An interview with Emily Hart, a painter-teacher-yogi-adventurer
As a women-owned company, LuminAID seeks to empower women not only with our inflatable solar lights during emergencies but also in recreational activities. When we first learned about Emily, we were struck by how passionate she is about the outdoors: she is an avid solo female traveler with an impressive National Park Bucket list. Many women consider traveling solo, but can often be put off by the risks associated. We asked Emily about her motivation for traveling and the experiences she’s had.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I am a mash-up of varied and seemingly disparate interests that have come together to create a truly joyful and fulfilling life. I am a math teacher, a lifelong artist. The explorer in me loves the limitless potential of a classroom of students - finding their way, just me in the outdoors. I have a passion for exploration and solo experiences. I have traveled to almost every state on my own, 41 US National Parks, 5 in Canada, and countless other monuments.
"Doing things made me feel capable -- and that capability provided me the motivation I needed to do more. And more and more and more."
Q: Why did you become so passionate about the outdoors?
A: I’ve always loved being outside. I was the sort of kid that would run around all day and hate coming in at night. When I became a teacher, I put all of my effort into teaching. I found joy in exploring. So, I moved to Colorado at 28 without any family or friends to start a new life. I immediately got out on the trails (even though I really knew nothing about the outdoors). Doing things made me feel capable -- and that capability provided me the motivation I needed to do more. And more and more and more.
Q: When did you come up with the idea for your National Park bucket list?
A: I was inspired by my uncle’s adventures and honestly going through a bit of an identity crisis -- nearing 30, single, and purely focused on teaching. I decided on a whim to go to the Grand Canyon. I didn’t consider taking anyone with me -- besides, that would take away from what I wanted the trip to be.
I traveled to the Great Sand Dunes, Santa Fe, the Petrified Forest and on to the Grand Canyon. I spent all day hiking only stopping to watch the sunset. It felt natural and unlike anything I had experienced before. I felt like myself. The truest version.
After that trip, I continued chasing that feeling, and it increased with each journey. After doing 12 National Parks on my own, I realized this was unique, and that I should gamify it to keep myself motivated. I wrote all the parks in my journal, and vowed to check them all off by 2025 -- when I am 40.
Q: What are some major challenges you’ve encountered?
A: It’s been a little over 3 years since that visit to the Grand Canyon. I’ve visited 41 US parks, and there have been challenges. Money. Time. I travel extensively -- meaning that relationships often don’t receive the time and care that they need. Fear and anxiety. I’ve always had a precarious relationship with both, and at different times they creep up unannounced.
"It’s not that I’m not afraid -- I am all the time -- I just do it anyway."
Q: Why did you decided to travel solo?
A: I didn’t decide to travel solo as much as I didn’t really consider anything else. I didn’t have a friend or boyfriend that was interested in the same things I was, and I knew I wasn’t going to wait around.
I’ve always been very confident in myself, but I still struggle with fear and anxiety. Society have made women believe that there is danger around every corner. The truth is that scary things do exist, everywhere. I feel more safety on the road. I have a higher level of confidence when I am traveling that I think comes across. It’s not that I’m not afraid -- I am all the time -- I just do it anyway.
Q: What has been your most memorable solo travel adventure?
A: A road trip I took through the West and Canada last summer. I had just had a platform bed built in the back of my SUV and some extra time to fill. I spent time in Montana, up through 5 Canadian National Parks, back down through Yellowstone and the Tetons -- all camping (and hiking and driving and swimming) on my own. I was facing fears daily and finding strength within myself that I didn’t know I had. I came back a changed person -- more confident, capable, and willing to share my experiences.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who want to travel solo?
A: First, it’s okay to be scared, everyone is. The pictures you see on Instagram don’t tell the whole story. Don’t let it stop you.
Second, it’s never too late. I had a steady career, apartment, and a bunch of friends married with children -- but I didn’t let that define me. I haven’t done things in a conventional way, and that’s what’s made them even sweeter.
Third, You don’t have to backpack the entire Pacific Coast Trail or take a year off to visit 50 countries to experience the outdoors. Take a walk in your neighborhood or visit a new city park.
Are you ready to experience the outdoors? Check out our Solar Lights and Phone Chargers to light your way.