If you have read any of my recent blog posts, you have probably heard me banging on about Love Her Wild. I spoke a bit about them in my post, Finding Your Tribe and recently indulged in a rather chilly trip with some of the gang to Arctic Norway. But in summary, Love Her Wild is a much needed safe space for women to come together and explore their love of the outdoors, whether they have been adventuring for many years or are just dipping their toe in the water (literally).
At a time when I’m feeling super inspired and connected to the community, I wanted to share the things I love about Love Her Wild, the value of the community, and the impact it has had on me and many other women.
It’s about ordinary women doing extraordinary things
Bex Band, who runs the community, blogs at The Ordinary Adventurer and is all about ordinary women doing extraordinary things. Bex wasn’t sporty in school, and never thought she’d end up as a full time adventurer, but now she’s hiked the length of Israel, crossed the desert in Jordan, and is a qualified mountain leader. Her point is you don’t have to be an athlete or and experienced mountaineer to consider yourself an adventurer. Women from all walks of life can do some pretty awesome stuff.
At the heart of the community is the notion that whether you’re a teacher, a plumber, a nurse, an accountant, a barista, a lawyer, a shop assistant, a scientist, a stay at home Mum, you can climb mountains, go camping, swim in a river, run some trails, whatever. No matter what your background, adventure is out there.
It’s an all-female space, which means gender is never an issue
Some people have no need for female only spaces, and that is great for them. But for lots of us, being in the company of other women allows us to be our best selves.
Ladies – hands up if you’ve ever been on an outdoor course and when you were struggling with something, you worried that the guys would think women are less competent. Or even more frustrating, hands up if you’ve let a man help you with something when you didn’t need help, but have just had that kind of behaviour ingrained from birth and it’s easier than saying no and possibly messing up. Or maybe, if you ae especially competent, you have been referred to as ‘one of the lads’ like being male is some badge of honour.
Particularly when you’re learning new things, or getting out of your comfort zone, you don’t want gender to affect the things you do or the way you feel. Love Her Wild removes that problem.
The fact is women in the outdoors still aren’t perceived in the same way as men. When six of us were on a mountain summit in the Lake District, we were labelled the Women’s Institute, asked if we had done any training, asked if we could read maps and had obvious mountains pointed out to us by male hikers who seemed desperately concerned that we didn’t have a single penis between the entire group. It was funny, but equally a little disturbing.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is no manhating or disrespect of males in the group. We know there are millions and millions of wonderful men, but for some women, a separate space is empowering and helpful.
They run the most badass events and trips
Okay, so this point is a pro and a con for me, as there is no way I could afford to attend them all and then I’m left with awful FOMO. Love Her Wild events range from trying wild camping for the first time to learning bushcraft to enormous adventures like trekking Stok Kangri.
The best thing about the trips they run is that there is often a social mission. Last year, they ran Paddle Pickup, kayaking from Bristol to London while picking up litter from the canals and undertaking research into plastic pollution. The trip is running again this year, but kayaking the length of Wales. In 2019, there’s a Kilimanjaro climb, but Love Her Wild does it a bit differently, tying in a conservation element.
There are also occasional talks, networking events, and the Love Her Wild weekend, which is a cross between a festival and a retreat with speakers, workshops and more.
Adventure is accessible for people from all walks of life.
This might be my very favourite thing. Love Her Wild breaks down the idea that you have to have money to go on adventures. Yes, there is a range of paid trips, but there is an expedition each year that is done on the cheap. Members apply for a place based on what they could bring to them team and what they would gain from it. I was lucky enough to be selected in 2017 for an expedition where 6 of us aimed to climb the equivalent ascent of Everest, using the peaks of the Lake District. We worked with brands to get sponsored gear and food, so we really spent very little on what was quite a spectacular adventure. This year the selected team will be doing 5 days of survival in the woods with very little gear, foraging for their food.
There is also the deserving women scheme – for the Love Her Wild weekend, Bex new that not everyone would be in a position to buy a ticket. She ran the deserving women scheme, where women could nominate themselves or someone else for a free ticket. No need to justify why – it was done on an honesty basis, and then names were drawn from a hat for free places.
It’s inclusive and avoids cliques
The adventure scene can be pretty cliquey. There is a lot of one-upmanship, with people sometimes being made to feel that their adventures aren’t as important if they’re on a smaller scale. When adventurers get really big, sometimes they forget the whole point of adventure is to get out of your comfort zone and enjoy yourself, and it becomes about ego. Not so with Love Her Wild. It doesn’t matter if someone in the group has run ultramarathons and summited epic peaks, they’ll still be supportive if someone else shares that they want to try camping for the first time, or buy their first pair of hiking boots.
You meet like-minded people and make friends
I have made friends through Love Her Wild that I think will be friends for life. People who I learn from, people who motivate me, people who make me laugh uncontrollably. People who inspire me to live more fully, people who I can be honest and vulnerable around, people who make me want to challenge my limits and support them in challenging their own. It isn’t easy to make new friends in your 30s, but through Love Her Wild, I’ve nailed it.
I’ve also met people that I haven’t necessarily stayed in touch with, but have shared moments that meant an awful lot. There’s something about the outdoors that connects people. When you’re walking together, talking becomes easier and you just open up. You meet people who might have entirely different backgrounds and life experiences and have overcome astonishing things and you find common ground with stories of adventure.
Being part of it instills confidence
This is the crux of it for me. The love, support and inspiration from the group has done wonders for my confidence, both in the adventure world, and how I feel about myself. I feel like I have over 4,000 women on my side and we all have each other’s backs. Before I found Love Her Wild, I never would have gone solo wild camping, or considered going on Arctic expedition. It has only been a year since I joined the group, and now I’m even delivering some talks on adventure. I couldn’t have fathomed that.
Because of Love Her Wild, I feel better about who I am, I am more resilient when bad things happen, and am managing my mental health problems more effectively. I’m doing better in my job, I have more drive and ambition, and I’m enjoying life more.
Being selected as ambassador for Love Her Wild has instilled a lot of confidence too. The community has done a lot for me, and now I have a voice in how it is shaped. That’s huge.
I know this was a bit of a gushy post, and that Bex would probably feel a bit embarrassed by my excessive emotion on the matter. But if I can help other women to discover Love Her Wild and follow their own path to belonging and personal growth, then I’d be pretty happy.
Do check them out and have a look at the Facebook group which is where the action is.