Inspiration: Liz Karns

Inspiration: Liz Karns

As part of our inspiration series we meet with US based Liz Karns who takes to the outdoors for some all-important space and perspective on life.

Hey Liz, let’s start with you telling us where you live and what you do!

I’m based in Ithaca, New York, halfway between New York City and Toronto, amongst the Finger Lakes. It is often described as centrally isolated because it is hard to get here.

I teach and consult on health statistics and legal issues. My work can be extremely intense and escaping outside keeps me sane.

How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?

The outdoors has been part of my life no matter how much I have tried to get away. I grew up in rural Northern Minnesota where our property was surrounded by undeveloped timber lands and bogs. As a kid I spent lots of time digging clay from a swamp when I wanted to make pottery, picking berries, and making fern forts. I did long canoe trips in the wilderness area along the Canadian border, rock climbing and lots of gravel road exploration. All the while I dreamed about going to the city to live a real life.

Inspiration - Liz Karns Canoing on Lake Constance
Inspiration - Liz Karns and her Brompton

As an adult I tried to live in many cities – Portland, Chicago, East Coast (it’s one big sprawl) and London, and each time found that I would get edgy when I couldn’t easily get to real outdoor spaces. Places that I could walk/run/bike without dealing with many people or cars.

Now I have the best of both worlds. I live in a college town that provides employment and is in a world-class recreational area. I have my pick of activities (biking, hiking, running, skiing, and canoeing) on my doorstep. When I need a city fix or work demands it, I can head there knowing that it’s only for a short time.

What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?

I love biking in Germany have done several tours there. We did one starting at Lake Constance and through the foothills of the Alps and ending up south of Munich. It was fairly unplanned and turned out superbly (we were supposed to ride Hadrian’s Wall, but a forecast of steady rain meant a sudden flight change was in order). Lots of forest riding and coming upon bucolic scenes.

Brompton Bicycle By German Farm
Liz Karns Lake Constance

Currently, during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, I make up local quests for day trips. It’s been a good way to structure bike rides to discover public art pieces. Thanks to Kinetics in Glasgow my Brompton bike now has low gears that let me climb our very steep hills easily. Canoeing is a high point of summer and fits with social distancing so I do that a couple of times per week.

How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?

When my kids were younger I always got away first thing for some kind of exercise. Now that they are grown I still go out first thing, partially out of habit but it also starts my day off in a great way. Luckily my husband is also keen on biking/hiking/walking so it’s a great thing to do together.

After I do a big talk or presentation, I try to get out and walk or cycle. Post-event adrenaline is best burned off rather than trying to move on to the next thing in my schedule. This means that I dress for a walk right after speaking – and it’s so good that a FINDRA base layer works under a blazer.

Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

If I’m feeling cranky or out of sorts I know it’s time to get outside and do something. It always helps.

I find that the worse the weather is (snow, wind, rain etc.) then the better the experience will be and that’s when having the right gear comes into play. When I find the right piece I wear it to death.

When did you discover FINDRA and what’s your favourite piece?

I discovered FINDRA about three years ago in London. I was at an event on distance bike touring and heard Alex speak about designing gear that we want to wear as opposed to just meeting the minimum requirements. So I ordered some, and sure enough, I want to wear it all the time.

Favourite piece is tough – in the summer, I start with the Isla vest for a run or bike ride. If I am canoeing then I’ll put on the base layer long sleeve jumper to ward off chill. It weighs nothing and immediately warms me up. I keep the Is there any particular person who has inspired you in life?

Julia Child – her approach to living, discovering and understanding was inspirational. Not always a fan of her recipes, but her attitude throughout life is one to admire and imitate.

And finally to finish, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

That no one is going to tell you what to do. It’s up to you to make it happen.

Thank you very much Liz, it's been great to chat with you!



Favourite Poem

From Mary Oliver – New and Selected Poems, Volume One
Mary Oliver - New and Selected Poems Vol 1

In Blackwater Woods

“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

Favourite Music

American-born Kishi Bashi is now a solo artist, but was originally a founding member of New York electronic rock outfit, Jupiter One. In 2011, he started to record and perform as a solo artist, recorded and toured internationally as a violinist.


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