Our Co-Founder Giles Hayward, sat down with the documentary filmmaker of Riding Wild Aniela Gottwald before she embarked on a 4,000-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. From the Mexican border to the Sacred Headwaters of Canada, she'll be riding by way of horse to raise awareness, inspire protection, and encourage action for a movement and cause that she’s passionate about—protecting the remote frontiers of the natural world. There’s a lot to be said for humbling yourself and gleaning from someone who’s living out their dreams already at 24 years old; their wisdom is invaluable. Listen to what she has to say, below.
What made you decide to do this journey?
This journey has been a lifelong dream and one that I’ve been planning for years. It originated through my deep connection with nature. I grew up in the wilderness, spending hours and hours just exploring the Appalachian Mountains. I was just four-years-old. So, at a young age, I really felt like nature was my haven, my sanctuary, and my home. After becoming more knowledgeable about the climate status of the earth, and where we are as human beings with our connection and relationship to nature. I felt like it was my obligation as a responsible, young woman to become an activist, or rather, a protector of nature.
Can you tell us more about what it is that you’re trying to protect?
The Sacred Headwaters of Canada is the most important part of this journey, and it'll take me 4,000 miles to get there. It is the most remarkable place to me in North America—it’s also where the great civilizations of the northwest were born, where there are still native tribes that have kept their essence and culture. So, with the threat of coal mining development, which there’s a tsunami of coal development heading right for North Western British Columbia—it is risking and threatening the culture of these tribes.
Many people, I believe, feel a sense of disempowerment after the election. As a young woman who’s following her passion, what would you say to young women who may feel disempowered at the moment?
I want young women to know that they have such a value. This is the time for young women to step up and know that they have incredible value and to believe in themselves. Find a mentor, find women you look up to and know that you have people who are there to help you. I have mentors of my own who inspire me and give me hope. Women are remarkable.
At Torii Labs, we believe in the healing power of nature. It’s clear that you have a similar perspective about how important it is for us to reconnect with nature. Can you tell me more about your relationship with nature and what it gives you from a vitality perspective?
The longer I’m in nature the more I feel deeply affected and deeply transformed. For me, it’s slowing down and basking in the beauty of nature and stillness. You realize that everything you need is in nature. You’re so protected and taken care of and to be in harmony with these layers upon layers of species and plants—it's incredible. There’s so much rich magic that exists out there and that’s my deepest inspiration. This journey is unimaginable for me. I have no idea what it’s going to feel like along my journey, but by living in that space [nature] daily, I’m going to be so strong.
What do you see as your greatest challenge?
One of the greatest challenges is purely the endurance aspect. Nine months away from home is a long time. The fact that I’ll be doing 20 to 25 miles a day is a huge endeavor—but, this is the way human beings used to move through landscapes, so we’re capable of it. Another risk is traveling through the largest populations of bear country in North America. That’s a little scary, but I do have a wolf dog, which will deter these instances from happening because of the scent of my dog. We’ll be like a little tribe.
I’ve had a lot of support in my journey and really feel like I have this tribe and community behind me, which makes it easier to go against the grain; go against society and fight for what you believe in, especially knowing that you have other people out there that are doing the same thing. The real heroes of this initiative are those who have sacrificed years of their lives and been there on the front lines.
Having women in our lives who are going after something big, who are believing in who they are, and who are using their strengths encourages us to do the same. By embracing achievements we can let their stories become models for our own successes. Follow along Aniela’s journey here.