The Outpost trade show is an ingenious event that disrupts the traditional trade show. Companies, 500+ “outdoorsy” types, including myself are invited to camp out in the Redwoods for the weekend. It’s the perfect way to market outdoorsy stuff– by actually going outdoors and using the products for their intended purposes.
Although I am definitely no stranger to the outdoors, the idea of the forest kind of freaked me out.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned that every ecosystem is exhilarating (and intimidating) in it’s own way. One can’t prepare you for another. The beach baby is just as intimidated by the subway as a city slicker would be to a wave.
I love the big city but there has always been a constant calling in me to connect with nature. I truly believe all “city folk” hear this call deep down inside, but perhaps the need is just buried deeper in some than in others. The addiction to the amenities of city life is real and we take them with us at every possible opportunity, which is what makes many vacations and retreat experiences inauthentic, no matter where they are in the world.
Although I’ve spent most of my life in big cities (namely Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles) I am also originally from a tiny town of 400 people in South Carolina. I’ve traveled all over the world (even the Arctic Circle) and spent years living in the tropics, getting stung by scorpions, swarmed by bees, rescued from rip tides,and sweeping up bat poop.
One would think at this point that I’m somehow living outside of my comfort zone, but again: every ecosystem is different. The forest was new territory and I was excited for the invitation from Outpost to escape the city and explore a bit of the unknown.
The experience was transforming to say the least. These are just a few ways I managed to leave, and overcome, my comfort zones:
1. Embrace the dark
I’m big on synchronicity, especially when I’m running late. Case in point: The Stargazer’s Hike. I’d missed the 11pm meet-up trying to score S’mores and Teva Sandals, smh. I decided to try to catch up with the group, not realizing that it was a 10 minute hike alone across a foot bridge, a creek, and whatever else I happened not to notice because it was so dark that when I closed my eyes, nothing appeared any different than when my eyes were open!
Duh, its the forest. Unfortunately, I’m not used to that. If I had arrived on time, I would’ve gotten the headlamp they were giving out.
Luckily the moon was halfway out. It made me really appreciate it more than I already do and also reminded me that we humans had been doing this for centuries before electricity.
After what seemed like forever, I finally caught up with the guide, who took me to the hike’s scenic spot, which was indeed breathtaking.
And as soon as I lied down a shooting star crossed the sky! Natures gift for facing my fear, I suppose.
Although the selection they brought looked cool, it wasn’t the style I was used to at all. Plus I’d started off pretty stupid because my helmet was on backwards.
Thank goodness for the electronic gears and brakes distracting me from the fact that I was bumbling through the woods. I finally found my groove when we hit the pavement and pedaled along with no hands for a while, but that didn’t last long once we actually hit the trail.
Everything went downhill from there. Literally.
In New York City, I’d once flipped over a taxi door on my BMX, and another time broke my arm but none of that could could prepare me for going downhill through rocks. Then uphill with sand. Then through a creek. Then picking up the bike to go down an embankment.
People fell. Things broke, but luckily neither of them had to do with me.
Although I wasn’t at all “specialized” at this type of riding, I learned what kind of rider I was and that, at the least, I could keep it together in other environments. That, to me, was worth the challenge. One girl even commented the next day that I was “really in shape” because of how I handled the bike.
I would’ve laughed but I couldn’t feel my abs. Looks can be deceiving.
3. Get high
Climbing was a complete accident. Okay, not literally. I just didn’t think it was going to happen. By this point everyone was saying their goodbyes. We’d packed the car up and I was walking around with a machete and the last coconut that I’d promised one of the Outpost folks. I decided to trade that coconut for a climb which was still going on.
Lucky for me, it would be the last climb of the weekend and I would even get to keep my coconut.
Although there were a million different gadgets around my waist and legs, only two were the most important: the ascender and descender though the descender was much more important to me since it falls down, not up).
Oh and I can’t not mention the hooks! Which looked like the hooks you buy from the gas station that say “not for climbing.”I found out first-hand why: my entire body weight was hooked from a tree.
After a few feet up, my left arm got super tight, similar to how it would with a rowing machine but according to our guide, there is no specific muscle training to prepare you for tree climbing, you just have to keep doing it (oddly enough like Soul Cycle).
I finally made it to the first “branch” I could get to and immediately sat on it without even thinking if it was even safe.
We spent about 15 minutes just sitting and talking like it was completely natural to be dangling five stories in the air talking about laundry. Then, looking down for the first time, I was reminded that I was dangling from a tree, five stories in the air. I was frozen.
Believe it or not, the branch had become my comfort zone. It’s amazing how the mind works. Comfort can be found anywhere at anytime. Coming down, of course, was the best part because it’s just like we see on TV, and there’s nothing more comforting than that.