We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Lauren, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Spending time in nature and solo traveling with my pet ferret, Jesse James, are two of the things that bring me the most joy. I have always heard the term that “nature heals” but I would argue that nature inherently does not heal. You go into a hike or a camping trip with the same problems you had before, but for me nature gives me a quiet space to think through my life problems. I make a majority of the big life decisions on hikes because its uninterrupted time to weigh pros and cons of a situation. When I was in Great Basin I was about to move and was debating between renting another apartment or moving into an RV full time. After an hour of thinking about how much I hated apartments and sharing walls with people, I decided to move into the RV, and I haven’t looked back since. I love solo hiking and camping because it forces me away from social media and other distractions. It gives me uninterrupted time that is free from distractions of normal life. I spend a majority of my time solo hiking with just Jesse James the ferret, and it has been one of the greatest things I could do. Solo traveling has given me opportunities to meet people that I would not have done if I traveled with others. Traveling with a ferret makes for a great conversation starter and I have made many friends through my travels that way. Solo traveling has given me an opportunity to meet people and have conversations that tend to not happen when traveling with a companion. I recently went to the winery and had a great conversation with the winemaker who shared a ton of information about the surrounding wineries and the area. He gave me insight into the business that I would have never gotten if I hadn’t taken the chance to stop and have a conversation with him while out wine tasting.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an Instagrammer, it is funny to think of what I do as “work,” especially considering that I do not take many sponsorships that require staged photos. If Instagram did not exist I would still be taking Jesse out hiking, camping, and kayaking. Quite frankly if we did not have thousands of followers not much in my life would change. I believe that is what contributes to my success on the platform though. Nothing I do is “for the gram.” The adventures I choose are not chosen because I think it will play well online, but because they are things that I want to do and try. The reels and stories I post are more for my benefit than anyone else’s.

When I first started HikingFerret I did not do it with the idea that it was something that people would be interested in. I just began by leash and harness training a ferret because I wanted to hike and travel and did not have a ferret sitter, so my solution was to figure out how to bring him along with me. Ferrets can be quite stubborn and initial training took persistence and lots of treats. Eventually though he came to love being outside and going on adventures with me.

One of the lessons I have learned along the way is that when traveling with a pet that most people have not had an encounter with is the importance of having him well behaved. Jesse is incredibly friendly and loves meeting new people. But on top of that I have worked extensively with him to where I can take him with me to restaurants and he will just sit in my lap and I do not have to worry about him setting a bad precedent and ruining people’s opinions of ferrets by running around and getting into things or rouge pooping somewhere. I was once at a distillery that was only dog friendly because they had a pet cat that was off leash and had run into the back distilling area and they had a very difficult job getting the cat back out. That one cat ruined the experience for those who followed, and I never want my pet to be the reason someone else is not allowed to bring their pet or the reason someone is afraid of ferrets.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my favorite things to do around DFW is visit during bluebonnet season. The Texas fields of bluebonnets are such a cool experience to see in person. After visiting the bluebonnets I would take them to eat at Pecan Lodge, because you cannot visit Texas without eating at a top rated barbecue, then head to Martin House brewing for some beer. Martin House makes my favorite beer, the salty lady, and has some of the best sour beers I have ever had. It’s a shame I cannot find their beer outside of the state of Texas, so I always make sure to stock up when I am there. My favorite pet friendly thing to do in Dallas was walk the Katy trail which has great drink and food stops along the way as well, or find a park down by the trinity that has some great views of the city.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout out is dedicated to my Friend Calley Carter. Calley was the driving force behind me starting the Instagram page hikingferret. When I began taking my first ferret, Oliver, out on walks and hikes she pushed me to start the page. I never imagined that a few years later we would have thousands of followers tuning in to our adventures. I thought for sure only about 10 of my friends would be interested. But Calley saw the potential and pushed me to start the page. Calley was also my inspiration behind moving into an RV full time. Her and her husband had moved into a 5th wheel full time several years before and had been stationary. Through the time they would tell me how much they loved not renting apartments anymore. When they found out I had gotten into graduate school and would spend a year moving from place to place for it they immediately suggested that I move into an RV for ease of movement. She helped me look for rigs and figure out which floor plan would suit my needs best, and is always there to talk when RV life goes sideways such as running out of propane at 3 am when its 10 degrees or dealing with a black tank clog. The impact her friendship has had on my life incredible. Without her I probably would have never created hiking ferret or moved into the RV.

Website: hikingferret.com

Instagram: hikingferret

Other: TikTok: hikingferret

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.