Photography courtesy of Johnie Gall.
Johnie Gall has an infectious enthusiasm for travel and all things outdoors. Her life is a series of adventures that she paints into an honest and relatable mural of what it looks like to seize the day and make the most of everything on her blog, Dirtbag Darling. From climbing mountains to swimming in oceans, and many things in between, Johnie can often be found out in nature and inspiring other women to do the same. Here is a bit of her story.
If you could describe yourself in one sentence, what would it be?
I’m an outdoor advocate, writer and wild creative who likes to sleep under the stars and howl at the moon. With a dark sense of humor.
Will you tell us the story behind Dirtbag Darling?
I was living in California, writing for a surfing magazine, and spending my weekends traveling in a beat-up little minivan and trying new outdoor sports like rock climbing and SUP with new friends. I had no clue what I was doing, but I loved it, so I started looking for blogs for outdoor women. However, they were all highly specific to a single sport, or about women who were already proficient in outdoor adventure. So, I just started chronicling my own misadventures and the stories about other outdoor women I’d met, and the blog grew from there. It’s been fascinating being at the forefront of this boom of modern outdoorswomen—over the past six years I’ve seen the outdoor industry as a whole become vastly more inclusive and encouraging of women in the outdoors. I’ve recently decided to make the blog more of a personal writing platform again, and hand over the “women supporting women” reins to my friends at She Explores and Wylder Goods. It’s good to evolve, and I can’t wait to get back to the more creative side of my work.
What is it about the great outdoors that attracts you so much?
The simplicity of being outdoors, and the fact there are still places that feel fantastical and untouched.
How do you balance everyday life and explorations in your eclectic, adventurous lifestyle?
I try not to think of it as a balance—more of an integration. I don’t want to my life to be peppered by adventure, I want it to feel like one.
My friend once told me a story about a businessman who vacations on an island near a little fishing village, where he befriends a fisherman. He asks the fisherman, “Why don’t you stay longer out at sea and catch more fish?”
“Well, I usually wake up early, catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. I take a nap with my wife, and then play guitar with my friends, singing and dancing the night away,” says the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business. I could help you. You’ll buy a bigger boat, catch even more fish. Soon, you can buy more boats, set up a company, own a production plant for canning.”
“And after that?” asks the fisherman.
“After that, you’ll live like a king,” says the businessman. “You’ll be rich.”
“And after that?” asks the fisherman.
“You can finally retire, move to a house by the sea, wake up early, catch a few fish, play with your grandkids, have a nap with your wife, and dance the night away.”
“Isn’t that I’m doing now?” replies the fisherman.
I think of that story often and try to be more like the fisherman. I really hope I can do something to better the world, not just myself, before I’m gone.
What are three things that you can’t go without?
A notebook (and pen), a camera, and a hair tie to tame the wild beast.
If you could piece together your perfect day, what would it look like?
Some sort of spontaneous trip or adventure, dirty hands, good food, and genuine people. With a little writing in there somewhere. One of my favorite things to do is watch the night sky and sleep under the stars, outside my tent, so I’d hope to be able to cap off the day that way.
When life gets crazy, how do you get back into a good mindset and find the motivation to keep on keeping on?
This has been a learning process, but I’ve come to the realization you have to give yourself a break. When I lack motivation or inspiration, I let myself take time off from whatever I feel like I need to do and take stock of what actually makes me feel happy and fulfilled. We wear stress and “busyness” like badges of honor, and that needs to change. I feel very, very fortunate to know what’s important to me, and what’s not, and to be able to readjust.
What is the last thing someone said to you that made you smile?
“I’m no cactus expert, but I know a prick when I see one.” Puns always get me.
Do you have an advice for ladies who are itching for a bit of travel and new outdoors experiences?
Make it a priority, not a “one-day” dream. No trip happens easily, so learn to plan, save, and execute so yours will! You don’t have to be a risk taker to take calculated risks.
How can we keep up with you and your adventures and get involved with Dirtbag Darling?
I’d be so excited if you checked out the blog or followed on Instagram. I’m working on a photo and story project about interesting outdoor advocates and explorers right now, so if you are one or know one, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.