I’m excited to share a new Real Women, Real Balance interview with you today!
Renee Hahnel is the creative mind behind Renee Roaming – where she shares her travels, gorgeous photography, adventures with her husband, and being a woman in the outdoor community. She moved across the globe from Australia to America and is such an inspiration for stepping outside your comfort zone, going for your dreams, and staying true to yourself.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone + being your true self:
A Q&A with Renee Hahnel of Renee Roaming
Hi Renee! Will you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Renee Hahnel, and I am a photographer and blogger based in Seattle. My brand, Renee Roaming, is all about inspiring travelers and adventure seekers to live intentionally, place value on experiences instead of possessions, and to find joy exploring this beautiful world. I share photos and stories about travel, photography, social media, couple adventures, and being a woman in the outdoor community. My husband, Matthew, is also a professional photographer and we run our business together. We both work full-time for ourselves and travel about 70-80% of the year.
What inspired you to start your travel journey and your business?
I guess it all began with my parents. I grew up on a small farm in Melbourne, Australia, and my parents raised me with a free and adventurous spirit. They definitely instilled their love for travel in me and always made it clear that experiences were worth more than possessions. I continued to explore the world after graduating high school, during my studies to become a speech therapist. My husband and I traveled to North America in 2012 and fell in love with the diverse scenery and opportunities for adventure. We applied for the DV lottery and luckily went on to win US permanent residency in 2014. So, in 2015 we made the big decision to relocate to Colorado, where we lived for our first 18 months in the country.
During those months, my husband and I took as many weekend and short adventures as we could, both juggling a side passion for photography with 9-5 jobs. At this point in our lives we were 27 years old, had traveled to that same number in countries, spent a lot of our earnings on experiences, and still had bucket lists a million miles long. I always knew one thing for sure though: I found my happiness when traveling and exploring the outdoors – when standing at the summit of a mountain, capturing an epic sunset, exploring a new culture, and experiencing the solitude of the wilderness. For me it was always about the adventures taken and the experiences to look forward to. This is what inspired me, and my husband, to work hard and take our passion for travel and photography full time in mid-2016.
What does a typical day look like for you?
This varies so much! When I am traveling it usually involves waking up early to capture sunrise, either exploring some more or stopping to work during the day, then going back out again for sunset. I would say 95% of the time I am traveling for work and the hours are long, the sleep is often minimal, and the stress can be high. In contrast, when I am home, my typical day involves waking up early (but always after 8 hours of sleep), quietly working away in my office, running errands, cooking, relaxing, catching up with friends, and taking video calls with my family back in Australia.
I’m curious: what do you do when you’re not traveling?
When I am traveling for a client it is often all consuming, so when I am home, I am typically catching up on all the work tasks that I had to put aside whilst away. This involves a ton of emails, writing for my blog and upcoming book publication, editing photos, partaking in interviews, meetings, phone calls, etc. I think most people have no idea what actually goes on behind the scenes for a full-time photographer and/or blogger. I don’t like to romanticize hustle or overworking, but the reality is that I usually work 7 days a week, often 60+ hours, have long days of traveling, and do often crave a “vacation” of sorts. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a weekend off work. In saying that though, I am incredibly thankful for this life – to be able to work for myself and do something I absolutely love.
As you know, The Balanced Life is all about empowering women to approach health & fitness with a balanced mindset. How do you handle the pressure as a woman to look or act a certain way?
It can be tough at times. My brand falls in this grey area where I post a lot of outdoor/adventure related content, but also dabble in some lifestyle and fashion. I do sometimes feel the pressure to look more “tough” when outdoors hiking or camping – which is funny, because since when do your looks play a part in how strong, brave, or adventurous you are? But I get those comments, those people saying how ridiculous it is that my hair is out or that I am wearing mascara in the outdoors. I try to blow it off and just do what makes me feel the best, whether that’s looking completely rugged or a little more girly. I always try and promote this to my followers – that it’s okay for them to embrace themselves for who they are and to not feel pressure to conform to what society tells them is “normal.” People are often shocked when they hear I enjoy taking week-long backpacking adventures in the Alaskan wilderness, or that I lived in a van full-time for 7 months, often going a week between showers. But no one questions me when I have on a pretty dress, sun hat, and my hair is immaculately curled…because that’s how society says I am meant to act and look. I’m just over here trying to be me, whether that’s messy or put-together; I don’t really see why it should matter.
What does balance mean to you during your current season of life?
My business has had a big year, and I am very grateful for that. But with that has come some challenges of finding time for self-care and slowing down. For me, balance currently means making sure I take care of myself as much as possible. It means prioritizing getting 8+ hours of sleep, turning off my computer by dinner time, and planning date nights with my husband so we can spend quality time together outside of work trips. It also means only taking on projects that are 100% aligned with my business, my goals, and my endeavor for work/life balance.
Who/what inspires you to keep living well?
I draw inspiration from many sources. I have friends that inspire me on a daily basis to keep pursuing my dreams and live my best life. My family inspires me to stay grounded and remember that connection and community is one of the most important things we can foster. Books, podcasts, and motivational speakers inspire me to learn new ways of living well, being a good human, and playing a positive role in this world.
What is your best tip for maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the midst of a busy life?
Over the last couple of months I have adopted a home morning routine that has transformed the way I work and live. It’s my own version of a “Miracle Morning” (book by Hal Elrod). I rise early, meditate, exercise/stretch, review my goals, manifest/visualize, read, journal, and document my gratitude. It sounds like a lot! But I have my routine down to 30-60 minutes, which I do entirely with my phone on airplane mode. I am still working on keeping this up when I travel and will hopefully come up with an adapted version soon. Some other things I focus on are eating as healthy as possible, getting outdoors and moving my body, taking lots of self-care time (hot baths, reading, watching a movie), and making time for the relationships in my life. I also try not to be too hard on myself when things don’t go as planned; instead, I focus on jumping back on the healthy lifestyle train as quickly as possible.
What projects are you currently working on that you’d like us to know about?
The biggest project I have coming up is a book publication. My husband and I traveled to all 59 US National Parks in 2017 and we are publishing a coffee table book about our adventure! It has been so fun reminiscing about all the amazing things we did during that trip, and I can’t wait to share our stories and photos with the world. Roaming America will hit the shelves in spring 2019 – so stay tuned!
Thank you, Renee! It’s been a pleasure having you on the blog today. I can’t wait to check out your book! If you’d like to follow along with Renee and her adventures, you can find her on her blog and on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as @reneeroaming.