Dear Outdoor Industry,
It was April 2014 and I was feeling fidgety. I was working for a kooky team building company in Sydney at the time, but knew my passion and energy lay elsewhere. My girlfriend and I had outrageously won a trip to Rio de Janeiro, and I was using the opportunity to swing in as many hammocks as possible. It was here that I scribbled down what became – and still is – the mission for We Are Explorers.
Since then I’ve been waist deep in Australia’s outdoor industry. What I’ve learned during this time is that the outdoor industry isn’t like other industries – it’s rather unique and special. So I wanted to whip out the digital quill, and pen a letter of thanks.
I’ll start with the people. The shiny, happy, outdoor people.
I’ve met a lot of inspiring people over the last six years, and I’m not referring to famous adventurers. I’m talking about the photographer who packed in their office life to pursue a dream, armed with nothing but a second hand camera from Marketplace and enough ambition to power a rocketship.
Photo by Matt Dunbar
The quadraplegic paraglider, on a mission to allow disabled people to feel the fizz of adventure in their souls. The smirking surfer behind the break, whose smile suggests she’s cracked the elusive code to The Good Life™.
I remember the buzz when someone first agreed to contribute to my website. The gratitude I felt when a brand was first willing to give me a punt. Handing my dodgy business card out at some event and being laughed with, not at.
I was wetter behind the ears than a newborn platypus, but people were so bloody good to me and I’ll never forget that. Maybe it’s the Australian ‘Fair go’ spirit. It takes a while to shake off imposter syndrome, and come to think of it I still feel it most days!
The kindness and passion that bubbles away within this melting pot of an industry never ceases to amaze me. In fact, it’s not just an industry, it’s a community. The definition of community is a group of people with certain attitudes and interests in common. And the outdoor industry lives and breathes what it preaches – very few industries can actually claim that.
The good things you bring to us and our planet are in abundance.
The outdoor industry keeps us moving. You keep the flabbiness at bay and our minds sharp (our mental fitness, after all is just as important as rock hard glutes). You keep us social and connected with each other. You give us peaks to climb and problems to solve. You offer a classroom that no establishment could ever come close to re-creating. You give us a connection to place and a sense of perspective.
I firmly believe that getting more people into the outdoors is a massive win for Planet Earth. By virtue of being outdoors and interacting with nature we become her custodians, and we’ll fight even harder to protect her.
We’ve tried to do our bit too. We Are Explorers crowdfunded over $30,000 to buy and protect a hectare of the Daintree Rainforest last year. Patagonia are the poster child for ethically minded business, having fought to stop logging in the Tarkine and drilling in the Bight. Many other initiatives are happening around the world too, each driven by the individuals with deep connection to the outdoors and an awareness of its fragility.
It’s quite hard to fathom, but in New South Wales alone over $4.2 billion is directly added to the economy through nature-based, outdoor activities. $4.2 billion! It creates more than 77,000 jobs and saves an unquantifiable amount in avoided healthcare costs as well. Not only do hiking poles help save our knees, it seems they help save the economy too.
However with it comes more and more people on the trails, insta-trashed rock ledges, difficulty booking campsites, jammed up car parks, busier waves and a new bouldering gym popping up in the city every other week. We each have to dig a little deeper to find our nook.
And the challenges don’t stop there either.
Inclusivity has still got some way to go – there’s no denying that it’s still a largely male and white industry. We need improved accessibility for those less able and greater access to sustainable supply chains for outdoor brands. Screen time is the ever-present force preventing many young people from dipping their toes in a wild swimming hole.
The outdoors is evolving. Adventure is now a mindset, not a first ascent. The rise of the modern day Explorer. It starts in the city with those who can’t wait till Saturday. It’s right there on our doorstep. Microadventures have become the antidote to our busy urban lives and more and more people are chasing their hit.
This industry is too important to lose. At We Are Explorers, we want to do our part to help get people and businesses in the outdoor industry back on their feet. So we launched Explore Your Backyard, to encourage Aussies to travel domestically and love local industry.
As part of the campaign, we’re offering Aussie tour operators a six month listing on our site, free of charge. I had to return all those favours somehow.
We’ve had it tough these past few months but as we crawl out of isolation, we’re getting back out there with an even greater respect for just how flippin’ important you are.
Thank you for all the good times so far.
Love, peace and bicycle grease,
Feature photo by @wanderer_rachel