I am -- without a doubt -- my father's daughter. I didn't realize it until I was well into my twenties, but now, at 31, I see the evidence everywhere.
I've always described my dad as part mountain man, part cowboy, part Native American, part biker, and part surfer. He has many sides to him, but all of them are based in nature. He is an Eagle Scout and grew up hiking, hunting, and fishing in the outdoors with my grandfather and uncle. He has a million stories and has learned some of life's toughest lessons. He is definitely my favorite person and my guide for all things in the outdoors -- and in life.
When I was about four, my dad moved my family out to the sticks in south-central Iowa. We lived on a cattle farm for a couple years, then in a small cabin alongside the lake for a few, before returning back to Colorado. Those years in the country -- they did something wonderful to my childhood. It was before the internet was the center of the world and being in such a remote place provided my brother and I the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with nature.
We befriended farm animals of all shapes and sizes, explored hundreds of miles of cornfields, and often wandered into the woods to seek out adventure. We studied the wildlife and were constantly fishing, hunting, and foraging on the acres around where we lived. We rarely stayed inside. Even in the frigid cold of Winter, we'd venture out to build snow caves, ice fish, and ride with our dad on the snowmobile. We were a little wild -- and oh so humble. We picked ticks out of our hair and from our dogs on a daily basis. The gooey crunch of june-bugs underneath our shoes became a well known sensation. The humidity dampened our t-shirts and smoothed our skin. Our imaginations ran wild, and we had adventures that were parallel to those of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Since our nearest neighbors were miles away, my brother and I became each-others' best friend. I was always following my big brother into fields and on top of hay-bales. He'd get out our wagon and hook it up to our neighbor's ATV. I'd sit in the wagon holding our fishing poles, trying not to bounce out as he drove us to a nearby pond. We caught so many fish. On our way back to the house we'd check the forest floors for morel mushrooms and follow the tracks of wildlife as if we were on safari. My brother was always a watchful leader. He had studied under my father and was a miniature version of him.
When we moved back to Colorado and into the suburbs, we were immediately surrounded by so many more people. We had many neighbors just steps away from our own front porch. There were hundreds of kids at our new school, and hundreds more distractions as well. Things were never really the same for my brother and I. We have remained close though, and I like to think that because of our younger years together, we bonded more than most siblings are able to.
The city brought a whole new way of life for my family. Although my dad and brother maintained their seasonal hunting trips, our interaction with nature did decrease over-all. We loved camping and boating as a family, but my connection with the outdoors seemed to be superficial. As I became a teenager and then went away for college, I felt like I no longer knew the outdoors.
I was in a very serious relationship for the majority of my twenties -- we bought a house together, and our lives were intertwined... until they weren't anymore. I was starting anew in a way I never expected. I turned to my family for support and guidance, especially to my dad. In very subtle ways, he led me back to the outdoors.
Nature has a way of healing us. It peels away all of the excess and brings us a simplicity that is deeply cleansing. It gives us so much, yet doesn't expect anything from us in return. The peace and quiet allows us the space to process our thoughts and feelings in a way we can't elsewhere. It can guide you -- and save you -- if you let it.
Travel has always been important to me, and as I was moving into a new chapter of my life, solo trips became opportunities for me to continue to grow and push myself. Whether it was a trip to China alone or a camping trip all by my lonesome, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. These experiences helped me become independent -- wildly independent. Mending my relationship with nature, I began to connect with other women who were on a similar path. I found groups and organizations who were supportive and resourceful. I got involved. And I got outside as often as I could.
Inevitably, we have to go inside for certain things. Shelter from a storm, a much needed rest, an obligation we can't get away from... but I'll always go back outside, back to my true self, back to being my father's daughter.