It was only about nine years ago that I had my first intentionally “outdoorsy” experience. On one of our first dates, my partner Brie took me on a hike in a park five miles from where I lived that I’d never been to. I went 30 years of my life not thinking about things like hiking or camping, most likely because it had never been something posed to me as something to do. I didn’t see people like me in those narratives, so it simply didn’t occur to me.
On the trail, I rediscovered the wonder and inherent sense of place I knew as a kid when I spent all day in the ocean, diving under waves and letting the water bob me around. Those days in the ocean, or coasting my bike down the biggest hills, or gardening with my mom, are my best childhood memories, but as I got older, I forgot how to access that easy joy. I forgot the ease of being in nature.
As I began to explore this new love of hiking and rediscover that inherent joy and sense of place, I finally found joyful movement––the freedom to move my body in ways that make me feel good and embodied without the harmful messaging and expectations imposed on me from the dominant culture about what my body should look like or move like. This was life-changing and I deeply wanted to share what I was finding with everyone who hadn’t yet found it for themselves. I wanted to build a community with everyone who didn’t fit the outdoorsy status quo.
In 2016, I created Unlikely Hikers, a diverse, anti-racist, body-liberating outdoor community featuring the underrepresented outdoors person. We’re an Instagram community, a nationwide hiking group, and a podcast. The outdoor industry and social media have, for too long, displayed a very narrow definition of who is “outdoorsy” that isn’t representative of most of us. Unlikely Hikers creates space for people of all body types, sizes, abilities, disabilities and ages. I created the hashtag #mybodytookmehere to honor this and shed light on the unrepresented diversity of bodies in the most diverse space there is: nature. We are people of all genders, races, and sexualities. We are people who utilize the outdoors to heal our mental health and trauma. We don’t conflate these experiences, we explore and build community at their intersections.
Unlikely Hikers has led more than a hundred group hikes all over the U.S. and though COVID-19 put our in-person events on pause, for the time being, we’re just getting started.
Whether you’re climbing mountains or exploring your neighbourhood, your adventure is valid. Your trail is what you create. Where will your body take you?