Lessons Learned from the Outdoors

By Anna Gimilaro and Helen Weierbach

Working as trip leaders for the past three years has taught us many lessons for not only surviving and thriving in the outdoors but also teaching our backcountry skills to peers. During quarantine, we’ve come to realize that many of these skills are directly applicable to our everyday lives – especially in quarantine. Read on to learn the lessons we’ve learned from the great outdoors and how they apply to life in the time of COVID-19.

You can fix it

Outdoor trips often present challenges that must be solved with no tools other than our brains and whatever we can find in our backpacks. Ever tried fixing a camping stove with no repair kit? Or patching a hole in a leaky canoe with duct tape and a sleeping pad? We rarely resort to thinking on our feet for such creative solutions when surrounded by the comfort and convenience of home.

During quarantine, we made it our mission to adopt the ‘you can fix it’ mindset of the backcountry to tackle tasks of everyday life, like fixing our shower drain and broken skateboard without proper tools. We were tempted to turn to Amazon or the local hardware store for an easy solution shipped to our front door, but approaching problems with mental toughness helped us solve problems without paying any extra.

You can lift it

Prepping for a paddling trip always requires one especially arduous task for trip leaders – loading the canoes onto the trailer. Canoes like those we use at Outdoor Adventures can weigh up to 80 pounds and need to be lifted onto our trailer rack that’s at least six feet tall! While hitting the gym helped us bulk up for heavy lifting, there’s also a certain grit required for hoisting canoes.

We brought the same grit to our recent move, out of our old house in New Orleans and into a new one. Moving all of our furniture with four girls was a daunting endeavor, but with some Outdoor Adventures grit and camp-counselor enthusiasm, we successfully trucked our whole house across town, lifting desks, mattresses and couches up and down flights of stairs, all in a single day.

The culmination of 3 years driving down broadway while pulling a trailer of canoes: Uhaul.

Tedious planning is well-worth the pay off: don’t schvitz the logistics

Going on a backcountry trip is never easy. There’s a ton of preparation that goes into planning even a weekend backpacking loop or overnight paddling trip. From reserving campsites to planning meals to shuttling boats upon arrival, the amount of work we put in can seem overwhelming. But the payoff when you finally step out on the trail or dip into the river is well worth the work of pre-trip logistics.


After many days of planning: moving day!

The shower conundrum

Imagine our distress when last week, our shower suddenly stopped draining. Our at-home Draino solution was no match for our old pipes, and we were forced to either face the problem head-on or possibly go without showering. Reluctant to call a plumber with our house under strict quarantine rules, we took matters into our own hands and decided to go fishing.

No, no, not actual fishing. Fishing out all of the gunk in our shower drain! This Monday morning feat of ours may not seem to have much relevance to the outdoors, but we’re here to prove you wrong. After procuring a heavy-duty drain snake, we returned home ready to conquer our shower drain monster. We found a screwdriver, removed the drain cover, and arrived at the root of the problem – the drain itself. We put our heads together, changed into our almost dusty Chacos, and prepared to get down and dirty. We cast our snake down the drain with determination not seen since our last trip of the semester before campus closed.

Why do we tell you about our experiences fixing a skateboard, moving furniture, and unclogging a shower drain? Because they speak to the broader implications of backcountry survival skills and grit that we so love about the outdoors. Think of all the indoor and outdoor applications of:

  • Fishing (lol)
  • Doubting ability in technical skills, especially as women (we ended up calling a plumber who told us we’d actually fixed the problem ourselves – we just didn’t believe it!)
  • Learning by trial and error
  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Practicing teamwork
  • Fixing or lifting without outside help

Remember: You can fix it. You can lift it. And tedious planning is well-worth the payoff – don’t schvitz the logistics.

About the authors

Anna and Helen have been co-leaders at Outdoor Adventures for the past 4 years! They now begin their post-grad life in New Orleans and Berkeley with exciting new jobs but never forget their love for the outdoors.