Women Who Hike is a fast growing community on Instagram bringing together outdoorsy women from all over the world. In just a short time, @WomenWhoHike has grown to over 67K members and over 100K uses of the hashtag #WomenWhoHike. The idea behind @WomenWhoHike is to connect, encourage, and empower women all over the world to get outdoors. But what we often don’t see on social media is all the hard work and endless hours that go behind curating and growing such an Instagram account. We want to share the story of the hardworking, fierce, and busy Nicole who is one of the founders behind this wonderful community account.
Born and raised in beautiful Oregon, Nicole now lives in California. She takes every chance she can get to be outdoors and inspires other women to do the same. I first got introduced to this account by receiving a personal invitation from Nicole to join a local hike via Instagram. This personal touch is what separates @WomenWhoHike and Nicole from other feature accounts. Nicole tries to make every new member feel special and welcomed to the group. Here is a behind the scenes interview with Nicole, how it all got started and what’s next for her.
You are a founder of a popular Instagram group @WomenWhoHike. How did it start?
Last year I was curating for another hiking focused account while also sharing my own adventures here at @Im_NicoleMarie. While this experience of contributing and connecting with other hikers was heaven sent, I felt like there was more I wanted to do, more connecting and contributing to the hiking community and more so with women of course because we have seen a rise of women getting outdoors. While this is a current and happening trend, I know for me, the more I see other women doing the more it inspires me to get out, travel, see new places, hike impossible things. So, Women Who Hike was born out of wanting to have a more clear, visible and beneficial platform for women who hike, and the rate of which it has grown just goes to show you there was a need for it. I also thought bringing my friend, Savanah, on board was a great idea so we could have a double platform for women. There are two of us here which helps to broaden the vision, demographic and audience as well as personally reach out to other women in our respective states by hosting group hikes.
Is this something that you do full time?
Because Women Who Hike is a passion project, I do not think of it is a job. But, there is definitely hours upon hours every week dedicated to what we post, our marketing strategy, planning hikes and travel as well as the two of us, Savanah and I in constant contact regarding our audience, plans and talking about our members and what is being put out there by the women using our hashtag.
How do you handle both a job and managing a fast-growing Instagram account along with all the meetups you organize, Facebook groups, and a blog?
Balance is a funny thing… Because I truly have never lived a life of balance; Maybe it’s not for me. I have always been that person who juggles the plates and in starting Women Who Hike it has just gone along with my life theme, doing all the things all of the time! People often assume I do not work. This could not be more untrue. I spent my twenties working at the top in the automotive industry and after the recession took some time off and was lucky to get myself into a commission based job where I get to mostly decide when I work, but that also means I do not have a steady income. I also volunteer full time in the foster system in Southern California which is not a paying job but demands a lot of my time and becomes at times, emotionally taxing. I am just a person making extremely good use of their time, I am probably always tired because I am trying to fit in so much adventure alongside my responsibilities… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What keeps you motivated to continue building the Women Who Hike group?
The women. We will soon hit 100K uses of our hashtag and in under a year, and it mesmerizes me. Women Who Hike is not about me, not about the founders… It is about the community as a whole. We get extremely invested in these women, more so than a feature account. The relationships we have made with women who we have never met are worth their weight in gold. We don’t get paid to do this… But the rewards are immeasurable.
What are some of the most memorable experiences that have come out from creating a group of like-minded people like Women Who Hike?
So many. When I see women who have met on our group hikes hiking together on their own, that’s a real payoff for us. It makes me excited but emotional at the same time because I consider us incredibly lucky to have received the support from these women in the hiking community.
Joining a hiking group might be intimidating for some people. How do you encourage people of all comfort levels to show up?
I think this is a tough one because this used to be me. I used hiking as a way to escape people. I moved to SoCal 15 years ago and have pretty much always ‘rejected’ the status quo, MO and lifestyle I find to be so self-centered and materialistic. But, when I started seeing other women hiking in my area, I became more open to attending hikes where other women would be. And then, I started making real friendships that started with hiking but now span off of the trail as well. A lot of the women who hike with us are returning for a second, third, fourth time… and I am well aware of who is there for the first time, so I REALLY try and spread myself around to the newer women so they also become return hikers with us.
Your group has followers from all over the world. How do you pick the amazing locations for the group hikes?
Right now, we are doing group hikes here in SoCal, led by myself and Oregon, led by Savanah. Our first ‘out of state’ group hike is coming up here in November in Arizona, we were shocked and surprised when we got to capacity for that hike in just one evening of it being posted. That hike will be in Sedona… which, how could anyone say no to? Next year we will be doing at least four group hikes in new states as well.
There might be other people around the world who want to create a similar group in their area. What advice do you have for them?
We are working extremely hard here at Women Who Hike, it’s not as easy as it looks. We are now taking on ladies to be ambassadors in the areas we cannot immediately be in. These ambassadors will lead hikes for those women who always ask us, ‘when are you coming here’? We obviously would love to do this for a living, but we have our jobs and our families to dedicate our time to as well.
What is next for Nicole and where do you see the Women Who Hike group going?
I really have fallen behind on my own personal blogging this year and plan to get that up and running again soon. I love to write, and I also love to SHARE my adventures because I know there are so many things I have done ONLY because someone else shared their experience with me, whether it was through personal contact, an image on Instagram, new article or blog. It’s amazing what Instagram has done for the travel, adventure, and hiking community. While some people complain of its drawbacks, I truly see the benefit of the sharing these moments. I plan to do more road tripping, backpacking and camping next year. But in additional to that, I also plan on trying to take better care of my personal life at home. I have an extremely understanding, supportive but also often neglected fiance at home who deserves more of me as well as his two children who deserve the same. Maybe I will try to give that balance thing a try.
By Laura Sausina