"I think once you get to a point in your life where things are being a little bit on autopilot, you need to stop and check in with yourself as to why you're still doing what you're doing."
We speak with wilderness homesteader, winter wilderness travel guide and Alone participant Kie Marrone. Kie spent 80 days surviving on the shores of Great Slave Lake in the North West Territories unassisted in the History Channel’s ALONE.
Kie, co-owns Lure of the North, which specializes in traditional winter travel, handcrafts and wilderness living. Kie spends most of her time fully immersed in the remote wilderness at her homestead in which her nearest neighbour is 10 kilometres by rough trail.
Our conversation goes many places; Kie’s time by herself surviving on Alone, what does it look like to lead with vulnerability and how challenging that can be in a culture where, unfortunately, our emotional expression still erroneously signals a sign of weakness.
We talk about the challenge of staying our own course in life, following our internal compass, when the outside world is pushing hard to send us in a different direction and the power of reclaiming feminine leadership and the confidence it provides when women are able to show up with all parts of themselves and not try to fit into the traditional masculine model of leadership.
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About Kie: Kie co-owns Lure of the North, a Canadian wilderness experience company. She teaches wilderness living skills courses, traditional handcrafting workshops and guides some of the toughest snowshoe expeditions presently offered in the Boreal forest with her husband Dave. She has most recently spent 80 days surviving on the shores of Great Slave Lake in the NWT on the hit reality TV show ALONE in which she was able to put all of her life experiences to the test.
Ami: where are you situated right now?
Kie: Yeah. So I am at my home, we live off-grid on the remote access in the summertime or ATV and snowmobile in the wintertime. Our nearest neighbour is about nine kilometres away and we live on 40 acres surrounded by crown land and conservation reserve. We lived in a tent for three years, a prospector tent which was like 13x15. So for three years, we just lived under a thin canvas and our business was ever-growing and so we really decided that we needed a spot to run the business because we were running it out of plastic car garages kind of thing and hundreds of rubber maids. It just was not sustainable to grow our business that way so we decided to build a workshop. But then we obviously didn't want to give our business a better place to live than us, so we put a bedroom up in the loft and we built that from scratch. Yeah, that is where I am, looking out at the pond. We call it Golden Pond, although right now the beaver dam is broken so it's like a meadow, which is quite lovely.
Ami: It's so great. So the company is Lure of The North and it specializes in traditional winter travel, I'm so curious from you, what's created on those trips outside of tangible skills? Because I have been following you on Instagram and I can see that you do teach tangible skills, people go out there for weeks at a time in the middle of the winter and they're exploring all parts of Northern Ontario. I'm wondering like what else is created on those trips with people?
Kie: Well, I mean, it's the magic of the trail. Anyone who has been on any sort of expedition or time out in the wilderness, everybody's guard is dropped and it's this real camaraderie. In the winter specifically, I think it builds that camaraderie and teamwork even more because the urgency is there. It is winter, it could be minus 30 and blowing. So working as a team to get your firewood, get your tent up, get your water, to get your bows to lay on, it's all pertinent and every single little task means that your whole group is successful in creating their camp. Then on the trail, it's a self-equalizing system. If you're feeling really strong that day, you can be out front breaking trail and if you're feeling less strong that day, you can fall in behind the line and have your team members help you pack the trail to make it easier. So there's this togetherness that is built and I think that's what keeps people coming back every year, like feeling truly a part of your own group and finding your strengths within that group because everyone contributes something different and sometimes more than others. You get to break down those walls and show your weaknesses and take help. That's something that Dave and I really emphasize, the best thing that you can do to be a part of a group is to know when to ask for help and to know how to take help and that's never more clear than in the winter trail.
Ami: What it sounds like you're describing is a deep sense of belonging. Belonging with not just yourself, but belonging with this group of people that you're creating something with. It really sounds like you're at your edge. You're really going out on your edge, your own personal edge, and the edge of what you can handle, and you're creating something really deep and connecting with people.
Kie: Yeah, for sure. There's nowhere to hide any of that because you're literally living in the same tent as six other people, so you've got two tents. You don't have privacy. Your privacy is going off into the bush to use the washroom, that's the amount of privacy that you get. Otherwise, you're exposing yourself and finding your place in the group. Dave and I support all walks of life, everyone in the group is different and it's just a matter of working together and feeling comfortable to be yourself.
Ami: I really love that. I feel like that for me is the thing when I follow you and I look at the pictures, that's when I want to go and have that experience. I want to feel a part of something more than just myself.
Kie: Yeah. I think in this day and age of connection online, it's not the same. I can try and inspire people via Instagram, but you'll see a post from someone and you'll be like, "Oh, that's so great. I feel connected to you". But with taking all the technology away, that's where the true connection can happen. So the social network is a means, a catalyst to push people in the right direction, to go have those connections. That's what you do online, like, "here's a little bit of my life, here are my thoughts for the day, now go ahead and do something that connects you". You can get off the phone and take that time to reflect and go walk in nature.
Ami: So for you, what is it that you're committed to disrupting in our cultural narrative? Our narrative of the status quo that we currently live within and the narrative that we find ourselves up against. For me, my definition of what disruption looks like is someone who displaces their current way of thinking and being and has the willingness to step outside the guardrails of that status quo in the tradition that we live in to live a life worth living. I'm curious about you, the work that you're doing right now really seems like it's an alignment of like creating something different.
Kie: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I want to help people see is that success and your life goal are all in perspective of what you truly believe is important. Especially my time on Alone. I mean, I already knew this going into the experience, but it was even more clear. Everything you want, you probably already have, but society forces you into these material goals and financial goals. So that's how you define whether you have a family, whether you have a house, there are all of these landmarks that define your success as a human being and where you feel like you belong and you're pinning yourself up against people that are more successful than you or less successful than you. I mean, you're always trying to rank yourself.
Ami: Yeah, that competition.
Kie: That's where people get in trouble and that's something that I always have to put myself in check with. That you see people online putting forth their best self and that is unfair to yourself because you can trick yourself into thinking, "That person is living a perfect life, I want to live like them". So I think exposing myself on Alone and showing my vulnerability, my confidence issues, and that sort of thing brings light to me and my life about showing, "No, I'm not perfect and I have things that I work through". That's what I want to show people, that I love my life, I love where I am, I love who I am. But that doesn't mean I'm always trying to find out where I fit in, in society and in life in general, because you're not going to please everybody and as a people pleaser, that is something that I struggle with. It's like, "Oh, I'm not investing my money in the right places according to this person", or like, "oh, you're not having children, what's wrong with you?". It's like, "Okay, I can't please everyone". So I think what I would like to help other people realize is that it's okay to be who you are and own it unapologetically.
Ami: Yeah. It's like when you are committed to your commitment, the thing that pulls you into being a bigger version of yourself, the thing that you are so committed to, and then the ego things of like how you look online or what people are thinking of you. It's no longer about that because it's about your commitment and your commitment is bigger than yourself, it's not about you anymore. It's about this bigger thing that you are driving your life towards. I find for me, when I get stuck in that place that you're talking about, I'm like, "Oh, man, all these people are doing these amazing things online and they're rocking it, they're killing it and I'm not doing it like that yet". But then I remember, I'm like, "No, I'm committed to something bigger. I'm committed to creating belonging. I'm committed to people living a life of meaning and purpose", then it's not about me anymore. I can just keep following that track and this is a super helpful, valuable way of coming back to remember what I'm actually here to do and that is not about Instagram likes.
Kie: Yeah, that takes time, life, wisdom, and experience to have a greater purpose. It takes time. When I was growing up and people would say, "Oh, it's really important to have volunteer hours and work for your community", and I always felt like I wasn't ready to be able to do that because I wasn't sure of my place. I wasn't sure of just where my life was in general. So I do think, there are very young people that commit themselves right off the hop to community service and I was always in a place of wanting to share and please. But it wasn't until I felt like I was in the right headspace of my life and who I am and I could then start to contribute, deeper connection with the community. I think that that takes time, and so if people are feeling like, "I can't even handle my own life, let alone contribute to a greater cause", that's okay, because you have to work on yourself before you can be of any help to others.
Ami: I think what you say is so important because when you are committed to yourself, you are actually committed to a greater cause. If you put yourself first and you can get clear on what is important to you, what you're curious about, then you are actually creating a bigger cause for you are doing the community work. You are doing a community service because that was naturally going to happen as a result of you living into what's important for you, it's going to be the next thing that's going to evolve as a result of that.
Kie: Yeah, and that's not to say that every person then needs to be doing that. But you can contribute to society in so many ways, even if that means, "I'm an author and I want to bark my wisdom on people" so that they can then be that sort of voice for their community. In some ways, I kind of feel like through the winter camping and helping people not fear winter has helped the community because now more and more people are getting out in the winter and enjoying Canada, how it should be enjoyed. They're not just hibernating, waiting for canoe season. There's a whole other season that I can be outside connecting with myself and with nature and that has been a really great motivator for us.
Ami: So what does living life guided by your purpose look like for you?
Kie: I think making sure that I put myself in check a lot about my intentions behind being on social media, being on the computer, like, "Why am I posting this? Is it for the likes, or is it to truly provoke people", to try and inspire people, if I'm just in it because I just want to see that gratification of this many likes or whatever. That's not why I need to be doing it. So sometimes I'll take a break from social media because I just think, okay, I'm touching my phone way too much. I need to go out and actually be that life that I'm trying to promote. So you can get kind of caught up in that and that's a big part of living out here, making sure that I'm spending more time actually living than showing that I'm living,
Ami: I mean, it really sounds about being really intentional with your life, like making intentional decisions for yourself and asking why? This is interesting because I saw that you were reading a book by Simon Sinek on Start With Why.
Kie: Yeah, and there are some big changes that are going to happen in our life that I'm not sure about just yet. But it is, it's all about asking yourself, "Why are you doing this?". That's how our company started, with "why". We wanted to share our passion for wilderness travel and that became a successful business because we just wanted more and more people to get outside and that just sort of snowballed into what it is today. So I think once you get to a point in your life where things are being a little bit on autopilot, you need to stop and check-in with yourself as to why you're still doing what you're doing.
Ami: I love that. What became super clear to me while I was watching you on Alone was that you inhibit such a fierceness combined with very deep tenderness. It was so clear, your sharing of your vulnerability and how hard it was for you to be alone without Dave and just being up there alone for so long. I found myself speaking out loud at the TV so much like, "Yeah, go you've got this". I do get it, it's so tough. I was with you like I was there in your tent with you, Kie like it was just so beautiful. You really touched me in such a deep way by you showing your vulnerability around where you really were in those moments. I think a lot of people fell deeply in love with you. I'm curious, what does the role of vulnerability play for you in aligning with your purpose?
Kie: Yeah, all through my childhood and adolescence, I was pegged as a really emotional person and that was always pegged as a negative thing. It wasn't until later adulthood, like once I really felt well, basically, once I started living out here I really started to just embrace who I was. I realized more and more that my emotion is one of my greatest weaknesses, but also one of my greatest strengths because I can empathize with other people. I can draw people in and relate to them more easily and also help break their walls down and make them feel comfortable being emotional. Because I think, I don't know, my generation and probably anyone older than me, emotion is a sign of weakness and I think it's how with people like Bréne Brown, who's opening up the whole realm of being like, no, vulnerability is essential to a wholehearted life. So now I'm just starting to realize there are a lot more people out there like me than I thought and that is giving voice to people to be proud of having emotion. People that don't get it will just be, "Oh, you're such a crybaby". I had people contact me and be like, "If you want to represent women, then stop crying. Why can't you be brave and step it up?". And I just think, like, "No, you totally missed it, I am okay with crying because that's a way of letting it out". If you watch the season again, you'll see that I'm not just crying if I'm hurting or upset, I also cry when I'm happy.
Ami: Pulling a fish out of the water.
Kie: In the very first episode, I catch a bunny and I'm crying, but I'm not crying because I'm sad, I'm crying because I'm so grateful. I mean I caught many, many rabbits that kept me alive and I'm so grateful for them, and every time I caught one, you have this gratitude that is beyond words and that's where my emotion comes out. It's like you don't even know what to say, you just feel it. So often in my life, my memory is so terrible with arguments or extreme feelings of love and I'll never remember if Dave and I had an argument or whatever, or my parents and I had a fight or something, I'll never remember exactly what they said, but I'll always remember how it made me feel. When you're recapping something, you're like, I don't know what you said, but this is how I felt when you said it. That is a really important intuition to have and to feel and to listen to.
Ami: It's so interesting. That's exactly how I felt when I was watching you. It's like I felt and I feel like I know you so much more than you know me. It's a weird thing, but I felt so connected to you, I don't know if it was a willingness or it was actually outside of your control, like you're just talking right now. It's like there's a justification to justify why we are who we are. We have to justify that we are emotional and that's actually our strength. But as a result of you just being who you are in a situation when you are trying to survive and it wasn't even physical survival, it was emotional survival, that to me, that's what I really experienced of you on that show, you were at the depths of an emotional part of yourself that was so unsure and unclear and you were questioning, why are you here if I can't be with the person I care about the most? Is it worth it? Like, is it worth that? And yeah, I just found the vulnerability to be just such a beautiful asset of you. I mean, that's my commitment in the world, people tapping into those parts of themselves that's real, there's a realness there.
Kie: Yeah. Like watching it on TV, they edit your whole story down to like one hour, an hour basically of TV time. So they have a responsibility to try and capture the essence of your journey in such a short amount of time and I do think that they kind of have to typecast you in summarizing you. You know, it's like the Coles Notes of your journey and so it was hard at times to watch them choose which clips to use and then it pegs you as this person. So they really pegged me like this like emotional rollercoaster and I'm okay with that. That's what they wanted to show, fine, I did so many cool things I did, I had so many fun moments, and felt really good about myself a lot of the time. But they decided to sort of bringing it down to this sort of an internal struggle.
Ami: What part of you that you wish that people saw about you that wasn't represented? Because it's interesting, that's not what I took from it. I took from it that you're actually not an emotional roller coaster. I took from it that you're an incredibly fierce woman that has stuff that you're willing to share, like there was a deep connection with you. I didn't actually see an emotional rollercoaster.
Kie: Well, maybe that's just my insecurities playing out, because when you're crying on international television, you immediately have this shame. That's me working out myself, right? I'm like seeing myself cry on national television, I know that's me. I know that coming out of a low, you climb your way back out and then you have these amazing experiences. I do feel like you need to experience the lows in order to appreciate the highs. But for me, I was overwhelmed with the positivity that people were reaching out to me and appreciating my vulnerability on the show, but you're always worried about the critics, right? Of course, it's not the critic that counts and it's unhealthy to be thinking about them because there always will be. But the experience, it happens from September to December and then it airs in June, so you've only got like six months to sort of be in your own space, in your own sort of reflection before it becomes live on national television.
Ami: International television.
Kie: Yeah and the world is watching you and criticizing you. So, my own insecurities are like, "Oh, I'm so emotional", like, that was that's not actually who I am. I'm super tough and I don't cry. But it's like I'm tough, and resilience comes in many forms. I think I was able to show maybe a more relatable form of that sort of toughness where it's like, you know, shit hits the fan and I'll cry about it, but I'm going to crawl out of it.
Ami: I just want to share with you that me and my friends, we all got really into the show. It was like this weird thing, we're not TV people, like we don't watch TV and we all got so into the show and we all sat around having conversations about you afterward about how much we just loved you. we loved your fierceness and your resilience and your representation of what it looks like to be a woman. That's the thing that I love so much about you Kie, you stood for women on that show. I just like that they put something out the view of how women are supposed to be and you're like, "No, this is another way, just so you know, this is another way that could look, this is an option to you if you choose to accept it". I just found that to be truly amazing.
Ami: I'm curious from you, what did the role of spirituality play for you when you were there or in your life now? Was there something that developed for you being on that show, a deeper connection to something mystical or something outside of yourself or even afterward? I'm curious, the world of spirituality.
Kie: I think that's been something that I have struggled with a little growing up. I grew up like a Lutheran Christian, I was baptized and went to catechism and stuff like that, but I never related to the Bible. I never related to the studies and the sort of putting, like this person, Jesus, on a pedestal and it being this all-knowing God that is like a puppet on strings kind of thing. So I didn't like, deny going to church at Christmas or whatever, but once I became an adult and my dad would be like, "Let's go to church", and my brother would just like, "No, like I'm not going to church. I don't believe in God", and he got really angry. I said to my dad, "Dad, I think people experience religion in many different ways and to me, I relate a lot more to the indigenous outlook on the sort of being connected with the trees, with the rocks, with the animals, with nature, with stars". So for me, the spirituality of it all is just feeling like you're a part of nature and part of sort of the circle of life and your place in it. While I was out there, I kind of intentionally wanted to sort of glide through the terrain. I really felt like I was trying to move through the wilderness, not just trampling it, but just sort of gliding through and seeing everything for what it is.
Kie: That really was important to me because I didn't want to just feel like a visitor. I wanted to feel like I was a part of nature and I was going to take what was given to me with gratitude, but what wasn't given to me, I also took it with gratitude. So I saw seven moose while I was out there and man, I was grateful to have those encounters, but it wasn't right. It wasn't my time to have that as part of my experience, and that to me spoke volumes as to what my journey was supposed to look like. If I had gotten a moose, my story would have been completely different amd I think I needed to go through that emotional trauma of working through being okay with being who I am. If I had had that moose, my life would have been, dare I say, easy? I could have just sat back in my cabin protecting my moose and that would have been my story. But like having to fight for every calorie that I got, really meant that I wasn't taking for granted what nature can provide for me and in that journey of catching rabbits and fish and squirrels, it taught me the lessons that I needed to learn about. Know not to take things for granted and feeling just gratitude for everything that I was given.
Ami: I mean, that sounds like it was a spiritual journey, it was just it wasn't a defined religious journey. You and I were both raised very similar, to the Catholic Church and how my own journey of finding out what the spirituality looked like for me and defining it on my own. But it sounds like that was a very spiritual part of what you actually experience out there. What I'm also hearing is what you experience in your life now of just like this deeper connection to something outside of you and it happens to be nature. It's the animals, it's the moose, and it's like it was like having that, you know, you listened to your intuition in those moments. I would define that as a spiritual connection, those are what my experience is. Spiritual connection is when I've had deep intuition, thoughts and I'm like, "Okay, this is going to be really weird, but I'm actually not going to do that thing, even though I'm supposed to, even though I'm all here to survive, I'm not going to take the moose because that's like I'm listening to myself".
Kie: Yeah. There were times where there was a moment in time where I said, "Okay, if I had an opportunity to shoot a moose now, I'm not going to take it". I'm not going to take the shot because, I've got this great respect for such a magnificent animal that it's like I know that day one hundred, my journey is going to end and so I would rather endure the suffering than take an animal that I can't finish. I just felt like it was like, "No, like I'm playing a game right now and this moose is not, this is like a real-life". So I was kind of juggling with that as well, like with harvesting. They show me crying with that first bunny, that was actually my third bunny and it hit me so hard that that bunny wouldn't have died if I wasn't here playing a game and like it was real for me, the whole experience was a real survival experience. But ultimately, it was a game that I was playing and that really hit me. I felt really guilty for just even being there because it was like that bunny may have died over the winter because it was going to be a harsh winter or caught by wolves for a lynx but wouldn't have been taken by my hands if I wasn't out there filming myself, doing this survival experience. So that every time I killed something, I fully recognize it was for my own sort of game that I was playing. So, yeah, that kind of always kept me in check versus like, I don't deserve this like it's been given to me as a gift.
Ami: There's like deep gratitude there, like deep gratitude for what you are given and what you were receiving.
Kie: Yeah. I think probably that was why my first fish was so emotional because I was so grateful for all of the rabbits that I was getting. But there was just not enough of them to keep me healthy, to keep me what I where I needed to be, and so I had been struggling to catch fish the entire time. So having that, I think when I normally cry, when there's, like, this relief, right? Like I'm bottling up this sort of tension, just being in survival mode, and then something happens that open the floodgates and that fish was one of those moments. I don't know what was coming out of my mouth, but it was like full-body gratitude.
Ami: It was ecstasy. I will remind you, it was ecstasy, it was pure joy. My final question for you is, what were some of the main takeaways from your time in Alone? What did you discover about yourself that has led to any changes that you're living into today?
Kie: So many things and I'm still reflecting and processing it all. But I think one of the major changes for me is that I have become, it really, ort of like, I don't know how to describe it, but it's just sort of like this, like calm feeling that like even when I get stressed and sort of the pressure is on, I can always revert back to being like I've gone through harder or, you know, I can handle this. I've always sort of felt I've had that just growing up, but I feel as though there's this place that I can go that calms me right down. I find like sometimes, I just need to go for a walk, and as soon as I step away from whatever it was that was a stressor, I feel like I can immediately bring it back to calm and clear-headedness. That's something I'll always be working on I think in life in general, but also feeling comfortable with what it means to be a strong woman and not feel like I need to exude masculinity to be a strong leader in the outdoor industry. I think in the outdoor industry, being a guide, when I first started to be a guide, it was like I feel as though women felt that they needed to mirror a man's sort of not appearance, but just like the way that you hold yourself. I think it is probably the same in the corporate world as well and any sort of job where a female holds a powerful position. I am seeing a lot more women step up as leaders and reclaim what it means to be a leader and I think that's really attractive to a lot of people.I think just feeling like I put myself out there as like, "Hey, I'm a leader and this is what I look like", has made me feel even more confident in being that sort of presence.
Ami: Yeah, I just love that you touched on that part and that is, it's just like that you are quick, and that's who I am, honestly. And so, yeah, it was really amazing.
Kie: Awesome. Hopefully, you can continue to change and we can be stronger together. And like, I am not by any means, anti-men, I love men.
Kie: I think they have so many strengths, but it's almost even like by expressing our emotions as females, it invites men to also express their feelings and be like, oh, like, I don't need to be this sort of stone-cold leader. I can talk about my feelings and I'm not going to be judged about it.
Ami: I love it so much. I appreciate that reflection. Kie, thank you for your time. I really appreciate you being here with me.
Kie: I appreciate you having me. Thank you so much. It was great to chat with you.