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Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Climbing Resources
Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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Organisations

Organisations
A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Outdoor Industry

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Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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Rite of Passage Journeys

Rite of Passage Journeys circleAdolescence is a time of raging hormones and difficult transitions, but it’s also a time of self discovery, a peak learning period and a time when young people are open to influence from a range of outside sources.  In many native cultures there was a ceremony that bridged the difficult gap between being a child and being an adult, providing a specific incident that could identify as being the time when a girl became a woman, or a boy became a man.  This ceremony also provided an opportunity for elders to pass on the values of the community.  In today’s society there is no such ‘rite of passage’ ceremony - boys and girls are expected to navigate the storms of adolescence and then decide for themselves when they have grown enough to rise into adulthood.  To undergo this process without guidance would have been unthinkable in native cultures.  Is this one of the reasons that today’s adolescents have such a hard time?

Rite of Passage Journeys is an organisation based in Seattle in the northwest of the USA.  The organisation has been around in various forms since 1968, but it has always provided a similar program - a Coming of Age journey for adolescent boys and girls.  Originally it started as a year long, residential program for 12-14 year olds, where the students would travel and do community work all around the world.  The people running the program noticed that the communities they were helping usually had an active Rite of Passage ceremony, the ceremony was used by the elders to teach the young people their values, and was extremely effective at building a strong community.  They realised that there was nothing like that in our western culture, and decided to incorporate a Rite of Passage in their year-long residential program, to great success.

Eventually it became clear that 12 year olds couldn’t be away from their families for a year and the organisation developed the program into what it is now - a three week Coming of Age Program, all wilderness based, incorporating a Rite of Passage ceremony.  In the last 15 years the organisation has been based out of the Seattle area, taking advantage of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.  It started out as a co-ed program, but they noticed that boys and girls need something very different in a Rite of Passage, and the Coming of Age programs are now gender specific.  The range of programs has grown - there’s now an alumni program, programs for older adolescents and adults and programs for younger children - but their key focus remains the Rite of Passage for the 12-14 year old age group.

Rite of Passage Journeys girlThe objectives of the Coming of Age Programs for girls and boys have been developed and defined over the many years the organisation has been running them.  The values that are taught about in the programs and passed on to the young people fall into four realms - creating a relationship with self, community, nature and sacred.  There is also the importance of the Rite of Passage, the point at which you pass away the old and move into the new, and the ceremony that marks this transition.  The Coming of Age programs focuses on the stage of learning and working that leads up to this important transition, and the idea is that the young people return from their three weeks in the wilderness and back to their families having passed into adulthood, or young adulthood.

Emily Pease kindly agreed to meet with me in Seattle and talk about Rite of Passage Journeys.  Emily has been working for Rite of Passage Journeys for two year, joining the organisation from a background in art and architecture.  She has been a mentor on several youth programs, attended one of the adult programs as a participant and also works in the office as a Program Director and on the organisation’s marketing.  She is interested in pursuing more tertiary education in the field of ecopsychology and is passionate about the strength of the Coming of Age programs for boys and girls.

Rite of Passage Journeys beachA Coming of Age program starts and ends with a gathering of all of the participants, both girls and boys, along with their parents.  The gathering at the beginning looks like the usual program logistics with introductions, getting gear ready and explanations of the weeks to come.  Then, however, they perform a severance ceremony that separates the youth from their parents, performing an act with ribbons and scissors and a drum beat, and with the mentors dressed in capes running out of the forest to steal the youth away - mimicking the ceremonies of old.  Emily says that this is one of the most powerful things they do, and that they have lots of tissues available to mop up the tears - mostly those of the parents!

After the severance ceremony and some team building activities, the participants depart for a 6 day hike across a spectacular mountain pass.  On the hike the mentors introduce the four value realms, and start to work on each aspect - self, community, nature and sacred.  The students are expected to lead parts of the hike, and there is an emphasis put on building the mentor/mentee relationship (the ratio of mentors to mentees is 1:3).

After their 6 days across the backcountry, the groups spend a day doing a resupply, then head out again for a 6-7 day hike on the coast.  This second hike is for the youth to take ownership of the trip, taking on leadership roles and decision making.  This hike leads up to a solo vigil, where each participant spends 24 hours alone in a small space, maintaining a fire and completing activities such as art and journaling.  Again, ceremony and ritual play an important part, and the participants are sent out with a small gift and some insights about themselves from the mentors.  After their 24 hours alone they do a group solo hike and camp a little separately from the adults for a night.

Rite of Passage Journeys ceremonyThe final week includes a special celebration and ceremony event.  The girls go to Bainbridge Island (in the bay near Seattle) and take part in series of ceremonies run by women on the island, including a sweat lodge and a maiden ceremony.  They spend the days there celebrating being women, having passed from being girls into being women or adolescent women, depending on what they decide to say about themselves.

Finally, at the end of the program they come back and have a parents’ weekend.  The participants perform a skit for their parents and friends, and then the youth are re-introduced to their parents by the mentors.  The rest of the weekend is all about recreating the family, where the youth bring out what they see as their responsibilities and what they want their privileges to be, and work with their parents to create a system for the ‘new’ person coming home with them.  Emily says that this part of the program is absolutely essential, and a unique part of what the organisation does, having a community connection after returning from an adventure.

Rite of Passage Journeys is a non-profit organisation and say that they don’t turn anyone away due to lack of funds.  Last year they gave out $30,000 worth of scholarships and work hard to maintain a high diversity of participants in their programs.  Emily has seen a wide range of girls on her programs - ranging from a girl who spent her summer working to raise the money to come on the trip, to girls recommended by social workers, to girls enrolled by their parents without them knowing!  Emily says she has seen the most incredible friendships form on programs - in particular last year between a girl coming out of the court system and a girl who rides ponies in her free time.  Emily says that their paths would never have crossed if it hadn’t been for the program, but now they maintain contact and remain friends.

Rite of Passage Journeys groupI asked Emily why the outdoors is so good for this sort of program, and she says that being in the outdoors changes their life dynamics so dramatically that it’s an extremely valuable learning environment.  It takes away everything they knew and is a true severance, and it allows them to be really truthful to themselves and the group.  Additionally, it falls in line with the values system and the hiking, weather, camping and so on are a real challenge for the participants.  Emily says that a Rite of Passage can happen anywhere but that it works very well for them to hold it in the wilderness. 

So, next time you see an adolescent struggling with who they are and what they want to be, perhaps a Coming of Age Program and a Rite of Passage would be useful for them.  As well as learning about nature and all the skills they need to be comfortable in the outdoors, they will also be learning about themselves, others and importance of nature.  As Emily says, they’ll be getting their drivers licence for life!

For more information about Rite of Passage Journeys, visit their website.  They run a wide variety of interesting programs as well as their Coming of Age for Girls and Boys programs.  (Photos from the Rite of Passage Journeys website.)

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