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Explorer Spotlight: Hillary + Matt

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Name: Hillary Federico + Matt Andrew | Age: 26 + 28 | Location: Rhode Island (for now)

What’s your day job?
H: Freelance writer and social media specialist by day and travel blogger by night.

M: Freelance adventure photographer and sports camera operator.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
H: This one's tough - hiking is definitely up there as is anything that has to do with being on the beach. The sandier and saltier the better!

M: Skiing for sure! Winters are not complete unless I'm in the mountains tearing down the slopes.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
H: I'm not sure there's an exact moment that I remember being "introduced" to the outdoors, just this sense of fascination with exploring it. There's truly nothing more humbling than standing alone next to some towering mountain or next to an animal that could eat you alive, but along with it comes this deep appreciation for what's out there, too.

M: I think the feeling of open spaces and freedom is what did it. When you're outdoors, whether it's in the mountains or in the ocean there's this sense of liberation and independence I don't think you can get anywhere else.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
H: I'd have to say the beach, specifically those in the Weekapaug area. I essentially grew up at those beaches, so you could say I have a pretty soft spot for them. For a drink? Perks & Corks, definitely.

M: I love exploring Napatree Point in Watch Hill, RI. Totally destroyed by the Great Hurricane of 1938, Napatree Point is one of the greatest spots to catch an incredible sunset - they even rival South Africa's, some of the most beautiful ones we've seen! After the sun goes down, the Malted Barley (with 30+ beers on tap) is the place to be seen. And don't pass up their pretzels. My recommendation? The jalapeño and cheddar stuffed pretzel with apricot butter is a game changer.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
H: Does my notebook count? (Also my phone because, well, I'm a social media nerd.)

M: My Canon 5D Mark III camera. This has been my sidekick wherever I travel.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
H: I always try to have some trail mix handy and if I'm feeling really crazy, some single serve packets of Justin's Almond Butter.

M: I enjoy pretty much any granola bar that's light and fills me up. Kind Bars, CLIF Bars, and That's It Fruit bars are some of my go-tos.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
H: The only requirement I have is that it needs to be something I can dance to. I have this somewhat endearing/ somewhat annoying habit of rocking out in the car whenever I'm in transit and I will deny this if you ever bring it up in public. ;-)

M: Everything from Alabama Shakes to Stephen Kellogg to The War on Drugs. Sometimes letting Pandora choose is a good gamble.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest?
H: After a solo hike near Lake Placid, NY, I geniously decided to join some friends at 5 p.m. to start an 11-mile hike into the Adirondacks. Several hours later it's just me and one of my friends trying to feel our way back to the car as twilight creeps in on us when a female black bear crosses our path not 10 feet in front of us. Even scarier? Her cubs had been hanging around us.

M: In the Spring of 2015 I set out on an adventure to find lava on Hawaii's Big Island. After trekking with a local two hours through dense Hawaiian jungle, we finally came upon the molten rock field with gases leaking from Earth's cracks. Because we didn't see lava at first, we decided to explore the lava field, ultimately needing a walking stick to prod for "skylights" before each step (skylights are weak spots in the lava field that could give way and cause you to fall into the molten lava below). Three hours into the lava field hike and after crossing an underground lava river, we finally found what we had come for: molten earth! Although we met our goal, we were only halfway complete. Next we needed to cautiously find our way back to the trail head all the while avoiding falling through a weak spot in the lava field (lava nearly eight inches below our feet) in the dark. Luckily we left glow sticks at the trail head and were able to trek two hours back to safety with the help of our headlamps.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
H: I think my answer should be pretty obvious...

M: Hillary of course! When we travel together the unexpected happens. For better or worse we power through those moments of doubt, uncertainty and the unfamiliar. In the end, our expectations are always exceeded!

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
H:Switzerland, for sure! A close second: Utah.

M: When we reflect back on our travels thus far, Switzerland always comes up as the best destination we've traveled to. From navigating the train system, skydiving over the Alps, skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn, or having the opportunity to go canyoning, Switzerland offers just about all types of adventure travel.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
H: I reallllly want to hike up to Tiger's Nest. Bhutan's been on my radar as a must-see place for awhile now and I'm jonesing to make it happen.

M: There is so much the world has to offer! Internationally we plan on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next year. Here in the United States, living out of a tear drop camper and organizing an epic road trip is a dream we want to make a reality.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This photo was taken in South Africa's Cederberg Wilderness, also known as "Leopard Country" (hence the pose). For some reason, we decided to start posing with our little rental, a Chevy Spark, during particularly momentous parts of our trip. We took one photo just before diving with Great White Sharks in Gaansbai, and another in Stellenbosch (SA's wine country), then another while on safari outside of Jo'burg. From the get-go, this idea was such a fun way for us to illustrate/ document our travels that we've continued it ever since. We're building up quite an inventory!

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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