Finding Peace and Courage through AdventurUs Women: Helen's Testimonial

A testimonial on the importance of the outdoors from a first generation Asian-American attendee of an AdventurUs Women.


For many years of my life, the financial piece was always a barrier to getting outdoors. I am a first-generation Asian American. My family immigrated to the United States about 28 years ago from Taiwan with little money and hardly spoke any English. Through many years of chasing the “American dream”, my parents tried their very best to give us an outdoor-filled life considering the resources that we didn’t have. Spending weekends on long bike rides or playing tennis at the local park was my first memory of getting outdoors.

My first true outdoor adventure memory was when my father saved for over a year to give me the opportunity to attend a summer scuba diving camp when I was 13. To this day, I know it was one of the experiences that helped me fall in love with adventure sports. That experience shaped me into the nature lover and the nomadic person I am today. It meant a lot for my father to believe in me and show me that I could do anything I wanted. He worked day and night to make that happen, which I believe transcended down to one of my mantras in life, “make it happen.”


It wasn't until my young adulthood in my early 20's that I found hiking, backpacking, skiing, and surfing when I could afford to buy second-hand outdoor equipment for myself. Fast forward another decade, I still find that the financial piece is a barrier from pursuing new skills and confidence, but I do what I can to make it happen and get scrappy at saving and getting outdoors when my time and job allow me. I am thankful for opportunities like the AdventurUs Women’s scholarships to give Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities opportunities to participate in the outdoors.


The importance of creating opportunity and reducing barriers to get AAPI and BIPOC women outdoors


As an AAPI and BIPOC woman, it is always hard to find connection and a place of belonging, as many people in the outdoors tend to not look like me or understand the things that I have faced along the different paths of life. Growing up, I don’t remember having too many BIPOC role models that grazed outdoor magazine covers or sports. I didn’t really have mentors to show me the ropes of camping, hiking, climbing, skiing, or anything outdoor sports related. It wasn’t until my adult years that I discovered the outdoors as my sanctuary, a meditative place, and slowly found a community of Women of Color (WOC) in the outdoors through Instagram. I got tired of sitting and waiting for opportunities, and decided to be proactive and create an effort to find connection with other WoC. For example, last Fall, I started a hiking shoe scholarship to promote inclusion in hiking and accessibility to hiking shoes. Additionally, other BIPOC initiatives include developing a survey to assess diversity and inclusion in the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, as well as hosting a WOC surf retreat on the Oregon coast in August 2021 with Trail Mixed Collective.


“The AdventurUs Women Escape revived me for the future of the outdoors I wish to create, ones that bring more inclusivity and diversity.”


I first learned about AdventurUs Women Escape retreats through Instagram and a BIPOC scholarship opportunity. AdventurUs Women’s support to provide a scholarship opportunity for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and BIPIOC really pulled at my heartstrings. I have always wanted to attend an outdoor women’s summer camp or retreat, and I after I applied, I was in total shock that they chose me for the wonderful opportunity for a fun weekend to connect with other powerful and strong women in the outdoors. 


Why an inclusive adventure travel experience that gets you outside of your comfort zone can be life changing.


I remember waking up on the first morning of the AdventurUs Women Escape in Bend, Oregon. I felt like a kid again. I was filled with so much excitement, hope, and a sense of nervousness. The retreat came at the right time since I was going through soul searching, life transitions, and more specifically a career transition. I was going to use this weekend to find a piece of myself, find the peace I was seeking, and courage I had been missing for a while. 


The Bend Escape weekend left a lasting impact, one that I will remember for a very long time. The best part of the weekend included meeting all the different women who came from all over the US, from all walks of life, and sharing a love of the outdoors. This weekend was a self care kind of weekend and an opportunity for community building. I was beyond moved by the people, the experiences, and the welcoming environment of AdventurUs Women.


“It was refreshing to be in an environment where there wasn't social pressure, but only words of encouragement, guidance, acceptance, and badass ladies teaching these courses.”


The weekend was a truly magical experience. Women came together to share a love of the outdoors, build community, try new outdoor experiences, have REAL and meaningful conversations, and encourage diversity and equity outside. All the women I met that weekend brought their own experiences to offer, and views that helped me reconnect with myself, as well as the natural landscapes around me. 


The most unexpected experience was falling out of the kayak in the Deschutes River. It reminded me a lot about life and how it comes with unexpected turns and twists. With trust in ourselves and support of our community, we can find strength and courage. 


It was so hard to choose a favorite class. They were all fantastic and very well put together. One of the experiences that stood out to me that weekend was the lava cave experience. Did you know there are over 600 caves in the state of Oregon? I didn't either until this class. Getting to experience one of the many natural wonders of Oregon we don't often think about or see is truly unforgettable. Learning about the history of the native lands of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, walking through ancient rock formations, crawling through tunnel systems, waking the senses of the sound and sights, and sharing laughs with a group of women made this one of my favorite experiences. 


The instructors and event teams were wonderful and I felt very supported in all the activities and information throughout the event. It was a very inclusive space to learn. All of the staff were welcoming and kind. The weekend is definitely in my top 5 favorite adventure travel experiences I have ever done in my life. I appreciate and value the efforts for diversity and inclusivity.


Each experience brought me out of my comfort zone, truly! The classes I took ranged from climbing, kayaking, caving, trail running, inner voice, yoga, and photography. Each of these experiences outside tapped into a side of my physical and mental strength that I didn't know I had. Fear and anxiety often hold me back in trying new things or working on new skills outside, and it was refreshing to be in an environment where there wasn't social pressure, but only words of encouragement, guidance, acceptance, and badass ladies teaching these courses. The AdventurUs Women Escape revived me for the future of the outdoors I wish to create, ones that bring more inclusivity and diversity.


Thank you Saveria, and the rest of the AdventurUs Women team for creating a welcome and safe environment for women and WOC to get outside of our comfort zones, to learn new skills, make new friends, and have overall just have a weekend of new, everlasting, and kick ass experiences.


Helen Schuckers

Connect with me @anchorandpine