I recently came across Out There Adventures and Elyse Rylander through the article published in Outside magazine a couple of weeks ago. I was so excited to learn that this company existed I contacted Elyse through the Out There Adventures website and asked if I could interview and share her story with our DNK Presents community. Being a lesbian owned adventure company in the midwest Kate and I love that Elyse’s business focuses on empowering LGBTQ youth through the great outdoors. Elyse also started the first LGBTQ Outdoor Adventure Summit, what is this you ask, you’ll have to read and find out! I hope you enjoy this interview and learning more about Elyse and her business.
- What benefits did the outdoors have on your life as you were growing up in the midwest and discovering your sexual identity?
The outdoors saved me. I was incredibly fortunate to have parents who placed emphasis on connecting with nature and spending time outside. From my first canoe trip down the Wisconsin River at four weeks old to family camping trips to weekends at the ski hill just north of our house, time outside instilled in me a deep connection to myself, my family and my place in the grander scheme of things.
This was furthered by my summers spent as a canoe and kayak instructor at Rutabaga Paddlesports Shop in Madison in high school and college. Rutabaga served as the launching point for my career in the outdoor industry, and also connected me to a number of women who have profoundly changed my life, including Mo Kappes who was my boss at Rutabaga and also at Adventure Learning Programs at the University of Wisconsin. I met Mo right as I began exploring my queer identity and she was the first openly gay woman I had the opportunity to regularly interact with. Mo became a mentor of mine (still is) and is the Chair of my Board of Directors.
As I have gotten older I return to wild places to find solace and to re-center myself. It is the one place in which I am able to be myself wholly and be freed of socialized constraints.
- What inspired you to take the big plunge to start your own outdoor LGBTQ business?
I always joke that I would up on this path as the result of a mix of youthful enthusiasm and ego, and if I’m honest a bit of naiveté of what it would actually entail to grow a non-profit…
But at its core I just wanted a place for other queer young people to be able to have access to the same opportunities to cultivate community and connection that I was given. I am not much of a believer in meritocracy and instead believe that privilege and opportunity are products of luck. We are lucky to be born of a particular race, class, region, etc. which breeds opportunity, and even down to our genetic makeup we are nothing but a roll of the die. From this perspective I believe deeply that when you are lucky enough to be given the tools to succeed it is imperative to take that luck and those privileges and create opportunities that share your luck and success with others.
So, my motivation has always been centered on the desire to create more opportunities for the next generation of queer individuals to connect with new experiences, create community and most importantly deepen their sense of self.
- What has been the biggest surprise as you have grown your business?
I am not a patient person, so those who know me would not be surprised to hear me say that the slow growth has been the biggest surprise, and also biggest frustration. I very much thought if we built it they would come in mass, but that has not at all been the case. I knew we’d experience certain outreach barriers, but seven years ago I did not fully understand the depth and breadth of these issues.
As a result, everything I have done since OTA’s inception has been an outreach mechanism. From the expansion of our programming regions to program partnerships to launching LGBTQ adult programs to organizing the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, it has all been focused on trying to increase the number of conduits in to the industry and to these outdoor recreation and conservation opportunities for queer young people.
- Could you share a story of a participant of Out There Adventures and how the experience changed their life?
Over my years in the industry I have thus far amassed something like 100 field weeks and worked with thousands of people from an immense array of ages, backgrounds and abilities. So, after extensive research I have concluded that queer young people are the most fantastic demographic to work with. I have never seen with such consistency a group that is SO kind, compassionate, understanding and caring. It has been a privilege to work with every queer young person that has come through our program, and over the years I have had the ability to work closely with one of our program participants in particular.
Zander McRae came on OTA’s first ever expedition in 2015. We spent eight days sea kayaking and camping in the Central Salish Sea when Zander was 17. Because it was a small group we were able to do a lot of one-on-one connecting with the participants. After the trip he remained enthusiastically engaged in our programs and last summer we teamed up with NOLS to get Zander to Australia for a three week sea kayaking course (his first time traveling abroad as well).
The trip helped Zander find the confidence to re-route his life plan and he is now embarking on the path to become an outdoor educator and will be beginning a semester outdoor educator course with Outward Bound this fall.
- What is your favorite trip to guide and why?
I am a paddler through and through, so any trip on the water is preferred over land-based trips. My favorite OTA trips to instruct are our 5-8 day San Juan Islands sea kayaking trips. My favorite trips ever guided are multi-day sea kayaking trips in the Prince William Sound of AK.
- If you could go on your own adventure anywhere, where would it be?
New Zealand, hands down. I’ve heard the Milford Sound is very similar to the Price William Sound, and I figure I need to interrogate this notion for myself.
- What is next for Out There Adventures?
Oofta! That’s a big question! So much is next for OTA. We’re expanding our program operating areas and hope to be across the country by 2020. We’re growing our adult programs and our program partnerships to offer more and more ways to get OUT there, and eventually I’d love to be able to bring a seasonal offering to Alaska since a part of my heart will always be there.
- Tell us more about starting the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit.
Turns out that like starting a non-profit launching a conference is pretty darn exhausting, but also immensely exhilarating!
The idea for the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit came from attending and supporting other identity-specific events in 2017 such as the Women’s Outdoor Summit for Empowerment and PGM ONE. It made a lot of sense to offer a space focused on the issues more specific to queer identities as it relates to outdoor recreation and conservation.
The result wound up as nothing sort of astonishing. We would have been happy with 40 people and a few sponsors. Instead we had to firmly cut off registration at 140 and worked with over a dozen sponsors including The North Face, The Wilderness Society and the National Park Service.
Since the event it has been most exciting to hear about the connections and partnerships that have been made as a result. I’m very much looking forward to offering this space again this year, and also to be able to expand our offerings as we continue to strive to meet the diverse array of interests and needs of the queer community.
I’m also excited to see the ways in which it is helping to change the industry. It’s hard to ignore hundreds of folks coming together around this idea of queer outdoor equity, and we need to keep pushing the industry until they become far better at representation and engagement of this demographic.
Elyse (she/her) has worn many hats in the outdoor industry and education worlds. Since 2006 she has taken thousands of youth and adults on outdoor adventures all over North America, and during these adventures the interrogation of equity, access and privilege played a central role. In 2011 Elyse began her journey as founder of OUT There Adventures, a 501(c)3 dedicated to further bridging the gap between the LGBTQ community and the natural world. Along this path, Elyse has worked tirelessly to reduce outdoor access barriers for all members of the LGBTQ community. This has resulted in dozens of publications, presentations, interviews, trainings and program partnerships aimed at increasing queer visibility and further complicating the narrative of who goes outside and how. Elyse’s work has appeared in places such as the Rutledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies, in print and person at industry events such as Outdoor Retailer, and in March of 2018 Elyse was named a “Top Woman in Conservation and Environmental Justice” by ECODiversity Magazine. Elyse is also the co-organizer of the annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit. Outside of her work, Elyse is known for her sense of humor best conveyed through perfectly timed message GIFs, and in her [rare] free time she can be found paddling through the central Salish Sea.
It’s time to dust off your hiking boots! We decided to make our first Spring Thaw event of 2018 a hike to really ease you into the outdoors because we know as a beginner hiker, camper or backpacker it can be a bit intimidating. That’s why our first event will be a leisure 2 hour hike at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Join us with our trained and experienced backpacking guide, Katy Williams. We will hike and explore the beautiful trails and give you more information about hiking, camping, and backpacking while getting to know other outdoorsy women in our community.
10am Meet at the 56th street entrance, first parking lot on the right, begin introductions
10:15am Hike begins
~12pmish Meet back at your vehicle, we’ll plan to grab lunch afterwards, and you are welcome to join!
*There is an entrance fee to get into Eagle Creek Park $5 for Marion County residents and $6 for non-residents.
We hope your summer has been filled with lots of love, happiness, and of course adventure. We know ours definitely has! Our big season started out with a bang with our documentary film, “Live Adventurously” winning Best Documentary and being nominated for Best Cinematography in the Alhambra Film Festival in Evansville, IN. We then got to guide our new 2017 Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest winners on their big adventure in central Indiana. This year the weekend was filmed by a local Indianapolis woman film maker, Lindsay Mitchell, stay tuned as she develops her feature adventure film.
In July we took some time off to work on our mountain bike skills, had some down time with family, and then got to assistant coach at one of the most exclusive mountain bike clinics in the world, The Trek Dirt Series. We began our adventure by taking one of the most famous of the Trek Dirt Series clinics, in Whistler Canada, where founder, Candace Shadley was born and raised. I not only got to celebrate my birthday in Canada, on Canada Day, on top of a mountain with my Trek Session downhill rental, but got to learn from some of the most bad ass, and professional women coaches in the industry. We highly recommend these west coast clinics, but are SO excited to offer you amazing coaching and mountain bike camps on this side of the country! Stay tuned and look for more events coming up from Campside Sessions, a joint venture formed from DNK Presents and other fellow Trek Bicycle Women’s Advocate, Erin Wells’ mountain bike business in Baltimore, MD, Muddy Pedals. Our first mountain bike event together is taking place in Brown County State Park, September 22-24, learn more by clicking here.
The summer may be coming to an end, but the adventures for fall are just beginning. We have a lot going on Brown County, who doesn’t love those beautiful autumn leaves? Join us for some bike clinics, backpacking, yoga, hiking, etc. Oh and did we tell you DNK Presents is guiding our first adventure trip out of the country? Yes indeed, Feb. 17-24 we will be guiding a yoga retreat in beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, filled with yoga, hiking, paddle boarding, meditation, relaxation, and so much more. Check out all the details here!
Danielle & Kate
Adventure is out there.
This Midwest gal likes to get wild and dirty. I used to get a little ticked when people would ask, “you have an adventure company in Indiana, (literally laughing to themselves) what do you do, and where do you go?” Once someone actually told me, “to do anything adventurous in Indiana you need to get on a plane and fly somewhere else.” I now have found that when responding to these people I begin to show them photos on my phone, and talk about trips we have led in Indiana, and they slowly begin to see what they have been missing.
I’ve had a lot of friends move to the coasts, the mountains, to warmer destinations, and don’t get me wrong I LOVE the ocean and I LOVE the mountains. I also know that everyone can’t live in the mountains or on the beach, and even if you don’t live in a place that’s already considered “adventurous” that doesn’t mean that adventure isn’t out there! Some of my favorite adventures are the ones that occurred by mistake, or ones that you have to really work hard to get to, but that make it all worth it in the end.
There’s a saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side” but what about the side I am on, why can’t the grass be green here? I made it my mission to educate and connect humans to the outdoors, to get them to try something for the first time, and experience adventure in places they never knew existed.
So, here are 8 reasons why you don’t have to live in Colorado or California, or Arizona, or anywhere else that isn’t where you are to be adventurous.
- Take a road trip instead of flying to your next destination, you’ll be surprised what you find along the way.
- Explore a new trail in the parks around or in your city.
- If you are in an urban area, commute to work or try commuting to your favorite neighborhood restaurant.
- Walk silently, by yourself, in a new place, and without your phone, you will see far more than usual.
- Look up the rivers or lakes near your home, take a swim or paddle on the water
- If you usually run, take a walk, if you usually walk, go for a run, if you ride your bike, take a walk, or run etc. Switch it up, and change your perspective.
- Do yoga outside, let your mat be the Earth, let the ceiling be the sky
- Find an adventure meetup or group in your local community, do something different with new people.
There you go, you have 8 reasons that adventure is out there. Now it’s up to you to take the next step. Go outside, explore, and let your life become your greatest adventure. Let us know what you did or plan to do to find your next adventure in 2017, happy trails!
Do your fears overcome you, or do you overcome your fears?
One of the reasons Kate and I started DNK Presents was because of our love of adventure, and we know there is a direct correlation with the challenges we have faced in the in outdoors and the success we have had in our professional careers.
Fear is the unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, or may cause pain to us. As humans we fear a lot of things in our lives, objects like spiders, snakes, heights, and non-object things such as, asking for a raise, public speaking, and failure. Some people may never overcome their fears, but many times in order to move forward with our life we MUST overcome these fears to be successful and reach our goals.
Signing up for your next adventure is one of the ways you can overcome your biggest fear, and transmit that into your personal and professional life. Check out the list we put together below and start living your next adventure!
Adventure is FUN!
While you’re busy worrying about your biggest fear at home or the office you could be out living your next adventure, whether that’s taking a hike in your favorite park or white water rafting the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. Sometimes you need to step away from what is haunting you in order to see it from a different perspective.
Reconnect with NATURE
According to Everyday Health, (http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression-resource-center/how-nature-helps-depression/) spending time outdoors is a key component in the evidence based treatment called, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which encourages the human body to accept things in life that make people fearful or uncomfortable. Being in nature instills more mindfulness, and makes you more at ease with your worries and fears. So get outside, take some deep breaths, and THEN think about a new career, and take a walk on the wild side.
Not relying on TECHNOLOGY
A recent study done by Kleiner Perkins Caufield, says the average phone user checks their device every 6 minutes or around 150 times a day. Image NOT checking your phone for a day, but rather using your well powered brain to figure out your next move by following trail blazes and reading maps. Psychologists from the University of Utah and the University of Kansas conducted a study and that showed individuals scored 50% better on a creative test after spending four days in nature. http://www.zmescience.com/other/outdoor-activity-problem-solving-14122012/
This proves that those who spend time in nature are better problem solvers because of the ability they have to make conscience decisions without relying on technology.
According to the Forbes article, “Take a Risk: The Odds are Better Than you Think” by Margie Warrell, expert motivational speaker and best selling author, we as humans are innately risk adverse, it’s much easier for us to stay in our comfort zones, not speak up, or going along with change.
But if no one took risks we wouldn’t have most things that have been vital to the advancement of our economy and human race. I’m not suggesting jumping off bridges or diving into something without weighing your options. You should definitely do your research before partaking in an offer or decision that is presented to you, but remember there is sometimes a greater risk in not taking one at all.
Fear what FEAR?
Taking on an outdoor adventure for at least 48 hours will make you realize your biggest fear isn’t so big after all. Overcoming challenges in the outdoors will prepare you to take on just about anything that comes your way. For example, taking a wrong turn on your mountain bike, leading you to the black diamond portion of the trail, it was scary and you may have felt worried and fearful at times, but guaranteed you’ll never forget the experience. These experiences change the way we approach situations that occur in our daily life.
Now, you have 5 reasons to take an adventure to overcome your fears! Hopefully it will let you see your fear with a new perspective, advise you to weigh the positive and negative risks, reconnect with yourself through nature, and most importantly have fun by living life adventurously!
How have your overcome a fear in the past? We’d love to know! Let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You too can join our movement, and see the premiere of the film this summer.
How much adventure can you handle?!
First 20 participants at the Yoga by Donation class at Flourish this Sunday will receive awesome swag bags, and a few lucky ones will get extra gifts for coming! At our Shop for a Cause event at Athleta Feb. 27th UGo Bars out of Bloomington will be there giving away free samples!
Wild Cave Tour
Yoga in a cave? You can do both with us this weekend! Check out our wild cave adventure, and video from our last trip!
Yoga By Donation
Vinyasa flow yoga class
Sunday Feb. 21st 10-11:15am
Taught by owner of Flourish, Erin Smith
Suggested donation $10
Shop for a Cause at Athleta
Shop for a Cause
Feb. 27th 12-6pm
Raise funds for the Women’s Adventure Documentary!
Monday Feb. 22nd!
We will be on Indy Style again with one of our premiere sponsors of the Women’s Adventure Contest, Athleta! They will be outfitting the contest winners, talking about Shop for a Cause, and showing off their new spring line!
Adventures coming up!
You can still nominate a woman you know who needs adventure, but nominations end soon. The winners will win a free adventure led by DNK Presents, will be outfitted by Ahtleta, outfitted with racing kits from The Bike Line and Trek with many other surprises and giveaways!
Thank you to our other corporate sponsors of the Women’s Adventure Contest and Documentary!
Central Restaurant Products
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
RL Jones Financial
The Bike Line
You too can join our movement, and see the premiere of the film this summer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Danielle Wolter Nolan
DNK Presents Women’s Adventure Contest and Documentary
“Indiana-based” outdoor adventure company DNK Presents is offering an unprecedented program, a Women’s Adventure Contest and Documentary to take place in Indiana. The Indianapolis based outdoor adventure company will select four Indiana women to win a free adventure. DNK Presents owners Danielle and Kate Nolan will lead the adventure, which will take place the weekend of May 12-15, 2016. The four contest winners will disconnect from technology, experience the outdoors, and challenge themselves with new activities. In addition, a select team of inspiring, leading local women will join the adventure trip as activity facilitators.
The contest weekend will also form the basis of a DNK Presents documentary about the significance of women experiencing adventure. “We feel women’s outdoor adventure films, and first-person documentaries are few and far between,” said Danielle Wolter Nolan. “Our film will showcase ordinary women empowering themselves through a variety of activities.”
DNK Presents is actively seeking nominations for this unique experience through February 26, 2016. Nomination submission details and highlights of the women’s adventure weekend activities are available on the DNK Presents website, www.dnkpresents.com.
Danielle and Kate Nolan founded DNK Presents in June 2014, and began offering open sign-up adventures in April 2015. They know that challenging oudoor experiences and reconnecting with nature have transformed them both, personally and professionally. And, they have made it their mission to facilitate the same for others. Danielle and Kate customize adventure packages according to their clients’ goals and expected outcomes. They particularly enjoy working with women’s groups in leadership development and empowerment activities. DNK Presents is a fully insured adventure business. Danielle and Kate are Wilderness First Aid and CPR certified, Leave No Trace trainers and have their lead climbing certification.
Being out and about networking for our business it’s hard to go a week, well let’s be honest a day without hearing someone bringing up – Millennials and how to deal with those ‘darn kids’! As I was wondering why I can’t go a day without someone bringing up the topic of millennials, company culture, or the generation gap. I then realized why this topic is so prevalent, the Baby Boomers and the Gen X’ers are hiring us, recruiting us and trying to retain us at their offices.
So they (older crowd) want us (Millennials) in the office doing all the awesomeness we do but then our co-workers and bosses don’t know how to deal with us because we are so different from the other generations. For example Millennials are now the most diverse, and largest living generation in the U.S. For the first time we feel like we can be ourselves in the office which means we want to talk to our co-workers and engage with them on a regular-ish basis (we also like to have flexibility to be able to work from home!) We have been influenced by technology and we aggregate very quickly to change which means we adapt well to new ideas and creativity. Check out this study from the White House on everything else you ever wanted to know about Millennials.
So here is this new awesome breed of humans coming into the workforce and we still have the question of “How to Deal”? So you can’t afford to take your sales team to Sedona for a week long energy vortex, meditation retreat here are a list of some things you can do in your office for a new way of engaging, recruiting and retaining your employees. Don’t forget the Millennial generation likes to work at a place where they feel and are treated like family.
Employee Engagement Tips:
- Walk and Talk Meetings – Take your meeting outside! This is a great way to get outside the box – literally, you’ll see those creative juices flowing immediately.
- Weekly Meal – If your office is mostly or partly remote have at least one day and time together a week and not in a meeting setting but in a relaxed setting like lunch or breakfast.
- Adventures – Yes we are saying it but it’s true, try something different with your staff! They will thank you for caring about them enough to see that you want to do something fun and unique. We have facilitated several large and small organization team building events from a few hours to week long adventure retreats and have gotten excellent feedback from participants.
Our favorite thing to incorporate with any of the tips listed above is to NOT allow any type of technology. So no cell phones, ipads, iphones, computers, etc., therefore people are actually communicating and engaging with one another in the present face to face and not getting distracted with anything else.
Check out when we were guests on Spin Web Radio to hear what we had to say about Company Culture.