WOMEN WHO EXPLORE – GOLDEN, BC

How do I even begin?

How do you compile all of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions into one tiny little post?  I’m going to try, but I can’t say it’s going to be easy…or length conscious.  Fair warning.

I guess… I will start from the beginning!

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about how I didn’t get into my program of choice for school, and how hella bummed I was about that.  As fate would have it, I was scrolling through my social medias for happiness inspo (or anything to keep me from completely falling apart, really), and I stumbled across an ad for Women Who Explore.

It was advertising a Soul Sisters Getaway for Golden, British Columbia.  There was to be two nights spent in a luxury river lodge, with all meals (including a wine tasting and a gourmet meal), hot tubbing, and of course activities meant to conjure fun fun fun!

I was feeling very lost, and I really needed something to revive me, so on a complete whim I just booked it.  I said “FUCK IT”, and threw myself into probably THE most uncomfortable position I could put myself into: travelling far from home alone for the first time, travelling solo and not knowing anyone, driving my own ass that far, spending more than a couple of hours with complete strangers, ALL the social interactions, just generally taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that the Universe had my back.

After arriving back home yesterday, all I could say was THANK GOD I TOOK THAT CHANCE.  This past weekend has changed me, in ways I never knew I needed, and in ways I still haven’t discovered yet.

I want to share with you the magic of my experience over the past 3 days, because if you’re someone who is craving a new/life-changing experience, connection with other women, or just need time away for yourself – pay attention.  I think this is JUST what the doctor would order.

Friday

I left home Friday at 12:30 pm, right on time to what I’d been planning (for once in my life!).  I thought I would give myself enough time to make a couple of pit stops in Calgary and Banff on the way in (LOLLLLLLLL).  What I didn’t take into account was that Google Maps is a dirty liar, and the 90 km speed limits severely ate at my time.  I didn’t make any unnecessary stops, and I made it to the ranch RIGHT on time!  Check in was at 6 pm, and I got there with 5 minutes to spare. WHEW!

I was the first of the guests to arrive after the team.  The first face I saw was Jenny’s, who rushed out to greet me.  The first thing I said was, “AM I IN THE RIGHT PLACE?!” because I am severely directionally challenged, and save for my GPS, I could have ended up God knows where.  She assured me I was, and out bounded Lindsay to say her hello’s as well! They offered to get my gear inside, and graciously lugged all my shit into the cabin (I don’t pack light…).  When I initially registered, I had requested solo slumber accommodations if possible; I was so freaked out that I had actually booked myself for such a social event that I was hoping against everything I would at least have a quiet place to chill and be with myself if it all got too overwhelming.  I was SO lucky that they were able to accommodate my request, and they took me straight to my own bedroom (which had a STELLAR view of the mountains/river) – complete with a custom wooden name-tag and a little goodie bag filled with all kinds of amazing things.

Not long after, everyone else started to arrive.  We all sat out on the deck chit-chatting amongst each other as everyone started to come in.  The alcohol came out, and we had a good time laughing, and beginning to get to know the rest of the crew.   Once everyone arrived, Jenny and Lindsay did intros and went over the “house rules” for the weekend.

PC: Ally Pintucci

Friday night was incredible, inspiring, heart-wrenching, and everything I could have never even DREAMED about.

After a late dinner, we all went down to sit in a little gathering circle around the fire pit.  Lindsay came around with a bag of Jelly Belly’s and asked each of us to take some – but wouldn’t tell us how many or why.  We later found out that the number of jellybeans we’d taken was the number of things we had to share about ourselves.  I literally grabbed a handful of 20 fucking jellybeans.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW 20 THINGS ABOUT MYSELF TO SHARE.  I managed to keep it together as I sort of just word-vomited more than I’ve ever told anyone on a first meeting.

I have to say – Friday night was the best night I’ve had in a long, long time.  15 women, sat round a fire, and shared intimate details about themselves with complete strangers.  They were uplifting, inspiring, heart-breaking, intense, strong, courageous stories.  I was awestruck by the openness of these women, and how much I could relate to them.  HOW ON EARTH is it that you stumble across a group of women that are so accepting, so non-judgemental, that you feel you can share the deepest, sometimes darkest parts of you?  The Universe absolutely had my back, and I was in the exact right spot in that moment of time.  I left that campfire feeling so humbled and hopeful.

Saturday

Saturday was met with a delicious breakfast from our lovely hosts (mimosas included).  Seriously, so good.  It was our fuel as we were off to check out some of the surrounding scenery!

We sat down as a group and decided what we were going to do for the day.   We collectively agreed to hit up Emerald Lake and Cedar Lakes.  We parted to get ready and pack our lunches (food provided).  At last minute, I was asked to be a driver which was totally cool! …. except that I’m a total idiot and forgot my wallet, containing my license/money/registration/insurance, and so I had to turn back to get it costing us precious time 😦  We ended up only having time for Emerald Lake, and I felt like a total loser.  Who forgets those things?! LOL C’est la vie!

PC: Lee Horbachewski

Our day at Emerald Lake turned out to be a riot.  We went traipsing in there, us 15 women, our horde of inflatables in tow – to the utter horrifying shock and amusement of the other tourists.

Some of the people near us got a real kick out of it, and even asked to take photos with our “props”

We spent the afternoon floating in the frigid waters of the lake, basking in the warm sunlight.  It was a gorgeous day for a float, and was so peaceful.  As Lee and I were in a raft, a few of the other women decided to attach themselves to us to save their hands from frostbite and we paddled them around.

PC: Ally Pintucci


We retired back to the cabin to check a couple of “firsts” off my list!  Once we arrived back, we were treated to a wine tasting (thanks, Thom!).  I’ve NEVER been to, or experienced, a wine tasting before.  It was definitely interesting!  I learned A LOT about wine that I never would have otherwise.  A very cool experience…my only recommendations would be to most definitely eat before you do a wine tasting, and if you MUST do it on an empty stomach, try to avoid sitting in direct sunlight HAHA.  The wine definitely hit me REAL good.

PC: Ally Pintucci

To follow the wine tasting, we were treated to an incredible, eye-pleasing, absolutely DELICIOUS five course meal courtesy of Dustin.  This was also one of my firsts, as I’ve never experienced a multi-course meal like this.  And OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD.  My tastebuds were orgasming in my mouth.  That’s literally the only way I can truly describe how fucking incredible this food was.  I’m kicking myself now for not taking photos of each course, because not only did it taste unreal, it was SO beautifully plated.

While I don’t have photos to show you of each course, I DID keep the menu so I can tell you what we ate (and you can bathe in your jealousy of it)

*Amuse Bouche (zucchini fritter, honied tomato and goat cheese; pictured)
*Roasted cauliflower pecorino soup with pumpkin seeds, crouton and basil oil
*Smoked duck and baby tuscan kale salad with roasted pistachios, dried cherry relish, shaved parmesan, lemon vinaigrette
*Sous vide Safe Farms grass fed flat iron steak with squash puree, mushroom risotto, seasonal vegetables (carrots and asparagus)
*Lemon tart with fresh raspberries and whipped cream

Yeah, I KNOW.  If only I could eat like this every day…

Supper was phenomenal.  We ate, we laughed, we drank, and drank, and drank…

One we all could eat no more for fear of bursting, we made our way back outside to spend the evening in and around the hot tub.  We found a gas fire pit which saved us a treacherous drunken trek (thank GOD), and it allowed us to all stay close.  We feasted on smore’s and Nutella straight outta the jar.  We passed around binoculars, trying in vain to see the man on the mountain (3rd peak in and swoop) that was either dancing the YMCA or dead, whom Jenny insisted was there (HAHA, love you babe!).  We snuggled on the golden swan floatie under blankets.  We star gazed and eagerly waited for the Aurora Borealis storm to come our way.

A few of the ladies had set up their cameras and tripods as we waited for the Northern Light show to arrive.  Shouts rang out as their screens lit up green, and we all gathered around the deck watching in excitement and awe as the lights started to dance above us.  I grew tired and exhausted from such an amazing day, so I retired to bed early.  The rest of the women stayed up a bit longer, and after heading to bed for a short while themselves, were awoke to an exhilarated Ally who, had noticed the show had intensified, and got everyone up and outside to see the masterpiece in the sky.  I slept through it all, but luckily for me they were able to capture some pretty unbelievable shots.  They speak for themselves, so take a look.

My heart bursts with happiness for everyone who experienced these lights for the first time that night; it’s truly something you’ll never forget.

Sunday

Sunday was the day we said farewell 😦

I stumbled out of my room to the sweet ring of Jenny greeting me, “Good morning love! How did you sleep?”.  In that moment, I realized just how much I was going to miss after I drove away.

I showered, packed, and prepared to go.  We all said our goodbyes, exchanged information, wished each other well, and shed a few tears.

I never could have anticipated walking in just how difficult it would be to walk out.  I managed to keep my eyes dry until I got in my car and hit the highway home.

Everything about this weekend was perfect.  Any imperfections only made it that much more authentic, that much more real, that much better (though I’d be hard pressed to tell you what those imperfections were because I failed to see any – other than my own stupidity).  If you’d have told me on Thursday that the weekend ahead would leave me rocked to my core, indescribably inspired, unexpectedly heartbroken to have to leave these incredible women behind… I would have laughed.  I never could have guessed where this adventure would have taken me; I’m sure that any notion I could have had had been far surpassed in every facet.

I learned so much in my time at the River Ranch with the Women Who Explore, both about myself and about my perception of others.  So many times, we place these barriers upon ourselves by seeing our fellow sisters as competition instead of collaboration.  If we can just be brave enough to look past our own insecurities, and appreciate other women for their stories … oh the bonds and connections we can create.  I am so incredibly thankful to have met every single Soul Sister in Golden.  I am forever changed, in the best of ways, because of all of you and for that I am so grateful.

I can’t wait to connect with you all once again, and for all of the new connections waiting to be born on my next Soul Sisters adventure.

❤ ❤ ❤

MASSIVE THANKS AND ALL MY HEART TO:
Our beautiful, spirited hosts: Jenny and Lindsay
Our photographer: Ally Pintucci
Our unofficial photographer: Lee Horbachewski
To all my Soul Sisters:
Amber
Megan
Taleea
Lena
Bear
Leah
Shannon
Marion
Ashley
Amy

And our guest of honour, Koa ❤

PC: Ally Pintucci

Are you offended?

Probably.

It seems like everyone is offended by everything these days.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily) for you, I’m referring to cis-gendered, thin, white, able-bodied women who are currently getting all kinds of up-in-arms over what’s going on in the #BodyPositive community right now.

Shit, that’s you?

Well, listen up, friend.  I was with you, too…for about 5 minutes.

Over the last few months, I’ve really tried to diversify my Instagram feed.  I did this because of my own internal struggles as I’ve begun packing on the pounds due in part to a medication I’ve been taking for my depression, and my newly adopted #FuckDietCulture attitude.

I’ve unfollowed all of the accounts that made me feel like shit (re: model agencies, model pages, fitspo pages, etc etc)…basically everything and anything that perpetuates diet culture and insinuates what I or anyone else should look like.

Instead, I’ve begun filling my feed with amazing warriors who are clapping back against the patriarchy and all of these bullshit societal standards because they occupy more space than any of those industries allow.  Thus, I came across the #BodyPosi movement, and I was in heaven! As someone who is in recovery for Eating Disorders, and who struggles with body dysmorphia (feeling like I occupy a larger body than I actually do), it was really encouraging and inspiring to see all these bad ass women who live in fat bodies TAKING UP SPACE and beating their chests and fighting against everything that works to keep them hidden.  FUCK YES! Right?!

Hmmm….

That’s when I noticed a lot of these new accounts I had followed begin to throw around “thin white privilege” and “thin white bodies” in rage-fuelled rants, that were followed by other women “YAS QUEEN”-ing and “SLAY”-ing in the comments, and y’all – I WAS OFFENDED.

“What the fuck? How can this community of love and acceptance be screaming so much hatred at me?! What the hell did I do?! I’ve been YAS QUEEN-ing and SLAY-ing in the comments like everyone else!”

I’ve seen a lot of women in my position who felt the same, but voiced those concerns in not-so-nice ways.  I decided to do some research of my own, and it took all of about 10 minutes to realize what a fucking idiot I looked like in my own upset.

You know what I chose to do instead?

I shut the fuck up, and I listened.

Because when someone who has less privilege and visibility than you starts to tell you that you’re affecting them in a negative way, you step back and you fucking listen.

Because as someone who has experienced erasure within my own LGBTQ+ community as a Bisexual woman, when a POC/disabled/fat/otherwise marginalized woman is telling you that your actions are eliminating their visibility, you step back and you fucking listen.

Because when you can open any magazine and see your slightly chubby, yet still small, body represented on any given page, and there are women who are constantly under-represented or not represented AT ALL fighting out loud to gain that exposure, you step back and you fucking listen.

Because when you start to notice that the comments coming out of the discussions under #BodyPositivity are no longer parallel to the movement’s birth, but instead are centric around diet culture, “health”, and reduction of size equating to societal worth, you step back and you fucking listen.

Because when women in the #BodyPositive community are pounding fists and telling you that you have overtaken their space, the place (for some, the ONLY place) they had to go for safety, acceptance, love, support, and just general bad-ass-ery, you step back and you fucking listen.

I’m not sitting here saying that the things these women are saying are directed specifically at me; they’re not.  It’s a collective, but I am still within that collective.

As much as I may not realize, or easily forget (because I am even afforded that privilege, too), I DO have a lot of privilege that yields me visibility above my minority spacing.

So, if you’re like me, and you get offended – get offended…but before you start spewing off what you think you know, read a few articles, talk to a few people.  Your perspective will probably change, and if it doesn’t, maybe you need to sit down and ask yourself WHY.

There are other ways for us to participate in the Body Positive community.  This doesn’t mean that your struggles are invalid, and this doesn’t mean that you can’t still speak about your own struggles.  This simply means that we need to be more mindful of how we do so.  It’s a shift in language.  It’s allowing these Body Positive warriors to claim their space in the arena, while you cheer them on from the sidelines.  It’s respecting your fellow sisters enough to afford them the same advantages that you experience every – single – day.

By stepping back, you lose nothing.
By stepping back, you pass the torch to those who truly deserve it.

Speaking of, here are some accounts that are worth noting, to get you started:

@bodyposipanda
@sassy_latte
@yourstruelymelly
@mindsetforlifeltd
@chooselifewarrior
@lexiemanion
@virgietovar
@thevagaggle