Katherine Donnelly | 08.07.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Tracy Remelius.

I first "met" this Woman In The Wild through SheJumps, where she runs the partnerships like a champ and spreads the stoke on the daily. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious, and everything she does is rooted in her mission to share the good that nature can do with those around her - all while enjoying it as much as possible for herself. Get the full scoop below.

Photo by Sarah Knapp.

OP: Give us the skinny on who Tracy Remelius is.

Tracy Remelius: I believe that sharing time in nature with other humans can be incredibly healing. This currently plays out in my life as a yogi, a skier and snowboarder, a SUP instructor, a leader of mindful outdoor programs, a wilderness/nature therapy guide, and as a partnership director at SheJumps, a nonprofit that gets more women and girls in the outdoors. The outdoors is a huge part of my identity, life focus, and spirituality. I feel most fulfilled in sharing it with others. 

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors? 

Tracy Remelius: I had the unique good fortune of having an experiential education program in my high school. At a young age I was exposed to the adventure of building and rowing wooden boats in Boston Harbor and exploring its islands. It wasn’t until after college that I made the decision that the outdoors would be a main focus. I attended a year-long outdoor leadership program at a local community college. I got all my certifications and had my first real backcountry experiences. For several years I guided and worked in backcountry and frontcountry outdoor programs. I had a stint in the public schools after earning my masters degree, but I yearned for less rigidity, and 10 years ago left the classroom. It was at this point that I realized my career would not be taking a usual path and that I belonged in the outdoors. 

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?

Tracy Remelius: I think the biggest part is being a role model. At SheJumps one of our taglines is “If she can do it, I can do it”. I enjoy sharing my joy and passion for the outdoors in ways that make it accessible for others. In my work at Kripalu Yoga Center, a renowned retreat center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, I am regularly introducing people from east coast cities to meaningful outdoor experiences- hiking, paddle boarding, snowshoeing, etc. I also lead camping trips for adult men and women at a substance abuse rehabilitation center. In both settings, our participants may be bumping up against the edge of their comfort zones and what they may have previously thought themselves capable of. Each woman that I teach to start a fire or maneuver their paddle board in a head wind can expand their self-beliefs and self confidence. I love having the opportunity to ignite something new in someone.

Additionally, being a woman in the outdoors means supporting other women in the industry. As partnership director with SheJumps, I am always looking to work with female owned brands and companies that have practices in place that support women in leadership roles. I am mindful to practice collaboration rather than comparison and competition. I also make an effort to encourage and mentor our younger volunteers and ambassadors whenever I can. 

OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back?

Tracy Remelius: When I was younger, the outdoors taught me confidence. I found a place where I felt I belonged. Learning outdoor leadership skills gave me a sense that I could navigate myself both literally and figuratively in life; that I could pick a place on a map and get there, or set a goal and achieve it. 

Today, I’m so much more drawn to the quiet moments. Listening to the wind in the leaves, watching the sunlight glisten on water, finding meditation in watching a waterfall, practicing yoga outside. Don’t get me wrong...I’ll never not love the exhilaration of playing on snow on my skis or snowboard, but now I really also value the healing qualities of my outdoor experiences. 

Working in both recovery and the therapeutic settings I’m in, I witness firsthand the powerful transformations that can happen in the outdoors. I would say I give back by helping to create positive first time experiences for others in nature. This plays into my thoughts on conservation; I’ve always felt I you truly love something you will fight for it.

OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think outdoor enthusiasts should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?

Tracy Remelius: When I was a school teacher, I taught earth and environmental science, including climate and climate change. I thought I could make an impact by showing my urban dwelling eighth graders movies like "An Inconvenient Truth" or learning the science behind conservation and climate. While I’m sure I did reach some kids, I grew frustrated. 

Although I tried my best to create real life learning experiences, most of my students had no real connection with the outdoors. Why should they “save the earth” when they had so many other social, familial, and emotional issues they were dealing with each day? At the time, I also became a yoga teacher and began working within the emotional and energetic realms. Ultimately I decided to leave teaching since I felt that, if people had emotional pain and no connection with nature, my message was falling on deaf ears. We need both of those needs met in order to care. 

I definitely think that outdoor enthusiasts need to be advocating for public lands, but if we have no connection, why should we care in the first place? Since I left teaching in the schools, that’s basically where I’ve been putting my energy. With my work at SheJumps we create accessible introductory (and beyond) outdoor experiences for women and girls. At Kripalu, we always create time for silence or meditation in our outdoor experiences, and we are developing a new school called The School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. In my capacity as a wilderness therapist, I talk a lot about the possibility of nature as a higher power in recovery. I believe that after we feel the emotional connection to the outdoors, then we can come full circle and advocate for it. 

OP: Who has inspired you along the way?

Tracy Remelius: Claire Smallwood and the amazing behind-the-scenes women who’ve volunteered thousands of hours of their time to make SheJumps happen. Margot Cheel, a pilot and artist from my home town who taught me that my life is my greatest masterpiece. My mom; she raised my sister and I as a single mom and showed me that there’s nothing a woman can’t do. Mother Earth.

OP: What does adventure mean to you?

Tracy Remelius: To me adventure means embarking on the unknown. Having the willingness to start, not know what you’ll find on the journey, but to keep moving forward.

OP: What does the term "badass" mean to you?

Tracy Remelius: This is so interesting! I think I used to like considering myself a badass - but now I prickle a little at the term. I think women have had to become badasses to succeed in a male dominated world. They’ve had to hide their femininity, never show weakness or emotion. I felt like that early in my career, that I had to act like a dude to be accepted and to succeed. I’m so over being a badass, I just want to be myself.

OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same?

Tracy Remelius: It hasn’t been easy, right now I work three part time jobs. It’s a lot to juggle sometimes. Even now, I’m reflecting on how to align all the things I love into one job that is financially viable. I think I’ve managed to do it because I haven’t been willing to settle. Over the years I have gained so many valuable skills and experiences, I’m so excited to take it to the next level. I’m always growing, always reevaluating, and working on staying centered with my own personal values. My advice would be to know that, like the outdoors, you seek the unknown and the uncharted. You may be embarking on an alternative path than others around you. It may be Type-II fun sometimes, but when you have those summit experiences, it’s always worth it. 

OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by?

Tracy Remelius: There are two. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” “Take the next best step.”

OP: In a perfect world, what does the outdoors (the people, the places, the community as a whole, etc.) look like to you? And what can outdoor brands and media companies, such as Outdoor Project, do better to help get us there?

Tracy Remelius: I think that many people don’t know where to start when it comes to getting outdoors. They know they might enjoy it but find it intimidating, overwhelming, and that they don’t belong to the club. I think media needs to show regular people of all backgrounds, races, body types, genders, (both binary and non-binary) and ages, enjoying the simple beauties of nature. It doesn’t always have to be epic.

OP: What is one thing that you never leave home without?

Tracy Remelius: A water bottle.

OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received and what’s the story behind it?

Tracy Remelius: “Leap and the net will appear.” I learned this concept just after college in an art class called "The Artist Way," which is a book by Julia Cameron. I tend to be someone who worries about making changes. This was a quote that allowed me freedom to try new things, to trust, to have faith. It was important for me especially when I was first starting out; I grew up in a fairly conservative New England town. Everyone I went to school with became a banker, a business person, or a lawyer. I was deciding to study outdoor leadership and spend summers living off the grid. That quote helped me trust in my wild ideas and go for it!

OP: In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media, and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play?

Tracy Remelius: Social media definitely takes me out of the present. I do so much work that is really active and engaged with other people. Whether I’m teaching yoga, leading a program or SUP lesson, or sharing around a campfire meeting, it would be extremely awkward to document what I do on social media. I do like to take pictures, but most of the time I miss documenting what I’m really doing. My approach is usually an afterthought, which is why lately I try to share more personally and authentically in the text I write along with my Instagram photos. My father recently passed away suddenly from cancer, I’ve been using my account to process some of my grief. I hope that being vulnerable and sharing the good and the hard helps other going through tough times that they’re not alone. 

OP: What’s next for you in the coming months and years?

Tracy Remelius: This fall I’m excited to be an assistant faculty for a newly launching program at Kripalu Yoga Center, called The School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. I love that this program will be more focused on leading others in the mindful and therapeutic aspects of time in nature rather than just the adventure and recreation sides.

My role at SheJumps continues to grow. I started five years ago as an impassioned volunteer, and last year I was hired on officially to direct partnerships. SheJumps has big plans for continuing to make the outdoors an accessible place for women and girls, and not just white and wealthy ones. We are committed to grow programs that are more inclusive to women and girls of color and from diverse economic backgrounds. We launched a pilot program in Salt Lake City this year (thanks to receiving a Force of Nature grant from REI) which served girls from refugee and immigrant families that exposed them to 20 outdoor experiences. I’m so excited to bring what we’ve learned to new communities. I have big goals to grow our partnerships so that we will continue to grow our impact. 

In the longer vision, I’m synthesizing a way for all of my passions, talents, and side gigs to come together in one amazing leadership position in the outdoor industry. 

OP: The title of your autobiography would be...

Tracy Remelius: All Who Wander Are Not Lost.

OP: In your next life, you will come back as...

Tracy Remelius: Well as a yogi, I would hope I’d be further on my path to illumination. But for fun I’d think about being a cat, but I’d want to be an adventurous cat - how about a lynx or a mountain lion.

OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Tracy Remelius: If you love the outdoors, share it with someone who you think might benefit from a nature connection. Remember what it was like to be a beginner. Don’t bite off more than they can chew. Keep it accessible! 

Learn more about Tracy by following her on the 'gram, and check out her work both at SheJumps and with the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership.


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