A note from Maman on the Trail:
Meet Diane, a human of the outdoors. Diane lives in Belgrade, Serbia and gets outdoors with her 7-year old daughter and fiancé. Here is her story…
On her time outdoors…
As soon as the weather gets warmer, my daughter and I pack our backpacks and go camping. Last year we spent approximately 30 days sleeping in our tent on separate trips, plus many more days of hiking, exploring, and other outdoors activities. Living in a big city, I feel that I HAVE to get outdoors so my daughter has time to run freely and also for me to combat all of the time I spend being sedentary because I work online.
I have a daughter who turned 7 this past summer. I took her on her first camping/backpacking trip when she was 3. Since then, we always go together. Recently, I’ve become engaged. My fiancé is physically disabled and getting outdoors can be a big challenge. Read more on that below.
On breaking stereotypes and pushing through fears…
I’m very hard-headed and stubborn. So what actually inspires me most to get outdoors is all of the blatant sexism that I encounter. Every time someone asks a seemingly-harmless question like, “Aren’t you scared?” I feel more motivated to show them – and my daughter – that women should not give up their passions just because the world is more “dangerous” for them.
This is the same reason why I take my daughter hitchhiking with me.
Hitchhiking is something that I love to do. When we tell women that they shouldn’t hitchhike because it is “more dangerous” for them, we are telling women to accept the terrible patriarchal system and that it is their fault if they get abused.
For me, that is the REAL danger – when women don’t follow their passions because society has labelled it as dangerous for them.
I know going outdoors alone can be scary, but life is all about balancing risk and reward. For me, the risks (which are overblown anyway) of being outdoors as a single mom are worth the reward of enjoying nature with my daughter and teaching her confidence.
On backpacking with a small child…
The first time I took my daughter backpacking, she was 3 years old. Even I thought I was crazy to take her deep into the Albanian Alps where there are venomous snakes and bears! However, the trip was a lot easier than I anticipated.
True, I had 40+ pounds of gear on my back, but once the tents were up (and the gear off my back), I found that parenting in nature is easier than in an urban environment.
- There isn’t any traffic to worry about your kid running into.
- There’s no stress that your kid is being “too loud” and “annoying the neighbors.”
- Even the “errands” you have to do while outdoors (such as filtering water and gathering firewood) are fun for kids.
My daughter absolutely loved the experience. She felt so proud while “reading” the map. She also liked the attention she got from other backpackers who were impressed that a 3-year-old was out on such a big adventure.
As Isabel has gotten older (she’s 7 now), the trips have changed a bit.
She can carry more of her own gear (though most of it is still in my pack). I also like that we can hike to further places. Honestly, Isabel hates the actual hiking part of backpacking. She just wants to get to the destination and start exploring nature. However, she understands that you often have to work hard to get to beautiful places. It’s a good life lesson for her.
On hiking with a disabled partner…
Recently, I’ve become engaged. My fiancé is physically disabled and getting outdoors can be a big challenge.
I expected some of the hurdles of hiking with a disabled partner – like going slower and having to choose easier trails. However, neither of us anticipated the guilt we’d feel. He feels guilty for slowing us down. I feel guilty for pushing him too hard.
I’m not going to lie and say that it has all been great times. It’s been a learning experience and we are still working on ways for us to all get outdoors and enjoy nature.
A little Q & A…
Q: What is your go-to adventure snack?
A: I have a dehydrator, and don’t think I would be able to go backpacking without it because food would be too heavy (in Serbia, I don’t have anywhere to buy backpacking MREs). I dehydrate everything, from soups to hummus (yes, you can even dehydrate hummus!) My favorite snack is dehydrated strawberries smashed together with dehydrated bananas, nuts and seeds in my homemade GORP bag.
Q: What piece of gear do you never leave the house without?
A: My Sawyer Mini water filter*. It helps lighten my load because I can filter water on the trail and don’t have to carry as much. I’ve recently gotten the Sawyer Squeeze* though, which I like it better because of the higher flow rate.
Q: What is your favourite nature quote, and who said it first?
A: “She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Q: What one piece of advice would you share with someone who is wary of or new to the outdoors?
A: The key to enjoying something is to push your boundaries – but not too much at once. No one expects you to solo hike into the wilderness with nothing but a survival knife and canteen right away! Start with something like group hikes and then work your way up to campground camping, easy backpacking trips, and later to tough trips in more remote, unspoiled areas.
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