Blogger and former “indoor kid” Jenny Bruso is working to change the way we look at people taking to the outdoors. Her Instagram account @unlikelyhikers shares the stories and photos of those who might not be the stereotypical hiker.
“Honestly, I don’t even want to qualify it to death,” she wrote on her website. “Maybe, you are someone who has overcome tremendous odds to find healing in the outdoors. We all have a story.”
The Instagram account, which feels like a Humans of New York in the mountains, was started in 2016 and has over 20 thousand followers. It shows diverse people enjoying the outdoors whether they’re plus-sized, physically challenged or just getting into getting outside.
“The people you don’t see in outdoorsy media,” she wrote.
The self described “woman, queer, fat, mid-thirties, writer” discovered her love for the outdoors in 2012 after an “accidental hike” and found it to be therapeutic.
In an interview with Portland Monthly in July Bruso talked about her rough past that led her to finding solace in the outdoors. She’s been on her own since she was 17, grew up in an abusive household and struggled with depression and anxiety, coping with drugs and alcohol.
“It’s hard to be depressed when you’re taking in all that nature has to give you,” she told PM. “Even when I’m in a really bad place, when I’m hiking I get distracted by the rhythm of moving. And I love it. I feel like I get to carry that relief with me.”
In her interview she describes two hikers who she features regularly. One is a veteran who is thru-hiking the Pacific-Crest Trail. He’s a black man from Louisiana hiking to cope with his PTSD and depression. Another is a woman who was stabbed outside of her apartment and decided to sell all of her belongings and move into a van. Now she’s hiking around the country.
“She’s a fat woman, and it’s really cool seeing pictures of her on the trail—you just really don’t see people like that on thru-hiking sites at all,” Bruso said.
In the end, whether you’re fat, skinny, black, white, straight or queer, Bruso wants to share those stories about people making healthy choices despite their background who say screw the status quo.
“How many times can you see photos of a flawless, thin, white woman on a summit looking like she got airlifted in? I tell you, that’s not what I look like when I’m on a summit.” she told PM. “I look haggard and like I just worked my ass off to get up there.”
For more information about Jenny Bruso or @unlikelyhikers go to www.jennybruso.com