Mom Chronicles: Hints from the road

Expedition Woman Training: Real women can use a winch

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woman using a winch on a land rover jeep off road

I equate the term 'expedition' with mountaineers making first ascents. Or, the original Spanish explorers. Ford's 'grande' sized SUV. I don't do 'grande' very often. I'm a happy medium kind of girl. I try really hard at things, mostly because I'm competitive by nature. I don't want to be the WORST, regardless of what I'm doing. But, being a balanced person in today's middle-class society leaves me only enough time to be a medium sized 'adventurer-of-all-trades.' Grande sized accomplishments come with a little crazy attached. Or at least the lack of any social life to speak of. Think Mozart, Einstein, Tonya Harding, Michael Jackson . . .Spotting at the Expedition Woman's Training

The 'Expedition Woman' class, one of a selection of field-training courses offered by Overland Training, gave me confidence and skills necessary to prepare our family vehicle for an expedition of any size: small, medium, or grande. As the female half of our Nissan Frontier Adventure team, I often leave it to Mark to do the vehicle inspection, tire preparation, and loading the equipment for our travel. My part, by default, then becomes preparing our family meals, bringing the comforts from home, and making sure we have enough baby diapers to last a month. After what I learned at Expedition Woman Training, I feel more able to step in as a partner to Mark. I definitely gained an appreciation for his "half" of the work. Maybe this is the reason why he wanted me to go so badly . . .

The two and a half day class- based in the Upper Sonoran Desert region of Central Arizona- entails four-wheel driving practice (incorporating Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly principles), spotting techniques, camping and cooking tips, first aid overview, and vehicle recovery lessons. Kristina Hall, instructor and experienced overland traveler and outdoors-woman, masterfully tailored the pace for the 5 women participants. Varying lecture, instructor demonstration, hands-on training, and group walks/hikes/drives to maximize interest and student interaction, our lessons were engaging and met our individual levels of experience and comfort. Kristina included open dialogue and the expertise or previous experiences of the participants to navigate through the curriculum in a way that was meaningful and fresh.

The Women of Expedition Training, May 09I've had the privilege to travel with Kristina Hall on a couple of weekend expeditions since Mark and I have had our Frontier. She was always an engaging companion who balanced her roles as a knowledgable trail leader with the social coordinator who made everyone in the group feel welcome. Before taking her Woman's Couse, I knew from seeing her in the "real world" that she had the skills and first-hand experience to teach in the area of vehicle-dependent travel. What astounded me about Kristina on this weekend trip was that her mastery of expedition principles is trumped by her superior knowledge and passion for native cultures. Kristina went beyond teaching from her head to a deeper source, from her heart, to enlighten us about the Hopi people of the Verde Valley region. She shared their legends around the campfire, with a full moon in the sky, closer than a day's walk from where the Hopi's Fourth World began. Twice, we hiked as a group to red canyon walls that were filled with Petroglyphs. Without Kristina, we could have camped and driven dawn to dusk and not even known what was in our backyard.

The cultural component was a surprise to me. It was an awakening of our spirits, alongside of the mental and physical components necessary for expedition travel. Kristina was reiterating what the women on an expedition know all along: traveling is about more than driving over the bumps. Getting to a primitive place that gives you the freedom to hike, fish, explore, take photographs, ride motorcycles, paddle, or read a magazine...that is why we bother to do safe vehicle-dependent travel in the first place.

The cultural component was a surprise to me. It was an awakening of our spirits, alongside of the mental and physical components necessary for expedition travel.

Coming home from the weekend, windburned and dusty, I kept thinking about the importance of social interaction with other women travelers. One of the first things Mark does to sell me on a trip is to tell me there are going to be other wives along. Would I even want to go on an expedition-length trip without other female companions going, too? Mark would tell you the answer is no without skipping a beat. I have to think about it a little harder, just so as not to seem like a wuss, but then I have to shrug, wrinkle my nose, ummmm.....???? Not as interesting to me. The Woman's Expedition course gives female adventurers the camaraderie of getting to know other women with common interests, plus the hands-on practice that is hard to get since it tends to fall to the men to handle (they do like the problem-solving!) in everyday traveling.

I was glad to leave the class encouraged, not discouraged, about the medium-sized travels that are more fitting for our family of 3. Kristina reiterated throughout the course that our expeditions are going to vary from person to person in size and scope depending on financial, family, and career obligations. What's important is not the breadth of our trip or how many international borders we cross. In whatever traveling we are equipped to do, the Expedition Woman class taught us to apply the principles of environmental responsibility, safety, vehicle awareness, and cultural appreciation. Whether we take a multi-national overland trip through Western Africa or a back-country weekend drive in the White Mountains of Northern Arizona (stay tuned...both are goals of mine), the point is the same. Slow down, see the scenery, learn about the culture, and get out of the vehicle to have some fun with our family and travel partners. I can't wait to enjoy the ride.

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