Meet Sheri Replane!
I jump on a video call with Sheri, our very own Director of Communications, and my boss, for a call much different than our typical. This time, I get to interview her for our staff spotlight, and I’m excited to spend time with Sheri learning more about what makes her special!
As I would come to learn through our talk, backpacking was, and continues to be, a significant part of Sheri’s life both as a hobby and as a job.
“The first time I truly backpacked, I really enjoyed the pace. Everything was steady, but slow and simple. For the first time I was taking things in at a different speed, slow and methodical. I really enjoyed life at that pace. I was seeing things in a new way, noticing things I hadn’t before.”
So, in honor of this view of life, I thought it fitting to mirror the staff spotlight in the same manner and see what we might notice along the way!
Stop 1: Growing Up In New Jersey
“I grew up in Westville, New Jersey. It’s on the other side of the Delaware River from Philly. You can actually see the Philly skyline from our side.” Aside from the masonry style city hall, two-pointed, glass skyscrapers pierce the sky and form the unique view Sheri could see each day.
A fellow athlete, I asked Sheri about her field hockey days.
“My aunt was the one who got me into the sport. At the time, and until just recently, she was the winningest coach in the sport in New Jersey. I was always, and still am, very competitive. I picked it up from a young age and that was my life all the way through college.” I imagine the typical intense practice and game schedule, playing for multiple teams, and traveling on the weekends to play opponents. It’s a very linear focus.
“I had Olympic aspirations and that’s why I went to Old Dominion University. The coach at the time was the Olympic team coach, so there was never a question where I was going.”
Located in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU put Sheri away from home. Combine this with college being a natural time of growth and self-discovery, it revealed a lot for her.
“I didn’t want to come back and settle in Westville. I wanted to know what was out there.” This gypsy spirit makes Sheri unique, as most of her family has remained in the same hometown.
“After college, deciding not to pursue the Olympic dream and coming to an end of my athletic career, I was lost at first. That was my whole identity up to that point. I didn’t know how to relate to the world anymore or who I was, what I was good at.
“I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine instead of getting a real job,” she smiled. And that is where her newfound love for backpacking emerged.
I imagine the linear focus of playing competitive sports can really cause a person to miss things. I can relate to that myself. You’re so focused on your goal, moving at such a quick pace to become the best, that there is so much flying right by you. It makes sense why the rich environment of backpacking is so alluring. There is so much around you, so much happening to take in. There’s no rush to arrive anywhere, just the understanding that the destination will always be there.
Stop 2: A Flourishing Passion
From what I was gathering, it wasn’t simply about the activity of backpacking, or hiking, but the mentality behind the activity, the simplicity of life. Sheri told me about her venture walking across America in 2006, taking 253 days.
“What?!” I asked, incredulously, “You hiked across America??” She explained the trail ‘system’ that they used, called the “American Discovery Trail.” It connects various trails and roadways all the way across the country making a point to trek through areas of interest. It isn’t intended to necessarily be hiked all the way across, but it can be.
“Wait, so that took you over 8 months. How could you afford to stop everything and go on this trip?” I asked. “I sold my house and most of my possessions. I was down to just a small storage unit of things. Plus, life on foot costs about $1 per day. We weren’t really staying in hotels when we stopped, just a tent. You get cheap food or items that will last longer.”
“So, was there a schedule or plan to walk a certain amount of miles a day? Are there days that you have to take off? I’m sure that it is taxing to walk every day,” I asked.
“Definitely. We didn’t really have a schedule; it can be hard to plan when the terrain is so different. Some days we were literally walking through the city, and other days might hold more natural terrain, but difficult to hike through.
“Everything revolves around where you’re going to sleep that night. We would hike further, or less, depending on what it was going to be like for sleep that night. Sometimes you had to ask if someone was okay with you pitching a tent in their yard.”
I was shocked. What an epic and rugged challenge! Maybe what fascinated me beyond the challenge of it was the willingness to step outside of the normal bounds of society. There’s a set of expectations for everyone that we all feel, the way we’re ‘supposed’ to navigate life: finding a career, working your 9 to 5, buying a house, etc.
Sheri chose to leave those bounds and experience life with others outside the confines of ‘normal American life.’ I couldn’t comprehend the freedom that comes with it. And that’s what I revere so much – her boldness to live.
“The two things I learned in the whole experience is that living, but more specifically living on foot, looks different across the country. Based on geography and weather, but also culture, we learned so much about how to live on foot from each of the areas we passed through. The second is that, when you turn off the news, you learn that this country is full of really nice people. We had such a great experience, in fact, I can’t think of a single bad interaction with others that we came across.”
Stop 3: Shall We Make This a Job?
Sheri’s cross-country trek caught the attention of a publication called Backpacker Magazine. Their goal is to promote outdoor education, getting outside, and the newest gear for any outdoor activity.
Backpacker asked Sheri if she would be interested in working with them by travelling to various retailers across the country to be a teacher and ambassador. She would teach backpacking courses, promote gear, and encourage people to get outdoors.
What I was learning was true Sheri fashion, she spent the next six years living in a Subaru and tent with Backpacker Magazine. She drove the country and, after a couple years, had some say in where the tour stopped and when.
I’ve never been more aware of all the items that I insist on having each day that I couldn’t have if I were in her position!
“So what came next? You had to be worn out from traveling and living in a car?” I asked.
“Totally,” she smiled, “I transitioned into event management when I was ready to get off the road and into something steadier.”
Stop 4: Family Time
Eventually Sheri settled into the Education field, which is what she studied in college. As the Director of Development,
Events and Possibilities at a small private school in Boulder, she wore many hats but enjoyed working in Education in that way. It was here that she met her future husband. An art teacher and, in my opinion, a bundle of positive energy and joy to be around, Taylor was the perfect compliment to Sheri.
“Once I met Taylor, my focus suddenly and completely changed. Up to then I wanted to explore and try new things. I think the competitiveness in me pushed me to see everything, to accomplish it all. I was always into something new, I couldn’t stay in the same place for long.
“But suddenly I wanted to have a family and live in a house, it was crazy.” Now with one toddler and another on the way, Sheri balances life and work with grace. At one point, she and Taylor split the same job at the school, which came with its complications, but allowed for one of them to always be at home with their toddler.
Stop 5: Transition to Archway
I asked Sheri what took place for her to move to Archway. It seemed like it was a shift in mentality. “It’s funny, before I had our first child, I always struggled with my purpose and what it is I’m meant for. Ever since I had my daughter, I’ve never questioned it again. She gives me purpose. It makes me want to live with purpose in everything. That was a big reason for coming to work with Archway.”
There were two other job opportunities on the table at the time Sheri was deciding which direction to go. But Archway was the culmination of all the things that Sheri strives for – it was purpose-filled, it was a new challenge, and offered the chance to be a part of something.
And Sheri is a pivotal part of our team. Having built the marketing from the ground up, we would not be where we are today without her!