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  • Nicole

Attending REI Outessa: What To Expect & Why You Should Go

I cried, I laughed, I played.

These are three things that can, will and most assuredly happen to you when attending Outessa. The tears for me, were tears of joy and letting things go. The laughter was being around so many fun loving women and the playing… well, with the locations, classes and activities that Outessa has planned for you, you will most definitely play… hard.

I came to Outessa Kirkwood as one of the REI Outessa Ambassadors with Lifestraw. Both REI and Lifestraw are doing exciting things for us adventure folk and the Outessa weekend is definitely an experience worth getting excited for. I was probably one of the first to arrive on Thursday, as I surveyed the hard work being put forth by the folks at REI. You could tell they were excited and mindful to every little detail, as I watched them set up for what was to be that evening’s kickoff event with Outessa 'MC', Steph Jagger.

I came to Outessa alone, but knew I was amongst friends because everyone coming to Outessa is a woman of like mind and passion and ready for a weekend of getting Sweaty, Dirty, Happy. One of the most exciting, yet comforting things leading into the weekend was getting to meet in person with the women who I have followed and connected with on social media. There was that safety net that social media provides where, through following each others adventures… makes you feel like you’re friends already, so a few of us gathered for some ‘pre game’ beers before making our way over the the ‘opening ceremony’ led by the REI ladies and Steph.

It was in the opening introductions and speeches, where I realized Outessa was going to be more than what I bargained for. It was going to shake me. To the core. I’m an avid hiker, so the outdoors is my place to unwind, recharge, heal, escape and the place where I go to when I’m seeking confidence and accomplishment. As I was roasting marshmallows, drinking wine and listening to the speeches that were to set the tone for the weekend, Steph said this, “If there’s something I know, anything from the time I’ve spent in the mountains, it’s this: if you go to them, they’ll tell you who you are and what it is you need to let go of to set yourself free”. Two things happened to me when she said that, my heart hit the floor and I also… wanted to take my phone out to write it down. I did both.

The next day I started my Outessa weekend. Now, I did something much different than all of you. I came to Outessa with ZERO classes in my schedule. I showed up on site really just open to whatever experience was going to be thrown at me. Of course, I was pleasantly surprised when there was several things I wanted to do that had openings for me, but I also wanted to leave my time open to mingle and meet the other women around ‘camp’. ‘Camp’ is what I am referring to when I am talking about the area where the stage, sponsors and food is served. I actually set up my entire first day to just take a few classes, see some new faces and also pick up a few new skills thanks to the sponsors who were attending and teaches classes. Speaking of classes, I am also along with Lifestraw teaching a class on Clean Water. So, if you’re attending the Waterville, Outessa… I would love to meet you and teach you how to use your Lifestraw which comes in your goody bag!

The first day I started with Steph’s goal setting class which undoubtedly changed the way I went throughout the rest of the weekend. It is in this class where you learn how to properly word and set goals for yourself so that you are welcoming both accomplishment and abundance into your life. I got to sit next to and join six other women and somewhere between the start and finish we were crying tears of defeat, relief and joy. Plus, you get to hang out with Steph which was also a bonus. From there, I took some skills classes around Camp and also planned my schedule for the next day which included some hiking and a wilderness survival course. I went to bed that first night feeling happy, thankful and but also exhausted, all the while anticipating the next day of adventure.

The next morning I woke up, Hydroflask in hand and made my way to the coffee cart and sat at camp looking around and witnessing these connections made after just one day. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and interested in YOU. There were stories of adventure, laughs and mishaps as we all made our way to what we had planned for the day. I joined some ladies for a wilderness survival course where you hike up a trail and get a crash course on how to survive in the wildness in both the best and worst case scenarios. I got to trade stories with the women and also got to know each and everyone of them, all of us different ages, sizes, skill set and backgrounds… which is also the beauty of Outessa.

Around lunch time, I was wandering around ‘camp’ again and ran into a woman, Dorian. I wrote about her in my social media post upon leaving Outessa. If you click the photo below you can read the whole thing. Dorian and I, also much different in age shared a moment together that was started by the both of us just saying hello. I learned that Dorian was attending Outessa with a friend but not able to partake in many of the activities because she suffers from muscular dystrophy. With her sharing that, put me in a safe place to also share with her, that I have lupus. We had a little laugh and then we both went on our separate ways. It is these encounters at Outessa that led me to feel truly FILLED UP. More than the classes and the swag… which are also cool too! I had another encounter with Dorian later that evening that you can read about here. I think that it truly speaks to the spirit of the Outessa weekend.

After dinner… we were in for a party. Beer. Wine. Dancing. These things were in abundance. As night fell, I looked around and watched these connections being made and nurtured. And around the campfire, you can find conversations of all kinds… lighthearted and hilarious to emotional, thought provoking and deep. I glanced over at the stage and women were celebrating, no holds barred. There was a dance party going on and everyone was welcome… even me… and I don’t dance. But it was such a welcoming, happy and celebratory moment that you just had to get in there and get your Beyonce on. So I did. We did. The next day, as the hours passed, there were more and more women saying their goodbyes and headed home. We wrapped with a fun, yet emotional sing along where we will had a true kumbaya moment before we all went our separate ways, with new friends and a weekend full of adventures and memories.

Questions about Outessa? Unsure about wanting to attend or what to bring? Email me. I would be happy to help you make the decision in going and what you can, should or don’t need to bring along! Also, REI is offering women specific classes and activities in your local area, to find one near you VISIT THIS LINK.


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