My first taste of hiking came from the world of men. A world in which we raced silently through the bush; no clifftop cuppas, no plunging in mountain streams, no photo shoots, no inhaling wildflowers, no giggling, no exploring little side trails and definitely no gourmet food.
We were carrying 23-kilo backpacks along the Overland Track in Tasmania, and the mission was simply to “get there”, fast. It was about the destination, not the journey. The summit, not the adventure. It didn’t matter what “there” even looked like. Forget a breathtaking view or a fairyland forest… with these men, all that was required for a campsite was water.
My second taste of hiking was a complete shemozzle. We were out to “conquer” an Andean mountain in a dog-eat-dog adventure where the last man standing wins. Only one man in our team of eight summited and he had to be lowered down on a safety rope. But he became the hero.
In both cases, magic moments were not on the menu. Forget laughing till it hurts, snuggling into a warm sleeping bag beside a babbling brook, gazing at the Milky Way, enjoying dark-chocolate coated macadamia nuts on a clifftop overlooking the Pacific Ocean sunset, relaxing by a glowing camp fire or the happy chatter of voices reminiscing while sipping tea. We had none of this.
It almost frightened me off, until I realised hiking was not the problem, these men were (no offence to all the awesome Wild Men out there!).
I realised that, in most cases, men’s adventures and women’s adventures are totally different. While women chat endlessly, men walk in silence. While women love the journey, men care about the destination. While women brainstorm to overcome obstacles, men act independently. While women like to summit together, men like to summit any way they can.
I asked some of my girlfriends what adventure means to them, and here’s what they said: “Pushing yourself to the limit, being happy, sweat, having trek buddies by your side, compassion and support, fun! A lightness in the step physically as well as mentally. Reaching new heights and improving your own personal best, strength, vulnerable yet strong, able to smile, can ask for help.”
Another came back with: “Walking out the door and being free, pushing yourself every day and every little victory adds up, you are strengthening your willpower, muscles, increasing your ability to do more, be more, achieve more! All the while connecting with Mother Earth and hopefully inspiring a younger generation of women to be Wild in nature and feed their souls. Nurturing, inspiring and empowering each other to succeed.”
When I asked my male friends the same question, the response was quite different: “To experience a wild land without human noise during the walk, with the promise of hot tuna pasta and great conversation at day’s end in camp.”
“To banter but also being able to trek in silence, comfort food, gadget envy, playing dice games in the evening, snoring in the tent and generally carefree fun. A fun challenging experience that isn’t your run-of-the-mill kind. And a nice venue to finish and brag.”
Neither way is better, but I know which one I prefer.
Once I realised this, hiking was transformed. I realised my “enjoy the journey” attitude was not weird or wrong, but female. Women’s adventures were different and I absolutely loved them.
But magical sunsets and chatter aren’t the only reason I hike with women. I think women need girl tribes where we can strive, thrive, nurture and flourish in mind, body and spirit.
When women go wild together, they blossom. They are empowered. They really come into their feminine strength as they realise what their bodies and minds are capable of. They are fierce.
Yet when you add a man to the mix, women subconsciously defer to their masculinity, their physical strength and bravado. We let the men take the lead, even when they’re less experienced than us. We see the bush as a “man’s world” and we let him take charge.
I once got lost in the mountains with my former partner, and despite the fact that I was a fit, strong, trained trekking guide and he an observant, eager amateur, I found myself deferring to his lead. Against all logic, I trusted him and followed him further down the wrong track. It ended badly.
When we take women into the wilderness, everyone has a chance to shine. Someone is the excellent packer, carrying everything you could ever need in her bag. Someone is great at cooking, whipping up gourmet meals over a camp fire. Someone will be cool, calm and clear thinking in times of perceived danger. Someone is a chatterbox, which is a great distraction on long, hard hikes. Someone is the team Mum, offering soothing backrubs and cuddles. Someone has the best snacks.
When everyone has something to contribute, everyone achieves more, together. We are truly a team.
And that’s why we choose women’s adventures.
Watch our 2022 International Women’s Day video.