After receiving an MS in molecular biology and genetics from the University of Minnesota, I decided to take a breather and check some items off my bucket list. Namely, I wanted to do a service project, and I wanted to travel to new places. I accepted a position as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Fort Collins, Colorado. For two years, I volunteered at a local hospital, developing and implementing health programs for low income youth.
Simultaneously, I fell in love with outdoor adventure, and I used my apartment in the foothills as a base camp for hiking and backpacking in the Rocky Mountains. Soon I began traveling to Germany, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, Guatemala, and Turkey, where I taught English, learned a little Spanish and immersed myself in new and interesting cultures. I discovered that I particularly enjoy solo travel for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and trust my intuition.
In 2005, my first short story won a contest and was published in an independent newspaper. I kept writing, and needless to say, never went back to the genetics lab. My first book, Wild Mama, released in November 2015, and my articles and essays have appeared in print or online at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Outside, Backpacker, 5280, Proto, Ars Medica, and in various Travelers’ Tales “The Best Women’s Travel Writing” volumes. In 2012, one of my travel essays won a gold Solas Award.
Photo: Michele Barnett