Katie Is A Weekend Warrior Who Loves Exploring The Outdoors While Also Managing Her Career & Family Responsibilities
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GAFFL
9th Dec | 9 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 170+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we are featuring Katie, the founder of Katie Wanders.

    Katie lives on Connecticut's central shore as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. As a native New Englander, the northeast region of the United States holds a special place in her heart. She stumbled into the Environmental Consulting industry after graduating with a B.S. in Marine Science and never left. Katie relocated to Utah in 2014 to experience life in the West, hiking, skiing and biking her way through a new area of the nation and a new culture. Katie is a 34-year-old "Weekend Warrior" who enjoys traveling around New England and beyond on weekends. Her most recent adventure has been taking her one-year-old on (nearly) every outing.

    You can check out her Instagram to learn more about her latest excursions!


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    What Inspired Me To Start Traveling

    I am an Environmental Scientist by trade so the outdoors has always been a part of my professional and recreational life. Spending time outside allows me to move my body (with my dogs) and maintain my mental and physical health in ways that are sustainable for life. Our health is truly everything and the outdoors are vital for my mental and physical health.


    How Often I Go On Trips

    We live right on an amazing trail system in Coastal Connecticut so I try to get outside every day even if it’s a quick hike with the dogs. I focus on travel that is sustainable to your average family who works a 9 to 5 so our adventures are mainly weekends away or a week or so around the country or abroad.

    I call myself the Weekend Warrior and I love showing people travel that feels sustainable, that a lot of adventures only require a full tank of gas, a good pair of sneakers, and 48 hours away. 


    How Do I Decide On My Next Destination

    I have a running list on my phone of places to visit and adventures to set out on (social media is a fantastic place to find inspiration).

    I tend to gravitate towards “adventure travel”, traveling somewhere I can hike, mountain bike, scuba dive, ski, horseback ride… you name it!

    I am a researcher who loves to be organized so I typically have a long google doc full of the places I want to visit, costs and hours, restaurants worth trying, and any other details I need to make my trip run smoothly. This google doc is always the foundation for any blog post I write, sharing my trips and travels with readers interested in the kind of places I visit. 


    How I Pack For My Trip

    My goal is to never check a bag (unless it’s scuba or ski gear!). I have zero patience for baggage claims and I hate paying an extra fee if I don’t have to.

    I try to pack as minimal as I can and stick to a small carry-on. Packing cubes are essential for staying organized and maximizing space! I never travel without a pair of sneakers and I always manage to sneak a run in wherever I end up.

    Some other must-haves include a reusable water bottle, a ton of snacks, and a small daypack/bag for smaller adventures. 

    My Favorite Adventure Till Now & The Adventures That I Have On My Bucket List

    I hate crowds and I love to visit popular places in the off-season or shoulder season.

    For my 30th birthday, I wanted to do something a bit different so I headed to Canada (in the middle of February!) I celebrated my 30th birthday on a dog sled through Banff National Park and it was a memory I will never forget, bundled on a sled behind a team of dogs, surrounded by this amazing park and this near-perfect silence.

    Other favorite adventures include watching the sunrise over the desert in Arizona from a hot air balloon, spending 10 cold rainy days traveling around Iceland (where we hiked up and across a waterfall), backpacking through New Hampshire, and my first big scuba diving trip to Bonaire.

    I have to end with our wedding in Maine which was the ultimate adventure. My husband and I climbed the famous Beehive Trail with rungs and ladders, across cliff faces, and down steep stone ledges in Acadia National Park - all while wearing my (very fitted) wedding dress. 


    What Pushed Me To Start My Blog

    I originally started the blog to help log miles and keep a group together while training for and managing a long-distance Ragnar Relay team. It eventually shifted over to Katie Wanders when I moved out to Utah.

    Out west, I started writing about my adventures to keep my family informed and wrote a ton of trail guides on some of my favorite hikes. I was so sick of the misinformation out there (or sometimes complete lack of) when I set out on a hike.

    After I moved back to New England and started a family, it shifted a bit again with the hopes of showing other families how I could keep my identity as a traveler and adventurer while still being a “mom”. My goal is to show others how approachable traveling and adventuring with a baby/kids can be. 


    Challenges That I Face

    The pandemic really changed the way I work and parent. I quit my 9 to 5 of nearly 9 years and started my own business, KAG Environmental Consulting.

    Starting my own company allows me the flexibility to parent and travel on my schedule. It does come with the drawbacks of unpredictable income, sometimes changing work schedules, and never being able to truly shut my phone “off”.

    I am insanely thankful for my husband’s career and the amazing support that has allowed me to take the risk of starting my own business.

    All in all, it’s been the best decision I’ve made and it’s a gift to be able to parent, travel, and get outside of my schedule. 


    My Best Outdoor Experience

    Before I started in the Environmental Science field, I was a Marine Scientist who loved marine mammals and everything to do with the water (I interned with an aquarium where I worked with beluga whales, penguins, and sea lions).

    I traveled to Sao Miguel in the Azores, the island both of my parents were born on, and had the opportunity to get out on a boat and get in the water with a wild pod of dolphins. A helicopter headed out before us and once they spotted a pod, the boats set off to that location. We donned our snorkel gear and quietly slipped into the ocean and I was surrounded by all these wild dolphins. I will never forget the sounds they made echolocating and darting around before vanishing off into the deep blue ocean, truly free and wild. The moments were quick but it was an adventure I will never forget!

    Safety Measures That I Take Before Starting My Trips

    When I set out on a hike, I always make sure I have enough food and water, a fully charged phone, tell someone where I am going, and always have a map of the trails and surrounding area.

    A winter hike along the snowy and white blazed Long Trail in Vermont where we were lost in deep snow and a backpacking trip in New Hampshire where I was not fit enough for the mileage we tackled, both truly humbled me in the safety department. When I head out, I tend to be overprepared with a heavier than needed pack with a first aid kit, extra layers, and other important safety gear depending on the season. 


    My Favorite Memory Of Meeting New People & Exploring With Them

    I moved out to Salt Lake City with my boyfriend at the time, knowing absolutely no one besides him. I have always been very independent and I was incredibly homesick, missing the connection with friends and family back home.

    I had my lab/hound mix with me and I signed up for a Dog Hiking Group on Meetup.com. My overzealous dog came tearing down the trail and quickly crashed into a female hiker in front of me. She went right down into the dirt and I was absolutely mortified as she landed in a heap on the trail. I now joke that I was forced to befriend her after my dog nearly paralyzed her but the truth was that this little scuffle was the reason we became close friends and adventure buddies.

    We traveled to Iceland together and share a love for hiking, horses, and the outdoors. 


    Major Challenges That I Have Faced

    I have been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places in our country and abroad. I have done this by being very strategic about where I go, where I stay, and what I spend.

    Now that I’m 34 and much more financially stable than the “20 something poor grad student” version of myself, I struggle to get out of my “frugal” mindset. I know that some restaurants are worth the high price tag, some destinations are worth the expensive flights, and some tours are worth the cost. I struggle to find the balance between traveling on a budget and splurging on vacation. 


    My Say About GAFFL

    I think GAFFL plays a huge role in the lives of solo adventurers. A lot of individuals are fearful of heading out on a solo adventure and sometimes just need a companion for security and comfort.

    Traveling with others is also huge as far as cost savings go. Splitting a rental car and lodging makes a huge difference when traveling on a budget. I’ve used websites like MeetUp.com to meet like-minded adventures when I was somewhere outside my social circle. 


    My Advice To Travelers Looking To Balance Their Work & Travel

    You have to find the balance between work and play. As dreamy as it is to quit your job, sell everything you own, and travel around Asia for a year, it’s not realistic, especially if you have career and family goals.

    Save your money and make the most of your weekends. Get in your car and drive to the nearest National Park. Camp whenever you can instead of spending money on expensive hotels. Make the most of your PTO and take advantage of long weekends.

    Travel doesn’t have to be a month abroad, it can be a quick weekend getaway to somewhere you’ve never been. If you want it to be that month abroad, be strategic on your time off (book your appointments in the afternoons and use your sick days wisely). 


    Things I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Adventuring

    I wish I knew just how safe the world around us can be. As women, I think we are constantly being told to watch out for our safety (and yes, sometimes for good reason).

    For example, I find it infuriating when women are afraid to go out hiking alone. It’s important to always be aware of your surroundings but there are far more predators lurking down the city streets than there are hiding behind trees in the woods.

    Additionally, people abroad have always been far more friendly than I expected and it’s encouraging to know the world isn’t always this scary place it’s made out to be. 

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