Thanks to my friends at whoamag.co (Women of Heart and Outdoor Adventure Magazine) for connecting over shared passions the other day, and for the fun write-up! Guess I better get on writing that book, huh?! Also, love the female hygiene reference—can't remember what that was about, but you can thank my midwife mother for rubbing off on me...
Megan Harrod is the first person US Alpine Ski Team members talk to at the bottom of epic runs all winter long. As the Press Officer for both the men’s and women’s teams, Megan spends the colder months crisscrossing Europe in her Audi, Gita Jan. During the off-season, she can be found traveling the world sourcing sustainable textiles, experiencing fascinating new cultures and exploring her wanderlust. She’s also a spiritual badass.
The “White Circus”
As the team’s press officer, Megan facilitates meetings between athletes and members of the media, like ESPN, The New York Times and the AP. During her travels between the men’s and women’s teams, she’s most often alone, even for 13-hour drives. She can frequently be found raiding Olympian Lindsey Vonn’s mini fridge for Red Bull before hitting the road. Megan listens to TED talks and This American Life to pass the time.
“It can get lonely,” she admits, especially after a really lengthy day when she sometimes wishes she had someone to cozy up with. Megan’s job consists of long hours, starting at 5 a.m. and often not ending until 2 or 3 in the morning. She may spend a week with the women (like 2014-2015 team members Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Alice McKennis) before driving through several countries to meet the men’s team (Bode Miller, Steven Nyman, Ted Ligety and more.) The 2015-2016 team hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s a good bet you’ll see some of the names above on the latest roster.
“I’m always a fresh face,” she said of her constant switching between the two teams. She says each group is like a family, going to events together all season long, starting with training in Park City, Utah in late fall. The athletes spend countless hours together and often turn to Megan for some relaxing conversation between races. It’s gotta be nice to have someone new and exciting to talk to that’s not your near-constant training partner or roommate….
“The team is super diverse,” Megan told us, rattling off a list of impressive alma maters and degrees that the athletes are seeking all while taking part in training and competitions. Today they are Olympians, but in the future the skiers will be engineers, artists and more.
Megan is a people person who finds connections with everyone she meets, and her position with the US team is a pretty perfect fit. It allows her to be near-constantly active, going to and from different countries all season long. It also allows her to stay involved in one of her first great loves – skiing. Through all the long days, Megan said watching the sunset over the closest mountain makes it all worth it.
Megan, the athlete
From age 7, Megan was a competitive skier all the way through college. Her family was constantly chasing the next great powder, she said, as they spent every weekend racing and practicing for the next meet. “We’d ski six days and travel one,” she shared. Not every young athlete looks upon their intense competitive upbringing in such a good light, but Megan attributes much of who she is now to the values she learned on the slopes. Today she is able to train with professional alpine team members both on and off the ski hill.
“I’m almost always the only non-athlete in the gym,” Megan said. She’s still in amazing shape, with major lower body strength from all those years of racing. She keeps fit with weight lifting, skiing when she can and lately, mountain biking around Park City.
Megan does India, and unlike other white girls, isn’t there for the yoga
During the off-season, Megan is quite the wanderluster. “I’m always planning my next adventure,” she told Whoa. Her last big journey took place over the course of the entire month of June, starting on her 32nd birthday when she flew to Mumbai. She spent the next few weeks traveling by bus and plane to see both well and little-known parts of India. She took in the sights, from the holiest of the 7 sacred cities in Varanasi to visiting a waterfall in Rishikesh. Megan even meditated on a boat on the Ganges River. Her Instagram (@megansharrod) is full of colorful images, like a wagon stacked with mangoes, her arms covered in intricate Mehndi and beautiful portraits of locals she came across on the street.
“India is not my favorite,” she admits right away, referencing her journey that ended just a month and a half ago. “Everything there is cerebral,” Megan exclaimed. From figuring out how to safely cross the street to navigating buses and rickshaws to get where you need to go, absolutely everything in India takes brain power. She was in the country during summertime, when temperatures are stifling even into the night. Much of her trip enfolded during a heat wave. A rough and long journey on a bus with no AC certainly didn’t lead to a comfortable night of travel when she traveled Haridwar to Varanasi. She did add, though, that despite strangers fears for her solo endeavor through the country, she felt safe for most of her trip. Megan mentioned there is still a stigma about female travelers going just about anywhere by themselves. But she ran into multiple unaccompanied ladies throughout her month-long stay. “It’s not comfortable, but it’s not impossible,” she added, talking about women traveling through India by themselves.
She began her big adventures at age 8, when the athlete (accompanied by an older brother) left her home in Wisconsin to board a train in Chicago heading west to Copper Mountain, Colorado for skiing camp. She’d never been out of the country until age 18, but would soon become the friend that’s always on the go. Megan lived in Prague for several years, and has visited more countries than she can count off the top of her head, including most of Europe and Peru. She’s had five addresses in the past 12 months alone, and went on 4 major cross-country road trips in the U.S. during that time. She’s hoping to go to Japan and Korea this winter with the alpine team, fulfilling her goal to visit at least two new countries every year.
When asked what locale is her favorite, Megan mentions Cesky Krumlov, a town in the Czech Republic. The many pastel, red-roofed buildings house the friendly Czech people, who the wanderluster claims are sort of like butter – skeptical at first but kind and wonderful on the inside. In her eyes, Cesky Krumlov is very different from Prague as it has a much more small-town feel. There you can walk along the streets among locally owned shops and quickly encounter the friendly attitudes of the residents. There are even gypsies who live there, and “beautifully coexist” with the other area citizens. Here, Megan knows the names of the stores and their owners, from the restaurants and hostels to the shisha bar and teahouse called “Dobra Cajovna” that she frequents when in town. This city holds much significance for Megan, as it was where she got engaged and is also the spot where she later decided to end her marriage. In some ways it is an epicenter where she both lost and then regained her independence.
Megan is fascinated with textiles. Before becoming a press officer, she was a co-owner of Ethnotek, a Minneapolis-based company that sources backpack fabrics from locations across the world. There, she found a love for sustainable practices that work to bring people out of poverty. A similar company called Topo Designs just announced the traveler will be an ambassador for their brand – which makes plenty of sense as she has nothing but high praise for their handy packs and accessory bags.
While in India, Megan made it a point to meet Arushi, the founder of The Initiative. The organization sources weavings for intricate scarves, yoga mat bags and blankets from rural weavers who might otherwise not be able to find work due to lack of education or resources. The duo had been friends for several years after meeting when Megan worked for Ethnotek, and were thrilled to finally speak in person after many Skype conversations. Through Arushi, Megan was able to meet some of the weavers and see the process in person. The experience furthered her love for handmade fabrics and cloth goods.
Her forthcoming book will be like a collection of threads woven together through her words and imagery – we can’t wait!
Setting goals and working towards them
When she went to college, Megan thought she wanted to be a sports broadcaster. She created her own major around professional female athletes and the media, and envisioned herself continuing her sports-centered life from a journalistic perspective. Between then and now, she has been a crossfit instructor, a member of the 80-hour-a-week corporate marketing world, a company co-founder and has also held some odd jobs to get by. She is, in a way, living out that college dream being involved with her love of skiing while also doing some writing and wrangling both athletes and members of the media.
Megan sets a lot of goals for herself. She works towards her next big trip starting the moment she steps off the plane from one adventure, and always strives toward getting into better physical and mental shape while practicing self-care. A girl’s gotta have a break now and then!
There are many women who are stuck working long hours in unfulfilling jobs but can’t leave to follow their dreams. Megan was once in this position too, but has since left her corporate marketing job and couldn’t be happier. To ladies with too many obligations and big dreams, Megan says, “Set goals.” If you want something, figure out the steps to get it and progress up that ladder as you can. This can be anything from starting your own health coaching company to affording a trip to Africa. Not only does this method sound like a good plan to actually make dreams become a reality, it can give you hope as you take each step and get closer to the end goal. Break out a notebook and pen (or smartphone, we’re cool either way) and start planning!
Megan also swears by micro-adventures, short weekend trips to get outside. She claims even virtually escaping by reading travel blogs and researching your next trip can be relaxing and exciting. Plus you’ll be more prepared once you finally reach your goal and start your new journey. You can start by checking out #Vagablonde, Megan’s blog where she delves into her travels, skiing and more personal “musings.”
Don’t give up what you love
Megan is a story collector, learning something from everyone she meets. Her very first book, a collection of shorts about the many incredible lessons she has garnered through her travels will hopefully be available in 2016. One of her many goals is to form intimate relationships with everyone she meets. It shows throughout our 1.5 hour long conversation as we talk about everything from her travels and the White Circus, to feeling people’s energy and even female hygiene. Megan shared that she always tries to remain open to whatever the universe brings to her.
“The world won’t give you something you can’t handle, ” she said, even after a tough year full of changing relationships, moving and learning the ins and outs of a new job. “A thirsty, open mind and heart will lead to the right thing for you,” She told Whoa. So far her philosophy certainly seems to be working.
One thing is for certain about Megan: She is always searching. It’s pretty impressive to see that need for adventure and travel is something she continues to feed and is not willing to sacrifice.
“If you want something, go get it. Do what you can that’s healthy in order to get it,” she told us. Between now and ski season, you can probably find Megan SUPing or riding her new mountain bike in and around Utah. Come winter, she’ll cross the ocean and re-join the alpine teams as their media ringleader and fascinating friend.
Go, Megan, go!
If you want to send Megan fan mail, she won’t have an address this winter.
You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @megansharrod
Dang, Hatie made me sound WAY cooler than I am. Thanks, woman!! Much love, and NAMASTE!