Explorers Connect (EC) has transformed my life in a way that I could never have imagined and with a risk of sounding melodramatic, EC actually helped save my life.
Before I even attended my first trip in the summer of 2013, EC was working its magic by giving me hope and an adventurous life to aim for when I was struggling. Then, when I attended my first EC trip, it sent me spiralling on a trajectory that I never dreamed of. Finally, the advice that I received in 2013 by Dr Anthony Seldon, a political historian and my ex-headmaster, “Do What Makes You Happy” made sense. So I would like to say Thank You to Belinda and Dr Seldon, for showing me that you can choose to live a happy and adventurous life.
I hope that in this article, I inspire you to go to an Explorers Connect trip or talk, so you can also experience the magical community that Belinda has created. But this article comes with a warning: EC’s positivity, inspiration and adventurous spirit is contagious and if you catch the bug, then who knows where it will take you….
Between 2009 and 2013 my health deteriorated to such an extent that I had to withdraw from studying a BSc Geography degree at University College of London and some days, I struggled to get out of bed.
However, EC opened a whole new world to me, one bursting with adventure, passion, wildness and exploration. I knew I wanted to taste a slice of this delicious looking pie. During the days when I felt low, the wonderfully exciting jobs that were continuously posted on EC filled me with determination and ambition. One day I wanted to apply to one of these amazing jobs. The Research Assistant at one of British Antarctic Survey’s Antarctic bases looked exceptionally enticing.
Reading about other people’s adventures also tantalised my tastebuds for my very own journey. I spent countless days imagining my life as an adventurer and what it would be like to travel the world by bike or pull a sled across the Arctic’s snow.
EC gave me the determination to get better at all costs. When western medicine and conventional wisdom failed me, I knew I had to find a way to get over my illness no matter what. I wanted a piece of that pie. Luckily after 4 years I found Phil Parker’s Lightning Process and fully recovered.
I remember my first two trips like it was yesterday. I was like a small child in a sweet shop being told I couldn’t just have one sweet, but all of the sweets when I booked my first trip. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
My first trip involved going to Gower, Wales. The weather was glorious, the people were brilliant. We hiked, dived into a tidal pool, ate ice cream by the beach, drank beer and stand up paddle boarded in a harbour. I felt alive and full of energy. I loved every second of it. The tales of people’s adventures had me on the edge of my seat and I came away buzzing. That weekend sparked my love affair with adventure.
I felt very intrepid booking my second trip: Wild Camping in the Brecon Beacons. Forecasted for torrential rain my parents were worried and the guy I was seeing thought I was slightly barmy, but I was too excited for words. It was my first time in the Brecon Beacons and wild camping. It was an absolute blast! We hiked up a ridge to the most spectacular views and you could see the grumbling purple clouds moving across the horizon, but we were surrounded by blue skies and sunshine!
The wind blew my hair erratically around my face, but I happily took shelter in a stone wall with a tarp secured across the top as we watched the fell runners participating in the Cliff Bar race. I thought these people were super-human and still do. Fell running is on my bucket list.
Wild camping felt daring and untamed, we explored a magical damp wood and discovered an enchanted pool with a tumbling waterfall - perfect for a quick morning dip to wake you up. The time had gone when I was too scared to jump into glacial waters.
Belinda had me hooked on adventure and so did the rest of the Explorers Connect community.
Explorers Connect is a community of adventurous people that emanates good vibrations and positive energy. They’re continuously pushing their limits, enjoying life’s journey, trying new things, learning new skills and embarking on unique journeys, both big and small. Safe to say, they’re all pretty awesome! Simply walking into a room filled with these people makes me feel happy, super excited and inspired.
The people on my first trip squashed any doubts about my solo travel plans, boosted my confidence about travelling solo and told me tales of their bygone journeys which filled me with even more excitement about my imminent trip!
Since then I’ve been inspired by many EC’ers (Explorer Connect members) to organise a microadventure for King’s College London’s 1st year Geography students, embark on a geographical expedition to Ladakh with the British Exploring Society, start my own business and venture down a career in mountaineering!
By surrounding myself with this inspirational community who are continuously pushing their limits and enjoying life’s journey, I have been motivated to push myself further, be better, achieve higher goals and it has brought out the best in me.
If you had told me when I was 17 or 18 that I would be wild camping in a field in a bivvy bag, I would have laughed and thought you mad. Now this is one of the things that I live for each week!
Belinda and the EC’ers have helped me learn new skills in the outdoors, increased my self confidence, stretched my comfort zone and overcome my fears - 2 weeks ago I jumped off a ledge, attached to a rope, in an old Victorian slate mine to free fall 50m for fun, this is something I have bottled for nearly 15 years!
The trips and experiences that I’ve done with Explorers Connect and the many that have come out of this wonderful community have stretched me that little bit further and all have become the highlights of my life.
If I had never found Explorers Connect or booked my first trip with Belinda, then I would most likely be working in an office doing work that I find unfulfilling and seeking fun in a pub or dance club.
Instead, I am now grabbing my Go Bag, as inspired by Phoebe Smith, and heading for a hill as I am tonight with a great friend who I met through Explorers Connect only last month.
I have also galvanised the courage to pursue a career in startups and am currently in the process of creating a female outdoor brand called Lilly Wild with a mission to create a community of inspiration adventurous women. I have no idea where this journey will take me, but it’s an adventure and I know it will lead me to somewhere in the mountains and hills.
To find out more about Lilly Wild, click here