The team (L to R) Amber, Sabra and Becca check the GPS to figure out the mileage they need to paddle before stopping for the day; Photograph by Krystle Wright

The team (L to R) Amber, Sabra and Becca check the GPS to figure out the mileage they need to paddle before stopping for the day; Photograph by Krystle Wright

Nobody’s River was supported by a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant. Read expedition dispatches.

In Nobody’s River, four women journey down one of the last free-flowing rivers of the world and discover raw beauty, industrial wastelands, devastating loss, and unbridled joy. But it’s so much more than that, and perhaps the most valuable piece of their expedition and their experience last summer, is that they brought this story home to all of us.

On April 26, Nobody’s River premiered to a crowded and captivated audience at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado. I sat in a packed theater with tears streaming down my face, and hugging my friends in the seats next to me as we soaked in every bit of the wildness, courage, and love that tied this beautiful film together. My heart burst when Amber Valenti, along with photographer Krystle Wright, and filmmaker Skip Armstrong, stood on stage to accept their award for Spirit of Adventure from the festival’s jury.

A little more than a year ago, I asked Amber what this project was all about, and she told me, “Ultimately this project is about savoring something fleeting and beautiful, and doing our part to love this great big planet we all live on together.”

So often, the journey planned is not the journey taken. The Nobody’s River expedition team had no idea how true this would be as they prepared to leave for a two-month expedition in Mongolia and Russia. This film documents their journey along the Amur River, one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers of the world, and through the complexities of love and loss. From their hilarious antics to deeply human struggles, these ladies embody the spirit of adventure, and shine a light on the soul of internal and external exploration.

It was late on Sunday night, after the films had wrapped for the weekend, when Amber and I finally hunkered down in a booth at Phat Thai with filmmakers and festival staff and volunteers buzzing around us. I asked her a few questions, and this is what she had to say.

The Nobody's River team accepts the Spirit of Adventure Award; Photograph by James Mills

The Nobody’s River team accepts the Spirit of Adventure Award; Photograph by James Mills

Emily Nuchols: How did it feel to premiere your film at the festival?

Amber Valenti: I think it was just really humbling to stand on a stage—with all of these people I think are amazing and admire—and to win an award. It was mind blowing. We just had no idea how an audience would receive it, and for an audience to show us so much love was the best thing we could have ever imagined.

EN: What is one of your favorite reactions to Nobody’s River so far?

AV: It was incredible and so rewarding to see an audience connect with a story that is so vulnerable and so scary to share. I had women come up to me and tell me how amazing it is to see a story about women getting after it, and not just because they are women, but because they are people. I had a father come up to me and tell me that he had two little girls at home that he couldn’t wait to share this story with. That was just so wonderful.

EN: Did you set out wanting to plan an expedition with four women?

AV: We just really like to adventure with really great people. Sometimes those people are women, and there’s a specialness to that. Sometimes it’s co-ed, and sometimes it’s all men. But this was just about a group of people adventuring, and it happened to be four women. It’s been incredibly powerful to be able to share a story about an adventure with four women in this light.

EN: It’s almost been a year since you first set out on this journey. How far have you come?

AV: We loved harder, lost bigger, and grew far beyond anything we could have imagined before we even left the country. And now, a year later, I’ve come to realize that sometimes we have to shatter into a thousand tiny pieces to remember who we have been all along. Sometimes we have to journey across the globe, or into the darkest depths of our own hearts just to find our way home.

What these wonderful women have done is given us all another sweet reminder to savor every little bit of this fleeting and beautiful life, to hug those we love a little tighter and a lot more often, and that there is always a reason to celebrate.

Learn more about Nobody’s River, and screenings near you at nobodysriver.org.