On my drives back and forth from work to home, I find myself listening to a lot of outdoorsy and travel podcasts. Many of the women being interviewed are taking on some extreme challenges, but not all. The interviewers and interviewees are usually in their 20’s or 30’s and as I listen, I’m jealous of the technology they have grown up with that has exposed them to so much more of the world than I knew at their age.
There were no examples around me as a young female of women who hiked, camped or biked, things that seem to be common today. But that doesn’t mean that women no longer are held back by fear or messages in our society that women can’t or shouldn’t do things like be President of the United States. Given who was elected, the message is loud and clear that it’s okay to objectify and grope women. Boys will be boys…
Thank goodness women are sounding off with their own declaration that “No, it’s not okay.”
I heard an interview on the podcast “Go Get Outside” where a young woman named Olivia Round was asked why she bicycled over 5000 miles, from Oregon to Florida. She said she used to lie about the reason and say she went to visit her sister. But the real reason was that she was afraid of men and sexual assault and wanted to overcome that fear.
I’ve heard other women who bike alone or hike alone voice similar “overcoming fear” goals. Why is it woman feel so much fear? That was a facetious question….
I’m discovering that strength and bravery come from a person’s determination, not their physical prowess. It’s about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. My fear isn’t of predatory men. What I’m afraid of is my aging body.
Because there are limitations that come with age. You discover that you can no longer “power your way through it” or “ignore the pain.” You no longer “bounce back” the next day.
Instead, you learn to be smarter. You find ways to accomplish the same thing in a different way. You learn to take it slow but steady. You use different equipment or tools, like hiking poles to assist bad knees. You do the thing the way that you are able to do it NOW. That’s what’s important. You don’t have to be fast or powerful, but you do need to be smart.
On a recent “She Explores” podcast, women over fifty called in to answer the question “What is it like to enjoy the outdoors after the age of 50?”
Many of the women had been doing extensive, rugged hiking for many years so their experience was of discovering their “new normal.” Other women took up hiking or biking later in life, like me.
One thing that a couple women talked about was how they now work out at the gym to stay strong and in hiking condition. They can’t just pick it back up in the spring or stay in shape by just doing the hiking. With age and the inflammation and pain that can go with it, the best thing to do is keep moving every day, all year long.
These statements reassured me that I’m on the right track. I’m still in the phase of exploring what I’m capable of doing. It appears that I’m able to handle a lot more than I thought I could.
I daydream now about exploring miles of woods, meadows, deserts, lakes and rivers up close and personal by bike and on foot. Rather than attempting to squeeze in as many sights as I can into a trip and get to a certain destination as fast as possible, I want to take my time to soak in the environment that I’m passing through.
I also want to prove wrong the messages we all hear about what we can do and what we should want to do at “our age.” I’ve already spent too much of my life giving up on myself. I believed it when I was told that “I’m not strong enough,” or “I’ll make a fool of myself” or “I shouldn’t do that because I might get hurt.”
Limitations are meant to be tested and pushed. That’s what athletes do all the time when they break records and do things no one thought were possible.
I’m glad that the only person I need to compare my abilities and accomplishments to is my past self. And I’m pretty sure I can beat her.