Meet the Contributors: Kasha Rigby

Kasha Rigby grew up in Vermont. She has skied since she could walk and began telemark skiing as a teenager. She joined The North Face Ski Team in 1995, which has brought her all over the world, making first descents of some of the most revered peaks, including the Five Holy Peaks in Mongolia. She is one of the few people in the world who has skiied from over 8,000 meters. For almost twenty years, Kasha has traveled at least six months a year. Meanwhile, she practices the fine balance of gardening, friendship, music, and yoga. Although she left Vermont decades ago, Kasha still carries a magically refilling bottle of maple syrup in her pack and swears it is the elixir of life. Her writing has also been featured in Women’s Adventure Magazine and Ski Magazine.

When did you first know you were a traveler?

My mother has pictures of me climbing trees in dresses before I could really walk. And then my first bike-I remember everything about it…a little red hand-me-down from my brother with a metal frame basket. I remember the day I was allowed to ride on the open road (country land) alone for the first time. I remember my sturdy little Toughskin jeans and jean jacket (all also from my big brother) and the feeling of independence and freedom to fly. I felt the same about learning to read, the ability to transport to any lifetime or locale freely. I am just starting to realize that I might never get a real job and this might be more than “just a phase.”

Who is the most inspiring or interesting person you’ve met on the road?

Two mysterious beautiful missionary angels, pale and thin, gorgeous on a new red Enfield, traveling dark India together and doing good work, one as a doctor, healing the sick, one as an ex-probation officer/messenger that we are all children of god and capable of rehabilitation and the ability to be good. After sharing a course of experiences with them, they disappeared. It was back when travelers did not have phones, when email addresses were rare and Internet social networks unborn. When I asked a friend if he knew how to find them, he reminded me of the possibility that they were visiting angels.

What’s one memorable travel experience you’ve had?

I once spent time at a dire refugee camp built on a salt flat in Mozambique where not even a blade of grass could grow and nearly all were listlessly waiting to die. They expressed being more likely to die of boredom and lack of hope than physical starvation. Nothing will ever seem as dire as that, and it helps me to find hope and beauty in a single expression of life or color.

Is there something you always do (or search out, buy, learn, pack, drink), whenever you’re on a trip?

I always go to beauty parlors. This is sometimes the only place where we get to see women laughing among women, not quietly in the back of the house cooking, minding children, working - and I can afford it in most places away from the radically developed world. You never quite know what to expect, what the methods are, what traits are seen as “beauty.” I always get a wax when I come out of the mountains, which has led to some riotous and occasionally painful experiences.

A smile is the international language and sometimes the only universal thing we have to offer. Pack less...

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned from your travels?

A smile is the international language and sometimes the only universal thing we have to offer. Pack less…

Do you think women and men approach travel differently? How does being a woman affect the way you travel or experience the world?

It is not always easy to travel alone as a woman. I find I change my outward expression, which sometimes is so tiring I hole up in my room in frustration (on a hard day). I can be more guarded. I avert my eyes so as not to be harassed. I fantasize about wearing a burka or of shaving my head and donning a nun’s robe to have times of invisibility. But these are the times when I have maybe been alone too much or feel insecure. The glamor of travel is there is a new friend and experience on every corner. The mind is never quite at rest, practicing things in new language and custom. The reality is that I think as a woman traveling alone, people sometimes do not approach you, or those that do sometimes harass you. I have to be tougher when I prefer to be softer. I dress very conservatively. I cover my arms, legs, sometimes hair.

Through travel, have you overcome any fears or obstacles?

I often travel to climb mountains. I have over and over again had to overcome the fear that I could fall and die. This possibility exists in all that we do. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and drop in. This can apply to any situation.

How do you balance your home and travel life? How do you make it work to travel?

Well, for me this is the million-dollar question. often to fund my travels, I don’t keep a steady home. My car is awesome but not so fancy. So many times I have said, “This is the year I take my hard-earned money and make a home” and then I realize I could just live in Asia for a long time with the same amount of money. America is so consumer based. We think jeans should cost $200 and that we need new ones all the time. I start to believe that youth can be found in an expensive jar of eye cream. If I pay attention to my consumption, I don’t have to go without but recognize what is more important before I buy. Sometimes when I want some Thing so badly, I put it to the test: “If I were leaving for India tomorrow, would I take it?” occasionally the answer is “yes.” I work in large blasts and then travel, but I still haven’t really figured out the balance of everything. I don’t have pets, children, or a boyfriend (currently…). I used to have a kombucha, but even that had to go to a more stable home.

What advice can you give to women who want to start traveling?

Just go. All of the advice above about consumption applies. Buy less and you can travel more. It is so nice to have travel partners, but not necessary. Many people go on amazing adventures with their children…and many find ways to leave them at home. Practice going out to dinner alone, because that will happen all the time if you’re traveling alone. Figure out ways to approach and meet strangers.

What’s on your list of future destinations?

Burma, Cambodia, Laos…Peru, Brazil…to start…

In your opinion, what is the greatest reward of traveling?

Ah, the greatest rewards…that still remains to be seen. I can’t wait to see find out, though. But in the moment, we have the chance to meet and connect with humanity and nature on a global level. For every person who asks, “Aren’t you afraid?” I can give a concrete response and examples that the world is not such a scary place. By melting cultural borders and sharing our stories, we have the opportunity to challenge the belief that we can conquer, create peace through war, or continue to oppress or devastate any sentient being and ascend at the same time.

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To know another language is to have a second soul.” –Charlemagne, King of the Franks