Ep# 7: The power of mtn biking, representation and being prepared with Laura Blythe

In this episode of the Discomfort Zone Podcast, Laura Blythe, a passionate mountain biker and proud member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians shares her wisdom on stepping into your discomfort zone to build confidence, healing and resilience.

She shares her experience running up against barriers to entry into mountain biking, why representation matters, and how she’s empowering her community to heal and grow by taking to the trails.

If you’re an outdoor educator, facilitator, or company committed to diversifying the outdoors, you’ll want to pay attention to what Laura shares in this conversation.

In this conversation we touch on:

  • The importance of prepping and getting educated for the adventures and discomfort.
  • How stepping into your discomfort zone can build confidence and resilience in all areas of life.
  • Mtn biking as a path to healing and growth.
  • Why representation, community connection, exposure and trust are crucial in creating inclusive spaces in the outdoors.
  • Steps educators and companies can take to create match their actions with their words when it comes to diversifying the outdoors.
About Laura

Laura is a tribal citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She resides on the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee, NC) in her ancestral homelands of WNC. Laura is a rowdy adventurer who enjoys road cycling, mountain biking, paddle boarding, camping, hiking, backpacking, golfing, and exploring new places.

 Laura is an appointed Board Member for Color My Outdoors and works with several other groups; WCU Cherokee Center Advisory Board, Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, and MadeXMtns Outdoor Equity Workgroup. She also serves as an advocate and ambassador for Cane Creek Cycling and Fire Mountain Trails. 

As the Program Director at the Cherokee Historical Association, Laura oversees all programming for the Cherokee Historical Association, rich with cultural education and immersion. She’s passionate about educating herself and others about Cherokee culture and is laying the groundwork to connect cycling to culture. In Cherokee culture, spirituality and connection to nature are some of her favorite pieces of her heritage to explore. The healing power that comes from the outside elements is very therapeutic and she believes people can use nature to heal some of the historical trauma that is in all of our pasts. Laura is proud to be a strong Cherokee woman and keeping Cherokee traditions and culture alive has become part of her life’s purpose.

How to connect with Laura:

Instagram: @l.n.b82 and @7moonsmtb

Facebook: 7 Moond Mtb

Anna
Laura Blythe is a tribal citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She resides on the Qualla Boundary near Cherokee, North Carolina, in her ancestral homelands of Western North Carolina. Laura is a rowdy adventurist who enjoys road cycling, mountain biking, paddle boarding, camping, hiking, backpacking, golfing, and exploring new places. Laura is an appointed board member for Color My Outdoors and works with several other groups, including WCU Cherokee Center Advisory Board, the Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, and Made in the Mountains Outdoor Equity Workgroup. She also serves as an advocate and ambassador for Cane Creek Cycling and Fire Mountain Trails.

As the program director at the Cherokee Historical Association, Laura oversees all programming for the Cherokee Historical Association, rich with cultural education and immersion. She’s passionate about educating herself and others about Cherokee culture and is laying the groundwork to connect cycling to culture. In Cherokee culture, spirituality and connection to nature are some of her favorite pieces of her heritage to explore. The healing power that comes from the outside elements is very therapeutic and she believes people can use nature to heal some of the historical trauma that is in all of our pasts. Laura is proud to be a strong Cherokee woman and keeping Cherokee traditions and culture alive has become part of her life’s purpose. I’m so excited to have you here Laura, thank you for being here and welcome.

Laura Blythe
Thank you, Anna. It’s good to be here. Thank you for asking me.

Anna
Yeah, so my first question for you is what does your discomfort zone feel like?

Laura Blythe
To me, it’s kind of full exposure. That’s what it feels like. It is kind of taking down your guard and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in any place, any time, any situation. And…

Overall, it’s like a whirlwind of exhilaration, gut-wrenching, but empowering space that blends all together.

Anna
Mm, I love that. Empowering and gut wrenching. Can you say more about that?

Laura Blythe
Well, I believe, you know, when you’re in your discomfort space, you know you could be open to failure, to loss, to physical pain, any kind of hurt that might come along with it, and that’s always very gut-wrenching no matter what it is. And I feel like when you’re in that space and you’re able to overcome those things and sort through all of those feelings and those emotions.

That’s what creates the empowerment behind it.

Anna
Mm-hmm. Do you have a strategy for overcoming, as you mentioned, the emotions? Do you have a strategy? For instance, if you know you’re stepping into your discomfort zone, when you’re riding, I don’t know, Fire Mountain or doing a mountain bike race or anything in your life, when you’re stepping into your discomfort zone, do you have a strategy for overcoming those emotions?

Laura Blythe
My personal strategy is if I knowingly am stepping into something that’s gonna cause me discomfort, I plan, I prep myself, I educate myself on whatever situation it is I’m getting ready to get into. So that helps me in one way be prepared or at least get my mind right for what might be coming. I like to do breathing techniques. I know that that’s kind of

One that people are like, oh, how does that help? It actually helps me regulate my internal chaos. I breathe through it. I actually break down what I’m feeling. And then it helps me set my mind and my body up for, okay, you know what’s gonna come. You know how this feels. So it provides a sense of clarity to do some breathing work and then also making sure that I’m educated on whatever I’m getting into.

That way I can prepare the best I can. And I feel like there are those moments that you can’t prepare for and they put you in a discomfort zone. But leading up to, you can prepare as much as possible and then any other life experience that you’ve had while dealing with other uncomfortable situations. All of those things come into play to help kind of navigate through it.

Anna
Yeah, when you’re breathing, is it like one deep inhale and one deep exhalation, or do you have a specific breathing pattern that you turn to in those moments?

Laura Blythe
I don’t have a pattern. It’s usually just breathe all the way in, process, breathe all the way out and kind of, it kind of helps you eliminate the nerves that come along with knowing you’re getting ready to get into a situation that you’re going to need some sense of clarity to help get through it.

Anna
Yeah. I love that. Breathing seems to be a thread throughout. Almost everyone I’ve interviewed for this podcast so far as a strategy is some form of breathing technique. And maybe I should have expected that, but I don’t think I really did how universal it seems to be for everyone to take that deep breath.

Laura Blythe
You know, and it’s not something that I’m like, all right, I’m going to take five minutes, I’m going to go over here and breathe, you know, I just in a split second where I’m like, all right, I need to calm down just a little bit, breathe. Everything is going to be OK. It just it’s that calming effect where you take that simple moment just to recollect yourself and help gear to move forward.

Anna
Yeah. I love how you’re saying that it’s simple and it doesn’t take a lot of time. And it’s what I love about the breath is that it’s always available. It’s always there. It’s the cheapest, always available, helpful stress regulator or nervous system regulator. Yeah.

Laura Blythe
Yeah.

Anna (08:09.386)
What I heard you say also is that previous experience or putting yourself in discomfort, in your discomfort zone over and over builds confidence for the next time is, do you, have you experienced that putting yourself in your discomfort zone has been helpful for you in building your confidence in all areas of your life?

Laura Blythe
Oh, absolutely.

You know, if anyone goes through life without experiencing something discomforting, I don’t know how you can build to move on to the next great task or to make it through just all of the experiences total that you come across in your life. That’s what helps you know what you can and cannot make it through. And everything leading up to that point, you’ve already made it through. So I do believe that being put in the discomfort zone every single time it’ll teach you something. Either it, oh, I’ve learned that breathing helps me through this or okay, I learned this technique the last time, let’s see if I can go ahead and transfer it to this situation. And a lot of times you can.

Anna
Yeah, I think that’s what is so empowering about it and why so many people are called to it. What is your favorite? Okay, this is a interesting question, but what is your favorite way to step into your discomfort zone?

Laura Blythe
My favorite way to step into it. Oh, well, I’m a planner, so my favorite way to step into it is to one, evaluate, see what’s coming up. If it’s something that strikes my fancy, then I’m all for doing it. I just, I’ll pick the time, pick a place, pick whatever it is and do it.

My favorite way is honestly to try to be as prepared as possible. I’m one of those people.

Anna
That’s great. Yeah.

Anna
Do you have a first memory of stepping into your discomfort zone?

Laura Blythe
I have a lot of different memories just coming up, being put in certain situations. But a discomfort zone of my choosing the first memory was probably going to basketball tryouts when I was in ninth grade. I had played basketball since I was four years old, so that shouldn’t have necessarily been a problem.

But, you know, I was going through some tough times in my life at home around the age, middle school age. And so I just stopped playing basketball. I kind of gave it all up. And then when I was a freshman in high school, I was like, I need an outlet. I know that I really love this game. And I remember walking in to the first day of tryouts thinking I had already missed so many years. Of course, the basketball group had already been developed through the middle school basketball teams. So that’s probably my first memory of me choosing to be in my discomfort zone. I’m glad I did it because I played for the rest all my high school years. I continue to play for women’s teams today. But I think that when you make that conscious decision that

This is going to make me very uncomfortable, but I’m going to make it through it because I can.

Anna
Yeah, and again, what I hear is a lot of confidence and empowerment coming from that choice to step into that discomfort zone, even though it was scary to do that.

Laura Blythe
Absolutely. And like I said earlier, you know, everything’s learned, you learn a little bit of something from every moment you’re in your discomfort zone, whatever it may be. And, you know, it actually probably launched the fact that physical exertion is one of the best outlets to work through any kind of strife, trauma, heartache, and helps you of course physically get active and get better. And I know the science behind that is the endorphin release and all these things, but all in all, working through these things and learning in all of these moments help you tenfold throughout your entire life.

Anna
Yeah. And you are a big advocate as you know, you’re a big advocate for cycling in, in Cherokee. And you’ve been, I think you were very key in the fire mountain trails, which are super fun mountain biking trails. I don’t get over there enough. And you’ve talked about how you are encouraging folks in your community to get out on the trails, on bikes to help heal trauma. And is that something that is, how is that going, encouraging folks to maybe step into their discomfort zone if they’ve never really taken up cycling or it’s not something that they’ve ever seen themselves do before.

Laura Blythe
Right now, it’s actually going, it’s going well. I haven’t gotten to get to the point where I’m running beginner group rides yet. I had just got a grant that I was able to buy six bikes with the bikes and the helmets, because really it’s the entry into the sport. I think that is very intimidating.

And I have a group of women that we’re getting ready to start what’s called Seven Moons, MTB, which is mountain bike, based on some of the cultural stories. And it’s going to be more for women who would like to get into it because I’ve noticed the women in the sport is on the upswing. You know, it’s been I’ve gotten to know a lot of women in that community. And I feel like once all of this starts, it’s going to be a comfortable area to be discomfort, to be in a discomfort zone. You see women like us and we work regular jobs, we have children. And so all in all, it is coming together and we live west of Asheville by about an hour, give or take. And Asheville, the Pisgah Brevard area, that’s a huge hubfor mountain biking. Here, we’ve not really had the exposure and with all of these community groups that I’m hoping to start, one for women, one for youth, beginner, friendly, just creating that introduction space to get people started and be comfortable enough to push those boundaries in their discomfort zone, if that makes sense.

Anna
Absolutely. I think that’s a big piece of it is, is creating that space. It’s a, yeah, it’s a comfort zone for discomfort, you know, to encourage folks to step into discomfort. And those programs sound amazing and a lot of fun. And I think that with what you’re doing is so powerful because it’s folks within the community inviting other folks in the community. And so there is that trust that is built as opposed to someone from the outside coming in saying, oh, let me show you how to do this.

Wouldn’t you say that representation is important, that community connection helps to build that comfort zone so folks feel like they can trust. So they can be, yes, they can be vulnerable, but they’re being vulnerable with people who they trust or a community that they trust.

Laura Blythe
I absolutely believe that one representation is very important. You know, I had no clue what mountain biking was until Fire Mountain Trails came into Cherokee. And then once I found the sport of mountain biking, I fell in love. I didn’t know the benefits that it could bring to me personally, emotional, physical, all the benefits, the therapeutic nature of just being on a bike and what it can provide.

And so honestly, with all of these benefits that it’s brought to me, I want to be able to share that. And being somebody from in this community and relatively new, I didn’t start riding until 2019.

But I know that a lot of people in this community are just like me. They didn’t know you could ride a mountain bike in the woods and have amazing amounts of fun until a little bit of exposure. And so I’m hoping with these groups, they’re gonna see somebody local, a face that they now know has been to numerous places to go ride. I’ve done mountain bike festivals. I’ve gone across the country to be in different races different community groups in those areas. And I think that by building that base, it also creates that amount of trust that may be needed for people here in our town. And even in the small towns that surround us, the trust has been created that, okay, she has a little bit of experience in this. So I believe what she says, if she tells us that it’s fun, it must be fun. Or if this…

this woman who started later in life can do all of these things, so can I. That’s the kind of hope that I have, being able to see a face that they know that they’ve gone to school with. I know probably 90 percent of the people in the community, their kids, their parents, their grandparents, and the same goes for them. They all know me and hopefully they’ll…

They’ll take me up on my offer whenever I say, hey, come ride bikes. I have one. I have the bike and the helmet ready. Let’s go.

Anna
Yeah. I, I know they’ll be stoked because you’re such a fun person to hang with. So I bet folks will not turn you down. And can you say more about how important it is to, you know, like you said, have the helmet, have the bike ready to go is.

Laura Blythe
Hahaha!

Anna
How important is that in getting new folks involved and in getting underrepresented communities, underrepresented communities within the outdoors and any sport, how helpful is that to have that gear available for them?

Laura Blythe
It’s from my point of view that’s I’d say a good portion of the battle. I’m not sure if it’s quite half the battle but you know one whenever you start um start a new hobby or start a new sport you have to have the equipment the proper equipment to do so um and you know, like I do with any equipment, there’s different levels of equipment. Why do you need a full suspension over a hardtail or do you at all because of the price difference in the structure of the bike? Also, there’s so much terminology behind all the equipment that you have to use for everything that you do. And I being a beginner, you don’t know what that means. You don’t understand it. And it was very aggravating and a little frustrating for me when I started because there weren’t very many people that were willing to just educate you about it. You know, I didn’t know why you had to ride with level pedals on a trail. Well, I had my first pedal strike, went down the side of the mountain, and then I realized, huh, maybe I should ride with level pedals, you know, because I just got out on a bike and was like, I used to do this as a kid. I know what I’m doing.

But having that equipment ready, available, but also having somebody to just give you little pointers to get you started makes the entry so much easier. And to alleviate some of the discomfort of starting out, that’s why I’m choosing to do this because if you can alleviate just a little bit of that discomfort for somebody, you might be able to capture them for life, you know.

I’m hard-headed. I don’t like for things to defeat me in my mind, you know, and so I wrecked over and over and over and I would just continue to get on and say, this is not going to beat me. I will win this battle against this, against Fire Mountain. But you know, I just, I just think that it just makes it so much easier. You know, I don’t want to have to go rent a bike, which is what I did. I rented a bike and then finally bit the bullet and chose to ride one. But people don’t understand why you would want to pay that amount of money if you’re brand new. You’re not gonna go to a bike shop and say, okay, I’m gonna go ahead and drop $1,500 on a bike. I hope I enjoy riding it, you know? So if I can get people enjoying riding it on one of the bikes that I can issue then they can make the educated choice to go spend that kind of money.

Anna
Yeah. I, everything you just said is so important. And for any folks out there who are facilitators, outdoor educators, simplifying is so key. What you talked about with the language, you know, any outdoor sport can be intimidating and there can be ex exclusive language used, insider language, which once you learn it, you, you get it.

And at the same time, it can be really intimidating when you don’t know what anything means and, and so, yeah, simplifying is so key for making any sport, outdoor sports more welcoming to everyone so that they’re not elitist. And, and also what I hear you talk about too, is empowered choosing when it comes to equipment.

So folks can get a sense of what they want and then have that empowered choice and they can learn from you and from their, from others in the group of what works, what doesn’t work. And, and, uh, yeah, really important.

Laura Blythe
And truly it’s a place to ask questions. Cause I had friends that I knew rode, but they had been riding for so long. It was just common knowledge to them. And so I always felt like maybe I was a burden or I’m not good enough to ride with them or be around them yet. And so it took a long time and a lot of practicing on my own to get to the point where

Anna
Right.

Laura Blythe
I was comfortable enough going on longer rides and being around a group of people while I was riding. But truly, once you learn that, that’s what captures you. It’s the community and having fun and being in nature. And so anything that I can do to help start that process, that’s what I want to do.

Anna
Yeah. What, what I hear you say is you’re resilient. You said you’re hard, hardheaded. So you kept getting back on your bike over and over again. So you were like, I’m going to be uncomfortable over and over again until I get this is there. Right. Is there, or was there someone in your life at a young age that helped you navigate discomfort zones at all, or is it something that you found yourself doing over and over just not giving up.

Laura Blythe
Well, I’ve had, of course, my parents, I don’t know if everybody would say that, but I had a really good support system. And so, of course, those things that you go through at a young age, you have somebody, a parent, a grandma, grandpa, that offers a little bit of support and guidance to help you get through certain situations tumultuous, I would say. And so I learned from a very young age that tough things happen and you just have to get through it one way or the other. I had good support with, you know, getting mental health experts involved at a young age that way, of course, I could go talk to somebody else that was not a parent or somebody that I might have wanted to keep something from inside too close to home so I could just go to a session and talk about things, work through things, get the tools that I actually needed, helped me work through certain things. So I think that it was just a conglomeration. You know, I had a really good support system but that support system also gave me outside support and then ultimately you continue to learn through every moment and you learn tips and tricks and techniques the next time something puts you in your discomfort zone. So all of those things growing up help provide that guidance.

Anna
So in your life, what I’ve heard you say is you’ve had a tumultuous childhood. There was times in your life that you were thrust into your discomfort zone without not of your choosing. And has that lessened your desire to step willingly into your discomfort zone?

Laura Blythe
Not at all.

I think going through hard things and learning survival techniques to make it through hard things that it doesn’t make me shy away from my discomfort zone or doing hard things or whether it’s by choice or not by choice anymore. I’ve gotten to that point where I think that I have been able to handle a lot of different things in my life, sometimes in unhealthy ways, sometimes in healthy ways. But I think that if you don’t go through hard times, you’re very lucky. But those hard times actually build your character who you are. And sometimes even the ethics and morals that you carry into the other situations in your life and how you operate as a person.

Anna (30:12.418)
Yeah. And difficult times that we don’t choose, at least I can speak for myself. Difficult times that I’ve been through, not of my choosing have helped me ha have a different perspective as you’re saying on life. And if I can, if I could get through that, I can get through this, you know, if, and, and it, it continues to build confidence. And

Laura Blythe
Right.

You know, I know you had messed your knee up or something skiing, you know, doing one of your sports. That’s a discomfort zone, you know, and a lot of athletes understand that and know how to change the mindset when you’re going through something like that because you know, at the end of the tunnel, there’s the light and…just one day at a time and you’ll get there and be able to get past whatever the zone may be at the time.

Anna
Yeah, I know what helps me and it’s challenging and, uh, is to accept what is like, I am hurt right now, or this is happening right now, or that I didn’t want this to happen, but it’s happening. And instead of pushing it away and then from that place of, oh, this is happening, I can then make a more empowered choice of, well, okay, this is happening. So this is what I want to choose to do next.

Laura Blythe
Right. I know sometimes some phrases or sayings are so cliche, but you know, you can choose how you react to situations. I’ve reacted good ways and bad ways throughout my entire life to certain things. But I mean, that saying is true. You just take a step back, assess the situation, and cross every bridge when it gets there.

My daughter’s going through something. She’s in she’s in a pretty bad discomfort zone right now And so you know I’m trying to coach her and walk her through these things as we’ll take everything as it gets to us We’ll work through it and learn how to To come out better on the other side

Anna
Yeah, that’s awesome.

Laura Blythe
Don’t get me wrong. I do want to throw a chair through a window sometimes but But I won’t it gets expensive.

Anna
I hear you.

Anna
Okay, what advice would you give listeners for facing fear and discomfort?

Laura Blythe
If it’s discomfort that you’re choosing, I would do as much prep work as you could, you know. Even so, for instance, you’re out on a trail and you’re trying to pick the right line to take, whether it be over this rocky edge or this drop. Take a moment to evaluate, take a look at what you’re getting ready to get into. That way, all of the experience or the background that you might have will come into play and hopefully you can get through it safely. But anytime anybody is getting ready to get into something, prep at whatever that might be. You know, talk to your mentors. I take clinics. If I know that I’m going somewhere that might be a little out of my skill set. I know a lot of people in the industry now and I utilize my friendships and I’ll pay for clinics with the friends that I know that are in it and they’ve done it for a very long time. I did, you know, one of my friends was good enough to get me a lesson with you. I’ve never been in a hard boat paddling anywhere and so leading into that discomfort zone, I knew your background. I knew I could trust you and so I did my my prep work leading into that. And so that’s what I would recommend to any listener. Do whatever you can to get a little bit of peace for your mind. That way you can make clear decisions while you’re in it.

Anna
Love that. That’s a great, great answer. Do you have any questions for me?

Laura Blythe
What did you have for lunch?

Anna
I had a lentil rice and veggie kind of casserole. That’s one of my favorite recipes with some spices and like curry leaves and chocolate. Ha ha ha.

Laura Blythe
When’s the last time you’ve been in your discomfort zone?

Anna
Uh, right now they’re doing this podcast, you know, with this. And yeah, I think this podcast and interviewing folks is new to me. And it, I think I overthink it sometimes and I want to do a good job. And I also really respect the folks who I’m interviewing. And so I think that, uh, it’s uncomfortable for me to, instead of just having a chat, what we are having a chat, but I feel like there’s more to it. And I want to do a good job. And so it is, yeah, it makes me nervous and, and uncomfortable. And the way that I work through it is to remember to breathe and take a moment and go back to my questions and be present.

Laura Blythe
Yeah, I get that. I think a lot of people overthink a lot of things and I think one of the biggest things is to have faith in yourself, your abilities, your skills, what’s brought you to this moment right here, you know. I think you do a lot of good things and I was happy to hear that you’re kicking off your own podcast. I think that’s very cool. So I hope it continues to go well.

Anna
Thanks, Laura. Thank you, I appreciate that.

Anna
The outdoor industry has talked a lot about wanting more diversity and increasing diversity across the board. And I have found even in my own education that it’s easy for me to say, step into your discomfort zone. When I don’t have that historical background of being thrust, my whole generations being thrust into discomfort, into trauma. And so when we approach diversification or wanting to diversify in the outdoors, I think we’ve already talked about – access representation is important. How important is it to acknowledge historical trauma for those who are facilitating and, yeah, for those who are facilitating and inviting folks into this traditionally white sports?

Laura Blythe
kind of a multifaceted answer. You know, the acknowledgement of the reasons why the historical trauma is there. The actually acknowledging, accepting, and then trying to find ways to help overcome it, you know, as somebody in the industry or the leaders in all the different companies or whatever it may be looking, whatever they’re looking at, acknowledge it, of course, make sure that the company is well-informed. And the one thing that I’m worried about is people just utilizing it as a band-aid. Okay, yeah, there’s acknowledgement, but what’s behind the acknowledgement?

So words without actions are just that, they’re just words. One way that I could see the outdoor industry or people who represent these different companies or corporations, show up. Go to the communities that you’re talking about. Don’t just point and say, hey, we need to recognize these people, we need to include these people. Come give us the exposure to be included.

I’m not talking about magazine exposure or anything like that. I’m talking about bring those activities to the communities and get them introduced to it. But more than that, like we said, the price points are very hard at times. You know, people, whenever I was younger, I couldn’t have gotten into this sport because I didn’t have those kinds of funds. You know, I was a young mother. It took me until my late thirties to be able to afford a $500 bike. And that’s a cheap one. That’s a really low end mountain bike. But I think words with action is one of the best ways and the continued action. Don’t just do the slap a bandaid on it say we’ve done something. It’s going to take years just like the years prior to this movement or this recognizing that something needs to be done. It will take that many years to be able to help build out of it and so I would just say provide continued support as well. Don’t let it just go for three years and say, okay, we’ve done our part. It’ll take many more years and building a lot of camaraderie and allyship. And that’s one way I feel like it can help and continue to help.

Anna
Great. Thank you.

Okay. We have a rapid fire rounds. Oh, one other question. Have you in your life ever felt like you were dealt with doubters or haters, so to speak in your life around anything you were doing?

Laura Blythe
Oh, probably once a week. No, maybe, maybe not that, that frequently. But absolutely, yes. Naysayers, doubters, haters. Honestly, I think some of it stems from jealousy or the wish I could do that, but they just choose not to do that. You know what I mean? But yes, I have many times and it’s just been throughout my entire life. I’m also very loud. I am very headstrong. I am a demanding person at times and I know that you know that might rub people wrong but that’s just who I am.

Anna
Yeah. So how do you, what is your advice or how do you handle or approach doubters and naysayers?

Laura Blythe
I just continue to do what I do. I don’t give them energy or the time of day. You know, when I was younger, it would have been fight fire with fire. You know, if you had something to say, say it to me and we’ll settle it. But, you know, now it’s just I know who I am, I have faith in my abilities, I know what I’m capable of, and I know that what I’m trying to do is for the betterment of either the community or the betterment of myself. And so nowadays I don’t give them the time of day, I don’t feed into it because it can actually pull you down a really long, bad road and make you bitter and jaded. And usually doubters and haters are those bitter and jaded people. And so I just choose, I choose not to be one of those.

Anna
Great, super powerful. Okay, I have some rapid fire questions for you. What’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Laura Blythe
cup of coffee and I try to give thanks every day, every morning.

Anna
Mm.

What’s a non-negotiable self-care practice for you?

Laura Blythe
Me time. I will choose to do something and it will just be for me.

Anna
Hmm. What’s your favorite motivational book or talk?

Laura Blythe (47:11.625)
I don’t have one.

Laura Blythe
Okay. Can I say the discomfort zone podcast?

Anna
Yes, of course. I’ll take it.

What do people get wrong about you?

Laura Blythe
That I’m intimidating. I’ve never understood that.

Anna
Hmm.

Anna
Okay. When, throughout the course of your life, have you felt like the underdog or the favored to win?

Laura Blythe
The underdog.

Anna
Okay. Hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Laura Blythe
Are we talking paddling like legit? Ha ha ha.

Anna
Yeah. So in paddling, we say to get better, you can do hard moves in easy water, right? So practice the hard stuff in low consequence environment or…

You know, some folks, there’s research that shows that one way to get people over their phobias is to flood them intensely with whatever they’re afraid of. So it’s kind of like, do you practice hard moves in easy water or do you just like the flooding? Like bring it on.

Laura Blythe
I definitely practice hard moves in easy water.

Anna
Yeah, that’s the prepper, you know, because you love to be prepared. Yeah, yeah, okay. One word that describes your comfort zone.

Laura Blythe
Ah, peaceful.

Anna
freedom through discipline or I do what I want.

Laura Blythe
I do what I want with educated decisions.

Anna
I love it. Okay, in one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Laura Blythe
Oh, the perpetuation of Cherokee culture.

Anna
Great. Building on that, is there something about Cherokee culture that you would like to share with us today?

Laura Blythe
You’re going to create a whole other hour on the back end of this podcast.

Anna
That’s okay.

Anna
Is there anything about Cherokee culture that you’d like to share with us today? Share with our listeners.

Laura Blythe
Um, we have phenomenal history. Um, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, we remain in our true homelands. Um, we are the Cherokees that were not removed from this area. We fought and we resisted. And so we can say right now that our Gidua, our mother town, um,

That is where our people are created and I can walk down there or I can drive 10 miles down the road and stand where my people were created. So that’s a really cool tidbit about our culture and me being here in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Anna (
I love that. It sounds like that brings you a lot of pride and empowerment and confidence. Like I can hear it in your voice. Just, yeah, how confident and proud you are that.

Laura Blythe
I just know kind of the history of Native tribes in general and being removed. I mean, you look at the history of America, how many people are here can say they are on their traditional homelands where their ancestors come from? There’s not very many. A couple of Native tribes can say that.

But I just think that is amazing. And when you know that about yourself, it does instill that sense of pride and knowing your sense of place and where you belong. So yeah, I can’t help it. It does something to my gooey insides and makes me feel stronger as a person.

Anna
Hmm. And do you love that you are also the fire mountain is on your ancestral lands and that you’re introducing your community and youth and women to something new that on their ancestral lands that continues to build confidence?

Laura Blythe
Oh, absolutely. Just…

Anytime I go out, I think about the history of our area, the history of our people, and just knowing, being back here in the woods, around nature, saying thanks, leaving an offering. I know that that’s how our people connect to nature and our spirituality, and that’s just another piece that makes me who I am.

And my goal is to be able to share that with our local people. Because there’s a lot of people who don’t, who haven’t done research and been to lectures and done the classes, read the books that I have. And so, you know, whenever I take people from the Oconaluftee Indian Village during our orientation week, I actually take them to all these all these sites so they can set their feet down on it and know that this was part of our territory. This is what happened here. These are the stories from here. And if you can continue to do that through hiking, biking, whatever it may be, that just helps build that sense of pride in the culture within each individual that you can touch. And that’s a big reason. I have a passion for cycling and mountain biking, and I also have a passion for educating about our culture think that I can blend the two and help, one, perpetuate the culture, but two, help provide the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of being on a bike.

Anna
Hmm. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your listeners?

Laura Blythe
I don’t think so. Do hard things, you know? Make sure you get out into your discomfort zone sometimes. Just one, because you’re alive and you can, and it only makes you feel a more alive once you make it through it. So if there’s something that you have been wanting to try or you have a friend that does something that you think is cool, but you’re kind of worried to do it, do it, you know?

You don’t get very many opportunities for things sometimes to leave its mark on you and so you have to choose to go do those things and make time for it.

Anna
Mm.

Beautiful. Where can folks find you, Laura?

Laura Blythe
Well, I I’m usually a work. But I do have an Instagram account l dot n dot b bligh or I’m sorry, l dot n dot b 82 is my Instagram handle. And on there I have a link tree. A link tree link. And that kind of shows all the things that I’m a part of. The Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, stuff about Fire Mountain. And so you can check out different videos or different podcasts that I’ve done on there. And, you know, if anybody has any questions or thoughts or comments, they can always IG message me and we can communicate through that.

Anna
And I’ll put the, your Instagram in the show notes as well. So it’ll be easy to find as well. Laura, I really appreciate you joining me on this podcast. So thank you for taking the time. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with you, whether it’s on the water. We haven’t gotten on bikes together yet, which I’m sad about, which I’m need to make happen. Yes.

Laura Blythe
We’ll have to find a time. Mm-hmm, we’ll have to find a time. Now it was, it was good talking to you. Always, always good to see you. So I’m happy. I hope this Comfort is On is a hit. I think that it’s gonna have some good content and good information.

Anna
I appreciate you so much.

Anna
Thank you. Thanks for being here.