Jennifer Pharr Davis on Getting Unstuck and Breaking Free from Perceived Limitations

Show Notes

Jennifer Pharr Davis who is a speaker and author who was once the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Throughout her lifetime she has hiked over 12,000 miles on six different continents and now she shares how to mentally get unstuck from lifestyles, mindsets and other limitations that have you feeling trapped in a life that you don’t want.


Instagram: JenPharr

Book: The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience

Book: Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

  1. On today’s show, we are interviewing Jennifer Pharr Davis who is a speaker and author who was once the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Throughout her lifetime she has hiked over 12,000 miles on six different continents and now she is here with us. Jennifer Pharr Davis, welcome onto the Thrivetime Show! How are you!?
  2. Jennifer, before you became the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, you had to start somewhere. What was your life like growing up?
    1. I didn’t spend much time hiking as a kid
    2. After college, I felt like something was missing and for me, it was outdoors
    3. I walked the Appalachian Mountains and learned so many things on my first journey
    4. I learned so much and now I am a mom and I get to take my kids out on it.
  3. Jennifer, how long did this like take you to complete the trail the first time?
    1. Back when I first took the hike it was much different. Many people didn’t have cellphones and I was able to meet so many people.
  4. Jennifer, while you are hiking for months, what do you eat and what are kinds of supplies did you pack with you?
    1. I ate everything…
    2. I ate the Snickers bars and little Debbie snacks.
    3. I also ate dried fruit, nuts, tuna, sharp cheeses, and jerky.
  5. Jennifer Pharr Davis, where do you sleep while you are out hiking for months?
  6. Jennifer, I heard you said during your National Geographic Live! Talk that the trail that changed your life was the Appalachian Trail (App-uh-Lash-EE-UN Trail), what happened on this trail and how did it change your life?
    1. On the trail, you have to be a problem solver. You can’t be entitled.
    2. The trail doesn’t care.
    3. When you find things along the trail, you value them much more than we do in our everyday lives.
    4. On the trail, you have to trust strangers and you get to know them for who they are.
    5. Some of the mistakes I made were
      1. I broke my cooking tools
      2. I thought that getting lost was a mistake
  7. Jennifer, my understanding is that the Appalachian Trail is that the trail is 2,185 trail which goes through 14 separate states is only marked by one single symbol, a 2 x 6 white rectangle. Why did you decide to journey through the Appalachian Trail during the snow?
  8. Jennifer, I believe I heard you say that your eye was actually frozen shut…I would love for you share about this?
    1. I was in a horrible storm on a ridge
    2. It was wind, sleet, and snow.
    3. It hurt but I kept walking until I got into the forest
    4. By the time I got the forest, my eyelashes were frozen together and my eye was frozen shut.
  9. Did you have any run-ins with wild animals?
    1. I’ve never had a bad experience with a bear or snakes
    2. Unfriendly dogs off leashes and ticks
    3. I had an emu charge me. It charged at me then at the last second it veered off into the woods.
  10. Jennifer Pharr Davis, on your hike I heard that you discovered a suicide victim. What happened?
    1. This was my hardest day on the trail and maybe in life too.
    2. It was tragic and sad but when I came across it I realized that there is such a healing power in being outdoors and in physical forward motion.
    3. Physical motion forward keeps your mind moving forward as well.
    4. It made me want to consider what people are going through and be there for them.
  11. Jennifer Pharr Davis, if you had to guess. How many mosquito bites did you estimate that you got during your hike down the trail?
    1. One day I counted 137 bites. I even counted twice.
  12. What is the one trail that you hope to walk one day?
    1. The Continental Divide Trail
    2. I do have a map and compass, yes but it is relative. It is all about what you are used to.
    3. I was doing a lot of sexy trails but I realized that the trails that aren’t sexy usually have the best experience.
  13. How would you time the Continental Divide Trail and how long does it take?
    1. The average hiking time for all of these trails are 4-6 months
    2. The Continental Divide is constantly changed by the weather. You are literally in a race against the weather.
  14. What is one mindset that you have that is practical and that everyone can take action on today?
    1. Every time a problem came up in my business I would have to find a re-route, or backtrack or skip ahead.
    2. Just like on the trail, you have to continue to go forward no matter what obstacle gets in your way.
    3. Low Overhead is the biggest business lesson from the trail.
      1. Efficient
      2. Streamline
      3. Minimal
      4. Stay focused on the end and keep it simple

ACTION ITEM: Jennifer had a goal to start hiking and she actually went out and did it!

  1. What is the big goal that you want to do that you have been putting off?
  2. Write it down, take specific action steps towards that goal and DO IT
Business Coach | Ask Clay & Z Anything

Audio Transcription

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If you’ve ever felt stuck, we’re like you just needed to break free from your perceived limitations. Today’s show is a great show for you. Why? Well, on today’s show we’re interviewing Jennifer Pharr Davis. She’s a speaker and bestselling author, and she was once named as the national geographic adventurer of the year. Throughout her lifetime. This woman has hiked an incredible 12,000 miles on six different continents and outlet is a gentleman. Is there any further? I do our interview, Jennifer Pharr Davis

Welcome back to another exciting edition of the thrive time show on your radio and podcast download. Now. See on today’s show we are interviewing an incredible woman who has actually hiked over 12,000 miles on six different continents. Wow. And she was actually a named by the National Geographic as the inverse, as the adventurer of the year. That’s pretty cool shirt. She has hiked 12,000 more miles that I have. She’s been to five more continents than I’ve been to Jennifer Pharr Davis. How are you?

Oh Great. Thank you guys so much for having me.

I am, I am just so excited to ask you about your story here. Why did you, you know, before you became the national geographic adventurer of the year, why did you decide to start hiking? What was your life like growing up?

Well, you know, it’s funny because I honestly didn’t spend much time at all hiking when I was a kid and, um, I’d only spent two nights in the woods on a camp out before graduating college. But after college, like, you know, a lot of people, I didn’t know where I was going to go or what I was gonna do and I felt like I just, something was missing and for me it was outdoors. And so I’d always heard of the Appalachian trail and decided I would try it out and went out there. And made a million mistakes. But after five months of walking, I got to the end and my life was totally different. And it’s been different ever since.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, when did you realize that you want it to become the world-renowned queen of hiking?

You know, that was never my goal cause I didn’t know there was a title for that.

Okay. Every time I went into the woods, I just felt like I came back a better version of myself than I think it is. Um, you know, it’s not escapism. It’s real is that when you go out into nature and our society’s becoming more and more disconnected and, and I just had this urge to not only be in a natural environment but also to test my limits out there. And so I looked for different trails and different challenges and I learned different things along the way and then ultimately wanted to, you know, push my limits and try for a record on the Appalachian trail. And now I’m a mom and I take my kids out and that’s a whole nother challenge. So I love how it meets you at every phase of life.

What year was it when you decided to hike for five months. What, what year did you do that?

Oh man, there’s been a couple of years in my life.

I guess it’s the first time that you decided to really get, who was the first time that you decided to go the distance on the trail?

It was um, 2005 and I was 21 years old and I hate the Appalachian trail, which is close to 2100 miles. It goes to 14 separate states and our without their mostly, you know, on my own and meeting other hikers and it was way different back then again, like maybe half the hikers carried cell phones but they were brick Nokias and size using payphones in town that like check in with my parents and um, yeah, just a really immersive wilderness experience, which I loved.

I heard you say during an interview or a presentation with National Geographic alive where you were talking about the trail changed your life. How did this excursion, did this event, did this hike, um, how did this change your life? How did they impact your life?

You know, the trail is so powerful and such a great experience apparently because it’s just counter cultural, like it’s not what you’re taught growing up. Um, you go out on the trail and all of a sudden you have to be a problem solver. You can’t feel entitled. You can’t feel like the world owes you anything. Um, the trail definitely doesn’t care what type of, whether you want it to be fair, it’s your tired. Um, and appreciating things that we take for granted every day. Like having food to eat and having like finding a spring of fresh water or hiking for five or six days. And then finally getting into town and taking a warm shower. Like having that luxury and really appreciating what we’re so used to. And you know, you meet so many different types of people on the trail. And what I’ve found without knowing that they had these stereotypes and judgments.

But when you get to know people like hiking, that you get to know people so well, so quickly, not for what they do but who they are. And it was just such a deep level of connection and community and of course were taught you don’t trust strangers. And on the trail you kind of have to and, and when you do find out that humanities pretty good, it really restores your faith in people. And then for me as a woman, it was so empowering to have this experience and about value my body, not for how it looked, but what it could do. And it made me realize how many ways I was limiting myself or perceiving me myself base the rest of the Seidel live and not natural lens. Um, so it really shifted my, my values and how I approach life and people in my priorities. And it was so good. And that way.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, you, uh, you said early on when you first walked, hiked the Appalachian trail, you made a bunch of mistakes. Could you go over just for the fun of it? Could you go over a couple of three or four of those mistakes you made? Mm.

Oh my gosh. So many. I um, definitely have like, not just the wrong shoes but the wrong socks in the beginning and basically had trench foot by the time they got to Pennsylvania.

Thought I was going to cook the whole way. And then when they, I dropped my camp stove and a pot of Mac and cheese and it like clogged everything.


You know, fake cheese with everywhere on my stove broke. And then I realized I don’t even like cooking and doing dishes on the trail. So I got rid of that. And you know, I used to think things like getting lost with Emma steak, it’s like you’ve done something wrong. And now I’m just like, well if you’re out there for long enough, things like that are going to happen. So you know, the mistakes are and how you respond to it. And so my, my reactions and my responses have definitely changed because of experiences on the trail. But yeah, I made a lot of mistakes and I was able to keep going and adapt and change because of them.

What did you eat on this trail? Most days? Most nights,

everything. I mean a lot of people are just appalled at some of the things I eat on the jail because there is the junk, like there’s the little Debbies and this is like the snickers bar, right? There is something about a snickers bar or things like Frito or compost. For some reason on the trail it is like caviar, like it was so good, so I guess then tell him that. Then I also like you know, the higher nutrient than, I do a lot of dried fruit and nuts and a lot of tuna on the trail. Sharp cheeses, Jerky, but I still don’t cook. I’ll cook if I go with friends, hiking, but on my own I don’t, I don’t mess with it. I just eat all throughout the day and I eat basically whatever’s in my pack.

Did you actually frees your eyes shot while on the trail? Is My, am I making this up? Did this happen?

It really happened. I didn’t know that it could, but I was in this horrible storm on a ridge and they’re inventors like trees to protect me. And so there was all this wind in sleet and snow and it hurts. I mean it feels like it’s just burning against your face was the only skin that was exposed. So I just gotta Duck my Chin and close my left eye that was on the storm side and I kept going ahead. You know, one I opened to get back into the forest and when I made it there, it wasn’t like my eyeball was prison. But what has happened is there is a layer of ice that had formed on my eyelashes and I couldn’t open my eyes and my, I was frozen fat. Oh Wow. Yeah, I didn’t know that could happen. Like why can’t I open my eyelid and you know, throwing off that and then picking basically icicles off of my eyelashes and ripen frozen cross from the corners of my eye to once again be able to like lift my eyelids again, my site and that keep hiking down the mountain. And out of the storm.

So did you have any run ins with any wild animals that are interesting or scary or something happened there?

Um, you know, the, the funniest wild animals story and it’s surprising because when I started, like most people I was terrified of bears and snakes. Like I think those are the main fears when you go hiking outdoors or maybe mountain lions out west. Um, but I’ve never had trouble with those animals. And now after all this experience I am most worried about and friendly dogs off leash and picks like that what I’ve had the most trouble with. But I did have, when I was backpacking in Australia by myself as very remote trail, I had an emu charge me. It’s like really disconcerting. And I had gotten engaged right before going off to Australia and I, I had this hiking stick and I remember I got down and it’s like Kung Fu position and I was like, this is it. It’s me and the EU to the death.

Yeah. He’s going to have to tell everyone that I was picked to death in Australia. It was, it just bad. And then the EMU, the last second veered off into the woods. So they did the false charge to basically scare me off at her. But I thought that was like, I thought that would be in for a minute. Meeting the EMU to the dog in Australia.

Yeah, no, you’re on, you’re on your trip. You had a lot of, uh, things you went through. Z, you know this, I’m from Oklahoma originally born in Oklahoma, moved to Minnesota where the state bird is the mosquito. And my understanding is that you, Jennifer Pharr Davis had many mosquito bites. If you had to add up the total number of mosquito bites that you think you had at one point Max number, what would that be?

Oh, there was one day I had 137 and I counted twice. So I feel pretty,

oh, that was, yeah. Did you move on? I don’t want to just die. I’ve just done, just done. I’m done

trouble. I mean, it kind of gets in your system when you have that many bug bites. Like you just feel sick all over and your skin’s just kind of aches and, but the thing was, here’s a thing at carried bug spray and there were no bugs. I got rid of it cause you don’t want any extra weight in your path. And then I hit this like bog that was a mosquito breeding ground and all of a sudden they were everywhere. And so he’s just like trying to run through it. And I was hitting myself like I looked like a crazy person, you know, cause you’re like crying and running and hitting yourself, trying to whack the mosquitoes. And after that I like, I always carry bug spray always apart of my pack because they will not make that mistake again.

No, I understand. I don’t mean to take the room down, but I understand that you ran into a suicide victim while hiking. Is this true?

Oh yeah. That was my hardest day on the trail and you know, made him laugh too. But I, uh, and some way I’m grateful for the experience because it was so tragic and sad and confusing. But, um, when I came across that and it was on my first through hike and I decided that I wanted to keep going after that happened and I was, you know, the first one to come across it and hiking by myself and kept going by myself. But the thing I realized in that, which I hadn’t appreciated before that and I’d only kind of heard other people’s stories, but there is such a healing power and uh, and being outdoors and being in nature and also physical forward motion because there’s so many types of life where like our heart and our mind to feel stuck and hurt and confused. And I’m convinced that if you put physically just one foot in front of the other and then the next and then the next, like that physical motion of your body gives your mind and your heart in your emotions, the hope it needs and the kick it needs to move through those emotions and to start the healing process.

So he’s really grateful to be in this natural study. And then the community at that point, these hikers who were strangers before the big green trip, they like walk to me and they were so supportive and provided such amazing community. And so the trail experience was a heightened and also expanded through the most tragic thing that happened out there. And it really made me also just want to consider what people are going through and try to reach out and be there for them. So it was very difficult. But also, you know, it had a, a positive effects long term. I think

I would like to, uh, you, you went through this trail. A lot of our listeners have never gone through betrayal like that. I’d say the vast majority. Um, what did you learn that you, what wisdom did you gain? Do you feel like, to all of our listeners out there who are business owners, they’re entrepreneurs, aspiring business owners, um, I’d see up to the vast majority of our listeners either own a business or want to correct. What kinds of practical mindset, uh, training or mindset principles or wisdom or things did you pick up on during your trail walking alone that you could share with our listeners today?

So that’s one of the things I appreciate most about the trail. It has been the best education and the teacher for me as far as running my own business and also being just in relationship. Like I feel like the trail has been so powerful in that sense. And I’m, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a writer and speaker, but I also have earned my own small business for 11 years now. And I started a hiking company in North Carolina, cochlear taking company to help get other people outdoors. And I felt um, inquisition and insecure and starting that because I began it when I was 24 years old and I had no business acumen, no background, no schooling in it. Yeah. But every time a problem came up I thought, Huh, this is like that time on the trail where you know, I was going, I was going and then I came to a part of the trail that was closed and there was a wildfire and I didn’t know what to do. And so I had to find a reroute or skip ahead or find some other way or fat track. And I feel like that’s what business is like business time and time again.

Yeah, it’s creative problem solving, right? And it’s continuing to go. It’s just continuing to move and reinvent yourself because if you are stagnant, your business will fall sale. So like I started this hiking company and we were the only game in town and like, you know, did really well and provided this great service and now there’s all these competitors for like we can’t just do what we’ve been doing. We have to reinvent ourselves. And so to do that and think creatively about it as they got out of the box and then work with people who are very different from you and look for that because you know, the enhanced the business and it’s better to do that then work with people who are entirely likeminded. And then, okay, biggest business lesson, lesson from the trail, low overhead, right leg on the trail. You’re pack. Like everything you need is on a pack on your back.

And if you put too much in it, it’s going to slow you down and it’s going to cause more problems and injuries. So same thing with business, but he wasn’t be the shit. You want to be streamlined and you kind of want to be a minimalist. And I think for me, people lower themselves down where things that are unnecessary overhead, um, or you been submitting meetings or emails or whatever it is, but you gotta be focused on the end and then you got to be simple and minimal enough to get there as distantly. Um, but that is something we think about all the time with our, with our systems than our, our communications. Um, and also the overhead, just like keeping it simple, keeping it light so we can keep moving forward.

I want to ask you a gen about, of what you write, the things you wrote with a lot of our listeners who love to read. Um, if you could point the listeners to something you’ve written that you say, this is what I’m most proud of, all of that be,

you know, it’s interesting the book that’s done the best for us. Um, for me it’s my first memoir called the Camino Disa, which is about that five month hikes that we’ve been talking about that was so transformative. And I think people who are looking for a real coming of age experience, um, and something that is a little counter cultural, they really gravitate towards that book. But the one that I am the most proud of, honestly, is this the most recent title that came out, it’s called the pursuit of endurance. And I love it so much because it’s my story and it’s the idea again of like the trail is such a good metaphor for life and for business and for relationships. But I also got to interview like six of the most accomplished and Durham hikers in the world and ask them about their story and how their experience on trail has impacted them and changed their life off trail and how it can help other people. So I think there’s such like a breadth of wisdom and knowledge and experience and I love it because everyone in that book is so different. Um, so I think someone can connect really strongly or t peoplea with, you know, one if not several of the characters in that book. So that’s the pursuit of endurance. I love it because it’s my story, but it’s so, it’s just so much more story of the trail and it’s got so many good life lesson no matter what path you’re on.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, the big tuna for you. What’s the trail that’s out there that’s top of your bucket list? It’s a big Kahuna. The Big Kahuna, the big Kahuna, the big Kahuna. It could be a, could be a good dude. I don’t know. Nice. Nice. Yeah. Which number one draft pick on your board? I mean, what’s, what’s that trail that you have yet to walk? That’s like, that’s, that’s what, that’s the one that got the trail. That’s the drill I’m going to do have.

Okay. Yeah, but I have like a hundred.

Yeah. My list is

so long and they just announced this like 1700 mile trail in Chile and South America. That looks just unbelievable. But, but here’s the thing that’s interesting is like, you know, when I was younger I had my job and, and then I got married, um, you know, has, was running the company, but I still calling all the own shots and I was doing things like sexy trail. Um, and the one that was really at the top of my list that I’ve done about a third that is the continental divide trail, which is over 3000 miles. And it goes through the Rockies because from the Mexican border up to the Canadian border.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s wild. A lot of it.

And Lawrence, you’re navigating, it’s remote, really long stretches between pounds and it’s just like this epic amazing.

Are you alive? How have you, how have you been? I can’t navigate through the local grocery store and find all the condos and the bathroom at the same trip. How are you doing this? Are you running around with campuses? Are you sitting out flares? Does that mean how often do you just get totally lost into the helicopters? Have to come get you? How are you alive?

I said, no helicopter yet. I definitely do. You have a map, a compass, but it’s all what you’re used to as well. And statistically everyone who’s listening to this interview and driving down the interstate there in way more danger going 70 miles per hour in their car than I am in the middle of nowhere. Heikki and rates heard of. It’s just like relative, it’s, it’s what you’re used to have, what you need. The risk is minimalized. But um, but so yeah, basically I was like working on this sexy trail because, um, it’s a big accomplishment to do it. And it seemed like it was what was missing from my hiking resume. But I also have, um, now I have a six year old and a two year old and they are like just such an amazing gift and I love being a mom. And what I found was that I was going out doing this epic trail a week or two at a time and the sexiness wasn’t as appealing anymore for me where I was in my life but I still wanted to be outdoors.

It’s a part of who I am, a part of my soul. And so, so lucky to live like in North Carolina and the southern Appalachians and the blue rich. And for the past four, five years, I’ve just gone out for a year on these 12 no one knows about and they’re not sexy and I have had the best time on them and it feels so natural and so close to home and I don’t see anyone when I’m out there cause they’re not popular treadmills and [inaudible] like what I’ve come to appreciate is that there’s really something to following things that are like heart driven and not the sexy option. And that’s where I’m at right now. Like I’m not sexy. Like I’m a mom, I’ve got this, I love to hike and I went to go do these trails that feel organic and natural and right now that’s close to home.

See, you know, speaking of sexy, I’m going to have to do a little segue. You my friend. What is your final question? You are the sexiest man. I know. What is your final question for Miss? The incredible, this Jennifer, this lady has, she’s climbed a hike to the massive amounts of miles, multiple kinds of six continents, z. This lady has hiked 12,000 miles. She’s written multiple books. I mean this lady is, is incredible. You are the sexiest man. I know. What question do you have? You Do, you got to get out more. You do have to get out more. I really never do go out. You’re the only male I see that’s relevant to their, your guts, your Rod Stewart. Maybe that’s the connection are limited. I backward the continental divide trail. That’s fascinating. 3000 miles. If a, if a boat is just to get up one day and go down there and start that thing, how long would it take to, to finish that number one and what time or how would you time that with the year and do people actually do it all on one? I mean it’s like one, I’m going to, I’m going to get on that trail and I’m not gonna stop till I see. Can Canada?

Yeah, I see. Okay. This is, these are all great questions and there’s, there’s these three really big long distance trails in North America. There’s hundreds of trail, but the three big ones are, um, that are following the primary chase or the Appalachian trail. The Pacific crest trail, which goes to California, Oregon, and Washington, also from border to border, and then the continental divide trail and the average hiking time for all these trails is going to be four to six months. So if you go out there, you want to hike the whole thing, it’s half a year. But here’s the thing, here’s the thing. The Appalachian trail is relatively stable as far as weather and conditions. You go out west and your start date or end date is predicated by snowfall, right? So you’re literally just racing the weather and that can change or you have a wildfire or rivers or flooded that you’re supposed to Ford. And so there are so many obstacles in most hikers you finish. Those trails have to be creative, like they have to maybe jump around. Some of them started to just go all the way to Canada. Maybe you have to go on a road for a little bit of the trail close, but that’s part of that creative problem-solving. If I want to get there, I’m going to have to figure this

our minds, you know, that’s Jennifer Pharr Davis. For the listeners out there that want to know more about you and more about what you teach, the wisdom you’ve gained through your years of, of adventure and hiking. Uh, what is the best way for them to research to learn more about you? What’s the website or the or the or the social media handle you’d prefer for them to check out today?

Well, if you want to hike, check out blue as hiking company. If you want to read, check out the [inaudible] and there’s no one to follow. Our had been sort of on fail all parenting business hiking. You can check out Jennifer Pharr Davis on Facebook or Jen, j e n t h a r r Davis on Instagram.

And what is the name of your hiking company? One more time.

So it’s Blue Ridge hiking company.

Hey, thank you for putting up with us. I realized that we are probably the doctors. He’s probably one of my more intelligent people you’ve ever talked to, but I know that I’m one of the least intelligent people we’ve ever spoken to. He’s super sexy. I’m not. But thank you so much for being on today’s show.

Yeah, it’s good to be as easy to be sexy on radio. That’s great.

Yeah. I’ve got, I’ve got a face for radio, so there we go. Hey, we have a blessed day and we thank you so much for being here today.

Yeah, thank you guys. Don’t have a great day. Take a hike.

Thrive nation. If you learned something on today’s show or you enjoyed what you learned today, as always, we encourage you to share each and every show with a friend or a family member, or just maybe a plate for yourself. Again, my name is Clay Clark and I like to in each and every show with the boom. And so now we don’t eat further. Three, two, one, boom.


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