Where the forest grows: Bekah Sanders

I apologize for this week’s Where the Forest Grows post being late. I was on one of my favorite trips of the school year as a teacher. Each June I get to take my 3rd graders on a camping trip. For many of these 8 year olds, it is their first time away from home, their first time setting up a tent, first time rolling out a sleeping bag under the stars, and the first time they hear a pack of coyotes howling through the night. I love seeing their faces light up. I love hearing their favorite moments of meeting peacocks, finding the big dipper, and learning what a smore is. I hope that they grow up and learn why going outside is so important. I hope they think back to this trip one day and remember to get outside.  My point is, I apologize for being late, but it was worth it.

Meet my good friend, Rebekah, but many of us call her Bekah. She loves the outdoors. She loves depth with others and can skip any small talk and get into the good stuff, you know? She’s a fellow teacher, adventurer, and a person that just lights up the room with her authentic self and that pretty smiles. She intentionally seeks to leave people better then she found them and I want to be more like her.

Meet Bekah.

 Rebekah Sanders

Bio: Teacher, explorer, reader, podcast addict, tea drinker, small talk avoider, tortoise rescuer, intentional.

When you’re not outside or travelling, tell me what we’d find you doing?

I love listening to podcasts and reading a lot of books. I teach third graders and I am always working to learn new things. I try to choose a new hobby each year, so I love working hard at those. Currently, I am working on becoming a pilot, which actually takes a lot longer then I thought. It is a lot of fun and a challenge and I can’t wait to finish!

I also dabble a little in guitar, piano, and of course the ukulele. I love my family so much and I spend a lot of time with them. I have a younger brother and an older sister. My sister just had a baby recently, so I have a little nephew named Noah that I get to love now too!. Can drinking tea count as a hobby too?


What is your favorite adventure story you love to share?

It always seems as though our mishaps while being outside end up leading to the best stories. This one is not different. I was in Yosemite a few years ago with my sister and her husband. We spent the entire day hiking these beautiful trails, from sunrise to sunset and maybe even a little later then we should have. I have a bad knee, so by the end of the day, I could barely walk any longer. We realized that the sun was beginning to set fast and that we were miles away from our car with no one else around. All we could do was to start living down the road with our thumbs out, hoping someone would rescue us. Most cars that drove by looked away or pretended as though the didn’t see us, but finally, a tow truck driver pulled over for us. At first, he yelled at us for being too close to the road, but after being reprimanded, he let us pile in and drove us 45 minutes back to our car!

The best part is, two years later I was in my pilot school courses and I walked inside and saw him. I said, “Are you Joe, the tow truck driver from Yosemite?” He said, “Are you the teacher from California?”. I seriously would have been hiding out in the flowers if it weren’t for him.

Besides this story, my favorite stories are always the unplanned quiet moments. For example, last summer, my friend and I finally pulled into the desert at 2 AM. We had spent the day stopping at every stop along the road and lost track of time, as every good trip goes. It was so dark that when we got to the desert, we didn’t even set up. We just grabbed our sleeping bags and fell asleep under the stars. I don’t think I have ever seen that many shooting stars in the sky. It’s one of those moments you want to take a picture of to remember forever, but then if you do, it is almost as if it’s not real anymore.



Why is getting outside important to you?

Can I nerd out on this one? I read an article called This is Your Brain on Nature. (Yes it was an article and not a podcast as it usually is.) It talked about multiple studies and what it does to your brain to be outside in nature and in the outdoors.  David Strayer from the University of Utah, led a lot of the research looking into these effects. He claims the brain gets fatigued with all of the directed attention in daily life of work, city life, driving and so much more that we experience each day. In nature, you don’t have to focus as much. Your attention is not directed at a million different pieces but is just paying attention to the stimuli around you: flowing rivers, falling waterfalls, the sound of the woodpecker at work. His theory was called the “3 Day Effect”. He claims that the brain will recalibrate itself after 3 days in the outdoors. This will recalibrate creativity, problem solving, and so much more inside the human brain. In his research, participants were 50% more effective in creative problem solving after experiencing the 3 day period of time in the outdoors.

Some doctors are even training their pediatricians to prescribe families with time in parks and nature. There is research showing nature helps make healing happen faster, stress hormones decline and so much more—I know so many people have this huge poetic answer or strives to get the perfect photo, but honestly, its good for me so I go. Reading that article put into words what I have always felt inside me when I get outside. I have always felt when I get outside, “I am well now”. I feel so much better and it’s like that full breath of fresh air we all need. Your soul is finally aligned.

What is your favorite thing that being outside brings out in you?

It brings out my true personality. I always feel like my personality gets so muddled at in life and at work. Sometimes I feel like I am losing who I am and I am not even sure who I REALLY am sometimes. But, when I am outside, I no longer question this, it just comes back to me easily and with perfect clarity. When I am outside I am okay with the way things work out. It may not work the way I planned it to, but my expectation just changes. I no longer have to have it the way I always wanted it, I am more content in life. For example, “With my tow truck driver experience, I would normally have been upset and thought “I should have been back at my car by sunset. What was I thinking? etc.”

When I am outside , I just follow the route that comes to me and lose the sense that I need to control it.


What is your number one go-to “You must Visit this place” recommendation?

I know I may be biased, but the Philippines. It is hard to say a specific spot in the Philippines because it just depends on what you’re in to, but there is something for everyone there. You can find beaches, coral reefs to dive in, forests and jungles to explore, animals and so much more. I lived there for 7 years as a missionary kid from junior high through high school. I went to an international school called Faith Academy where many missionary kids and kids whose parents were abroad on business went, so I got to meet so many different people from around the world.

Currently, the Philippines is in the media a ton. The interesting part is that the island they are showing has always had a lot of turmoil. For many years, it has cycled through many different terrorist groups that cause trouble there.One of my friends parents where even kidnapped there. Years later the wife was rescued out of there by the military, but the husband had passed away. The point is, it seems as though suddenly there is media coverage on this area due to the terrorist group being a group that we commonly hear of in the media these days, but the events occurring have been happening for a long time.

Overall, I still think that the Philippines is beautiful and I recommend it to everyone!

To women out there who dream of exploring, adventure, and traveling more, what’s your advice to them?

I read this book called What I was Doing While You Were Breeding.  This book is hilarious, but I don’t agree with everything she does. She does have a lot of gold in there though. One of those gold nuggets is her ideas on making choices. Basically, many women get trapped in decision making in our lives. She often said generally we live lucky lives where we don’t choose between one great and one bad, but usually we choose between two awesome things. When we are making choices, we first need to remember this. We can’t get trapped in “I can’t do this because I have chosen this or I can’t do that because I would be giving up this.” We need to remember and appreciate that wherever you are, it is good. When it comes to making choices like kids vs travel, buying a house or booking that trip we have always wanted, we just have to make it work.

We are so extreme to ourselves where we make ourselves fall on one end or the other, but why can’t we bring our kids to the outdoors? Why can’t we skimp on eating out so that we can afford to travel the world? Why can’t we show ourselves a little grace and have a little bit of both worlds? I want women to know we can make our lives into exactly the way we want it to be. We can take the big job and use our weekends to still get outside under starry skies. We can have a new baby and buy the stroller that rides along the trails that you’ve always wanted to hike. I want women to know that we can choose many things.

Each week, as I interview these women, I notice the similarity of what the outdoors is to people. It meets everyone exactly where she need to be met. Everyone describes this sense that whenever they get outside, they get exactly what they have been needing and feel whole again… Get outside this week. Remember that 3 day effect and that it’s good for you so make time for it!

I can’t wait for next week!

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