In a world where digital landscapes and the pursuit of greatness often dominate, some individuals choose to escape the confines of their screens and the material world to embrace the Great Outdoors. Meet Taryn Eyton—an avid backpacker, adventure blogger and author behind a backpacking guidebook, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia: The Essential Guide to Overnight Hiking Trails, that champions the cause of environmental stewardship. 

Growing up in the Vancouver area and now residing in Squamish, BC, Eyton’s journey towards reconnecting with the outdoors began quite casually in the summer during one of her university years, when she found herself with a car and some free time from work.

Eyton was looking for an affordable way to entertain herself with the time off she had. She figured she could go hiking. “Just little things that, now, I would think of as more of nature walks than a hike.”Taryn Eyton

Little did she know, her outdoor excursions would grow into something bigger. Right after she graduated, she did her first backpacking trip on the challenging, 75-kilometre West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. “I had a huge backpack. It was almost the same size as me. I cried the first day because it was so heavy and so hard,” she laughs, “But, by the end of the trip I had really just fallen in love with spending time outdoors.”

Her blog, which began in 2014, became an embodiment of the love that had blossomed for the outdoors. Called Happiest Outdoors, Eyton’s blog is a testament to the way something small can become a life-changing venture.

“[It] started as a way to share my outdoor adventures with my friends, but I found that more and more people were visiting it to find more information about the hikes that I was writing about,” Eyton says, “So it kind of evolved over time to less of a trip journal to more of a resource.”

In 2019, Eyton quit her day job and decided to make the outdoors her full-time job. Working as a blogger, she describes the writing part of her job as “certainly the least sexy part of my job.”

“The part where you get to stand on top of mountains and take photos for Instagram is definitely more glamourous,” she admits. For writing, she uses a combination of her memory to remember intricate details about her hikes and the Pomodoro technique to be extra productive. The Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy in which a task is broken into intervals of 25 minutes, separated by five-minute breaks.Taryn Eyton

Like most side hustles, the blog wasn’t taken to be a serious endeavour at first. That is until she realized it could be more than just a hobby.

“Once I realized that, I realized there were a lot of skills that I would need to learn to make it successful,” she says, “All things that I’ve mostly taught myself, and that’s been mostly a trial-and-error type of situation.”

When asked about the challenges she faced in the beginning, she talks about fighting the pressures of modern-day digital media. “A lot of bloggers and people really buy into this hustle culture, that you need to be constantly working, constantly improving and constantly making more money. I really try to push back against that because one of the reasons I quit my job and work for myself is so I have more time,” she says. “I am really happy with where I’m at and also more successful than I was when I had a day job. And working six hours a day feels pretty good too,” she says.

For those considering joining the blogging and digital media industry, Eyton gives the following advice: “It helps to have an angle of something that you’re an expert in. Maybe your angle is that you want to explain how to do a sport as a beginner. You need to find your niche and what makes you an expert in something [so] that other people would find value listening to your opinion.”Taryn Eyton

“It’s interesting, when you write online or when you write a guidebook, you’re just kind of firing your work out into the world and you don’t necessarily hear back from people that often about what they thought or what they did with what you wrote,” says Eyton, “So, the most rewarding part for me is when I meet people or they send me messages that they had a trip because of the information that I provided or they found a destination from me they wouldn’t have otherwise heard of. Or that I inspired them to do something that they didn’t think they were able to do.”

Going from being a blogger to publishing a book was a major transition for Eyton. “I hadn’t had an editor before, and I hadn’t had external parameters on what I wrote,” she says, “It was definitely an interesting process to go from being completely my own boss to being like, ‘Someone else decides what goes in this book.’”

Eyton has always been, in her own words, “a dorky collector” of hiking guidebooks for a long time, with a couple hundred guidebooks in her collection.

“I really like looking through historical guidebooks, seeing how things change in the way that we talk about nature and trails,” she says. However, she noticed that older guidebooks didn’t provide useful information or resources on backpacking trips. “So I really saw a niche to be filled and also, because I had been so into collecting these guidebooks, it was kind of this pie-in-the-sky dream that one day I might write one myself.”

Her guidebook is a product of sacrifices. Although she began her research during her vacation times and during her unpaid leaves of absence, she quit her job to focus on the guidebook. “It wasn’t until after I quit my job in 2019 that the book was actually picked up by a publisher, and the thought that someone might actually hold it as a physical book in their hand became real.”Taryn Eyton

But such an undertaking is never without challenges. For Eyton, these challenges were mostly logistical. “For a day-hiking book, you could hike one or, sometimes, two hikes a day, whereas, for a backpacking book, there’s just a lot of time involved and a lot more planning,” she says.

Writing a guidebook is different than writing a different kind of book. Eyton emphasizes, “I was really concerned about the impact on the increased use an area might have if it became more popular because it was in a book. And so, I was really concerned with making sure that I mitigated some of that use by providing education.” Eyton has been volunteering with Leave No Trace Canada since 2006 and sought to provide Leave No Trace education and information in her book.

“Leave No Trace is something that anyone who goes outdoors should make themselves familiar with,” says Eyton, “I know a lot of people who have been going out for a long time will say, ‘Oh, I know about Leave No Trace. That means don’t leave garbage.’ And it does. But it means a lot of other things as well. I really encourage anyone who hasn’t looked at the Leave No Trace Principles in a little while to have a look at them.”

Her other concern regarding her book was that every place she promoted had an existing land manager. “[It’s] so that if there was increased impact from traffic, there was already a framework in place to set up regulations, to protect things, to install infrastructure and to have any kind of enforcement powers if those were needed,” she says, “I was unwilling to send people to place that would then perhaps become impacted in a negative way.”

Taryn Eyton

Eyton does a lot of volunteer and advocacy work. “I’m the president of a small non-profit here in BC called Friends of Garibaldi Park Society and we advocate for recreation access in BC’s most popular provincial park and, arguably, most beautiful.” She also volunteers with the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and the Recreation of Conservation Committee.

“A lot of people will complain, ‘Oh, places are too busy’ or ‘This campground is rundown.’ I think it’s important to do more than complain about it, to actually do something,” she says, “That’s kind of grown out of this idea of ‘If I’m going to be promoting outdoors and promoting destinations then I also need to be giving back.’”

Eyton encourages everyone to get outdoors and reconnect. For people apprehensive about the outdoors, she advises, “I think this can be really personal. It really depends on what it is about going outdoors that you’re apprehensive about. If you’re apprehensive about going alone or not knowing enough about it, I think finding someone who is more experienced is super helpful. It can be really helpful to join a club or take a course. Do some reading online about the things that you’re nervous about, whether that is wildlife, fitness or navigation.”

Eyton’s upcoming project includes a new book being released in early April this year about backpacking on Vancouver Island. She will also be refreshing all her winter content on her blog and uploading new content for the backpacking and booking season in January and February.Taryn Eyton

Visit Eyton's blog, Happiest Outdoors.

      

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