MissAdventure is a movement for girls to inspire them into the world of action sports, adventure and the outdoors so that they learn firsthand that their bodies are so much more than just what they look like, that they are capable, strong and resilient.
The idea is that by instilling the spirit of adventure early, we can empower girls to carry themselves through the storm of adolescence, help them navigate the vicious culture of comparison on social media and teach them intrinsic self worth in what at times can feel like an increasingly superficial world.
Horrifyingly, today's children spend less time outside than maximum security prisoners. (Study conducted by Unilever across 12,000 parents from 10 countries) There is no such thing as Free Range Kids anymore. Couped up they can't venture more than a few metres from their own backyards, (for a variety of reasons; be it increased 'stranger danger' fears despite crime rates against children falling, diminishing levels of sports participation, parent's leading busier lives) Whatever the reasoning, outside time is going down whilst screen time is going up. Fixated to devices, today teens and tweens are spending up to 6 hours a day in front of them, with girls in particular, spending most of that time on social media. The mountain of evidence and research linking increased social media time to negative self esteem, mood disorders and youth suicide is undeniable and scary.
We need to equip our girls and encourage our kids to 'Log Off & Live' a little.. But How?
...The answer lies in Adventure...
Why Adventure & How?
Nature and exposure to outdoor time has enormous health benefits, mentally and physically, both to kids and adults alike, girls and boys, women and men. All of us, but it's particularly important during developmental years. In fact kids who are nature-deprived are more likely to suffer obesity, higher incidences of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and mood disorders. Being outside helps them to focus, increases creativity and cognitive abilities and helps them develop gross motor functions.
If only we could introduce them to sports that they will love, adventures that they will learn from and give them the opportunity to try their hands at lots of activities to find the one that fits for them?
Introducing MissAdventure Workshops
So I came up with the idea of MissAdventure Workshops, a series of drop in events where girls can try a new adventure, be it rock climbing, surfing, paddle boarding, abseiling, hiking, etc and then spend time having a 'campfire-style' chat about issues around self esteem, body image, mental health, social media, wellness etc. Issues that matter now and will matter even more as they navigate their teen years.
I also realised that parents are looking for ways to raise brave, resilient and balanced girls. They want new ways to connect with their daughters, (particularly dads) and every single one of them is stressed about digital balance and issues of self worth (with girls as young as 8 now worried about having a perfect body) so I decided it had to be more than just adventures but also include discussions, for kids and parents alike to help all of us survive this weird new superficial, social media induced world of today. MissAdventure Workshops are as much for the girls as they are for the Big Kids too
(Plus, as adults don't we all wish we learnt that thing when we were young? To surf, to ski, to climb, whatever it is. Kids are amazingly adept at learning new skills and if we can help them fall in love with activity early, hopefully they'll be equipped to be able to do it for life)
How Did It Begin?... (Ready for a good story? Settle in)
My name is Caroline, and once upon a time I was Miss Australia. A dream many young girls might secretly harbour. I was famous and invited to every party, paparazzi followed me, my days were filled with hundreds of photoshoots. Wearing couture clothes and swanning about with celebrities I was front seat at the most sought after events...
You would think that kind of attention would make me feel 'seen', help me feel 'validated, worthy and beautiful' and yet it didn't. It just led me to needing it more. A vacuum that couldn't be filled. In the end it didn't matter how many pictures were taken or posted, no one knew me any better and I was started to lose my sense of self.
So I swapped the high heels for a pair of boots, quit the catwalk and broke a new trail as 'MissAdventure' and started to realise that all the character traits I love and admire in myself, I didn't learn in front of the lens, I learnt them amongst the blood, sweat and tears of the outdoors. Resilience, determination, bravery. Traits that have equipped me through the highs and lows of life.
I have often been asked what advice I would give to a younger version of myself and now I know... Keep playing. Get outside. Enjoy the way your body moves. Forget about looking perfect, about what other people say, or what they think of you. You must define yourself on your own terms. You must know yourself to stand your ground, fight the odds and win.
I was lucky, I grew up a tomboy chasing my two older brothers, so adventure came back to me naturally, but as I look around, I see that our young people aren't even being introduced to it. They are spending less and less time outdoors and have fewer opportunities to test themselves, find their limits, learn their boundaries. Surprise themselves with their strength. I wanted to help our girls find that.
Further, as cynical as it sounds, Nature is one of the last bastion's where a woman's appearance remains irrelevant. It is more about what she is capable of, than what she looks like. Mother Nature doesn't care if you have pimples or wrinkles, you're lean or you're large, she just cares that you showed up. I think that all women need that safe harbour and I figure if girls get into it young, they'll have that safe space for life.
The twisted road less travelled...
MissAdventure originally started as a TV show. Can you believe it? It followed me (Caroline) and my best friends, Tahria and Laura seeking out the world's most exhilarating experiences. Unfortunately after being picked up by one of the world's largest companies and going hell for leather in our pre-production it was let go at the last minute and never made the airwaves... bummer. (Hopefully another reiteration of the show may one day hit your screens?)
Here's the trailer...Cool show right? I think so.
I was totally heartbroken, we'd come so close for it all to fall apart. I had this great brand but no outlet. In picking up the pieces, I wrote several business plans aimed at women my own age, I thought expedition company, meets gear company, meets everything under the sun. I had so many ideas, a number of stops and starts but nothing felt quite right. I was disheartened. The vision was too cloudy in the smoke of the TV show being axed. What I did have however was this awesome little community that had formed around everything MissAdventure stood for...and in the end that's actually how it happened, that community helped turn MissAdventure into what you see today. Specifically, when a father (Josh) of 3 young daughters from rural Queensland reached out...
It must have been early 2017 (I think!) when Josh messaged to tell me the impact MissAdventure was having on their family. They found MissAdventure on social media after seeking out some body/lifestyle positive role models for his girls and told me that our adventures had been inspiring them to get outside, explore and adventure in their own backyards...
That relationship became on-going, the girls and I would swap adventure stories most weeks, talk about our goals and celebrate our successes and it culminated in me (with the help of Josh & his girls) lifting that fog, reigniting my passion, processing the pain of the past and moving forward.. MissAdventure 2.0 was born and it was geared toward empowering young girls through Adventure.
What a special adventure we are on now...
A word from Josh (Dad of 3 MissAdventurers)
I’m your average Dad who is lucky to have 3 daughters pre-teen daughters. The world that my 3 daughters are growing up in is vastly different from that my wife and I did. Social media, what's that? Global Travel, how do we give them advice on that, we've barley left our own shores.
From what I saw happening around me I felt that we as parents we had a choice to make. Do we wrap our girls up in cotton wool and blind folds restricting access to this photographic world of unknown, do we remain ignorant and pretend it’s not there, or was there something to be learnt here, a journey to go on, with our children, together. We took the latter.
We are far from a savvy social media family though once a week on a Sunday evening, together with my eldest daughter, we'd scroll through Instagram for 15mins. We’d see some funny stuff that made us both laugh, she'd have to endure Dad pausing at aviation shots (sorry!) and there’d be those all too often, somewhat awkward moments with biking clad, cleavage broadcasting, fish-lipped faces staring at us. I’d turn those shots into conversation starters, "Eeeek, what do you think of that photo? What makes you feel it's appropriate/inappropriate? What could the person being trying to achieve? Is there a deeper less obvious message from the person in this photo, perhaps reaching out for need not being filled? In some ways I’m grateful for these photos and the conversations that they enabled, though they were far from motivating.
Every so often we'd stumble across photos from a page ‘MissAdventure’. Something was different about this page. The scrolling kind of always stopped once we got to MissAdventure.
We saw girls in the outdoors, dirty nails, remarkable landscapes, camp hair, ear pony-tails, skiing (and skiing-fails), terrain and country we'd neither seen nor imagined ever before. Authenticity, self-worth and vulnerability became topics of conversation. We got captivated, we laughed, we were inspired.
The Sunday night Instagram scrolls soon turned to MissAdventure scrolls. The laughs continued, the inspiration mounted but perhaps the greatest lesson learnt was when two or more weeks passed with no post at all. Obviously MissAdventure was out adventuring, which begged the question, "why aren't we"?
This underlying message motivated us to pull out the maps of our own back yard and as a result we've seen sunrises from the tops of our local peaks, smelt the morning fog under the canopy of trees, found vine swings and boulders to climb in our local forests, swam in the crisp morning ocean and discovered the darkness of its depths.
In doing this we've witness our girls stare a healthy amount fear in the face, be overcome by self-doubt then kick it to the sticks with courage and make decisions for themselves after summing up the risks. It hasn’t always been easy. There’s always sweat, mostly a fall or two, sometimes blood and a few tears along the way.
We've watch them learn that failure is no more than a lesson in how to succeed, that encouragement for us all to achieve at our own level is far better than competing to stand alone with bragging rights but most of all we've seen them be surprised on how strong their bodies really are what their minds are capable of achieving.
Sharing these stories with the real MissAdventure (Caroline) has been such a surprising momentum builder. Swapping adventure stories, sharing and tracking goals, celebrating successes and failures lessons learnt... The list goes on.
We don't see ourselves as an epic adventure family, though through MissAdventure and as a family we're learning how to explore (both physically and mentally), try new things, achieve what at some point feels impossible, become connected in an offline environment and along the way we'd like think that these experiences reiterate to our girls that self-worth is found from a place within (that is not defined or validated from external sources or results) and that our bodies are vehicles that can do amazing stuff.
As parents we hold the compass, what heading are you holding?