In this interview, Betsy Dionne discusses support for our local animal populations and habitats and encouraging women everywhere to love their bodies.
“You don’t have to be one thing & don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Têra Kaia Since: 2016 | Location: California | Trade: Ecological Resource Specialist | Basewear: High Cut Dune
What is your favorite TOURA color and cut?
The High Cut in DUNE. I like that the High Cut gives me more coverage when hiking, and practicing yoga. It also stays put when jumping in alpine lakes! Dune is my favorite color because it reminds me of the colors in the Mojave Desert, and the red rocks of Utah; two of my favorite places.
What is your greatest personal achievement?
It may not sound like an epic adventure but it would have to be my career. I have been in the field of wildlife ecology for over 10 years. I have worked my way up from being a seasonal field biologist to my current position helping to manage and implement the largest Habitat Conservation Plan in the Country. I’ve always been one to take the long view, years of hard work have brought me to where I am today. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Who is your femmspiration?
My mom has always been there for me. She supported me moving across the country for my dream job and is always there when I need advice or someone to talk to. I think my sense of adventure and love for the outdoors came from her as well. When she was my age she went on soloing camping trips and when my sister and I were young she made sure we spent as much time outside as possible. Playing in the dirt and being independent were encouraged.
The fact that I was a girl did not change how my parents raised me. I grew up surrounded by strong women so the idea that I could not do something because I was a girl never crossed my mind.
My mom also taught me to have a strong work ethic. She encouraged me to go for my dreams but also made it very clear that if I wanted something I needed to work hard to get it.
What is your adventure rig? ??️
2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4×4, with a snug top camper shell and a platform bed with pull out shelves. My husband and I do a lot of boondocking and back road camping in the Mojave and it’s the perfect desert rat set up. When I’m backpacking it’s an MSR Hubba Hubba. I’m on number two now. I had one for about a decade that I got from an REI used gear sale, when it stopped keeping the rain out I upgraded to the newer model.
What is your food of choice before or after your adventures?
French fries and a huge salad with ranch dressing with extra ranch for the fries.
What is your favorite moment when in the outdoors?
There are the moments when the summits of mountains take my breath away. The way my legs feel after I’ve crested a long steep pass. The race of my heartbeat after topping out on a climb.
I think though, my favorite moments are the ones that I sit still long enough in nature for the wildlife to forget I am there.
When you are still the birds start to creep closer and you notice the small noises of animals in the brush around you. I have stayed like this long enough to watch a southern Pacific rattlesnake slither along the base of the rock I was sitting on, and to see a coyote pass less than 20 feet away.
What is a modern-day issue regarding the state of our outdoor spaces that you are particularly passionate about?
I have always been passionate about wildlife conservation. The biggest threats today are climate change and habitat loss. These two threats pack a one-two punch for many species. Species that could, in theory, expand or shift their ranges to adapt to climate change are not able to because of human barriers.
Furthermore, there are many species that are not able to shift their range due to the rate of climate change.
This poses a huge challenge to land managers and conservation biologists. How can we plan today for what the landscape will look like in the future? Can we keep dispersal routes open for species in an ever-growing world?
What do you wish you could tell other women everywhere?
Your physical appearance does not dictate what you are capable of. Many women, myself included, struggle with body image and we put limitations on ourselves. We tell ourselves stories like; we can’t be a rock climber because we are not thin enough, or we can’t be a good hiker because we don’t look like the woman in outdoor advertisements.
You don’t have to have a certain body type, or skin color, or age to do the things you dream about doing.Betsy Dionne
What do you wish you could see more of in the world?
Compassion. We need to replace negative feelings about ourselves and others with compassion. I believe the best way to foster compassion is to spend more time interacting with people, making new friends, and understanding where other people come from.
What do you think the community can do to be more uplifting to each other?
Put away the phones and interact with people in real life! It’s easy to see someone’s social media and make assumptions about them. We often can go into a headspace of comparison and judgment. I think it’s important when we have these feelings to stop and remember that that person has a life, they have struggles and insecurities just like us.
As a community, I think it is important to take a step away from social media and seek out face to face interactions.Betsy Dionne
What have you done to create positive change around you and for yourself?
I have struggled with depression and anxiety, I have been on medication in the past and have no shame about that. Something I have come to realize in the past few years is that loving yourself and having a positive attitude about life is a practice that takes a lot of work. We know that physical fitness takes practice and discipline but we treat our mental health as an afterthought.
Although I’m off medication today I still struggle and having a strong mental practice has helped me cope. What has helped me is taking a deep look at myself and where the root of my feelings comes from. That way I can understand what behaviors and habitats do I have that lead me to those feelings. I’m going, to be honest, I don’t always find an answer to why I feel depressed or anxious. Just taking the time to sit down with myself and practice self-reflection has helped me get through some tough times.
You’re stranded in the wilderness, what 3 things are your cant-live-without?
Assuming I already have food, water and shelter- I’m a practical gal. I would have to say a notebook with a pen, a flask of Whisky, and a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s my favorite book.
What is your Adult-job?
I am an Ecological Resource Specialist for the Regional Conservation Authority (RCA). This is a joint powers authority that oversees the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. In this position, I review environmental documents to make sure they are in compliance with the Conservation Plan. I also oversee restoration projects on land owned by the RCA. Additionally, I consult the staff on biological issues regarding the 146 species the Plan covers.
What interests you when you are indoors, not outdoors?
Reading as much as I can. I always have a stack of at least four books I’m reading at one time. I like to spend time writing and working on my blog. I also teach yoga and have a regular home practice. Oh and all my plant babies! I would turn my apartment into a jungle if I could.
What is your favorite part about traveling?
Food! Well, at least food is a big part of it. My favorite part is talking to locals and learning about places to visit from them. Sure it gets you off of the tourists’ train. For me, it’s more about being able to see the country through the eyes of someone who lives there. I want to explore the places that are special to them.
What advice would you give to people who want to travel more but feel as if they cant?
First, write down why you can’t then figure out how to change that. It is not set in stone, it is simply a problem that can be solved. Every “can’t” has a solution. If for example, you can’t because of money, sit down and calculate how much money you will actually need for your trip. Then figure out how much you can afford to save every month. Once you do this then you can set up a direct deposit with your bank. Do not think about that money, do not touch that money.
In the meantime see if you can get some overtime or work a little side hustle. Once you have enough saved up your “can’t” is no longer a “can’t”. I know the idea of being strategic with travel does not sound as romantic as simply whisking yourself away in a fit of wanderlust but it is practical and achievable.
What is one of the biggest issues with body image in our society?
This may be a bold statement but I believe that the root of our body image issues comes from advertising.
We are constantly told we need to look a certain way to be happy and to look that way we should buy X, Y, and Z products.
They tell us we need to look slim, have no cellulite, wrinkles, or stretch marks. That we need to shave our body hair, color our grays, and wax our eyebrows. They tell us what our post-baby bodies should look like, how we should dress, and what shade of skin tone is most beautiful.
It is brilliant from an advertisement standpoint; let’s find something that everyone has on their bodies, something that is totally natural, and then tells people that it is not desirable. But don’t worry dear consumer, just buy this product and all will be well, you too can be beautiful with only 5 payments of $10.99.
How do you combat these challenges?
I think first off it is to realize the impact that these outside influences have on our body image. We are bombarded by the messages that tell us we are not good enough. It’s not easy to ignore or avoid these negative influences on our body image.
However, we can shift our attention to things that make us feel good. Get outside, run up a mountain, climb some rocks. Measure the worth of your body on what it can do not what it looks like. It is also important that companies support diversity in their ad campaigns. I have seen a lot more of this in the past few years and it is a very positive change.
What about body image & perceptions are you passionate about?
I am passionate about working towards loving what my body is capable of. I’m basing my self-worth on my physical accomplishments rather than what I look like. I always feel the most beautiful when I’ve been out on the trail for a few days. I would really love to get to the point where I can manifest that feeling every day.
→ Betsy Dionne | Nature’s Keeper
Betsy is still teaching yoga and fighting for wildlife in California. Between traveling, her blog and photography she is full of life, action, and positivity. Find her blog or follow her on Instagram!
Find Betsy on Instagram: @bitofbetsy
Follow her blog: BitofBetsy