“Aren’t you afraid? You know, of going to these places by yourself?”
I recently went to Death Valley National Park, and I decided to hang out in Alabama Hills for a few days before returning home. This is hands down my favorite place to camp in California, and it’s not just because of the breathtaking views of the Sierras. You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the charming town of Lone Pine is just 15 minutes away. When I drove in for coffee and a shower, I didn’t feel as though anyone questioned who I was, but rather, they wanted to know more about what I was doing. They weren’t worried about me, and they certainly didn’t think I was nuts. They were intrigued. This was progress. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt judged for being a solo female traveler, and I’m finally beginning to see a shift in the public’s perception.
With the rise of social media, more and more women are getting outside — and getting vocal about what it means to them. And they’re not just inspiring other women to push themselves and explore more. Men are starting to pay attention as well. Whether it’s a photographer whose style someone wishes to emulate or a genuine interest in someone’s backcountry adventure, traditional gender boundaries have started to dissolve into one another over the last few years. I’m thrilled to be part of that movement, and I can’t wait to watch it continue to pick up steam. It’s not about defining men vs. women — it’s about seamless inclusion and respect.
This trip marked my first time pitching the brand new Tufly tent, which was designed by women (and with women in mind). There are certain features that reflect that, but these are things anyone can truly benefit from. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter who built it — what’s most important is how strong it stands. Big Agnes is donating a portion of the tent sales to SheJumps, which is a nonprofit whose aim is to encourage more women and girls to find themselves outside. To me, that makes an even stronger statement, and it’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. I want to be heard, I want to grow and I want to inspire others to do the same.
Everyone is going to have a different path for finding themselves, but I’m a big believer that nature will teach you far more than anything you’ll ever learn in a classroom. Taking in a serene landscape is the best kind of therapy, but camping and hiking show you how to handle stressful situations and use your resources when things don’t go according to plan. There’s no chapter in any book that will give you the answer to that. You just have to do it. Oh, and it certainly has nothing to do with whether you’re a man or a woman.
Words and Images by Elisabeth Brentano, @elisabethontheroad