Or brown. This weekend I marveled at how my son and I both have bright green backpacks and green down jackets—all different shades of green, mind you. As we trudged up the climber’s trail I was thinking about how it’s totally acceptable (and even fashionable) for us to walk around the wilderness wearing all the colors of the rainbow, and more. Lime green, burnt orange, neon pink, it’s all ok.
But what about underneath all those Neapolitan layers? Is it normal for people whose skin is all colors of the rainbow to be adventurers?
So let’s go through an exercise. Picture an adventurer. Ok, what does your picture look like? I picture a rugged leathery-faced mountain man in an old-timey wool cable-knit sweater, pocketed vest, and a canvas satchel replete with important adventure tools like a sextant, a treasure map, and a pistol. Clint Eastwood maybe? Or Harrison Ford? Oh, and he’s smoking a pipe.
What I don’t picture is the photo above. Yeah, that’s me. And I am pretty much the opposite of Clint Eastwood. I’m not leathery faced, although with age and exposure to the elements I’m definitely headed that way. But more importantly, I’m not white. And I’m not a man.
I remember ten years ago being the only South Asian climber at our climbing gym in the San Francisco Bay Area. And this dude came up to me and said “hey, you remind of the girl in Bend it Like Beckham.” I wanted to tell him there are a few of us brown women out there engaging in physical activities besides yoga. But I bit my tongue.
So why is it that so many of us think of white men when we think about adventure? Is it Hollywood movies, which revolve around the swashbuckling pursuits of Indiana Jones? Is it our history books, which talk about the heroic deeds of Earnest Shackelton?
Face it, it will take a major paradigm shift to be able to see “adventure” as more than just white dudes gallivanting around the world finding lost treasure. But maybe . . . just maybe pointing out some role models can get us part way there. So, here goes:
Shelton Johnson is a ranger with the National Park Service (he recently took Oprah on a tour of Yosemite!). Shelton is Black. And he is an adventurer. Nina Roberts is a professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism at San Francisco State University and Director of the Pacific Leadership Institute. Nina is multiracial. And she is an adventurer. Juan Martinez works with the White House and the Department of Interior on America’s Great Outdoor initiative, getting more American families out into nature. He’s Hispanic. And he’s an adventurer. M. Sanjayan is the lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy, where he specializes in human welfare and conservation. He’s South Asian Indian. And he’s an adventurer. Jimmy Chin is a renowned adventure photographer and filmmaker whose work has been featured in Outside magazine, National Geographic, and the Banff Mountain Film Festival. He’s Asian. And he’s an adventurer.
And then there’s my family. We’re not famous, but we’re working on it! I’m a field instructor and the Diversity and Inclusion Manager at NOLS. I’m South Asian and a woman. And my son’s what my husband lovingly calls “a halfer”—half South Asian, and half a bunch of other things. And we are adventurers.