Beacons of Badassery is an interview series shining light on strong women.
After spending most of my life trying to prove that I’m strong enough to be one of the guys, I’ve realized that instead of trying so hard to fit a certain expectation, we should be redefining what it actually means to be strong.
These women are doing just that.
Beacon of Badassery: Alyssa Ravasio
Alyssa Ravasio has blazed a trail in the outdoor world as the founder and CEO of Hipcamp, a platform to discover and book your next campsite.
Her mission is to get more people outside, and here she shares why that is so important to her and how nature has helped her handle the struggles of starting a company.
How did you develop your love for the outdoors – was it growing up or later in life?
I was fortunate to grow up camping with family all over Northern California. I fell in love with the ocean, the redwoods, and the rivers at a very young age. Nature was always where I felt most like myself, and it has been my place to recharge and reconnect since I can remember.
What was your worst camping experience? And what was your best?
I have this weird thing in my mind where I only really remember the best memories – or I focus on the good in the bad ones. Even the times my tent has been flooded or snow has appeared out of the blue, it has still been a blast. Adventure starts when something goes unexpectedly.
So many camping experiences have been amazing in their own right, but a solo trip I took a few summers back when I was starting Hipcamp really stands out. Things were really tough back then; I was nearly broke and struggling to ship the first version of the website. I paddled to this private beach all by myself, gave my fears to the fire, and had this little ceremony all to myself. I found my strength and reconnected with my mission to make getting into nature simpler. I wrote about it here.
When reading that post about founding Hipcamp, this line stopped me in my tracks: I truly believe that fortune favors the bold, and decisions made out of fear are generally bad ones.
I completely agree, yet often find the first step toward the bold decision is the hardest. How do you handle the fear of taking that first step toward the unknown, when you know in your gut it’s what you need to do but you’re still afraid?
For me it was a combination of just knowing that this idea for Hipcamp was going to exist, it was inevitable, and my experience and background made me an ideal person to help manifest it into existence. So even though I didn’t feel ready, it was a bit of “if not me, then who?”
Also take the pressure off the first step. It’s not that big of a deal, you can often turn around, and very few decision are irreversible. Try it, see how it goes!
What is your definition of strong? How has it changed through your experiences in the outdoors and founding a company?
Strong means having faith in yourself and your team. That is what pulls you through the dark spots when everything is hard and nothing makes sense. You need to have this belief to sustain hope, and hope is the key to strength.
You founded Hipcamp after discovering how difficult it was to scout campsites online. And you learned to code in order to create the solution yourself. As a startup founder and a coder, you are in the minority as a woman. Did you find this affected you at all?
I was actually already enrolled in coding school! Learning how to code has been important to me for a long time. In fact, I created a major about the internet back in college. I think the internet is the most powerful tool humans have created, and, like all technology, its impact will depend on who learns how to use it. I’ve been wanting to use the internet to create a better world for us all (including plants, animals, and all our relatives) for a long time.
I grew up a tomboy, going to skate parks with my guy friends and racing to the top of big trees with others, so being in male dominated environments has never really intimidated me. That said, I do recognize the scope of the problem right now.
Most of our buildings are designed by men, most of our laws have been written by men, most of our businesses are run by men. I could keep going on. It is not that men aren’t amazing, they are…but they are missing a huge part of the human spectrum. The current society they’ve designed (for the most part) reflects this. And that expresses itself in so many ways, ranging from infuriating policies such as pregnancy not being considered a “qualifying life event” that allows for a change in insurance policies to challenging emergent trends such as the terrible pay gap women still face in the US.
Recently, I was at an investor meeting in this huge beautiful conference room. I am getting set up and then 9 men walk in – this is their investment team. It was almost funny…like, do you think this is normal? Any team that does not accurately represent the demographics that it leads or works with is at a big disadvantage.
For these reasons, I believe the rise of female leadership is the key to a future where humanity and the rest of life on earth can thrive.
Your mission at Hipcamp is to “get more people outside.” Being in nature is so beneficial for everyone, but after hearing a lot of stories from women, it seems like getting outdoors can be especially great for women in helping develop self-confidence. Do you think this is true and have you found it to be true for you?
Definitely. That’s why my camping trip in Pt. Reyes was one of my all-time favorites. My amazing friend Ruby Jean taught me that outdoor recreation is the antithesis to oppression. Nature is a powerful form of healing – it is empowering, gives people hope, and can reveal their potential. Therefore, environmental justice is social justice.
At Hipcamp, you “are believers that people will only protect what they connect to and care about.” Our public lands are in peril right now, and you created a company to help battle this threat. What are the most important things that you think individuals can do right now to protect access to our public lands?
Currently the Dept of Interior is requesting comments on our National Monuments I would strongly advise submitting some here.
You should also sign up for Access Land, this coalition is fighting for open data in our public lands—this is the best way to protect digital access.
Huge thanks to Alyssa for sharing her insights and for making it easier for everyone to get outside!
Find out more about Hipcamp (and maybe find your next campsite) here!