Top 10 Travel Tips – GUATEMALA!

Yes, even your hard-working friendly PR peeps at OutsidePR go on holiday occasionally!

This time, it was Central America calling. Guatemala to be precise. It’s low-season there right now, monsoon time as it were, but that didn’t deter me. In fact, with lower costs, less tourists and a good pair of rain-boots, it was the perfect time to visit.

Here are my top tips for visiting Guatemala:

 

1. Learn some Spanish

- Don’t be that person. Don’t be that socks and sandals wearing, fanny-pack toting uber-tourist that pronounces gracias like “grass-e-ass”. Take a quick online course prior to your trip with an easy free app such as DuoLingo, invest in a pocket-book of phrases and always try, even if you’re unsure. There’s a hesitation to use English in Guatemala, for good reason – it’s not their native language. So you have to adapt and learn. The basics will be helpful, more than that will be utterly magical.

Tikal

Tikal – Mayan ruins

2. Bring long pants

- The native dress is modest and covered, even in hot weather. Bring at least a long, light skirt and comfortable breathable pants for your trips to villages and some cities such as Antigua. Shorts can be used in more touristy areas, but you won’t see many, if any, local men or women sporting shorts or cut-offs at any time. Best to be as respectful as possible, plus bug-bites are easily avoided when covered up – which leads me to a side note. Don’t forget the repellent. Bugs, a lot of bugs.

cotopaxi

Pacaya Volcano

3. Practical swimsuit

- Cliff jumping, bridge diving, rapids and waterfalls can all have seriously detrimental and ultimately embarrassing repercussions when combined with that itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini that looked “so hot” in Ibiza last year. The active and adventurous travelers will want to bring a more industrious piece of lycra to avoid all the potential disasters that come with getting active.

4. Do some accommodation research

- In the high season it’s essential to book in advance. However, when traveling low season you may be better off waiting until you arrive, as prices on the day or on-site can be cheaper than if booked through an American website. Plus, you can chat to other travelers about where they’ve stayed and what they recommend. This tactic saved me from inadvertently turning up at the ‘Party Hostel’ where I’d be the wet rag sporting ear plugs and staying fully clothed while naked jenga and jello shots raged outside my room like the frat-party from hell.

Epic mountain view from near Pacaya

Epic mountain view from near Pacaya

5. Visit Semuc Champey

- I don’t care if it looks ‘out of the way’ or whatever, get there. A full day of caving – which involves a candle-lit underwater cave tour with rope ladders, waterfalls, cliff jumping and pure magic, followed by rapids tubing, hiking and visiting the ethereal pools/hot springs; Semuc Champey is Mother Nature’s apology for Justin Bieber and a breath-taking day of adventure and environment. We stayed in El Retiro lodge, right on the Lanquin river – highly recommended.

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey pools

6. Time it right

- The transportation is..meh, but bearable. Be prepared to tack on a good 2-3 hours more for any distance being traveled by bus than it would take in Australia, Canada, UK, USA. The roads are variable, sometimes dirt and rocks, sometimes paved with numerous potholes. Just be ready to be bumped around, and do research on the costs for transport too. Prices will usually be jacked up initially, so be firm and barter when you know you’re being taking advantage of. Chicken buses are good for shorter trips but any traveler who’s happy paying a few bucks extra should organize a minibus for a bit more safety and comfort. No overnighters. No.

View on the way to Lanquin

7. Bottled water

- Don’t drink the tap water. Always get bottled. Unless you don’t mind public bathrooms, every 5 minutes. Oh, and you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet either. That goes in the garbage bin next to you. Remember that – it sucks when the toilet is clogged and you’ve drunk bad water. Sucks.

8. Talk to people

- Guatemalans are super friendly but they’ll only respect you when you respect them. Be polite and courteous and friendly. Don’t assume you can take photos of them and their children without asking nicely first, and if you’re going to give a child some food or a gift, be prepared to have 10 more swarm you. Just use common sense and a smile, goes a long way.

9. Visit Antigua

- One of the most beautiful cities in Guatemala, Antigua is steeped in history and culture and the colonial architecture is stunningly beautiful. Surrounded by active volcanos, there’s plenty to do and see, but be warned – it’s more expensive than most places in Guatemala. A great starting point, many travelers stay with a host family and learn Spanish before heading off to other parts of the country or Central America. Make sure you visit Cafe NoSe. Trust me. And climb Mt. Pacaya volcano. It recently erupted in March 2014, so you can’t go all the way to the top but the steaming rocks of solidified lava flow are amazing, and you can roast marshmallows on the hot-spots. No s’more will ever top the ‘volcanic rock broiled s’more’, so I urge you to give it a go.

Marshmallows volcano

Best S’mores ever – Pacaya Volcano

10. Expand your trip

- Guatemala is wonderous. Dense rainforest, Mayan ruins, volcanic lakes, natural caves, timeless villages, delicious street-food, affordable transport and accommodation, historic and culturally rich cities, adventurous hikes and friendly people. Oh, and millions of random dogs that all look the same. There’s so much to do, see, eat, experience, but it’s also so close to Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and from there, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama.. With only 10 days or 2 weeks, stick to Guatemala and really soak it in, but if you can get more time off work (sweet talk the boss, do overtime, quit…), try to get to other Central American countries too. There’s a big and beautiful world out there – go experience!!

View of Antigua

View of Antigua and volcano backdrop

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What is a great love of books?

It was a ritual my younger brother and I performed every couple of weeks during summers in the early 90’s. Having just completed a two week session of summer school, we’d sprint across the freshly cut grass lawn and pile into our sitter’s two-door white Acura Integra waiting in the parking lot. Naturally, we’d be arguing over the official rules for calling shotgun – at that age it was a pretty big deal since whoever had physically managed to gain control of the front passenger seat had the privilege of assisting with the shifting of gears for the manual transmission. Yes, we had the coolest sitter in town.

The discussion would then transition to the selection of music that would make its way into the cassette tape deck (yes, writing that sentence made me feel old).  Often, it came down to Sublime, Blues Traveler, Neil Diamond, or Alanis Morissette. We only listened to the best! We’d then cruise over to the local city library, the car speakers blasting, windows down, and the warm summer air blowing in our faces. Once at the library, we’d scurry around like chickens for half an hour, curiously scanning the shelves in search of the next best read which would consume us in the weeks to follow.

 

childrens

 

There was something enthralling about picking out books at the library as a kid. It wasn’t just the dusty smell, the fragile pages, or the library card glued to the inside cover informing you of past readers who had borrowed the very same book just days prior. Being in the presence of so many books made me feel important and grown-up. I had access to personal stories, wisdom and secrets of influential and significant people. There’s a great quote by scholar John Bright. He asks:

“What is a great love of books? It is something like a personal introduction to the great and good men of all past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them on their shelves; but silent as they are, when you walk into a library it’s as if the dead are present, and if you put questions to the books they will answer with all the faithfulness and fullness which has been left in them by the great men and women who have left the books with us.”

After checking out more books than my bro and I could carry, we’d spend the rest of the afternoon building forts, playing on tire swings and riding our bikes, before crashing on the front lawn with ice cold lemonade and getting lost in the worlds created by authors like Roald Dahl, Katherine Paterson and E.B White. It was those early years of reading young adult fiction that sparked my interest in adventure stories and travel memoirs. I became fascinated by the stories of people exploring the world and discovering alternative ways of living and being in far away places. Books created a lens through which I could experience life across the globe and become a part of something larger than myself.

As we head into summer and begin selecting our own adventure and travel reads to dive into here at OutsidePR, we thought we’d follow-up with some of our gear-testing, outdoor-loving, adventure-obsessed editor friends across the nation to find out some of their go-to reads. These are the stories and travels which have inspired them and which keep them coming back for more. Here are 7 great reads to add to your summer reading list, along with the reasons they resonate with the outdoor experts who’ve shared them. Enjoy! – SN

 

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

by Edward Abbey

 

Desert Solitaire

“The first time I read this was my first summer in Utah, back when I volunteered for The Nature Conservancy in 2005. The prose was so evocative that I couldn’t help but go out into Canyonlands NP, find a rock to sit upon in solitude, and read the book aloud. Now, I live in Abbey country. I run across the landscapes he wrote about with Boy, the dog of Abbey’s best friend. Many of my runs start on a dirt road–Desert Solitaire Road. When I find the time, I still pull Desert Solitaire off the shelf, walk out into the pinyon and juniper country, and read the book aloud from above the house where Abbey wrote his final book. He, his book, and his country continue to inspire me.”

- Bryon Powell, iRunFar.com

 

The Natural Navigator:

The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide

by Tristan Gooley

 

natural navigator

“The Natural Navigator inspired me to be independent in the outdoors, from guiding guests on horseback at 10,000 feet in the Rockies to mountain biking alone in the San Juan Mountains. It reads more like a story than a how-to, which keeps me coming back time and time again.”

-Whitney JamesOutside Magazine

 

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon

by David Grann

The-lost-city-z

 I probably read this book twice a year. It’s non-fiction that reads better than most novels. Grann tracks the explorer Percy Fawcett’s journeys into the Amazon in search of a mythical city of gold and his subsequent disappearance. It’s like a trip to the Amazon, minus the parasites and malaria.”

- Billy Brown, Trek Tech

 

Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes,

and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall

 

Born To Run

“It was the first book I read about running that really resonated. I really got into the personalities of each runner that Christopher profiles, and it pitted the “traditional” views on the sport against naturally occurring facts among the Tarahumara Indians – proof that science only goes so far.”

- Caitlyn Pilkington, Competitor and Women’s Running

 

Slowly Down The Ganges

By Eric Newby

 

slowly

 

“One of my absolute favorite classics, it describes everything that a great outdoor adventure should be – nothing goes according to plan, there are no maps, engaging with locals then not seeing a single soul for miles, sleeping under the stars, gradually learning the ebb of flow of the local landscape. Outdoor adventures can be full of frustration but also packed with tons of reward for those that push through and make the best of every situation.”

- Amy Jurries, TheGearCaster

 

Vagabonding:

An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

by Rolf Potts

 

vagabonding

“It’s a wonderfully inspiring book about traveling the world longer than we’re “allowed to.” Two weeks a year is hardly enough time to properly explore faraway lands. Potts motivates readers to take control of their own life by taking an extended time out from everyday life.” 

- Beth PulitiGuide to Mountain Biking

 

A Walk in the Woods:

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson

 

Walk In The Woods

“This guy is the man. His nappy voice, and rich character building make his journey hiking the Appalachian Trail with his old Euro-trip buddy (Katz) a true gem. The best part? The scene where Katz, a fat, 40-somethings old man, realizes how challenging the trail is, and starts chucking bricks of cheese and twinkies over a ridge in Georgia to lighten his pack. This is a laugh out loud read.” 

- Patty HodappYoga Journal

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The Heavy-Hitting Investigative Interview with NarNar

The do-it-all man, the softly spoken, laugh out loud, self-motivator in the office, Spencer Naar joined Outside PR in mid-2013 as Account Coordinator, quickly rose to Account Executive and has been kicking butt ever since. Born of the same township as the infamous James Franco, the Palo Alto native is much more charismatic and gets in far less social media hot spots, making him a real catch.

With an almost addictive obsession with running, completing his first trail ultra last year, Spenno balances work and life with an impassioned perfection rarely seen. It helps that he can go running along the spectacular Sausalito waterfront on his lunch-break too. Having worked at a yoga retreat, non-profits and an international foreign exchange company, Spenno brings a variety of dynamic skills to the table. Now, let’s bombard him like the Spanish Inquisition.

1. Name and Occupation at OPR: Spencer Naar. Two people in the office refer to me as Spenno and NarNar. Account Executive.

2. Favourite sport: I’m a big fan of trail running and came to learn it was a great way to discover new places — I would intentionally try and get lost so I could find a new way back home. I’d end up finding all sorts of gems along the way – hidden parks and dive bars in San Diego, deserted beaches in Hawaii, crazy lookout points in San Francisco, including Tank Hill, my favorite place in the city.

3. What’s your spirit animal? Elephant

Riding the Spirit Animal

Riding the Spirit Animal

4. What do you love about the PR industry and OutsidePR specifically? I like the challenge of finding new and creative ways to communicate, whether pitching a product, a brand or a story. I also enjoy the process of disseminating and sharing information. I love the people at OPR and appreciate the energy and drive they bring to work each day.

The biggest challenge is working inside while watching tourists, bikers, and wine lovers vacation below our office outside.

5. Drink of choice? Moscow Mule (Ed note: great choice)

6. Speedos or boardshorts? Boardshorts… Hawaiian-themed preferred (Ed note: another great choice. This is why he’s paid the big bucks)

7. If you had to pick one sport to do for the rest of your life, not including trail running, what would it be?  Outrigger canoeing

IMG_0326

This is no outrigger canoeing, but it still rules.

8. Who is your inspiration in life, personal and professional? It would definitely be my parents. They’ve taught me the value of hard work, persistence and going after what I want. They’ve also been my biggest support network.

9. What’s your jam? “For What It’s Worth”, Buffalo Springfield, or anything by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

10. What decade speaks to you? The 80s. Especially the movies: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Christmas Vacation, Big, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I love all the classics and the simplicity of films back then.

11. What has been a highlight of working at OPR so far? Jenny and Gordon’s impromptu dance parties, which quickly turn into slapping matches. It’s like watching two young children all jacked up on Mountain Dew.

jacked-up

12. What sport would you add to and which would you take away from the Olympic line-up? I would add the ultra marathon or fat bike racing and take away shooting.

13. What do you think that Public Relations adds to a brand, and why is OPR so important? I think PR adds a more in-depth and richer story to a brand in ways marketing and advertising are unable to do so. All three are important but PR more fully communicates a brands’ context and connects consumers with the heart and soul behind the product. OPR is important because we’re good storytellers, we have long-lasting personal relationships with the media and we believe in the outdoor lifestyle. We also deeply love the brands we represent and engage.

14. Can you dance? NOPE!

15. Prove it. NOPE! :)

16. Favourite quote/mantra? “Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things”. My personal favorite though is “Blessed is the man who having nothing to say abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.”

IMG_0221

17. If you were an item of food, what would it be? Animal-style nachos.

18. What has been the best place you’ve traveled to and why? I lived in Western Samoa for 4 months back in 2007 and the experience changed the way I looked at the world. I learned so much about culture and community. The locals were the friendliest people I’ve ever met – complete strangers would invite me into their homes for dinner. I was completely inspired by the subsistence way of living. It was eye opening to see how resourceful we can be and how simple we can live.

19. Favourite funny story that involves you? In the 5th grade I was in a Cub Scout troop and one day we were talking about government and the Executive branch. Our troop leader started shouting out questions. “Who is the president of the United States?” “Bill Clinton” we all yelled back. “Who is the Vice-President of the United States?” “Al Gore a couple of us said.” Then, our troop master threw us a curve: “Who is the Speaker of the House?” The room was silent but I confidently raised my hand and without hesitation blurted out “My Mother!”

Dominating Salt Lake City

Dominating Salt Lake City

20. 5 Things someone might not know about you:

1)- I’m a big sleep talker. Some of my friends refuse to camp with me.

2)- I can play the trumpet.

3)- I make a mean lasagna.

4)- I was named after the 80s mystery tv series Spenser: For Hire

5)- I’ve been known to rearrange furniture when I get anxious.

Winning at life

Winning at life

 

 

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20 questions with our newest member Jess Smith

Last week, OusidePR announced the addition of our new Account Manager, Jess Smith. Joining us after living in Whistler, BC the majority of her life, Jess’s active nature and enthusiasm for the outdoors meshes perfectly with the OutsidePR philosophy.

Born in Australia to Canadian parents, this nomadic world traveler has spent numerous years fully immersed in the PR, communications and marketing world. She previously served as a Brand Marketing Manager for adventure-travel start-up ZOZI and as a Communications Manager for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler. Her adventurous spirit is evident through her passion for CrossFit, skiing, running, climbing, yoga and travel. Out of the office Jess can most commonly be seen running across the Golden Gate Bridge, hitting the slopes, or enjoying a cold local beer after one of her many activities.

Lets find out more about our spirited new member with 20 random questions:

jess-thechief.jpg

1)  Most impressive athletic achievement or most extreme sporting feat?

This is a throw-back but I co-captained (with my best-friend) my high school track team to an all out victory across all ages for the female team in my senior year. I was so proud of my athletes performances, their perseverance and the camaraderie.

Recently, in one year, I did my first deep-water solo climb to a 50ft jump, skied the Couloir Extreme on Whistler, did my first skydive, learned to free-dive, and ran my 2nd half-marathon. There’s still lots more to do but that was a fun one.


Jess deep-water solo climbing before the big jump

2)  Of all the places you lived, which was your favorite and/or where do you see yourself in the future?

Ooh, great question, but I don’t have a succinct answer for that one. I’ve traveled extensively in Europe, lived in Australia, Scotland, Canada, the States, visited India, Mexico and Thailand, and honestly, I can’t tell you where I love most or where I’m meant to be. Perhaps I haven’t even been there yet! I am lucky to be able to travel a bit with Outside PR and I’d definitely like to be able to keep traveling with my work in the future, who knows what it holds!

3)  What was the best trip you have been on?

Thailand was incredible, I am desperate to go back to South East Asia and really see the bare bones of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, etc

4)  3 celebrities you could go out with for a night?

Will Smith – Fresh Prince of Bel Air era

Ingrid Backstrom – She rips

Bill Murray – no justification needed

5)  Do you have any hidden talents?

I won synchronized swimming competitions when I was 13, I can highland and hip-hop dance, I used to be a Wine Director and have my level 1 wine cert (this basically just means I’m qualified to drink), I’m alright at public speaking (if it’s something I’m passionate about), I’m pretty good at legless rope climbs, burpees and being upside-down. Man, these are useless talents…

jump.jpg

6)  What do you like most about the PR world?

The passionate, invested team I work with. Besides being super bad-ass at a multitude of sports and life in general, they’re inspiring and hard-working. I also really love working with our clients and I adore the media relations portion of PR, that’s the social butterfly in me coming out.

7)  Guilty pleasure movie or song

Love Actually is my favorite movie. Mainly because I love Christmas, Bill Nye, Hugh Grant and British films. I have so many guilty songs that it would be social suicide to admit them. You’ll get an indication below..

8)  New sport or activity you want to get in to/start

Triathlons, casual pole-dancing (for the pure athletic and gymnastics components, of course), mountain biking

9)  What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

I was sitting in a cafe in Pacific Heights, emailing on my iPad, eating Quinoa Toast with organic honey butter and drinking a kale ginger smoothie, when I flicked some smoothie into my eye. It stung so bad and I quickly went from well put-together and health-conscious lady to eye-watering disheveled hipster wannabe. Not my finest moment and made me realize how difficult it is to be cool.

10)  What are some of the places people guess you are from (based on your accent)?

New Zealand is a top one, and I don’t mind that at all because Kiwi’s are bad-ass. I also get South Africa but the most common one is; “I have no idea where you’re from.. What IS that accent?”

11)  What is your biggest pet peeve?

Slow walkers and poor communicators.

12)  What did you like about ZOZI? Or what you gained most?

Great work experience in a larger start-up environment. I made great connections and it was an interesting and diverse working environment. I’m excited to see where the company goes!

13)  Any big projects you accomplished/enjoyed working on?

The 12 Days of Adventure giveaway was a super intense but very rewarding sweepstakes to coordinate.

14)  What song do you sing when nobody else is around? Or what would you sing on American Idol?

I’m a god-awful singer so American Idol is out of the question, but I’ll sing anything really. I know all the words to “Baby Got Back” so I definitely whip that out every so often. Oh, geez, “Eye of the Tiger” too. Classic.

15)  3 things you would bring to a desert island?

GU Energy! A knife (Crocodile Dundee style) and a water filter.

16)  Most embarrassing moment?

I’ve lost my top a bunch of times in the surf and jumping into the water, but it happens so often it’s not that embarrassing anymore. Most other moments are probably not suitable for public consumption.

17)  Drink of choice at a bar?

Classy night: Red wine

Not so classy night: Vodka grapefruit

Apres: Beer and Caesars

18)  Favorite Aussie saying?

“Bloody oath, mate”. Translation: “That’s the truth, friend”.

But really, I don’t speak Australian anymore.

19)  Who is your celebrity crush?

Rory Bushfield. James Franco. There’s more but I don’t want to bore you.

20)  What do you like/dislike about moving to San Francisco?

LOVE the environment here. The synergy between city-scape and outdoors space is electric and you have so many choices of things to do, see, feel, experience here. It’s a great mid-way place for me, after living in the mountains but wanting a city-feel, without leaving the great outdoors behind. The rent situation is rather yuk, but I have no problem with sleeping in the office if it comes to that.

All in all, I adore San Francisco for the diverse culture, interesting people, incredible history and beautiful views.

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Secrets from the big man behind the reports

The most crucial cog in any PR agency wheel is the often un-sung, less than glamorous account coordinator position.  Responsible for endless spreadsheets, media reports, and constantly knee deep in shipping requests, this person carries the tedious torch of metephorically (and sometimes physically) doing quick feet until one of us shouts, “Can you send me a list of (insert any brand here) hits for the month of February?!” or “Can you put together a shipment of GU for (insert editor here) – you’ll have you figure out the mailing address!”

Fortunately, here at OutsidePR, we’ve managed to acquire one who not only does all of the above, but can dunk a basketball, surf a mean break at Ocean Beach and knows all the lyrics to most, nay, all Beyonce songs.

Friends, family and colleagues, meet our main man and account coordinator, Alex Ryan.

Rob Stark

Alex rockin’ the Game of Thrones look

A recent grad of University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!), Alex was born and raised just north of Sausalito in beautiful San Anselmo where his family still resides.  A jock from the word go, Alex grew up playing basketball and surfing the numerous breaks along the Northern California coast.  When he’s not jamming boxes full of Road ID’s and Pearl Izumi, he’s coaching basketball, getting barreled or escaping to Cal Poly or Oregon to visit friends.

Graduation

In hopes to peel back the onion and find out more about our 6’4″ Roger Federer look-alike, we interviewed Alex to find out what really makes the master of all things google drive tick.

Q: What is your sport of choice?
A: My sport of choice would definitely be basketball. That answer has been the same ever since I could talk. I have played it all my life and I have coached for the last six years. Over the last few years I have really become more of a runner and I keep surprising myself by how much I am starting to enjoy it.
Q: Where is your happy place? And what are you doing in your happy place?
A: Without any doubt my happy place is the beach. I usually surf a couple times a week, everyday if I am lucky (It helps that the OutsidePR office is so close to Cronkhite). Whether I am with a group of friends or by myself, I always enjoy being in the water if the conditions are decent.
Q: What is the best part of working at OutsidePR?
A: The best part of working at OutsidePR is that I am able to work in the sports industry. Sports has been my predominant passion my whole life and I am very lucky to be in an industry that I am so interested in. Along with that, I really love how it is always encouraged to be more active in our daily lives.
Q: What is the worst?
A: The worst part about working here is that I am the worst runner here. I thought I was pretty fit until I started here.
Q: Favorite outdoor brand?
A: My favorite outdoor brand would be Patagonia. I love their apparel (especially my wetsuit), but also all the environmental work they do.
Q: If you had to trade places with a rapper for a day, who would it be?
A: I would definitely switch places with Macklemore because he just always seems to be having fun doing whatever he does.
Q: Guilty pleasure song you’d turn up if alone in a car but turn off if you had someone riding with you?
A: Mostly anything Beyonce, so right now “Drunk In Love” is a favorite of mine.
Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: My hidden talent is that I am great with little kids. I actually started as an education major at the University of Oregon and switched to business.
Q: What exotic pet would you like to have?
A: If I could have and exotic pet I’d have a spider monkey. Kind of like the one in Hangover 2, but not for doing drug deals.
Q: What’s it like growing up with all sisters?
A: I have seen way too many chic flicks, but I usually get out of doing the dishes.
Q: What movie can you quote word for word?
A: Space Jam. Its kind of embarrassing how many times I have seen it.
Q: Favorite quote or words to live by?
A: The quote I have started to live by more was taped on my desk here before I started here and really fits the OutsidePR lifestyle, “Life is about experiencing all the things you find interesting and fascinating. Just get out there and experience as much as you can. Participate in life.”

-Louie Zamperini
SnowboardingShredding
So there you have it.  If you need a good babysitter, information on the best NorCal surf break or someone to do a Crazy in Love duet with you…come see our boy Alex!
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The Way, Way Back

When you have a two-year-old and a six-month-old, you tire easily; you look for excuses to sit down.  And yes, that even means, for a guy, peeing like a lady.  Don’t judge.

So it was there, on the throne, that I first decided to try “adventure racing” — after reading about it in my wife’s copy of Conde Nast Women’s Sports + Fitness (now long, lamentedly gone).  The article talked about a “Hi-Tec Adventure Race,” something a reasonably fit adult could take on, something less brutalizing and impossible than the multi-day adventure races I’d heard about called the “Raid Gauloises” and the “Eco-Challenge.”

That was in December, 1997, and by the following June, I was on a hardtail Trek Antelope 930, bouncing around Folsom Lake with two buddies: Austin Murphy and Jeff Rowser.  

That race was a seminal moment.  I had owned my own PR firm for three years, yet was still stuck doing work for insurance companies and law firms.  But from the moment I finished my first, tiny adventure race, everything changed.  Within months, I had done my first (unpaid) work in the endurance field.  Very shortly after that, we had our first paying clients in the industry.

In another two years, our old agency name was gone — changed to OutsidePR.  I learned how to actually pronounce “Raid Gauloises” and became the media director of the Primal Quest.

By 2005, all of our clients save one were fitness and outdoor-related.

Image

There’s a lot to laugh at in this photo — and please feel free to comment (who wears gloves in a multi-sport race?  Could my shorts get any shorter, or more purple?), but by 2003, Austin and I were competing in, and doing well in, multiday races of our own.

Now, my two babies are both teenagers — and one of them is in college.  OutsidePR has been around the block and represents some of the best brands in the outdoor industry.  But none of that would have happened without that first race, that first exposure to the endurance lifestyle.  It’s funny, what sneaks up on you and grabs your heart.  This race did — it changed my life — and I’ve never looked back.

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$13 Bucks Per MIle

Here at OutsidePR, we run.  A lot.  And we like to pin on a race bib now and then.  But when one of our staffers was mulling an entry to the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington D.C., she got a bit of a shock.

Entry fee?  $175.  That’s $13.36 per mile, and that isn’t the worst of it.  To enter, you must also register yourself with “Nike+,”, which is NIke’s portal for marketing, community, and technology.  They want your data, because they want to sell you stuff.

The event is so popular that even giving up your personal data to a multi-billion dollar company — and coughing up what constitutes half of a semester’s tuition when I went to UCLA — still doesn’t get you into the race.  No, that’s done via a drawing from applicants, because the event is “sold out.”

I don’t begrudge Nike trying to make a buck, but fees like this help explain the rise of bandit races, which ultimately undermine traditional races.  It’s self-defeating in the long run, and with the data mining added on, a poor reflection on one of America’s biggest brands.

If, despite all that, you’re into it — go ahead and check it out here.

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Listening is always good

Listening is always good

We caught this recent stick-save thanks to Gawker Media.  Someone in the General Motors PR department was listening closely to the internet grapevine and discerned that the idea of their marketing cohorts was…just wrong.  So Chevy pulled the plug on a marketing tactic that would have offended many, and made many more cringe.  Kudos, Chevy, for listening hard.

 

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The Man, The Myth, The Legend

It’s not often one can say they met a legend.  

What’s even more uncommon is when one can say they got to shake a legend’s hand, mutter a few “I love your work” sentiments and slink back off into the crowd.  

And the most unbelievable experience is one in which you not only say hello (while managing to not be creepy) but actually enjoy multiple beers with a legend in the smoky backyard of San Francisco’s most hipster bar Zeitgeist.
 
Well friends – myself and fellow OutsidePR lackey Jeff Howard can say just that.
 
We recently had the honor of not only meeting the Founding Father of Mountain Biking, Mr. Gary Fisher, but sat in this legend’s presence for over an hour listening to the endless antidotes, wisdom and insight from the man who changed the face of traditional cycling as we know it.
 
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The man, the myth, the legend – Gary Fisher
 
Now for those of you non-bike geeks whose head doesn’t nod in immediate awe of Gary Fisher’s accomplishments and contributions to the bicycling world (or didn’t click on that handy link above like any sane internet using person would) – let me regale you with some facts.
 
Gary Fisher began his career in 1963 at the young age of 12, competing in road and track races in the Amateur Bicycle League of America.  Only a few years later in 1968, he would be suspended from racing for having long hair.  It wasn’t until two years later in the dawn of the 1970s that Fisher manages to shake the long hair ban, get back into racing and become a Category 1 USCF Road Racer.
 
In the meantime, yearning for a bike he could ride off-road, “away from the cops and concrete,” Gary and a few friends started tinkering with parts, grafting gears with moto parts and eventually created bikes that could be taken down Mt Tam’s steep and treacherous Repack road.
 
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Fisher tearing it up old school
 
By the end of the 1970s, Gary and friend Charlie Kelly took these innovative models and started a company called Mountain Bikes.  For the next two decades Fisher manages to found the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), introduce front suspension fork and suspension ready geometry, have his personal Gary Fisher Bike Co purchased by Trek, and be named by Smithsonian as the “Founding Father of Mountain Biking.”  
 
So yeah, he’s KIND of a big deal.
 
Needless to say when we learned through our buddies at Bicycling Magazine that Gary Fisher would be joining us at Zeitgeist, Jeff and I celebrated…then panicked, celebrated again, researched Fisher, panicked again and finally set off to see the man himself.
 
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Jeff and I celebrating 
 
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Jeff and I arguing over who gets to hug him first – I won
 
What transpired from there was nothing short of surreal.  As we sat with the Bicycling Mag gents (who really are responsible for luring Fisher there – so thank you Matt and Andrew) – I couldn’t help but sense the crowd shift when Gary rolled in.  It was like these hipsters knew greatness had entered the patio.  You could just feel his presence.
 
Now, if dapper and eccentric had a baby…that baby would likely be named Gary Fisher.  Mixing perfectly pressed jeans with a sleek button down shirt, vest AND tie – he looked like someone who strolled out of a magazine.  Or possibly an older, more rugged, bike riding, version of Justin Timberlake.  Less boy band, more bad ass.
 
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Justin Timberlake – Cool (in the eyes of some)
 
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Gary Fisher – Cool (in the eyes of all)
 
Anyway…back to our magical evening.  
 
Over the next hour, Jeff, myself and the Bicycling guys listened in rapt attention to the many stories and insight Gary shared about his experience in the bike world.  You can tell this man truly lives and breathes everything bike related.  He talked passionately about not only wanting to get more kids on bikes, but more engaged in mountain biking in general.  He also spoke highly of the work he does with Trek and seems to follow a mantra of “Get more people riding bikes. Period.”
 
Truthfully, at times I forgot I was sitting with a legend, and instead almost felt like I was having a beer with a fun uncle.  Because despite the incredible contributions he has made to the bike community, he remains intensely humble and amazingly down-to-earth.  Which makes for the immediate feeling like you can try to hug him at the end of the night, which I definitely did – don’t worry it went well.
 
Now this might be the point you want picture proof that this isn’t just a whacky tale for the blog but an actual occurrence.  Well I’m sorry…there is no picture proof.
 
Come on, Jeff and I are way smoother than that!  You don’t go asking for a picture with a bike LEGEND when you’re chatting over beers!
 
Actually we’re not that cool – we simply forgot to ask.  The only thing we could rationalize was that because of his candid and charismatic nature, it was easy to detach the heavy “legend” title from the jean jacket wearing man across the picnic table from us…and thus forget to document this amazing evening.
 
Either way, picture or no picture…we did meet the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Gary Fisher.  And he was awesome!  Completely beyond what I would have imagined from someone of his status in the bike world.  
 
A true innovator, gentleman, and legend – Fisher serves an example of what it means to be bold, think outside the box and always follow your passion.  Even if that passion includes a full jean outfit or crazy facial.  
 
Hey if you got it, flaunt it right?
 
 
Jenny
 
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OutsidePR Blog Policy

By Gordon Wright

Gordon Wright as a young man (right).

“County finals?  I didn’t even know you were running track.”

My mom, who was raising two kids on her own, was far too busy to know that in my eighth-grade year, I was running track for Neil Cummins Junior High School.

“Yeah.  I kind of need a ride, because it’s at College of Marin.”

“When is the meet?”

“Um…in about an hour.”

After grinding her teeth for a bit, Mom calmly put down her Saturday morning coffee, changed out of her sweats, and bundled my gangly 13-year-old body into our Mercury Cougar.

On the way to the local community college, she asked what events I was running.  “Sprints,” I said, “The 100, 200 and the 4×100 relay.”

It was the relay that worried me.  We weren’t a fast squad, and we’d be facing fearsome Del Mar of Tiburon and their legendarily fast anchor, Jim Detomasi.*

After a fairly quiet ride, my mom glanced at my shoes.  They were clunky, awful things — canvas and suede proto-tennis shoes that merged all the performance benefits of Hush Puppies with the weight savings of backpacking expedition boots.

“Honey, are you running in those?”

Well, yes, I was.  I had been, all year.  Things were pretty tight, post-divorce, and I didn’t want to ask my Mom to buy me new running shoes when my boats still had a good sixteen or seventeen years left on them.  Plus, we needed to…you know – eat.

With a sigh of resignation, my Mom took a quick detour, over my protestations, to the local sporting goods store, and spent $35 dollars she didn’t have to buy me a pair of fly Nikes.

We didn’t beat Del Mar that day, but I flew in those shoes.  I wore them until they were so threadbare that my Mom threw them in the garbage, where I found them, pulled them out, and wore them another year.

Bottom line is: I don’t like to ask for stuff.  I’d rather suffer for ages than ask for anything.

Which brings me to bloggers.

Way back in 2007, when we first started really devoting ourselves to publicizing our clients to the blog world, we made a critical decision: we would treat bloggers like journalists.

This had a profound effect: because we treated all bloggers seriously, because we devoted the same sort of care and diligence to our interactions with them, they responded well to us.  Our clients, in turn, have enjoyed expansive coverage in the blogosphere.  Everyone wins.

But things have changed.

As of this writing, two new trends are developing that has caused us to write our very first Policy Statement Regarding Blogs.

The first trend that we are noticing is the proliferation of blogs that ask for product from our clients despite the fact that they don’t have any readers.

I do not understand this.

If you don’t have any readers, you may have a blog, but it is not a blog that is a credible outlet for our clients.  There are dozens of blog posts devoted to the subject of developing readership, and developing that audience should be a requirement before you approach a brand or PR agency to review their gear.

I’m not trying to be harsh.  You may write beautiful, thoughtful prose, but if you’re asking for gear for your blog, and you have no readership, or very small readership, it isn’t a proper venue to ask for free gear, for one simple reason: our clients are commercial enterprises.  They absolutely believe in giving product away, but only if it increases their sales, and they can’t do that if you don’t have an audience.

How big an audience?  That’s a fair question.  You don’t need to be as big as Beth Risdon or Steve Stenzel, but let’s take them as examples.  Not all blog sites are listed in measuring sites like Quantcast, but those two are, and that tells us that they have 54,511 visits per month (Beth) and 15,301 (Steve) trending over the past six months.  Those are big numbers; in Beth’s case, almost as large as some magazines.

Let’s just take our own agency blog as an example.  We have about 115 monthly readers and most of our posts get zero or maybe one comment.  Would we feel ok about asking for free gear to review?  No, because we simply don’t draw a big enough audience.  We recently got a request from a blogger to provide him a very expensive pair of running shoes to review.  He seems like a great guy, but his site is ranked 30,000,000 by Alexa; while our own site ranks somewhere around 9,000,000th.  We did not send him shoes; only an apology.

What about other social media functions that support your blog?  Well, yeah, we count that too.  If you have a bigger Facebook network (we have a very small audience of 578 Likes) or Twitter  following (we have 862 followers), then at least that counts towards your overall audience.  But if you have fewer followers/friends than we do?  You probably shouldn’t ask for gear.

We work with hundreds of blogs.  We love bloggers.  Build your audience and come see us – we’d love to get you free gear, as long as it makes business sense for our clients.

Which brings us to a second Policy Statement Regarding Blogs.  This hearkens back to the manner in which we treat bloggers: like journalists.  We have noticed, increasingly, that some blogs ask for money in exchange for reviews.

Again, I do not understand this.

We work with media outlets ranging from UltraRunning Magazine to the New York Times.  They do not ask for money, and neither should you.

“But that’s my economic model,” you say.  OK, that’s fine, but we still won’t pay.  If you ask us, we recoil like slugs in a salt storm.

“But big PR firms do it all the time,” you say?  Fine.  But they and the blogs they’re working with are not doing PR, they’re doing something else, something that isn’t proper journalism.

We’re a bit old school about it, and we’re not going to change.

TL;DR?  Develop an audience, please, before asking for gear.  And if you work in a journalistic way, we’ll treat you like the journalist you are.

Feel free, as they say, to leave a comment.

 

*Jim Detomasi, weirdly, is still a big part of my life.  I wound up playing high school rugby and club rugby with him, and college rugby against him. We even served as a pair of wings together on a Divison One club in San Francisco.  Today, Jim is my insurance agent, though I am, finally, faster than he is.

 

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