Let’s face it. There are many perks to being a writer from the long nights spent typing away at a dimly lit computer screen awaiting the onset of life-long dreams with a side of carpel tunnel syndrome to the flash of fear in your friends eyes when they tell you a juicy personal tale and the clogs of your mind start churning on how to recycle their story into a best-selling novel.
O.K. maybe those aren’t that amazing. But really, a command of the English language and ability to spin a good tale has benefits that extend greatly outside of the artistic world, one such example, magazine contests.
I’m proud to announce (or maybe ashamed) that I won Backpacker Magazine’s Year of the Reader Makeover Contest for Navigation. Yay for being the best of the worst!
Honestly, I haven’t ever entered a contest in a magazine before. This one was rather simple, write an essay explaining why you should receive a makeover. It was an easy task, and quickly I was able to pull together the following piece:
I thought I was Pocahontas running through the backwoods of Whisker Lake Wilderness in Wisconsin with my boyfriend and the rest of our party behind me, leading them with my trusty map and using the lake as my guide until I failed to notice the lake turned into marshland. With the sunlight waning, I found myself leading us to an all-encompassing marsh until we were insufferably lost. Little did I know that we would spend the next three hours wading through the waist-deep sludge in the dark and rain until we managed to find our way back to our campsite, exhausted, smelly and freezing.
I wish this was an isolated incident but if I had more time, I discuss the time my GPS battery failed on a “romantic” midnight hike (we then spent the night trying not to fall off the rocky terrain) or canoeing “simple” waterways (that, surprise, didn’t actually connect and resulted in us carrying a 40lb 1970’s canoe through bush and bramble), or the countless other times that were epic failures. All of which led to many hours of frantic wanderings hoping to stumble upon something that would help me find my bearings.
My friends and I are avid outdoors-people Hiking, camping, climbing, mountaineering, you name it and we do it. My friends can read topos, nature and sky to help them find their bearings and our way home. This has helped me immensely over the last year and I have to come to rely on it. However, last summer, as I lay on top of the Tetons mountain range, puking my guts, and the subsequent hike out, where I as sick as a dog, had to completely rely on my friend, all I could think was what if the roles were reversed and I was the one desperately trying to decipher the bit of hell called a topo map with my friend incapacitated by illness? We surely would have found our way out eventually, as the range is frequented with hikers, but if it were more remote the story would be different, and what if the delay in time caused my friend’s hypoxia to worsen?
I have tried, and still continue to hone my navigation skills. I’ve taken orienteering classes, practiced on hiking trips and read magazines and literature on the subject. But for as much I think it’s helping, somehow in “real-life” it never completely translates. I haven’t given up hope. I’m young, intelligent and not always full of blonde moments, I can master this with your help.
I am appealing to you, Backpacker magazine. Can you take this hiker who can’t find her way out of a paper bag and turn her into a navigating champ? Save the world or at least my hiking partners unnecessary trudging through the back woods at all hours of the night, with me desperately trying to figure out a way home, and teach this girl some actual, useful navigation skills!
I have no doubt that the main reason I won (besides my horrible skills) was my writing ability. In October, I’m actually receiving my make-over. I’ll blog about it then in more detail. But here’s my question for you. How has writing helped you outside of just the obvious ways?