Mountain Thoughts: The Transformative Power of Travel

With over 12 years experience in the fitness industry, Holly Semanoff is an IFBB Professional Fitness Competitor, accomplished yoga teacher and mother of three. Holly is ranked as one of the top 10 fitness competitors in the world, and she always strives to bring a balance between body, mind, and soul. Holly is married to KÜHL ambassador Mike Semanoff.


This story is far beyond a simple account of a trip across the world and back again. It’s a story about a life forever changed from the experiences gained from a journey to faraway lands.

In the past two months I’ve been to Australia, South Africa, Alaska, and back home again to America. I not only saw beautiful things but also experienced a shift within my own state of being. Before I left, I thought I knew what I was getting into, but life is full of surprises.

Travel creates a unique opportunity to meet all types of people from many walks of life. On my journey to Australia, I met some amazing individuals, who helped me realize that people, myself included, crave connection with one another. I went to Australia for a world class competitive fitness event, and there I discovered a beautiful sisterhood. These women forever changed my perception on how women interact with each other. They were encouraging, supportive, and fun! It was an amazing to watch as the journey unfolded and a sisterhood grew beyond the competition.

Holly Semanoff competes at IFBB Fitness Competition in Australia

This incredible experience continued on my journey to South Africa for another world class fitness event. Bonds continued to grow, and I was exposed to a completely new way of life. It drove home the realization that people and places can mold you into a certain way of being. Cultures can seem so different, yet everyone seeks the same universal connections and experiences.

In South Africa, I began to understand that people connect in different ways. We can connect when we feel safe in the physical world, safe to express our feelings, safe to say yes or no, safe to love, safe to speak, safe to perceive the reality in which we live through our own eyes, or safe to simply be.

Holly Semanoff with cheetah at animal sanctuary in Africa. Pictured in Kahera 3/4 Shirt

Alaska, the final destination on my two month journey, brought me to a very different place of solitude. This trip was very special because it was taken in honor of my dad who passed away last year. After interaction with so many different kinds of people, Alaska’s rugged oceans and mountains gave me the gift of reflection.

I watched as whales came out of the ocean for deep breaths of pure, clean air. I watched as icebergs crashed into the waters and rocked the seals lounging on floating ice. I saw eagles soar and bears stroll.

Holly Semanoff stays dry in Alaska in Airstorm Jacket

I also experienced people from all walks of life. Some sought solitude; some sought entertainment. While my travels helped me realize people seek connection with each other, my time in Alaska showed me our longing for a connection that cannot be quenched by another. It is a connection that goes deeper than that.

This is the connection to the self, the connection to our heart. No matter what relationships we make in this life, the most important connection is with ourselves.

One sure thing in life is that we will always be with ourselves. Life goes on no matter who flows in and out of our space. Even our soul mates will not be with us forever. At some point we have to say goodbye to the relationships we have built and nurtured, and the only lasting relationship is the one to ourselves.

As I wrote these words, I was overtaken by the reality of what is and what will be. It is my hope each of us is empowered to see life as a journey. No matter how concrete it may seem, it ebbs and flows with time. We all create connections – some brief, some lasting a lifetime – and those connections drive us. But, no matter how deep and strong those connections, they do not last forever.

While people and places teach us about ourselves, the forever connection is with our own heart, our own soul.

Holly takes time to reflect – and to have fun – in Alaska. Pictured in Lea Pullover

I am beyond grateful to have been BORN IN THE MOUNTAINS, to have traveled across the world, and to come home a little older and a lot wiser.

Kühl Editor

At KÜHL, the passion remains to get outdoors and have fun. Our Born in the Mountains contributors share their love for the mountain culture with their stories, reflections and photographs.