How to find your tribe

Being a woman adventurer requires a special kind of tenacity. My experience is that it takes years to find your tribe. These are a special group of peeps who can cover your ass in every possible eventuality when you find yourself up a creek, lost on a mountain or just laughing your head off on a beach having not brought a swim costume.

Here are the top seven personalities you find on an adventure. I bet you can recognise all your mates in this list, and if you don’t you need to fill that void.

#The Matriarch

This is the friend who you call when you are probably struggling with some life decisions. You know they have some great but gentle advice to help you sift through the rubble. You go on a walk, make sure there are regular pit stops, and accept that you are going to get some tough love but by the end you have put the world to rights.

#The philosopher

This is probably someone you have known for a VERY long time. They have an uncanny ability to turn their hand to everything and probably have multiple qualifications in everything known to humanity. You know that even when you are talking verbal diarrhoea, they will gently find a way to find zen and wisdom in the random rantings of a camping night. Nothing is bad, only good, as {add quote here} said. You bloody love their company.

#Partner in crime

AKA the one who always gets you in trouble. I distinctly remember calling said friend out of the blue saying “I am on my way to yours. I have a bottle of wine.” She took a long hard drag of her cigarette and replied “Bring two.” I remember one time waking up in a house I had no recollection of ever entering. Another time with one of my “partners” we broke into a party in central Paris, and broke out with hand fulls of Mangos from a kitchen window in the basement. There is a picture of her on a red vintage moped which neither of us have any idea why. We were tailed by men on that trip, but told them we had no time to mess about, we had an important photo shoot tomorrow!

#The dare devil

Oh the fun we’ve had! Sometimes I make sure there is someone else about just to make sure we don’t end up in A&E. My best story involves a fated trip to one of the best surfing beaches in Europe. I am not a very experience surfer. My friend is. She briefed me on the correct entry, explained how to ride the waves, and warned me of the hazards of this reef surf. In panic, I did none of the above, and appeared an hour later with both legs dripping in blood. One time we completed a 10k obstacle race. Another time an off road triathlon. I should probably be dead. Cheers for the good times!!

#The witchy one

You probably have a friend who grew up in the country and has an amazing amount of lost knowledge. This friend decorates my hair with wild flowers, pulls leaves out of waterfalls for me to eat and has a herbal remedy for every ailment. I have friends who are qualified doctors, but it is this friend I call when the kids are ill. She has a sixth sense.

#The starry eyed wanderer

This is probably someone you met while out on an adventure. She has probably lived in multiple countries, had multiple professions and has an incredibly calm nature. Nothing phases this friend. A favourite story of my Dad’s is him meeting up with his. They were on a beach. His friend had no phone, but he is pretty sure they go to this small festival every year, so he turns up in hope. One time, she had a disagreement with her partner, so she said “That’s it! I’m off. ” and waded out into the sea, fully clothed. She just stayed there until finally he roamed off having felt a little stupid.

#The eternal child

This one can be the most dangerous. For mine, we have till this day made sure that we have never been drunk at the same time. We just don’t trust ourselves. We have NO inhibitions. And that is while we are sober. We are loud, gregarious, hedonistic, spontaneous, and totally lack remorse. We love life. We love people. We love to laugh. You go out with this type of friend for a pint of milk and wake up in Mexico.

So forget the seven people you meet in heaven. It’s too late then. Make sure the seven people you share your piece of heaven with are worth the time spent. Here’s to the tribes! May yours be forever full of fun, laughter and magic.

How to lose ‘weight’ through adventure

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Eat lunch in the park

I have lost 4-5 lbs this week but I have not changed how I eat nor how I drink. This is not a blog around women getting “beach ready”. This is a blog about women challenging why we need to be a certain way in order to have the right to be on a beach.

I was recently chatting to a really good friend about having put on weight over the last 5 years. I asked her what she thought were the psychological factors that were her downfall and I spoke openly about mine. For me, I find that it is around 4-7pm. I have taken kids to school, micro-managed 20 different daily things, cycled to work, dealt with my students worries, concerns, and problems, I have cycled home, picked up my children and then set about cooking three different meals. At this point I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Brain says “You lack energy, you need to refuel.” Body reaches for the cheese.

The Greeks apparently have seven different words for “love.” I think we need seven different words for “tired.” And this effect, I think, is particularly acute for women.

Ride a bike for no functional purpose

So what changed this week? Well, I have escaped a job which was causing me huge amounts of stress. I have had a job interview and got offered it. Spurred on by this success, I have written project proposals for two new clients and had an immediate positive response. Everything this week has energised me, rather than pulled me down. So many people have said “You seem so happy! I have never seen you so happy.” And I really am. My micro-adventures have led me to this path and given me energy.

So, here are my top 5 micro-adventures for being a woman. (And if anyone wants to chuck the equality card at me, I am happy to take it.) Until we have equality everywhere, we continue to need women only supportive networks.

#1 Go on a bike ride with a friend. You will both feel like you are 12 again. Take a picnic. Choose a goal to reach. Take a traffic free route and you will chat and laugh the whole way. I am meeting my extreme sports partner in crime tomorrow. I am soooo looking forward to it.

#2 Walk around your area at dusk. You can totally nose into people’s houses because it takes them a while to realise that they should have shut the curtains. I often invent a pint of milk or a loaf of bread I have to buy so that I can escape for half an hour.

#3 Take some cheese and biscuits and go and eat them with a great view.

#4 Involve your kids with some beach art (or on your own). Just collecting beach treasures and making a temporary instillation is really nice. Take a photo. Remind yourself during the week that you don’t just work and pay a mortgage.

#5 Choose not to eat cold flaccid sandwich at your desk. Go out and bathe in glorious sunshine in a local park. No one will thank you for sacrificing your 30 minute lunch break. You will come back refreshed and happier and most likely be more productive.

Enjoy a sunset

And just like me, you might magically find that actually it is not that you have bad genes that have given you hip dips, and cellulite and pendulous breasts and a stomach that somehow resembles a sad looking anus. It was that you were emotionally drained from a lack of fun in life and by taking control and making your own fun, the need for food and booze solved itself.

Where have all the women gone?

Why is adventure and outdoor activity a male dominated thing?

This week I completed my first Triathlon. I was aiming to do one before I turned 30. That then became 40. With 18 months left to go, I signed up to a short distance off road event. It seemed like a good idea back in January. I thought it would make me ring fence time for exercise. Instead, followed three months of flu followed by 2 months of excessive work load. In truth, the main motivation for having ago (with very limited training) was the fact it had cost so much. I felt guilty.

I arrived the night before and slept in my friend’s camper. The lake was beautiful and it seemed like a pleasant idea to go on a mountain bike ride the next day. Hell! The run after through the forest would be fantastic.

The next morning, the dark clouds loomed ominously over the hills and a strong head wind was going to make the paddle back “challenging.” I’d fixed a puncture on my bike the day before but it had been a ‘ghost’ puncture. No split on the valve. No thorns in the rubber. Was everyone going to laugh at my cheap paddle board and my 20 year old bike?

As we set out on the paddle boards, I felt nerves running through my veins. The leg out was not so bad. “The way back is really hard!” Called a guy. On the way back I was deafened by the wind. I paddled, steadily, only to discover I was going backwards, rather than forwards. Eventually, I ended up banked on the far shore. A speed boat pulled up, “I can tow you, but it would be game over for the race.” Nooooooooo. I screamed silently to myself. I pushed off from the shore. I would have to rapidly improve my technique. I should have looked this up on YouTube last night, I thought to myself.

You are going to have to work this out. I told myself. What no one else could hear, thanks to the wind, was me screaming and shouting to myself . “Come on! Come on!” I urged as I paddled. I was going to have to go round the perimeter of the lake. Eventually I made it back exhilarated, but I must have paddled 5k rather than 3.

Cycling is something I have always loved. But this bike ride was a beast. 15k with 300 meter of ascent. It was technical and there were plenty of opportunities to break a collar bone. Half way round I joined a group of 5 ladies with matching red tops. “You are welcome to join us.” One said. We are helping each other and we plan to cross the finish line together. Each time we passed another lady, we all yelled words of encouragement. “You can do this!” Another time a lady clapped me as I passed in the opposite direction. The men said nothing, either to each other, nor to us women.

At the finish line, I let the red vested ladies all pass in front of me, holding hands and smiling. Their families were all happy and congratulatory. I felt proud. I had not been defeated by this monumental challenge. And I felt proud to be female.

All the things I like to be tend to be “boys” pass times. My profession is dominated by men. When I did my degree, it was 10:1 men to women. The bottom layer of teaching is woman heavy. But of 15 senior leaders, only two are women. Where are all the women?

My next adventure was to take the boys sand surfing in Cornwall. I love the times we go camping. We reconnected, we laughed, we cooked together and played football and ate chocolate.

Upon my return, I opened an email from the triathlon event. Dear reader….a woman had come first place. Not me, incidentally, I had come 47th. But I was so proud of that anonymous lady. Welcome to the sisterhood. To the strong women, may we know the, may we be them, may we raise them.

Education rebellion

Why children need to be taken into the wild

Running through Wild garlic flowers and woodlands

Our children are growing up in a digital age which we have no experience of. They are guinea pigs for smart phones and 24/7 media. I am trying hard not to be the bastard parent who won’t let them have any of this stuff but I am failing miserably. My boys are 7 and nearly 9. Because I have worked with teenagers for 16 years, I have some strong opinions about the impact of “screen time.” Firstly, 4 out of 5 training sessions for work last year were on the rising child mental health crisis. I had workshops on mindfulness and dealing with grief and talking about self harm. The government has really pushed the agenda on rising anxiety and depression in childhood. But I feel we are looking at putting a sticking plaster on a problem, rather than asking why the problem is there in the first place.

My family when the boys were 2 and 4

Last week we went camping with my Dad, my cousin and her children. It was pretty full on with 5 kids from age 3 to 13. We were staying on a simple campsite on Hayling Island. My kids love being outdoors, understanding they can go off, climb trees, have fights, play games, make friends and collect dead crabs. (Don’t ask. The small one has some unusual ideas). Their cousins were not sure what to do when you don’t have WiFi, well apart from the 3 year old. He roamed around barely eating he was so excited. Trying to rewild a teenager is much more of a challenge. She seemed to speak a different language which consisted of text speak and American acronyms. FOMO?

I love my cousin to death. We laughed, we cooked, we gazed at the fire. There is nothing like two women watching their kids wade into the sea up to their knees and think “why?” We literally told them there were no spare clothes. And then proceed to watch them get drenched up to their elbows. We stayed up looking in awe at the starry sky. We made up fire side tales. We ended every day with salty hair and rosey cheeks and clothes bathed in wood smoke. We ate a LOT of cheese. Because calories consumed outdoors just don’t count. Kids toasting marshmallows after dark don’t count as bedtime pudding.

Fire. An essential element to a micro adventure.

We have taken our two boys into the wild from the week they were born. By the time little one was three, they could cope with a 5 mile walk thanks to a carefully constructed tale (lie). In your pocket hide 10 foil wrapped chocolate coins and tell them about the forest/ beach/ river goblins. These goblins hide treats for children, but they run away if they hear moaning or whining. Tell them that the goblins don’t really like people, so you have to go far from the car parks. When your kids start to flag, say “ooooohhhh. This looks like goblin territory. See if you can find goblin chocolate.” I recon, I have got my two to run the next 3 miles looking for the foil in tree trunks, under stones etc. …you’re welcome.

But let me come back to rewilding. Yes, it is a word. It is a very necessary word. Eventually, after three days and sunshine, and laughter, and fires the teenager relaxed. She slept better than she had done for a long time. She enjoyed playing croquet more than anyone. Pleasure we all got from scrabble was silly. Our hair was messy and wild. And in the middle of the night we walked barefoot in the dew to the toilets, amazed by how much shadow was cast by moonlight. No torch was necessary.

Brunch on the beach

We made our own rules and we made them as fun as we could make them.