When did you first come to a WanderWomen experience?
- My first event was the 31st July 2021, forest bathing and river swim in Peebles! It feels like WanderWomen has been in my life longer than that.
How did you find out about WanderWomen and what attracted you to coming?
- I’m fairly sure that I found out about you through an event a friend suggested, I couldn’t attend, but I found what you do interesting, so I started following you on social media. I was interested in mindfulness and mediation, but I hadn’t been successful in my solo attempts. I was finding it especially difficult to relax during the pandemic as working from home meant very little divide between business and personal lives. I already loved spending time in nature, things like swimming in the sea and walking in the Lammermuirs or on the network of paths around Pencaitland. I thought coming along to your event would help me relax.
In the bank you work in a male dominated field – tell me about the balance you get out of coming to WanderWomen experiences regularly.
- Your events are a totally different environment to being at work, not even just the fact it’s women. My work is indoors, it’s looking at screens, and communicating with people where there is always an agenda – I want something, or they do! Your events are outdoors and not a screen to be seen – already bringing some balance to my life. WanderWomen events are all women, it feels like that creates a softness, a lack of the judgement and competition that can often be present at work. The events are nurturing and supportive, which is led by you and amplified by the women who come along to each event.
What are your reasons for returning to WanderWomen experiences regularly?
- I loved my first event so much, not just the event itself, but how I felt after it too. I have such vivid memories of sitting in the trees, listening to the leaves in the wind, looking at all the different shades of green, then swimming in the river. How relaxed and peaceful I felt that evening sitting at home was such a contrast to before. I think I signed up straightaway for the overnight event at Blinkbonny woods! That was a totally different experience, but I loved it just as much, and that was it, I was hooked. I have special memories of each event. From wandering in the woods at night listening for bats and owls, to the geese honking overhead as they flew into Aberlady Bay, to listening to other women tell their stories. Also the habits that I’ve taken away to help me relax. I quite often go and sit under my favourite oak tree these days to practice some of the things I’ve learned from your events.
You are supporting WanderWomen in a special way – What made you decide to contribute to the Karma Women pot, allowing women who do not have the financial means to come to WanderWomen experiences, and make it possible for one woman every month to attend for free?
- I get involved in a lot of things at work around diversity, equity, and inclusion and a recurring topic is privilege. I think it’s important to recognise the unearned privilege I have and do something to help those with less privilege than me.
How do you think the women that come through KarmaWomen benefit?
- I know how much I get out of WanderWomen events; I’ve had struggles with my mental health over the years which has resulted in taking antidepressants and attending counselling. Spending time in nature, away from screens, traffic, and general noise, helps me. But coming along to your events gives me something I’ve not had anywhere else. I’ve found the experiences to be far more effective for me than medication. I know there have been times in my life where I would have benefited from events like this, but not been able to attend due to finances. I hope this allows people to not have to make the choice between paying bills and being kind to themselves.
You have come to WanderWomen experiences regularly on your own. Once you brought a friend along with you – which do you prefer and can you describe how it feels different, coming by yourself and coming with a friend?
- I loved the event I came to with my friend, as did she. I sometimes struggle with meeting new people, so you’d think I’d be better bringing a friend, but I’d say it’s the opposite. I think coming alone makes me interact more with the rest of the group. The events feel like safe spaces for me to speak to people I don’t know. Most of the group won’t know each other anyway so we’re all equal.
What would you tell someone who is on the fence, and hasn’t made the leap yet to join a WanderWomen experience?
- Easy – do it. I was nervous before I came to my first event as I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never met you before, and as I said, I’m not always great at meeting new people so everyone was new and other than forest bathing and river swim, I didn’t know what we would be doing. You are WanderWomen! You made us all feel welcome and the silent walking at the start not only gives you time to relax and reflect, it also removes the potential stress for me of prolonged small talk with strangers.
Thank you, Val, for becoming a WanderWomen, for taking time out for you, and as a result creating balanca in your life, and for contributing to KarmaWomen, WanderWomen’s Pay It Forward Scheme.