12th November 2017

“What if you fly?” What I learned at the Women’s Adventure Expo, Bristol


There is a freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?’

Erin Hanson, The Poetic Underground 


Arriving at the 3rd annual Women’s Adventure Expo at We The Curious, Bristol on Saturday 7th October I had a sense that it was going to be a special day, where ideas would blossom & hearts grow bolder.

The venue was buzzing with women of all ages, experience & passions. I had come with a friend, Jill Page, whom I met on Twitter a few years ago & it was a joy to meet so many women, like Kate Hallam & Sarah Williams, that I follow on social media. Old friends meeting for the first time!

I especially loved meeting one of the workshop speakers, Alice Gartland, who founded A Lotus Rises, a life affirming celebration of the outdoorswimming community.

A Lotus Rises

Hosted by Squash Falconer, the line up of main stage speakers was excellent: Mollie Hughes,  Anna McNuff  and Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent.

As a mother, I was moved by Beth French‘s story of her Oceans 7 swimming journey, the meaning of success & triumph and becoming her own hero.

Jill Gregory & Beth French

I also enjoyed the Keen Adventure Sessions, led by Laura Kennington, on more “accessible” adventures that don’t require years of planning or huge resources. Bex Band gave an honest & fascinating account of being an unlikely adventurer & yet still being bold enough to take the first steps with her hike through Israel.

The Love Her Wild” community she founded to encourage other women to follow their dreams epitomises the generosity of spirit of WAEXPO. Less “look at what I have done” & more “look at what you can do, look at what we all can achieve.”

Bex Band’s Love Her Wild

One of the key reasons I came to WAEXPO was to hear Cal Major share her circumnavigation of the Isle of Skye on a paddleboard to highlight the problem of plastic pollution on our doorstep. Her passion & deep commitment to making a difference was inspiring and full of humour & courage.

Cal Major – Skye’s The Limit

I was thankful I had bought a Premium ticket (thank you WAEXPO for the discount code too!) which included a delicious lunch & gave me chance to join Sian Lewis – The Girl Outdoors – excellent workshop on adventure blogging during the break. I’m very much looking forward to her book!

There was also time for a little adventure kit buying & I am delighted to now have two wonderful swimsuits, bought at an exhibition discount, from Deakin and Blue and Fourth Element. Made from recycled material, both suits are a fabulous reminder of the day every time I swim!

Deakin and Blue

I love & admire the commitment the team behind the Women’s Adventure Expo have to the social, community and environmental impact of adventuring. The ‘Adventure With Purpose Panel‘ with Bex, Cal, Jes Hiron from Fourth Element & Gwen Frost from Bristol Waste was excellent and I think everyone came away with practical ways we can all make a difference to reducing plastic pollution at home & on our travels.


Adventure with Purpose Panel – Cal Major & Jes Hiron, Fourth Element

One of the most inspiring memories of the day was the audience itself! Looking round the room, most were, understandably, in their 20s & 30s. However, it was wonderful to see quite a number in their 50s & 60s. I think women in “midlife” have so much wisdom & experience to bring to adventures – big & small. We have a lifetime of logistics, overcoming obstacles, teamwork, empathy, leadership & knowing that a sense of humour can help even the most difficult of situations!

We also have so much to gain from being active outdoors for our physical & mental wellbeing during the menopause, which can be difficult for many women. Life can be such a juggle at this age too, as we care for children, parents & careers. Even the smallest of adventures are a welcome chance to carve out precious time & reconnect with ourselves.

Looking to the future, as these responsibilities change, adventures can also give us a sense of purpose, a renewed enthusiasm for life & a community of kindred spirits. As one of the women I spoke to said, “I’ve looked after everyone else for so long, maybe it’s time to do something for me”.

Adventure in midlife is a particular area of interest of mine as I know how much joy a run in the Dales, paddleboarding or snorkelling in the North Sea brings to my life. After the enthusiastic response I received on social media when I shared pictures of the day, my goal is to bring more women my age to the next WAEXPO.

Love Paddleboarding – a tiny weekend adventure

As I left the museum, I came across an installation called What If – a place where people could write their goals and dreams. It seemed so perfect. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left WAEXPO with new dreams & a heart emboldened with courage & excitement.

I’m looking forward next year’s expo & would love you to join me! Shall we meet there?

Jo xx

Ps you can find me on Twitter & Instagram @healthyhappy50 – please come & say hello!

Apologies for the squiffy photographs! After hours trying to correct them I decided it was a bit like an adventure – things go wrong & you press on anyway. Done is better than waiting for perfection! 😊

“What If…”



6 responses to ““What if you fly?” What I learned at the Women’s Adventure Expo, Bristol”

  1. Ju Lewis says:

    Love this post…it was the third WAEXPO , and my third WAEXPO, and this time I brought my best buddy (mid-40s, mum of two under 8s), and two other friends (around their 50s, both mums of grown-up children), plus met other friends there in the same age bracket. Last year I felt old, and slightly aggrieved by the younger, energetic bunch – especially when having children was unhelpfully glossed over as ‘not a problem’ from those with no direct experience. This year my favourite workshop (of all 3 years) was Catherine Edsell, making me feel at ease with the guilt of being a mum (my boys are 7 and 9) and still making time for personal adventures as well as adventurous elements to work, where I take young people into the wilds in the UK, and overseas. I’ve reflected on WAEXPO 2017, and now feel that as a 43 year old participant I may be bringing up the average age a bit, but as you say, am part of the body of experience in the room. A body that has developed their adventurous spirit over the last 30 years in an outdoor industry/world dominated by men and only more recently opening up to women in the ways we are seeing. And now we have a world where it doesn’t matter what gender you are, you can go and do this stuff and enthuse others to do so. Being the age I am means that I and my friends and peers are pioneers – because we shall be in this developing adventure world in our next decades as well, the first 50/60/70 and hopefully 80/90 somethings to be so. I flippin’ hope I’m still sleeping on beaches with my buddies in 40 years time!

  2. Sam says:

    Hi Jo nice to virtually meet you. I’ve never heard of WAEXPO so this was so interesting for me. Also it’s great that I’ve found your blog. I’m a like minded over 50 who loves to stay active. I walk, surf, snowboard etc so I’ll be following you & your adventures I’ll certainly be looking into the WAEXPO too for next year

  3. Peter Thomson says:

    Good on you gal

    came across your work for an event in Scotland next year – very interesting

    Sincerely Peter

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