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Breathing exercise
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Three Daily Breathing Exercises in Under 3 Minutes

Conscious breathing might be the key to finding relaxation

We take approximately 20,040 breaths in a day, that’s roughly 960 breaths per hour, approximately 16 breaths every 60 seconds, and one breath taking almost 4 full seconds. How many times a day do you truly listen to your breath? Most of us don’t unless we’re taking a yoga class where an instructor is telling us to focus on our breathing. We also might if we’re doing a vigorous exercise that’s causing us to get short of breath. More people I see today that are looking to find relaxation through nature, with yoga, Reiki or Thai massage are telling me they are holding their breath certain times of the day for no reason, their breathing is all in their chest, and it’s hard to take a deep full breath from their diaphragm and lengthen the inhales and exhales.

Photo by Le Minh Phuong on Unsplash

When an animal in the wild breathes in its chest it means it’s in danger, the heart rate rises, blood flow increases causing the body temperature to rise, senses are heightened, etc. Over time if an animal had this kind of reaction every day without being in danger, stress and anxiety becomes apparent. As humans when we have short breaths in our chest it’s telling us something is wrong, and if we have that happen over and over again anxiety can become more present in the body. The good thing is we can change the way we breathe, but like anything else it takes conscious effort, practice and patience.

Below are 3 daily breathing exercises all in under 3 minutes you can try to aid in relaxation and increase your health and wellness. 

Morning: With your eyes closed count 4 seconds on each inhale and exhale, after a weekly practice lengthen the exhale by one second.

Throughout the Day: At least 3 times bring your awareness to your breath, it could be every 2 hours or at random — set a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget. Try different times with your eyes closed and other times while doing your normal daily activities. You can focus on your breath while driving your car, sending an email, during a meeting, and many other times. You might find it hard at first to focus on your breath while doing another task but the more you do it the easier it gets.

Evening: Before going to sleep count the inhales and exhales you take in one minute.

When you are focused on your breathing make sure you are not holding your jaw, relax the facial muscles. If the face muscles are tightened, you cannot relax the rest of the body. Slightly open your mouth to make sure your jaw is released. Take your inhales through your nose, add some exhales out the mouth and include a “sigh” for even more relief.

Finally, record your findings. Take notes on how you feel before and after your breathing exercise. After 30 days note your physical, mental and emotional feelings. Over time you should see that your breathing will increase in length, in many cases people find more relaxation, lower anxiousness and a higher consciousness in their daily life. You could also see an improvement in sleep patterns, your mood, productivity and so many other benefits! In more advanced breathing exercises people noted building abdominal muscles. Could you image getting “abs” by better breathing?

With the holidays approaching try these breathing techniques to relieve stress and anxiety and remain calmer and more centered. Share with our community which breathing exercises you enjoyed the most! We hope to meet you in person, check out what adventures we have coming up!

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First Year in the County!

Kate and I are officially country gals

A year ago Kate and I set off on a big new adventure. We packed up our belongings, gave away and threw away a bunch of items in the process and moved from our cute little city “town” of Broad Ripple in the heart of Indianapolis, to Brown County, Indiana. One of my biggest fears was not being able to get my groceries delivered, turns out where we live we can’t even get a pizza delivered! We actually really enjoy it though, Kate and I cook much more at home now baby Asher starting to “eat” with us now too!

I will admit, we have discovered Home Chef and that has really come in handy! We got some meals as a gift when Asher came – great gift by the way! We’ve continued ordering from them and it’s been really nice having a few meals a week that we know we already have all the ingredients for, it’s healthy and delicious!

Bean night

Since we’ve been down here Kate has started her weekly Trek Tribe Bicycle ride in Brown County State Park. Look for an update on the time and date for the winter season! Kate also started the first Brown County youth mountain bike team through NICA – National Interscholastic Cycling Association and it was super fun! I was able to make a few of the practices with Asher and we had a blast. I am looking forward to being more involved next year and for the kids to get to race other teams across the state as well. Check out the video below from the last practice – Kate let the group jump her! This was definitely one of the highlights of the season!

Brown County Eagles NICA Team

Kate and I started doing events at Hard Truth Hills, which has been super fun! Kate led a series of co-ed mini Busted Knuckle mountain bike clinics and I am still teaching monthly yoga sessions. We’ve had great weather all summer and are looking forward to continuing to practice this fall and winter inside the distillery!

Kate and I joined the Halloween Town Committee part of the Brown County Visitor’s Bureau Board and are looking forward to the inaugural Halloween Town event next Saturday October 26th in Nashville, come join us for a haunted bike ride in the parade!

That brings us to today, currently we are continuing to improve, grow and work on going into the 5th season of hosting the Women’s Adventure Giveaway. This program is so near and dear to our hearts, we are so fortunate and grateful we get to offer this amazing experience to very lucky and deserving women each year. We are in the process of working with a production company to produce a documentary series to follow the winners of the 2020 Giveaway and stream their stories worldwide next year. We feel it’s important to keep documenting the experience to inspire people all over the world to live a life filled with adventure and ask the question, “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” If you or a company you know would be interested in partnering or learning more about the Women’s Adventure Giveaway please let me know!

Women’s Adventure Giveaway

Looking back at everything Kate and I have done this year and not just in Brown County but we’ve also traveled with DNK Presents to North Carolina, Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and we’re getting ready to head to Virginia. We have really learned and grown a lot but our biggest accomplishment of the year would definitely be growing our family and raising our beautiful baby boy Asher! He brings an immense amount of much joy, love and light to us each and every day, we are so blessed to have him and we hope you get to meet him sometime soon.

Having fun on the Salt Creek Trail

Have you visited us in Brown County yet? Please let us know when you’re coming to town, we’d love to meet up with you on the trail, over a beer or share with you our favorite places to check out! Now that we’re country folk now I can officially say, Happy Fall Ya’ll and Happy Trails!

Campside Sessions Brown County

P.S. Did you know you can stream our award winning film, “Live Adventurously” on You Tube and Vimeo now? Check it out!

We were on Indy Style WISH TV Channel 8
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6 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Connection to Nature

DNK Presents, wellness, nature, corporate retreats, adventure retreats,

There are thousands of studies and articles about how nature benefits us physically and emotionally. What a great, free resource just waiting to nourish us! However, as technology nudges its way further and further into not just our work hours, but personal hours too, it can be tough to nurture our innate connection to nature. Our busy schedules often make us feel like we don’t have the time for adventure or long hikes into the woods. But what if it’s simpler than that? What if we can work in simple adjustments that allow us to connect with nature throughout our day?

Here are 6 simple ways to enhance your connection to nature!

1. Bring plants into your life

It doesn’t matter if this means getting a houseplant that requires little attention, filling your space with plants, or making some room on your porch for some potted vegetables and/or herbs. Bringing plants indoors is a great way to remind you of nature and give you something small to take care of. A quick tending to your plants will help you ground and recenter as you water, prune off dead leaves, and notice new growth. It’s even better if those plants produce food you get to nourish your body with!

2. Cook with fresh food

Maybe you’re getting this fresh food from your garden, the farmer’s market, or the grocery store. Make a point to add in fresh herbs, veggies, and fruit to your meals as a way of reminding yourself where your food comes from. Nature benefits us not just from being in it, but eating it too!

3. Take a short walk during lunch or after dinner

Mealtimes are a great time to disconnect from technology and be present. If your work allows, take a break from the fluorescent lights and get outside for a quick walk around the block. It doesn’t have to be somewhere full of trees or grass. Notice the sky, the sun, the breeze. If lunch time doesn’t quite work, hop up after dinner for a slow walk either on your own or with loved ones. Again, the amount of time isn’t what matters. It’s the jolt from routine and time spent in fresh air. Nature restores our attention span and allows us to get back to work with a fresh, clear mind.

4. Make use of your favorite local park

Parks are there for a reason! Find the one that makes you feel most peaceful and then do some of your favorite activities there instead of your living room. Bring a book, a meal, a yoga mat, or a blanket and settle into your downtime in a new location.

5. Get a plant identification book at the library

Use your resources and start learning more about what is around you. The next time you go for a walk, practice mindfulness and really see the plants and trees you pass. As the year goes on, you’ll begin to notice the changes in these plants and watch their life cycle play out.

6. Remind yourself of nature throughout the day

It’s inevitable that technology will be a part of our day and that meetings and assignments will beg for our attention. That doesn’t mean we have to forget about nature until we have time to go for a hike on the weekend! Place reminders for yourself in places you look often: change your phone/computer background to one of your favorite natural spots, put photos up at work, use a planner and/or notebook with a nature design on it. Treat your hardworking brain with frequent doses of nature throughout the day.

 

While we’re busy and unsure how to fit the next meeting in, let alone some time in nature, it is vital that we connect when we can. Nature provides exactly what we need and restores our attention when we need it most. Find simple ways to weave some nature into your daily life and you’ll reap the benefits of a close connection to nature. We have some awesome ways to get into nature starting this weekend! Friday meet us at Upland Brewery in Bloomington for a bike ride and movie screening of “Live Adventurously” afterwards, Saturday morning join Danielle for yoga at Hard Truth Hills or a hike with Kate in Brown County State Park, and next Thursday yoga at Stone Head Nature Preserve. We hope to see you on an adventure with us soon!

 

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First Time Backpacking Tips

 

Your first backpacking trip is always full of expectations, unknowns, and a lot of trial and error. While a day hike or car camping may be nothing new to you, combining aspects of both together to create the backpacking trip of your dreams can take some practice!

DNK Presents led an overnight trip to Shades State Park for beginner backpackers. The backpacking trail at Shades was a great place to start as it is about a 2.5-3 mile hike in to the campsites. A trail this length provides a good taste of what carrying a pack for a longer distance would be like without jumping in too deep at first.

The ladies on this trip provided some feedback on their experience trying out a new outdoor adventure. Overall, the women found that backpacking is a bit tougher than expected! The miles backpacking do not equal the miles hiking like they thought. That extra weight on their back added quite a challenge to the hike. Below are some more thoughts on ways to prepare for your first backpacking trip!     

Gear

 

Play around with your pack. Pack and unpack several times throughout the trip until you find the method that feels the best to you. It’s helpful to loosen all straps every time you put the pack on so that you can adjust as needed each time. This will also help you learn which straps do what in order to find your perfect fit.

 

 

Camp chairs are worth the investment. Specifically the Crazy Creek style camp chairs that fold up and can be strapped on the front of your pack. They’re great for sitting around the fire, taking a break on the trail, or cushioning a picnic bench if you’re lucky enough to have one at your campsite.

 

 

Hammock camping can be a nice alternative to tent camping if you don’t own a backpacking tent or are backpacking solo and don’t want to carry the whole tent yourself. There are a few things you can do to make hammock camping more comfortable. Depending on the season, you may or may not want a sleeping pad. In the warmer seasons, you really just need a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket. A bug net and rain tarp aren’t essential, but can make the experience much more enjoyable. Closing the hammock by flipping the weighted pocket over the side creates a cocoon and can keep bugs out, but it’s a bit suffocating in warmer weather. The bug net and rain tarp keep air circulating while protecting you from insects and the elements. It’s also helpful to keep shoes close, put your essentials in the pocket, and to put your rain cover on your backpack as a preventative measure.   

 

“Brain” into daypack

 

A good number of backpacks include a “brain” (top portion of your pack that fits on top of the rest of the pack) that can transform into a day pack. These are super handy if you want to leave camp and check out some shorter trails near your site. Even if your pack doesn’t have this feature, it’s not a bad idea to bring along your own packable day pack to store water, snacks, map, and other essentials.

Food

 

Dehydrated meals are an easy and delicious way to get meals taken care of on backpacking trips. They’re lightweight, fold down, and bulk up to a good amount of food. All they require is boiling water and time to rehydrate. In the beginning, dehydrated meals remove the potential overwhelm of meal planning so that you can better focus on the rest of your trip. If prepared meals aren’t your thing, they provide some great meal inspiration.

A common anxiety on the trip was having enough food and snacks to last the weekend. Food is a very personal aspect of backpacking and everyone has different needs. Even if food is being planned for your group, it’s helpful to have bars, trail mix, and other easy to grab snacks that you know you can eat whenever desired. Bulk up your oatmeal in the morning with some of your trail mix! Don’t forget to bring some comforts from home with you like your favorite candy, instant coffee, or tea.

Safety

Feeling safe while backpacking is a vital part of enjoying your time in nature. Whether adventuring solo or with a group, it’s important to know what will make you feel the most comfortable. Wander around the campsites so you have an idea of the layout, chat with other campers so that they are aware you’re there, and most importantly, trust in the community. While it’s essential to be cautious and mindful, it’s also important to remember that the majority of people out in nature are there for the same reasons you are.  

Backpacking may seem daunting at first, but with a few trips under your belt, it becomes a great escape even for a quick one night sleep under the stars. Experiment with different gear, meals, ways of packing your pack and you’ll be well on your way to dialing in on what you need to make your trip as rejuvenating as possible. Let us know what tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way!

 

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6 Outdoor Adventure Podcasts to Inspire Your Next Trip

In a world where we consume media almost constantly, make sure some of that media is nourishing and inspiring. Lucky for us outdoor lovers, there are plenty of podcasts to tune into that will feed that wanderlust and leave us ready to pack our bags and explore.

Here are 6 of our favorite outdoor related podcasts that keep us wanting more!

1. Wild Ideas Worth Living by Shelby Stanger

“What if… You could sail to French Polynesia, run from San Francisco to New York, skateboard down the busiest freeway in California, quit your job and ski around the world, start a business, move to Costa Rica, surf every day, get in the best shape of your life, fall in love, and GET WILD?”

2. She Explores: Women in the Outdoors

“Interviews, narrative stories, and listener submissions make up a tapestry of over 100 episodes covering themes such as solo hiking and camping; entrepreneurship; aging; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); conservation; motherhood; chronic illness; and feminism as they intersect with outdoor experiences. Hosted by Gale Straub.”

3. Women On The Road

“Honest experiences of life on the road, told from the perspective of women who’ve lived them firsthand. Whatever you drive, and for however long, this is a podcast for those drawn to road travel. Interviews, in-the-field recordings, and listener voice submissions range in topic from helpful tips to get started to the inspirational experiences that get and keep us out there. Hosted by Laura Hughes.”

4. Out There

“Are you yearning for a change? Could a grand adventure help you find what’s missing? Could doing something selfish for once be just the thing your relationship needs? Let Out There be your calm oasis, your quiet walk in the woods, the rainy window you gaze out of when all is gray outside. Hosted by Willow Belden, the award-winning podcast captures the understanding, the strength, the inspiration, the healing that humans draw from spending time outside, to help you navigate life’s big questions and ease the anxieties of adulting today.”

5. Dirtbag Diaries

“This is adventure. Climbing. Skiing. Hiking. Biking. Travel. Whatever your passion, we are all dirtbags. Outdoor writer Fitz Cahall and his team presents stories about the dreamers, athletes and wanderers.”

6. Outside Podcast

“Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will entertain, inspire, and inform listeners.”

Now are you ready for your next adventure? Check out what we have coming up on our Adventures page! Contact us if you don’t see something that fits with your schedule we organize and guide custom and private adventures too!

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Rafting Ocoee River DNK Presents Women's Adventure Giveaway

The Women’s Adventure Giveaway Reflection

By Bridget Sealy Roberts

The DNK Presents Women’s Adventure Giveaway . . . what an extraordinary opportunity that has been created for women thanks to Danielle and Kate, and the support of many other inspirational women, wonderful people and companies.  I first learned about this giveaway at a mountain bike clinic that I attended.  I watched the film from one of DNK’s past adventure giveaways called “Live Adventurously” at the clinic, and I dare to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  To see how the experiences transformed these already amazing women was something that felt personal, even though none of us knew any of these women.  It was so impactful, even as a movie.  

From the time I found out I had been nominated, until that momentous call when I found out I was one of the winners, it was a whirlwind of both excitement and disbelief.  I was both honored to be nominated, and humbled to be selected.  Having the opportunity to spend time with such a wonderful group of women in the outdoors could only lead to epic adventures.  

To the Backcountry

The Women’s Adventure Giveaway Day 1

Of all the emotions I experienced leading up to the adventure, none of them could compare to what I actually experienced during the time I spent adventuring with the three other winners (Hannah, Chelsea, Kristen), Kate, Danielle, Noel and all of the other wonderful women who were helping support us during our time together.  Each and every one of us were pushed outside of our comfort zones, but supported each other in a way that made it feel like we could accomplish absolutely anything.  The environment that this experience provides allows you to have those “don’t hold back” moments that are opportunities unlike anything you would normally ever have a chance to do.  I found myself so emotionally overwhelmed at the end of the day by how much I was able to do, and how incredible it all was.  It truly was all life altering.  And all this happens while you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery that nature has to offer.  This adventure is the chance to reconnect with Mother Nature and remember how revitalizing and healing it can be.  

Transformation

The entire experience in so transformative, and you feel such accomplishment with each adventure together.   And, you do all this while bonding with some of the most amazing women you will ever meet.  The bonds that you make over the weekend are so strong that you leave feeling like there aren’t enough hugs, and there is a piece of your heart being torn out as you drive away.  The time spent together definitely etches a mark in each person’s heart before departure.  

White Water Rafting Ocoee
White water rafting on the Ocoee River

My weekend ended with my “I’ll never” list being a little shorter and my “family” list being a lot longer.  If you’re considering nominating someone next year for the Women’s Adventure Giveaway, don’t hesitate; it will change their life, and seeing that impact will change your life too.  I can’t thank my nominators Noel and Alex enough for thinking of me and for DNK for creating such an amazing opportunity for women everywhere.  My heart is so full and all I want to do is share it with everyone.  

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Hannah Kelling DNK Presents Women's Adventure Giveaway winner

Women’s Adventure Getaway: Laughter, Challenge, Reflection

By Hannah Kelling

Our Getaway Weekend was the gift that kept on giving. Whether we felt ready to admit it or not, each one of us participants (and maybe our guides, too?) needed a break from the onslaught of the daily grind. Mothering, schooling, moving, and bounding over the hurdles of life in a seemingly endless routine had worn each of us down to a point where we didn’t really recognize ourselves anymore. That began to change when we arrived at the Lula Lake Land Trust on Thursday evening. Like it or not, we had to let go of that routine which was both demanding and comforting, tiring and reliable. We were blown away by a wonderful set of gear and then promptly set out for destinations unknown. Arriving at the overlook where (unbelievably) we would spend our first night, the demands of the “real world” started to fall away. We had no responsibilities beyond setting up our hammocks and being present for each other. We were asked only to listen, to laugh, to reflect, and to engage mindfully with the beautiful scenery and extraordinary company we’d been gifted. One by one, little by little… We let go. We allowed ourselves to be surprised. We lost control, and found adventure.

The weekend continued in a series of grand and little surprises. An incredible salmon dinner. A couple four leaf clovers. A rafting adventure on the Ocoee. A chance to read our nomination letters. You would just catch your breath, and then it would be taken away again by another incredible gift. We told each other stories, tales which seemed to illustrate exactly why we needed to be there. Stories of challenges and survival, sacrifice and generosity, loss and discovery. I grew to really genuinely love everyone. Chelsea for her good listening and kindness, Bridget for her vivaciousness and strength, Kristen for her generosity and gentleness. And our guides and hosts… How could we ever thank you enough? How could we ever put to words how much that meant to us?

 

Driving back home, I didn’t THINK much. My mind wasn’t occupied with trying to plan/control my future or ruminating on the mistakes of the past. For once, I was just wrapped up in a feeling. Something like contentment, but spiced up with real joy and playfulness. The feeling that I really was the luckiest person on Earth.

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Our First Mother’s Day

Welcome to the world Asher!

Welcome to the world Asher Philip Nolan! We were so blessed that Asher came into this world with us at 6:07am on April 9th weighing in at 9 lbs. 2 oz. and 21 inches long! Both mommas are doing great and we are falling more in love with our little man everyday.

Just celebrating being one month young Asher has already been to his first Women’s Mountain Bike Festival in Brevard, North Carolina. Momma Kate guided rides for ROAM – the only women’s mountain bike festival in the country. She along with guides Tiffany “Hutch” Hutchens and Meagan Shelter took so many rad women out on the trails over the weekend. We heard things like, “This was the best ride of the weekend”, “I’d ride with you anywhere”, “I did some things I never thought I could do today and I’m so proud”!

Kate and Asher at our favorite Shredly booth!

Momma Danielle stayed on the festival grounds and “womaned” the booth with the other vendors. Baby Asher definitely stole the show, making his rounds to the booths and getting to meet all the awesome people part of this amazing event. One of them being the co-author of the children’s book “B is for Bicycles“, Jannine Fitzgerald! She and her 11 year-old son were so awesome and we got our own book signed by her for Asher! #heartmelt

We were both lucky to be part of the event for its inception year last year and we look forward to being part of future ROAM experiences! Momma Danielle is recovery well from a natural delivery and is looking forward to getting out on the bike again soon. Momma Kate is going at full speed this spring and heading into summer. Our next big event will be guiding the Women’s Adventure Giveaway weekend, we can’t wait to take these women on an epic backcountry adventure next week!

Don’t forget we will be back in Brevard, North Carolina June 28-30th for the Campside Sessions Women’s Mountain Bike Camp. Get signed up today and use the code Shred25 for $25 off of registration – only good for Mother’s Day weekend only! See you on the trails!

DNK Presents the Footdown Hoedown at ROAM!
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DNK Presents, wellness, nature, corporate retreats, adventure retreats,

The Natural Medicine of Nature

Take 3 doses of trees, 2 hikes and 1 ounce of meditation per week — your favorite MD

Over the past 200 hundred years humanity has started spending less and less time in the outdoors, and it has affected our mental and physical health. The millennial generation –this is what I fall into, is the most depressed and anxious generation we have seen so far, we actually have earned the nickname, “Generation Stress”. You can read more about who is stressed and why from the American Psychological Association.

Stress is mental but it can lead to physical problems and conditions in the body so much that 75–90% of doctor visits are actually stress related or PREVENTABLE and only about 25% or less of doctor visits are from pre-existing conditions.

There are many reasons as to what causes stress, money, career, family, and health are the top four. Luckily there is something we can do besides getting a script to get healthy and happy again.

Go outside, get dirty, be wild.

In Japan this form of nature as medicine has been used since the 1980s, it is called, Shinrin Yoku — which literally translates as, Forest Bathing. Shinrin Yoku has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, improve mood, reduce blood pressure, even increase immunity levels, and so much more. You don’t have to live in Japan to experience the benefits of the healing components of nature though.

Here are just a few benefits of going outside.

  1. De-Stress

Trees give off oxygen and absorb harmful gasses such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. A study from the University of Chicago showed that trees reduced stress in neighborhoods because of the green environment. Hospitalsare now adding photos of the outdoors as well as more windows because it has been proven to quicken the healing process. Check out this inspiring storyof a chemo patient who saw a photo of the Grand Tetons and made it his mission to hike the 13,000 ft. mountains.

2. Exercise

When you are outside, you are moving your body, AKA not sitting at home binge watching Netflix or getting sucked into cat videos on Facebook (guilty as charged with both of these). Exercise as we know is not only good for us physically but also mentally. Even exercising outside has more benefits than doing it in a gym, like increased levels of self esteem, mood, and energy levels just to name a few.

3. Increased overall health and wellness

By taking more time to disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself through nature you are able to become more fully present and therefore become more in touch with your own mind, body and spirit.

Of course going outside shouldn’t be a replacement for seeing your regular physician, always consult your doctor with any health related questions or concerns. Exposing yourself to more time outside might be something that works for you, it has for me and many others who have been part of our adventure retreats.

 

*Previously published on Medium via Thrive Global

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The Venture Out Project

Interview with The Venture Out Project

The Venture Out Project 

Recently I found out about an amazing organization called The Venture Out Project. I was so inspired by what they do I asked if I could interview them to share their story with our readers here at DNK Presents and Live Adventurously. Being in the LGBTQ+ family and in the outdoor space, it has always been very important to Kate and I to provide an inclusive environment for our participants, especially when often times they are already in a vulnerable state being outdoors and trying something for the first time with people they are meeting for the first time. If you don’t feel like you can be comfortable about your sexual orientation that can make it even harder to want to try something new in the outdoors. Have you experienced this feeling in the outdoors or trying something new in another area of your life? We would love to hear YOUR story. I hope you enjoy the interview, keep on adventuring!
Venture Out Project
What is the number one way you feel The Venture Out Project (TVOP) is able to provide a safe space for the LGTBQ+ community?
Perry:  

The biggest surprise to me was how many folks have come on more than one trip.  When I founded Venture Out I thought it’d be the kind of thing where people came on one trip, learned some skills and then went to backpack on their own.  But what I found was that for so many folks, Venture Out was their only trans or queer community.  In many cases our participants may have had friends online, but many had never hung out with, or even met, another trans person.  People come back for a second, third, fourth or even fifth trip because they know that’ll it’ll be an opportunity not just to be outside, but to make friends and find community.

 
Travis:
Safety in numbers!  Being with other queer folks not only provides the collective safety container, but also, safety in our own bodies.  I know even for me, I feel safer and seen when around other queer & trans folks.
The Venture Out Project
 
What has been the biggest eye opener or surprise as TVOP has grown in what it is today?
Travis:
The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how many people have WANTED to learn how to backpack or break into outdoor activities, and just don’t know how to start or who to ask. And gear is often SO GENDERED.  Which is completely ridiculous.  We’ve heard so many stories at this point of our participants going to outdoor stores looking for boots or backpacks and being steered away from the “men’s section”, or the “women’s section” because of their perceived gender.  It literally makes no sense at all.
 
How did you become part of the TVOP family?
Travis:

I found out about TVOP in 2015 when a friend posted something about it on my Facebook wall.  Like “Hey look at what these queers in New England are doing”.  I’m originally from New England, but was/still am living in Portland, OR.  I immediately contacted Perry, the founder of TVOP, and asked I could lead a trip for him.  We agreed on a week long backpacking trip that summer on The Long Trail in Vermont.  There were three guides and two participants!

Six months later, he hired me on as his Office Manager and now I’m the Director of Operations.  We also now fill our trips to capacity (and even have wait lists!)

What is your favorite trip to guide and why?
 
Travis:
 
After every trip I lead, I declare “that was my favorite!”.  This is such a hard question – all of them are so emotionally powerful.
But I will say…this last summer Perry and I lead an experienced backpacking trip in Oregon.  It was originally supposed to be on the Loowit Trail around Mount St. Helen’s.  Due to Oregon having such an amazing snow winter last year (yay!), it was not clear of snow in time.  Instead we spent four days backpacking in the Colombia River Gorge – which is so incredibly beautiful.  The area we were in last July, is the same area that caught fire this fall and has since burned.  I’m so grateful we got to share this special area with folks.  The gorge will regrow, probably even more beautiful, but it will be some time.   On the last day of this trip, we crossed into Washington and summited Mount St. Helen’s – which is never NOT a profound experience.  This trip was an incredible one.
This upcoming summer, Perry and I are guiding a trip for those of trans experience in Maine – my home state.  We’ll be climbing Mount Katahdin, spending a few days in Baxter State Park, and then spending a few days in a small rustic cabin on a cove on a small Maine Island.    I have a feeling this will also raise to the top of my list of “favorite trips”.
Backcountry Venture Out Project
 
What have some of your participants gone on to do or said after a trip with TVOP?
 
Travis
This is such a great question.  Several of our past participates have actually gone on to become instructors for us!  Another one of our favorite participants lives in Texas and had never played in the snow before.  His first trip with us was a week-long Queer Winter Camp in Jackson Hole, WY.  He now regularly goes on skiing trips with his brother!
Perry:
 
My favorite story about a what a participant did after his trip still gives me chills.  This participants came on our queer ski trip in Wyoming.  He called me up a few weeks after the trip to tell me his story.  “When I came on this trip I was only out to four people in the world as trans.  I thought it was something I needed to keep secret. I felt scared and ashamed.  But on our trip, I met so many out and happy queer and trans folks.  It was really eye opening to me.  I saw the lightness with which you all walked through the world and contrasted that to the tension I felt from carrying this secret.  So after much thought I decided I was going to have a gender reveal party for myself.  I invited a bunch of friends over for a party and about an hour into the party I told them I was trans.  They were so welcoming, supportive and happy for me.  It feels so good to be relieved of this burden.  I could not have done this without TVOP.  Thank you for showing me what could be.”
Queer Youth Venture Out Project
What are you most proud of as an employee of TVOP? 
 
My proudest moments are spending time with Queer Youth.  This past summer, we put the youth fully in charge coming up with a plan to get everyone up the mountains.  Their care for each other was so pure.  To see them struggle, to see them negotiation and compromise, to encourage, and support each other.  It’s just incredible.  And then to hear them giggling at night is just the icing on the cake.  So proud to be an employee of TVOP and be able to create these experiences for queer & trans youth.
 
 
What is next for TVOP?
TVOP is growing!  We’re offering more trips, and as mentioned before, hiring past participants as guides.   This summer we’re offering our first “POC Centered” Classic Backpacking Trip lead with Mercy Shammah of Wild Diversity in the Pacific Northwest! We’re also expanding our ages on our Queer Youth Backpacking trips and have trips for both 12-14 and 15-19 year olds!  Another exciting new offering is a Nature Connection Retreat co-run by Tam Willey of Toadstool Walks taking place in Colombian River Gorge of Washington.
The Venture Out Project
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