Outdoor Nation Boston Delegate Report - Nikki Hodgson

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Outdoor Nation Boston Delegate Report - Nikki Hodgson

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Are you an outsider? @OutdoorNation delegate Nikki Hodgson details her experience from the Boston Summit @TheNorthFace http://3bl.me/p84yde

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Monday, August 13, 2012 - 10:00am

“Take a look at that sunset,”says The North Face ambassador Juan Martinez, pointing at the orange glow slipping beyond the cityscape of Boston.

The group of Outdoor Nation summit participants becomes quiet. Campfire smoke curls toward the sky hovering above Georges Island. Canada geese flap their wings in the background.

Juan turns back to us. “Put your hand over your heart. Listen--feel its beat. Think about where you are. Where you’ve been. Where you want to go. Think about the people important to you.”

We stand there with our hands pressed against our chests, trying to extract some meaning from the pulsating organ pumping blood through our veins.

“This is purpose,”says Juan.

It’s the end of the first day of the Outdoor Nation Summit in Boston and well over one hundred individuals have congregated around the campfire on Georges Island to listen to three The North Face ambassadors speak.

Legendary alpinist, Peter Athans, is the first to address the crowd. “I grew up in the Bronx,”he says. The words sink into the group, permeating any preconceived notions they might have held. Athans, who is best known for summiting Mount Everest seven times, has the full attention of our group, some of whom are camping for the first time.

He walks around the campfire. “I had a dream. I wanted to climb Everest.”Hunched forward slightly, his head inclined, he leans into the group as he speaks, making eye contact with those standing in front of him. Despite growing up in the Bronx, despite having no connections to the mountaineering world that he did not forge himself, Athans made his dream a reality. He leaves the implication hanging in the air above the crackling campfire.

Johnny Collinson steps forward. His blond hair pulled into a ponytail, he tells a very different story. Summiting Rainier at the age of four, Collinson has spent his entire life immersed in the outdoors. He acknowledges this, explaining that he’s never known anything else and can’t imagine not having the outdoors as an integral part of his life. Despite the vast difference between our experiences and the experiences of this young big mountain skier, we have this much in common: an inability to imagine our lives without the outdoors.

And then Collinson steps back and we’re standing in front of Juan, with our hands over our hearts, thinking about this moment, the ones we love, our purpose, our passion.

“I come from a small town called south central LA,”he says. “You heard of it?”Laughter ripples through the group.

As Juan explains the transformative power that being involved in the outdoors has had on his life, people nod their heads, smiling. We know this transformation, have felt its fingers molding our own lives. It’s why we’re here, standing around a campfire on an island outside of Boston, trying to figure out ways to get more of our peers into the outdoors. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if we can just get each other outside, nature will do the rest.

Our experiences in the natural world expose us to the side of ourselves that reaches for something more. The side that will dig deeper, go farther, strive harder; the side that knows that an individual’s passion and love for something will always be greater than their fear of failure.

We see Juan, Johnny, and Pete and know that the wilderness has shaped them. It has chiseled away the apathy and left a soul hungry for its own potential. It has chiseled away our own apathy and left us with the hunger to live a life in accordance with the purpose, peace, and passion that being outside instills in us.

Each The North Face ambassador represents a different type of possibility, a different sort of inspiration. Inspiration that sputters out like sparks from the campfire, drifting over our heads, ready to ignite into a movement that is stronger than the force of one, or twenty, or even the hundred individuals gathered here.

We have tasted the peace of mind, the purpose, and the clarity that comes from being outside. Each in our own way, we have bridged the disconnect that happens when humans forget what it means and how it feels to walk through the mountains, to watch the breeze slip through the branches of an old tree, to enjoy the exertion of an accelerated heart beat. The salvation of our own souls comes from knowing what it is to watch the clouds drift overhead through the patchwork of a leafy canopy, to see ourselves reflected in the wild spaces that surround us. We know what this is and there is no going back.

Keywords: Volunteerism & Community Engagement | Boston | Nikki Hodgson | Outdoor Nation | Volunteerism & Community Engagement | north face