Out On The Water With The Wanderlust WomenCommunity Nature Outdoors
Posted by Lydia Burdett
Back in May, we teamed up with the Wanderlust Women community, who took a group out onto the water paddleboarding - some for the very first time. The Wanderlust Women is an initiative born out of the need to normalise Muslim women exploring and being visible in the great outdoors! They are a hiking and adventure group that provides like-minded women the space, knowledge, and skills to traverse green & blue spaces with confidence.
We chatted with Shareen, a member of The Wanderlust Women community her experience out on the water, on uncovering barriers to accessing the water, the importance of finding a great connection to other Muslim women and the impact that nature and the outdoors has on overcoming struggles and negativity.
1. Who are The Wanderlust Women?
The Wanderlust Women are a Muslim woman hiking and adventure group founded by Amira the Wanderlust @amira_thewanderlust during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. We have provided opportunities ranging from courses on navigation and outdoor skills, to day activities in hiking, rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, wild swimming, wild camping, paddleboarding, and even mountain biking! The Wanderlust Women also organise retreats within the UK with each retreat focusing on a different set of skills and knowledge along with a key theme such as connecting mindfulness and nature. More recently, we have expanded overseas offering hiking adventures and expeditions world-wide.
2. What is the group's aim?
The Wanderlust Women aim to normalise Muslim women exploring and being visible in the great outdoors! We want to see women gain confidence using their new-found or re-ignited skills to explore their homelands and beyond. We aim to provide like-minded women the space, knowledge, and skills to traverse green spaces with confidence. We want women to connect back to our roots, to God and to heal from past experiences all through nature. We have a vision that is centred around representation, inclusivity, and visibility of Muslim women! Amira has made it her personal life mission to change the perceptions people have of Muslim women outdoors through the work we do here at The Wanderlust Women.
3. How did your outdoors journey begin?
My outdoors journey began a couple of years ago when I discovered The Wanderlust Women group and attended their first UK hiking and climbing retreat in the Lake District. I was initially drawn to the group as I was experiencing stress in my job working in the field of mental health and ultimately needing to enhance my own mental wellbeing searching for an outlet to destress and relax and that’s exactly what the group provided for me which sparked my passion for the outdoors. Since joining the group I have taken part in various outdoor activities but particularly enjoy hiking, climbing, wild swimming and paddleboarding. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me in the outdoor world!
4. Can you describe to us the barriers your community has faced to access the water for activities such as paddleboarding?
Our community has faced various barriers in accessing the outdoors, with activities like paddleboarding it can be an intimidating activity for some of the Wanderlust Women who have never had the opportunity to experience a day out on the water. There are many stereotypes placed on us on what the typical hiker or paddleboarder looks like, unfortunately the representation isn’t there yet which impact on confidence levels and feeling like we don’t belong in the outdoor space. There are also uncertainties of what kit to wear alongside activities like paddleboarding with the need of the kit to be modest and appropriate material for the water.
5. How do you feel having all these women come together for a day of paddleboarding?
It has been an incredible day seeing all the women have so much fun on the Red Ride XL boards learning to paddle, being competitive in the games, working together to paddle in different directions and most of all having a laugh! It was a proud moment to see how the women were all keen to try the single Red Ride boards and seeing their confidence grow the more they were out on the water paddling throughout the day. Through conversations the event also enhanced some of the women’s connection to the water spiritually being mindful of God’s creation which created a calm atmosphere in the group. The event provided the women with a safe space to learn about paddleboarding with a connection of community and sisterhood in the group and the women not wanting the day to end!
6. We are grateful for Nike Swim to provide the kit for the event. What does this mean to the group, wearing the right kit for the activity?
The group were so excited when receiving their Nike Swim kit for the day and we are so grateful for the amazing modest wear which was ideal for a day out on the water! It was uplifting that brands like Nike have designed modest swimwear that support women who choose to dress modestly the opportunity to participate in activities like paddleboarding, or other water-based activities with ease. The Nike hijab, turban, tunic, and leggings were all comfortable and provided the required support with movement whilst paddleboarding. Wearing a well-known brand helps support inclusivity and contributed to the group feeling confident in the public eye and whilst paddleboarding which was an empowering and proud moment to witness. A big thank you to Nike Swim!