Joanna Nickerson Launches ‘GTFO Adventure Club’

September 6, 2017 | by: Heather Boyd-Kinnie

Joanna Nickerson, PDC’s B4C Social Innovation Manager, launches ‘GTFO Adventure Club’ for women in New Brunswick.

Written by Tiziana Zevallos

Joanna Nickerson grew up in a family where everyone was always outside. Both her parents were teachers, so they spent whole summers hiking or camping.

She continued to explore the outdoors as a teenager and found different ways to adventure into the wilderness as a young adult. “It’s shaped who I am as a person,” she said.

She is now launching the ‘GTFO Adventure Club’ to extend these experiences to others in New Brunswick.

When Joanna’s father bought a sailboat 15 years ago, the family added three-meter swells to their definition of the outdoors.

Seizing the last warm days of July, Joanna decided to take her full two weeks vacation and cruise from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, to the Chester Area, Nova Scotia, with her father. This is her longest sea trip to date.

“It was a phenomenal trip. There’s nothing quite like getting out in the ocean for two weeks,” she said.

Joanna said she developed her sea legs early in life. Her family comes from a long line of fishermen and seafaring folks, so she thinks they were most likely inherited.

Her genes might have prepared her to avoid sea sickness, but she didn’t expect to find a new experience once her feet stepped on land again.

“We go to the ocean to discover the smell of the sea, but when you’re out in the sea for so long, you come into land… and experience that for the first time… it’s quite something.”

Surrounded by a rich earthy smell, almost like wet bark, she realized once again, it’s these moments that ground her and bring her back to the things that really matter.

“Often times we get so busy in this world of connectivity and technology, where everything is ‘go, go, go,’ fast pace, that I think getting outside and disconnecting, going back to nature, exhausting your body physically… There’s something magic to that,” she said.

“I thought, ‘If I could help somebody who’s struggling just by motivating them to go outside and connect to nature, then why not [try it]?’”

On June, Joanna posted a survey on Facebook to see if her immediate network of female friends would be interested in a group that got together and explored the outdoors in New Brunswick.  

The reaction was beyond what she expected.

“The responses just poured in. Women were definitely interested, they wanted to get outside. They loved the idea of community and learning new skills,” she said.

Initially she thought it would be a small gathering of less than 10 women who got together to go on a hike or an odd camping trip during the summer or snowshoeing in the winter.

“But I never dreamed it would snowball into what it [is] today.”

Less than three months have gone by and the club now counts with over 300 online members.

The goal of the group is to create a safe space for women who have little skill or limited experience to get involved and feel like they can try something new.

“My hope is we can create this movement of building community, capacity and confidence in women through adventure,” she said.

The GTFO Adventure Club officially kicked off last week with a Facebook Live event called “Gear Talks,” with Kaylee Hopkins from The Radical Edge.

Coming next in the club’s plans is the “Mappy hour,” which is a happy hour where attendees will be learning navigational skills and will have a chance to meet other women adventurers. And sometime in the fall, GTFO Adventure Club will host a film festival called “No Man’s Land.”

Like every new venture, Joanna recognizes GTFO will be a challenge, especially because it is her passion project besides her full-time job as Social Innovation Manager for the Pond-Deshpande Centre B4C Social Accelerator.

However, “The most memorable trip, hikes or experiences are the ones with some element of challenge in it,” she said. “The easy ones, although nice and enjoyable, are not always memorable.”  

Similar to her role leading B4C, her mission is to find passionate people, “give them an injection of confidence,” walk with them through their journey and help them grow.

She thinks it’s really important for women to support, encourage and build each other up, whether that’s outdoors or in life.

“If my story can help somebody else take that first little step, that’s awesome,” she said.


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