Last year was a big year for me. I learned to embrace that one does not have to be a certain number on the scale in order to do everything they dream. I cemented this belief system by going to REI Outessa Summit in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire in September. What I thought would be a mere weekend of outdoor activity and meeting like-interested people became something much more. REI Outessa Summit was a life changing event with some incredibly fun outdoor activities mixed in.
Prior to going to Outessa, I was desperate for a sign from the universe illuminating the path forward. I was lost and disconnected from working and going to graduate school full time. I felt like my relationship, my home, and my interests were neglected. I felt burdened by the negativity certain friendships were bringing. I was not at my happiest. As I drove to Waterville Valley I set my intention for what I wanted to gain from the weekend: clarity.
After I got past the awe factor of how gorgeous the White Mountains are, I headed to registration where I received my first sign from the Universe. The first person I met was Steph Jagger via a fun nametag game where you choose your spirit animal. Do you know of Steph Jagger? If not, I highly recommend you pick up her book, Unbound, give it a read, and shoot her an e-mail. Meeting Steph at Outessa became a catalyst for monumental change in my life.
The first night I felt clumsy and out of place. I went to Outessa Summit alone to force myself out of the comfort zone I had built since graduating college, where I struggle to form new friendships. I wandered from campfire to campfire, then eventually into the North Face tent where Diane Van Deren sat with other brand ambassadors. Diane’s story of overcoming epilepsy and going on to become one of the world’s most elite ultrarunners made me feel like anything was possible. It renewed that childlike sense of wonder that comes with dreaming up all the possibilities and believing in them wholeheartedly, something that is easily lost in the transition to adulthood. It also gave me the confidence to branch out & initiate conversations with strangers throughout the rest of the weekend.
During the first activity I participated in, a morning coffee hike, I met a wonderful girl named Laura who would go on to become a good friend. We realized we had a lot in common quickly and wound up sitting together for most meals and during the evening campfire. We have since stayed in touch and plan to meet up again this fall in Waterville.
Outessa was non-stop multi-sport outdoor activities throughout the day, amazing women, and inspiration. It was even more than that though. REI went above and beyond in every way to make this truly feel like a retreat where you are pampering yourself with an outdoorsy type of self-care. The meals were amazing. The talks they hosted were inspirational and touched your heart.
My favorite program was the Great Big Journey Goal Setting seminar. It was two hours with Steph Jagger where you re-framed the way you think about goals. Instead of looking for the end result and constantly shooting for what’s next, it challenges you to think of starting lines. To think of how you want to feel and what makes you feel that way. To reconnect with what you truly want. I didn’t do great in this goal setting seminar. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted and, in reality, I wasn’t slowing down to connect with what truly brings me happiness & joy and giving those passions voice to state their deepest desires. That is something I learned later, in her 12 week Great Big Journey course.
Looking back over the last year, I have said yes to adventure in ways I never imagined. I have learned to slow down and savor my outdoor experiences rather than barreling through hikes and parks while checking off my bucket list. Since Outessa, I have trashed my bucket list. Why? I don’t want my life to be filled with things I wish I had done. Instead, I am taking the knowledge I gained at Outessa last year and moving forward with intention: to do what makes me happy and answer the call to adventure when it arises.
I am going back to Outessa in just a few weeks. There are still spots available for Waterville Valley. I’m excited about the opportunity to reconnect with friends made last year and I’m most excited that my Mom is attending with me. Outessa is a special experience where you can try whatever you would like without judgement. The instructors are amazing. Plus, there may even be dance parties by campfire…