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"Most explorers are male, and certainly many of the original world explorers were," says wilderness explorer Aniela Gottwald. "It's a very male-driven concept. And so being a woman, it's exciting because I can inspire a new path or direction of thought for women."

Aniela Gottwald riding Sunna on the Arizona Trail

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

Aniela Gottwald riding Sunna on the Arizona Trail

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

Next spring, the wilderness adventurer and storyteller will embark upon a 4,000-mile horseback journey from the U.S.-Mexican Border to the Sacred Headwaters of Canada, as part of a two-segment "Riding Wild" documentary film project. Riding two wild mustangs she's trained, she'll first travel almost 3,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail as part of a feature film on interspecies relationships and healing through reconnecting with nature. The second leg of her journey will bring her into Canada for an environmental documentary about landscapes under threat from encroaching industry.

Riding Wild

"The main goal of the project is to share the value of these pristine environments and wild animals with a huge audience," says Aniela, who did a preparatory 800-mile expedition in Arizona this past May. "I'm inviting other women on the Canadian journey—a female biologist, a native woman around my age, and so on—because I want to have other strong female characters involved. The film will explore a potential for meditative being in nature alongside animals as a mode of understanding and apprehending the wealth of resources we are in danger of losing, if we lose touch with their meaning."

Her advice for aspiring outdoors adventurers? "There are many trials and challenges that can happen along the journey, but what really matters is that you persevere and that you keep going. If you have a clear vision, if you have something that your heart is calling you into, honor that and pursue it no matter what."

The Road Ahead

"Sunna was rescued from a kill pen. She's now accompanied me 1,300 miles through backcountry wilderness."

Photographer,  Agnes Maltesdotter

"Sunna was rescued from a kill pen. She's now accompanied me 1,300 miles through backcountry wilderness."

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

"When I'm riding 20-30 miles on my expeditions, I love to have a break from being covered in dirt and wear something beautiful."

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

"When I'm riding 20-30 miles on my expeditions, I love to have a break from being covered in dirt and wear something beautiful."

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

"Indigenous cultures and tribes see nature not only as their church, but also as their sanctuary, their kitchen, their way of life," Aniela says. "Their connection with nature is their life, and they are so deeply a part of it, that when their environment is affected, their lives are affected. I've understood that, and want to share this human - nature connection through storytelling and exploration."

Aniela has long had an affinity for the great outdoors. She could ride horses before she could walk, and her mother and late father fostered in her a deep reverence for animals, nature, and indigenous cultures. As a young woman, Aniela followed in her parents' footsteps and immersed herself in various wilderness settings: serving in small Kenyan villages, backpacking in the Australian Kimberleys, and studying shamanism in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal and the Amazon jungle of Peru.

Call of the Wild

"We all come from nature, so we all have this deep connection that can reset us. Coming home to nature rebalances our minds, our rhythms, and ultimately our lives."

Aniela Gottwald cuddling with her pack horse Nipomo

Photographer,  Agnes Maltesdotter

Aniela Gottwald cuddling with her pack horse Nipomo

Photographer, Mariana Schulze

In an increasingly industrialized world filled with endless digital distractions, there's nothing healthier a person can do than spend time reconnecting with nature, Aniela believes. That's not to say it's all easy.

"In the beginning it's really hard to be in nature for hours and hours," she says. "You feel many different feelings and thoughts that move through you, and you may even realize in a hard moment, 'Well I've just been hating this for days!' And then something in you breaks and you leave that part of yourself on the trail. You start to see things more clearly. It's almost like a meditation retreat. You spend so much time alone and have so much time to think. You start to feel alive and feel present, which is the whole point of being out there."

"There are so many trials and challenges that can happen along the journey, but what really matters is that you persevere and that you keep going."

"There are treasures all over the Earth like this one to protect."

Photographer, Agnes Maltesdotter

For Aniela, roughing it doesn't have to mean wearing baseball caps and dressing head-to-toe in fleece. She favors clothes with neutral hues and feminine details and protects her skin by wearing Overland's Outback or Teton Western Hats every day. Evenings by the fire, she relaxes in her comfy and flattering Montana sheepskin coat: "I've just always loved the feel of Overland's clothes. There's this kind of traditional style to the brand that has the feeling of being connected with, or inspired by, the outdoors. Overland is also just very feminine and has a natural beauty."

Unique Feminine Style

"Sunna has taught me to recognize the duality of softness and strength, to love what is and accept what must be let go. She's taught me that it's okay to be vulnerable and trust the unknown. She is a mirror and gateway into my soul."

Photographer,  Mariana Schulze

"I not only ride for wild horses and our environment, I ride for women. I ride to inspire you to be brave, to be powerful, and to know that you can maintain your beauty and softness even out on the trail."

Learn more about Aniela's journey at ridingwild.com and follow her travels on Instagram @riding.wild

"Sunna has taught me to recognize the duality of softness and strength, to love what is and accept what must be let go. She’s taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable and trust the unknown. She is a mirror and gateway into my soul."

Photographer, Mariana Schulze

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