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WAExpo are proud members of Bristol Green Capital!

The BGC Partnership is an independent leadership organisation whose aim is to make Bristol “a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all”. Claire Jacob works for this amazing company, and spoke with us about her adventures…

Please tell us about the best adventure you’ve had in the last 18 months…

On 15th April 2016, I set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile wilderness hiking trail that runs from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. Although I was doing a lot of hiking at the time, I had never attempted anything remotely similar, and had no idea how far I’d get. Five months and one week later, I arrived at the northern terminus of the trail – tired, hungry, proud, and with much bigger calf muscles! The hike was without a doubt the most incredible experience of my life, and also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was so much more than a hike really – it became a way of life – and I’m extremely grateful that I was in a position to be able to do it. I loved the physical and mental challenge, watching the spectacular scenery slowly change every day, living outdoors, and being part of the incredible community of hikers that develops on the trail.

Amazing, so what is next?

Having recently moved to Bristol, I’m focusing on getting to know my new home and the surrounding areas. I would love to go on another big adventure at some point in the future, and top of my list is hiking in Patagonia. But for now my aim is to integrate regular mini adventures into my life in Bristol.

Sounds like a good plan. We learn from our mistakes and they have the ability to improve us. What would you say to a person who is scared of making mistakes?

Don’t assume that there is always a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ path to take. I’ve been paralysed in the past when trying to decide the ‘right’ thing for me to do, and the fear of making a mistake has meant I’ve stood still when I knew deep down I wanted a change. Remembering that there are many different paths we can take and that none of them are necessarily right or wrong, and therefore letting go of the fear of making the wrong decision, can be really liberating.

What would you say to anyone who is settling for what they do, rather than doing what they believe in?

Lots of people seem to have ideas of things they’d really like to do, but put them on hold until sometime in the future. My advice would be if you know you want to do something different, try not to wait for the perfect opportunity to come along, as it will probably never happen. There will always be reasons why it isn’t a good time, and making a big change will always feel like a bit of a risk. All we can be sure of is the time we have now, and at some point you just need to be bold and take the plunge.

That is some great advice! Do any of the things which upset you a few years ago matter to you today? If not what has changed?

One of the things I loved about hiking the PCT was that it stripped back life to a few fundamentals – walking, food, water and shelter. After living this way for a few months, it became strikingly clear how much of what makes me anxious in my ‘normal’ life just did not matter at all. While the hike was physically and mentally demanding, my mind was also calmer than it had ever been. This does not mean I’m now impervious to stress and worry, but I do try and take a step back and question any anxiety that comes along, and am often able to let it go of it much more easily than I could in the past.

For you what does adventure bring which enriches your soul and makes you happy?

It has given me confidence and made me realise that I’m stronger than I give myself credit. Putting myself in unfamiliar and daunting situations and seeing how I can not only cope, but also thrive in them, makes me feel more equipped to handle the inevitable challenges that life will throw at me. It also makes me happy to feel like I’m making the most of the present moment, rather than focusing on doing things for my future self.

What do you think makes women feel more confident about planning their own adventure?

Take inspiration and advice from other women who have done similar things. I read several blogs by female thru-hikers before my trip, and it helped to realise that they weren’t all seasoned adventurers or athletes, and many had similar fears and questions to me before they started. There are amazing communities of people out there who are willing to share their knowledge and experience, and I’d recommend anyone who is thinking of going on an adventure to tap into them. At the same time, don’t worry too much about planning every detail or having everything figured out in advance. While it is important to be prepared, part of what’s amazing about adventure is embracing the unknown.

Love it! What is the top piece of advice you would pass on to a woman traveling independently?

Be aware, but not afraid. Women are taught to regard the world as inherently dangerous, which restricts what we feel able to do. The truth is that most places, if you travel responsibly and intelligently, can be perfectly safe for a woman on her own, and doing so can bring enormous pleasures and benefits.

With reference to how adventure is commonly portrayed, how do you feel the Gender Gap should be addressed?

Sharing stories of all the amazing things that women around the world are doing, and not just the professional athletes and adventurers, will hopefully help.  We need to counter the idea that women should not be doing things like travelling alone. Women and girls continue to be led to believe that such activities are inherently unsafe and don’t fit with society’s expectations of them. I certainly felt that I received more questions about whether it was appropriate for me to hike the PCT than I would have done if I was a man. Whereas while there were some risks involved, the vast majority of these had nothing to do with gender.

Thank you so much for speaking with us Claire!