‘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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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! 😊