“Doing good” looks a little different for everyone. Our Ambassadors help us celebrate what that means in their corner of the world – from representation to education, community involvement and getting outside, and pursuing joy in life’s little moments.
Justine (she/her) and Sam (they/them) Goldon share their Alaska-based and international adventures on their Instagram @wanderfulwives. They’ve created a community centered on the outdoors, travel, connection, and trans and queer representation. Without fail, they are always authentically documenting their experiences in the world while keeping things lighthearted and filled with joy.
We chatted with both of them about travel, the outdoors, allyship and visibility, and how “doing good” can be leaving the world a little better than you found it – from trails to interactions with strangers.
Toad: Thank you so much for letting us pepper both of you with questions and taking the time to chat. We’ll start with your homebase – tell us about life in Alaska. What do you enjoy most about living on “the Last Frontier?”
Justine & Sam: Ah, our favorite subject! Honestly, there’s no place like Alaska and we’re obsessed with it. The access to the outdoors is just unparalleled, and not just any outdoors – the most epic, raw, majestic wilderness you’ve ever seen… and it’s right out our front door! There’s so much space to recreate and so many different sports to take up. That combined with a lower population density means things never really feel too crowded or too spoiled. It all feels very untouched and untamed.
We love that our gatherings with friends mainly revolve around the outdoors as well. In the summer and fall it’s hikes and mountain bikes and backpacks and sleeping in tents; in the winter and spring it’s ice skates and cross-country skis and fat bikes and cozy hut trips and northern lights-chasing. In one lifetime you could never do or see it all, but we’re sure as heck determined to try!
Toad: Okay, Alaska is officially on our travel list. How did @wanderfulwives begin? We would love to hear more about the community and safe space that both of you have created.
Sam: So Justine actually started our account before we got married and I very much protested, “But we’re not wives yet, so I’m not participating!” (I also had no idea that joint couple Instagram accounts were a thing!). But once we made things official back in 2019 on our Icelandic wedding adventure, that’s when we really started using it to document our European honeymoon and all of the adventures that followed back in the states. Slowly but surely, we started connecting with more queer folks and more outdoorsy folks and realized – wow, this really is such a powerful way to grow your circle! Then when we started travel nursing, it became our go-to way of making friends when we moved to a new place, which was so wonderful!
Now we’re super passionate about meeting folks that we connect with online (or even just having virtual pen pals), ‘cause truly it’s how we’ve made some of our best friends. To anyone who feels alone or unseen in their day-to-day lives – something a lot of queer and trans folks experience – the internet can be a really wonderful way to find your people. We’re determined to create a safe and warm space for anyone that’s looking for those same types of vulnerable, meaningful, and playful connections.
Toad: We love how friendship and your community go hand-in-hand. Can you talk about your work highlighting trans and queer visibility, especially when it comes to travel and the outdoors?
Sam: We’re big believers in the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Having grown up in a conservative, sheltered household, before I was exposed to trans and non-binary folks online, I had no idea that was a thing. I thought I was just stuck with these heavy, hard feelings about myself, my identity, and my body. But others having the bravery and vulnerability to be visible and share their journeys online absolutely changed my life. Visibility has taught us both so much about the massively diverse community we’re proudly a part of, and now we’re just hoping to continue that learning process and do what we can to pay it forward.
Being able to see yourself represented in spaces where you’ve been taught that you “didn’t belong” – either explicitly or unconsciously by lack of said representation – is truly such a revolutionary thing. When we see trans athletes crushing it, or queer folks in gear advertisements, or another LGBTQ+ couple traveling together, it chips away at this quiet, internal (and sometimes very present) fear that we don’t belong; a fear that is rooted in history, but also current suppression and violence against our community.
But the truth is that we absolutely do belong. Queer people exist EVERYWHERE – in every country and every community, walking all the trails and competing in every sport. We deserve to feel safe, welcome, and seen wherever in the world we go, period. And visibility – breaking down stereotypes, barriers, and apprehensions – is a powerful part of making that happen.
Toad: That in itself is an incredibly powerful and true statement. Continuing the momentum, can you speak toward what allyship looks like for both of you? Whether that’s in the outdoors, while traveling, or in your own workplace.
Justine & Sam: For us, the first part of allyship is rooted in awareness. Like we said earlier, there’s probably a lot of things that people are struggling with that other folks outside our community simply don’t know about. But take it upon yourself to learn! It’s not as simple as walking a mile in their shoes because frankly, that’s just not possible. If you’re not queer you can’t just go grab a pair of Doc Martens and try it out for a night.
But you can open your ears and eyes, and your mind and heart, to trust that if someone tells you, “I’m hurting. I need your help,” that they are and they do. You don’t necessarily have to comprehend, but you can still have compassion.
Secondly: act on that! When you see someone being put down, lift them up. Correct yourself and others who are misgendering that person at work. Advocate for gender-diverse and trans options on any forms or software you use. Make sure the queer couple at the campsite next to you knows you’re a safe space if they need help. Smile at the trans person in the airport bathroom with you and speak up if they’re being harassed. There are so many moments in life where we witness other people’s pain or discomfort – we just need to be better at actively choosing to prevent and remedy those missteps.
Toad: Such great advice. And speaking of which… if you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
Justine: After telling myself, “That’s enough mousse, crunchy does not equal curly!” and, “Please don’t pierce your own lip, that’s going to get infected,” (lol) I would give myself a big hug and revisit myself in every chapter that I thought was surely the end, to let myself know that I’m resilient as hell and will get through it. Little Justine wore a lot of hats and stumbled and faceplanted through life so that I could run today.
As I’ve grown into myself and worked to overcome so many deeply seeded feelings of inadequacy and shame, I’ve realized how so many parts of myself that I deemed “too much” or “not enough” are actually the parts of me that so many people love the most. I wish my younger self did not have to carry the pain of such deep self-loathing and would have had the awareness that I do now around ADHD, depression, and anxiety as well as the tools related to managing the symptoms of all three. I was fortunate to receive help in the form of a wilderness therapy program as a teen and it introduced me to the outdoors as a form of therapy and a source of healing. Since then, as I’ve navigated several rock-bottom chapters in my life, every single one has pushed me even further into my love and connection to the outdoors.
Toad: On the theme of our Ambassador program, what does “doing good” mean to you?
Justine & Sam: It means leaving it better than you found it. Whether that’s the trails, a friend, your partner, an interaction with a stranger, your bucket list travel destination, the planet we live and depend on – just spreading that TLC! Being a positive force in the world; making a difference where and when we can. It’s the little things like shopping sustainably, adding an extra tip, checking in on your pal, sharing your trail snacks, picking up trash on your dog walks, telling your people you love them.
Toad: Finish this sentence: every day I aspire to…
Justine: Feel joy. So much of life is lived in the in-between moments – after one adventure-filled weekend and before the next – so it’s important that we’re able to find joy in the little things that aren’t big epic accomplishments.
Most days it’s mundane things like moving my body at the gym, checking a few items off my to-do list, singing a song around the house, laughing on the couch with Sam, feeling the sun on my face. These little moments every day add up to a life that is joy-filled and keeps my mental health on a more even trajectory than depending on the rollercoaster of seeking those big adrenaline and serotonin hits.
Toad: Okay, we saved the toughest question for last. If you had to choose, what is your favorite location you’ve traveled to?
Sam: Oh gosh, so hard! If I had to only choose one place it would probably be Italy. Just such a magical feeling there, hiking on the coastal cliffs overlooking the sea where farmers are growing all kinds of veggies. Then walking into a charming town to get fresh pizza made of that very same food. *chefs kiss!* Plus the epic-ness of the Dolomites! And the allure of Venice! It’s just all so magical.
Justine: Agreed, this is the toughest one! I think for me, it would have to be Guatemala. As a lover of outdoors photography and the ever-changing challenges of different conditions that comes with it, getting to capture an actively erupting volcano at sunrise from 500 meters away will be a core memory for life. Paired with the food, the rich culture and beauty of the town of Antigua, and the unreal views from our little cottage sitting over the water on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala takes the cake.