Why you should never feel intimidated while starting new adventures

The outdoor community is a welcoming one…until it isn’t. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there will undoubtedly come a time when you feel like you’re on the outside looking in—subtle smirks at the climbing gym, a backhanded compliment, a snide remark from a surfer when you paddle out on your SUP board (when did that start, anyway?). But you should never let insecurity stop you from enjoying your experience. There’s a theory in psychology called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true. Maybe you call it manifestation. Either way, your attitude about an experience has a lot to do with the outcome. Here’s how to manage your expectations:

Remember everyone was a beginner at one point

No one was born climbing mountains, which means everyone experienced a learning curve at some point. Sure, athletes who grew up in outdoorsy families or with an innate sense of balance (or superhuman strength) may have an advantage, but more likely they committed to getting better at a sport that felt difficult at first. There’s no reason you can’t get on their level, but you have to start somewhere.

Ask questions

Outdoor athletes love to share their knowledge, so use their willingness to your advantage. Ask questions frequently and immerse yourself in their culture. Just like learning Spanish is easier if you’re forced to live in a Spanish-speaking community, adopting the rock climber’s lexicon is easier if you spend time around one.

Study up

Do your research beforehand—don’t show up for a cold-weather camping trip wearing cotton long underwear. Preparedness will boost your confidence level and impress your group.

Be honest with your skill level

Your group is most likely just excited to be outdoors, so they won’t mind if you can only commit to climbing one peak before dark—but be honest. Saying that you can lead a hard climb or keep up with experienced hikers can leave the entire group in a bad place or even a dangerous situation. Ask to set the pace if you’re feeling exhausted; it’s better to be upfront about your skill level instead of apologizing later.

Commit to having a good time

Those snide comments? They probably only exist in your head. In my experience, the outdoors community is just stoked to see a newbie eager to learn. Even if you encounter someone overly judgmental, choose to shrug it off and commit to having a good time.

Offer help to those less experienced than you are

There’s going to come a day when you yourself are introducing someone to your favorite outdoor sport, so remember how you felt when you were first starting out and choose to be accommodating. Take the newbie under your wing and offer patience and guidance—it’s just good karma.

Lending a helping hand while adventuring

What has your experience been starting out in a new outdoor community? Share your experience in the comments!

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After a stint working for a surfing lifestyle magazine in California, Johnie Gall decided to ditch the 9-to-5 grind in favor of open roads, spontaneous adventure and coffices (that’s coffee shop offices). Since then she’s been on the continuous search for surf, summits, good beer, great people and even better stories that’s taken her from 14ers in Colorado to reefs in Hawaii to coastal climbs up and down the California coast. She started DirtbagDarling.com, an outdoor blog for women, to inspire more ladies to get out and explore the great outdoors.