Meet Ginamarie: Caregiver, hiker, bestie. Ginamarie reminds us to honor the journey we are on with ourselves and how stepping outside our comfort zone can lead us to heal and overcome the challenges we face.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do, what are your hobbies?
I’m a 41 year old Latin/Native American transplant from Denver, CO. I’ve been in the NW since I was 8. All my extended family is still in CO and always asks when I’m moving back home but I’d NEVER leave Oregon. Its beauty is such a gift and truly my therapy, my peace.
I was a stay at home Mom for 15 years and for the last year and a half I have been exploring life outside being solely a mom. I replaced it with a career of caregiving with DHS for Aging and Disabled adults because I still feel the need to take care of fellow humans besides my immediate family.
My hobbies include volunteer work with community youth, crafting (Pinterest addiction..haha), gardening, event/party planning and now HIKING!
What were your hiking/outdoor experiences like throughout your life?
Growing up I was exposed to camping, fishing and some hiking/exploring. It was pretty much what my family could afford during the summers and I always looked forward to it. I was taught respect and love for nature and have always felt a sense of peace when connected outdoors. As a kid hiking was like a treasure hunt for evidence of life happening naturally, like the one hike taken in Prineville, where I climbed so high up a mountain, I actually came across an eagles nest.
What motivated you to attend your first group hike? How did you feel after your first hike with the Fat Girls Hiking group?
It’s always been difficult for me to step outside my comfort zone solo so I really wanted to challenge myself socially as well as reconnect with nature so after one failed attempt to hike with FGH, I finally made it. I struggled physically and emotionally a bit through it but WOW did it feel amazing! Not just to be amongst others who understand what it’s like to be in a plus sized body, but to have support and to celebrate our bodies!! That is still a new concept I’m embracing and that alone made it all worth it.
What are some challenges you have faced on the trail & how did you overcome them?
After many years of self-neglect and abuse my body has permanent damage that makes it very challenging to be active and sometimes that creates a mental wall of negativity. Over the years I’ve worked really hard to shift my self-care/love. I wasn’t taught to cherish my body, I was taught to find its flaws, according to others, and never stop working to fix them. Once in a while those old thoughts creep in; before a hike and during. As quickly as they appear I am now able to dismantle the negativity. Being surrounded by such amazing positive people of all sizes, some with ailments, makes it feel as if I can accomplish anything. Being told not to apologize for struggling or holding everyone back goes a long way; for me and for others. Finishing isn’t even my goal anymore, as I found out on one of my hikes with FGH. When the group was split with half able to continue to the end and the other half wanting to turn around for various reasons, I found myself completely content and almost drawn to turn around and lend support to others even if physically I could have continued. It felt the exact same at the end. I was internally fulfilled and on that high that comes with being out there in the beauty of nature. My accomplishment is being there. Being present and connected to this body I am learning to celebrate. It’s not the difficulty or completion of the hike.
What would you say to someone who wants to hike but finds it intimidating?
I was incredibly intimidated to take my first hike with FGH. Each time I hear it’s someone’s first time hiking with FGH and they have the same intimidated look I did, I just smile knowing that barrier was broken for them too because at the end they also have that glow I had. The energy in the group is undeniable and it just takes one time to feel it!! I have yet to experience any criticism from anyone while hiking. I will be honest and say that as many hikers pass us by at faster paces, I sometimes wonder what their thoughts are with this line of FAT folks along the trail. I do know if I ever encounter someone who has negative words and thoughts, I am surrounded by a force not to be taken lightly and I have no fear speaking up, standing up and sharing our truth. (And hopefully I can keep my Latin temper/potty mouth in check!!)
Do you feel that hiking is a healing activity? How so?
Since I’ve started hiking with FGH I have had a major shift in my healing process. I didn’t expect it. I just wanted to be active in a supportive environment. It’s as if I found my next level door and FGH helped me blow it open!! Standing in your body without shame, without apologies, without mental limits is infectious in the most glorious way. It reminds you of everything you still want to do and helps you believe you still can!
Tell us about your upcoming plans to solo backpack for the first time. What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Hiking with this wonderful group has encouraged me to take my first solo hike. It’s a celebration of personal triumph and I want to hike on my own, in my place of healing. I am still searching for just the right location that feels right for me and safe enough it doesn’t have my family up all night worrying. There is healing in being alone. It used to be where I was kept as a punishment. Alone. Then I became terrified to be alone. NOW I celebrate the joy and peace in it. This solo hike will be the moment I can mark as when I no longer fear being by myself…in my thoughts….in the world and in nature. Just me.
My journey with my body began wanting to change it. To make it fit in. Then it became to just feel healthier and capable of doing more with my family and friends. Now it’s just about loving it AS IS….right now. Because it’s mine. I will never again define my body by anyone else’s standards. And although there will be days that I struggle, I know I can stop, look around and refocus right in the midst of nature’s surroundings. No matter my physical limitations I will continue to hike, continue to connect, continue to heal and continue to celebrate every single inch of this glorious bountiful body and I will also continue to help spread that love and support to others.