Katherine Donnelly | 08.15.2018

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 hope 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 Noami Grevemberg.

OP: Give us the skinny on who Noami Grevemberg is.

Noami Grevemberg: I’m a full-time camper-van traveler, outdoor enthusiast, and environmental advocate. I’m currently pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle and campaigning for a plastic-free world. I love cooking and value healthy living. Spreading love, environmental awareness, and social equality is what I truly live for.

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

Noami Grevemberg: My love for the outdoors started pretty early. I grew up in a jungle on the island of Trinidad. As a child I spent my days playing outside with my brothers - running barefoot in the forest, hiking to waterfalls and our neighborhood mud volcano. But when I first moved to the U.S., I spent hardly anytime in the outdoors until college, where I pursued a degree in Environmental Science. Many of my courses required me to spend time outside, which reignited my love for nature. I started taking road trips to the mountains and did my first backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. That was it! That was when I knew I would spend my life in the outdoors.  

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

Noami Grevemberg: It means empowering women to find their voice. As a woman of color, it means being a role model and a voice in the movement to bridge the gap and create a space where women of color can rise and have place in the outdoor industry. Looking back, my life in the outdoors seemed like a distant dream - as an immigrant and as a woman of color. I can think of quite a few women who held space for me, and for this I am grateful. Being a woman in the outdoors means paying it forward. The outdoors belongs to everyone, and I would like to see more young girls and women of color pursuing their passions. Inclusion, diversity, and equality - for a better world. 

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

Noami Grevemberg: Let me just say Nature Therapy! Living in the outdoors has given me a level of awareness and inner peace I never thought possible. It’s where I’ve made the most growth as an adult and as a woman. When I feel stumped or anxious, being in the outdoors grounds me. There’s nothing like hiking in the wilderness, walking barefoot on the earth, and sleeping under the stars. We live in a technological world where it’s easy to be consumed and cut off from nature, and this separation can sometimes go unnoticed. Making a conscious decision to pull myself away from the computer and social media and having frequent excursions has had a profound impact on my life. Nature is where I found my true identity.

Through my work in environmental advocacy and my continued pursuit of a zero-waste lifestyle, I encourage others to live more consciously. I also support companies and businesses that are striving to reduce their environmental impact. As consumers, we have the power to choose. And by voting with my dollar, I take a stand. 

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 full-time campers - and outdoor enthusiasts, in general - should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?

Noami Grevemberg: The outdoors is my home. I spend most of my time living, working, and playing on public lands. And our public lands are under attack and at risk of being stripped away. I think full-time campers and outdoor enthusiasts like myself have a responsibility to advocate for the protection of our public lands. We can do this by speaking up and bringing attention to issues that threaten them, by spreading awareness, voting and reaching out to our representatives in government. 

It’s up to us to be better stewards of our environment by following responsible environmental practices in the outdoors and encouraging others to do the same. One way I do this is by supporting organizations and companies who are investing time and resources to the protection of our public lands. I also encourage others to get out and enjoy our public lands to build a relationship with them. This is how we will drive the conversation of conservation. We are the voice for our public lands. 

OP: Who has inspired you along the way?

Noami Grevemberg: I have been inspired by so many women along the way - women in the van life community and many women of color in the U.S and abroad who are breaking stereotypes and pursuing their passions head on. There are many solo female travelers who continue to be a huge inspiration to me. But to be specific, there are two women who have had a profound impact on my life. My professor in college, Dr. Jo Dale Alice, who encouraged and pushed me to break stigmas in the field of environmental science, especially in field science which is dominated by men. And my mother, who as a woman of color growing up with limited resources and opportunities, showed me that no matter my circumstances, I can rise and create the life I want to live by being bold and courageous in pursuit of my dreams. 

OP: What does adventure mean to you?

Noami Grevemberg: Adventure means breaking stereotypes. It means radical expression and radical inclusion. It also means stepping out of my comfort zone, taking risks, making mistakes, and embracing uncertainty and the unknown. It means letting go and breaking free from the monotony expected of me and challenging myself to pursue the things that make me come alive - and in the process, growing and inspiring others to do the same.  

OP: What does the term "badass" mean to you?

Noami Grevemberg: Badass means standing up for what you believe in despite pushback. It means never being trapped by dogma. Being bold and unapologetic in pursuit of your dreams. Never being afraid of emotions, and letting the world see that you are human. Most importantly, badass means being a voice for those who need one. 

OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same?

Noami Grevemberg: My desire to pursue a career in the outdoors came from a place of frustration, anger, and helplessness at the mistreatment and destruction of our planet, and the need to do something about it. In order to align my career with my passion for the outdoors, I had to turn that negative energy into positive. I did so by never compromising the foundation of my core beliefs - resilience, compassion, authenticity, and love. And committing to a life of travel has given me the space and the inspiration to strive for what I want. 

My advice to anyone looking to do the same - follow your passions as soon as possible, keep an open mind, and don’t be too rigid with where things go. Never be afraid to experiment and take risks. Most importantly, surround yourself with people who respect you and your dreams. Embracing community is important, so be genuinely interested in others. And don’t focus too much on compensation. They say when you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life - and when you do what you’re passionate about, it’s highly likely you will succeed. 

OP: We are seeing a shift in what the term woman or female might bring to mind (LGBTQ), both in the outdoor community and throughout the world. What does being a woman mean to you? Femininity?

Noami Grevemberg: Being a woman means being whatever I feel like being on any given day. And that changes often depending on my mood, the time of the month, or whatever activity I’m engaged in. One of the most important things to me is freedom of expression - looking beyond labels and titles and into the eyes of the person in front of me and seeing their strengths and gifts and perspectives and embracing them with love and understanding. Also empowering others to do the same. Femininity to me means being okay with who I am no matter what I wear or where my life has taken me. It means respecting and accepting others for who they are and their life’s choices, and always being inclusive. 

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

Noami Grevemberg: No matter what, I will leave everything I touch and every person I meet a little better than how I found them.

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?

Noami Grevemberg: In a perfect world the outdoors would be more inclusive. Diversity and eco-consciousness would be at the forefront. We would all work together to be better stewards of the environment, and everyone would have an understanding of why it’s important. The outdoor industry can do more to embrace diversity and promote equality by sharing more stories of diversity in the outdoors and by making quality gear more affordable. 

OP: What is one thing that you never leave home without? 

Noami Grevemberg: My camera - and lately my reusables, as I’m pursuing a plastic-free/zero-waste lifestyle.

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? When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products?

Noami Grevemberg: Well, women specific gear only matters to me when the fit is body-type specific. For example, backpacks - I love my Thule pack and lived out of it for six months traveling through Southeast Asia with my husband. It fits my body proportionately and is weighted just right for me.

One thing that grinds me with women specific gear is the colors - pinks and pastels to differentiate gender. As I said previously, self expression is really important to me, and those colors do not express me. 

OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received, and what’s the story behind it?

Noami Grevemberg: “Pick your battles.” A childhood friend gave me this piece of advice in college in regards to a difficult relationship. I’ve carried this with me through all areas of my life. 

OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out with #vanlife, what would it be?

Noami Grevemberg: Go slow and don’t be afraid to fully express yourself.  

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?

Noami Grevemberg: Social media is an amazing outlet for me to share my story. I approach it with authenticity. I share my ups and downs, the grease and the tears, as well as the beauty of my travels. This applies to both my work and play, as this line is beginning to blur. 

OP: What’s next for you in the coming months and years?

Noami Grevemberg: Continue to advocate for environmental awareness and sustainability and build my brand, Cacti and Coconuts. 

OP: The title of your autobiography would be... 

Noami Grevemberg: They Said, “Dim your light,” So I Handed Them Some Shades.

OP: In your next life, you will come back as...

Noami Grevemberg: A turtle.

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

Noami Grevemberg: Be compassionate with yourself and with others, and be a good steward of our natural world. 

Learn more about Noami by following along on her Instagram adventures and by checking out her brand, Cacti and Coconuts, online and on the 'gram.


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