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Causes, Trail Stories

The Outdoor Journal Tour is a hybrid wellness organization that merges mindfulness and movement in the great outdoors. ODJT was co-founded by Kenya and Michelle Jackson-Saulters in 2015 in Atlanta, GA. They are currently sponsored by REI and KIND and travel throughout the USA creating popup ‘Hike, Journal, Meditate’ experiences for women of all ages. They recently published their first guided journal, The Journal of Mindful Movement with the support of REI. The two strive to create a safe space and thriving community for women seeking balance and a deeper connection with themselves and the world around them. They believe the great outdoors and Mother Nature herself is the perfect conduit to create and facilitate this space.

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Prior to creating the Outdoor Journal Tour the two of us only went on one hike together. Back then, Kenya was the uber educated Buddhist writer and introverted party girl, and I was the rom-com loving German-American curvy girl trying to find my way. As with most 30-ish women, life was stressful at times. We both struggled with depression and anxiety at multiple points in our lives. I used exercise to tame my mind and Kenya used writing. Thanks to young love, we gladly participated in each other’s practices. I infected Kenya with my appreciation of a good runners’ high, and she introduced me to journaling and a purposeful self-care practice.

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It wasn’t until 2015 however, that we found ourselves with a small group of friends on top of Stone Mountain in search of something new. Kenya was so struck by the moment that she offered to lead us in a guided meditation. When we opened our eyes, we noticed that two other women had joined us. We laughed when they asked how to join the program, because – what program? Those women had no idea the wheels they put into motion that day. We realized that if we, two black, queer, city girls, were searching for more magical moments like the one we experienced on the summit that day, there had to be more women looking for the same. So we created the Outdoor Journal Tour for us. All of us. Women everywhere, of all shapes, sizes, skill level, race, orientation, age, religion, you name it. We were on a mission to get more women outside and connecting with themselves and Mother Nature.

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We very quickly realized that after we hiked up Stone Mountain our muscles were sore, but our minds were clear. The worry and anxiety that we woke up with that morning was forgotten, at least for the moment. We only had space in our mind to be proud of ourselves and our bodies for making it to the top and to gush about how amazing the view was.  We were open. And there is something powerful that happens when you take that beautiful energy and direct it where to go. We also recognized that because we were physically exhausted, our barriers were down, and even when we discussed our woes it was different, not commiserating like we all tend to do, but as an objective observer to ourselves. Ok, it may be cheesy to talk about your feelings and evaluate our thoughts at the summit of a mountain, but at the end of the day, we all want to same thing – to be happy, heard and accepted. We’ve found that creating community around your true self does just that and that is exactly what we aimed to create with the Outdoor Journal Tour.

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In March of 2017, we wanted to hone in our efforts even further and we created the #wehiketoheal campaign. The mission was simple, to encourage women all over the world to tap into the healing and empowering influences within ourselves and the great outdoors. Throughout the month, we shared an array of mindfulness resources and exercises with the women that registered. Then on the last Saturday of March, we enlisted several partners to host #wehikeheal group hikes all over the world. We had a total of 10 group hikes that first year from Portland, OR to the Lake District in the UK; women everywhere were hiking to heal! It was so incredible that we decided to make it an annual event and had our second #wehiketoheal campaign again this March. We had over 600 women register and 19 #wehiketoheal group hikes across the globe during our 2018 campaign. After seeing how well the mindfulness resources were received, we took all the content that we created over the previous 2 years and published our first guided journal, the Journal of Mindful Movement. The journal is based on what we call, the 4 pillars of Mindful Movement, which are: Mind, Body, Relationships and Community. It includes, writing prompts, meditations, and other group and individual exercises on those subjects. The idea behind the journal was to give people unfettered access to our guided mindfulness program because self-care is vital and we want to support women on and off the trails.

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The bottom line is this, women are amazing beings, but sometimes we don’t do the best job taking care of ourselves. We often put everyone and everything before us; kids, spouses, work, family and zillions of other responsibilities – but the reality is, in order to continue being the superwomen that we are, we have to care for ourselves both physically and mentally.

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Moving forward, we hope to continue to grow our community and create a safe space for women everywhere. We encourage you join us in this journey of using mindful movement to practice self-care and to build a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us. Namaste and happy trails!

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