Welcome to the Women Outdoors Spotlight Series: a space for women to share their stories, articulate what the outdoors means to them, and encourage other women to say yes to adventure.

This week’s series features Melody Burdette.

Hi Melody! Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you!

Hello there! I’m Melody (or Mel, Melsky, Skyburd, Birdie, Odie. I’m a woman of many nicknames). I’ve lived in my van out west full-time for almost three years, and I’m deeply obsessed with the nomadic lifestyle, the van community, and trying new things wherever I am. 

Girl in a yellow shirt hugging the rock while rock climbing

For work, I own my own creative business where I do creative directing for businesses and brands, content strategy for products in tech, public speaking, photography, and copywriting. It’s an absolute blast and my favorite way of working so far. Being a strong generalist is way underrated.

For fun, I honestly try to do everything. I’m a bit of a fun hog — I backpack, rock climb, got my pilot’s license last year, and am getting my motorcycle license this year (sorry mom).

My take on life is: say yes. Inhale it all. It goes quick.

I absolutely co-sign that take on life! Tell us what inspired you to start getting outside.

I definitely grew up going outside — camping, hiking, and taking road trips out West from Georgia where my parents packed us in the family Volvo for 12-hour stretches.

My personal love of pushing myself outdoors, however, really took shape when I moved from New York City to California in 2015 with my partner at the time. The Sierra Nevadas were suddenly my home range, and they both terrified and thrilled me.

They Sierra Nevadas were where I really cut my teeth on “type two fun” scenarios, and learned that it’s okay to be scared — you grow into someone so capable once you push past the fear and experience more.

I’m a type two fun haver, myself! What would you say is your favorite way to get outside?

This is a fun question, because I literally *live* outside, mostly! If I had to pick my favorite outdoor hobby though, I’d say backpacking, snowshoeing, or rock climbing. They’re all blissfully meditative in different ways: 

Backpacking is this intentional, physical movement from one space to another in a gorgeous landscape, typically. I love the feeling of being so body-tired at the end of a backpacking day that you’re asleep before you even hit your sleeping bag. 

Snowshoeing comes to mind as a favorite because of how quiet snow makes everything—it’s so unique to be in a forest and have everything feel soft. Silent. I love it. 

And rock climbing is a long-time love of mine. I’ve been climbing for about ten years (with varying levels of enthusiasm and intensity). In my opinion, nothing comes close to how rock climbing makes you focus entirely on the present.

Female preparing to climb in Yosemite National Park

It’s just “hand-hand-foot-foot” over and over until the top — usually with some friends cheering you on from the bottom. It’s a dang joy.

Ah, I love the way outdoor hobbies have a way of forcing us to be present. Can you describe your most memorable outdoor adventure to date?

Oh man, I’m feeling lucky that so many trips come to mind here.

I’d say one of the most transformative adventures I’ve ever had was when I traveled solo through Norway a few years ago. It was my first solo adventure (abroad or otherwise) and it was just revolutionary for me. I hiked ridge lines, paddled in fjords, met awesome strangers, and journaled furiously.

I started each day not knowing where I’d end up or where I’d sleep, and just rolled with it. 

I very much credit that trip with being a turning point for me: I came back dead certain that the job I was in would be my last corporate gig, and I was hungry for more wandering.

Cut to four years later.

Sounds like Norway was your tipping point trip — the trip that changes everything. Speaking of memorable adventures, tell us about your favorite trail that you’ve hiked.

I don’t think there’s an official name for it, but my favorite trail hands down is this self-supported backpacking trip that I did with two other girlfriends in Argentinean, Patagonia.

We used the Gaia GPS app to research and link up five days’ worth of trails that stretched from one side of the range outside of El Chalten to the other (roughly from El Chalten to Piedra del Fraile/Lago Electrico to C.B. D’Agostini and back to El Chalten).

Two females surrounded by a lake and mountains in Patagonia

It was the rawest, wild scenery I’ve ever experienced — and you just were out there.

Completely alone for long stretches, with glaciers and waterfalls and the epic Mt.Fitzroy peeking out around every corner.

Absolutely unreal.

Patagonia is still on my bucket list! What is an adventure (or hobby to learn) that is still on your bucket list?

Expanding my skills as a pilot is high on my to-do list for this year (and I suspect will be for the rest of my life).

I’m getting my “taildragger” endorsement this year so I can unlock off-airport adventures, and I’m also getting my floatplane license so I can explore some backcountry lakes and trails. 

Aside from flying, I’m definitely itching to do some big treks in the coming years! Peru, Nepal, and Switzerland are at the top of my current list.

Dude, you’re amazing — truly living. What piece of advice would you give to women who are looking to break into the outdoor space?

First and foremost, babes: remember that we all start at zero.

Even the most experienced, badass outdoorswomen were total noodles in the beginning. Give yourself permission to be a goof, and lean into learning from other people, messing up, problem-solving, and experiencing things outside your comfort zone.

Be kind to yourself. Remember that you deserve to be there. And have fun! If you’re not having fun, it’s not it.

Female pouring coffee in the Grand Teton mountains

If you’re not having fun, it’s not it. Words to freaking live by. Alright Mel, tell the readers where they can connect with you further and continue to follow along with your adventures!

You can find me chattering away about life and taking you on adventures at @melskyburd on Instagram and TikTok!

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