by Belinda Kirk
I'm so pleased to be back at Explorers Connect after more than a year away on maternity leave. Although I've been enjoying my biggest challenge yet, being a mum to 1yr old Jackson, I've so missed leading the adventures and being part of the EC community. A huge thanks to Simon for covering my maternity leave and looking after EC through 2018.
Apart from the haze of sleepless nights and the glamour of washing piles of reusable nappies, it’s been a wonderful year but probably my most challenging to date. Looking after a baby has been much harder than any of the world record attempts, desert crossings or jungle challenges I'm more used to. Since I can remember I've always thrived in the outdoors, my work, my free time, my passion, my identity all wrapped up in adventures in wild places. This year has been tough because I've been stuck indoors more than ever because its surprisingly difficult to get outside with a newborn baby. My expectations of strapping baby to my back and getting on with it didn't really work out that way. Simply leaving the house is an involved and time-consuming ritual, by the time you're out all you're ready for is a lie-down, let alone an adventure. Maternity leave during Britain's best heatwave in decades sounds idyllic but when you have to find shade everywhere you go it does make it really difficult to do the things you used to take for granted. Baby tents blow down, dribble and snot wipe away sun cream and who would've have known that babies like eating sand almost as much as grass. There are constant challenges.
However, we continue to be absolutely determined to give our little one an outdoors start in life, so we've made it a priority to get outside whenever possible. Before his first birthday Jackson has camped, swum in rivers and the sea and gone on too many hikes to count. It is such a privilege and so fun to introduce him to all these new adventures. He's become an adept bird spotter already (like his Dad) and his favourites are swallows, pheasants, partridges, woodpeckers, buzzards, and even a barn owl. He's such a fan of camping, he sleeps better outside than inside so we have left the tent in the garden for a couple of weeks at a time this autumn. I've been so surprised at how much we've had to figure out to keep active that I've started planning an Explorers Connect weekend for new parents to help get through this crazy time, working title New Parents, New Adventures, so if you have any thoughts on that please do let me know.
As I emerge from the baby-bubble and back into EC, I'm most enjoying catching up with everyone's news on the adventures and at the socials. I am also delighted to announce that the Adventure Revolution Grants will finally launch in 2019. I have been planning them for some time, but the maternity break has held them up. Apply or get your nominations ready. I've also started planning all sorts of new exciting adventures for 2019. I’m most excited about Walk Devon Coast to Coast as it’s a completely unique one-off challenge and will motivate me to get my fitness back post-baby. And of course I'm not planning them alone, Rowan and Becky have joined EC this month too and are already making a real impact on inspiring adventure in others... watch this space.