About Traci J. Macnamara

Traci J. Macnamara is a writer and literary adventurer. Her passion for books and remote landscapes has led her to explore historic huts in Antarctica, to climb to the summit of France’s Mont Blanc, and to backpack and climb in Southeastern Utah’s desert canyons.

Macnamara’s writing has appeared in many magazines, journals, and books including Backpacker, High Country News, Vail Daily, Rocky Mountain News, the Patagonia catalog, and A Leaky Tent is a Piece of Paradise (Sierra Club Books, 2007), among others.

Macnamara has spent 25 months of her life in Antarctica working to support scientists at McMurdo Station, where she learned to Nordic ski on the Ross Ice Shelf and build a sturdy snow shelter. Macnamara has hiked and biked through France, following the footsteps of poet William Wordsworth to the Alps, and she spends her winters skiing in and around her hometown of Vail, Colorado.

Macnamara has an undergraduate degree in science from the University of Notre Dame and master’s degrees in English literature, writing, and curriculum and instruction. She has also been trained as a Wilderness First Responder and in Avalanche Awareness, Level I.

From Traci J. Macnamara:
Set out confidently on your outdoor adventures by having the skills you need to take care of yourself and those in your group. Remember: Adventure begins in your backyard, whether you’re steps away from your starting point or a train ride from the nearest trailhead.


About “Down and Out”

Down and Out in CambridgeI thought to name this blog “Down and Out” after reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. I read the book while I was doing some research in Cambridge a few weeks after I had broken my ankle in Chamonix–an event that prompted me to consider what I would do when the $54.26 remaining in my bank account ran dry. In that moment, Orwell’s subject matter felt particularly relevant. I like how Orwell was able to capture in his writing the details of his life. Orwell was smart and resourceful–he wasn’t as down and out as the people he wrote about, and I sometimes wonder, myself, how possible it is to be truly down and out with a few decent job experiences and some master’s degrees.

Orwell inspired this blog from its beginnings, when I hyperventilated at the thought of my student loans and struggled with constant temptation from The Road.  The focus of this blog has shifted over the years as I’ve traveled on a shoestring, written literary criticism while working the night shift in Antarctica, and started writing for About.com as the Survival Skills Topic Guide.  Though some things in my life have changed, I still shudder at the thought of student loans, and I still long for The Road.

22 responses to “ABOUT

  1. Hello Tracey,

    Glad you are well dude. Hope to read more of your adventures soon. Merry Christmas down there.

    All the best,


  2. Jonathan Kiefer

    Hi Traci,

    I’m in that Leaky Tent too! I look forward to catching up with you there.


  3. Erika M. Schreck

    Traci, I’m so proud of you, girl! I supported you in Colorado as fellow writing instructors in our writing program and with your VW van departure to California… and still think you rock. Live on in adventure and passion. Thinking of you!

    Take care, Erika

  4. Glad to see you are well. I am proud of you for following your heart for literature and passing on PT school. Much peace and many blessings.

  5. Jacklyn Pasternak

    Hi Traci –
    I love reading about your new adventures on here! I’m proud of you as ever, glad to hear you’re still at it! Keep in touch!

  6. Traci,
    I enjoyed your writing. I just stumbled upon your blog while Googling “Do Not Go Gentle,” a poem I’ve always loved, and last night decided to memorize. So now that it’s mine forever I thought I’d check out what others had to say about it. This wasn’t what I was expecting, but entertaining nonetheless.

    I’m a little wistful about your alternative lifestyle. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Wow – What an amazing life you have! I stumbled upon your profile on the e-learners website, and just had to check out your blog.
    Good luck with your book! And if you come to Baltimore to visit the Goucher campus and need any Baltimore information, get in touch, I live around the corner!

  8. Traci! I randomly thought about this blog as I was thinking about a trip to Europe I’m hoping to plan in a couple months. I was like, “Hmmm, I wonder where Traci is these days?”

    Just came by to say hi. Hope all is well and happy holidays!


  9. Hey Traci!

    Just came upon your blog. Hope things are going well in Vail (looks like they are!). Love to see you again soon–


  10. Sherwood (Harney) Turnbull

    Traci Mac-It has been years…I stumbled upon your blog and have had the greatest time reading about your adventures…and travels! I always knew your life would be exciting!!! I am married and live in Washington, DC. I would love to see you if you ever come this direction……Sherwood

  11. !! Traci !! Looong time! I am heading to Louisville in two weeks and was thinking about the last time I was there — in HIGH school to visit you. So I googled you and found your blog. You are so freaking amazing. Send me your email or phone number – I would love to catch up with you. Having spent a year in Utah, if you ever need a partner in crime to hike, bike, ski or camp – you gotta call me! chat soon, Mona

  12. Well, look who has a blog. And seems to be pretty famous at that! Good for you, glad life has turned out so well for you.

    Remember breaking your brand new Trek 10 years ago? That picture is kind of famous on the net these days. Funny, huh?

    Drop me a line if you get a chance, would love to see how you’re doing.

  13. There are few true travelers, and of these, none are full time. Like malaria the traveling ‘bug’ enters the blood stream, often through a tiny prick in the consciousness- a book, a song, a poem perhaps and builds up in the body silently. Then one day the fever strikes with an intensity causing an incredible dissatisfaction with routine and normal life. the cost of traveling is high. To be a true traveler means severing bonds, leaving behind friends, family and security, casting one’s fate into the teeth of the unknown-and not many people dare to pay this price. Those who answer the ‘call of the road’ and are mentally suited to it are among the happiest people on earth, and do not need to die to know what heaven is. Those who dare not leave their social obligations and security behind always carry with them the vague feeling that they have missed something important. Through out their lives, they will be troubled by recurring periods of uneasiness that they can’t explain to them selves, or to anyone else and they need not die to have a taste of hell. “Brian Tracy- Success is a Journey”

  14. Hey, saw you name in Skype, checked out your blog, then found entry about Bastille. Well it’s today and looking forward to a big night out, though keeping away from the super strong beers this time. What date you over?

  15. Hey Traci. I do enjoy your blog. Speight and I were talking about you and it always reminds me to read up on what you’re doing. I love to travel and since I’ve had 2 tiny babies, I have this odd fear of taking them over seas without Gabe. I’m thinking I’ll venture to Bali in the spring with at least one of them though. My father in law lives there, so he would be of help. Anyway, keep up the travels and keep in touch with at least one of my family members. It means a lot.

  16. Hello, Traci. Just found this blog and impressed/jealous of all your travels! But most of all, the apt. in Vail and the red, VW van make me want to buy a plane ticket to Colorado and get in that fresh air! my best friend and I are contemplating picking up and moving around boulder in jan, want to do a lot of hiking and skiing and all that good stuff. anyway, i graduated with a journalism degree and admire how you’ve gone after freelance work and made it work for you. way to go. i’m about to mail in a query letter of my own, but for a book not an article. anyway, peace to ya. if you have any advice for a young writer i’m all ears!

  17. When you say that Orwell was not as down and out as the people he wrote about, you make a very good point. In the latter part of the book somewhere he considers who hard it is to be unemployed when you have few mental resources, how boring it is.

    Because he had other resources to go to (and does, eventually) he could consider the situations more than those who were immersed with no way out. See my other comments at http://silverseason.wordpress.com/

  18. kathleen simonelli

    If you are still in France, consider making your way easterly to the Swiss Alps here for a day or two! It would be great to see you and to discuss Orwell! I just passed his house the other week while I was in Hampstead Heath in London. All best, Kate

  19. Hey Traci,
    Are the photographs on the blog all yours? I am curious about using on of them in the Earth First! Journal, a non-profit environmental publication. Can you contact us and let us know if this is ok?

    EF! Journal Collective

  20. Traci Macnamara, glad to see you living life. More people need to do that.

  21. Kimberly (Clay) Salim

    Traci! Fabulous, fabulous work. I love seeing all of the Lakeside folks on here. Thanks to you and Shawna for posting so much on Facebook – it’s been great keeping up with y’all after all of these years. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon! Big kiss, Kimber

  22. Rattling great visual appeal on this web site, I’d rate it 10.

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