Have you thought about becoming a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador? The applications period is now open. Ambassador Sarah writes about what being an Ambassador means and how it has changed her life. If you are interested in becoming and Ambassador, check out the Become An Ambassador page.

When I applied to be a Hike Like a Woman ambassador last May, I had only been a part of the community for a few weeks. I had seen the Facebook group from a suggested post and checked it out. I’m always curious of ways to find community, especially in the outdoors, and I was also trying to find a venue to publish an article about hiking or climbing. I clicked on the website where it said, “Write For Us” and knew it would be something I would pursue.

My application to be an ambassador had to include a guest blog post. It was 2 weeks from my first Mt. St. Helens climb so I felt assured I would write about making it to the summit, how that intersected with my life, my past (as someone who grew up in the plains of the Midwest), and future.  However, the climb didn’t turn out as I hoped. The weather was terrible, I felt nervous, unmotivated, and discouraged and had turned around with a small group while others on the team summited on what ended up being a blue sky summit day. I experienced a rush of emotions as I headed back down I-5 towards home that day. I felt like a fraud, a failure, an imposter, or worse…weak. I thought about it a lot for the next few days. What was I even doing trying to summit mountains? I didn’t feel like I was in climbing shape and not even sure if I wanted it bad enough.  Maybe it just wasn’t for me…

And then…I took all that and I wrote about it, in a post called “Chasing the Ashes.” And, as it turned out, once it was posted on the blog, other people related. They had felt that way too, and I realized, in that moment, whether or not I got accepted as an ambassador, that moment of connections with strangers had already changed my life.

I got the notification that I was one of the chosen ambassadors right before the longest backpacking trip I have ever taken in late July. I was ecstatic but, even then, I don’t think I understood the magnitude. I thought being an ambassador would give me an opportunity to write some blog posts and review gear. It was a cool opportunity and I was excited but I had no idea that I would form amazing friendships and feel like a part of a supportive family.  I didn’t yet know that I would step out of my comfort zone to create videos, do a podcast, and start a local hiking group; that I would feel confident and comfortable with throwing out ideas and talking publicly about my own experiences with an eating disorder and how the outdoors can heal and find that I was brave enough to share all of that.

There’s been highs and lows in the group. Life happens. People get distracted or overwhelmed, there’s been sad moments and funny moments and things that almost make you cry. But that’s a year in a life and I definitely know that all those emotions happened this year for me too. Within the team, there’s been a baby born, grief, illness, and big life changes for many of the women.  And here we are, a few months out from our retreat in Wyoming and although I don’t want it to end, I cannot wait to meet the other women in this group.

Maybe this sounds like a cliché, but being a Hike Like a Woman ambassador has truly changed my life. I’m more confident and willing to be vulnerable. I’m a better writer. And hopefully a slightly better human being. With community lies our connection to humanity. And I have found all this and more. Things like that, they don’t end. Summits and hikes come and go, some are a success, and others become learning experiences. But when you have friends cheering you on…every step along the way is a victory. I’m a few days out from a 2nd attempt at Mt. St. Helens. I long to stand on the top and feel that victorious summit feeling, but if I don’t, I know there are lessons to learn and a big virtual hug from people who will truly understand. And being a part of this community, being a part of Hike Like A Woman, is always a soft place to land.

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