Getting out of your comfort zone comfortably
Some people see my pictures and see a crazy adventurer. Nothing could be farther from the truth to be honest. I sure love a good adventure, but I don’t think it needs to be crazy or reckless.
I started blogging because I really love the outdoors and I want to experience more of it. But what doesn't show up in my pictures and adventures are all the obstacles I've had to cross to get there. Those can be a challenge to talk about. It seems every time I look at an adventure blog or Instagram account, I'm bombarded with pictures of very young, very fit people, climbing mountains to sell a pair of shoes. Let's face it, it can be very intimidating. My hope is to convince others that feel like they have something holding them back, that they can do this too. So how do we get there?
Take a class
I do this for a lot of things. I took a weekend class to see if I liked motorcycles before I bought one. I've taken classes to learn how to replace the wires and plumbing in my home. (I think I may leave that to the professionals though!) When it comes to the outdoors, I've struggled with a fear of canoes after falling out of one and getting pulled under the water when I was 19. And bears. Do I really have to explain that one? My fear of bears kept me out of the backcountry for a very long time.
Since the incident at 19, I didn’t get back into a canoe until I was 37. I stumbled on a Groupon for a day course to learn how to canoe. Learning how to paddle properly from professionals had to be the best thing I've ever done! From learning to steer properly, to dumping on purpose, to performing rescues, the whole experience made me feel much more comfortable.
From taking that class I heard about another. A class in canoe tripping. Really? Yes they're out there. Being able to spend days in the woods, again with professionals made me much more confident about dealing with bears. (Thankfully I’ve never seen any in person yet... but I'm sure that day will come.)
What else can you do?
Talk about it / Blog about it
When I started blogging I figured maybe my friends and family would be into it. I never imagined perfect strangers would want to hear about my latest adventure, but they do. And that keeps me motivated. From the blog, I was lucky to meet other bloggers who offered up plenty of great advice and chances to practice paddling and go on trips. This can be invaluable! If you want to get comfortable doing something, you have to keep doing it. Again and again and again...
Spend time learning from people with experience
I had a last minute invite to take a trip with David Lee from The Passionate Paddler. We'd connected through our blogs and the pages we'd made for our outdoor dogs that often accompany us on trips. When he asked if I'd be interested in doing a lost canoe route I leapt at the opportunity! The Quirke-Whiskey loop is a crown land hidden gem in Ontario. It's obvious that it’s not heavily travelled but there is the occasional sign of humans passing through before you. This is a place you'd have to see to believe. Towering cliffs, beautiful boulders, thick dense forest, and crystal clear water. David’s photography is impeccable, but this is still definitely a place you need to see with your own eyes. The pictures don't show the struggle, the wind, the calm, and the awe. Definitely the awe. I've never felt so small amongst the wilderness. And here, for once, feeling small is a great feeling!
I knew I didn't have the skills to do a trip like this, but boy did I want to learn. And David is the perfect teacher. He definitely knows his stuff. Which leads me to my next two points.
I didn't have many questions for David but that was due to him offering up a lot of information right from the beginning. He said the route may be difficult. There may be times we'd have to walk the canoe, or carry our gear through places in the forest where there is no trail. No trail? Seriously? Yes. That’s right! You see, I'm used to places like Algonquin with nicely marked open trails. I knew this would be seriously exciting! But could I really handle it?
Be honest about your skills and limitations
I can't stress this one enough. If you have someone willing to take you far out of your comfort zone, you've got to let them know where you're at as far as your health and physical capabilities go. There's nothing worse than taking someone into the woods only to find out you've got to do all the work.
With David I was brutally honest. I had just come back from a trip where I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was coming down with the flu. Couple that with a heavy, long portage and it's a recipe for disaster! I didn't want to have a hard time out there with David, but by the time the weekend came around, I was back in tip top shape! (Well maybe not tip top, but as good as it gets!)
I also have a mild heart murmur. It doesn't cause too many issues, but every now and then I've got to stop and catch my breath. I really don't like holding people up, so that's always a worry, but if David’s ok with that, so am I! And as it turns out I really didn't have to stop anyhow. I felt great! Forget catching my breath, I had to catch up to David! A new challenge for me was carrying a heavy pack straight up a steep incline. I've gone up and down the Algonquin portage trails, but this was a whole different experience! Luckily we found a junky old paddle on the rocks and I used it as a hiking stick! It was perfect. Had we not found it, there were branches and sticks everywhere. It’s usually easy to find things in the woods to assist you if you need help. Or you could always purchase hiking sticks. The paddle let me push with my arms as well. Otherwise I think I would have crawled up a couple of those portages! (Who am I kidding? I did crawl, but who's counting?)
Remember to have fun!
Enjoy the sights! Act like a kid! Jump in a puddle! Moon your paddling partner! Whatever you do, take the time to remember why you went to all the trouble to get there. Enjoy the process, not just the destination.
Don't worry about the mountain someone else is climbing. Start where you are with what you've got, learn from someone else, and never stop asking questions. As I like to say... It's always an adventure!