Confessions of a recovering look-aholic

I’ve always been incredibly critical of how I look, rarely coming across a photo of myself that I like.  But the photo of me at the top of this post is one that I love.  Why?  Because  I see a strong, confident woman on her first solo hike ever, feeling empowered because of it.  I don’t care what I weigh, what I’m wearing, what my hair looks like or what I look like at all for that matter.  Because when a woman feels strong and empowered, the insecurities that we all have within us fade away.  We can look in the mirror and see that there is so much more that makes us who we are besides our looks.

Growing up, looks were everything to me.  My mom spent a small fortune seeing to it that I had the best wardrobe of any girl in school.  I saw to it that I would be voted Best Dressed my senior year of high school.  When I wasn’t out flaunting my latest look, I was in my closet putting together outfits or in front of my mirror coming up with new hairstyles.  I had drawers and drawers full of makeup, every outfit called for a different look.  I counted calories as if my life depended on it and every few months my hair was cut and colored.  Only to return home from the salon and hear from my mom that “it’s not blonde enough, you need to go blonder next time”.  Looks weren’t only everything to me, they were everything to my parents.  Vanity was what I knew and because of my obsession with appearances I figured I was destined for a career in the fashion industry.

Fast forward 18 years, and I guess you could call me a recovering look-aholic.

I pursued a career in fashion for a very short time only to realize that the passion I assumed would be there was not.  Instead I followed the passion that had been within me since well before I even knew what vanity was…photography…and moved to the Rocky Mountains to pursue it.  I remember thinking my first few years in Colorado that no one here had any fashion sense.  But the hiking pants and fleece attire that was so common, eventually became my wardrobe as well.

Over time, the wilderness drew me in and taught me more about life than I ever could have imagined.  The fleece and hiking pants were a ticket to a whole new world.  A world where the color of my hair or the trendiness of my outfit wasn’t going to get me to the top of that mountain.  Mountains that brought me joy for simply being alive.  They didn’t care what I looked like and neither did the equally sweaty, stinky people I passed on the trail.

About 10 years ago my husband & I spent a weekend in a rustic cabin at a hot springs in the woods.  The cabin had a bed, that was it.  We had to bring our own bedding and walk across the road to the bathhouse to shower and go to the bathroom.  We had an incredible weekend but I think what I took away most from that trip was that it was the first time I went days without looking in a mirror.  There were no mirrors to be looked in.  And then I realized that I didn’t care.  In that moment it was as if the shackles of society’s expectations of women had fallen off.  I was 28 years old and had reached a turning point in my life.  I’d just married a man that truly loved me no matter what, I lived in a place that valued life experience over looks and material possessions, and I’d learned that I didn’t have to look a certain way to feel good about who I was.  I was so much more than what I looked like or what I wore.

I now live in a 100 sq ft RV traveling the country with my husband and dog.  Most of the time I wear the same outfit, my hair is in a messy bun and hasn’t been washed in several days and makeup is something I rarely even think about anymore.  Yet when I look at photos of our travels I see a girl happier than she ever dreamed she could be.  A girl that set out to discover what was truly important to her, no matter how unfashionable the answers were.

I have a dream for young women and that is…seek your strength…seek your joy.  Stop looking at anything that makes you feel like you’re not enough.  Stop looking at the perfectly airbrushed celebrities and models on magazine covers.  Stop listening to anyone that makes you feel weak or mediocre.  Stop analyzing yourself in the mirror and defining yourself by your looks.  Turn off all the noise telling you to fit in with society’s expectations and dig deep to figure out what really lights YOUR fire.  Surround yourself with people that want to feed that fire.  Seek out women that empower other women to be confident and fearless.  Women that make you want to be more, not women that make you feel like less.


Be fearless in your pursuit of strength, meaning and joy.  And if you’re ever feeling really lost, let nature guide you.  She’s always led me to clarity.

Below are a few women I follow on social media who’s fearlessness and authenticity inspire me to be better.  I highly recommend checking them out:

Robin Arzon: An endurance athlete and sheer force of nature.  This podcast was what put Robin on my radar and I’ve been following her ever since.  Her on-demand virtual spin classes via the Peloton app are the most fun I’ve ever had working out.

Brianna Madia: If anyone knows how to live life on their own terms it’s Brianna.  Her and her husband and two dogs live a life of desert-dwelling adventure in their van named Bertha.  Brianna’s raw, open, honest and beautiful depictions of blazing her own trail in life are truly captivating.  If I could only follow one person on Instagram, it would be her.

Mirna Valerio:  Mirna is a long-distance runner that breaks the mold of the stereotypical endurance athlete figure.  This video is a profound inspiration to anyone that wants to pursue an athletic goal.

Elizabeth Gilbert:  Author of two of my favorite books; Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic.  This podcastmade me love her even more.

Nicole Antoinette:  I’ve enjoyed Nicole’s writing for years but her recent solo thru-hiking achievements have blown me away.  On Instagram you can read daily accounts of her time spent hiking the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail (460 miles) and the entire Arizona Trail (800 miles).  This podcast recounting her 44 days hiking the Arizona Trail is the most eloquently spoken examination of overcoming fear and relentlessly pursuing self-growth.

Jenna Kutcher:  I have mad respect for Jenna and the beautifully honest way in which she shares her trials and tribulations of being a woman, trying to become a mom and having a positive body image.  Her instagram has recently blown up for good reason.

Fully Raw Kristina: No one has ever made fruits and vegetables look as good as Kristina and she’s got a vibrant, magnetic personality to match.  Her instagram is well worth the follow.

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By Michele


Hi, I'm Michele, a nomadic wedding photographer and lover of the great outdoors. I live on the road full-time and document my adventures daily. This is my personal blog where I share and record my thoughts on living simply and intentionally with less stress and more joy. Check out my wedding and portrait photography at


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