The Joy of Tiny Adventures

As a busy working Mum, flying solo with my two sons and also wanting to support my Dad, life can be demanding to say the least. Like many women in their 40s and 50s, throw in the impact of the menopause and I can easily feel like I’m running on empty, physically, emotionally and mentally.

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to refill is to make time for tiny, joyful adventures. Running through the hills on a chilly winter morning, bodyboarding in the North Sea watching the sunrise or paddleboarding on a summer’s afternoon refill my soul and self-confidence.

Running or snorkelling make me slow down my breathing which in turn quietens the To Do list whirling through my head. Watching the waves and judging when to launch onto my bodyboard so that I fly to the shore means nothing else can distract me. I am fully living in the present, not worrying what I coulda, shoulda, mighta done at work or at home.

Falling off my paddleboard, spotting a seal as it pops up to say hello or simply splashing through the waves give me a huge, spontaneous smile. Laughing at my mistakes and not worrying what anyone thinks bring a glorious sense of freedom and play.

These adventures may last less than an hour – believe me, an hour in the North Sea in November is a long time! – but can feel like a world away from the pressures of the everyday. I return renewed, refreshed, revived. I’m often exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. Calmer and yet more alive. My body is tingling, my heart full and my mind soothed. I sleep deeply. Oh so deeply!

They may be the tiniest of adventures, yet they gift the greatest of joys, which sustain me over the days and challenges ahead.

In our 50s we go into the world, working so hard to be the best mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues we can be. Tiny adventures allow us that rare and joyful opportunity to simply be ourselves. They gently bring us home again.

Submitted by Jo Moseley – visit her website or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

From hating running, to a desert ultramarathon!

Photo credit to Ben Tuffnell / Wadi Rum Ultramarathon – www.wadirumultra.com

A few years ago I didn’t run. I may have even gone so far as to say I hated it and wondered why people ran for fun.

Then I was going through a tough time in my relationship, felt unfit and wanted to do something to get out the house – and running was quick, easy, free and on my doorstep. I don’t know what happened that was different, but running just stuck, it provided a safe haven and some headspace in the following year through a separation and divorce.

I realised I had become one of those people I secretly admired and wanted to be – someone healthy and active. The more I did, the more I wanted to do more, and the better I felt, and I found I wasn’t half bad at it! I kept challenging myself, and this year I completed the Wadi Rum Ultramarathon, a 260km 5-day run through the Jordan desert – something I never thought I would be able to do in a million years. But with hard work, training and perseverance, I did. And boy, did it feel good!

Submitted by Tara – visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Women with paddle power!

When I was training for a marathon swim, several people paddled for me so I could stretch out into the open water of the lake, practice passing food back and forth, and let us get to know each other.

Marsha LaPoint was the first paddler to set off on a multi-mile swim with me, later admitting she had never been out in the middle of the lake. She was amazing. She quickly adapted to staying in line with me so I could see her easily while I swam, she handed me food and water periodically and guided me to a sheltered area when a storm blew by. We were out for over 4 hours and covered about 7 miles. Marsha was calm, cool, and collected, even when the waves picked up her kayak and boosted her ahead of me a few times. I knew I wanted her to paddle while I swam again.

Marsha was part of my kayak rotation on my 32-mile marathon swim, joining the adventure early in the morning (I had started at 9 pm the previous night) and stayed with the team until I finished at 1 am. Wow. Marsha is action packed! A retired art teacher, Marsha always has style on the water. I can’t wait for spring, and hope she will come on more adventures!

Submitted by Bridget Simpson – you can visit her website here.

Do the unconventional!

As a kid, I never knew what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. And to my dismay, that sense of no direction lasted well into my young adult years. I had hobbies, sure. I loved to write, and I loved to travel and be outdoors – ever since I was a toddler, in fact. I’d go outside and search for “natures” – which were usually just pine cones and mossy rocks. But those were only hobbies, and my family was more geared towards practicality.

So, not wanting to waste time or money on a college degree I may or may not use, I started working. From the time I was old enough to be working, really. I worked at a chocolate shop, hardware store, restaurants, title insurance company and then finally I landed a job at a law firm as a legal assistant. It was a great job, but it was overwhelming. I was afraid to ever take a sick day since I knew I’d come back to piles of work. I was often working overtime and honestly; it was taking a toll on me. I was temperamental, I complained all the time, and I was starting to fear I might push the people I care about away. I mean, who wants to hang out with someone who’s miserable 24/7?

So I decided, to keep my sanity, I’d set a “quit by” date. At the end of that year, I would quit my job. I’d take whatever money my husband and I had saved, and we’d travel the world and write about our experiences. It was perfect! It was everything I ever wanted to do.

I could tell people thought we were crazy. And there was always those questions “What is your plan?” “How will you make money?” “What will you do when you get back?” – I never had an answer. But it didn’t matter to me. I was over the moon. I was living my dream! It honestly didn’t even matter to me if I made no money at all. I just loved my life and loved what I was doing.

It’s been almost a year now since I quit my job and got on that plane, and I still haven’t run out of money, I still haven’t given up, my relationships are healthier than ever, and I’m happier than ever. And honestly, even if I walk away with nothing, I feel I’ve still succeeded – because I took a risk and did something that brought value and meaning to my life. Something that healed my mind and made me kinder, wiser and more confident.

Maybe travelling and living out of a tent is unconventional, but who’s to decide what’s conventional anyway? Do what you love. And when someone tells you it’s crazy, take it as a compliment. Because it means you had the guts to do something most would never dream of doing.

Submitted by Kristin Quinn – visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Learn to live with uncertainty

I was always waiting for the right time; I lived my life dreaming of all these cool adventures, waiting for the perfect time to go off and do them. That time never comes.

At some point, you have to be really brave. I dropped everything; my well-paid job as a graphic designer, my flat in central Manchester, my life pretty much. That was three years ago, and since then I’ve spent a winter in Lapland, crossing fjells with a team of huskies and climbing frozen waterfalls. I’ve cycled round the Italian Dolomites, kayaked around the Sicilian coastline. I still have no money, and I still have no idea what is coming next but that unknown feeling the one that used to scare me and push back my plans is now what drives me.

The unknown holds so many possibilities, and I’m the one that can fill it. Those dreams are real now, and the more I explore and learn the more I want to continue my journey. It was people like you, and other adventurous women that gave me that push to do it and I am forever grateful to you wonderful, strong, inspirational bunch.

Submitted by Sophie Nolan – visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

The Benefits of Cycling on Mental Wellbeing

I started cycling in 2016 after much nagging from a good friend who ran a cycling club. I started in a ladies group and in 10 weeks went from 10 to 40 miles. That gave me the confidence to take part in local events and a charity ride in France in the August 2016.

Unfortunately, I have suffered serious health issues this year that meant I couldn’t ride for a number of months but the motivation for cycling made me push myself to recover and was able to participate in another charity ride in France and Belgium this year. I have just had a total hip replacement and am already planning my recovery rides and a trip to the Pyrenees in April as know getting on a bike as soon as possible will assist in my physical and mental recovery.

The people I have met through cycling and the feeling of wellbeing participating in events has been an enormous benefit to me and will be instrumental in the next year in recovering from the issues in 2017. Without health, we have nothing so I am so grateful to be coming through a difficult year with a positive mindset and cycling is going to be a massive part of recovery.

Submitted by Sarah Thyer – follow her on Twitter.

Climb Every Mountain

I was having a tough time a couple of years ago and my confidence had slipped from its usually fairly buoyant state – I was having some difficulties at work, was overwhelmed by my house renovation project, and had ended a long-term relationship. I knew that an outdoor challenge was exactly what I needed to get back to my dauntless and positive self.

And so I went to Russia to climb what remains the hardest, if not the highest, mountain of my life -Mount Elbrus. The weather was dreadful and pushed our schedule out several days, we were running low on rations, sleep and sanity, and on the final climb I struggled with dehydration, frostbite and altitude sickness. But, I look back at the photo of me standing on top of the world, one of only three people who managed to summit the north face that week (and the other two were ex-army, Everest-climbing, marathon-running, strong men), and all over again I feel the triumph of that day.

Reaching that summit I rediscovered my tenacity, my ability to dig deep, meet hardship head on and show great resilience to overcome anything if I put my mind to it – whether it’s a biting blizzard on the mountain or blundering bureaucracy at work. The Everest climber with me said he had never seen anyone fight so hard to achieve, and that is one of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me.

The outdoors offers you the opportunities to grow and thrive both physically and mentally. Finding that mental power is an amazing thing which can apply to every area of life. Since my Russian mountain, I have had a blast, climbing higher, cycling further and running faster than I ever had before, learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities, both outdoors and at work. It’s given me the boost to grab opportunities when I see them, and I’m about to set off cycling around the world for a year. Mountains come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are not made of mud and stone, but each one is worth climbing because you never know what you might find over the summit.

Submitted by Frances – visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

Long Journey

Today I am half the girl I was, having lost my va va voom to CFS/ME/Fibromyalgia.

4 years ago my life comprised of weekly trad climbing (VS), fell-running and cycling where-ever I could, with weekends, dependent on the weather, windsurfing, caving or climbing and camping, and annual holidays dinghy sailing, hill-walking, canoeing or skiing, with a few triathlons, 10k and mud fun obstacle races.

Living in Sheffield the great outdoors is literally on my doorstep. Being run down by a car in 1998, followed by a back op, inspired me to run. Pilates and physio over the years have strengthened my core and allowed me to slowly return to other activities. Having kids (2009/10) has inspired a different appreciation of the outdoors and the start of an in-house apprenticeship scheme; feeling rock, climbing, scrambling and via ferrata; learning to swim, finding wild spots, feeling the wind and harnessing it’s power in a kite and sail; coping with cold, learning to balance and control movement on ice and snow. It’s so exciting to watch the next generation start to appreciate what a world of adventure and excitement lies in store.

All this changed when I started finding even getting out of bed tiring, let alone getting the kids to school and working. Priorities and choices had to be made just to survive a day/week/month. I quit working, sleep when I can, be active with my family when they’re free even if it means I pay back with pain and tiredness later when I allow myself to stop; very mind over matter but not sustainable.

Now I’ve learnt, through mindfulness, yoga meditation and CBT/ACT (cognitive behavioural therapy/acceptance & commitment therapy), to try and pace my energies and be accepting of the new me with all its pain. I can’t change my situation but I can try to focus on what I can do and what I want to achieve with what little energy I have.

It’s been a very long and lonely struggle, losing my ‘active’ friends and social situations as I hide my inadequate, painful and paranoid self away from the outside. My pain (ranging from all-body flu-like heaviness, head clamp, hand/feet cramps and ‘pumped’ shooting pain up my arms) is eased by cold water so I’ve started wild swimming throughout the year. This has introduced me to a completely different appreciation of the outdoors, and I’m loving the temporary energised feeling I get from the water and from being out.

Being outdoors is not as simple as it sounds. Able body and mind people can walk or drive to get somewhere to do something. With pain and fatigue, the effort of even dressing or deciding what or where to go can prevent the step outside. Then there’s the shame and guilt of not being at work or doing something useful; the mental fight is crippling. But I can see the sun from my window, hear the wind roar, watch the stars twinkle and decide not to give up and that with each new day there is something new to appreciate out there and within.

Submitted by Lu Watkins.

An old dream

When I was twelve, I was growing up in a very dysfunctional family and had to make tough decisions to send my stepfather to jail.

Jack London was one of the writers who probably saved my life by making me more resilient and making me dream. His descriptions of the beauty and harshness of nature fascinated me. I got married in 2010. With my future husband, we were looking at destinations for our honeymoon. I asked him: “how do you feel about a dog sled expedition in the Canadian North?”. He said let’s go (there’s a reason I picked this man!). And so we went.

We had a fantastic time. We had a guide who taught us how to take care of our dogs, our sledges, and ourselves. And off we went on an amazing adventure. I loved every minute of it. I grew up with another dream. One of these days, when my kids can ride ponies, we’ll go horse ride as a family across Mongolia.

Submitted by an anonymous but wonderful woman in adventure.