“I Don’t Think I’m Supposed to Be Here” — An Accidental Outdoors Story
To get lost is to learn the way – African Proverb
by Alora Jones
As a (somewhat) outdoorsy Black woman at a very white non-profit in a super white state, finding Outdoor Afro was like the answer to my prayers. I’m not entirely sure how it all happened, but I often tell people that I stumbled into this life — getting lost and finding my way.
I’ve always had an appreciation for the outdoors and my connection to nature, but even so classified the whole lifestyle of being “outdoorsy” as one of those things that just white people do. Despite my skepticism, I applied to join the 2016 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team after enough people encouraged me and convinced me I could do it. Upon arriving at the leadership summit in Yosemite National Park, my world was rocked and my life changed forever.
Since I’ve had the great privilege of joining this organization, finding my tribe, and learning to forge my own way, I’ve become addicted to seeking new heights to climb and new challenges to overcome. This is why when I was presented with the opportunity to join the 2018 Outdoor Afro Kilimanjaro Team, I made up my mind to make it happen long before I had any idea of what that might look like or how I would get there. Being told by a couple people in my life that these ambitions were unrealistic only fueled my thirst for adventure.
I was elated when I found out I had been accepted onto the team, and immediately began scheming ways to incorporate altitude training into my fitness regimen — a tough task in Minneapolis, at 830’ elevation. My best training trip to date was to Cortez, CO to climb with our Kilimanjaro leader and veteran mountaineer, Philip Henderson. Phil is one of those people who teaches you worlds about life and yourself, but still leaves you feeling like it was all your idea.
In addition to reaching my first summit, Centennial Peak at just over 13,000 ft, I was incredibly fortunate to better get to know Phil and my teammates, Katina and Ray, while learning valuable lessons on what it means to be a leader in the outdoors. The trip taught me humility, teamwork, compassion, and self-care. But most importantly, the time I spent out west with my tribe was an important reminder of why I wanted to be an Outdoor Afro leader in the first place — because I love my people and I deeply believe in the mission of this organization.
I feel so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to carry this love and this mission with me to the top of Africa — and to have a place on the Kilimanjaro team amongst a group of leaders that truly embodies Black Excellence, even if I sometimes feel that I’m not supposed to be here. I hope our journey inspires other people at home and beyond, who maybe think they’re not supposed to be where they are but forge ahead on their own path anyway.
Because as it turns out, “supposed to be” is actually just whatever you decide it is!
Gear I LOVE
- KEEN Liberty Ridge Hiking Boots
- Columbia Omni-Tech Rain Jacket
- Osprey Skimmer Technical Hydration Pack
- REI Traverse Trekking Poles
- Peppered beef jerky
- Coconut almond chocolate Clif Bars
- Nutella and pretzel rods
What’s On My Trail Mix
- Road to Zion – Damian Marley
- Tightrope – Janelle Monae
- Raspberry Beret – Prince
- Rise to the Sun – Alabama Shakes