One of the traits that I inherited from my granny, Jean, was her sense of adventure.
When she retired (when I was a very little girl), I remember feeling so inspired by her trips. She hiked around New Zealand alone, moved to Bulgaria to try and set up a Citizens Advice Bureau (which involved taking on the local mafia – a story for another time!) and visited her school-time sweetheart in Canada… who then ended up returning to the UK and marrying her!
I’ve long been pursuing that same passion for travel and challenge. I’ve sailed from the UK to Uruguay as part of an offshore yacht race; hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, a trail that weaves through France, Italy and Switzerland, around the Mont Blanc Massif; and run an ultramarathon from the Lizard to Land’s End – to name a few of my escapades. Lockdown has been hard for many reasons and I’ve really missed adventure, which usually keeps me balanced and energised.
So, here are some of the books I’ve been reading during lockdown to keep my mind adventuring! Whether you’re raring to get back out there and want to be inspired, like me, or if you’d consider yourself more of an armchair-adventurer – I highly recommend these books. Enjoy!
1. World of My Own, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the first man to sail around the world, non-stop and alone. What an achievement! Later in his life, he created the Clipper Round The World Race to provide amateurs with a structured route into offshore racing… which is how I ended up sailing across the Atlantic. I read ‘A World of My Own’ during my training, which helped me go some way in preparing for the voyage ahead, and I read it again when I returned – with a new sense of empathy and understanding. The book really reflects the simultaneous sense of power – and powerlessness – that you feel when you put yourself in the hands of Mother Nature and set sail for the open ocean.
2. The Pants of Perspective, Anna McNuff
We all have the capacity to be adventurers. The humble narration from Anna McNuff really speaks to this. When Anna set off on her journey to run the 1000-kilometre Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand she didn’t consider herself to be a ‘real runner’. Yet, she runs up to 52 kilometres a day, for 148 days, scrambling through New Zealand’s backcountry. For me, this book affirms that you shouldn’t wait to feel like an adventurer to take on an adventure – just do it and you’ll recognise that’s who you are. This is a very powerful story about pushing yourself and discovering what you’re capable of.
3. Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest, Mark Horrell
Another on the theme of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, Mark Horrell starts out with modest ambitions to climb Snowdon. He then pushes himself to take on increasingly challenging ascents, culminating in taking on Everest! What I love about this book is that Mark explains his adventures very practically and even includes information on how he organised his life and work to accommodate the trips. For me, this adds a brilliant sense of normality and reality to the book, which is very motivating – you just need to commit to an ambition and then take small steps to make it practically possible to achieve.
4. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s book is about walking for a very different purpose: she is overcoming the pain of divorce and of losing her mother, which she’s been dealing with ineffectively with drugs and sex. The book details her solo hike along the 1000-kilometre Pacific Crest Trail in the United States – and also refers to experiences earlier in her life, which she’s working through as she walks. Some of those experiences are hard to read about, so perhaps not a book for everyone, but for me this is a really poignant testament to the healing powers of walking and adventure.
5. The Art of Resilience: Strategies for an Unbreakable Mind and Body, Ross Edgley
The last year has been difficult in so many ways. It has tested – but also proven – our boundless capacity for resilience. Our resilience will continue to be tested and proven as we head back out into the world – trying to return to ‘normal’ again after a year couped up in our homes. In 2018, Ross Edgley became the first person to swim around Great Britain – just one challenge amongst so many others that he’s taken on to understand and build resilience. This book distils his learnings on resilience – supported by analysis of military, athletic and fellow-adventurer performance. Prepare to be impressed and emboldened!
Hannah Thomson, Founder CEO