This past weekend, on days 325-7 of the project, Stefanie and I had the privilege of attending the Insulindependence diabetes wilderness festival in Joshua Tree National Park.

I have spent much of Project 365 in relative isolation–even having Stefanie with me of recently has been a treat–and most of my interaction with the community has been via social media. Friday afternoon , we rolled into Indian Cove Campground and took some time to explore before everyone else arrived.

I always wonder what other people will experience when they come out to climb with me-what are they expecting-what will they take away-and what can I contribute to that experience? I worry a lot that I might not fit in or that people that I meet in person will be disappointed when they see the “real me” as opposed to the Twitter/Facebook/Instagram “me”. Being in large groups of people has always felt risky to me.

Stef and I spent a couple of hours climbing around and shooting some establishing shots and we headed back to camp around the time people started arriving just after dark.

I know how hard it can be to stay organized while living with diabetes–organization is a HUGE sticking point for me–almost to the point of obsession. I was overwhelmed at how the Insulindependence Crew (led by Greg and his Fiancé Sarah) proceeded to set up a functional dining area and kitchen which managed to keep upwards of 30 people fed while accommodating gluten free dietary needs as well!

As more people arrived, I started a fire and people began eating dinner and gathering around. We all talked about what we were looking forward to-some of us were climbing, others mountain biking and a third group was hiking on the following morning. It was a whole lot different than just talking about it online or blogging. I felt a little bit shaky at first, as though I was getting adjusted to being  part of a group, in person. I think that there were others who also got a chance to move past that initial feeling and that made the experience all the better!

I made a lot of great new friends and strengthened connections with friends from Insulindependence that I had met earlier in the project. These folks have all been SO supportive of what we have been doing and getting to spend time with them in person was so much more nourishing than the bare minimum of true interaction that digital media affords us.

I felt very at home hearing everyone talking about insulin and CGMs and the myriad of sub topics associated with this condition. We all had different methods and philosophies on management but we all came out to the wilderness–a place that pushes us outside of our routines, our comfort zones…because we refuse to have our limits dictated by a medical condition.

When I am out in the wilderness by myself, I don’t think about what I am missing, but having had the opportunity to share this type of experience with other PWD, it seems strange to think that I have gone so many years without it.

The following days we climbed and biked and hiked–and I did Yoga for the second time ever. I was VERY challenged by Yoga and it was really wild to learn new things and to find new areas of challenge to explore!

I was most directly involved with the group that went climbing and I was super impressed at how everyone worked together and how well everyone climbed. I have seen a lot of people struggle with climbing in my time, but I feel like the positive attitude we have cultivated helped “elevate” the performance of this group, despite the fact that we all found something to challenge us through the days event.

I have been very inspired through this weekends events and relationships. I even decided to start wearing my Continuous Glucose Monitor again and I have been experimenting with new placements (back of the arm is working great right now!) that don’t interfere with climbing movement. I enjoy reaching out to people through digital media, but at the end of the day, nothing can top the human experience and interaction. This is the essence of what Project 365 is advocating: getting out, getting after it and embracing challenge as a means by which to elevate our lives.

Special thanks to the fine folks from Insulindependence–including but not limited to: Blair Ryan, Peter Nerothin, Greg Florian and Sarah Hradek, Josiah aka THE HAMMER, Amrie Weiss and many more that I am probably forgetting…

Also I would like to give a special shout out to the folks from Goal Zero  thanks to them our nights were well lit by their gear and many phones and devices stayed charged thanks to their empowerment!