I started hiking about 8-10 weeks into the pandemic. It was out of sheer desperation and an idea I got from...again, social media. I found through social that my city had some amazing hiking trails within 20 minutes to 1.5 hour drives - some of my friends were taking their families on hikes 1-2 times per week and they seemed to really enjoy it. At a time when everything was closed and I was losing my mind staying in my house - out of desperation, I packed my unwilling family in the car and set out for one of the further locations.
In December 2019, I bought my first new car. Every car I had before that, I bought used, and I owned my previous car for over 15 years. I was ready for something new and decided to splurge on a Jeep Wrangler. I had wanted a Wrangler since I knew they existed, but practicality had always won over the fun and excitement of a Wrangler. I was about to turn 40, and thought, am I too old to get a Wrangler? Well, I can't wait another 10-15 years, because then I'll surely be too old, so I went for it! It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I didn't know I could get so excited just to drive my car. Just looking at it's boxy cobalt blue frame made me smile.
So I packed the kids and my husband into the Jeep, put the top down and headed out for a trail over an hour from our house. The kids complained at first - they didn't want to go out, they had become used to their home life. But they didn't take long to accept and enjoy the ride. With the wind in our hair and sun on our skin, we rode in silence, just listening to music.
The sun and the wind felt so good to me, and I could see its effects on my family as well. At first we were blinded by the sun, deaf by the wind and annoyed by both. But we quickly came to accept the sun, and the noise of the wind with the top down. As we made our way out of the city and into the rural areas, I could see the curiosity and excitement in my children. When we arrived at the trail, they jumped out of the car, now they were excited!
Our first hike was about 3 to 4 miles. It was amazing what the fresh nature air and sun did for our mental health. As we finished the hike, I felt more myself again. It was like the air awoke my inner optimism somehow. Though I was looking forward to the ride, I was sad to be getting back in the car to go home. I wanted to live among the trees and felt as though I could have hiked for days. This felt like the remaining thing I needed to fully awake my inner optimism and be as close to the person I was before.
It was another 2 weeks before we headed out on our next hike. It had been too long, we had the same reaction to the sun and wind at first, and the same reluctance from my kids to join. But I pushed through and we tried a different hiking spot over an hour from our home. The same things happened as before, we loosened up, became happier and the boys fought less. And this time, it all happened more quickly. We adjusted to the air and the sun with ease, we didn't fight it - we just let it consume us. Everyone had more fun on this hike and we were all genuinely sad to leave. I decided right then, we would hike every week - we had no other committments, so what was holding us back?
After several hikes, it hit me. Not only do I need to find a way to spread my optimism and positivity, I need to help encourage people to get outside. If being outside boosted my inner optimism, surely it would do the same for others. So I researched. Whoah, there's something there! A simple search for "How does being outside affect your mental health" brought me pages of links to evidence that being outside lifts your mental health. Some say doing an activity while outdoors like hiking or gardening etc furthers the boost in mood. Of course being outside lifts your mood. The fresh air does wake up your inner optimism. Why had this not occured to me before. Almost all of my best childhood memories involve being outside. One article I read even said that spending time outside in actual nature, not going for a stroll in the city, can improve your physical health in addition to your mental health. It talked about how the air you breathe from a forest increases your white blood cells, they called "natural killer cells" that fight tumor, viruses and other illnesses. My head exploded. Yes, I have to help encourage people to get outside. Not just for their mental health, but for their physical health as well.
It all seemed to come together so easily. I knew at that point, I wanted to make shoes that had positive and inspiring quotes embedded in the soles, so that when you step in a muddy area or leave a dusty footprint, you are creating a message of inspiration for someone else to see. Someone who probably needs to see that message. The best part is that it's unexpected.
That pulls together all of the thing I felt compelled to do - all the things that helped me during my darkest time.
- See and build messages of inspiration and positivity.
- Share them to compliment and inspire others. Selfishly, giving a compliment feels so much better than recieving one. And it creates a sense of pride for both parties.
- Encourage people to get outside by creating this unique opportunity for them to leave their mark of optimism and spread positivity to others.
Yes! That's it! I found my mission.
If you're reading this at the time of Kotezi's launch, you're probably either thinking, I didn't see any shoes on the website. Or you're going back to check, becasue that sounds really cool and you probably want a pair. Well, that's a story for another blog post. But for now, I can tell you, they're coming! And I'll make sure you're the first to know when they do.