How Did You Get Here: Kari Pichora

How Did You Get Here: Kari Pichora

This month, “How Did You Get Here” takes us to the beautiful desert of Arizona where we get acquainted with Kari Pichora, or KJ as we know her. KJ and Erica met in 2017 at Ragnar Carolinas, a relay race on the trails of South Carolina’s Ann Springs Close. KJ’s love for outdoor adventuring combined with her kind and down-to-earth spirit is captivating. She moved to Arizona earlier this summer, but we had to keep in touch with our girl! Luckily, we managed to catch up with her this week, in-between trips.

By day, KJ is an orthotist, or is it a prosthetist? Some weeks, maybe it’s both. She works with her clients to create unique orthotic and prosthetic equipment that will aid in rehabilitation and ultimately help them get back to enjoying life. When she’s not working to put people back together again, she’s working on herself. KJ is the poster-child for solo travel and she’s sharing a little of what she’s learned through exploring the world as a party of one.

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Tell us about life in Arizona! Why did you want to move there?

I had the opportunity to live in Arizona for a few months in 2014 and loved it. I found the desert very calming. After my short stay I ended up in LA and found myself driving a couple of hours most weekends to the desert for adventures; the wildlife is abundant and you will never hear such stillness and quiet anywhere else. I decided to go back to Phoenix to enjoy that calm feeling, be outside every day (yes, even possible in the summer!), and have basically anything I want to do hobby/activity/exercise/eating-wise at my disposal. Most others are also out taking advantage of living here and as an early riser, it's nice to see so many other people out before the sun. Also, the people are consistently friendly. Simply put: I feel like I fit in and belong in the desert!

What is the most rewarding thing about solo adventuring?

I always say "it's not an adventure until things start going wrong"...and adventuring alone makes you figure it out. There are lots of lessons learned in preparedness and working through problems that can translate over into day to day life. Also, I've met a lot of wonderful and impactful people that I wouldn't have met if I was with others.  

What is the best adventure you have had so far?

That's like asking me which one of my cats I like best! Any adventure that takes me to places I can't get to by car is my favorite. One place I always find myself going back to though is Zion National Park. Every time I go there it's like I'm seeing it for the first time. The beauty is breathtaking, the hikes are diverse, and the views are worth the work you put in. Zion is one of the places that has changed me in that it has helped me to want to do my best to be healthy so that I can do the hikes and see the views of all the places.

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What motivates you to travel and adventure on your own?

It’s knowing that I can either go alone or not go at all. I started doing things on my own because people would cancel plans. I started just by doing simple things like dinner on my own. You begin to become comfortable with your own company which is an amazing thing. I then went on a cruise by myself. And then adventures like hiking mountains and camping. Being alone helps me be more mindful of my surrounds and notice things I wouldn’t with others but it also makes the times that you do get to experience something with someone that much more special.

I also like to do adventures like camping and crazy hikes because I think being uncomfortable is good for us. The world we live in has made it too easy for us to maintain comfort all the time and we begin to take it for granted, and worse, expect it. I see people literally break down because of silly things that go wrong and they have to be uncomfortable for even a short period of time. Go on a three-day camping trip with no running water and you'll come out with an enhanced appreciation for the things we take for granted and a lot of them at the expense of the planet.


What is the most challenging part?

Learning new skills...like pitching a tent and building a fire! It's true what they say: if it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you.

What have you learned? What advice would you give someone else who's interested in being a solo adventurer?

I have learned that being able to find your bearings is very important! Always have a map and take a class to learn some skills (REI has some good ones). Also, trust yourself. If something feels off, whether it's the route you're taking or the campsite you picked, you're probably right.

And lastly, be prepared to go with the flow because you can’t plan for everything. Once I was traveling to Sedona from LA for a half marathon. Along the way, I remembered that AZ doesn’t participate in daylight savings time. Forgetting this small detail meant I was cutting it close and may miss the race. I remembered there was also a half marathon taking place in Yuma which was a little closer. I decided on the fly to reroute. So, there I was, in Yuma (very southern, hot AZ) but dressed for Sedona (cold, especially coming from LA).

I wanted to accomplish a half marathon that day and I was going to make it happen! Otherwise, I would have gotten up at 2 AM for nothing!  It was a good decision because after the race I drove to Organ Pipe National Monument to camp and explore and met one of the most special friends that I have right now. Even though you think something isn’t working out how you want, don’t focus on that. Reroute your focus, change your goals, and succeed...kind of like the average workday, right?!

How has it changed you?

It has helped me realize I'm stronger than I thought. Some of these things may have seemed beyond my capability until I was in the moment working through it. I'm not good at asking for help in my personal life but doing adventures solo has allowed me to practice that. I've asked strangers for lots of help over the years and not one person has denied me help and not one person expected anything in return even if I tried to give them money. A stranger has fed me, a stranger has towed my car out of a ditch, a stranger has helped me put up my tent so I have shelter, a stranger has helped me find my way either literally with directions or with life advice..and the best part is, some of those strangers are now great friends!

I also find myself not even thinking about helping or doing nice things for others when I am in the situation to do so. I think about the help I’ve been given often and it’s nice to put that back out into the world when I can.

What has surprised you the most?

The way people treat you when you're alone. When I went on the cruise alone I got weird looks when I would go to dinner or events alone, extra special service (which I won't lie, was nice!), and just surprised exclamations that no one would be joining me even though I would say "just me!" with a smile and hold up my book. A couple I made friends with said they thought that maybe I was going through some tragic life event like a divorce. It made me realize that a lot of people are so uncomfortable with their own company, that they need to have a reason to be seen alone. This was a while ago and I think it has changed since then which I am happy to see.

If I'm on a camping or hiking adventure a lot of people exclaim how brave I am for doing it alone and I feel like they tend to watch out for me. It has been surprising to see just how caring people actually are. I remember one couple returned my mace that fell out of my backpack at some point and I had no idea. They asked if I had mace which was really weird (thank goodness it was daytime!) and when I realized it was gone they presented it to me and said that I was the only one they've seen alone so they figured it was mine. It restores my faith in the world that we live in a society where people watch out and are concerned for one another :-)

We are so glad to have caught up with KJ between adventures.

It seems like her relationship with nature helps her find and connect with humanity in the world. We LOVE and are inspired by her story and can’t wait to get outside and look for the good in the world.

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How has it changed you?

It has helped me realize I'm stronger than I thought. Some of these things may have seemed beyond my capability until I was in the moment working through it. I'm not good at asking for help in my personal life but doing adventures solo has allowed me to practice that. I've asked strangers for lots of help over the years and not one person has denied me help and not one person expected anything in return even if I tried to give them money. A stranger has fed me, a stranger has towed my car out of a ditch, a stranger has helped me put up my tent so I have shelter, a stranger has helped me find my way either literally with directions or with life advice..and the best part is, some of those strangers are now great friends!

I also find myself not even thinking about helping or doing nice things for others when I am in the situation to do so. I think about the help I’ve been given often and it’s nice to put that back out into the world when I can.

What has surprised you the most?

The way people treat you when you're alone. When I went on the cruise alone I got weird looks when I would go to dinner or events alone, extra special service (which I won't lie, was nice!), and just surprised exclamations that no one would be joining me even though I would say "just me!" with a smile and hold up my book. A couple I made friends with said they thought that maybe I was going through some tragic life event like a divorce. It made me realize that a lot of people are so uncomfortable with their own company, that they need to have a reason to be seen alone. This was a while ago and I think it has changed since then which I am happy to see.

If I'm on a camping or hiking adventure a lot of people exclaim how brave I am for doing it alone and I feel like they tend to watch out for me. It has been surprising to see just how caring people actually are. I remember one couple returned my mace that fell out of my backpack at some point and I had no idea. They asked if I had mace which was really weird (thank goodness it was daytime!) and when I realized it was gone they presented it to me and said that I was the only one they've seen alone so they figured it was mine. It restores my faith in the world that we live in a society where people watch out and are concerned for one another :-)

We are so glad to have caught up with KJ between adventures.

It seems like her relationship with nature helps her find and connect with humanity in the world. We LOVE and are inspired by her story and can’t wait to get outside and look for the good in the world.

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maybe it is a scary time to be a man

maybe it is a scary time to be a man

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