How I Became a Curated Expert

Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. explains how banana slugs sparked her love of hiking and shares her journey to becoming a Curated expert.

Hiker with a backpack looking out into a canyon

Photo by Ryan Pizzo

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It all started with a love for banana slugs. They can grow up to 9.8 inches long, are native to the Pacific Northwest, are herbivores, and look like a ripe banana. A subspecies that can grow up to 9 inches long is the second longest slug in the world. They use tentacles to move around and have tiny black eyes at the end of their upper tentacles that can see motion and light. They have one lung, more tentacles that come out of their face, and eat with a tongue-like thing. They can also grow back tentacles that are injured or removed by predators. But I didn’t know any of this yet.

When I was a kid, maybe 3 or 4, I was obsessed with banana slugs. I remember one day in pre-school where we all had to pick our favorite bugs as an assignment for show-and-tell. I loved show-and-tell. On that particular day I chose the tarantula as my favorite bug. Looking back now I would not make the same choice. A boy I had a crush on, with smooth brown curls and green eyes, said his favorite bug was the banana slug. I had never heard of it before, but it had my name! Banana!

Closeup of a bright yellow banana slug on the forest floor

Photo by Max Gotts

I was called Banana a lot as a kid, mostly because my name is Hannah. Although I had a lot of nicknames. People called me Bean, Peanut, Han, but Hannah Banana was by far the most prominent. Banana slug. As a child the fact that a bug was named after me (or so I thought at the time) was spectacular and wonderful. And so I dove into the world of banana slugs and asked my parents to help me find one so I could see them in their natural habitat and learn about how they exist.

I grew up in Los Angeles though. No banana slugs there. So instead we used to look for worms. Everytime it would rain (not very often), Mom and I would put on our biggest rain jackets and rainboots and go for a walk - sometimes in the pouring rain. When it rains, worms rise to the surface so they don’t drown.

Fun fact: I recently learned that when it rains and the worms come to the surface, they are not only not drowning but also trying to mate!

I would beg my parents to take me outside to different hiking trails or natural areas to search for banana slugs - even though many told me that they simply aren’t in Los Angeles. So I stuck with worms.

Worms are also pretty rad. Unlike snails, who have a shell to protect themselves, slugs and worms present themselves to the world in a very vulnerable fashion. They are who they are and don’t try to hide themselves. I think this is why I love banana slugs and worms. There is a confidence in them. And I promise this is absolutely crucial in understanding why and how I became a Curated expert. Keep on reading my friends.

This search for my favorite bug as a kid inspired me as a teenager to continue exploring new areas. My first big hiking trip was through the Santa Monica Mountain Range and my first thru-hike experience wasn’t until my senior year of college. That thru-hike, arguably a disaster that I highly recommend reading about, only further pushed my passion for the great outdoors. After that trip, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and other long-distance thru-hikes around the world, became a top priority for me.

I didn’t see my first banana slug until I took a camping trip with some friends in NorCal. We spent some time in Yosemite, Big Sur, Kings Canyon, and a few other pit stops along the way - car camping, cooking, hiking, and feeling free. Seeing them for the first time was a childhood dream. Although I shortly realized that Banana Slugs were not in fact named after me, I still like to think that the banana slug and I have a deep connection.

After I graduated from university where I graduated with a BFA in contemporary dance (another big passion of mine) and a BA in sociology, I was on the hunt for a job that was conducive to my time spent outside. I wanted something where I could work remotely at any time and which understood, acknowledged, and encouraged my roam-free attitude. It took some time but eventually I found this amazing website: Curated.com. I quickly applied to the camping & hiking expert role and waited.

Hannah K. on a dusty trail winding between two cliffs

Hiking in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Hannah K.

A week or two later, I heard back that I could start a training course to be considered for the position. A very friendly on-boarding expert (Brent - hey Brent) reached out to me, walked me through the process, and was there to answer any and all of my questions. We worked around my schedule - the entire process was very stress-free. I learned about the platform, speaking with clients, logistics, etc. After a practice interview and a final interview, I was accepted and began working.

And I could not be happier. Curated has given me the opportunity to work whenever and wherever I want. I have worked from a dog park, on a road trip from Utah to Wyoming, from my best friend’s office, my couch, and have even answered some questions while on a trail myself. I make my hours to work around my other passions and professional dance company rehearsals.

The people who work here are helpful, generous, hardworking, sweet, and so passionate about this work. The vibe of this company, even though we are all spread out around the country, is a close sense of community and they are always there to help me out when needed. I’m extremely honored to be a part of this community and cannot wait to see what the company has in store for the future. If you want to chat with an expert yourself and get free, personalized advice and gear recommendations, we're always happy to talk to you!

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Written By
Hannah K
Hannah K
Camping & Hiking Expert
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...
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