Journey to the Outdoors

Written by Eman Salem, founder of IronSelf.

Photo by Pavel Boiko

I have a vision! I am standing on top of a mountain, tears flowing down my eyes at the beauty bestowed on us humans. Standing tall in complete awe at the magnificence of the trees, the roots, the rocks, the lakes, the rivers, the streams, the animals, the insects, the leaves, the breeze, the mud, the glaciers, the mountains, the moss, the sun, the rain. Feeling one with our Mother Nature, humbled by her healing powers, and knowing that she can heal me.  I wanted to live out this vision, and had absolutely no idea how.

So I embarked on my first journey in 2017. Very long story short, I was unprepared, I was unaware, and had a traumatic and dangerous experience during my first overnight hiking trip. In that moment, laying on the snow in July, in wet clothes, as the sun was setting, with no direction of where to go, I broke down. My entire body went into shock, shivering, screaming, crying, I thought I was going to die. Anxiety is no joke.  In that moment, that vision was nothing but a fairy tale I was never going to experience. My spirit was broken, my trust in myself, others, and Mother Nature herself was fleeting. I cancelled myself, I was never going outdoors again.

In 2018 I dove deeper into my physical, mental, and emotional health. Slowly facing my fears of the outdoors, learning to trust my body again, and taking on smaller outdoor adventures. I started embracing the idea that the vision is not dead. I began to feel like my dream is not far fetched. I needed community, support, and radical self love. I found the courage to do my first challenging hike, and hiked the Chief! I cried the entire time, I could not believe my body, mind, and spirit got me to the top.  It was exhilarating! It is happening now! I am doing it! It was just the beginning of the journey. I was still quite mortified.

In 2019 I started following Juju on IG, I was mesmerized. There she was, in her glory, fearless, powerful, a total badass. At first, I admit, my ego made me feel jealous, “You’ll never be like that, what makes you think you are capable of that”. I met that jealousy with compassion, with complete vulnerability, and reached out to her. “I have a dream of being able to go to places like this, but I am faced with many barriers. I’m trying to alter my narrative and give it a try. I love following you for tips and inspiration,” I  responded to one of her IG stories. On June 12th, 2019 at 8:04am to be exact. It REALLY turned around from that day forth. She became my hero, clearly on a path I held so dear to my heart. This was going to be the path I take to make my vision a reality. I joined Colour The Trails, brilliantly created by Juju, and found the community I was looking for all along, the space for me to face my fears, and stand on top of a mountain. To do things, I only imagined I would do.

Growing up in Cairo, Egypt, immigrating to Canada with my family at 10 years old, I did not have much accessibility to the outdoors, nor did I ever see myself in any representation of the outdoors. I had never experienced anything like the beauty of this epic land. The land of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Immigrant life is a very different life. I did not grow up with any basic outdoors or wilderness knowledge. I had no idea how to hike, canoe, put up a tent, start a fire, etc. But the vision remained.

Photo by Pavel Boiko

Since the beginning of 2020, the year of dismantling, I called it the year of facing my fears. The year I was going to dismantle my own barriers, projections, self limitations, old narratives. The year I was going to commit to trying, to radically facing oneself. Here we are, September of 2020 – the vision became a reality, more than once! Colour The Trails paved a path for my self healing, self discovery, and self power. Within this beautiful community, I attended film screenings of people who looked like me doing epic outdoor activities, I was inspired. I tried mountain biking and kayaking for the first time with the support of local brands and companies that stand for the same mission as Colour The Trails. Juju was not just my inspiration, but truly a visionary. It was through these experiences that I gained the confidence and the courage to successfully complete two overnight hiking trips. With support of incredible friends, I hiked to the top of the mountain. Tears flowed down my eyes. I had arrived.

It is with great honour to Mother Nature, community, passion, and radical self love, that I can sit here today, envisioning my next adventures with joy, hope, and an awe for our Earth and all who inhabit it. The outdoors healed me, this was my journey.

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