Reflect and Reset: Outessa Adventures

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A women’s weekend done differently.

Rachel Collet is just one of hundreds of women who flocked to the two 2016 Outessa weekends, REI’s custom-tailored women’s outdoor getaway. The weekend exists for women to try new things in the outdoors with their tribe.

Collet has experienced the power of a tribe before. After she got divorced, she picked up and moved herself to Utah, “one big playground,” as she describes it. Her life changed when she was introduced to her neighbor, Jane.

Jane opened the world of the outdoors to Collet via mountain bike. “She took me out and taught me new things: how to change a tire, how to bleed my brakes. I had no idea I was capable of doing these things,” Collet remembers. Lively, bubbly, positive: Jane was a force to be reckoned with. She made the outdoors accessible and welcoming.

What if everyone had a Jane when they needed one?

REI Outdoor Programs manager of events Sally Johnson wondered: “How many women want to have an outdoor life, but don’t have the friends, knowledge and community to do it?”

Enter Outessa.

A Sense of Belonging

We all know that feeling—the magic that happens when you find your people. It’s in the not having to explain, the shared experiences, the similar hardships and common joys. It’s the gift of relating to your tribe.

“A sense of belonging feels like you are known without having to describe it. It is intangible,” says Laura Swapp, REI director of public affairs and next generation marketing.

Collet felt that camaraderie with Jane, years ago. She felt it again around the nightly campfires at Outessa. She remembers the fire bringing women together and giving them a platform to tell the stories of the day. The fire provided a space for women to foster friendship and truly belong.

Outessa campfire

Meeting You Where You Are

At an Outessa event, the real is more important than the aspirational (although there is inspiration aplenty). The instructors are genuine and encouraging. The women are down-to-earth and excited. The goal is clear: to show women that outside is something that can fit into everyday life. Simply put, you don’t have to be a pro athlete to be an outdoorsperson.

Participants told us time and time again that seeing women at every level of expertise removed their excuses and showed them their possibilities. As Laura Swapp aptly observed, “there is liberation in opting out of your own self excuses.”

The Janes of the world welcome newcomers and pros alike with open arms. Outessa strives for that same sense of comfort in learning at every level. The event provides access to activities many women might not otherwise have the time or the gear to experience: hiking, running, climbing, mountain biking, SUP, backpacking, outdoor cooking, wilderness preparation, photography and even wine tasting.

Collet took a variety of classes: kayaking, mountain biking and backpacking, to name a few. She says, “Even the Swiss Army knife class was awesome. And even though I’m an avid mountain biker, I learned something at the mountain biking class because the pros were so open and ready to share.”

Woman climbing rocks

Outessa 2017

Always striving for improvement, we are making the 2017 Outessa events even better than last year’s. More locations and events will give more women a chance to attend.

We also found out that more important than the doing was the being—the moments of self-reflection. This year, instead of teaching everything you need to know about every activity, we’re offering shorter sessions so you can simply get out there, and have time to relax. You can try an activity, and then if you’re hooked, go for a deeper dive later.

Should You Attend?

If the outdoors calls to you, if you long for a community of inspired women and you want to choose your own adventure, join us. We’re your people.

As for Collet? She’s definitely coming back—and bringing her sister. We hope Jane can make the trip, too.

Learn more about Outessa
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