I am eternally grateful that I chose JMU, not necessarily because of the school itself, but because of this city. Harrisonburg has been the first city in Virginia that I’ve ever spent time in where I didn’t feel intimidation in the outdoorsing realm. The Shenandoah Valley has given me the ability to not only be an active citizen, but also an active hiker.
Companies like REI have stepped up their game in creating female role models and figures in the outdoors community. The cool thing about this is that not only are women more able to picture themselves in these adventurous and challenging hobbies, but women are also more likely to partake in intense sports like skiing and rock climbing. REI is an amazing company for many reasons, but my favorite campaign that they’re doing right now is their #ForceOfNature campaign, which highlights women doing kickass things in the outdoors. Not only is this inspiring to me, but many women I do these activities with. If you look at their Instagram page, most of the people shown are female-presenting people. Snaps to that – I’m a big fan.
I was raised alongside two sisters, and our dad made sure that we would have the same experiences as we would if we were sons. (Thank you, dad – I’ll never be able to understand how big of an influence that has been on me… and I wouldn’t want it any other way.) I know, though, that I am fortunate in that regard and some others did not have the same upbringing. The interesting thing is, though, that I felt strange for having rugged and “granola” hobbies as a younger adult, but when I came to Harrisonburg I found a crew of women who loved the same things. I can’t imagine going back to any other community culture that this isn’t the norm.
I spent a summer in Maine at an all-girl arts and outdoors camp, teaching canoeing, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. When I came back in the August of 2016, I started wearing makeup again, wearing skinny jeans, and curling my hair. Nothing against any of these things, but I lost some of myself when I started doing these things again. Messages that companies and organizations send that promote women in the outdoors keep my spark going, and inspire me to pursue a career that allows me to continue my adventures into the outdoors. All in all, let’s support and listen to those messages that say you can tackle, try, or thrive in any sport or hobby, regardless of your gender. Find yourself by trying new things.
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong.” -the film The Queen of Katwe