You can REINVENT yourself 🦋

“I did not grow up hiking in the mountains.

Yet, I am founder and CEO of Explorer Chick –an adventure travel company that empowers women in the outdoors.”

This is how I started my audition for TEDx Cincinnati last Saturday. I led with this stark contrast from what I was to what I have become. I went on to describe my classic Midwestern, middle class upbringing where my family vacationed to any amusement park within driving distance and Ranch dressing is basically it’s own food group.

I shared how I was raised believing in the American Dream. And, then how this Type A, gold star sticker chasing, over achiever got after it earning her degree, miraculously getting herself married, owning a home, and climbing the corporate ladder in the finance field. I had it all! I was living proof of the American Dream.

Sounds darn right perfect, right?

Well, secretly I was drenched in fear for my future. I had this vision that my next 30 years was going to be a Bill Murray Ground Hog’s Day Hell where the only things that changed were the wrinkles on my face, and the growing bags under my eyes. This. Can’t. Be. It.

In April 2014, the mold I was forcing myself into finally cracked. I broke my American Dream with 5 words to my then husband, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The walls came crashing down that night. My future became a blank canvas that was limited only by my imagination and grit. I had been gifted with a Do Over. And I needed a vacation. Hell, I’m going to start an Adventure Travel Company for Women.

But, do you want to know a secret? 🤐

At that time I wasn’t a jet setting, savvy world traveler. I wasn’t an avid hiker with an Instagram feed filled with classic mountain summit poses. Hell, my camping game was a Pinterest fail meme.

Yet, here’s the thing. I wanted to BE that woman. I wanted to experience our world. That was the life I wanted to lead.

5 months later I turned in my resignation to Morgan Stanley, cashed in my IRA, vowed I would flip burgers to see this through, and I set out to reinvent my life.

On the left is me married in 2013 and living the corporate American Dream. On the right is me from this summer with the Explorer Chicks in Banff after breaking that Dream and reinventing myself.

To be honest I was super nervous about sharing this piece of my story with our entire Explorer Chick community (That is thousands of women who don’t me from Adam!). Would I lose my credibility as a travel professional?

But, the TEDx talk forced me into deep introspection. After 5+ years, what is my story? How is it inspiring? And who specifically needs to hear it?

I first set off identifying my audience for my talk. Cincinnati. Cool. Women. Yes. Lots of professional women probably in the crowd. Okay.

Then I realized it was me circa 2013 who needed my story. A woman living the American Dream but terrified that she had already crossed the finish line.

And, so I set out to share my story of Breaking the American Dream and Reinventing Myself.

You’re reading this post now, so you know how the rest of the story goes. And, it’s a damn good story comprised of hundreds of stories written by you, our Explorer Chicks.

But it’s the beginning of the story, the part about having the courage to change my reality, that I am choosing to retell and I hope will inspire just one person to reinvent.

My message: Our lives are not determined by our upbringing, our degree, or our expertise. If right now, you are not waking up excited about what’s to come, or you are not who you want to be when you grow up, reinvent yourself. It’s not too late. And don’t you dare settle for anything less. It’s scary with sacrifice and failure along the way. But easy doesn’t change you. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the woman on the other side will be grateful that you had the courage to GO FIND HER.

Now, it’s your turn! How have you REINVENTED YOURSELF?

And it doesn’t have to be a complete upheaval of your life like I did in 2014. Maybe you are embarking on a better health journey. Perhaps, you are pushing yourself to make new friends. You might be going on your first hike this weekend. Or maybe you bought a long board because you decided randomly that you wanted to learn to skateboard (my current reinvention manifestation).

So, please tell me how you are REINVENTING yourself! Don’t forget to send a picture along with it of the You 2.0 (or 11.0 for that matter!) Email it to me directly!

Cheers to boundless adventures, Explorer Chicks!

Nicki Bruckmann
Explorer Chick, Founder

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