A few months ago, I attended an outdoor film festival in Washington, DC that focused on the adventure films that were produced by artists from all over the world. The work presented was certainly admirable. I was inspired. A few months later, I watched yet another outdoor film festival and found myself, yet again, inspired.
However, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disconnect. The first time around I felt the same feeling but couldn’t understand what it was about. It was after the second film festival event that it became evident to me that the past two showings I watched were lacking in two things that mattered to me: (1) hiking or wilderness backpacking and (2) women. It was at that point that I vividly recall noting this concern to my male friends who shared their honest opinion that filming an activity that focuses only on hiking isn’t as exciting or “sexy enough” as climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and all these other adrenaline filled sports.
“Okay, they have a point,” I begrudgingly said to myself.
Months later I was trekking with three guys in the Caucasus Mountains of the Republic of Georgia who were from Egypt, France and Sweden, respectively. I raised the same question as to why there’s a lack of hiking or backpacking film documentaries at such events. The answer was similar to the first.
I never asked my male friends about the women aspect. After all, I was already dismayed at the responses dismissing the idea that pure hiking or wilderness backpacking as the subject of a film fails to even meet the standards that would compel any filmmaker to produce such kind of film. So, I pushed the idea aside… but ONLY for a moment.
Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks
I was in China’s remote trekking trails in yet to be discovered Tibetan Autonomous Region of the country when I met May. She was from Thailand who once trekked up the Everest Base Camp in Nepal. As money was an issue, trekking or traveling for her was a major expense. By fate, May and I met in some of the most remote trekking regions in Sichuan Province of China. We ventured out to do the 30 kilometer high altitude pilgrimage trek in Yading Nature Reserve. It was a trekking region that has yet to be fully explored by trekkers from the western world. You can read our adventure in full HERE.
The piece, Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks, was inspired by May and all the wonderful solo women trekkers I’ve met in over a decade of trekking in the U.S. and abroad. To be clear, the piece is not so much about dating, but rather it’s meant to be a way to celebrate women and their love for the mountain trails. May was one of them. To not be able to pursue her passion as often as she would want given the location of her home in Thailand that is devoid of mountain trails is a disappointing reality, to which I can fully relate. In the small city she lives in, life is simple and money is difficult to come by. For someone like May, it’s a devastating notion to accept the fact that she is unable to pursue her passion as easily as she would like due to her responsibilities in taking care of family members and the lack of finances to afford traveling to hike up mountains. Personally, I would go crazy without regular access to mountains!
Our meeting was in 2014. Yet, even now, May still reminisces about our pilgrimage trek in China. In her correspondence, she often dreams about hiking up mountains, whether within her home country or outside of it. I figured if May cannot trek an actual mountain, then I can bring the mountains to her from all corners of the world – thru the film project that is now underway.
The FILM PROJECT
Just shortly after writing Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks, I decided in September of 2016 to open my Brown Gal Trekker blog to the public. I soon came to find out that the world seems to agree that women certainly must be celebrated for their passion and commitment to the outdoors. I was thrilled to learn that the world echoes the same sentiment that I’ve had all along, and as a result, Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks was published by Dave’s Travel Corner (a pioneer website for independent-minded backpackers), Huffington Post and WHOA Mag (a publication that promotes women in the outdoors). At the same time, the piece was promoted by various leading entities in the hiking world including BestHike.com and Hike Like a Woman.
You can find the publications via the following links:
In late October, 2016, Bernard Chen, from Timescapes, who I met months ago as part of the Great Himalaya Project (which still is currently a project via Brown Gal Trekker), reached out to me regarding ideas for future projects. All this time, I had him in mind for an interview for my blog given how inspiring his work is as an award-winning landscape photographer.
I brought up to him the idea that has been brewing in my head, which is to create a short film based on Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks by showcasing women trekkers globally through a collage of photos and videos submitted by the trekkers themselves. Bernard was thrilled at the idea. We both agreed it’s a perfect means of promoting outdoor women from all walks of life and their presence in the media.
As the idea sank in my head that day, I recalled the earlier conversations about the boring nature of a film on hiking. Then, my mind redirected me back to the feeling of disconnectedness that I experienced from the lack of female hikers depicted in the media. But then, I felt a surge of excitement knowing that the landscape of the outdoor media world will change, soon enough. That change is right within our control. We just need to make it happen.
The idea behind the film stems from the sense of isolation and exclusion that I felt as a female hiker. During my one year trek, I spent most of the time hiking solo and wondered how many women and/or women of color out there experience this feeling of being an outsider in the world of the outdoors, in particular when it comes to media and visibility. Over the course of this journey, it became apparent that women in the outdoors, especially in the hiking world, have stories to tell AND THEY WANT TO BE HEARD. We are no longer invisible. We exist. There is in fact a growing community of women hikers who are paving the way to inclusion and appreciation of diversity in the outdoors.
This FILM PROJECT is a collaborative endeavor that is made possible through the help and support of female trekkers worldwide.
Hence, if you’re a female trekker who has photos or videos that you wish to submit, please send them to email@example.com
In addition, please provide us with the following:
- Your name
- Short background story on your photo
- Short answer to the question, “What does hiking or wilderness backpacking mean to you?”
- Your blog site (if you’re a blogger)
You’ll be notified when your piece is selected via e-mail. Credit will be given to your submission. You can subscribe to BGT’s blog if you wish to get updates on the project.
Also, we are raising funds to create the film. Your donations are welcome!
Or, check out our T-shirt fundraising campaign below:
Thanks, everyone. Let’s all make this happen!
BROWN GAL TREKKER & BERNARD CHEN
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