From learning to play the banjo, to exploding out of her creative box, Johnie Gall is constantly exploring how to approach life with more fun and weirdness, which is why we love her interview so much. A whip smart writer and photographer, she has been a creative guiding light to us through her platform Dirtbag Darling for many years. Read on and you'll understand why.
What gets you out of bed in the morning these days?
I’m an early riser and always have been. That being said, I’m also devoted to iced coffee and an unreasonably early bedtime.
Current source of inspiration?
After a period of feeling incredibly stagnant, I started to look outside the outdoor industry for inspiration on the advice of a friend. I read books about the science of gaming, watched documentaries on special effects in film, started following Disney animators on Instagram, had conversations with astronauts. Learning for the sake of learning — and indulging my nerd needs — has reinvigorated my interest in creating.
Summer bucket list right now?
Originally, I wanted to build and care for a few beehives in my backyard. Instead, I’m on the road for eight weeks for work, which led to me being able to cross off some travel bucket list items instead. I went sailing in the San Juan islands, climbed at Smith Rock, and I’m en route to surf the Pacific Northwest and tackle some objectives in Banff and Jasper. Bigger picture? I’d love to embark on a Walter Mitty style adventure that takes me to Greenland, Mongolia, the Australian bush, and Tasmania.
What are you a beginner at right now?
I recently started learning how to play the banjo, so…that’s been a lesson in humility! I decided that I’m going to get a tattoo of a tiny banjo near my knee when I feel I’m playing fluently. I started learning to surf a few years ago when I was an editor at a women’s surfing magazine, but my progress was halted when I moved back to the East Coast. I’m ramping up my efforts again, and thankfully my husband is an incredible surfer and very patient teacher. It’s finally starting to click, which means I can finally justify my bathing suit collection.
If you had $300 to spend in Wylder Shop what would you get?
Oh, if dreams came true! I would definitely buy the Patagonia R1 Spring Jane Shorty. I love the Filson Tin Bush Hat because I’m perpetually attempting to dress like I live in the Australian bush a la Robyn Davidson for some reason. I think I’d fill the rest of my cart with Patagonia baggies, books and maybe some soap from Juniper Ridge so I can smell like the forest.
What’s helping you keep it together?
I call my parents every single day. My job as a writer and photographer means my work, and in turn my life, can feel unstable, unpredictable, and tirelessly nomadic. They’ve been through a lot, so it’s grounding to talk through problems with them, and they always help put things into perspective for me. My favorite advice from my dad, which applies to most things in life, is: “You can have a good time or you can have a bad time. What do you want to do?”
Favorite brand in Wylder shop?
I’m a big proponent of finding the “weird” in life, and I think Coco Barrett-Tormey’s pottery is is that perfect blend of quirky and beautiful.
Who is inspiring you right now? Why?
My friend and industrial designer Adam Kingman @adamkingman calls himself the “decent magician,” but the way he can transform a desert landscape into another world is truly magic. He encouraged me to give myself permission to not just think outside the box, but to explode out of it, saying that the “mundane is a dangerous place to be.” His advice completely changed the way I approach my work.
Are you an activist?
I don’t know that I can label myself as an activist, but I do know that writing about and photographing truly wild places with the hope of protecting them is where my heart is right now. I recognize that I have a few platforms on which to lead by example — whether that’s Dirtbag Darling, Teva, or one of the publications I write for —and I want to be a voice for protecting and preserving the environment. I also want to encourage the outdoor industry to be more playful and embrace fun — let’s stop doing gear reviews and talk about our busted hand-me-down backpacks (that work just fine) instead. Let’s do a profile on the microbiologist surfer from Hawaii instead of the same five rock climbers over and over. Let’s bust out of the “sameness” box. Let’s be weirder.