Meet Stephanie Pearson
Meet the Muse: Stephanie Pearson ~ acclaimed writer, daring adventurer, contributing editor to Outside magazine, and my past cubicle mate.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To travel anywhere—whether it’s Marfa, Texas, or Paris, France—with the person I love.
What is your greatest fear?
To die in a faraway place in such a way that my mom and dad wouldn’t know what happened to me.
What has been your greatest life lesson?
I learned this late in life, but it’s that I have to take responsibility for all of my choices—no matter how insignificant they seem at the time.
What talent would you most like to have?
I would love to figure out a way to force my brain to turn off so I can get six solid hours of sleep every night.
If you had one extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I would meditate and pray more.
What inspired your love for travel?
My grandmother’s attic was packed with National Geographic magazines. The yellow book firmly hooked me on the transcendent power of travel.
How did you become a travel writer?
After I graduated with an English degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, I worked as a guide in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, then drove west to ski. Between powder runs and waitressing shifts, I applied to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and was accepted. Two years later I moved to Santa Fe to work for Outside magazine.
What inspired you to leave your desk?
I left my research editor position in 1998, but continued to write Outside’s “Wild File” column and also joined Classroom Connect’s Quest team, a group of archaeologists, biologists, photographers, writers, and videographers led by explorer Dan Buettner. Our mission was to solve the world’s most interesting mysteries for an online audience of 50,000 primary school students. In Australia we followed Aboriginal songlines across the outback. After a day of cycling through clouds of dust I’d sit near the campfire typing columns like “Gross and Disgusting.” My job was to turn everyday science into an entertaining, educational, interactive curriculum. Six months later we drove 7,500 miles from Minneapolis to Guatemala and back. Our goal was to find clues that led to the collapse of the Mayan civilization.
Where have some of your assignments led you?
I’ve traveled to Bhutan with Buddhist scholar Bob Thurman, to Hollywood with polar explorer Will Steger, and across Brazil with an expat American rancher trying to save the Amazon. I’ve reported stories in the Falkland Islands, at Mount Everest Base Camp, and in Nicaragua, Colombia, Sweden, Namibia, and Tasmania, but I always return to my parents’ cabin in northern Minnesota.
Where do feel most inspired?
While looking at an expansive view, whether it’s desert red rock, a cityscape, or a giant ocean.
What one place makes your heart beat the fastest?
The place I’m landing next that I’ve never been before.
What trait do you most cherish in a travel companion?
Trust. But a sense of humor is a close second.
What trait do you most cherish in yourself?
I’m not a control freak.
What is your travel motto?
By the grace of God go I.
What is your definition of the perfect adventure?
Going to a beautiful place I’ve never been, where the culture is rich and still has an edge, with a person I trust and love.
Who are your travel/adventure muses?
Paul Theroux because he’s honest and brave, Pico Iyer because he’s eloquent and thoughtful, and Cheryl Strayed because she undertook an adventure I’m not sure I would have the guts to do.
Is there a difference between travel and adventure?
Yes. Travel requires covering a physical distance. You can have an adventure in your own backyard.
What is your most treasured travel item?
My black Moleskine Reporter’s Notebooks
What five things should every traveler pack?
—A memento from a loved one.
—More than one toothbrush and toothpaste
—Essential drugs like bee-sting kits, Ibuprofin, Malaria pills
—Comfort/emergency foods like chocolate, energy bars, or favorite teas
—An excellent book about the country to which you’re traveling
(This is six)
What 5 things should everyone see in their lifetime?
—An iconic vista in a National Park
—How people at a much lower and higher economic level than you live
—An endangered species
—A mind-blowing museum/iconic piece of art
—Public mass transit in a foreign country
If you could travel back in time, where/when would you go?
—I would go to the Left Bank of Paris in the 20s or to Tikal, Guatemala, at the height of Mayan civilization.
Where are you dreaming of visiting right now?
When have you taken a leap – of faith, of joy, into the unknown?
Every time I pitch a story, it gets assigned, and I hop on a plane to report it, I’m taking a massive leap into the unknown.
Thank you for the inspiration. xo, muse
Stephanie Pearson is a contributing editor to Outside magazine. Her stories have also appeared in National Geographic Traveler, O, The Oprah Magazine, Wired, Men’s Journal, Popular Photography, Lonely Planet’s Great Escapes book series, and others. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and northern Minnesota. For more, please check out Stephanie’s Writing Portfolio.