Today’s post is sponsored by REI. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Sometimes as an outdoor woman, it would be easy to listen to the naysayers who believe that we shouldn’t be adventuring unless “protected” by a big strong man. This damsel in distress mentality could stop us from being a force of nature.

It hasn’t stopped #teamHLAW‘s, Michelle, read her thoughts on how a local murder could have kept her indoors, but it didn’t. Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle is part of our Ambassador team and you can check out our podcast interview with her right here. 

Photo Courtesy Michelle Long



My city, Knoxville, Tennessee, has a fantastic greenway system for walkers and bikers.

There are miles and miles of paths for walking and biking.

They are a fantastic addition to our city and a convenient way to get outside and be active without taking a drive to the mountains.

Two years ago a woman was murdered while walking on the greenway.

The murder was a random event.

The victim and killer had no prior relationship or connection.

Dude was whack.

He just walked up to her and attacked, stabbing and killing her.

There were people nearby, and while they rushed to help, it was too late.

The killer was caught and his trial is set to begin May 8, 2017.

The victim was a lover of walking.

I read that she loved walking the greenways and loved walking them alone.

That day she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cue the reactionists.

Tragic and horrific as the incident was, it was one incident.

Hundreds of women walk, run and bike our greenways alone.

All the time, without incident.

Photo Courtesy Michelle Long

Suddenly, all we hear is…

“Be careful”

“You’re not going alone, are you?”

“Take a friend.”

My personal favorite?

“You better carry”  PUH-LEEZE!

The whole city was in ‘give unsolicited advice’ mode.

Sure, it was well intentioned but is there anything more patronizing and condescending than this? I think not.

I am well aware of my physical disadvantages as a female, but I’m still a force of nature.

I’d have to live in a vacuum not to be aware.

Women, every day, we walk to our cars with the key punched out between our fingers.

We stride purposefully, head- up, looking at our surroundings as not to appear vulnerable.

We carry whistles, mace and knives.

We carry flat shoes with us so we don’t have to try to run in heels.

We pay to park closer to our destination.

We never put a drink down or leave it unattended.

We avoid going out at night alone.

This is the reality of being female.

Most women know these things.

Most women do these things.

We are very aware.

Do not admonish or express your concern for my being out alone.

I am so tired of having to respond to your advice giving and questioning.

I walk alone.

I run alone.

I bike alone.

I paddle alone.

I hike alone.

Sure, sometimes I do these things with people, but I also do them alone.

I like doing them alone.

Photo Courtesy Michelle Long

I like keeping my own pace and no one else’s.

I like the quiet and silence.

I like to clear my head.

I like the restorative quality of doing any of these activities alone.

Would you spout off this way to a man doing these activities alone?

No, you would not.

You wouldn’t give it a second thought.

Could I end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Certainly.

But, I’d lay odds I’m in more danger driving to work in the morning or headed out to run errands alone.

Should I not drive to work?

Not take care of my errands because I’m alone?

That would be ridiculous.

As is the admonishment for participating in certain activities alone.

I refuse to stop doing the things I love because there is some risk involved. There is some level of risk in every activity or even our non-activity.

Photo Courtesy Michelle Long

Stop seeing me as my disadvantages, and see me for who I am.  

Smart, capable, strong and quick.

I am a force of nature when I fight fear and work to save the spaces that make me feel free.

Only a few days after the greenway murder, I went to walk the same section of greenway.

Alone.

On purpose.

The only way to keep the places that make us feel free is to claim them.

I will not let fear run me off from green spaces.

I will make my presence known and encourage others to do the same.

It was important to be in that space so soon after the murder to claim it for goodness.

To reclaim it for women walking, running or biking alone.

It was important to honor the woman who lost her life by walking for her.


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6 comments on “Fear vs A Force Of Nature

  1. I couldn’t agree with this article more! And then add black bears to the cautions I receive. As if they want to spend time with me! I hike with my husband, cousins, whoever, but mostly alone. Ever since first grade. At 57, I’m not ready to give up because of random events.

  2. Well said, Michelle. So many of us have been told since the time we were young girls of the things we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do because we are girls. Unfortunately, this shapes our views of ourselves. It takes courage to overcome the negative impact this has on our lives. And although I really enjoy hiking with others, I find hiking alone to be empowering and restorative.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I needed to hear it. I often go alone because I need the solitude. Also, I don’t want to give up hiking just because I can’t find someone to go with me. I needed to hear that other women go alone. Sometimes those fearful thoughts that others say get into our heads. It’s good to conquer the fear!

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