Searching for an identity in an increasingly complex world involves time and effort. There are many factors pulling all of us and, in the end, it is our principles that define who we are. As outdoor education leaders who seek to help others find their identities, we must continuously grapple with these questions and persistently put in the effort to define and live by those principles.
Appalachian Expeditions is built on the idea that we are a part of nature. Humanity evolved from a single-celled organism to the big brained, walking, talking people that we are over the last 4.5 billion years. Each successive generation passed on traits that better enabled their offspring to adapt and live in this world. In this way, we reap the benefits of living on Earth because our ancestors lived here and evolved with certain beneficial characteristics. As a nonprofit outdoor education program, we want to promote opportunities for more people to connect with the natural world and reclaim some part of our past that many don’t even realize they are missing.
The benefits of spending time in nature are numerous and well-documented. Any google search involving “nature” and “benefits” will tell you that spending time outside relieves stress, inspires creativity, and improves mental and physical health. To read about the benefits is not the same as experiencing them. At Appalachian Expeditions, we experience the benefits because they are a daily part of our lives. As a person comes to understand the advantages of spending time outside they can also begin to understand how these benefits are intrinsic to our well being. Spending time outside is embedded in our DNA; it is an essential part of who we are as humans.
We also recognize the inherent challenges and rational fears that people may have to spending time outdoors. From busy lives in work and school, to lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) there are lots of reasons people find to stay indoors. Regardless, there are infinite ways to connect with the natural world and if a person wants to be true to themselves- to the core of their being- spending time outdoors is a crucial component.
Although there are endless ways to spend time outdoors, we choose to foster a nature connection through adventure–boating, biking, and backpacking all provide opportunities to engage with nature in unique and exciting ways. The exhilarating feeling of hurtling through whitewater and the wind in your face as you cruise down the trail on a mountain bike awaken the life force within you. And while there are also legitimate fears associated with these activities, overcoming the challenges and obstacles can help one to learn and grow as a person.
There are many opportunities to attend outdoor education programs throughout the United States or even the world, however Appalachian Expeditions chooses to get people out in their own backyards. We aim to create opportunities for people to explore the wild corners of the places they call home and learn to appreciate the wildness that is all around them at all times. By creating opportunities to connect to the natural world out the backdoor we hope that we can help foster a relationship where people can learn to care for the natural world that is around them everyday. This is the essence of grassroots activism in a world where climate change is a reality. Through these outdoor experiences we will bring the benefits of time in the outdoors to more people of the central Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic region.
Appalachian Expeditions was founded by Alex Snyder and Libbey Holewski. We met in graduate school at Prescott College where we earned our Master’s Degrees in Outdoor Adventure Education. In school, we researched how outdoor education can help foster nature connection and develop a sense of place. We hope to bring this work to life through Appalachian Expeditions.