Hike it Baby Executive Director, Jessica Carrillo Alatorre, explains Hike it Baby’s goal to change what it means to be “outdoorsy” as the first step in ensuring all families have the ability to create a connection with nature.
The Traditional Picture of the Outdoorsy Type
2020 has been a year of reinventing, redefining, and resilience. To that end, I am proud that Hike it Baby’s 2020 contribution includes our work to change what it means to be outdoorsy. We’re all familiar with the epic photo ops used to represent the outdoor enthusiast ideal. Scenes of snow-capped mountain peaks, sunrises behind a breathtaking vista, or rushing rivers hidden deep in a lush, green forest. These images have historically featured white males. Over the years, small changes and subtle shifts occurred and now you see women and, sometimes, people of color represented here and there. Mostly, it is still an image of a fit, athletic, affluent, and well-equipped individual who has the time to enjoy the outdoors as a hobby, the money to buy the right gear for their adventures, and the freedom of knowing they belong in those out of reach places.
Creating a Connection with the Outdoors from Birth
In my experience, going outdoors doesn’t require athletic ability, high-end gear, or hours of driving to find the perfect, picturesque location. I grew up with parents who believed that children belonged in the fresh air, outside playing, imagining, and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible. Yet, I was never an avid outdoor adventurer, just someone who enjoyed the benefits of fresh air and nature’s beauty wherever and whenever I could find them.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I wanted to make sure she had the opportunity to connect with nature, but I also worried about keeping her safe and healthy. My postpartum body was nowhere near ready for treks of more than a mile of easy walking in those first few months after I gave birth. I didn’t have fancy hiking boots or clothes. Many of my old clothes didn’t fit yet and I didn’t have the energy or means to shop for a new wardrobe.
Even so, when my baby was crying and inconsolable, when my nerves were shot and my brain fogged with a lack of sleep, my hormones raged, and my tears flowed, I found the trees and bushes of my front yard to be the kindest of friends. The fresh air brought comfort and new life. It swept away the fear, the frustration, and brought calm, allowing me to breathe deeply. The grass between my bare toes helped ground me and allowed me to re-center. As soon as I walked outside, my baby would quiet down, take her own deep breaths, and settle into me, relaxing as we both felt the sun wrapping us in comforting warmth.
The Disconnect with the Outdoors
Of course, those images of sweeping views and stunning nature are inspiring. Yet for most of us, they feel unattainable in our everyday lives. According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Foundation 2019 Outdoor Participation Report, “just under half the U.S. population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all, less than 20 percent of Americans recreated outside at least once a week, and of the people who report they go outside, 63 percent report they go outside within 10 miles of their home.” With this information, it seems like we need to redefine what it means to be outdoorsy and how we represent that definition so more people can identify with it.
At Hike it Baby, we believe we can apply our creativity and daring to shape a new definition of what it means to be outdoorsy. It is no longer that lone, perfect athlete in pristine, remote nature. It’s a mom with two kids playing in the mud at the park. It’s a new dad giving his baby a bottle on the balcony. It’s a grandfather examining leaves with a toddler at the library. It’s a babysitter taking kids to a picnic lunch. It’s eating as a family outside or sitting on the front steps and waving to the neighbors. The outdoors is within reach and anyone can enjoy it.
We want everyone to see themselves as outdoorsy because ultimately, we all benefit from spending time outside. Our mental and physical health improves within just a few minutes of being outside. Our social connection is strengthened. Our stress levels decrease. Infant brain development is positively impacted. Simply put, we feel better and happier with more time outside. It is such a simple thing, yet still, so many people don’t have the opportunity to do it or don’t feel like they belong outside. We hope you will help us shift that narrative. By representing more families, more people, and more experiences in the outdoors, we will demonstrate that anyone can identify with being outdoorsy.
Normalizing Nature with the “We’re Outdoorsy” Year End Giving Campaign
Hike it Baby’s Year End Giving campaign for 2020 is the kickoff for our “We’re Outdoorsy” initiative. It is under this umbrella that we will continue our work to change the narrative on what it means to go outside and who is welcome there. We have a big list of goals that directly connect to our mission of ensuring every family with babies and children has safe and equitable access to the outdoors, and the support and resources make getting outside a regular part of their lives. In order to make this a reality, we know we have to normalize nature and change what it means to be outdoorsy.
♥️ Engage over 500,000 families so our message to normalize nature connects more families with the outdoors.
♥️ Continue to grow our local communities with free membership.
♥️ Provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training opportunities for staff and volunteers (over 400 people) and continue to develop and share diverse content with our community that reinforces our belief that all families have the right to connect with nature.
♥️ Support our communities with resources that help families get outside, including workbooks, articles, virtual speaking events, and inspiring stories.
♥️ Introduce an interactive, in-person guided walk program with the help of our partners and our local community leaders – more information to come soon!
Support Hike it Baby in Changing the Narrative on Nature
You can donate to our Year-End giving campaign here. Or, support Hike it Baby with monthly donations here. You can also share how you are being outdoorsy across social media. It can be as simple as walking to the mailbox instead of pulling your car up next to it to get the mail or stepping onto your porch or balcony for 10 minutes for some fresh air. Tag it with #hibwereoutdoorsy and tag @hikeitbaby to help inspire others to get outside however it works for them.
Together, we can make sure everyone, starting at birth, can experience the benefits of the outdoors for generations to come.