‘Tomboy’ is fast becoming an outdated and what some would call ‘offensive’ term. To be honest the word doesn’t offend me. I was always really proud to be called a tomboy as a kid, maybe it’s because I grew up around the word. Today there is a new wave of ‘tomboys’; groups of women adventuring around the world.
On my travels I have found these amazing women; ‘the adventure girls’. The ones who hike, who jump off cliffs into the ocean, who snowboard, who dress however they want. These women push their own boundaries and decide for themselves what is acceptable, they take risks and move outside the perceived views about women, to experience life to the full. They are independent and brave, and they don’t care about impressing boys; they are too busy chasing adventures.
I didn’t know about these women growing up. I didn’t see them in magazines, I didn’t have older family members like them to look up to, I didn’t see them on TV. So as a child I tried to be one of the boys – I was a ‘tomboy’. I preferred to hang out with boys; playing sports and climbing trees. When I was about five I cut my hair off so I could play Oliver Twist in the school play and in the Nutcracker I got the part of the King Rat – because I wanted to sword fight.
When I got to junior school my mum had to talk with the headteacher because I refused to wear my school summer dress. My Grandma once told my mother that she should put a stop to my ‘tomboy’ ways, because I would ‘become’ a lesbian. This just goes to show how much progress our generation has made, from my Grandmother’s generation. One day when I was about eight, a girl asked me if I was a boy or a girl. That was when I decided to grow my hair again, I didn’t want to be a boy, I just wanted the opportunity to do everything they could. I still wore trousers to school, after all they were more practical for climbing trees.
As a teenager, I looked up to the boys in the skate park and I tried to pluck up the courage to drop-in, feeling their eyes on me, judging me, because I was a girl. I tried to justify other reasons to my girl friends, for possibly wanting to play football; ‘because the boys come and watch’. Yuk. Eventually I lost my way, I stopped doing the things I enjoyed and I started doing the things I thought I was supposed to as a girl. I wore girly clothes, I did my make-up and I made my hair look pretty. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed doing these things, but I didn’t want to be just that. I longed for adventures, to run around carefree and to be involved in the action sports, that my male friends were part of.
It wasn’t until I got on a plane and left the country that I slowly worked my way back to being a ‘tomboy’. Being away from home and my slightly conservative 9-5 job, I was free to do what I wanted, I could be whoever I wanted to be. I spent the summer working at a camp for kids. I played soccer, I went mountain biking and I ran around all day. It was liberating.
Then I moved to Canada and I spent a season snowboarding. Here is where I started to meet the ‘Adventure Girls’. They were working with me; planning the next camping trip or trek to the glacier caves. They were in the clubs; wearing oversized t-shirts, beanies and trainers. Here were the girls I wanted to know growing up, the ones that I could adventure with. Don’t get me wrong we would still gossip and trade clothes and they were still feminine, but there was just, so much more than that.
I have met these girls all over the world. Instead of planning baby showers and adding to their shoe collections, they spend their time and money, planning trips and extreme activities. They are free spirits wandering the world with passion, looking for the next experience. Now I’m not saying that you can’t have both; that you can’t be girly and like clothes, as well as travel and like action sports, you can. It’s a mindset that travel broadens; your priorities change. The women I have met aren’t ready to settle down just yet, there is more they want to do first. These are a tribe of girls doing things, that still has a social stigma around them. They are breaking through the stereotypes and sticking it to the man. These are the girls I want as my friends and the ones I will want my daughter to look up to.
My roommate asked me the other day, if I wanted to head down to a nearby carpark and go for a skate, before work. My girl friends back home would never have asked this. When travelling it is accepted and expected that these girls wandering the globe, would want to try and take part in activities that are socially seen as male activities, and that they will be good at them (or try their darned hardest). Travel makes men and women more equal. Travellers care less about where you’re from, your gender, your race, your sexuality or your looks; all they care about, is having experiences with like-minded people.
Travelling allows you to be creative and passionate, to be yourself, to be who you want to be and decide how you want to spend your time. The best thing? You meet people who inspire you. I have met so many amazingly brave women, who want to experience new things, who won’t let any boy tell her she can’t do something because she is a girl. They are the girls up at the crack of dawn, in whatever clean clothes they can find, to hike a mountain. The women booking ATV sessions or sand-boarding down dunes. These adventure women are redefining the word ‘tomboy’. They are redefining what it is to be a woman in the world today and I want to be with them when they do.