Getting wild: REI's "Outessa" offers a new way for women to reconnect.

Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.
— Dag Hammerskjold

As life gets busier, we often forget about the outdoors beyond a quick walk around the park at lunchtime. We find ourselves craving nature, space to think on a mountaintop, or feel ourselves wanting to move out of the comfort with the same old routines.

But something more than the schedule grind stops us. 

There's the anticipated discomfort of sleeping on the ground instead of the Sleep Number, the dollars spent on gear that may spend the rest its days in your basement after one use, and the thought of trekking "out there" alone.

Adventure brand REI has a solution - a 3 day, women-only retreat where food, drink, activities, gear and 3 types of accommodation are included in breathtaking locations - all with hundreds of other women wanting to reconnect with something bigger than their weekly routine.

Two Passionados (who are also coworkers at the University of Minnesota Foundation Investment Advisors) - Charlotte Schu and Dawn Peterson - visited the Kirkwood location (as "Fancy Campers" - i.e. glampers) - they shared their experiences with us. 

New friends, big mountain. 

New friends, big mountain. 

Charlotte says: "We signed up for Outessa in February and all I could think about for weeks afterward was standing somewhere warm and green and immersing myself in nature in every way possible.  (Winter in Minnesota does that to you.)

Kirkwood certainly did not disappoint. I got up close with nature by clinging to the side of a rock in my early morning rock climbing class and paddling across a clear mountain lake in my afternoon kayaking class.  My psyche absorbed wonderful scenic beauty on two different mountain hikes; one which allowed us to reach the summit of the Vista Trail and another dedicated to photographing all of the amazing natural wonders that surrounded us. 

Along with feeding my passion for outdoors adventure, I also discovered a new one thanks to a Photography 101 class. Putting those skills to use in a remarkably beautiful place was an amazing highlight. I learned the incredible things you can do with a simple iPhone - armed with my new-found skills and the basic rules of photography, I was literally given a new lens in which to see the world."

Dawn agrees: "I got to do so many active things over the weekend – hiking, mountain biking, SUPing, yoga- all in a mountain setting.  And there were also less-active, but no less-amazing classes like Wilderness Survival, Intro to Pole Trekking, and speakers sharing their world travels. What has stayed with me is what a restorative experience it was for me to get back to nature and live fully in the moment. 

I met so many amazing women, but couldn’t tell you what they did for a living or if they had a family at home.  Instead, I could tell you what they were truly passionate about - what made their face light up to talk about.  It reminded me that getting outdoors is often the quickest path to remembering who we really are.  Since Outessa, I have made getting outdoors more of a priority in my life, and can honestly say the skills I learned there have given me more confidence to do so."

Want to know more? Connect with Charlotte here and Dawn here, and learn more about REI's Outessa experiences here.