Charting Uncharted Waters: Amanda Fornal's Odyssey in Technology and Exploration

Elizabeth Wronkowski

March 22, 2024

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With 25 years in tech and business consulting, leading Founder Buddies and Orange SFM, LLC, and founding Women in Exploration, Amanda Fornal champions innovation, learning, and sustainability. Beyond her corporate success, Amanda's passion for exploration, documented through her photography and documentaries, has taken her to over 100 countries. A Fellow of The Explorers Club, her life’s work transcends professional achievements, inspiring us to explore, innovate, and connect. In this WITI Spotlight, Amanda shares insights from her multifaceted journey, encouraging us to embrace the vast possibilities our world offers.

Q: If you could start over, what would you do differently?

A: Wow - I am sure there are many many things in life that I would do differently if I had all of the knowledge that I have today. Every day we get a little bit smarter and grow based on our experiences. Since we cannot reverse time, I can only take what I have learned and apply it to my present and share my learnings with others.
However, taking the time to think about different life paths is a fun exercise. Maybe I would have done a double major in robotics and artificial intelligence allowing me to build a friendly orange robot. Maybe I would have studied marine biology and spent my days scuba diving for good and talking to sea mammals. Maybe I would have created a think tank for sustainable companies that are focused on changing the world for the better and maybe I will. In a way starting over is often possible in many aspects. We can take what we have learned and change careers, change industries, or change how we spend the majority of our time. I can think of many other life paths that I am sure could have been awesome.

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: My favorite books are data driven non-fiction books that I can listen to. I have a book club and I love that we talk about them. Discussing the books helps solidify the information in my mind and I also get to learn other people’s perspectives on many interesting topics.
I also enjoy encyclopedias and identification books that provide fun and interesting data (e.g. apple encyclopedia, fish and coral identification books, etc.). The third type of book that I enjoy are books that represent museum collections that I visit. When I visit a museum, I try to get a book of the collection that I viewed. Being able to go back and remember the interesting things that I saw, whether it is art or other, is fun and I can share the experience with others.

Q: Define success for you. What has the achievement of success cost you?

A: I define success as happiness. I do not typically look at life as a balance sheet, so I cannot say for sure what happiness has cost me. I suppose for the most part it is time.

Q: How many choices do you feel were your own? What were they?

A: For the most part all of my choices were my own after the age of 18. It is difficult to list all of my decisions, but I can say that one decision that I made a bit later in life is probably the best and most impactful decision that I have ever made. I became vegan about 10 years ago and if I were to ask my younger self if this was something that would ever happen, it would be a resounding no. As a child I ate a fairly standard American diet and that evolved over the years to less meat, to pescatarian, to vegetarian, and then eventually vegan. I always loved eating, I was very food driven, and so moving to a more plant focused diet started out only because it tasted better - I liked good food. My job required me to eat out often, sometimes 3 times a day for most of the week. This made me acutely aware of what I was eating. As time went on my choices were not based on taste alone as they became about ethics as well. Now I know that this decision is what is best for my taste buds, my health, the environment, and of course, animals. This is the best and most impactful decision that I have ever made. To the surprise of young Amanda, I am all in and so very happy about it.

Q: Is perfection possible?

A: Of course! There are perfect moments in life and hopefully we all get to experience at least one. It does depend on how you define perfection. It could be a perfect meal that brings joy or the perfect laugh during a movie or the perfect scuba dive where the water is warm and clear and you see the beauty of an untouched underwater world in solitude.

Q: What was the best advice you ever got?

A: Hearing people’s stories and learning about who they are is something that I truly enjoy. I did a project where I interviewed over 600 people on how they define love, which love they value the most, and why. During an interview with a man who had been homeless a few years prior, he discussed what he found difficult was feeling that he was not being seen. He said that people often either ignore the homeless or look past them. While it was not direct advice, it stuck with me. I make an effort to make sure people feel seen or heard. A small smile or a head nod of acknowledgement can make a difference. He said that Love is… “when a person can actually see you.”

Amanda's story inspires us to embrace change, growth, and pursue our passions with courage and empathy. Her insights challenge us to explore our potential and impact the world positively. Feeling motivated by her journey? Join Amanda and WITI’s Women in Exploration Community Tuesday, March 26th where members are inspired to live purposefully and make meaningful contributions, serving as a reflection on how we can shape our paths and the world around us.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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