine to visit each and every one of them.

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?

Kesie DiPerna: It’s an honor to be a part of a growing and burgeoning group of empowered women that are trailblazing a new sector of the outdoor industry. There is certain uniqueness to the female experience that will be instrumental in changing perspectives about who can enjoy nature. Within each of us is the archetypal Wild Woman that comes from the earth, and in joining her in the wild, we can get in touch with our elemental selves. There’s nothing more empowering than that kind of strength and confidence.

OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back?

Kesie DiPerna: That feeling when you are able to scale that monstrous mountain or dive a bit deeper into the big blue can inspire such confidence in yourself, and it has been incredibly important in my personal development. To this day, when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I turn to the mountains to find peace of mind. It’s my meditation. I’ve been fortunate in my life to see the majority of the U.S., six continents, and 40 countries. I work in conservation science and also take the time to photograph and write about the places I visit to communicate the wonder that lies all across our globe.

OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think outdoor enthusiasts and storytellers should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?

Kesie DiPerna: Beyond the scope of sharing your experiences in the outdoors, I think it is of paramount importance to use what influence you do have to impact local and global discussions on such. We are stewards of the land, and it only makes sense to protect what you love. We can be leaders in our communities to create a dialogue stemmed by a true passion for our lands.

OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by?

Kesie DiPerna: As simple as it is, “carpe diem” or “seize the day” reminds me to take advantage of all opportunities in this life and to be grateful for each day on this planet.

OP: In a perfect world, what does the outdoors (the people, the places, the community as a whole, etc.) look like to you? And what can outdoor brands and media companies, such as Outdoor Project, do better to help get us there?

Kesie DiPerna: I believe that the future of land conservation, sustainable development, and the overall compatibility of humans and the environment has to do with how we use land and its resources. Respectful and sustainable manners of resource acquisition are important for the longevity of our planet. Ideas like green technology, ecotourism, and sustainable development are becoming more prevalent in global culture, and that consideration will prove pivotal in the way we think about our planet. Outdoor brands, out of respect for the lifestyle they encourage, should use the best natural resources available and use sources that respect proper treatment of workers and the land. Many brands are donating part of their proceeds toward reforestation, conservation alliances, and sustainable development. That’s a fabulous way to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

OP: Let’s talk gear: What are your thoughts on women-specific gear? Love it, hate it? Are there any companies out there doing it right? And how so?

Kesie DiPerna: When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products? For one, having a backpack tailored to the female form is incredibly important. The pressure on your hips and your body that an ill-fitting pack can cause can be so painful!

OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out with your solo backpacking around the globe, what would it be?

Kesie DiPerna: There are so many things I would teach my younger self about solo travel! For one, safety is the most important thing. Keep your wits about you, and don’t put yourself in situations where trouble is more likely to arise (late-night drinking, etc). Another is to let go and submit to where you are. Trying to travel with a tight itinerary or with high expectations never materializes. The biggest lessons and best experiences come from the unexpected.

OP: In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play?

Kesie DiPerna: Let your social media reflect your life and not your life reflect social media.

OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Kesie DiPerna: Follow your bliss in whatever form that may be. The world is full of opportunities that are knocking at your door. Buy that plane ticket, chase that dream job, take that leap of faith and enjoy your life. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

Learn more about Kelsie and her work online, and follow along on her adventures through Instagram and Facebook.


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