International Women's Day: Celebrating Three Inspirational Explorers

This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the achievements of incredible women in the outdoors. Wendy Searle, Jo Bradshaw and Alex Mason are all inspirational adventurers who recently spoke about their amazing experiences at an in-store event in our Salisbury store. We caught up with the three ladies to find out what it is they love about the outdoors, and how we can empower more women to discover adventure for themselves.


Wendy Searle

Wendy is a traveller who became hooked on Polar exploration when she led an expedition to Antarctica in 2016. Since then, Wendy has skied across the Greenland ice sheet and is now preparing for her attempt to beat the women’s speed record for a solo, unsupported and unassisted journey to the South Pole. When she’s not adventuring, Wendy is a press officer who loves to spend time with her fabulous children.

How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors?

I have my parents to thank for my love of the outdoors. To be honest, I was that grumpy child who was always trailing at the back and would rather have been reading a book! As an adult, with decent kit and being able to plan your own trips, being outdoors is a completely different experience. For me, I enjoy the mental and physical challenge of winter mountaineering or wild swimming (bracing in any season!), and the feeling of wellbeing when you’re surrounded by nature. 

What is it about the outdoors that empowers you?

Mother Nature is unpredictable – the outdoors can be beautiful and savage and breath-taking all at the same time. The same walk or mountain is always different depending on the day. When you’ve had a day out on the hills, you feel like you could take on the world.

How can we inspire more women to go outside and feel that it is accessible?

I feel very lucky that I’ve had so many opportunities to do awesome expeditions and explore the UK and further afield. We need to start in schools – I volunteer with the Youth Adventure Trust which takes young people on expeditions. There also needs to be more visible role models. There are so many women out there doing awesome things and pushing their limits – we just need to shout about them! The outdoors is big but it’s also right there; in your local park, your local forest or your walk to work or school. Grab a pair of wellies and go!

 

Follow Wendy’s South Pole journey @betweensnowandsky or visit southpole2020.com.


Alex Mason

Former graphic designer Alex has summited several mountains across the world and walked over 9,000 miles on long distance trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail (twice!), the Appalachian Trail and the Te Araroa Trail. She has cycled over 4,000 miles across Australia and Indonesia, and in 2018 dipped her toe in the world of ocean rowing when she rowed across the English Channel. Vomiting for 20 hours did not put her off though; plans for a BIG rowing challenge in 2020 are now in the making! 

How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, the outdoors really makes you feel alive. There is something special about reconnecting with the earth and the sky. Something I really enjoy about being outdoors for extended periods of time is getting away from electric lighting and feeling your circadian rhythms re-balance with the sun as it rises and sets. The pressures from society are removed once you are outdoors in a forest or on a mountain somewhere; none of it matters anymore and you get a real sense of freedom.  

What is it about the outdoors that empowers you?

The outdoors is a really level playing field, and when you meet people, especially when hiking, it doesn’t matter how old they are, how much money they have, or what they do for a job. You make an immediate connection with people because they are out there doing the same thing as you. I find walking especially empowering as it is the purest way to travel: you can carry everything you need to survive on your back and go to places that aren't accessible in any other way.  

How can we inspire more women to go outside and feel that it is accessible?

More and more women are taking on amazing challenges. The ones we hear about are often quite elitist: climbing Everest, rowing across an ocean or walking across a country for example, but you don’t have to do something as extreme as that to get outside. It can be as simple as going for a walk on a Sunday or camping out overnight. Getting outside is hugely beneficial for your mental well-being, and doubt is often the precursor to fear; we are all more capable than we believe we are.  


Jo Bradshaw

Once a risk averse, height-hating, comfort-loving business advisor, Jo says a simple act of saying ‘yes’ in her mid-30s totally changed her life. Now a high-altitude outdoor instructor, expedition leader and Everest summiteer, Jo’s new life as an adventurer has led her to places she never thought possible, including an earthquake and spending many weeks a year without a shower!

How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors?

A very healthy one! I work outdoors in all weathers and in many countries, including the amazing UK, and always discover new things even when I’m familiar with my surroundings. It’s most definitely my happy place!

What is it about the outdoors that empowers you?

We are working with nature so often, and you can’t beat or change the weather, so you have to be resilient and work with it. I also love helping people get the most out of their experiences in the outdoors and showing them how much they can achieve when they set their minds to it.

How can we inspire more women to go outside and feel that it is accessible?

Leading by example! I didn’t really get into the outdoors until I was in my late 30s and am definitely making up for lost time. There are many women’s-only outdoor groups - plus mixed groups too - which encourage anyone to get into the outdoors. I’ve taken things to the extreme, but I never imagined I could gain so much out of life just by being and working outside.

Photography by Gemma Brunton