At a historical moment when the United States seems determined to descend into a dystopian chaos out of Mad Max: Fury Road, one wants to feel that they're doing something worthwhile to help hold together the fraying core of the social fabric. So when a few friends have asked not just why we're starting Boldly Went, but why we're starting a project organized around outdoor storytelling now, it prompted some thought. When there's so much else to do, why focus on this?
While this Boldly Went thing wasn't started with either War Boys or geopolitical crisis in mind, our focus on connecting the outdoors community, and sharing its stories, has helped us to think about what our community brings to the world. In the midst of tumultuous times, this project is helping to remind us why, in fact, the outdoors matters.
Why the outdoors matters to us
For Angel and I, outdoor adventure has always mattered personally, because it has formed us as a couple. When we were twitterpated undergrads, Angel convinced me to take a trip to visit her on exchange in Australia, where we spent a month sleeping on buses, boating with crocodiles in the Daintree forest, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef near the Whitsunday Islands, and gently warding off dingoes around a campfire on Fraser Island with backpackers from around the world.
That trip precipitated a later move to New Zealand, where we spent two years tramping, penguin-watching, and exploring the country's mountains and fjords in a sweet, yellow '85 Ford Laser in our free time. Which led to a move to Seattle, where the local legends at Fleet Feet Sports and the Seattle Running Club introduced us to trail and ultra-running, which led to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, gushing about Seattle in long form in Trail Runner Magazine, scrambling up mountains after work, learning to boulder at the Seattle Bouldering Project, orienteering with the Cascade Orienteering Club, backpacking around Latin America, starting a business, learning to ski, taking up paddling...
So to us it's intuitive: the outdoors matters. Outdoor sports and adventures have shaped our life and formed us as a couple. The majority of our favorite life experiences have been outside, and the outdoors has been therapy to help us get through the majority of our most difficult times.
Building a community that matters is what this project is about
But the impulse behind Boldly Went has less to do with how the outdoors has impacted us (after all, we could just be spending more time outside rather than sitting on computers developing this thing), and more with a recognition that the outdoors community is full of incredible people with stories that need to be told. So we think of our storytelling events as more than just entertainment: we think of them as ways to make concrete connections among outdoor athletes and adventurers, because it's those connections that we believe will matter.
This foundational belief is based, in part, on our experience of probably the coolest outdoor community we know - Seattle's High Heel Running, a women's trail running group created by our friend Megan Kogut. It was started as a random post on Craigslist years ago, but it's developed into a group with over 1000 members that's been profiled in national publications multiple times, and has created a community of scientists, writers, environmentalists, businesswomen, and normal people running everything from 5ks to 100 mile mountain ultras. Their secret, we think, has been support, connection, and inspiration, and we see those as central to what it means to be a part of the outdoor adventure community. Beyond just pushing towards new achievements in running, the High Heelers have spawned romances, adventures, activism, businesses, and friendships in the Northwest and around the world. Angel's first experience in event organizing, in fact, happened with a team of women from this group, at Grit and Grace in 2015, and Boldly Went is very much developed in the desire to spread the High Heel spirit of support, connection, and inspiration more broadly.
We also believe that making connections in the outdoor community matters because outdoor adventurers so frequently form the beating heart of the global environmental movement. While they're also athletes, the outdoor community we know, and want to organize, are also the scientists, the trail maintainers, the ocean and water protectors, the non-profit administrators and the volunteers who love their environment at a visceral level - not just as a theoretical "natural resource". That's why its exciting to us that our events have included (among a ton of others) representatives from the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and Gerry Stephenson (pictured below), who helped turn an old mining pit in Canmore, BC into Quarry Lake, one of the town's most popular community destinations. (You guys are going to love hearing a couple of Gerry's stories on the podcast in a couple of weeks!) We think connecting these people puts a literal spin on the concept of grass roots organizing.
As a community we can get money to the right places
And we also believe that the outdoors community matters economically. Not just in an "REI creates a lot of jobs in Seattle" kind of way, but also because members of this community are working to get money to the right places.
In North America, sometimes that looks like outdoor athletes using their passion as a way to raise grassroots funds for important causes. We've come across some amazing examples of this already with our friends in the paddling community at Monster and Sea, who are killing it raising money to directly support families dealing with cancer, and Keep Calm and Paddle On - an organization started by Chad Guenter in Canmore, BC, who SUP Magazine accurately described as a "tattooed giant" working to raise awareness of mental health issues. We've known Seth Wolpin for years, but he fits this category too as a badass trail runner (he's running maybe the world's hardest race at the Barkley Marathons as I write!) who partnered with us at Grit and Grace and is using his PhD level smarts and connections in the Himalayas to raise funds directly for poor in Nepal through Wide Open Vistas.
We also know that making connections between adventurers here and locals doing cool things abroad can be a way to help provide a decent living for people from places where economic possibilities are limited. That's why from the beginning we're working to help connect people with friends like the Martinez family at Ruta Verde in Jalcomulco, Mexico - locals doing hardcore outdoor adventures who can provide an amazing local experience for real athletes - paddlers, hikers, mountainbikers - looking for a challenge. And it's also why we're developing a partnership with our friend Javier Navichoc at Trek for Kids on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, who covers all the bases for adventure travel: he runs a small, local Spanish school (Guatemaya) and can teach you the language basics, and Mayan culture, while also taking you on local adventures climbing volcanoes and camping out in hidden spots outside the normal tourist enclaves, all while helping to raise funds to pay for education for kids in the towns around the lake.
So, what we're doing here - bringing people together, connecting the outdoors community, encouraging you to connect with each other - it's something we believe in. Not just because it's fun, or because the outdoors is who we are, but because we believe that connecting you all will make a difference. In tumultuous times, more connections mean more possibilities, and we trust this community to load up the guzzoline, unhitch the pod, and drive straight into the mass of Warboys.
P.S. If you're interested in partnering with us - getting an adventure storytelling event to your town, putting us in contact with cool people who are doing cool things in the outdoor community, helping get the word out about local adventure partners in remote parts of the world, or whatever, please send us a message! This project is about building a dynamic community of outdoor adveturers, and we love new connections!