I get outside because I’m in love.

I unabashedly declare that I want to be wrapped in the arms of fresh air, kissed by the sun and the rain, covered under the majesty of the Milky Way. It’s one of the most powerful, awe-inspiring, life-giving loves that I’ve found in this mortal life. I want to be consumed by it the same way it consumes my thoughts.

Getting outdoors might require falling asleep an inch or two above cold ground, protected only by the thin-walled barrier of a tent. It likely means not having a spot to take warm showers — or shower at all. Skin could get sunburned, gnawed on by bugs, and bodies will likely get banged up. There will be dirty clothes to re-wear and oatmeal-in-a-pouch breakfasts. And there will be little in the form of cell signals, internet connections, and readily-available potable water.

But when you’re in love, nothing of the above makes a dent in your happiness.

BC Joffre Lakes

I live in a wet climate, close to North America’s only rainforest. It rains. A lot. Yet I still get outdoors: The rain makes the world new, deepens the earth toned-scenery and intensifies my wonder. When the showers are gentle, I unzip the windows on my tent just an inch and let the sweet air rush in. Birds sing their words to each other, but other than that, all is silent.

In the winter, it’s those same quiet experiences — the ones that take me away from phones, calendar alerts, and the rush of traffic and move me into blank landscapes — where my imagination can take over.

It’s in the outdoors that I’m in my own space. I read without being online, I write using only the research stored in my head. I listen. I feel myself get hungry and rely only on what I’ve carried in or able to forage. I schedule my time by the sun as it enters and leaves the day.

The Perfect Campsite I Almost Didn’t Find

My life’s dream is deep in the outdoors. My future is wrapped around the crags and peaks and carried beyond me by the rivers.

People often ask why I live so far from my family and all that I grew up with. They wonder why I am so head-over-heels (sometimes literally) in love with skiing, climbing, mountain biking, etc. No matter how plainly I try to put it to them, I get one of two reactions:

The answer is simple: The outdoors literally altered the course of my life.

I thought I had my future together before the outdoors suggested a new potential: I had my dance teams and my college aspirations. But my life’s real potential only came after the outdoors and I got acquainted. This new world opened possibilities I hadn’t considered possible for mere mortals like myself. The outdoors showed me that things I had only glimpsed in magazine ads and movies could be achieved through my own determination and grit.

It didn’t take a special athlete. It didn’t take a team. The outdoors showed me a new perspective on personal potential, giving me skills and qualities and depth of life that were so much greater than life before.

I grabbed hold. I never looked back.

In trying to explain the depth of the outdoors and its connection with every facet of an outdoor enthusiast’s life, I once wrote, “Our thoughts and daily actions are intertwined with being in our element; about the lines, the rapids, and routes that capture our hearts and imaginations. It’s not something we merely enjoy. We need these things almost as desperately as we need oxygen, water, food, shelter and love—and sometimes we even sacrifice a few of those.

“It shapes our lives. At least, it shaped mine.”

reasons-to-hike

Words rarely do justice to being in love, but if you’re still puzzled: Run yourself to the peaks, to a wild river, to the ocean. Sit yourself down and fill your lungs with pure air. Lie back in a meadow and let deadlines pass like the clouds above. 

Birds will serenade you — you don’t need your iPod.

Things are continually changing — you don’t need your television.

Nature is talking around you — you don’t need to text.

Just fall in love.

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Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Leaving home to journey westward alone, she chased the sun to Utah. Over the years, she was consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. But exploration continued to call. After closing her bakery — which funded college courses and adventure — she stored her possessions and hit the road again, on a quest to reach the distant places of North America. For three years she lived in her little Mazda 3 and skied the backcountry of Alaska, slept under the northern lights in the Yukon Territory, ice climbed Colorado's frozen canyons and rock climbed across the continent, photographed Nova Scotia’s coves, backpacked in southern US wildernesses and munched on sugared tamarindo in the jungles of Mexico. But living in a car started to feel limiting, so after seeing the many glories this continent had to offer, she chose the only place fitting for an explorer to spend a lifetime of wild wonder: British Columbia. Dual citizenship in hand, she settled along the Powder Highway in the Selkirks and is now making her home between four walls and deeply wooded mountains. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.