Being an older woman these days is exciting. We can do more than our mothers, and certainly our grandmothers, ever could. Thanks to advances in medicine, and a healthy lifestyle and fitness culture, we are now living better and longer. Sixty is the new forty they say.
The opportunities are intoxicating. But is there also a risk? Are older women encouraged to ignore what their bodies are telling them and push through in the name of adventure?
Our society is all about a ‘can do’ attitude. And yes, women can do anything. But I wonder, does that mean we have to do everything?
True feminism is about having choices; not feeling pressure to be Superwoman. We want the opportunity to say yes to everything, but not feel an obligation. v
Let’s not get trapped by FOMO (fear of missing out).
The women’s adventure movement is, in part a reaction to the fact that historically, adventure was pretty much the realm of men. Then, we rebelled against men telling us we couldn’t be as adventurous as them. We were done with being limited by a lack of other people’s imagination. We also rebelled against a stereotype that said most of us were too fat, too short, too tall, or too ugly. Just when we thought we were free of other people telling us what we can and can’t do, there is a worrying trend of women telling other women they are not adventurous enough.
We have made heroines out of women who were told they couldn’t, but did anyway; women who against the odds, against advice, sometimes even against common sense, chose to ignore the limitations and warnings and showed the impossible was possible. These are truly extraordinary women and we should celebrate their tenacity and their achievements.
But what about all the women who aren’t extraordinary? Does adventure only count if it is extraordinary? What does adventure mean for women who, due to age, disability or illness, cannot do something physically extraordinary anymore?
Women don’t want to be told they are being too unadventurous. But have we forgotten that adventure is not just about pushing ourselves physically?
I had some major surgery last year. I was determined that it would not limit me and I think I got the balance right. I was sensible and prudent and followed instructions regarding recovery. Once I had recovered I pushed myself hard but still didn’t do anything reckless; not by my standards anyway, although some friends would disagree. I expected a good outcome. Just five and a half months later, I was off to the surgeon again in fear it had all come apart (literally). I was really scared. I still had an adventurous mind and spirit but what if my body could no longer support those aspirations? I am pleased to report I got the all clear – this time – but it was a real wake up call.
I don’t ever want to retire from travelling, playing, and living life to the full, but the reality is, at some point over the next 10 years, I will be faced with limitations, no matter how fit and determined I am. Increasingly, staying fit means more injuries. Older muscles and tendons are more prone to tears. Older bodies don’t repair and recover like younger bodies, so injuries and breaks have to be taken more seriously. Adventure can no longer be about throwing caution to the wind and just going for it. A certain amount of caution becomes practical. Maybe, at some point, the way I experience adventure is going to have to change.
Connecting with nature has always been a big part of the adventure lifestyle vision. Generally, adventure takes place outdoors. But nature is more than the backdrop for physical challenge. Connecting with nature is an instinct that drives us outdoors and uplifts the spirit, inspiring us to be active and involved in a more atavistic lifestyle, in harmony with nature. When we venture beyond our predictable man-made habitat, we open ourselves up to new experiences. In east Africa, I waited for the sun to set on three lions. I then sat in the jeep for an hour, in the pitch dark, listening to them communicating with each other. There was no physical challenge, no athleticism, no risk or daring. It was just my ears having the most wondrous adventure.
Adventurous women can be runners and hikers, surfers or bikers. They can also be poets, artists, philosophers, scientists, entrepreneurs and politicians. Having an extraordinary adventure is not just about feats of athleticism. Even at our desks, we can venture beyond our usual boundaries and send our hearts, mind and souls souring. Adventure is about a state of mind, an attitude to life and a hunger for new experiences.
Words & Images by: Michelle Lawford (Wild Photography)