You'll Never Know How Strong You Are Until Being Strong Is The Only Option
The days are getting longer, the summer is approaching quickly, and with it there are more and more opportunities to explore Mother Nature all around us and be outdoors and active. After weeks, months, years of Covid19-induced lockdowns and the long winter months, this is a welcome change for many of us. Good for the body, a treat for the soul. And - as we learn from Tiina today - people in Finland have a special word for this special bonding between people and the surrounding nature.
"We Call It 'luontosuhde' Which Translates To 'nature relationship'"
Hello! My name is Tiina and I'm a knee-x amputee from Finland. I have been an amputee for about 15 years. Since late 2021 I have been using Ottobock's Genium. And what can I say: I'm loving it. It gives me more possibilities to enjoy the outdoors.
Maybe some of you readers already know this. But I repeat it; Just in case. It's said that 75% of Finland is covered with forest. That is why nature is so important for me (and many other Finns as well). Forests are also the reason that the Finnish language has the word 'luontosuhde' which translates directly to 'nature relationship'. This nature relationship describes the way a person relates to the surrounding nature.
There are numerous studies that show how nature is good for all of us. The blood pressure and heart rate lowers after spending 20 minutes in nature. Stress eases. Our creativity increases. And without even realizing it, we tend to exercise more when in nature. Nature will heal and put your worries into perspective. That's why it is so immensely important that people of all shapes and sizes, of all abilities and conditions have an equal right and opportunities to visit nature, to enjoy the outdoors, and to enhance their nature relationship.
Making The Case For Accessible Trails
As I participated Finnish Paralympic Committee's Nature Fair in Helsinki in May 2022, I had many interesting discussions concerning nature accessibility. Unfortunately, I found out many people with disabilities were unaware where to find accessible nature trails; trails they are able to hike even with a limb difference or use with a wheelchair.
Even though I've been lucky when it comes to my amputation. I never had any complications with my stump that would prevent me from wearing my prothetic leg, I still know what it means to depend on crutches (as I experience joint problems in my remaining leg, I sometimes use crutches). A fact that underlined - at least for me - the importance of having accessible nature trails. Nobody knows when we might need mobility aids.
Despite the developments we have seen in recent years in terms of better technology and high-tech equipment, not everyone of us is a natural athlete. We all have our level of mobility, our very own comfort zones, and our varying ambitions. So not all trails are suitable to everyone.
To qualify a trail as being accessible, it must fulfill certain requirements. In Finland, this usually means that the path's width is at least 1.2 meters. Furthermore, there needs to be a hard surface and the trail's maximum incline must not exceed 8% with less than 3% sideways. Another key feature is that the path needs to have more benches for resting and adequate signposting.
Discovering People With Disabilities As New Customers
Being a person with a disability myself, I don't like to go hiking or camping alone in case something happens; i.e. if I fall and hurt myself or break my prothetic leg, it's nice to know I have a companion who can assist me. Someone who can help me getting out of the woods or - if that is not possible - someone who at least can get help. That is a reassuring thought. And I presume that many other people with disabilities might have the same fear. But they might not have a person who would go hiking or camping with them.
Luckily many outdoor entrepreneurs, wilderness guides, and outdoor companies have discovered people with disabilities as a target group. And if you ask me, that is a very smart move. Including people with a disability into your customer base can increase a company's market by 15% (according to estimates by the United Nations, about 15% of the world's population have a disability). On top of market segment of people with a disability, there are also those are in their rehabilitation process after an injury or surgery, people with physical limitations due to age or pregnancy, those who or diagnosed with medical conditions, and parents who push their small children in strollers. All these groups would benefit from more accessible nature trails and extra services for nature tourism.
Many times - so my personal impression - social media plays with the perception that you can't enjoy the outdoors without expensive equipment costing at least 500,00 Euros or more. That is far from the truth. In order to begin with or enhance your own nature relationship, you don't have to hiking for many kilometers or climb high mountains. A genuine nature relationship can be as simple as spending time outdoors: Sitting by the fire, watching migratory birds through your binoculars, fishing in a lake on a quiet summer night, sleeping in a hammock in the woods, spending your vacations in a summer cottage with no electricity and running water, and having to go pee in an outhouse with a headlamp in the middle of the night. 😅
The most important thing is that you give nature a try. For me, nature creates opportunities to try to conquer myself. And I must admit, I find that really addictive in a positive way.
Guest post by Tiina Nopanen. Tiina is an above knee amputee from Finland who spends her spare time outdoors. To learn more about Tiina, follow her on Instagram.
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