Modern Muse: Whitney James
Nothing makes me happier than being outdoors. Since starting Modern Muse, I've found myself gravitating towards females who feel the same; who speak my language when it comes to being in nature. Through social media and blogging, I've met a handful of rad gals who prefer craft beer over cosmos and camping over 5 star hotels. One of these ladies is Whitney James. Hailling from the great state of Washington but finding home in Colorado, James recently scored her dream job at Outside Magazine after "stalking" the publication for over 3 years. I actually just missed her when I made the move to Washington and she made her move to New Mexico to start her new job! I have faith that one of these days our paths will cross in real life, but for now read a little bit more about her initiation to the outdoors (huge thanks to her parents) and the best adventures she's ever had.
How did you become such an outdoor enthusiast?
I like to tell people I spent my entire childhood outdoors. Since I was only allowed to watch an hour of TV each week, this is pretty accurate. Camping trips, skiing, hiking and biking were a regular occurrence, thanks to my Dad. Except back then, I didn’t thank him. I think I wanted to watch more TV.
Why do you think it's important to stay connected to the Outdoors?
People no longer live in spaces that are real. Between social media and your inbox, everything is two feet away from your face on a digital screen. Unplugging is absolutely crucial if you want to wake up five years from now and wonder what you’ve done with your life. Real experiences – the ones you remember – happen outdoors.
How did you land your gig at Outdoor Magazine?
I’d been stalking Outside Magazine for over three years – ever since I picked it off my then-boyfriend’s coffee table. It was love at first sight, and I sent in pitches, stalked editors on Twitter, and applied for every opening. Finally, I threw my hands in the air and sent my résumé to a friend of a friend as a last chance. Three months later, I got an e-mail that my résumé had made it, and I had a job offer. I was packing my bags for Santa Fe before I hung up the phone!
I was hired to put together the Summer Buyer’s Guide, the twice-yearly roundup of the best new products in the outdoor industry. The whole thing consisted of wrangling over 500 pieces of gear and fact checking every word in the issue. It hits stands late April. My next move is as digital marketing manager at Outside GO, the newly partnered adventure-travel company.
Where were you born and where do you live?
I was born in Issaquah, Washington, outside of Seattle. I found Boulder, Colorado after college and will never leave. When I drove into town the first time, I actually rear-ended someone because I couldn’t take my eyes off the mountains.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up, eat a donut, head to work. I get my miles in afterwards on my mountain bike or the running trails around town. I try to catch every sunset I can, so I’m typically outside until it’s dark – year round, if possible.
When do you feel most alive?
Writing. After that, running.
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was five, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. Since then, I’ve wanted to be a writer. But I’d also like a very expensive cabin in the mountains – so I’m going to combine my love of storytelling with the outdoor industry in any way I can, whether that means through online advertising or writing feature stories.
What has your path looked like to achieve your goals?
It’s been sporadic, but a steady march. I wrangled horses on a ranch after college before becoming part of a two-person marketing team at a now very successful robotics start-up. Surprisingly, I learned lessons and skills at both jobs that I’m able to shape to my advantage now.
What does your goals list look like now?
That’s the thing no one talks about – what happens when you achieve your goals. Because I wanted to work for Outside Magazine for so long, I’m facing a goal deficit. You first have to know what you want, then work on achieving it. I’m trying to figure that out again.
What is your fav thing to do when you're not working?
Work out. I’m a constant beginner, whether it’s running, climbing, fishing or mountain biking, so I always have something to work on. It’s an endless challenge, and I reward myself with a lot of craft-brewed beer.
What is one of the best adventures you've ever had?
The most memorable was an impromptu camping trip my best friend and I took last summer up to Stehekin at the top of Lake Chelan in Washington State. We hitchhiked by boat to the remote campsite with nothing more than a two-person hammock and a loaf of banana bread, and ended up nearly dead from dehydration, West Nile virus, and sun burns. It was the best overnighter, ever!
What supplies you with STOKE?
Working hard and having it pay off. Whether it’s nailing a descent I’ve been trying to ride for weeks or seeing my name in an issue of Outside Magazine, nothing beats the feeling of well-earned accomplishment. That and fish tacos.
Best advice for novice females looking to get into outdoor pursuits?
It does not matter if you’re a beginner. The best thing you can do is set your mind to a small goal – like finding a group of people who want to play outside – and go full steam ahead from there. The only thing you need is a good attitude. You’re going to fail, and it’s probably going to bruise, but that’s part of the fun.
Words you live by?
Things don’t just happen for a reason. They happen because you make them.
Any upcoming projects you're excited about?
I’ve never been so excited about my future career. I can’t wait to dive into work for Outside GO and see where we end up. Five years from now, I’m fully expecting to think, “Wow, that was the beginning of the best time of my life.”
5 things you can't live without?
I’d love to say something poetic like my leather Moleskine, but let’s get real. My F150, my Canon DSLR, and my iPhone. Then my mountain bike and my Tom Ford sunglasses.
Make sure to follow Whitney at her site Handwritten, where "everything posted came to life scribbled on the back of a map, a napkin, or in a notebook." :)
*all photos compliments of Whitney James