Finding your passion at a young age can be a blessing and a curse. I knew by age 19 that I wanted to guide women’s wilderness trips. To that end, I guided for different programs, always accompanied by a host of odd jobs to pay the bills: selling music, a brief stint helping out at a funeral home, harvesting Christmas trees.
The WILD Institute
Finally, in my late 30s, I launched my own vision, The Wild Institute, offering wilderness trips for women, customized trips, coaching and professional speaking. A whole lot of work … and a dream come true.
Though I was a rather reluctant entrepreneur, I have been surrounded by wonderful friends, partner, family and mentors. There really was never a doubt that I would find a way to do this work that calls to me so completely.
One of the things I love best about this work is getting people away-physically on trips, or emotionally during speaking engagements-offering perspective, connection, a breath of fresh air. Through my work, I have the great privilege of creating a safe environment for people to explore, inside and out.
Each experience brings laughter and tears, discoveries and silence, awareness and hope; a chance to see who you are in this world and a chance to heal from the frantic pace of city life. For me, I can imagine no other life than the opportunity to create these experiences.
A recent hiking trip included the following:
• Conversations and silence along stunning northwoods trails, with virgin hemlock and white pines watching over us
• Pouring rain and the camaraderie and feistiness that comes about when you realize it doesn’t matter, rain can fall and we can still be outside enjoying the many moods of nature
• Cackling laughter around the campfire as five straight women give advice to a lesbian woman on how to meet a girl
• Tears of sadness and triumph as women tell their stories and claim who they are, feet on bedrock, facing the wind
• Silence as we stand together looking at the river
• Reflection as we emerge from the hiking trail onto the shores of Lake Superior, each woman, unplanned, finding her own rock to sit upon
• Connection, in three short days; a reluctance to leave this wild place that has held us so tenderly.
Along with trips, speaking engagements are an integral part of The Wild Institute, not only filling my calendar in off seasons, but as a further dimension of how the natural world can move and teach all of us, no matter how urban. I have found that speaking at conferences, corporations or events feels quite a bit like guiding a wilderness trip: the gift of people’s attention, the sharing of life lessons learned, the perspective that comes from looking at things differently, an honoring of the soul in the workplace, and even the ways in which working with a dog team compare to being a good manager.
That’s why I do this work: to be a bridge to the natural world and a catalyst for people on their journeys; to greet them, to play my native flute, and to watch what unfolds.