I don’t know about you, but I’m really interested to see how 2020 shows up in history books in five to fifty years from now. What will we remember from what we’ve survived so far? What remains to be seen that we haven’t experienced yet? Pre-pandemic, we all had our own sets of worries; work, relationships, family, friends, our health, the issues we care deeply about. Add a global pandemic, a social uprising, and more than 50 million Americans unemployed (at the time of publication), and it’s safe to say that life as we know it has completely changed.
For us personally, it started in Joshua Tree National Park. My husband and I were a week into the 2020 Hiking My Feelings Tour through the US and Canada when we got the call. We had just wrapped up an incredible first weekend of the book tour through SoCal and had set up shop in Joshua Tree National Park in advance of a workshop I was hosting. The call was from the Desert Institute. As we suspected they would, all classes were canceled until further notice, starting that weekend. My workshop was among the first to be cancelled. Within 48 hours, our entire event calendar was cancelled or postponed.
Talk about a shock to the system. One of the reasons our organization saw as much growth and momentum around our mission as we did in the first year was because we were getting the devices out of your faces and bringing you out into nature. Within a blink of an eye, our entire strategic plan was turned upside down. We had planned to repeat and build on the 2019 tour - host storytelling events and hikes like we did last year, and add workshops and retreats as we made our way around the country. We anticipated doing this for two or three more years, raising money for the Hiking My Feelings® Wilderness Wellness Center along the way, with the intent of opening the doors in 2024. This would give us time to develop programming, explore parts of the country, and figure out where we want to build the Center. We had an epic tour planned through the US and Canada, and March was the first month in our history where we were on track to pay ourselves for doing this work.
Now what? The only online anything we had was a website, social media channels, and a Patreon community. Everything we built, we built to host in-person. Outside of selling books, the bulk of our tactics to raise funds were now obsolete. And, once the shutdowns started happening and Amazon was prioritizing shipping of essential items, they stopped printing books on demand. It was official: Hiking My Feelings was dead in the water. Sure, we had money in the bank, but that was registration payments for our now postponed retreat on Catalina Island. As far as I could tell, this was the end. I didn’t know if our organization would survive this.
Frankly, I didn’t know if I would either.
But, we wouldn’t appreciate the highs without the lows, so I did my best to take care of myself and try to figure out how to restructure our fundraising efforts and programming. After the most epic two-week pity party I’ve ever hosted for myself, it was back to the drawing board. Now that touring appeared to be off the table for at least a year, if not more, we started moving forward on the “someday” plan and started raising money for the Wellness Center.
Coming out of that, we created the Hiking My Feelings Virtual Campfire to bring stories of hope, healing and inspiration to our community. Combined with live music, it was the closest thing we could get to an actual campfire. It started as a 20-day event in May-June with more than 60 guests on the show. (We had so much fun connecting with these guests and our community in this way that we decided to stoke the fire again. This time, we’ll be going live on Thursdays from 3-5pm PT starting on August 13.)
After the fundraiser ended, we made our way up to the San Francisco Bay area to house sit for one of our board members. We’ve been living in the van for almost two years so to have four weeks as house people was quite the treat! From the same couch where I wrote Hiking My Feelings: Stepping Into the Healing Power of Nature last year, we launched our new program, Blaze Your Own Trail to Self-Love (BYOT).
BYOT is an online course with 12 modules centered around inspiration, intention, and integration. Each module contains an interactive activity rooted in guided self-discovery, journal prompts, and our favorite part; the trail journal. The trail journal covers the hiking basics - a packing list, trail details, and then dives into prompts that empower you to powerfully reflect on what you experience on the trail and integrate it into all areas of your life.
We kicked off our first class on June 28th and to witness the people going through this program, diving deep, and unpacking their trauma packs in this beautiful community is hands down one of the greatest honors of my life. We have long believed that when we create safe spaces for folks from all walks of life to explore how trauma manifests in their minds and bodies, powerful change can be made within each of us. We see this happening every single day in the Hiking My Feelings Family.
If you’re interested in meeting our community and seeing the work in action, we’d love to invite you to the Blaze Your Own Trail to Self-Love Virtual Retreat, happening August 9-15. We have a variety of restorative activities planned like a hand-lettering workshop, guided meditation, yoga, and of course, our Group Gratitude Circle. You can see the full schedule and register at bit.ly/HMFvirtualretreat. If you’re interested in doing our self-paced version of Blaze Your Own Trail to Self-Love, we are opening our “Hike Your Own Hike” version of the program on September 21.
I think perhaps the most interesting part of all of this is how much facilitating this program continues to help me along my healing journey. I have actively avoided this calling for years because I didn’t feel like I had reached the summit of Mount Healing. Who was I to help others? As it turns out, facing our deepest fears, rewriting our stories, and stepping into the best versions of ourselves isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. This is a lifelong journey, with many peaks and valleys. The world I want to live in prioritizes leadership of this variety - where the leaders walk with us, instead of standing at the top of the summit, tapping their toe, waiting for us to catch up.