As more people live and work in cities, glued to screens of all sizes, the outdoors become alien to us. This is especially true for kids who grow up in a digital, demanding world full of distractions. “Outdoor education”, which used to be something passed on from parents to their kids, is now an exciting career choice for those who love nature.
We recently caught up with Zoé Lim on Zoom to learn more about what it means to be an outdoor educator.
Walking Off The Beaten Path
Zoé has been in the outdoor industry for a long time. For the past three years, though, she ventured into outdoor education as a career path. Although she lives and works in Hong Kong, Zoé frequently visits Malaysia on short-term contracts to educate kids about nature’s wonders.
As a child, she was in the Royal Rangers, a Christian group that emphasized outdoor activities. A big part of her childhood was the outdoors – camping, building her own fire, and exploring rivers.
After high school, she worked as a rock climbing instructor.
“Everyone keeps telling me that I didn’t have a real job. So, I went to get a “real job.” I worked for the government, a corporate office job. It was fun, but I didn’t like the politics in the office setting. So, my friends were like, ‘quit your job!’!”
That’s exactly what she did. Personal recommendations and her experience as a rock climbing instructor made it easier for her to land the new job.
When she arrived in Hong Kong, she did a full week of intensive training. During this time, she realized how many of the things she learned related to past experiences, and it all just clicked.
She has never looked back.
A typical day in her life now involves herding a group of eager kids on camping, hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing trips. Through these, she teaches them confidence and teamwork and more technical knowledge like coastal studies or rock formations.
She works with schools and kids of all ages above seven. Although she is not a qualified teacher, she is a trained professional in outdoor activities.
Challenges of Outdoor Education
Anyone who works with kids can attest to how much patience and creativity is required to keep them engaged. According to Zoé, the most challenging part of being an outdoor educator is developing creative lesson plans.
She does a ton of research, with a lot of trial and error, in her quest to make her outdoor education lessons a cherished memory in their lives.
“Kids around the age of 12 come to our farm as volunteers. For the whole week, I have to teach them sustainable farming. It is cool for the environment, but for the kids, it’s challenging because I need to make herbs and plants interesting to students.” she adds.
“My experience has taught me how to work with what you have,” says Zoé.
What does an Outdoor Educator and Self-Storage have in common?
Due to the nature of the job, she doesn’t need a lot of stuff in her home.
“I used to think that only old people use self-storage.”
However, she soon realized how self-storage can help her gain mobility to suit her lifestyle. Although she is new to self-storage, she is delighted with the affordable pricing and customer service level from Cube.
Now she doesn’t need to worry about her things when she goes on long trips.
“I’m always outside the house. I don’t really need a lot of stuff, but I do have stuff that I don’t want to get rid of or give away, so that’s why I chose self-storage.” Zoé shares with us.
After a long trip, she just wants to be indoor for at least one full day. It is emotionally draining to take care of people during her travels, so she takes time to re-energize her body and soul with reading and painting.
Outdoor Education in Malaysia
Malaysia is a green country, with lots of parks and campaign sites in Klang Valley. In terms of wildlife, we have one of the richest biodiversity in the world.
“If parents and adults enjoy being outdoor or doing outdoor activities, not being afraid of being dirty, then the kids will follow. Attitude is key!” Zoé adds.
Perhaps we should all take a break from our busy lives and appreciate the outdoors!