An interview with Adventure Mamas co-founder Justine Nobbe
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa
Photos courteous of Adventure Mamas Initiative
For every great person there is usually an even greater mother who raised them. There’s no question about it - moms make the world go round, but who's there for mothers when life has them down? Well, if you ask Justine Nobbe of the nonprofit Adventure Mamas the answer is—you guessed it—moms. An adventurer turned parent, Nobbe has hiked, biked, and climbed her way across hundreds of miles but felt suddenly restless after settling into motherhood with her first child. Unwilling to give up her drive for adventure, she sought out to find an outdoors outlet that catered not only to women, but the constantly busy and unique lives of mothers.
When Nobbe’s search turned up nothing, she and a few close friends decided to start their own group, called Adventure Mamas. A loose collective turned full-fledged nonprofit, the organization spread like wildfire across the states and even oceans to other continents. From starting out as just a mom who wanted to do some rock climbing, Nobbe and her org are helping redefine and promote maternal wellness with a thrill.
For the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with Nobbe on motherhood, Adventure Mamas, the bike ride that changed her life, and how adventure is all about perspective.
Nobbe’s story starts out in Southeastern Indiana. Born and raised in the small-town Midwest, Nobbe didn’t really have much in the way of an outdoor recreational community. After discovering rock climbing in college however, she became determined to make the outdoors a big part of her personal life. The sensation struck her like lightning.
“It’s just so exciting,” she shares, “All of these opportunities kind of make you feel infinite and endless, and you just have to dive in. I immediately became infatuated.” Nobbe ditched her junky bike from college for a new one and decided that she wanted to bike all along the California coast. It was an early adventure for Nobbe but she remembers it very fondly.
“We were like these poor college kids sleeping on park benches and bushes, just cycling our way down the coast, keeping the ocean to our right. It was fantastic,” she says.
All in all, Nobbe and her partner (now husband) covered 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego in two weeks. Not bad at all for your first serious outing! 10 years later and Nobbe says the experience absolutely changed the trajectory of her life.
Much like that fateful trip down the coastline, Nobbe has since learned how to roll with the punches and take life one mile at a time. After a stint as a trail guide, she decided to give the whole “having a family thing” a try with her husband in 2014. But she had one ultimatum; Nobbe wanted to go on one last hurrah before having her first child.
The plan was daunting; a months-long bike tour from Utah to every major city throughout the state, then up to Kansas City, Missouri, and finally back in her old stomping grounds of Indiana.
Though the idea of one last adventure before settling down for good sounds very final, maybe even distressing, Nobbe took the time to think long and hard about her life and future.
“I just had so much time to reflect on who I am and what I was doing,” she reminisces. “I was thinking about where I was going. If I’m going to do this whole motherhood thing and what exactly do I want it to look like. But it's funny because even though I'm out on this big trip, I was still sort of under the old school impression of ‘Okay, my life as I know it is about to be over.’”
Nobbe may not have known it at the time, but the framework of Adventure Mamas was beginning to take shape in her mind. She gave birth to her child in October 2015, and though she enjoyed motherhood, the stay-at-home routine mom wasn’t completely clicking with Nobbe. She was restless.
Nobbe was unable to find any collective of women with children pursing nature for themselves, so she started a meetup group herself. The group started with a few friends here and there but eventually snowballed into something much bigger. Nobbe’s hunger for adventure had struck a chord with hundreds of women nationwide.
“And without ever meaning to, Adventure Mamas kind of snowballed until all of a sudden we’re getting all these requests and messages from women around the country saying, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been waiting for something like this for years!’”
Nobbe and her friends had started the meetup in November and by January it had turned into a full-blown production. A group formed in Salt Lake City, then Indianapolis until there were 30-40 groups dotted across the country. Groups even sprouted out as far away as Germany and Australia!
Though Nobbe was surprised by how quickly the idea and group caught on, its sudden popularity certainly made sense.
“You cannot take a group of women of mothers specifically and take them into a cathartic space, like the wilderness and not see powerful transformative things start to happen,” she explains.
But life does have its share of trials and tribulations. The org not only experienced growing pains, but Nobbe’s own house burned down in January 2019. Needing to focus on her personal life, Nobbe took a step back while other external influences, specifically COVID a year later, also took a toll on public spaces.
In the meantime, Nobbe has planned a relaunch of the organization with a specific focus on inclusivity and diversity. But as the outdoors world, and to a much greater extent, society in general changes, Nobbe reminds us that it’s never too late to go out there and discover your own trails and adventures. In short, there is no journey too small or insignificant.
“I just like to remind people that adventure is entirely subjective and that there is no formula to be adventurous; there is no formula as to what equates to aid and adventure,” Nobbe says.
She ends the chat with a great piece of advice when she adds, “Don't be obtuse in terms of what’s cool or hardcore. ‘Oh, I didn't get the right pictures. I didn't have the right equipment.’ Just get out there and do whatever feels joyful to you at that time.”
Whether she is climbing rock walls, being a mother, or biking down the California coastline, for Justine Nobbe, perspective is everything to life.
To learn more about Adventure Mamas check out their Facebook and Instagram, as well as their website www.adventuremamas.org where you can expect news and updates in the next few weeks. Also be sure to catch Nobbe’s full interview and story on the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.