Interview: Unruly Women’s Monica Shoberg

Jun 6, 2023Interviews

All photos by Unruly Women/Monica Shoberg

Monica Shoberg lives in North Minneapolis with her partner Tony and their two rescue pups, Griz and Wild. With her small, business Unruly Women LLC, she guides backpacking retreats along the Superior Hiking Trail and biking trips in northern Wisconsin and central Minnesota. She also teaches mountain biking skills clinics and workshops and leads group rides throughout the Twin Cities.

I recently connected with her to ask her a few questions about her fledgling Minnesota outdoor organization.

A woman wearing a backpack and holding a dog by a leash walks through a fall-colored birch forest

Tell me about Unruly Women

Unruly Women’s mission is to help create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience that empowers all women and femme-leaning non-binary individuals to reclaim their voice by unearthing their inner wild outdoors, through backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, and land stewardship projects. By immersing ourselves in nature and participating in the often scary or intimidating, but exciting outdoor recreation activities, we learn valuable skills, create community, and inevitably learn more about ourselves without the external influence of who we’re expected to be. It was established in April of 2021, although 2022 is when I consider my first actual year of Unruly Women.

A person wearing a backpack walks across a bridge away from the camera in a fall landscape

What’s your role in the organization?

I am the founder, adventure curator of all of the retreats and experiences, backpacking guide, mountain biking guide, mountain bike BICP (Bike Instructor Certification Program) level 1 Instructor, and Wilderness First Responder for the retreats and adventures.

A woman wearing a backpack poses for the camera on a rocky ledge overlooking a pine forest striking a celebratory pose with her left arm in the air

What inspired you to start Unruly Women?

I often found myself conflicted when I wanted to do something outdoors but felt afraid to initiate it myself by going alone. Even though I had the skills, I would find myself waiting for someone else to be available to go with me, or miss out all together because I couldn’t gather up the courage to go alone. When I finally mustered up enough courage to go out alone, it was life changing. I eventually brought a friend for the first time backpacking into the mountains, and I could also see how life changing that was for her.

People at work would ask me what I was doing over the weekend, I would tell them, and the women would always say “I would love to do that, but I could never,” or “I could never do that alone.” There would be a longing and a wishfulness in their voices, followed by immediate distrust in themselves and their own abilities. These experiences, in combination with the burnout I was experiencing in my career, inspired me to create Unruly Women to help empower women to do the things they want to, especially in outdoor spaces. It’s also something I wish I’d had long ago, to help provide me with the skills and inner strength to do all of the things I wanted to do, alone.

A group of six people wearing hard hats and backpacks is gathered on a trail in the forest

What do you hope to accomplish with this group?

A growing community where everyone feels safe and supported in who they are becoming as individuals and in their life endeavors and dreams, while also helping individuals gain important knowledge to stay safe while recreating outdoors and feel confident while doing so.

 

A woman sits on a rock on the edge of a rocky river

What sets Unruly Women apart from similar organizations?

Unruly Women is a social impact company. The cost to attend an Unruly Women retreat is typically 75-85% lower cost than other guided excursions because I believe that participating in and enjoying these experiences shouldn’t be an additional financial hardship to the already very expensive barrier that is outdoor recreation. By charging less, it doesn’t mean I have any less experience, that individuals will have any less fun, or that the experiences will be any less safe or compromised in any way.

There are also additional discounts to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals and scholarships to Unruly Women retreats prioritizing support for individuals who have been historically excluded and underrepresented in outdoor spaces. I will soon be offering an ASL interpreter at no added cost to the individual or group. By providing these options and offerings, my hope is to keep the event prices low, which will allow for more individuals to be able to afford to participate and more opportunities in the future for free courses and clinics and events.

This is my attempt to help make the outdoors more accessible and inclusive, while also trying to make a living doing what I love to do. In addition to the scholarship fund, I am also trying to grow the Unruly Women Gear Closet through my own purchases and the kindness of others’ financial and/or gear contributions, to help eliminate the need for individuals to have to purchase or rent gear in order to participate in these retreats. By doing so, my hope is that individuals won’t need to make a financial investment into a recreation activity they don’t know if they even like yet, or what gear they like, yet.

A woman wearing a backpack walks across a narrow boardwalk while keeping both arms out for balance

What do you do when you don’t work?

I enjoy playing outside with my dogs, biking around Minneapolis to breweries and coffee shops, journaling or reading in my swinging hammock chair, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing and splitboarding.

A woman wearing a backpack looks at the camera while standing at the edge of a lake in a wooded area

What does being outdoors mean to you?

Tranquility away from distractions and a great way to disconnect in order to reconnect with my innermost self. The outdoors remind me that it’s not only ok, but necessary for us to change with the seasons and evolve over time. The outdoors are also a great teacher in reminding me that no matter how much I want to control the outcome, I must embrace flexibility as things don’t always go as planned.

A woman wearing a hat with a bug net sits at the edge of a rocky ledge overlooking a lake while refilling a water bottle

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

Not giving up on myself or Unruly Women and trusting my innermost, knowing that if I continue to work hard and follow my intuition this will continue to move forward and grow. And if it doesn’t work out how I expect it will or hope, at least it’ll lead me to where I’m meant to go next.

A person wearing a hat with a bug net stands at the edge of a lake rimmed by trees looking away from the camera

Why should someone become involved with Unruly Women?

There are numerous reasons why, including volunteer opportunities in land stewardship to help take care of and learn about the land we recreate on; meeting others who like to be outdoors, hike, backpack, bike; learning valuable skills in backpacking, biking, hiking, journaling, mindfulness and more; feeling empowered to be your most authentic self and feeling empowered to pursue your wildest dreams; attending free educational workshops; going on backpacking and biking retreats; attending mountain bike group rides and skills clinics.

A landscape view of pine trees surrounding a quiet lake under blue, lightly clouded skies

What are your biggest opportunities for the future?

More backpacking and biking retreats, more opportunities and offerings of adaptive retreats, more opportunities for volunteering, more free clinics and workshops for backpacking and biking, and hopefully more scholarships and bigger adventures.

I hope to one day be able to hire guides to offer a wider variety of experiences. In the meantime, I’ve been cultivating collaborations with individuals to be able to offer delicious culinary treats, yoga, ASL interpreting, and other offerings that are in the works for the various Unruly Women adventures.

 A landscape view of of a forest in full fall color under an overcast sky seen from a high elevation

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I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.

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