Outdoor Connection

Sisters on the Fly, Empowering Women through Great Outdoor Adventures


More from Outdoor Living Newsletter July Outdoor Living Newsletter
 
Becky Clarke and Maurrie Sussman standing by a lake
Becky Clarke and Maurrie Sussman, SOTF founding sisters

You've probably seen these women before, on the road or at a campground. You've probably taken a peek at the inside of their snazzily painted, cheekily decorated, and Western-themed restored vintage trailers. And if you have spent a few minutes in the company of these women, you would have been infected by their vivacity, their high sense of adventure, and their incomparable love of the great outdoors.

They are Sisters on the Fly, and they have more fun than any of us.

Sisters on the Fly (SOTF) is an outdoor adventure club exclusively for - you've guessed it - women. For a number of times a year, they gather 'round with their glammed-up vintage trailers and indulge in activities like camping, fly fishing, kayaking, ziplining, and pretty much anything outdoorsy. Sometimes they go to cowgirl college and learn how to ride a horse, how to herd cattle, and other practical skills an everyday working cowgirl should know. Oh, they do girly things too, like shopping, dress-up, and antiquing. And these women sure know how to party.

Since SOTF is an all-women group, in most of their gatherings, no men, kids or pets are allowed. But they do have certain events where the Sisters can bring their menfolk - their "mister sisters" - and their families along.

Sisters on the Fly (SOTF) was founded by a pair of biological sisters, Maurrie Sussman and Becky Clarke, back in 1999. These women are bound together by a mutual love for the outdoors and a fierce independence instilled in them by their mother Mazie. After having so much fun during a fly fishing trip, a getaway from their busy lives as wives, mothers, and career women, the sisters had a light-bulb idea: What if they could bring their girlfriends along on their next trip so they, too, can have fun?

And so SOTF began. These sisters did bring their girlfriends on their next trip, and these girlfriends brought along their other girlfriends. And they did have so much fun that they decided to spread the word around. Today, SOTF has a membership of close to 3,000 women not just in the US, but also in Canada, in the UK, and even in Australia. Any woman from ages 21 onwards can be a member for an annual fee of $60. The Sisters don't care about their members' ethnicity, background, line of work, sexual orientation, political leanings, religious beliefs, or other group memberships. And while most members have their own vintage trailers, even the possession of a vintage trailer or any RV is not a requirement. As long as she's a woman, she's willing to experience the rough, outdoorsy life for a few days at a time, and she's fun to be around, she's welcome to become a Sister. She is given her own sister number upon joining the organization.

There's definitely more to Sisters on the Fly than just being an outdoors adventure club for women, though. While their motto is "We have more fun than anyone," they certainly do more than just have fun. By teaching women things like how to fly fish, paddle their own kayak, tow a trailer by themselves, and survive in the outdoors, SOTF encourages and empowers women to think out of the box, break out of the usual societal molds, and explore their own potential. A first-time attendee to a SOTF event may initially view it as a few days of escape from the responsibilities of home, family and career. But upon leaving such an event and attending a few more, she transforms into a person who is more independent, more forward-thinking, and more confident about herself. Many Sisters have described the experience of joining SOTF as liberating.

SOTF also supports various charities and holds fundraising activities for these charities. Self-expression is not the only reason why the restored vintage trailers belonging to the Sisters are painted and decorated so flamboyantly. Lots of times the Sisters open their trailers to public viewing so they could raise money for SOTF's supported charities. SOTF is currently a national sponsor for Casting for Recovery, a grassroots organization that helps breast cancer survivors regain confidence and self-reliance as well as lead healthier lives. Aside from hosting fundraisers for Casting for Recovery, SOTF takes these brave cancer survivors on some of their adventures for free.

Being a sisterhood, SOTF takes care of its own as well. The organization has a Traveling Quilt Project where Sisters who know how to quilt give their time and effort to create quilts for other Sisters going through difficult medical treatments and other tough times in their life. A quilting Sister would add a patch with her name and sister number to a quilt and send it along to another quilting Sister. Such a quilt is given to the Sister in need as a substitute hug from her fellow Sisters and as a reminder that she is not alone in her crisis. When she has recovered, she returns the quilt to SOTF so it can provide comfort to the next Sister who requires emotional support.

In the novel Animal DreamsAnimal Dreams, bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver wrote: "We grew up knowing the simple arithmetic of scarcity: A sister is more precious than an eye". Sisters on the Fly is more than just an outdoor adventure club for women. It is a sisterhood where a woman who loves the great outdoors can have all the female friendships she wants and the fun that having many sisters can bring. It is also a group where she can come into her own and be all she could be with the kind of help and support that only sisters can give.

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