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Living Fully Where We Are: Adventure Transitions in COVID-19

By Katelyn Houston

“My hope is that through outdoor education and recreation young girls are also introduced to feminism—to finding oneself and taking responsibility for oneself deeply and unapologetically.” 

In August 2018, just after completing yoga teacher training, I went on my first solo trip.  I ventured to India to practice yoga along the Ganges River and trek the Markha Valley.  In my solitude, I was awe-inspired by the bursting rivers and baron mountains as they encouraged me to dig deep mentally, physically, and spiritually.  I reflected on my new (at that time) hometown of Johnson City, TN, and I knew the Appalachian landscape was waiting to serve as an equal source of inspiration.  I returned to Johnson City with the desire to propagate the spirit of the Ganges in the Nolichucky—and inside me.  

In yoga, it isn’t the pose that I love the most but the transition from one pose to the next.  Transitions are challenging to perform with grace—some transitions are sloppy—but transitions are necessary to flow through and experience the practice in-whole.  This applies to the practice of life.  By pushing ourselves to try new things, to try a new approach, to learn with an open mind, we transition toward wholeness and truly experience life.  When I returned home, I worked my mind and body in new ways by kayaking and mountain biking.  I developed a deeper appreciation for myself and my capability.  I relearned what it meant to play.  Through nature, I started to grow in my adulthood with a childlike attitude.  When we immerse ourselves in the outdoors, our adaptability is intensified and we learn to manage fear differently than we were taught.      

When COVID hit, my gratitude heightened as I recognized the life I had cultivated in my own backyard, even while balancing a corporate career.  I continued enjoying an adventurous and holistic lifestyle safely.  Although I couldn’t go on my next big adventure, I continued finding ways to push myself and grow.  Road biking scared me, but I borrowed a road bike from my colleague/mountain biking-friend as an additional way to stay active and socially distance while shuttling for a day on the river. Little did I know that I also opened myself up to a new way of experiencing my area.  

With gratitude, strength, and creativity, we can live fully where we are—especially in my hometown.  

For my adventure with The Cairn Project, I want to highlight east TN/WNC and support the empowerment of young girls through outdoor recreation in the Southeast.  My hope is that through outdoor education and recreation young girls are also introduced to feminism—to finding oneself and taking responsibility for oneself deeply and unapologetically.  The adventure will include road biking, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and yoga/meditation in a loop starting and ending at my front door in downtown Johnson City.  This adventure is meant to show that we are adaptable and powerful where we stand.  By incorporating yoga and meditation with kayaking and biking, I also want to highlight the importance of balance.  Growth is a cycle that requires not only pushing boundaries and limits but also reflection and recovery.  Also, we are supported.  Although this adventure is self-supported and fueled, it requires a community of stewards, business-owners, and supporters, for whom I am grateful.