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.

Getting through grief by getting outside

When my partner took his own life in 2014 I thought my world would never be the same. It wouldn’t be the same but that didn’t mean it could not be good again.

By taking on cycling the Coast 2 Coast in 1 Day in his memory I gave myself a target and a reason to go out each day. From this I learnt how important it is to keep pushing your boundaries, to have a little adventure each day and to inspire others to do the same. I now also write An Adventurous Girl blog, hoping to share my experiences with others.

Submitted by Cadi Lambert – visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Running recovery

I used running to recover from two sever periods of post natal anxiety. The benefits of being outside, noticing the world around us and breathing fresh air as well as the endorphins from the effort itself, all combined to help me recover back to ‘me’ once the acute phase of illness had passed.

Submitted by an anonymous but wonderful woman in adventure.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

From being bedridden in 2013 to participating in offshore yacht racing in 2015; I have come a long way.

Being outdoors and participating in outdoor sports is primarily responsible for this. Initially, outdoors and outdoor sports meant going for a 100m walk. But it was outside. Perseverance and gradually increasing my time outside has played a huge part in my recovery. I’m not better yet and may never fully be, but I’m able to live a more normal life thanks to the healing power of being outdoors.

Submitted by an anonymous but wonderful woman in adventure.

Late Bloomer

I was 48 years old and zeroing in on 250 pounds. When on the dental table I had a reaction to the anaesthetic and had to be resuscitated several times. The dentist told me “you almost went out of here in a body bag”. I became very ill and despondent.

I still don’t know what exactly triggered the mental change in me but I decided to change. I hired a trainer and began a long journey towards wellness. I’ve discovered a passion for the outdoors that I did not know existed I lost almost 50 pounds, ran a marathon, then did a triathlon.

I joined a women’s adventure team even though I was the oldest by far I am now zeroing in on 58, But I am living a joy filled life that is deeply satisfying. I hike daily, kayak, mountain bike, snowshoe, distance cycle, backpack and recently took up climbing.

I am ageing but intend to go out swinging. And so very happy!

Submitted by Charity Lovelace