Hello! Thanks so much for spending a bit of time with me and having a wander. In all my travels, I have always maintained the belief that no matter where I am in the world, there are people there I am meant to meet, fast friends only needing me to arrive for our fates to be realized. Perhaps you are one of them also, and I hope someday our paths may cross! Until we do meet in person, here is a bit about me.
I grew up on a 64 acre farm in the beautiful rural valleys of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Growing up on the farm meant spending a lot of time outside, in the elements. I think of those hours of chores in the barn and fields as a gift now, as it instilled in me an awareness of my natural surroundings and a steadfast work ethic. Our farm was certified organic, so we spent many days caring for the fruits and veggies, summers spent running to the garden for dinner, and living off the land to the extent we could. We raised cows, pigs, chickens, pheasants, horses, hedgehogs, swans, dogs, cats, pot belly pigs, goats, sheep- you name it, at one point or another if we didn’t have it on the farm we had probably entertained the idea of it 🙂 My parents are musicians, so our home was always filled with music and friends from far and wide. My father was also a builder, so I grew up with a deep appreciation of the creative process and struggles of an entrepreneur – an appreciation that has only grown as my professional life constantly led me to work closely with other entrepreneurs.
I spent most of my childhood and teenage years dedicated to horses- learning and practicing the art of horse whispering, working with challenging horses, rehabilitating racehorses, giving riding lessons, managing a boarding facility and doing vet calls. At the age of 12, I began a business breeding and selling hedgehogs so that I could save enough money to buy a purebred Arabian to breed. To this day, my heart overflows when I am in the presence of horses. I have a deeply engrained love for them and for the act of working with them.
From the farm I moved to North Carolina where I studied at Elon University. Elon inspired within me a sense of wonder- on many levels but especially when it came to doing work that I cared about, and working internationally. For the first time in my life I was able to travel abroad, spending a winter semester in Ireland. I found my passion for international travel, for cultural discovery and exploring new places. I quickly realized that I could see the world if I found a job that would send me across it. I graduated early, with a clear and firm intention to live or work abroad.
My intention was met, although not entirely how I had imagined. Initially I pursued the large public relations firms, assuming I would have to put in the first six months in New York or Chicago, but could then transfer to one of their other offices in London or Paris. Instead, I rolled my dice with a small marketing agency in Pennsylvania that was about to launch an international product sourcing division and wanted me to come on board to help with the launch. I had no idea at the time how this role would shape my entire career on so many levels. Within the first six months I found myself running around China, negotiating contracts and overseeing production of promotional products, teddy bears and staplers in various factories around the country. In another three months I was asked to move to Hong Kong so that I could build relationships with suppliers and continue to manage the sourcing projects we had established.
At the age of 22, my daily commute involved crossing the border between Hong Kong and China, finding my way in business as a young woman often alone in a room full of men, men outwardly judging my youth and my gender. I found my way, and also found my passion for cross cultural communication, for finding practical solutions to complicated challenges, and I saw massive opportunity for us to do things better, to be more environmentally conscious, to have a positive impact on the lives of those who were making the products we were sourcing. On the other hand, I also found myself extremely exhausted, overwhelmed by the reality of how much “crap” we (mankind) produce and the reality that I was directly contributing to this in managing production of things I knew would only end up in a landfill. The business experience I was gaining was incredible, but I was burnt out and cynical- at the age of 24 I needed a massive change- particularly in the way I perceived the world.
It was this intention- the intention to have a massive shift in perspective- that led to my next epic life chapter, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hundreds of stories unfolded over the course of those 2,180 miles. As a southbounder (known as a SOBO), I began my long walk in the woods with my then boyfriend of less than a year (Alejandro) in Maine, and ended five months later in Georgia- walking through 14 states, sleeping in a hammock each night and carrying everything I needed on my back. I went into those woods aching to get back to the nature I had grown up in, to wash myself of the city grit and factory drudge, to reconnect with the wild places I loved. The funny thing is, once there I realized I had never disconnected from nature while working in China, I had somehow disconnected from humanity, and thru hiking the trail reignited my faith in humanity by embracing me with an ever-present kindness of strangers. One of the greatest things I learned from the trail was the power of being willing to be vulnerable, and what awesome things you can attract when you are clear on your intention, but open to every possible solution (even those that you yourself cannot control).
At the trail’s terminus in Georgia, I was itching to get back to work, to dig into my career and use all of the incredible experience I had gained. I also wanted to continue to maintain the vulnerability I experienced on the trail, but again take the helm and build something. We landed in San Francisco, California, after driving across the country with all of our belongings packed in a U-Haul. We had no jobs, no apartment, one friend and 13 days before we had to return the U-Haul. The synchronicity that welcomed us in San Francisco continues to take my breath away. In this city we found a family of friends just waiting for us. We found mountains and oceans, progressive energy and ideas, we found love and beauty at every turn.
My career continued as I took a position with a small international firm that specialized in building transparency in supply chains. For years, I worked closely with my clients to evaluate and understand the manner in which their products were being made- the human rights conditions of the factories and fields, the environmental impact of their production and waste. I found this work to be incredibly inspiring, as there were so many opportunities to improve, so many opportunities to shift. It is also, at times, quite heavy, as you see first hand the realities of how basic human rights are violated, solely for the purpose of profit, and that each of us has a hand in this as consumers. To see conditions in factories where children are hired and forced to work excessive hours, to find women and men who have worked for more than 90 days straight without one day of rest, to see women working in fields that they were sold into by their fathers. To see workers who lose their lives, locked in burning factories or dying beneath the rubble of a collapsed building. All of this weighs heavy. It is a constant balance to remain compassionate and callous, to care enough but not too much. To be effective but not discouraged.
Living in California was inspiring for me on many levels- awakening routines of health, consistent yoga, building relationships with local organic farms, morning meditations and weekends spent in awe amidst redwoods and granite slabs. We adventured throughout much of the state, experiencing it deeply. My work took me all around the world. Over the years though, a restlessness began to stir again. Alejandro and I were married, and despite my best efforts to self-teach Spanish in between work trips and wilderness adventures, I was disappointed in my progress to become fluent in my husband’s native tongue. I also missed the mountains, I missed living in nature. Even though we had easy access to it, living in a city for five years had worn on me, and I found myself becoming a “weekend warrior”, starving for wilderness escapes by the end of the work week. Even though I loved my work, all of the dots were no longer connecting.
After deciding we needed another big life change, we packed up our belongings, sold the big stuff, and bought two one way tickets to Chile. Our plan? Head to the coast and explore the surf; when we ran out of road, head to the mountains to climb, camp and breathe. We spent several months traveling through the country, working on various local sustainability initiatives and adventuring to our hearts’ content. We came without expectation, with open minds and open hearts, willing to listen to what was calling and show up with a resounding “yes” when something resonated.
In quick succession we found opportunities asking for commitment, and we made it. We took up residence in Pucón, and after working locally for a year we decided it was time to answer the call of another deep-seeded adventure that wanted to be lived- a long distance journey on horseback across wild Patagonia. We hitchhiked south to Villa O’Higgins, the southern most tip of the Carretera Austral here in Chile, bought three horses, and rode them north. Our three month journey across the region was transformative, it was beyond the limits of my imagination- both in tangible experiences and intangible beauty.
We now call a small campo along a lovely river on the outskirts of Pucón home. We are proud stewards of a lovely piece of land that is in preservation. We’re busy re-wilding native forests on the property, cultivating organic gardens and orchards, and enjoying the magic presence of our seven amazing horses. We’re dreaming up a beautiful company that will take people into the incredible backcountry that surrounds us and connects them to the horses that take them there. Our intention is to inspire a sense of responsibility to conserve and protect our wild places and instill an understanding of Leave No Trace and Natural Horsemanship philosophies. We’re also creating space to provide children with access to our horses, to help with emotional development and energetic coherence. Big dreams include starting an entrepreneur incubator program that provides equine facilitated leadership workshops for entrepreneurs building socially and environmentally responsible companies. I’m writing a book about the art of embracing uncertainty, publishing encouraging and positive ideas and photographs, engaging my communities in beautiful conversations and continuing to build upon the work I love in sustainable and ethical supply chain strategy.
We are living. Deeply. It is so incredibly enlivening to constantly peer into the unknown, to be uncomfortable, to embrace the discomfort and FEEL the growth, the challenges and to begin to know a new place. The path we are pursuing is not paved, it is not cobblestoned or lain with brick. There are many branches we are cutting through, at times unable to see through the thick of it, as we blaze our path, but we are here, and we are blazing.
The Essence of Me:
I am passionate about living each day in a manner which makes my heart sing. I adore galloping horses bareback through fields with bare feet and arms wide open. I love exploring the wild places of this big beautiful world- especially if they are in mountains or in oceans.
I am inspired by the perspectives and ideas of others, by other cultures and by experiences that challenge me to think differently, to consider the world through the eyes of others. I am constantly growing, constantly learning and always evolving. I embrace change with open arms, as I believe it always makes us stronger, even when it is challenging or uncomfortable. I smile, a lot. Life is too short not to smile and enjoy the little moments, it’s the little moments that build the essence of who we are. I am constantly filled with gratitude for the life I have lived, each day is a gift, and I do my best to acknowledge it, often. I have been blessed to see a lot of places in the world, but there are plenty yet to be discovered.
I believe in living with intention rather than expectation, that one must be open to the beauty that pours out of the universe, but also willing to show up, to take action and take risks and be willing to wholeheartedly work for the change you wish to see in the world.
I wish to make ripples with my life, ripples of positive thoughts inspiring positive action. In order to do so, I try to live my own life in a manner that inspires this within.
Still haven’t had enough?
If you would like to learn more about me and my work, or if you are interested in collaborating with me feel free to check out my website- www.gretamatos.com