Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved reading about girls who went off on epic adventures. I was really into Little House on the Prairie and the American Girl series, and thought about what it would be like to live somewhere new and do something different with my life (I guess it makes sense why I ended up moving to Alaska!). Now that I’m an adult, my favorite books are ones where women go on adventures and do awesome things. I love reading these books in my tent while backpacking, in a chilly cabin by a fire, and snuggled up under a blanket at home when the weather is raging outside.
The latest outdoorsy book to hit my bookshelf is Taking Aim by Eva Shockey. Yes, Eva’s a famous hunter and I’m definitely not. But what got me interested in this book is the fact that Eva is a girl who is trying to break into what is typically a “man’s activity” and the fact that she’s spending all of her time outdoors and loves every minute of it. The book starts with Eva looking back on her upbringing and her dreams for the future, which end up getting totally thrown out the window as she falls in love with hunting and spending time outdoors. The rest of the chapters are spent detailing the way she overcame obstacles – from overpacking and being totally underprepared for her first hunt, to how hard it was to deal with long days in the cold in Canada, to the final pages where she talk about some really tough hiking during a moose hunt. I’m not a hunter, and I thought I’d be bored by the hunting parts and not really able to connect with her story. But it turns out that spending time outside is the same no matter how someone does it. She describes her time in the woods and mountains with such detail and love, and I connected with her story immediately. Who hasn’t overpacked for a hike, gotten way too cold and bored outside, or struggled on a tough trail? It’s the stuff that we don’t usually blog or talk about, but it’s the real side of learning how to be outdoorsy.
When I was growing up, my parents urged me to do something with my life that I loved 80 percent of the time. “No matter what you choose,” they said, “it’s not going to be perfect. There will be days you don’t like it or it’s hard or boring. But if you’re excited about it eighty percent of the time, you can handle the twenty percent that’s not so great.”
One of the big themes of the book was not giving up during tough moments. I’m a pretty anxious person, and I struggle a lot with not feeling like I’m good enough or outdoorsy enough or badass enough. It’s hard not to feel alone when you’ve got anxiety about being a newbie – everyone around you just seems like they know what they’re doing and just instantly got good at it with no help or mistakes along the way. Eva didn’t shy away from getting real about how hard it is to break into a new activity, especially one that not a lot of girls are doing. At many moments I felt like I was reading my own story.
I have a bad habit of being hard on myself. I’ve always been this way. I hate making mistakes. I hate failing. I hate disappointing others. And yet, despite these fears, I also make conscious choices to take risks that have high potentials for failure. While at times anxiety or pressure can be overwhelming, they can also motivate me.
It really made me think about my decision to climb Kilimanjaro next August. Yeah, lots of regular people do it all the time. I’m far from the first woman to do it. But it’s so overwhelmingly scary and so far outside my comfort zone. I’ll be in a country where I don’t even speak the language, and I’ll be there alone. And through all of my anxiety around solo travel and the worry that I didn’t pack enough or train enough, I’ll also somehow have to get myself to the top of the tallest freestanding mountain on earth. How am I supposed to do that? I don’t even know where to begin getting ready for this, and I’m overwhelmed. And now that it’s official on my blog, it feels so much more real.
My story is not solely about hunting nor intended only for would-be hunters. It’s for all you women and girls who yearn for a life full of adventure. It’s about discovering your dream, following your personal passion, mastering your skills, taking aim no matter who thinks you’re crazy…and then letting the arrow fly. If you’ve done all you can, I can tell you from my own experience that you’re almost certain to hit your mark.
But there’s a reason that I’m climbing Kili next year. It’s because I WANT to do it. I want to push myself to see what I’m capable of, and be able to have the experience of hiking and camping with a group of amazing women who also love hiking as much as I do. I want to struggle through the learning process and gain so much more knowledge and experience with backpacking and hiking. And I want to stand on the summit and know that my crazy, hot mess, anxious self was able to accomplish something incredible. Getting this book when I did was a serious stroke of luck. It’s so hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone and go for the really big and scary dreams that you have, but knowing that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way before actually helped me relax about this whole process. It’s easier to commit to something big after you’ve read another women’s adventure story. For now, I’m going to keep preparing myself for the climb while blogging about every step of the process. It’s going to be awesome to see what I’m able to do now that I’ve set my aim on something so big!
Do you ever stress about being a newbie? How do you deal with the struggles of learning how to do something new? Who are your female outdoor role models?
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.