meet allison levy and chelsea rizzo
The founders of Hikerkind who believe their mental states are a little bit of a rollercoaster, but because they have each other as business partners and friends, their constant check-ins positively impact their mental health.
What keeps you grounded while hiking?
Chelsea: One of my biggest rituals on trail is taking breaks and checking out the views. It’s so quiet in the backcountry and it allows for you to sit there and either meditate or percolate on what you were thinking about on trail. Even though Allison and I are together, we’re not talking the whole time. There are a lot thoughts and a lot of conversations you have with yourself. And so the moments and the rituals that we have of getting to the place that we’re heading to and taking some time for ourselves gears us up to keep going.
What are some of your evening rituals when it comes to being on trail?
Chelsea: We get to camp usually around 2 or 3 pm, start cooking dinner by 4 pm, and we’re in bed by 6 pm. Cooking on the trail is something you need to pay attention to. In the backcountry, you don’t have a tabletop to put your canister on. So you have to set up, light it, and then monitor your water.
Allison: It’s a time to stop and reflect on the day. And while we’re cooking dinner, we’re always chatting about how the day went. I’m guilty of not cooking dinner a lot in my day-to-day because I get home at 8:00 pm and the last thing I want to do is cook. So on trail, I actually get to sit and cook and be mindful about what I’m eating and be grateful to be eating after such a long day of hiking.
How do you factor in the rituals you do daily and implement them into your hiking adventures?
Allison: I take medication every day and then I also take supplements because I lead a pretty much vegan life. So I have to supplement my diet. I take Wellbutrin and Prozac every day and then I have my B12 and my D3 and my vegan fish oil and a probiotic. That’s something that I have to do every day, otherwise, I’m completely off-kilter. But on trail, it’s part of my morning routine. I wake up and brush my teeth and I have a little tin canister that I bring with my medication. I can’t forget it because it’s right there. At home, it’s in my cabinet, I do my routine, I take my dog for a walk, and I don’t necessarily remember to take my medication, which is never good. But on trail, there’s no questioning it because it’s right there.
How does hiking help you to slow down even if the end game is to reach your destination?
Chelsea: There are a few routines that I take for granted in the day to day and I’m trying to be more conscious of that. I’m constantly multitasking. Anything I can multitask, I try to slip it in, so I’m trying to bring back the routines that I have on trail to real life. I don’t need to be answering an email that came up last night while I brush my hair. Work can start when the workday starts. It doesn’t need to bleed into every aspect of my life. Just this morning, I was running around the house, brushing my teeth, doing a million other things and had to stop myself and think, just go brush your teeth and be in that moment. Do that because you can. You can be more productive and then move on to the next thing.
What are some of the things you reflect on while in the backcountry?
Allison: We’re constantly surrounded by visual affirmations of appearance. You’re on social media and you’re being shown everyone’s perfect life. But on trail, it’s just yourself in nature. There’s no need to have an ego. No one’s there to judge you.
“I have this tiny mirror and I never use it on trail, but looking into it, I saw what I look like after 4 days in the backcountry with my face covered in dirt.”
It was a reminder that I’ve been seeing and meeting people that I don’t know. If I were back in my usual day-to-day, I would wonder, what do they think of me? Are they judging me? Do they think I’m this or that? But I was able to make friends. I was able to keep my head on straight because it didn’t matter. It’s important to remember that ego can be detrimental and that everybody has insecurities.
How would you describe your mental health, currently?
Allison: My mental state right now is a bit of a roller coaster running Hikerkind. The phase in which we’re at is really stressful because it’s just the two of us and we’re wearing a million different hats. One moment, we’re having a meeting with our digital advertising guy. The next minute, we’re having a meeting with our design team. The next minute we’re having a pitch meeting and trying to get investors. The next, we’re on the phone with our lawyer. And this is a first-time venture for both Chelsea and I. So there are really high highs and really low lows. I have to stop to remember to celebrate the good times because there’s always going to be something around the corner that will make you upset.
“So my mental state right now is a little bit all over the place, but having conversations like this and having conversations with Chelsea is a good reminder to celebrate the victories.”
Chelsea: I’m on the same ride. We bought a ticket for two. We are around each other so often that our energies and our mental states are very intertwined at the moment. When Allison’s down, I’m down and when I’m up, we’re both up. But then there’s a really nice synergy between the two of us because I might be having a moment that’s really hard on me and Allison will pick up the slack and remind us of how far we’ve come. And so I agree that my mental state is a bit of a roller coaster, but overall I’m feeling pretty good. If you had asked me last week, I would have said something differently.
How does intimacy impact your mental health?
Chelsea: My partner is the most positive force for my mental health. I’m very strong on my own, but he always checks me and brings me back if I’m spiraling. I’m extremely lucky because a lot of the people I surround myself with are very similar. That’s a conscious effort. I try to give to my friends as much as sometimes I may need.
Allison and I have a very special relationship. She mentioned that we have constant check-ins and that greatly impacts my mental health. We try and talk to each other and remove ourselves from our office pretty often, asking each other how we’re doing, not even talking about the business. I always leave that conversation feeling a million times better.
Allison: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much I need to rely on other people. So I was, for a really long time, proudly independent. I still am, but I didn’t necessarily call on people when I needed them. I would be alone in my sadness or loneliness. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve built strong relationships with my family and my friends. I learned to allow those people in. Also, I learned not to be embarrassed or sad of where I’m at. Like Chelsea said, it feels so much better when somebody else is there and listening, even if they don’t say anything. It’s definitely something that feeds my mental state.
What’s your take on medication, like antidepressants, and supplements?
Allison: Anything that has to do with your body, you do what you want to do, whatever works for you. Medication has been such a life changer for me and I’m such an advocate for it. I know when people are struggling and are hesitant or resistant to medication, I definitely try and influence them in a way through my own personal experience.
And then, with supplements, I know that when I’m not taking them, my body reacts differently. My skin reacts differently. So I’m an advocate for them as well. But like I said, if you don’t want to take anything, that’s your right. If you do, then I support you in that as well.
What makes you stressed or anxious?
Chelsea: My partner says I am like Buzz Lightyear, who only has a couple of phrases. For me, it’s I’m anxious, I’m stressed. A lot of things make me anxious and stressed out, but I try work on how I react to them and how I move forward with my day. Coming from a fashion background and being in an environment that was extremely fast-paced and demanding, I built up a lot of anxieties that I’m unlearning.
Allison: I have a very similar experience and our day-to-day is so intertwined. It has a lot to do with both of our current work-driven anxieties. I’m just so grateful that we have each other because it’s often we’re anxious about something that one of us has taken personally, that’s not meant to be taken that way.
Chelsea: It’s anxiety coupled with the vulnerability of starting your own thing, doing something out of your comfort zone. With Hikerkind, it’s the first time in our lives that we’ve worked on a project that we feel truly fulfilled and is what we’re supposed to be doing. There’s a lot of pressure and anxiety that goes along with realizing that you’re in a place that you’re supposed to be.
When do you feel most at peace?
Chelsea: On trail.
Allison: On trail.
When do you feel your body tense up?
Chelsea: When I’m on Instagram.
Allison: When I’m in a meeting that I’m not prepared for.
What gives you serotonin?
Chelsea: Seeing a beautiful view. I’m in it for the views.
Allison: Eating a donut.
What does your body language say about you?
Allison: That I have a lot on my shoulders.
Chelsea: That I’m constantly here to perform.
When do you speak your mind?
Allison: When I really feel passionate about what I’m talking about.
Chelsea: I speak my mind all the time. I speak every thought in my mind.
Allison: I learned working with Chelsea, she also talks to herself.
next story — christa allen