I had the great privilege of growing up traveling — my mom homeschooled me and worked on cruise ships for many months of the year. When docked we spent time on a farm where I climbed trees, ran around fields, and fell deeply in love with nature.
Although I spent a lot of time in the outdoors, I never did many of your typical 'adventure' activities like hiking, camping, or climbing.
During college I watched the documentary 180° South, and it changed my life. I became fascinated by the idea of sailing and surfing seas, climbing peaks, and living an unconventional, adventurous life.
But watching such magnificent, aspirational scenes from a dimly-lit dorm in a flat, land-locked New Jersey town made that kind of life feel entirely out of reach.
Eventually I got a taste of the adventure lifestyle through the men in my life — my dad and a couple boyfriends. I did some hiking in Pennsylvania with a college boyfriend. I camped in Colorado with my dad. I moved to the west coast and was introduced to climbing by another man, who also took me backpacking for the first time and encouraged me to go on lots of trips with him.
Looking back I realize I never planned or lead any of our adventures, so they didn't feel like 'mine'.
I'm grateful for the introduction to these activities, and although I could've done it by myself, it was a relief to have a gatekeeper of sorts to lead me.
But my real affection for the outdoors piqued when I began to go alone or with friends — without a boyfriend — where I couldn't default to following him. I had to plan, pack, and act entirely for myself.
I felt something new.. something deeper.. ownership of my experiences.
Wanting a friend or leader to introduce you to the outdoors is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it's smart and safe. But whether it's a man or a woman, at some point I believe there must be a departure for the experiences to feel truly like your own.
Whether that means going on your first solo backpacking trip, heading out to local trails for an afternoon alone, or simply taking the reins and planning your next adventure together, it's an entirely new experience when you're the one leading the way.
To me, it's a rite of passage that has shifted the outdoors from being about scenic views or physical challenges to being an experience of knowing, of introspection. Not just looking, but seeing.
Now I love and crave going into the wild alone. It's a place to reset and be reminded of just how tiny yet powerful I am at the same time.
Is it time for you to take ownership of your adventures? If you're feeling the stir, I'd encourage you to answer without expectation. Start small. And bit by bit, you'll gain even more confidence, empowerment, and a deeper connection to the wild that'll last a lifetime. (I think — I'm not quite there yet so I can't say for certain.)
Just go, go now, and be wild in your own way. [tweet]