Town: Seattle, Washington
Quote: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it” – Amelia Earhart
About Kari: My life began with sport. Sport taught me to embrace pushing boundaries, to love driving through pain and to believe that the only way to keep improving is to train with people who are way, way better than you are.
I grew up in Portland with two outdoorsy and athletic parents. Early on, I was introduced to a mix of things; wilderness canoeing, camping, fishing trips with my family, and skiing at Mt. Bachelor. Starting around age 14 however, I began to trade hours in nature for hours on the soccer pitch. I fell in love with the sport and with my teammates. I saw soccer as a path to larger opportunities — a path to pay for college and a chance to see more of the world outside Oregon. There was a downside however, soccer coaches don’t like skiing.
At 18, I accepted an athletic scholarship and packed my bags for The University of Washington. Deciding to go to UW was the luckiest and best decision I have ever made. During my time in school we marked four NCAA appearances, one trip to the Elite Eight and one trip to the Sweet Sixteen. After battling injuries and eating humble pie as a junior sitting the bench, I eventually led the team as a captain and graduated with a design degree and All-American academic honors.
In 2009, our soccer team played and volunteered in Rio de Janeiro, which inspired me to take a solo trip the following summer to coach in Ghana. The travel bug was taking hold. During my third year at UW, I co-founded social enterprise Haiti Babi, which empowers Haitian women to keep their children out of orphanages by creating handmade artisan baby products. Going to Haiti, meeting the women we work with, and experiencing the culture was hugely eye opening and impactful.
After almost 18 years of soccer as a full-time love, I decided it was time to move on. I took 10 months to travel after my final season, 6 months on a solo backpacking mission across 18 countries in Europe and Asia. On my trip I had a few visitors— one was a UW teammate. She came to India with me and we continued up North to trek together through the mountains of Nepal. Traveling through the vast beauty of the Himalayas, I realized that my next life of adventure would take place in the mountains. The mountains don’t care if your hair is dirty, your face is sweaty, and you smell bad — Just like the soccer pitch — And the mountains sure as hell don’t care if you’re in pain… if you want to get the reward at the top, it’s not going to be easy or comfortable, but it will certainly be worth it.
Luckily for me, I was coming home to one of the best adventure cities in the world, Seattle. I felt like a kid in a candy store – finding a whole new world of adventures at 23. I was also lucky to find a guy that knows and appreciates the mountains of Washington and has helped to show me the ropes. We took out the back seats of my Land Rover and built a bed, which has helped maximize our cherished mountain time outside of working full time design jobs. Getting up high, sleeping in tents, swimming in the Alpine, learning to backcountry ski, climb, and bike has consumed most of my energy outside of work for the past two years. All the athletic ability I built playing soccer is now helping me run around the mountains, and it’s a ton of fun!
For the past two years, I have been working as a UX Designer at Microsoft while serving on the board of Haiti Babi. What’s next? My friend Mckenzie Barney is currently in the process of documenting the world’s most unchartered thru-hike. The Te Araroa transects the entire country of New Zealand from north to south. Thanks to a spur of the moment decision, I will be joining Mckenzie and her companions on the south island next week for an abbreviated adventure of my own: 450 miles through the mountains of NZ. Ready, set, go…
Follow @karijulia for documentation of the adventures. I’m stoked to celebrate this badass group of SheJump ladies!