They Don't Look Like Me
Last year I wrote a post entitled, "I Don't Look Like Them." In the post I lamented about how the outdoorsy blogs are chock full of gorgeous, air brushed, picture-perfect young women (and men, too). On Instagram, they are shown climbing moutains in cute, clean clothes without breaking a sweat. Or pictured soaking in hot springs in a thong bikini. Or perhaps they are gloriously shown paddleboarding their way across a turquoise alpine lake, showing off a little side boob and giving the viewers an odd "come hither" look.
In my prior post, I fretted about little-old-me trying to create an online presence in this make-believe world. How would (or could) I compete? And who would care to look at my posts or photos and read my words and thoughts? That post got quite a bit of attention, especially considering my then-scant following (OK, still scant.). Well-wishers encouraged me to continue on or urged me not to be self-conscious.
Fast forward to today. The fact is, the majority of people I see out backpacking are either very young (in their early twenties) or older (over 40 and commonly well past retirement age). So yes, there are youngsters out there (as there should be and God bless 'em), but MANY of the people I meet are older. Much older. Commonly in their 60's and certainly in their 70's, too.
I also know more adenturers now, through my meetup.com backpacking group, as well as other backpacking trips and networking. Two weeks ago, I took eight other women on a short backpacking trip in a local park. Much to my suprise, I was the youngest woman there at 40! That's so wonderful and it makes my heart feel full of joy. The most accomplished of us all in terms of general adventuring was a women who - I'm totally guessing here and I hope I don't insult her - was proabably about 60 years old.
In her lifetime, she has solo-rafted down the entire raftable length of the Colorado River, including the Grand Canyon (not to mention rafting and kayaking a zillion other white water rivers too numerous to count)! She flies planes, was a commercial pilot, guides people on river trips, builds and makes all her own gear, invented some amazing hammocks for backpacking that don't require trees, has backpacked everywhere, and so on. By the end of our 24-hour trip, we were calling her MacGyver. An impressive adveturer and still going strong.
Two of my favorite backpacking buddies are a pair of brothers. Both have grown children and are close to retirement. One has climbed all of Colorado's 14,000+ peaks and together they have thousands of miles of trail behind them (and thousands more in front!). They are both incredibly accomplished backpackers with grey hair (well, one is bald) and wrinkles (I love wrinkles, especially laugh lines!). Despite our age difference, Steve and Dave kick my butt when backpacking.
A woman I met on the John Muir Trail is in her 40's. She is killing it in the adventure and travel categories! Her Facebook and Instagram posts are all about her trips to Zion, solo-backpacking trips in the Sierras, climbing mountains in Southern CA, and on and on. She balances that level of activity with a family and her demanding job, too, proving you don't need to be in college with responsibiities only to yourself to spend quality time outdoors. Bravo, Pam!
In January, I joined a challenge to walk/hike/run at least 365 miles in 2018. The group is open to men and women, but was started by women and is predominantly full of females from around the world. Our private Facebook group is one of the most inspiring groups of people I've ever encountered. The women are of all ages and varying levels of physcial health, but I think it's fair to say that most appear to be over 30 and a huge percentage over 40. A lot are well over 50. I set aside time each day to catch up on their posts and check out their photos of themselves pushing to reach their goals. They all look natural, beautiful and NORMAL.
You know what NONE of these people are? Super models. They are all beautiful, strong, wise and filled with the happiness that comes from spending time with Mother Nature. But they aren't showing off butt cheeks nor pecs nor "suns out, guns out" photos of their buff arm muscles. They never look airbrushed or posed in their photos and selfies. They don't have brand sponsors and they aren't ambassadors of anything other than themselves. No one pays them to provide their perspective or photos, yet I find the photos they all post to be the most inspirational. I see such joy in their eyes. I feel their energy and love for nature and the activity at hand. When they share their perspectives and insghts, it's always valuable and wise.
There are so many of us out there. So many midlifers and beyond basking in the glory of our hobbies. Mountain biking, thru-hiking, backpacking, SUPing, kayaking, trail running, sailing. I wish there were a community on Instagram to showcase midlifers and seniors doing their "thang." A community of folks just doing what they love most and working hard to live healthy, active lifestyles. A place where their photos and their stories can be shared and celebrated and appreciated. A place for people like me to see people like me, and to find inspiration in that.
Hell, I can create that place...and I already did! Please check out @MidliferHiker on Instagram. If you are 40 or older, tag @midliferhiker on your posts and I'll feature you. Follow #midliferhiker and use that hashtag on your own photos. Let's start crashing Instagram's servers with photos of the folks who are most commonly out there and crushing it! Let's stop hiding behind the camera and feeling like no one wants to see our old mugs on Insta. We do! They do! I do!
My motto: No more side boobs or butt cheeks on mountain peaks!