Nicole Snell: Self-Defense and Hiking Solo as a Woman
In our Summer Solstice workshop series in June, we had the pleasure of hosting Nicole Snell to lead the workshop, “Yes I am Hiking Solo!’ Navigating Safety in the Outdoors as a Woman.” Nicole gave us tips on how to trust ourselves and be confident getting into the outdoors and hiking solo as a woman. With such a successful event, we wanted to learn more about Nicole and how she became such an excellent leader and adventurer.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, you’d want Nicole Snell by your side.
In fact, she learned to ride a motorcycle just for the occasion. Nicole is one of those people who seems to have lived lifetimes, having done everything from horseback riding to trekking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand to roller derby to skeet shooting to NPC bodybuilding competitions. If you’ve daydreamed it, Nicole has probably done it and might even be able to teach you how.
Nicole Snell is the CEO & senior international speaker of Girls Fight Back, a personal safety workshop leader and board member at Impact Personal Safety, producer of her own virtual series called Outdoor Defense, and an adventure leader for Black Girls Trekkin’. She is an avid outdoors person and certainly an adventurous woman.
“I’ve been living and breathing empowerment my whole life,” Nicole says.
The outdoors have always been a part of Nicole’s life. Nicole grew up in Twentynine Palms, California, in a military family. Watching the mountains turn purple as the desert sun set, exploring the washes, spotting lizards, and collecting rocks began her lifelong bond with nature. “The outdoors completes me,” she says. She is curious and above all, hungers to do.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude from California State Long Beach with a degree in Speech Communications, Nicole set off into the television & film industry. From intern to production executive, she has worked on over 70 television shows throughout her career.
Coincidentally, 70 is also the number of military installations, including the Pentagon, on which she has led domestic and sexual violence prevention trainings. After years and extensive experience in television production, Nicole began to yearn for something different. When her alma mater reached out with the offer to teach violence prevention, she readily jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve been living and breathing empowerment my whole life,” Nicole says. Empowering people to intervene in the event of violence, empowering herself to travel solo, empowering us all to be the leaders of our own journeys.
Nicole doesn’t like the feeling of not knowing how to do something.
Skydiving, hangliding, rollerblading, archery, and ice skating are just a few of the skills in her repertoire. She is also scuba-certified and, in case of emergencies, knows how to drive stick-shift. Nicole learns each skill to broaden her own world and live her life to the fullest.
Nicole was play-fighting when self-defense became one of those need-to-know skills. Pinned to the ground by her partner, something clicked. If the situation were real, she thought, she wouldn’t know how to defend herself. So, she took a 20-hour class through Impact Personal Safety, with whom she is now an instructor and board member.
But self-defense goes beyond physical skills.
A major component of self-defense, in fact, is preventing a situation from escalating to violence. Having those skills is important as it gives us the confidence to know we could defend ourselves physically if we had to, but ideally, we mitigate the need.
Strolling through an outdoor market place in Peru, Nicole’s intuition sensed something. She began to notice a man following her, jumping behind pillars each time she turned to look at him. Finally, she turned around and met his eyes with a grounded stare. After about ten seconds of eye contact, the man turned and walked away.
Nicole has a big personality that glows through my screen as we chat over Zoom. Self-defense, she says, helps her to be assertive and not minimize herself for the sake of others. The intersection of self-defense and the outdoors came naturally for Nicole. Fear and personal safety is a common reason why women don’t solo hike or adventure. But hiking solo as a woman doesn’t have to be scary. In that Peruvian marketplace, Nicole showed that self-defense starts far before the need for our physical defense skills. Self-defense is body language, our voice, and our words, too.
“I don’t want to live in a world where I have to think of all the don’ts that I can’t do in order to be safe.”
As women, especially, we experience stereotypes that minimize us and our potential. We are taught to question our own intuition, to shrink ourselves, to be quiet, to be nice, to put ourselves last. But “Your safety is more important than someone else’s feelings” and “niceness can be used against us,” Nicole says.
Self-defense is a life skill.
Like when you learn to drive and subsequently learn to change a tire, it’s something to know. Just in case. But self-defense is also applicable to our everyday lives. Say you’re in a meeting with your boss, working up the courage to ask for a raise. Being assertive and firm with your request is a way of self-defense.
“Self-defense helps open up your world,” Nicole says.
In the world Nicole works towards, nobody ever has to use self-defense skills. We are all free to live as we choose without the threat of violence. But until then, self-defense helps us to build the confidence to live our fullest possible lives and make us feel powerful.
With a strong foundation in self-defense, we become our own safety option. “We’re worth fighting for,” Nicole says. We are all experts in our own personal safety. We are intimate with our own intuition, our boundaries, and our needs. Self-defense is about owning our relationships with ourselves and putting ourselves first.
As many adventurous women know, it takes a lot of strength and empowerment to follow our outdoor dreams. Hiking solo as a woman can seem daunting, and camping or backpacking even more so. With self-defense, we can feel more capable and competent in handling ourselves and going after our goals.
Every day, Nicole works for a world where we are all empowered to be adventurous women, to go after our dreams, and make the most of every opportunity presented to us with confidence. Keep up with Nicole and her numerous adventures on her Instagram, Adventures of Nik, and follow her work with Girls Fight Back. To learn more about hiking solo as a woman and to see Nicole in action, check out her Outdoor Defense series on YouTube.