“Adventure will never make me rich. In fact, it’s the only reason I never have any money, but I know that my life is far richer for it.” – Erin Bastian
Erin grew up in Cornwall, and never being far from the sea, undoubtebly moulded her into the water baby she is today. She has a passion for expeditions, and when she found sea kayaking, it was only natural for her to pack her boat and go exploring to some of the worlds wildest places. She’s circumnavigated the Mediterranean Islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Menorca.
Her biggest expedition yet, took her on an 800km journey down the remote west-coast of Patagonia, living self supported out of a kayak for 5 weeks. This tough challenge just fuelled her thirst for exploring, and she has since cycled around Iceland and paddled around the stunning Lofoten Archipelago in Arctic Norway.
Erin, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
Please tell us about the best adventure you’ve had in the last 18 months…
I think my spontaneous trip to Iceland last June was the best. After having 3 weeks of freelance work cancelled, I decided to run away. I had next to no money, but found a flight to Iceland for £120 return with my bike. I packed two panniers and off I went. Cycling is free, that’s how I justified my trip. Over three weeks I would see a massive chunk of Iceland, 1300km of the ring road at least. It was stunning! The fact I explored the whole island entirely under my own steam was a huge boost, and all for under £250.
What an amazing adventure, and for such a low price! So, what is next?
Iceland, believe it or not. Me and a couple of girl mates are taking on the heart of the Island. We want to cycle through the remote hostile wilderness between Reykjavik and Akureyri. I’m not a mountain biker so it could be a bit of a challenge.
A challenge that we know you will have no trouble with! What new memories would you like to make?
I love working with people who have the same desire to go on adventures as I do. My dream is to coach people through their first adventure, build their skills and confidence so that they can go out and do it under their own steam in the future. I love sharing adventure with people, and I love even more when it touches their lives as it has mine.
Well, you’re definitely speaking at the right event! What does it mean to you, to be able to fill your life with adventure?
Adventure will never make me rich. In fact, it’s the only reason I never have any money, but I know that my life is far richer for it! It allows me to see the world, explore some of the most untraveled terrain and meet incredible people. Those experiences are my riches, and they will stay with me forever.
We couldn’t agree more! Tell us, what are you most proud of being able to do today that you could not do a year ago?
I never thought I could run my own business. This time last year I put a lid on the dream of starting a company, because I didn’t think I was capable. This year I’m doing it. I believe that I have something to offer the world, that is unique and valuable. Maybe this time next year I could write about its success?
What would you say to a person who is scared of making mistakes?
Try to realistically think what’s the worst that can happen? Normally it’s a bruised ego and learning a valuable lesson. Mistakes are more often than not just opportunities to learn. Some of my biggest mistakes have made me who I am today and I’d never go back and change them. They showed me I was capable of far more than I ever believed was possible.
Great advice Erin! What would you say to anyone who is settling for what they do, rather than doing what they believe in?
When you’re old, and you look back on life, how would you like to feel? I’m sure you’d use words like fulfilled, content, proud. I know that’s how I’d like to feel. But sometimes it’s hard to make changes. Opportunities don’t just come to you, you must work hard, take chances, put yourself out there. Otherwise you’ll look back and think ‘what if’.
What is ‘enough’ for you in life?
That’s a hard one! I don’t think I’m the kind of person who couldn’t settle or achieve ‘enough’. Maybe when I’m old and look back on my life I will be satisfied, knowing I lived life to the full. The closest to feeling content I get, is when I’m in an incredibly wild and remote place. I know I’ve got there under my own steam and I still have no idea what lays around the next corner. This is when I feel in my element, the true feeling of being alive.
For you what does adventure bring which enriches your soul and makes you happy?
I think adventure brings me freedom. The feeling that I can go anywhere, and do anything I set my mind too. It’s refreshing to live life according to how nature dictates. Waking at first light, eating when you’re hungry, sleeping when you’re tired, and normally under the stars. I adore the feeling of insignificance, where you stand in a landscape so much bigger than yourself. It puts life back into perspective.
It sure does! What do you think makes women feel more confident about planning their own adventure?
I think that knowing others are already out there, doing it, allows us to more readily believe we are capable of doing it too. That’s why I love what WAExpo is doing, showcasing adventures and inspiring others to take their first or next step.
That is certainly our aim! What is the top piece of advice you would pass on to a woman traveling independently?
I find that strangers are often the kindest, helpful, and most memorable parts of my adventures. 99% of the world’s population are good, lovely people. Whenever I have needed help, there has always been someone who goes out of their way to show me kindness, regardless of whether I speak their language or can pay for a service. I even think that being a woman, people want to look out for you that little bit more.
When was the last time fear stopped you from doing something you wanted to do? And how do you deal with fear when you are on adventure?
Iceland was my first solo trip. I remember setting off from the airport, my only plan was to cycle as far as I could before setting up camp for the night. It was raining and windy. By 9pm I was cold and hungry and finally decided I needed to stop for the night.
I ended up cycling for another 15km, purely because I couldn’t find a spot I felt happy camping at. I wanted a quiet, discreet, out of sight spot. Somewhere I could relax enough to fall asleep. But all I could find were awkward pitches, right next to the road. I ended up having a sleepless night of worry.
The next night I stopped in a campsite. I didn’t need the showers or a common room. What I needed was to feel safe. I now realise I needed to ease into my solo adventure and get used to being alone all the time. Sure enough I began to get used to it, and wild camping became the norm.
When would you say the time is to stop calculating risk and reward, and start doing what you feel is right?
I remember having an epiphany when padding around Sardinia, my first big adventure.
My partner and I were looking for a place to camp, Mike spotted a small beach with a cave backing onto it. He insisted we checked it out for staying the night. He loved it! He couldn’t wait to tell the story about how he had slept in a cave. Me, on the other hand, had an uncomfortable feeling about it. I knew the weather was forecast to change overnight and something just didn’t feel right, but decided it would be an epic experience to sleep in the cave.
Sure enough overnight the waves picked up and swallowed the small beach. They began rolling further and further into our cave. We were trapped. By the morning, we were sitting in the very back of the cave. There was no way out through the waves, and if they got any bigger we were screwed. We sat there, terrified for 3 days before the storm died down.
Now I ALWAYS listen to my gut instinct. If it feels right then I know it will be ok. If it feels risky or wrong I know it’s not worth the epic story.
Noted! What are the three biggest lessons adventure has taught you?
- I am stronger than I ever believed.
- There is always a solution or way forward, no matter how sticky the situation feels at the time.
- If we think something is impossible. Break it down into smaller chucks, the chunks nearly always become possible, and the impossible becomes achievable.
With reference to how adventure is commonly portrayed, how do you feel the Gender Gap should be addressed?
I think there are incredible women all over the world, doing incredible things. We need more of those women in the media, to inspire others and showcase what they are achieving. I would also love the media to focus on talent over image. I think the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign is one of the first which embraces real women in sport, and so clearly tells the world that’s ok. Shape, size and colour have no relevance in the athlete you can be. Adventure sport is seen as a man’s world, and historically was a man’s world, it’s up to us to show the world women are performing in this world too.
It sure is! Erin thank you so much for speaking with us! If you loved what Erin had to say and want to hear more, then you do NOT want to miss out on our WAExpo Takes to the Water event on the 22nd April at M Shed Bristol.