Respect Camp: Lauren

September 07, 2023

Respect Camp: Lauren

Our lives are often woven by a curious blend of encounters, aspirations, and the relentless quest for self discovery. How you respond to these stimuli can be the catalyst for profound change; where we are shaped by the individuals we encounter, the goals we set, and the connections we find in sharing these experiences. Now, we embark on a journey that winds through sheltered beginnings, uncharted trails, and the labyrinthine alleys of trust. Lauren’s narrative intertwines with the untamed wilderness, revealing the profound influence of individuals and the crucible of challenges on the forging of her identity. In true form and function, her journey stands out as a testament to the steady process and power of self-discovery. As we delve into the mosaic of her life, we encounter the intricate connections that shape our voyage through the grand expanse of existence.

Meet Lauren, an extraordinary individual whose pursuit of an intense trial has not only pushed her physical and mental boundaries, but has also unearthed profound moral principles. As we embark on an  exploration into Lauren's story, we will delve into the influence of her upbringing, her relentless curiosity, and the remarkable people she has encountered along the way. Join us on this captivating expedition as we dive into Lauren's journey and the underlying principles that have propelled her towards her goals.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are the sum of the people in our lives – for better or worse. Besides the people in my life I credit my constant curiosity tounderstand – alternative perspectives, people, conservation challenges, myself – for where I find myself today.

Respect Camp: Lauren

I was both sheltered and naïve in the way I was raised, despite a chaotic upbringing. My parents largely left me to myself because I was the “one who was ok” in comparison to their marital issues and their disagreements surrounding my sister.

I was sensitive, introspective, extremely curious, and absolutely in love with animals. I could entertain myself for hours by reading books. I knew that I wanted to do something impactful as I went through middle school and high school. I spent a lot of time volunteering at animal shelters and wildlife sanctuaries – which helped provide me sanctuary from my home life but also cultivated an idealistic view of people and the things that drive them.

The world felt fresh and new and as though everything was possible once I started college. My curiosity and fearlessness towards asking questions and always questing aftermore led to incredible opportunities early in my career, including completing my M.S. and PhD degrees with the latter conducting research in the Maya Mountains in Belize, Central America (the first place I truly felt I knew who I was and which challenged me to question my life’s narrative) studying carnivores like jaguars and pumas.

But it was the people I met along the way that were the greatest influence: they helped guide me towards understanding more about myself, what I do and do not want, and despite those that told me I was too idealistic or that what I wanted could never be a reality, there were still others that supported my vision and helped me believe in asking “why not?” It was this second group of people that helped me realize a passion in outdoor education and wilderness medicine; that I am capable of so much more physically and mentally than I ever realized, which led to a love affair with trail running, self-supported adventures, and covering ultra-distances; and that failure is only ever permanent if we stop pursuing our goals.

My search for a life of service and impact has taken me to multiple states in the US and countries abroad and led to collaborations with people across multiple disciplines including law enforcement rangers, loggers and foresters, engineers, and archaeologists.

Respect Camp: Lauren

Early in my career there was an individual I trusted and that I saw as a mentor. I believed he held my best interests at heart and that he truly believed in me. Ultimately, this person abused his position of power and over the course of several years twisted my understanding of myself and the world so much that by the time I was able to stand up and say “enough,” I couldn’t recognize who I was or what I wanted anymore.

Saying “enough” and pursuing justice for myself was just the first – and perhaps easiest – step.  What is often ignored by those who aren't "in it" is what comes after: theafter is the hard part because you have to work every single day to rediscover who you are and start trying to honor that person. I’ve come to realize that I am my greatest limitation: if I don’t think I can do something, or if I don’t take the steps to imagine a different future, then I am right. This, along with knowing my worth and choosing to trust others are things I have to work on every single day.

My ability to trust myself and my instincts was broken for a long time. I had a couple of people in my life that I trusted and helped me through this period in my life, and one person in particular was instrumental in helping me to regain my independent self. He consistently forced me to ask myself who I want to be; he was the first person to help me accept that I deserve more and better than what I was allowing for myself. It was through our friendship that I realized that the narrative we are sold about what our lives should look like doesn’t need to be my story: I can write my life in whatever direction I choose and it doesn’t matter what that looks like to others as long as it resonates correctly with me.

I was able to open the door of the cage that that toxic person had contained me in and finally begin to pursue my own path. In terms of my relationships with others – I’ve always had a very small core group of people in my life. I’ve always been friendly towards people, but very few people in this world actually know me.

Interestingly, instead of this experience completely isolating me and causing me to distrust everyone, it’s incentivized me to be more open and more vulnerable to other people. It’s in trying to avoid pain – in constantly trying to please others, or protect yourself – that pain will find and break us apart.  I choose to open myself to the judgment of others because their reactions will tell me if there is a place in my life for them or not. I am who I am and if that isn’t “enough” for someone then I don’t need them influencing my life.

Something I’ve been working towards is creating a capacity-building program for law enforcement rangers (LERs) in Belize.  I’ve worked directly with LERs for much of the last 5 years; often, especially in developing countries, these heroes are the first line of defense for natural resource conservation. I’m hopeful that this vision will gain support and traction in the next 3 years and we can implement a sustainable program for LER across protected areas in Belize.

Respect Camp: Lauren (Bear Tracks)

For my personal goals, I want to complete a 70-100 mile run through the Maya Mountains. I would love to showcase the incredible landscape and the conservation challenges it, and the people that protect this place, face. I’d love to use the run as a way to raise money for my LER friends and colleagues and to draw more attention/support to their work. I want to keep traveling to remote and far-flung places – I don’t want to settle anywhere and I don’t know if I ever will (I think of myself as a “citizen of the world”). But it would be good to be able to continue this work in a permanent capacity with a single organization.

Honestly, I have the greatest respect for people who approach life with a “Why not?” attitude. People that continue to pursue the life they dream of vs. what society tells them is possible. People that continue to pursue their vision regardless of negative perceptions.  People that simply show up in whatever capacity they can that day to achieve their goal.” - Lauren

Lauren’s journey serves as a testament to the resilience inherent in those who dare to defy societal limitations and carve their own path in life. Through the trials she has faced and the unshakable strength she has exhibited, Lauren has discovered the power of self-trust and the liberating choice to shape her own destiny. Her pursuit of personal growth, commitment to service, and impact have taken her across borders and disciplines, collaborating with individuals who share her vision. With her upcoming capacity-building program for law enforcement rangers in Belize and her ambitious ultramarathon endeavor, Lauren continues to inspire us all. Let us draw insight from her resolute determination and embrace the possibilities that lie within our own reach, for it is through the pursuit of our dreams that we truly discover the heights to which we can ascend.

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