My doctor and I were casually chit-chatting last week during a routine exam. When he noticed all of the bruises on my legs, he asked “ My goodness, girl! What’ve you been doing?” Thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about my outdoor rock-climbing escapades, I told him all about the routes I had demolished that weekend. Shocked, he paused and asked, “So, does your boyfriend climb? Is he the reason you’re getting into it?”
Now, I know he didn’t mean anything by his comment but I was slightly stunned by his assumption that the only way I would go climbing would be with my boyfriend. For his information, I proudly explained, I was the one encouraging my boyfriend to take up climbing. Not the other way around. I also let him know about the badass group of gals that I’m privileged to climb with.
You see, for some girls, they’re afraid to unleash their wildside in the outdoors. To climb to the tops of things and swim to the bottom of others. Perhaps they’re afraid to go into the wilderness without their husband, boyfriend, father, or brother. Perhaps they’re fearful of going into the wilderness at all.
But not this girl. No way.
And for you ladies out there who may feel a little trepidation about going it alone in the outdoors, please allow me to offer some loving and useful advice. Not only will it help you tap into your wildside when outdoors but it will also give you more confidence and competence in your daily life.
Stop Making Excuses
“I’m not athletic.”
“I don’t like bugs.”
“I’m allergic to poison ivy.”
“I can’t afford to take off work if I get hurt.”
Yeah, you and the rest of us. But you don’t see us sitting on the bench. So you’re not athletic? Neither was I. Gym class was my worst nightmare in school and I never played organized sports. But if you can put one foot in front of the other, you can hike. So hike. For all of the other excuses, get some bug spray, keep some Calamine lotion handy, and invest in some insurance.
Still not convinced? A blind man has climbed Mount Everest and I saw a woman climbing the other day who only had one arm and one leg. She was a MUCH better climber than me, by far. Your excuse is invalid.
Just Do It
To quote the, by now, cliché Nike catch phrase: Just freakin’ do it already. Buy that season pass for skiing, take a lead climbing class, plan a back-packing trip with friends. Put yourself in a situation where you can’t back out. Obligate yourself to your wildness and, in return, your wildness will grow.
Tap Into Your Passion
There are some rare and unique folks who love everything about the wilderness. They do it all. Hiking, climbing, skiing, camping, mountaineering, surfing…everything. But for others, one or two wilderness activities is enough. As you become more adventuresome and wild, follow your passion. If it’s camping, then stick with camping. Push yourself by planning a solo backcountry trip. If it’s skiing, then stick with skiing. Make Double Black Diamonds your goal. Before you know it, you’ll be backcountry skiing a 14ner in Colorado. How wild would that be?
Outdoorsy friends are, without a doubt, the single most invaluable asset to you wildness. They will push you, cheer you on, lovingly poke fun of you when you make a rookie mistake, and give high-fives all around when you finally get the hang of it. Enlist friends who are more proficient and wild than you. Let them teach you what they know. Then, once you’re more comfortable in the wilderness, make rookie friends of your own. Be gentle, compassionate, and introduce them to their own wildside.
Go Big, or Go Home
A few months ago, I was hesitant to go on a hike with a friend because his pace puts me to shame (We’re talkin’ Roadrunner and I’m nowhere near as clever as the Coyote here). When I voiced my concern, he shrugged and merely replied, “Hope, when you’re on the mountain you either Go Big or Go Home…You can do it.” So, I hiked with him. And he smoked me. But I went big and I finished that mountain. No matter what you do outdoors, don’t be afraid to give it your all and to play with people who are better than you.
Don’t Let the Fear of Failure or Embarrassment Hold You Back
This is the big one. Many people don’t wanna try skiing or rock-climbing because they’re afraid of looking “stupid.” Well, guess what. I can guarantee you that YOU ARE GOING TO LOOK STUPID. The first time you try to get on the chair lift and bite it, all of your friends are gonna laugh at you while strangers point and sneer.
Get over it. Because the truth of the matter is that I’d rather look stupid trying than feel stupid for never having tried.
In the end, being wild and free doesn’t boil down to how good you are but, rather, how good you feel.
So be relentless, be fearless, be adventurous, and, above all, be wild.