On an internet search for ‘outdoor women’ or ‘adventure women’ it would be easy to be a magpie to the glossy scenery of an Instagram shot with someone in shiny kit, posing during an ‘adventure’. To be a female adventurer might initially appear to involve a certain length of hair, a perfect (Pantone 2171c if you’re asking) shade of blue sky, a particular set of vital physical statistics, and most definitely a chunky beanie hat, probably bobbled.
There is also a refreshing flush of what some of us might consider to be more realistic public figures in adventure and expeditions (and frankly I’m not too fussed whether they’re female, male or anything else as long as it’s genuine and inspiring). For me these might include people like Ann Daniels, Bruce Parry, and Felicity Aston, and for his committing expeditions (rather than his childrens’ TV) Steve Backshall. Closer to achievable by ‘normal’ folk might be the gutsy but FUN FUN FUN exploits of Faye Shepherd and Anna McNuff (the latter’s book ‘The Pants of Perspective’ newly inspiring a movement of Adventure Queens – real women, sleeping in fields all over the place!).
My close adventurey friends suggest an alternative image to the one provided by social media – between us we have everything from long blonde(ish) to short brown curly hair, unshaven legs (just me?) and sometimes other bits, are impressively curvy in all sorts of places, sometimes bespectacled, wearing non-matching clothing, mended, dirty and well worn kit, and are definitely out in all weathers whatever the glamour-scale. We’re all doing our outdoor thing in the name of our own mental and physical health, as part of our jobs or hobbies, and fitting it in with family life and the financial necessity of ‘other’ work, as well as spreading the word to anyone we can that outdoors is where the magic happens…I’ve written this in response to feeling very lucky to have these awesome women around me in my mid-40s.
The amigas of the title remain nameless here, but I’m sure they (and others) might work out who is who if they read on – and maybe you’ll be thinking about the encouraging and inspiring people that you’re lucky enough to know in person as you read this.
Amigo A – I’ve known for two years – she was the first person to welcome me into our local bunch of sea swimmers, and has been a consistent presence through two summers and winters, swimming whatever the weather. Her catchphrase ‘you never regret a swim’, is often repeated, and never loses impact. She has inadvertently got me (willingly!) out of bed at 5.30am on many occasions in the time we’ve been friends – and I am not an early riser. Each time has been to meet on a street corner, and walk or share a lift to a swim – in the cold April sea for a sunrise breakfast, or to have a remote pool on the moor to ourselves before summer crowds arrive. Her adventurous spirit is infectious, and her disregard for conventional middle-aged behaviour gives huge encouragement for the next decade or two of my own life. She’s also super creative, a self-made artist, and very tech-savvy – we’ve had regular ‘beer mat life planning’ sessions, with plans for adventures, creative businesses and social events. These two years have brought me a life outside teaching, and she has been instrumental in that process – Thankyou!!
Amigo B I met nearly five years ago in a pub after a DofE event. She was a friend of a friend (Amiga C) – we had teaching in common, as well as a love of Dartmoor, the outdoors, and facilitating expeditions for young people in the British hills. There have since been shared laughs in bunkhouses (“It’s the three am side of half past-two!”), night navving, and much twittering. Since last autumn when she came on her first moonlit sea swim, we have got to know each other far more – mostly through the character-building (Type 2 fun) of winter skins swimming, and the consequent chilly changes on a windy sea front. We wild camped on Dartmoor back in February with Amiga D (see below), and there was muchos cackling, tent snacks and lots of talk about ablutions and being real outdoor women (we definitely are). I am in awe of her ability to keep on going when the poo hits the fan, and very glad that as well as outdoors we are now confirmed ‘kitchen table coffee and cake’ friends as well (if you don’t have one of those I suggest you sort that out asap).
Amiga C is the other half of Amiga B…by that I mean they are two. This half of the pair is equally up for bunkhouse shenanigans, night nav exploits, alongside getting out in the hills with others young and older, for all the right reasons. She owns some impressively matchy outdoor clothing, and works very very hard with young people outdoors in various ways.
Amiga D became a Faceplant friend just over a year ago, via the Devon Wild Swimming network. We finally met in early October 2016 (real faces!) at the WAEXPO after a flurry of messaging and trying to work out which of a few hundred outdoory women in a room the other one of us was. Since then we have done moonlit swims and wild camps, and an evening of expeditiony cud-chewing is in the planning. Her energy seems boundless – enthusiasm for outdoorsness, adventure and fun alongside genuine interest in others and what makes them tick makes for a magnetic combination in her personality.
Amiga E...a best buddy for the last 15 years…a free-spirited, low-impact living, creative soul, who is truly at her best outdoors and in particular with her own two young boys – fires on the beach, and moonlit camps on chilly autumn nights amongst the myriad things that they will thank her for when they’re older. Most recently she, Amiga B and I swam the Dart10k (not together but as it turned out only a few minutes apart), and on one chilly evening training swim discussed our impending ‘poo window’ and the need for its fine tuning for the day of the event. I’ve never had ‘poo window’ friends before, but am very very glad I do now.
And Amiga F – slightly younger yes, outdoorsy in her work and play – often to be found in a boat of some kind, but equally at home in walking boots and mucking about in a high moorland hostelry. She’s currently planning a mischevious outdoor shop trip for our first descent on her new living location…
Tomorrow I will be at WAEXPO 2017 with BCD and E – we’ll almost certainly be raising the average age a little, having a good cackle and a chat, as well reminding ourselves that being over 40-something and doing this adventure stuff has huge impact on our own lives as well as those of others around us.