The Digitized Adventurer
Adventurers from across Canada are using technology to plan their next hike, bike and sail with people who enjoy the outdoors as much as they do. In this episode you’ll meet a group of adventure seekers who capture their experiences digitally to inspire Canadians to join them and bond over more than just a like.
Packing for your next outdoor adventure? Don’t forget these essentials … and your fellow adventurers.
A Bucket List for Every Season
How does a firefighter, iron worker, lawyer, architect, pharmacist, marketing manager, speech pathologist and large machinery mechanic find themselves bonding at the bottom of the world?
A shared passion for adventure and hiking blisters!
In November 2016, I traveled to Patagonia, an epically beautiful region of the world shared by Chile and Argentina, with 12 Canadian adventurers I’d never met in-person; who simply had Patagonia on their travel bucket list, and booked the same G Adventures trip.
We mountain biked, hiked, kayaked and ice trekked on a glacier. Our intensive 6-day hike in the Torres del Paine National Park pushed our feet, quads, heads and hearts to their physical and emotional limits. Tears, laughter and sweat flowed freely; forming unbreakable remarkable bonds amongst our special group of adventurers.
I left Patagonia with more than 1,000 photos on my smartphone (my travel camera these days) and a promise to keep connected to my new friends and their adventures through social media.
In this world, where headlines so often focus on how technology is tearing us apart, I think of my digital connections as a core part of my adventure community.
I haven’t always been this adventurous. Adventures started as a form of therapy.
In 2012, my world collapsed. I called off my wedding, and my relationship, and went on my honeymoon with my mother. It was then that I started a seasonal bucket list – adventures to heal my heart and give me a life I truly adored.
My first bucket list was for the summer season. I put things like make a balcony garden, go on a picnic, go on a road trip and play golf. The list evolved in future years to much more adrenaline-junkie focused activities with bungee jumping, skydiving, zip-lining, kiteboarding (which I have yet to do), wetsuit surfing and obstacle course racing. I also kept smaller things like build a vegetable garden, go to an outdoor movie and have a water balloon fight.
My winter bucket list included activities like dog sledding, cross country skiing, skating, snowboarding, snow ball fights, ice fishing and ice climbing that made getting through the bitter winters in Ottawa possible.
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in December of 2014, I was terrified. But, my bucket list of adventures had brought new meaning and wonder to my life. My list gave me hope. It made me smile. It helped me realize that my MS is this amazing sidekick that teaches me to live to the fullest, take care of myself in the process and not leave a single item on my bucket list before it’s too late.
I now share my seasonal bucket lists on social media to inspire people to have a sense of adventure in their own lives and to join me on my next one. After looking at my Instagram friend Jamie’s profile, for example, I realized we lived in the same city and both loved hiking. One Facebook message later and we were planning our first weekend hike. We now have a FB group where we plan local hikes with other amazing Ottawa women we’ve discovered on Instagram.
Life has a way of throwing wrenches into the best laid plans for our lives. Perhaps it’s time to pick those wrenches up and add them to your hiking backpack. You never know what you might need on your next adventure.
Robyn is an Alpha Female, Work/Life Harmony Strategist, Marketing Manager, Blogger, Podcaster, Author, Network Marketer & MS/PCOS Warrior
So, you want to go hiking?
Canada is gorgeous, vast and offers some of the best hiking spots in the world. And, even as our lives become increasingly more digitized, outdoor adventures in Canada have continued to grow, with Parks Canada
Want to hike with your local adventure community? Whether a provincial outdoors or hiking association, you can find an adventure community near you (or very far away if you’re willing to hop on a plane) through Facebook and Meetup.com groups. Within these communities you’ll quickly source hiking tips and tricks, events to register for and a platform to share stories about your adventures.
In the summer of 2014, Aleksandr Eng and his best friend graduated from the Universities of Waterloo and Carlton (respectively) and flew to Iceland for a post-grad adventure. After four years of studying environment and resource sustainability practices, this expedition was Aleksandr’s opportunity to put his academic training into practice.
With nothing but a backpack, a thumb for hitchhiking, a google map app and each other’s company, the pair climbed Hekla, Iceland’s active, and well-known volcano, and trekked to the Golden Circle of Iceland, Kerith; a place with geysers, volcanic craters and waterfalls.
Because not everyone gets to experience climbing a volcano with friends, we wanted to hear from Aleksandr about his adventure and why his personal sense of community has grown because of it. Over Facebook Messenger and text we interviewed Aleksandr about his adventure.
Q. What inspired your climb of Helka?
A. When we arrived in Iceland, we hitchhiked across the country with no plan. We went wherever the locals would drive us and added them to Facebook when we made meaningful connections on our journey. We were dropped at the base of Hekla, told that the hike was stunning but that the volcano could erupt at any point. Phew – it didn’t.
Q. Would you say your fitness level was excellent when you climbed Helka?
A. I am definitely NOT a body-builder, however we had been training in long distance hiking a month leading up to our trip to Iceland and our endurance was fairly robust. Our favourite training trails and terrains were right in our backyard; the Hamilton escarpment and the Bruce trail. What was great about this training experience, is it broadened our group of two to include other hikers and friends.
Q. What are some of the challenges you faced when climbing Helka?
A. We had no base camp or secure area to leave our gear, so we had to haul it up with us. It did result in the climb wearing on us faster than if we didn’t have the 30lb of gear our backs. Otherwise, the trail was well established. But, the volcanic rock beneath our feet was unforgiving; giving way almost like ice. That caused us to stop, rest and recover so we could carry on.
Q. What type of gear did you bring on your adventure?
A. We didn’t have a lot of money to sink into fancy gear. We carried a two-man tent, winter rated sleeping bags, good travel clothes to layer up or down with, a water purifier, quality backpacks, lots of socks, and solid hiking boots. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good boots when backpacking. Your feet are your primary mode of transport, so take care of them.
Q. What did you do to celebrate reaching the top?
A. Well, there certainly wasn’t any Champagne because that would have been far too heavy to carry. So, we had a snack. I remember just stopping, which is to say that I really stopped thinking and just took in the view. It isn’t something I’m used to seeing and Iceland is truly one of the most beautiful countries I have visited.
Q. Tell us how you’ve taken that “zen” back to your work and community of adventure friends.
A. Climbing Helka, meeting the local Icelanders and tourists, becoming accustomed to their culture, hearing their stories, sharing some of my own and feeling the sense of goodwill toward the planet I care so much about, shifted my perspective on community. In the past I took for granted the communities that supported me. Now I get it. I play an important role in participating and giving back to whatever community I join –whether it’s for the short or long term.
Aleksandr Eng is a 25-year-old University of Waterloo Public Service graduate studies student. He’s also specialized in environmental science and resource sustainability.