Tell us about yourself, who are you and what do you love doing?
Hello! I’m Sarah, I grew up in Nottingham and live in Scotland.
I am passionate about all things outdoors: climbing, mountaineering, hill-walking, swimming. I love sharing the outdoors with friends and I especially love winter (snow!!) and remote, wild places. I love going out even when the forecast is terrible and just having an adventure.
Give us 3 words that you identify with most?
Daft, adventurous, caring.
What brings you the most joy outdoors?
I think the setting; whilst I mostly hill-walk or climb, I also love the sea and coast. I love nature, wildlife, and wild weather! My friends jokingly say ‘you haven’t seen Sarah happy until you’ve seen her up a hill’. They’re right; being outdoors does wonders for my well-being. There’s just something so fantastic about seeing the landscape from a height or experiencing the wild weather.
I love the challenge it can bring as well, and I love knowing how to persevere through horizontal rain.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
(Content Warning: mental health, depression, anxiety). I had a bad depressive episode a few years ago. Prior to that I already dealt with anxiety, but this depressive episode sort of knocked me off my feet completely. I got medical help/ therapy and I still take antidepressants. When I think about when it was at its worst, I think about how important the days I spent hillwalking were. They were the days I felt myself again, when I remembered what I loved and why I was fighting.
Similarly, when I was struggling in high school, climbing was my escape. It was the first sport I loved wholly and where I could forget my worries. Getting outdoors and climbing are some of my ways of maintaining my mental health; during periods where I’m not doing as well, they are my coping strategies. They are so important to me now, and in getting me to where I am today. Today I am content. I still have depression and anxiety, but I am living with them and I enjoy life, especially when I can climb or walk or swim.
If you could share a core value or abiding principle with others, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself. This is something I am learning, trying and improving on every day. There’s a lot of pressure to constantly challenge yourself, and we compare ourselves to others too much. Self-improvement and motivation is great, but remember to take breaks and check-in with yourself. Ask yourself regularly: ‘how are you feeling?’. Make your well-being a priority.
Tell us one small change we can make as individuals to help our community?
Reject the elitist ideas found in the outdoors that ostracize others, especially when they may face additional barriers such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty, ableism, amongst others.
One example of this is ‘kit-shaming’; i.e. unless you have the ‘proper kit’ you can’t do the activity. Yes, it is important to consider safety concerns regarding equipment, however that applies more to specific cases rather than the overall problem whereby people are shamed for their kit for a variety of reasons including price, manufacture, age etc. To help reject issues like this, you can support initiatives such as Kit Collective (@kitcollectiveuk).
There are also other issues of elitism in the outdoor community, and we can help tackle them by educating ourselves, sharing education with others, and supporting efforts to make the outdoors more accessible.