How Adventure Saved Me: Domesticated Wreck to Wild Woman Rising
My soul was suffering. Suicidal thoughts plagued me daily. It took an enormous effort just to get through each day. The same monotonous life, day in and day out. Get up, get the kids ready, take them to school, go to work, boring fucking office job that I hated but still had to be grateful for because it helped to pay the bills, pick up the kids after work, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, go to bed myself only to get up and do it all over again the next day. Mixed in there, of
course, are the other usual things like cleaning and doing laundry (so much fucking laundry). There were gymnastics classes, soccer, basketball and baseball games. Those did offer some rays of sunshine into what I considered an otherwise drab existence. Don't get me wrong, I love my children dearly and they are the ONLY reason I kept going but I remember feeling like I was missing something. There was some puzzle piece that needed to be fit into place.
"We should try backpacking," my then-husband says out of the blue one day. Me with a puzzled look on my face, "Huh? What are you talking about?" "Backpacking. I heard some people talking about it," he says. "You get a big backpack and have all of the gear, food, etc. that you need to survive for a few days and you head out into the wilderness. What do you think?" I'm sitting there, mulling this idea over and wondering if it's possible. The thought of surviving out of a backpack wasn't the issue. I was in love with the idea the moment he explained it. The issue... we lived in Texas. Not a ton of "wilderness" readily available, at least not what I considered to be wilderness. "Sure, I'm in. But where would we go?" I ask. So the planning began.
A few trips to the local sporting goods store ended up with a mountain of gear and supplies. Backpacks, a cook set, fuel canisters, and a backpacking stove, sleeping bags and pads, tent,
nifty dehydrated meals, the list goes on. We were so uneducated it was funny. We brought an axe. AN AXE. That thing weighed a ton! Now we just needed a destination. I wanted to keep it simple and close for the first time out. It would be just the two of us to see how it went. I planned a canoe float trip that was only a few hours from home but seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Perfect! This also made it much easier for us to be able to have our packs in the canoe instead of having to try to carry all of the unnecessary (and HEAVY!) things we had acquired. The company we enlisted would haul us and the canoe upstream to a put-in point. We would then float down the 26 miles over the next couple of days to the company's property which was our ending point. We could camp anywhere we wanted along the river as long as there wasn't a "Private Property" sign.
I had been car and RV camping as a child and always loved it but I couldn't imagine what this "roughing it" experience would do for me as an adult. Upon setting out into the wilderness, I remember being thoroughly giddy. This is a feeling that I hadn't had in a very long time. I felt
like I could breathe for the first time in ages. We canoed, we fished, set up camp along the river, made a campfire, ate dehydrated meals, stargazed and fell asleep to the coyote's song. I was a little sore the next morning from having paddled the canoe the day before but that didn't matter. For the first time that I could remember since being a child, my soul felt alive. This. This was the missing puzzle piece. The wilderness, being one with nature, the adventure.
After returning home I felt rejuvenated. This was exactly what I had needed so I did what any (somewhat) sane person would do. I started planning the next adventure. Obviously, we needed to get our shit together as far as our gear was concerned. We couldn't afford new gear right t
hen after already having spent a small fortune on the "wrong" stuff. I started researching backpacking and gear, subscribed to several outdoors magazines like Backpacker and Outside
so that when it came time to make new purchases I would be well educated. I researched places to go, "must do trails" and figured out how long it would take to get there since a lot of them were out-of-state. "If we take turns driving overnight then we'll get to the trailhead around 4 am and can sleep for a couple of hours in the car before hitting the trail," was a common thought when it came to destinations. Crazy, I know but you do what you must for the sake of the adventure.
New Mexico, just outside of Ruidoso, was the next adventure. This was a true backpacking trip. There was something so exhilarating about having everything I needed to survive for the next 3 days stuffed into a pack and carrying it on my back. The packs were still heavy as fuck but I
didn't mind. I was young and could handle whatever it took to be able to be out there. My first time backpacking, doing it at elevation, having come from basically sea level, 16 miles over 3 days and I rocked it! I was officially addicted. THIS is my happy place.
The planning and going, the time put in researching and then being able to carry out that plan,
that is what saved me. The adventure fed my soul and gave me back something that I was desperately needing but it was the planning that kept me going day to day. I had a trip planned every summer to an outdoor destination, spring break, and every 3-day weekend was mapped out to include a backpacking adventure. When I was feeling down, I would research destinations. It didn't matter that I already had stuff planned. The thought of a new place, a new adventure helped me to make it through some very dark times. I would remember the feelings while on the trail. I'd look through the photos and I'd think about the sounds, the smells, and how my pack
felt, the comforting weight of it. "If I can just make it to the next trip, I'll be fine," became my
I know first hand what suicide can do to a family. I made a promise to my children to never put them through that so that is the reason I held on when I wanted nothing more than to give up. I guess one would argue that it was my kids that saved me. While that is not untrue, I was simply going through the motions of what needed to be done. I was existing without living. Adventure is what saved me from the dark abyss, the prison that had trapped my soul. Yes, I still struggled but now I had something to look forward to. The coals of a long-dormant fire had been stoked and it now burned within me and has yet to be extinguished. I am not saying that backpacking is for everyone because it isn't. However, there is a healing quality within nature. Adventure gives us back something we lose in the transition from childhood to adulthood. I know it saved me from a place that I couldn't have dug myself out of otherwise.
I honestly believe that it is time for us to rewild ourselves in order to save ourselves.
Peace, love, and light. Blessed be. *If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help. You are not alone! * National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255