By Mario Rigby

 

I started to experience the lack of diversity in the outdoors and the outdoor industry when I started researching how to go on exceptionally long hikes. I was training for my expedition to walk across Africa, a 12,000-kilometre trek that took me just over two years to complete. A simple Google search of modern-day explorers showed image after image of only one kind of explorer. I saw no diversity, and I thought that was odd. Some of these explorers accomplished near impossible feats and I don’t mean to discredit them. However, I quickly realized I would stick out like a sore thumb on outdoor adventures, as there were less than a handful of Black professional explorers—and barely any coverage of their work. This needed to change!

photoQueenie Xu (Mono Cliff Provincial Park)

I hoped to help change the narrative of the outdoors by leading diverse groups of people into the outdoors. The first group hike I led was in Sudan. I invited a couple of friends I met in Khartoum to see the pyramids in the north. The country of Sudan is governed by Sharia law, which adheres to very strict guidelines—particularly for women. Some of the friends I met were women who weren't allowed to go hiking, camping or do much of anything without the permission of a male authority. Shortly after I invited my friends, they invited a handful of their own friends, too. With a growing group of new explorers, I knew I had to properly plan and execute this camping trip from beginning to end.

photoMario Rigby (Sudan, Meroe)

All went well and some of the women even told me that it changed their lives forever. Having the opportunity to be completely free from judgement, discrimination and being a part of nature was something they longed for. This is what got me interested in taking people outdoors and helping provide opportunities for those that don’t know how to be outdoors or who have limited access.

Throughout the hiking tours, we learned about the many different species of animals, vegetation and terrain that are native to the region. This helped further empower individuals to understand the land they live and depend on.

photoLife Outside Studio (Bruce Peninsula, Ontario) 

It’s quite simple: without the inclusion of more diversity in the outdoors and within the outdoor industry, we will never cure environmental and social injustices. They work hand in hand. If more people get involved with wanting to be outdoors and enjoy the beauty this Earth has to offer, the less likely it is they will harm the planet. You can help by supporting individuals who don’t have easy access to the outdoors or by encouraging people from other communities outside your own. You will be surprised how much joy will come from both you and the individuals you’ve supported.

 

Follow Mario’s Adventures: mariorigby.com

Instagram: @mariorigby