Brittany: How would you describe your experience with the outdoors?
Yyounger: I love being outside – from the obvious physical benefits to the more emotional and spiritual benefits of being out in nature, I love it all. I have been hiking for five years and I just recently started camping. Being outdoors gives me a chance to remove distractions and block out the noise, making It a very effective way to clear my mind.
With a passion for the environment and an admiration for the beauty of this earth, I try to do my part at preserving it as best I can. I share my love for nature by conducting guided hiking tours. First time hikers are my favorite.
Brittany: How has your relationship with the outdoors changed overtime?
Yyounger: I wasn't really into nature as a kid or even most of my adult life. I grew up in South Central, LA in an urban neighborhood. Outdoors to me were concrete sidewalks and the sounds of traffic. I had gone camping a couple of times with my church's youth group and that was my introduction to nature. We did archery, sang around campfires, and made arts and crafts out of pine cones. Those delightful events became just memories and life went on like business as usual. It was those memories that were called upon when I needed to be told to slow down or pull away. Memories of being carefree and satisfied by the simplicity of the sun and the way it elevated the scent of the pine. Nature was at one point just something green that grew from the ground but overtime it's become the place where I am most at peace.
Brittany: How impactful was that program with your church to your relationship with the outdoors?
Yyounger: It was everything in terms of being exposed to new places and new things. I was raised by a single mother of four and a welfare recipient. The last thing on my mom's busy mind was taking four kids camping or hiking. Now that I think about it, my mom didn't even have a car. I'm living proof that even if the impact isn't immediate, it's beneficial to take young Black kids out of their urban environments and into nature. Be it hiking, camping, kayaking, or fishing, it'll introduce new concepts and ideas. It could even introduce young Black kids to a career in environmental science or make them more compassionate about our planet.
Brittany: What are some ways that being outdoors has impacted your personal development?
Yyounger: Hiking trails teach me a lot of lessons. Lessons that I can bring back to my day-to-day life. “Watch your step”, “keep pushing when things get hard”. There's just something about conquering a new hiking trail that makes me feel strong and capable of doing anything. Being outdoors actually got me through a divorce. The outdoors helped me to set a new routine for myself, by getting up early in the morning and going out into the garden or driving to a new hiking trail. It gave me a safe space to cry and even taught me that if I can push past the pain and climb to the top of a mountain then I can push past the pain of a failed marriage and climb to the top where healing and wholeness resides. It's a peak that I never want to come down from.
Brittany: What are some of your favorite things about the outdoors?
Yyounger: I love being able to admire how artistic God is. Vibrant blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and the ridges of mountains makes a perfect backdrop. The sun floating in and out of the clouds and the winds reminding you that you're not alone. Nature is beautiful, peaceful, and refreshing. My favorite thing about the outdoors is that it centers me, humbles me, and challenges me all in the best ways.
Do you have any favorite places to hike?
Yyounger: Rainbow Falls Trail, Jones Gap State Park in Cleveland, South Carolina.
Brittany: Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being vulnerable! And thank you for sharing these great destinations! I'm super excited to dive in and learn more and I know our readers will truly appreciate your recommendations.