Why Women Need Adventure

The feminist potential of the Great Outdoors

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When you google “adventure book”, every single book suggested by Google is written by a man.

Screenshot by Author

The outdoors have long been considered the realm of guys, while girls were stuck inside in the proverbial kitchen, men were out in the world, exploring. This social expectation is the first reason that it is subversive for women to be out, having adventures, and why doing so can be a powerful tool for personal and political empowerment.

At the moment, I’m binge-reading adventure books written by women, and it’s been an eye-opening experience. Tales of sheer bravery, incredible feats performed against all odds, be it ice, gravity or a sexist society, scared of the explosive mix that make a woman and adrenaline.

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I read about Alexandra David-Néel, who was the first European woman to cross the Trans-Himalayas in the dead of winter to reach the forbidden city of Lhasa in Tibet. That was back in 1924, and she was 55 at the time, scaling peaks over 5700 metres high without supplementary oxygen and wearing crude leather boots.

There’s Steph Davis, a professional climber, who gave up law school after five days to roam around the country, climbing and sky diving.

Aspen Matis, who got raped and then hiked the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, all the way from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, step by step getting closer to recovery.

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There are so many stories of inspiring women, and what is even more moving about this works is that the journey takes place just as much inside them as without.

Reclaiming their place in the outside world is liberating for women. They are freed from the domestic expectations that continue to weigh on us. It’s the power of claiming your place in the world, the power of belonging to your self and having your place in the universe, rather than a role defined by the people you care for.

Pushing your limits reaffirms the strength of your body, a strength we have been taught not to see. You feel the power of being strong in your own body. Your body is no longer an enemy, to be controlled, to keep small and skinny, but a part of yourself — a damn useful part, at that.

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It improves self-confidence, as confronting fear always does.

“I was unable to deny that things didn’t always go wrong; in fact, it was starting to seem as if they tended to go right. Every time I took a chance, I came out not just alive, but happier and stronger. My path seemed to be rolling out in front of me. With each jump and each climb, I found a little bit of belief, the confidence to take another step.”

— Steph Davis, Learning to Fly

I’m travelling at the moment, and trying to push my own limits, to stop being a scaredy-cat as I have been my entire life. Reading about all these amazing women fills me with admiration, inspiration, and hope about all that women are capable of.

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

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