Clambering up volcanoes, riding elephants through the jungles of Nepal, diving for scallops, and crawling into sinkholes: it’s all in the fun of research for author Sandra Friend. With explorer Henry Hudson as an ancestor and the blood of Sámi reindeer herders in her veins, Sandra can’t help but travel, be it to every small town in her home state of Florida or to the distant corners of the globe.
After helping her sister Susan fight a losing battle against cancer in the 1990s, Sandra closed the door on her career in software design and opened a new one as a writer. Traveling backpacker-style across Greece, India, and Nepal with her sister Sally, she decided on a simpler lifestyle with a focus on travel. Settling into Florida, she quickly became known for her passion for the outdoors, and her growing stack of trail guides helped lead others to connect with natural Florida. Hired by the Florida Trail Association to promote hiking, she worked for five years as Communications Director, managing public relations, publications, and the website. In 2004, she was appointed to the Nature-based Tourism committee for VISIT FLORIDA, the state tourism marketing board, and served to provide industry input to shape tourism products for the next several years.
Today, nearly a decade after founding FloridaHikes.com and with 31 books to her name since 1999, Sandra is known as Florida’s hiking expert and is a respected name in travel. She has walked more than 5,000 miles in the state while researching trails for her books and website. On a 109-mile hike around Lake Okeechobee, she met John Keatley, and they connected as a couple while hiking north on the Appalachian Trail towards Maine in 2012. Now married, they work as a team on creative projects, including books, magazine articles, tourism products, and website content.
Sandra and John are members of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Florida Outdoor Writers Association as well as life members of several trail organizations. Sandra is also a member of the North American Journalists Association and the Author’s Coalition. They live in Central Florida.