I’m excited to share this chat I had with Jess Ryle from Vegan Outdoor Adventures. I’ve known Jess for a very short time but I can tell you she is extremely dedicated to the values she holds and lives the life she says she does; with pride, kindness and compassion. She is one of the most welcoming people I’ve met in the vegan community and I think you would also agree if you ever have the opportunity to meet her. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
VCG: Say hello to my friend and vegan running cohort, Jess Ryle! I greatly appreciate you taking time to answer some questions and chat. A good amount of the vegan outdoor community know who you are, but for those still in the dark tell us a bit about you.
J @ VOA: I’m Jess, born and raised in Upstate New York. I absolutely love the mountains, so living here is perfect for me. I live with my boyfriend Andrew, along with our dog and five cats. I get outside as much as I can, hiking year round, running and camping. And I work at a vegan-friendly Mexican restaurant. People eating at the restaurant are always surprised to hear that I’m vegan and assume I won’t eat anything there. But I live on rice, beans & avocado! What else do you need in life?
I went vegetarian in 2003 after working at a seafood restaurant and being upset by the lobsters being steamed alive. I didn’t know any vegans and didn’t have the online community that I do now, so I didn’t really know how to go vegan. Finally in 2009 I went for it and have never looked back. I always say that my veganism is my favorite thing about myself.
VCG: Vegan Outdoor Adventures is an awesome site. I’ve used it a few times prepping for races, hikes, etc. When did you start it? What were your hopes for it when you started and are you seeing those hopes/ goals coming to light?
J @ VOA: I started VOA at the beginning of 2014. It came about from a combination of looking for a passion project to work on and trying to find new hiking boots that were completely, for-sure, 100% vegan. It was a way more frustrating task than I had ever imagined. My boyfriend Andrew and I were talking about it and the idea for VOA was born.
Initially it was going to be just something to keep me occupied and matched my morals; a resource to help other people with the same hiking boot dilemma. I never imagined that I could make money through it or that it would grow to what it is today.
My original hopes were to get the word ‘vegan’ on the radar of major outdoor gear companies and to build a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. I’m happy to say that both of these have happened. Some companies were already vegan-friendly, but others didn’t know that there was a need for vegan gear. And I’ve also met (both online and in person) so many wonderful people through the site.
VCG: Speaking of VOA, you just started doing seasonal boxes packed with all sorts of goodies. How did the first one go? What has the reaction been like? What made you think about doing these?
J @ VOA: The first Seasonal Sample Box was great! It was definitely a learning experience because I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really happy with the way it came out and it was received really positively by subscribers. It was so exciting seeing people post photos on social media when they received theirs!
The Seasonal Sample Boxes came about while I was trying to think of a way to share my favorite items with people. It’s one thing to write a review or post a photo on social media, but actually getting products that I use and love into the hands of readers was really important to me. And subscription boxes are a huge hit right now. There are outdoor boxes and vegan boxes, but I hadn’t yet seen a vegan outdoor box so I think there’s definitely demand for it.
It’s been a really fun process, deciding what to include and promoting brands that I really connect with. We’re working on the winter box now and plan to release it in January.
VCG: Having grown up in the Adirondacks, how much of the range have you hiked/climbed or run?
J @ VOA: Yes, I grew up in Upstate New York, just south of the Adirondack Park. I love it so much here. It’s beautiful and there are so many opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. I’ve hiked many of the mountains surrounding Lake George, many times each. They’re very close to my house and the views of the lake and surrounding mountains are gorgeous.
The High Peaks near Lake Placid are my favorites though. They’re the highest mountains in New York State and it’s a different world when you’re on top of them. I’ve hiked 12/46 so far, many of them multiple times. Gotta get in gear and hit the rest of them to earn my 46er badge!
VCG: Besides VOA what are some of your other passions?
J @ VOA: Mountains are definitely one of my passions. I absolutely adore the mountains. I feel so peaceful and at home when I’m hiking in the mountains. I also love cats; I’m a total cat mama. Well, I love all animals really. And I’m also a gigantic fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones book series. I’m currently re-reading them all.
VCG: I know running is one of those passions because you are one of my awesome teammates from Strong Hearts Vegan Power! How did you find out about SHVP?
J @ VOA: Yes, I love running! And I actually got more serious about running after finding about SHVP and wanting to join the team at Ragnar ADK last year.
I found out about the team through some of my Facebook friends who were on the team. I would see them posting photos and updates from Ragnar races. Then after Ragnar Cape Cod ’15, there was a Strongest Hearts episode about the team and I just knew I had to join.
VCG: SHVP’s last Ragnar was in the ADK and a bunch of us got to hang at your place for the night. How amazing were those homemade vegan Big Macs eh?
J @ VOA: They were so good! I had never had a Big Mac before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They were definitely amazing.
VCG: What are your thoughts on activism within the vegan community? I know there are all forms, heck even this interview can be considered activism as it brings your story about veganism to light. What do you do as your form of activism?
J @ VOA: My main form of activism is living my life as a vegan. Everyone I know knows I’m vegan. And a runner. I just do me and live positively and in a way that reflects my morals. I’m friendly and approachable and I think that goes a longer way than pushing people toward a certain lifestyle. Many people have asked me questions throughout the years and I’ve had a few people tell me I was a big help in their own journey toward veganism.
I think all forms of activism are important though. I’ve always said that having people working at all angles is important. From lobbying to protesting to liberation. We’re all working to help animals.
VCG: If you could change one thing about the vegan community and it’s message what would it be?
J @ VOA: I would love for the vegan community as a whole to work together and be more welcoming.
VCG: I want to thank you for taking the time, Jess, to answer all of these questions. I can’t wait for readers to get to know you better and understand just how awesome you are as well as your work with VOA and for animals.
J @ VOA: Thank you for including me, Nate! Good luck with everything on VeganCableGuy.com and I hope to see you soon!
Make sure to check out Vegan Outdoor Adventures at http://veganoutdooradventures.com/