RENDEZVOUS IN THE MOUNTAINS
Have you ever had the feeling when you first meet someone that you were friends in a past life? Not just the 'familiar face' feeling; I'm talking that experience that stirs you so deeply you consider that the concept of reincarnation must certainly be true. Now imagine having that feeling 230 times in a row. Welcome to the AndShesDopeToo Rendezvous in the mountains.
I stumbled across the organization via a post on Instagram from someone I follow and admire for her bold and unfiltered writing and lifestyle. I popped over to the ASDT website and with one glance of the mission statement I was hooked. Signing up for the Rendezvous wasn't completely out of my wheelhouse as camping and hiking are hobbies of mine, but hunkering down out of cell service with hundreds of strangers definitely gave me pause. Nevertheless I, or the whiskey I had been consuming when I registered, was feeling bold. The website detailed the full gamete of outdoor activities available to choose from but I figured if nothing else I could take my camp chair to the river and read for the duration of the weekend.
I didn't open my book once.
The Rendezvous activities cover the full scope of options on the adventure scale. You might not be interested in jumping on two wheels and bombing down a rocky hillside, but if you would like to break out of your comfort zone you can be assured that this safe space offers the proper gear and supportive mentors to give you the tools to confidently take on mountain biking. If you struggle to hush your mind and still your body just head to the water where you will be led through a guided meditation on a Stand Up Paddle board. I chose the latter because I am that gal whose toes dance in her sleep. After our session, while docking our boards, our mentor took the time to comment on my tranquility and the multiple flies that landed on me during our float which reaffirmed my own excitement at my ability to finally achieve a meditative state. In case you need confirmation with what you just read, YES, I was STOKED that my body was a landing pad for flies. These are the types of things that elate you at the 'vous.
The participants of the 'vous challenge and care for each other. Need someone to remind you that it's okay to fall off your board when trying your first handstand while SUPing? That woman is floating next to you offering to hold your sunglasses and record the experience. Looking for a seven layer dip to refuel after a six mile trek up a mountain? That woman will beckon you over to her campsite and teach you her trick of using two chips to mix two dips. There are moments reserved for solitude and reflection that are seemlessly sandwiched between rousing games of Yahtzee and glow stick dance parties.
I am competitive to the point of sitting out activities that I know I won't 'be the best' in but there was no room for that at the Rendezvous. The weekend wasn't about outdoing one another. It was about sharing; sharing stories of beautiful hikes out in the world for others to add to their bucket lists, sharing delicious dip (seriously y'all, that dip was sinfully tasty), sharing tips learned through trial for tricky backpacking adventures, and sharing tales of loss or suffering that have directed our life paths. I never felt an ounce of rivalry amongst my counterparts, only invigorating encouragement.
In addition to the action packed days the Rendezvous offers an evening in which four respected members of the outdoor adventure community tell their stories. In a typical format one would expect a Q&A with keynote speakers. As I'm sure you've gathered through my rambling, an ASDT Rendezvous is far from typical. The women who shared their stories with us at our fire-less fireside weren't there to simply spew out some 'inspirational' words and bail. They came to learn and grow along with us. The four speakers spent the weekend just as we did: painting rocks, showering in an icy river, and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. It may have taken me up until closing of camp on Sunday morning but I finally mustered the courage to fulfill my own motivation for attending the Rendezvous: expressing vulnerability. Embracing my own vulnerability I approached someone that I am very much inspired by: Brianna Media. When I saw a break in the crowd around her I marched forward and blurted out something to the effect of "I am really lame, hi I'm Kelsey" while thrusting my open hand towards her. She cooly smiled and introduced herself and I silently praised the sun gods for being present so I could hide the tears in my eyes behind my sunglasses. While thinking back on the situation, although my approach still causes me to shudder, I am absolutely ecstatic that I took the opportunity to introduce myself. By the end of our conversation I was elated to find that this instaceleb is every bit as chill as the persona portrayed in her writing.
Something unique to the Rendezvous is that it's not just the speakers and mentors that stir your soul. The women I met were from different parts of the country or, in some cases, a different country altogether. Each of these extraordinary women were attracted to the Rendezvous for different reasons and had their own intentions for the weekend.
While our motivations may have been different I am confident that everyone walked away with a greater appreciation for themselves, their fellow women, and our beautiful earth.
Here's to hoping this feeling lasts longer than the dirt under my fingernails.
For more information and upcoming events check out the ASDT website: https://andshesdopetoo.com