This Shoestring Warrior made a promise to herself to say yes to everything and in doing that, she created this wonderful outdoor adventure company we call Shoestring Adventures. Meet Alyx, Founder of Shoestring Adventures!
After an injury caused her to re-evaluate her life, she was inspired to find her adventure community (and to summit Mt. Whitney). In search of community, she set out on a journey that led her to creating a company that brings together adventure-loving and like-minded people and provides them the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a social and educational way.
I love watching first-time campers go on to have their own adventures with skills they have learned and friends they have made on a Shoestring Adventure.
Read on to learn more about Alyx’s story including how she created a way for Shoestring Warriors to embrace the present while giving talented photographers an opportunity to practice their art.
Follow Alyx’s adventures on Instagram.
Shoestring Warrior: Alyx Schwarz
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Founder, Shoestring Adventures
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Tell us about yourself!
I started Shoestring Adventures in 2011 following back surgery, the end of a year long struggle with chronic pain. A former triathlete and marathon runner, I rediscovered my love of the outdoors through hiking and devoted my weekends to exploring, photographing and blogging about my home state of California. In 2014, I founded Shoestring Adventures LA, a free Meetup for my rapidly growing community to find connections and support as they ventured into the great outdoors. In 2015, I began organizing camping trips for weekend warriors throughout California: everything from Death Valley to Yosemite and beyond!
When did you first discover your love for the outdoors, and did you ever think it would lead you to starting an outdoor adventure company?
In 2009, my Uncle Dave invited me on my first backpacking trip to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in 48 states. I was in decent shape from my training for triathlons and marathons, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I developed altitude sickness and had to quit before the summit, but I knew I’d be back someday.
In 2010, I herniated a disc in my back while training for my second marathon and spent a year indoors, developing a bad case of cabin fever.
On New Year’s Day of 2012, I dragged my dried-out Christmas tree to Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey, CA, along with a wood saw and a box of matches. The previous year was marked by back surgery, the end of a long struggle with chronic pain and the beginning of a long road to recovery. But if all my training as an athlete taught me anything, it’s that every setback sets you up for your biggest comeback.
As my tree turned into ash in the fire ring, I made a simple promise to myself — say yes to everything — road trips, race car driving, sound baths, jade hunting, dune sledding, waterfalls, dirt biking, you name it.
You know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you approach the edge of your comfort zone? That’s where I wanted to live — a curious place for a shy introvert — but I wasn’t going to waste another moment.
At the time, I didn’t have many friends who spent time in the outdoors, but I knew I didn’t want to go alone, so I set out to find my adventure community. I started off going on weekend trips with my little sister, then I decided to give Whitney another try with my friend Rachel. I started a Meetup group for others to train with us called Shoestring Adventures LA.
With the help of our adventure community, Rachel and I successfully summited Mt. Whitney. After that experience, I continued to foster the small community we’d built, so others could benefit in the same way.
Flash forward to today, Shoestring Adventures has grown from a small ragtag crew to a flourishing community of engineers, teachers, lawyers, artists, veterans and doctors from ages 18 to 65+, who often keep in touch long after their first adventure.
I never dreamed that injuring my back would lead to starting an outdoor adventure company. If I could go back in time and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Are there any outdoor entrepreneurs that inspired or influenced you as you were creating Shoestring Adventures?
Shortly after starting the business, I was introduced to my adventure soul sister Sasha Cox from Trail Mavens, who guides skills-based camping and backpacking adventures for women in Northern California. Through our phone calls and video chats, we share the challenges and successes of running our own guide businesses. She motivates and inspires me to be a better leader. I also have my mentor Jacqueline Boone to thank for guiding me from blogger to business owner.
Someone comes up to you on the street and wants to know what Shoestring Adventures is and why they should consider getting involved, what do you tell them?
Shoestring Adventures offers weekend camping and backpacking adventures, as well as a supportive community for anyone who wants to experience the outdoors.
We will empower you with the skills you need to become more confident planning your own adventures, like how to start a campfire, prepare a delicious meal outdoors, read a map and reduce your impact, while you connect with like-minded people on the trail and around the campfire.
What do you enjoy most about the Shoestring Adventures community?
The Shoestring Adventures community has become my extended family. I love watching first-time campers go on to have their own adventures with skills they have learned and friends they have made on a Shoestring Adventure.
What advice would you give to someone preparing for their first outdoor adventure?
Sharing your first outdoor adventure with friends can make the experience feel less intimidating. Plus, you can borrow gear to try out before you invest in your own.
What inspired you to include Triptographers on every adventure?
I have been documenting my travel experiences ever since Shoestring Adventures began as a personal blog. While I love capturing memories for my family and friends, it’s impossible to be 100% present with a camera in hand.
Early on, I decided to include a photographer on every trip, so Shoestring Warriors could stay in the moment and still have memories to share.
In 2017, I launched the Triptographer program to build a network of freelance outdoor photographers, selecting 7 finalists from over 50 applicants. So far, the program has been a great success, and as Shoestring Adventures grow, I hope to provide support for even more talented up-and-comers.
What is your favorite Shoestring Adventures memory?
One of my favorite recent memories occurred on a Shoestring Adventure in Sequoia National Park with First Descents, an organization that offers life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults affected by cancer. We made it back to camp just in time for a lighting, thunder and hail storm. All 13 of us sat under a blue tarp eating raw s’mores to wait out the storm.
Where’s your next adventure?
In addition to planning Shoestring Adventures for 2018, I am looking forward to going a road trip to Arizona with my Aunt Jojo between Christmas and New Years.
The perfect s’more? (if you don’t like s’mores, what’s your favorite campfire dessert?)
I am a big fan of banana boats, thanks to trip leader Heather! Stuff a banana with marshmallows, chocolate and don’t forget the peanut butter; wrap in foil, and patiently warm over the campfire until you achieve ooey gooey goodness.
Photos © 2017 Alyx Schwarz