How ladies and femmes find empowerment through outdoor adventure
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
The crisp, cold mountain air is sharp in your lungs. You smell damp trees in the forest. And hear the soft crunch of soil under your sturdy hiking boots.
Peace is all around you.
This is the outdoors. A place you've known and loved for a long time.
Or maybe it's a place you dream of escaping to someday.
You don't have to wait any longer to satisfy your cravings for an adventure. You can give yourself the gift of an outdoor excursion today.
Ladies Adventure and Food (LAAF) Travels provides women and femmes the opportunity to build community through outdoor backpacking getaways and delicious food — "women” being inclusive of trans women. And "femmes," being a queer identity, includes femme-identifying trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals.
Co-Founders, Megan and Katie, are seasoned backpacking adventurers who expertly guide you through trails in the Pacific NorthWest. Whether you've been on the trails for a while now or you're completely new to backpacking, LAAF is the place for you.
Many women and femmes of diverse backgrounds have found empowerment by being in nature. Here are four reasons why you’ll also want to venture into the outdoors.
Followed by just a few ways we can make the adventure community a more inclusive and safe space.
Why Do Women and Femmes Embark on Outdoor Adventures?
1. The Thrill of a Challenge
The journey to the top is a challenge.
You’re standing at the start of the trail.
You tighten your backpack straps and double-knot those shoelaces as the mountaintop towers above.
You wonder briefly if you can really make it up to the peak. All while carrying a heavy load on your back and navigating sometimes narrow, steep and tricky footpaths.
But the thought of a challenge excites you. It's something you've never tried before. You think, What if I actually do it?
You take a step. Putting one foot in front of the other and go.
Backpacking pushes your mental and physical limits. In the outdoors, all you have is your wits and your own two feet to rely on to get you to the peak of the trail. With LAAF, you’ll also have a group of like-minded, adventurous women to encourage you the entire way.
Society constantly tells women and femmes that they can't do it. That they don't belong in many spaces, including the outdoors.
Women and femmes commit to outdoor adventures for the thrill of the challenge. But also because — when the world tells you that you can’t make it, you plow on through anyway because you know you can.
2. The Sense of Accomplishment You Feel
By getting outdoors, you can reach greater heights both figuratively and literally.
Just hours ago you were at the start of your journey. Apprehensive yet full of excitement as you steadily trekked up a mountain path.
And finally, you reach that last stretch of the trail. Without missing a step, you maneuver between rocks and trees. The ground rises up in front of you. You take one last step. Stop.
You made it. You reached the peak. Like you knew you could.
You sip some water and take in the panoramic view that's painted itself in front of you.
You feel proud realizing the feat you’ve just accomplished.
Women and femmes know that once they have their mind set on something, they’re capable of executing and seeing their goals through to the end. This definitely holds true for backpacking endeavors.
Going on an adventure outdoors is a chance to build greater self-trust. The trip requires a certain level of courage and resolve to not give up, and persistence and a commitment to complete the entire route.
Imagine how incredible it feels to reach the peak at last. The journey up there sure isn’t easy but you can feel relief knowing that you’ve already overcome the hardest part.
3. A Reminder of Your Strength
When you go adventuring in the outdoors, you grow stronger mentally and physically.
Your mind and body are constantly at work as you travel higher up a mountain. Backpacking sometimes requires calculated foot placement and careful body movement on slippery rocks. You have to practice proper breathing as the air around you thins.
Your ability to do all this mental work and physical movement is a testament to the strength already within you. Women and femmes have bodies full of grit and physical power. Trekking in the outdoors with others provides an opportunity for reflection.
We’re reminded of not only our individual strength but our collective strength together.
4. It’s a Chance to Explore
Outdoor adventures are also an opportunity for discovery.
Channel your inner child and get curious about your surroundings. What kinds of trees are around you? Take a moment to observe the rock formations, birds and insects you see.
Adventures are a chance to not only explore nature but to better get to know yourself and the people around you. Now that you’ve stepped away from the busyness of work and daily life, take a moment for pause and press reset. Surrounded by nature, let your mind wander and your thoughts run free.
Get curious about others in your adventure community. Listen to their stories and share your own.
Women and femmes spending time together through a shared experience and over good food will make you realize that we’re all very different. But those differences bring us closer together rather than apart.
We connect in the outdoors to celebrate our differences and support each other, which is empowering. And it’s one of the reasons why many of us keep coming back to the trails.
Ways to Empower Marginalized Identities in the Adventure Community
Many Black and/or Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) feel an inherent and deep, spiritual connection to the land. But historically, white people have forced BIPOC and other Non-Black POC out of the outdoors. And they have acted as gatekeepers to these spaces.
It’s imperative that the adventure community makes intentional space for people with marginalized identities to be heard.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of action steps that can be taken to move towards greater inclusiveness.
1. Hiring and Paying Someone of a Marginalized Identity
Showing true solidarity with marginalized communities is giving up power and resources. Especially on stolen Indigenous land.
That may look like paying trans women, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals, queer women and femmes, disabled and neurodivergent people, to name a few, within the adventure community to lead and co-facilitate trips in outdoor spaces.
It’s especially important to prioritize those who exist with multiple marginalized identities - Black and/or Indigenous POC and other Non-Black POC.
Today many women and femme adventurers who live with marginalized identities are carving out their rightful space in the outdoors. Collaboration and monetary compensation for these individuals is one way to help create a more inclusive adventure community.
Once LAAF Travels has the need to hire more guides for our trips, we plan on looking to these communities to lead many of our future adventures.
2. Accommodating and Increasing Accessibility
Through more intensive backpacking trips, women and femmes are able to connect, learn new skills and enjoy great food and friendship. But we should always be asking ourselves the question, who is being left out?
Narrow, rocky and unpaved roads already exclude many disabled and fat people from adventures. In what ways can outdoor excursions be made more accessible? Can more low-intensity backpacking trails be offered each month for those who want to opt in?
Individuals and businesses in the adventure community may want to consider more intentional trip-planning. That way women and femmes can still receive all the benefits of community and adventure, while choosing something that is a safe space and appropriate for their needs.
Many parks do have paved areas and fat people-friendly hikes and these trails should also be considered.
3. Offering Payment Options for Participants of Varying Socioeconomic Backgrounds
Another thing to consider is, can outdoor adventures be made more affordable to more women and femmes?
Due to systemic and institutional racism, many BIPOC and NBPOC women and femmes are the groups blocked from access to material resources. And therefore, are the groups least likely to be able to afford outdoor retreats and gear.
This keeps the groups with the most power and resources — that is, white, straight, able-bodied cisgender people — as the majority in outdoor spaces.
Businesses in the adventure community can offer payment plans and a sliding scale option to people of marginalized identities. They may also accept donations whereby 100% of funds would go to sponsor others needing support to fund an outdoor trip.
Nature is to be enjoyed and preserved by everyone and incorporating these ideas would allow more people to participate in the outdoors.
Sign up for an Outdoor Adventure With LAAF Travels Today
If you’ve been craving connection, adventure and good food, search no further. With LAAF, you’ll be taken into the great outdoors where you’ll discover a lot more about yourself and your community.
Are you up for the challenge? Sign up for your next adventure with LAAF Travels on our PNW adventures page!
Author Bio: Chee is a Gen Z, Indigenous Asian, freelance Sustainability Copywriter who advocates for a more inclusive and accessible environmentalism. She enjoys being in nature, resting and creating art.