Meet a Trailblazer: Kari Dane Matlock

The Bacpackers.com Trailblazer program was created to give a voice to the unique people who are shaping our industry, from photographers to business owners to advocates for sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Below is the full interview of one of these Trailblazers!

Be sure to follow along on their adventures because we think they’ll do great things!

Trailblazer Interview: Kari Dane Matlock

Image by Alex Smith, all rights reserved.

Please walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are in the outdoor industry.

After teaching yoga at a climbing gym for a year, a boy got me into “actually” climbing. Because how else do you impress a climber boy? It was a very back and forth relationship that ended with him threatening to kill himself if I didn’t have an abortion, and he disappeared right after, and I developed suicidal depression.

Naturally, in a place of healing, I think we all try to find independence. For me, that independence was in the outdoors. However, at the time there were no guidebooks on how to handle the mental and emotional side of being 100% alone…and literally alone in the wilderness.

So, I began journaling and posting to Instagram. This spiraled into a blog of product reviews for first timer solo campers, an internet community searching for inner peace, and I became the voice behind The Art of Motion.

The Art of Motion is a mix of peer counseling, internet pen-pals, teaching yoga for climbing and heart healing, and participating with mental health groups, all with the hope of keeping anyone else from ever feeling the way that I have.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for? What sets you apart from others?

I’d say I’m most known for depression management. It’s a very taboo subject in society; while we vocalize to speak out, we enforce otherwise when someone genuinely needs help. It’s easier to pretend to be someone compassionate and helpful than to actually lend an ear or assistance. I’m a passionate outdoor enthusiast looking to try new things and share healing through experience.

That said, I surveyed my readers on Instagram and they said I am most known for my positivity and faith. I drafted a questionnaire for my following, and the majority ruled that along with climbing, I encourage others to #HangInThere and, “Stay Positive.”

Image by Alex Smith, all rights reserved.

Has growing an audience and working in this capacity been smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

Absolutely not.

In a day and age of liking photos for numerical value, when people actually start to read content and come across something uncomfortable, they bail. In culture we often preach to “let what does not serve you go”, instead of sticking things through to the end or figuring out a compromise. People also think you can just buy your way out or just ignore it and it’ll go away, which I’ve found doesn’t work for depression.

People don’t like being faced with the hard stuff, and usually too afraid for anyone to see that they also struggle, so they don’t post about it publicly — to me or at all. I get way more direct messages than likes or comments for that reason, because it’s hidden and can’t show up on another’s news feed.

I won’t even tap into the whole, being a woman in a sports bra on the internet dilemma.

But being the person to call out the fact that life really sucks sometimes does give me a bad rep occasionally. It’s pretty normal for me to get threats that I should just, “Kill yourself already,” that I should “Film it for the gram,” and that I should “Stop crying about your first world problems.” All real quotes from real people.

But for the people who message me gratitude, who say that they called the Suicide Prevention Line because they remembered my posts, or that they’ve been practicing breathing techniques or the “Prayer in the Pause”, seriously makes it worth the process.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?

Putting it as simply as possible: being open and honest. That’s really all there is to it. People seek out validation in the internet because they want something they can relate to and aren’t finding it in the real world. In our day and age we are taught to suppress and hide, post out only good vibes, and then when we do experience those down days we don’t know how to handle it.

I personally feel that I wouldn’t be a valuable resource for anyone with inner demons to fight if I weren’t out on the battle field myself. If I weren’t, it’d be like trying to explain twitter memes to your grandma.

Image by Alex Smith, all rights reserved.

What do you want people or brands to get in touch with you for? What kind of community are you building?

I’d like for people and brands that are reaching out to be helping others fight the good fight, or, of course, if they are the ones fighting and are taking steps to better themselves.

I can genuinely say that I wholeheartedly believe my community is one of love. I often make references to my journals, which ask the universe about what just love could do.

Because of this, the companies that get in touch are providing me with resources to log content that contributes to conquering those depressive thoughts, or products that will help those who need to get out of dodge for a while do just that. I’ve been very blessed this far. It has kept me around this long anyhow, and I am excited to see what other adventures I can find. Different tips and tricks to help people have the smoothest experience so that they can focus on their healing.

What gear do you use to shoot and/or adventure?

Climbing and yoga have been my biggest spaces for my head, but I try not to limit my reviews to just that, because others may find their heart (and physical passion) elsewhere.

With that being said, no matter what activity/adventure/exploration I am on, three things that I cannot do without are:

WoodChuck USA BucketList

Struggling with Suicidal Depression gets a little risky when my headspace isn’t exactly a safe place, but having this book filled with things that I need to accomplish before I’m allowed to go holds me accountable to the whole life thing.

Moment Lens for iPhone X

I’m really not a great photographer, I’m actually rather mediocre, and I’m an even worse hiker. These lenses have really helped keep the weight factor down on hikes, and have taught me a lot about lenses with email tips. Through their app I have learned so much about lighting/shutter speeds/etc.

LiveRelentless Focus Packs

I’ve been working really hard on setting good habits for stress management, one of those being getting adequate amounts of rest. Unfortunately, this has meant cutting back on coffee, which makes for a rather disoriented KD in the mornings. But LiveRelentless took interest in helping me reach out to other athletes, and has been providing me with go-go juice to truck through the tough times.

Image by Alex Smith, all rights reserved.

What is your favorite piece of non-photo related gear?

K9 Sport Sack

My K9 Sport Sack — or rather, my dog’s K9 Sport Sack. For those who don’t follow me on media, my dog is Theodore, the blind Pomeranian, better known as the light of my life. He goes with me on all my adventures and is seriously the best companion I could ever have asked for.

He has this little backpack that he rides around in, called a Sport Sack, and it has made taking him with me so simple. I absolutely adore it!


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All images in this article by Alex Smith, all rights reserved.

dbzweier bio pic 2018

Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.

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