You’ve Got Class: Self Defense, First Aid, and Meeting New People

9 12 2009

 Buffy: I’m Buffy.  I’m new.

Xander: Xander.  Is – is me.  Hi.

Buffy: Um, thanks.

Xander: Well, uh, maybe I’ll see you around… maybe at school… since we… both… go there.

Buffy: Great! It was nice to meet you. [walks away]

Xander: We both go to school. Very suave. Very not pathetic.

— Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Welcome to the Hellmouth”

Yes, it’s true, I was one of those kids who liked school.  For the most part.  I mean, I didn’t relish test-taking or being picked on or gym class but in general school was an okay thing.  Sure, there were days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but since I was all right with the whole learning premise, it was pretty much a place to hang around with my friends for eight (or more, during theater season) hours per day.  College was even better for these purposes — you get to live with your friends, and go to class when you feel like it.

Once you’re in the real world, with a job, you start to realize how good you had it when you were in school…why do you think so many people go through the torture of grad school?  They get slapped in the face by the real world and run back to class, where it’s safe and fun and your success or failure depends pretty much on your own efforts.

Even those of us who stick it out in the real world, work our jobs, and get focused on our careers end up craving the classroom again eventually.  Think about it.  I bet you (or people you know) have taken various classes post-college.  Did you take a writing seminar?  A class on sauces at the local culinary school?  A beginner’s photography class you found on craigslist?  Salsa lessons at that bar down the street?

What makes you decide to take a class?  For me — and I’m betting for most people — part of it is an actual desire to learn something, maybe part of it is a desire to learn something specific, but part of it is the social aspect.    It’s like the first day at a new school all over again: a little scary, incredibly exciting, and now you’ve grown into your skin and have confidence you didn’t have at the acne-dangerous age of fifteen.  Who else will be taking the class?  What will they be like?  Will you have a chance to be popular, again or finally?

This is the Good Stuff side to the rule we discussed last week, you know, the one about never ever ever leaving your first aid kit behind.  While thinking about the injuries you might sustain on a solo hike or camping trip, or the other dangers out there can be intimidating, don’t forget that the key is to be prepared.  And how can you get prepared, in a fun, exciting way that conveniently ties into this little musing about school? 

You can take a class!

Last week I linked to the American Red Cross for first aid classes, but there are other organizations that offer them as well.  Female self-defense classes became a rage a handful of years ago, and they are still offered all over, in varying levels of commitment, intensity, and difficulty.  Classes don’t have to be limited to just safety, however; many local adult ed centers, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and other outdoors clubs offer hiking “classes” that usually involve a group hike.  Just because you want to be able to solo hike and camp, or prefer to solo hike and camp, doesn’t mean that you can’t also get involved with the community, learn something,  and get prepared.

You can even be like Xander and meet some new people at class, since you both…go there.

What classes have you voluntarily taken since leaving formal “school?”  Why?  What was good and bad about them?

On A Magic Carpet Ride

4 12 2009

As I’ve been writing Her Side, I have come across a number of other fantastic sites (yes, by using the word “other” I am implying that Her Side is fantastic), usually blogs, usually related to travel or the outdoors, and usually written by women.  Come on an around-the-blogworld-in-less-than-ten-minutes expedition with me.  You’ll like what you see.

The Daily Coyote

The Daily Coyote is a beautiful mostly-photo-but-with-some-lovely-writing blog by Shreve Stockton, author of the book The Daily Coyote (but the blog came first).  Ms. Stockton moved to Wyoming on a whim because it called out to her heart, and found herself loving the savage land, a cowboy, and a coyote pup (now fully grown) named Charlie.  On the blog, she documents how she came to Wyoming, how she came to be Charlie’s mother, and how she raised him along with a cat, a dog, and now a cow and a horse.  Be forewarned: if you click the “start at the beginning” link, be prepared to lose several days reading the entries and gazing at the photos.

Dressed In Dirt

Then there’s Dressed In Dirt.  Dressed In Dirt is the A.T. name of a woman who lives in Portland, OR, spent two and a half months hiking the A.T., blogs about it and hiking and camping and other related things, loves the outdoors, and doesn’t think of herself as hardcore.  I beg to differ, Adelaide, because you’re definitely more hardcore than I am…but as you rightly say, “Everyone hikes their own hike.”  I’m just glad you’re sharing your writing, experiences, and photography with the rest of us — building a community of women solo hikers and campers is part of what I’m trying to do here too.

Around the World with Lillie Marshall

Lille Marshall is in the midst of a “Round the World” solo trip, having decided to take the plunge after six years of teaching and saving.  Having traversed Japan, Cambodia and Vietnam, and currently in Thailand, Lillie is writing about her adventures on her blog.  Lillie also happens to be a co-contributor on Go Girl.  Just sayin’, full disclosure and all.  But she really is fun to read.  Makes me start wondering if I could pull off that kind of trip…

Hiking Lady

And finally, there’s Hiking Lady.  Hiking Lady has a great site with a treasure trove of information and deals (my favorite part is the deals) and news about hiking.

Now, of course, this list isn’t exclusive, and I’ve seen more sites, so more reviews will come.  But in the meantime, help me find these great bloggers? 

What are your favorite camping/hiking/outdoors/female travel sites?

Bring it on.  I’m ready.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.

Embrace the Unknown

2 12 2009

Well, hello there, December.

Who has time?

November is over, and Christmas carols are jingling in every store and on radio stations all over the country.  If you’re like me, you’re frantically trying to meet the year-end demands of your job, keep up with the rest of your normal life (laundry, bills, errands), and gear up for the holiday season.  Did you put up your decorations?  Send out holiday cards?  Did you get all of your holiday shopping done on Black Friday?  Cyber Monday?  Then you’re way ahead of me, because I have exactly two presents purchased, and I picked them up while on vacation in September, so that doesn’t totally count.

What’s more, now the weather has turned cold (and, if you live in the Northeast, wet with impending frozen on the horizon).  It’s no longer the “ideal” hiking season in New England.  I hold out hope that there might be one more good weekend day, but it doesn’t seem likely.  From here on out, it will be either too wet, too frozen, or too snowy to do a “standard” hike — in some places, it already is.

What is a casual solo hiker to do?  It’s true that some people enjoy winter hiking; it’s not something I have done very much of at all.  So this year, in honor of the first winter of Her Side, and as a holiday present to myself and to all my readers, I’m going to try something completely new…something I have wanted to try for a while but never got around to.

I’m going snowshoeing.

This will be me soon.

That way I can report back to you all and let you know how it goes.  Don’t say I’m not here for you.

Now, the idea makes me a little nervous, because it’s completely unknown.   I’ve only ever seen snowshoes hanging on the walls in kitschy chain restaurants.  I’ve never had snowshoes on my feet, never mind tried to walk in them, and I am not known for physical coordination.  I don’t have snowshoes, and wouldn’t know where to go even if I did. 

A little research, however, revealed that there are places that will rent you snowshoes, give you lessons, and then point you in the direction of well-known trails so you can try it out.  I’m going to go there, probably in January (after the holiday frenzy is over and we’ve had some good snowfall).  Maybe I’ll even go for Winter Trails Day (which, as best I can tell, is snowshoe-tastic and has lots of stuff for free, including guided tours and demos).  Looks exciting!

I might drag a friend along, or I might go alone and look forward to meeting like-minded souls.  The point is to try something new, and not be intimidated by the unknown.  While it can be scary to set out on a solo adventure, chances are there is a way to do it without plunging headlong into the abyss.  To get your feet wet — or snowy, as the case may be — before taking on a bigger solo challenge.  This applies to regular hiking as well: a little uncertain about your ability to handle a particular trail?  See if there’s a guided hike there or somewhere similar.  Take a class.  Find a group.  Don’t let yourself be held back by the intimidation of the unknown.  Embrace it and find a way to…well, to know it.

Now, pardon me, I need to get back to my holiday shopping…

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.