I met Gretchen at the GOTG March Retreat and I spent time talking to her as we hiked. I could feel the depth of Gretchen’s soul as we talked and I knew how important getting out in nature was to her. It’s not easy being vulnerable and sharing your story. I am so grateful she shared her’s with us today.

Gretchen’s Story:

“Is it possible to be an introvert and extrovert?  Or are we shaped by how we live?  I believe the latter. 

The more I am stuck inside without nature and human interaction, the more introverted I feel.

The more I am outside, active, with nature and people, the more extroverted I feel.

Hmmmm…I choose extrovert!

My name is Gretchen.  I am 55 years young and I am an extrovert 

I grew up in a small town in Ohio as a shy, overweight pre-teen and then moved to Idaho in 7th grade.  My parents took us out exploring Idaho camping, fishing and skiing.  However, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and early 30s that I found I had a passion for the outdoors and how it made me feel when I was challenged by some great outdoor adventure. As a Mom and a friend, I encourage others to enjoy the outdoors with me.

For the past three years, I backpack with a friend over our summer birthdays.  Tough backpacking – heavy packs, long miles, serious elevation gains, but an awesome challenge.  This year was no different other than I was completely out of shape from big life changes over the past eight months , but rather than fret about it, I really took time to mentally prepare and think about how good being outside with my friend was going to be. We set out on a five day adventure with a goal of 40 miles.  Day one was tough.  Not gonna lie.  I was hurting.  40 pound backpack (4 nights, 5 days worth of “stuff”), 10 mile hike in to 8500 feet. We did a few days of daypacking (kept camp at one lake for three nights) and that really helped us get in the miles.  We ended up with 46.7 miles, 8400 feet of elevation gain, a renewed strength, clarity to resolve problems at home and a “can-do” attitude. I’d like to share what I walked away with.

Lesson learned:  Self-Compassion through Mindset.  I went into this trip with a completely different mindset.  I knew I was not physically well-prepared for this trip, but I stayed positive. Things I said on the trail were positive.  I did not focus on how exhausted I was, but physically I was slow – and that was okay. I accepted that I was a bit out of shape – I accepted that this was me, now, in this moment. I had only myself to hold accountable and I had no excuses.  I got to our destination on my own two feet…there was no one to carry me and I would never turn back.  There was no “I can’t”; just “I’ll try”.  I was not afraid to fail.  It’s all for fun and adventure and no one was judging me.  My friend was super supportive and encouraging.  We listen to each other and mentally lift each other up. I also realized I would never, ever take these times for granted.  The time with my friend and her dog are precious.  The mountains, lakes, trails, people we met – just beautiful!  I mentally soaked in all this while we were out on the trail.  They say, “Stop and smell the roses.”, well, I did  Took lots of pictures and tucked away many vivid images in my head for those tough days ahead.

Lesson learned:  Connections.  As we continued to hike throughout the week, it felt like we were in our own little world.  We had gone with the intention of hiking in far enough and high enough to be away from most people.  It’s sad how the current Covid situation leaves us feeling like we are in a battle to protect our own thoughts and feelings and not be mis-guided by others.  I looked forward to being away from social media and the news in general.  It was a wonderful break.  But what I did not expect was the connections I would make with my friend (even though we have been friends for three years) as well as with those we met on the trail.  We saw others and encouraged them. We stopped to chat and learned from them.  We shared in the solitude and we connected with them.  Father/daughter duos, girlfriends and guy friends, old and young and families with little kids that just blew us away. Everyone was respectful and everyone loving every minute of being there together.  It was very special!

Lesson learned:  Clarity.  Do you ever feel like there is so much “noise” that you cannot think clearly to work through issues?  Simple and big issues I face and I can’t find ways to deal with them until I’m out on the trail.  Then everything is clear.  I have quiet time to actually think through the issue and even talk through some issues with my friend.  Many times, those thoughts and conversations are GREAT distractions during tough parts of the hike.  It’s like having your own personal counselor. I also take time to meditate and write when I retire into my tent at night.  It’s typically pretty early, but I don’t fall asleep for hours after.  I’ll listen to mindful, inspiring podcasts and write in my journal afterwards.  Something about having this time outdoors, listening to birds, babbling brooks, gentle breezes, it opens my mind and allows me to know very clearly how I’m going to resolve issues.

It’s outdoor adventures like these that really turn my life around!  I’m so grateful I get to be out in nature with friends, family, or by myself and really take advantage of these opportunities.  Not only do I physically feel stronger, but I feel mentally stronger from all I learned through connections and clarity.  And I know, with the right mindset, I can do and be anything I want for myself.  If you have the chance, get out there!”