Expanding Your “Nature Zone”

By: Amy Camp

Increasing your comfort levels in the great outdoors

Life and career coaches, myself included, often work with their clients to recognize and expand their “comfort zones.” Imagine a comfort zone as being a small circle of activities and situations in which you feel safe or comfortable. It’s like a cozy little bubble that can be hard to step beyond. Our comfort zones can be expanded, however, and our lives will be enriched when we challenge ourselves to step out.

Just beyond the comfort zone is another, larger circle – the “learning zone.” And beyond that is the “danger zone.” (And who wants to go there? Perhaps only the adrenaline junkies among us.) Most of the good stuff is in the learning zone – personal growth, challenge, new experiences, and newfound confidence.


The Zones

The comfort, learning, and danger zones apply in the outdoors. Let’s think of this as the “Nature Zone.” My own nature zone (i.e., comfort zone) has been expanded over the years. A few examples:

  • A group pre-dawn bike ride in Illinois a few years ago opened my eyes to the thrill of a pitch dark trail ride and also pedaling at near freezing temperatures. I’ve always considered myself to be a fair weather rider, but a group of intrepid cyclists got me out there, and I now know that feeling the rush of the cold and seeing your breath in front of your face while biking is actually a lot of fun!
  • Or take a kayaking trip this summer with longtime Program Director Lora Woodward when she and I were scouting a route for Venture Outdoors. I got to improve my kayaking skills and become comfortable in a traditional kayak, including wearing and removing the spray skirt. I felt such a confidence boost after that trip! As for the concentric circles of the comfort, learning, and danger zones – rolling the kayak would have been in my danger zone. Luckily, we were on a waterway that made that scenario unlikely.
  • Last one (which also involved Lora): despite years of hiking and car camping, I had never backpacked before this summer. That changed with a three-person overnight on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The experience was incredible for me. I realized by the trip’s end that I had let not owning certain gear keep me from trail overnights, but that the real impediment was one of confidence. I didn’t know whether or not I could carry a 30 pound pack for miles on end. Guess what? I could. And you can, too.Amy Blog

All of these experiences are ones in which I pushed beyond my comfort zone and into a learning zone. I found my own personal “Nature Zone” (a really good place to be) in each outing and have been left with lasting memories and an increasing confidence to get out and push my boundaries.

Try too much all at once and you are likely to land in the danger zone, a place of panic and discomfort. How do you know? If the idea of an activity is completely fear-inducing and there’s no joyful anticipation in thinking about it, it just may be too big of a leap.

Danger Zone

Does this look like the danger zone to you or just another fun day outside?

Venture Outdoors Seems to Specialize in the Learning Zone

One of the things that I most admire about Venture Outdoors is that it creates a space that is ripe for the learning zone. The group setting with experienced guides is exactly what many people need in order to expand the activities with which they are comfortable. No doubt, there are hundreds of testimonials that support this and past trip participants whose personal comfort zones have expanded. That’s the thing about the comfort zone. It keeps expanding! For some reason, I picture the Grinch’s heart growing three times its size when I think about the comfort zone getting bigger and bigger. So, how will you expand your comfort zone—and your “nature zone”—this coming year?


Amy Camp is a Venture Outdoors Trip Leader and owns Cycle Forward, a nature-based coaching and consulting practice. Her private coaching sessions focus on professional growth and fulfillment, with sessions held outside on trails.

Posted in Uncategorized


  • Why Do You Volunteer?

    January 23, 2018

    By: Sara Cardamone

    Whether Trip Leaders, interns, or event volunteers, we have many dedicated individuals working alongside us. We appreciate all of our volunteers and we couldn’t do it without them!

    For today’s blog, we asked the question, “Why do you volunteer with Venture Outdoors?”. Here are some of their answers:

    “Why do I volunteer for Venture Outdoors? Mostly for my eight-year-old daughter. I want Mollie to know that women can be bold and adventurous and just as cool and daring as men. We can hike and kayak and swim and geocache.

     » Read more about: Why Do You Volunteer?  »

  • Getting to Know Our Staff: 14 Questions with… Vanessa Bashur

    January 16, 2018

    There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into planning your favorite outdoors adventures! Learn about those who work inside to get you outside.This week we’ll be interviewing Vanessa, our Kayak Pittsburgh Director.Vanessa Blog 2

    1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors?

    I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences with a concentration in Geography & Mineralogy from Montana State University in 2005. I have been with Venture Outdoors for 5+ years and currently serve as our Kayak Pittsburgh Director.

     » Read more about: Getting to Know Our Staff: 14 Questions with… Vanessa Bashur  »

  • Safe Routes to Parks

    January 9, 2018

    By Kevin Hurley, Trip Leader Specialist

    A few weeks ago I had the exciting opportunity to work with two of my favorite groups located in the Hill District: The Jeron X. Grayson Community Center (JXGCC), with 6th to 8th graders, and the Center That C.A.R.E.S. (CTC), with 3rd to 5th graders. I was excited to see them as always, but this time we were going to do something pretty important. We were going to work with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and audit the routes with their program called the “Safe Routes to Parks” initiative. At CTC we worked with Gavin White and provided the children with chalk to mark areas that they deemed unsafe on the way to the park.

     » Read more about: Safe Routes to Parks  »

  • Best Boot Forward

    January 2, 2018

    By: Grace Groeger

    Venture Outdoors is fortunate to have many outstanding volunteers. This year we wanted to find a new way to say thank you to our exemplary volunteers and show how valued they are to not only the Venture Outdoors staff but to our Members as well. We came up with the Best Boot Forward Award. The Venture Outdoors community had the opportunity to nominate one volunteer they believe stands out above the rest, someone who is always putting his/her Best Boot Forward. Our FIRST EVER Best Boot Forward Award goes to SHEILA STAGNITTA!


    Sheila grew up just outside the Pittsburgh area in the Mon Valley.

     » Read more about: Best Boot Forward  »

  • Getting To Know Our Staff: 12 Questions with Ian Brown

    December 12, 2017

    There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into planning your favorite outdoor adventures! Our staff questionnaire series allows you to learn about those who work inside to get you outside.This week we’ve interviewed Ian Brown, our new Program Director.

    1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors? 

    Ian Brown Blog 1I grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio, located in the foothills of Southern Ohio. For those who don’t know, Chillicothe is home to the outdoor drama Tecumseh and was Ohio’s First Capital.  

     » Read more about: Getting To Know Our Staff: 12 Questions with Ian Brown  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing

Volunteers Are Vital

Annual Volunteer Meeting
Sunday, January 28
4 – 7 PM

All current and prospective volunteers are encouraged to attend our Annual Volunteer Meeting! The meeting will include presentations on the Venture Outdoors and plan for 2018 and a chance to meet and socialize with other volunteers. Dinner will be served. RSVP is requested by January 24.