Are you searching your mind for a response right now, going through years or decades of memories to find the answer? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Before every adventure we lead my wife, Kate and I ask each participant this question. Many struggle to answer and as they do, a moment of self-discovery happens. This is especially true for women participants. When we founded our outdoor adventure business, DNK Presents, we realized that most of our clients were trying something new for the first time — an adventure in the truest sense. During our trips these adventurers underwent visible transformations, breaking through physical, mental, and emotional barriers to complete the activities. Post-adventure transformations also emerged for many — residual benefits for daily living. They found empowerment to take on their own trips, develop outdoor interests, start their own businesses, or ask for promotions. They realized that their lives could be great adventures.

Cultural influences keep women from taking risks toward improving their lives. According to Harvard Business Review article, “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They are 100% Qualified,” women must feel assured they are 100% qualified for a job before applying for it, while men will apply for a new position when they feel they are only 60% qualified. The consensus is that women need more confidence. Kate and I see a direct correlation between the challenges mastered while developing, and guiding our adventure retreats to the personal and professional successes in our lives. We have seen the same parallel for our clients; challenges overcome by women on our adventure retreats lead to post-adventure increases in confidence levels and healthier attitudes. Adventurers said of their breakthroughs, “I can’t believe everything I need to survive for the weekend is on my back, and I was able to carry it all by myself!” or “I built a fire, hung my food, and best of all I did it alongside new friends that were doing this for the first time with me.” These same women, some of whom had never camped, hiked or biked before, went on to complete adventure races, backpack trips, climbing and mountaineering adventures, mountain biking trips, and tackle on new personal and professional goals.

After many wonderful experiences we decided to host a give-back adventure event for the community, just for women. We wanted to find women who would not sign up for an adventure on their own, who perhaps didn’t think they could do it, didn’t have the time, or were unsure about what adventure opportunities were out there. In January of 2016 DNK Presents announced the inaugural, Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest. In less than 2 months we received over 60 inspiring nominations of women in our community who devoted their lives to their careers, were busy parents, who had overcame loss, an illness, and countless other major life events. With the help of a volunteer committee we were able to pick four lucky women to experience a four-day all expense paid adventure led by Kate and I in central Indiana.

DNK Presents guides and the 2016 Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest winners (pictured from left to right) Sally Marchand Collins, Candice Baggett, Ali Lemberg, Kate Nolan, Danielle Wolter Nolan, Michele Lorbieski Anderson, Kelsey Steuer

We also decided to film the contest winner’s experience and share their stories through an adventure documentary, in hopes that others around the world would see the profound effects of stepping outside your comfort zone, trying something for the time, disconnecting from technology, and reconnecting with yourself in nature, has on women. There are a staggeringly low number of women-based adventure films. Banff Mountain Film Festival, came out and openly asked, “Where are the women?” Alison Hudson talks more about it in her article, Where are the Women in Outdoor Films? A Look at how Banff Mountain Film Festival wants to Change the Status Quo. I had filmed amateur videos with my Nikon and our GoPro, and we noticed that those short films resonated with people. A professor at Indiana University Kelley School of Business remarked, “I didn’t think your trips would be for someone like me, I thought you had to be a millennial or really physically fit, but when I saw your videos I saw women that looked like me, and then I could see myself doing it too.”

None of the winners of the Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest knew each other or entirely what they were in for in the backcountry, but they left with something much greater than they had ever imaged possible. They were able to try new things and overcome challenges with other women encouraging them, laughing, crying, and singing along the way. There is something to be said about going outside of your normal boundaries, stepping into the unknown, and finding space and time to disconnect from technology. Now these women who take our adventures ask their friends, family, and colleagues the question, “When is the last time you did something for the first time”.

The Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest Winners after rappelling over 150 foot wall in Indiana

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