I hate winter. I’ve always hated winter and the long months between October and March always seem to drag until the light at the end of the tunnel. Every year, I mentally grit my teeth when the clocks go back and resolve to do something to make the winter months more bearable. This year was the year I stumbled across Wander Women.
From November, every Sunday morning I would go for a walk along the Portobello beach, and had noticed a large group of people out swimming…mostly in swimming costumes, and coming out of the water laughing and looking vibrant and alive. I was aware of winter swimming and cold water therapy as a concept from reading The Primal Blueprint, but had no idea where to start or how to get involved. A chance Facebook posting of this local phenomenon, and me joking that I would like to get dipping, was noticed by a friend who was involved with a new venture called Wander Women. She had already had a few winter dips and put me in touch with Anna Neubert-Wood the founder of Wander Women. A brief look at the Facebook page for Wander Women and I was in, and signed up for an early morning micro adventure on my own doorstep. The positive power of social media!
For the last few years I have become more and more interested in natural health and the causes of lifestyle illnesses. It has been painful to watch my parents health deterioration over the years, the endless prescriptions, and seemingly inevitable knee and hip surgeries not just for my parents, but in my wider circle of colleagues and friends. Having a son at the relatively late age of 40, was a bit of a wake up call, and I had a responsibility to stay as fit and healthy for as long as possible for him. Working in a fairly stressful corporate environment could make this fairly challenging, due to the small amount of free time I felt I had. Micro adventures ticked all the boxes for me.
The end of November found me standing in Holyrood Park at dawn, waiting on a small group of women I have never met before, to walk up Arthur’s Seat to catch the sunrise. Something I had never done before, despite living in the city all my life. What followed was a morning of silent meditative walking, a winter sunrise, picnic breakfast, yoga and a walk back to the beach for the part I was most fearful of…the icy dip. I was surprised to find that most of the women in the group were regular local dippers, so that gave me the confidence to get into the water. I don’t think I could have got into the water that day without the support of Anna and the rest of the group, as there is a real primal fear of water that cold. Much has been written about the adrenaline rush and sense of well being from swimming in cold water. One dip and I was hooked. In 13 years of living in Portobello I had never set foot in the sea, and the sense of well being and achievement continued for the rest of the weekend. I felt strong and capable of doing anything. I had finally found “the thing” that would get me through the winter, and it was on my doorstep.
I have now taken part in a Wander Women experiences each month in Edinburgh and East Lothian. They have all been amazing experiences, wandering, meeting new people, and rediscovering places I have been before but in new ways. I’ve swam in the sea with a sunrise that would rival Santorini. I’ve braved the elements and sheltered in a cave while breathing a fire into life, sharing laughs and stories along the way. I have swam in the sea every weekend since that first micro adventure in November. I now recognise people by their swimsuits and the woolly hats they wear in the sea, although I might not remember their names. I now love winter and the opportunity to swim in very cold water. I could possibly have done these things on my own, but finding a supportive community to share this with in Wander Women is part of the experience.