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adventure

Caving: The time we almost regretted saying yes!

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Caving: The time we almost regretted saying yes!

Trying new things can be daunting. There’s that little part of you that always says, ‘what if this happens?’ or ‘what if that happens?’. I’m sure everybody has it and at some point it will have stopped every one of us from doing something we probably should have done. Be bold and brave. Give it a go! Be prepared, but do that thing you’ve always wanted to do and you might just discover, like us, that most of the worries we have are nothing like the reality (for the better!).

It was during a trip to Wales that we visited the National Showcaves centre. We had talked about caving, but neither of us really imagined that we’d be crawling around in tunnels that were dark, wet and only just wider than our shoulders anytime soon.

“Would you ever try caving properly? I wonder how you’d get into something like that”

“Perhaps you’d have to join a club? I’m not sure if they’d be very VI (visually impaired) friendly and it’s probably dark and cold’’

A few weeks later, we met Fraser, an outdoor instructor who seems to love being wet, cold and jumping off things into pools of water. We also found out that he’s a keen caver, working towards one of his qualifications, and he invited us to go caving with him ‘some time’. We all know that when somebody says ‘some time’ it usually never materialises, but not so with Fraser. A few weeks later we met him in the Inglesport Café (a place where cavers seem to hang out) in North Yorkshire. We sat down with a cup of tea, looked over a map and discussed plans. He seemed to have considered the fact that John can’t see, so we confidently left the café to collect our equipment.

We drove to the cave, got kitted up and felt super toasty in our bright red suits (a feeling that was to be short lived!) We reached the cave entrance; a fast flowing stream that disappeared into darkness. We put our head torches on, scrambled around holding on to the sides while we waded through the stream. We laid on a flat rock and entered a small tunnel. Lauren went first, John was in the middle and Fraser was at the back.

The route into the cave was tricky. Lauren guided John over steep sections where he sometimes used his hands too to feel the steps and rocks he had to negotiate.

The tunnel wasn’t much wider than our shoulders and moving was a struggle. We’d gone perhaps ten metres down the tunnel and John said “I’m not sure I can do this. I think I may be slightly claustrophobic.” The tunnel seemed to widen, so we continued a little further, which is when Fraser realised that we’d taken a wrong turn. We went back through the twisty tunnel, back through the puddles and just 20mins into our caving career, we were wet, cold, had wellies full of water and were unsure as to whether or not we should call it a day.

We didn’t. John decided that as long as we didn’t have to ‘belly crawl’ too much, he could give it another try. Fortunately, things were much better down the right path and we were almost enjoying ourselves. It was a challenge for us. There were deep pools in places, key hand holds and lots to hit your head on, all of which John had a hard time seeing (his 3% vision becomes zero in the dark). Considering John was the first blind person Fraser had taken caving, he did a superb job of guiding.

We reached a place known as ‘Dolly tubs’ (a series of deep pools of water with just a small ledge of rock between) which needed crossing before reaching the abseil point. Fraser worked some magic with the ropes and told us what to do. The descent was pretty interesting. It was incredibly wet for starters! John had to take out his hearing aids but luckily, he still seemed to be able to hear thanks to the cave acoustics. It was a bit daunting dangling on a rope between walls of rock and a waterfall, but we made it down to ‘Allum Pot’ which was an opening in the cave. It was a great view, and one that we’d worked hard for, but getting there had taken a while and it was all too soon time to turn back.


Lauren ready to abseil down the waterfall of doom (not it's actual name!)

Allum pot. We made it to an opening in the cave where you could see a waterfall dropping from a stream above ground.

‘Back’ involved ascending up the rope we’d previously abseiled on. It was tough and the water flowing on to our heads felt icy cold. The extra weight of the water in our wellies wasn’t at all welcome while we were trying to haul ourselves back up the rope with our climbing kit. We did it, but our hands were numb, we were soaked through to our undies and we were freezing cold. We upped the pace to warm back up and retraced our steps towards the cave exit. Daylight! Feeling the warmth of the outside air was incredibly welcome.  

Lauren guiding John out of the rocky cave entrance

“How was that?” asked Fraser

“HORRIBLE!”

 It was almost everything we were worried about. But would we do it again?

Most probably*

 *in a drier and slightly less squeezy cave

The route in was muddy. Lauren and John both wearing red caving suits, wellies and helmets.

While caving for us fell firmly in the ‘Type 2 fun’ category, it was a great experience all the same and we look back on it surprisingly fondly. We had worries and doubts before giving it a go but what was true for this little adventure and as it is with nearly all others: the stuff we were worrying about beforehand wasn’t at all the stuff that gave us problems! We didn’t get trapped underground and have to cut off one of our limbs, but we never expected that John would be claustrophobic!

The lesson in all of this – don’t worry too much and definitely don’t let those worries stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone or saying yes. Things won’t always go to plan, but it’s part of the adventure and often the bit we talk (or laugh) about and remember the most. Problems will occur, but they are rarely insurmountable. We deal with problems all of the time and there’s some great comfort to be had in being able to think ‘I know problems are going to happen, I don’t yet quite know what they are but I’m prepared and I will probably be able to handle them’.

Check out the T-Shirt Twins’ video for more details on their caving adventure - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKDDrjgTrso

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Advocating for Adventure in the Everyday

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Advocating for Adventure in the Everyday

I need to make a confession: until yesterday I do not think I really understood the word ‘adventure’. It’s quite embarrassing really. I call myself an Adventure Advocate. I produce a podcast called Seize Your Adventure. I ask all of my guests what ‘adventure’ means to them. And yet, when people ask me what adventure is, and more importantly how to have one, I could not quite get the explanation right.


You see, the word ‘adventure’ is like the word ‘love’. It is a poor signifier of a feeling that is difficult to explain. I have heard it described by multiple people in similar but differing ways. “Adventure is a mindset… it makes you feel all the emotions… it feeds your soul…it’s uncomfortable but worth it”. None of these description are wrong. If you know adventure, you know exactly what they mean. But how do you describe adventure to those who do not have it? How do you advocate for something so intangible?

The first time I remember feeling adventure, I was seven years old. My family went on the first of many holidays to Snowdonia. We drove across the country from our home in the South. My mum and dad would share the long drive and my older sister and me would sit in the back with our rescue dog between us. The day of travelling was filled with cassette tapes and car games, and the landscapes outside the car windows became increasingly unknown. It was a holiday in Britain - my own country - and yet we crossed over a border that bought a new language into my life for the first time.  I remember us giggling at the Welsh word ARAF, teasing the dog with the bark-like word for SLOW.  We walked into slate mines and rode trains along the coast. The day we walked up Snowdon, we stepped into the cloud and I never reached the top because I was too scared of the wind and rain. It was the epitome of a family adventure holiday. 

Red dragon mascot sits on wet, mossy rocks in a foggy mountain landscape in Snowdonia.

Red dragon mascot sits on wet, mossy rocks in a foggy mountain landscape in Snowdonia.

Since then, I have felt adventure many times: when I’ve stood on glaciers; when I’ve navigated Spanish streets; when I’ve pushed my body to keep walking in the hope of a bed. Yesterday, I felt adventure again. It might not have looked like much from the outside. It was a simple walk through the parks and commons near my house. There was no terrifying weather. I was not walking across a foreign country. I came home for lunch. So what made it adventurous?

It was the fact that I put myself into a situation that invited the unexpected. I did not plan my path (I rarely do) but instead took tangents where I felt like it (the confines of the common kept me safe!). I stopped to watch a robin trilling his song on top of a post. I was surprised by the spider that had taken a seat on my water bottle. I giggled at the charcoal burner that had the name ‘Norman’ embossed on the side and wondered if all charcoal burners have names. And best of all, I found myself far enough away from the bank holiday crowds that I surprised a doe on my path and had a frozen moment of mutual acknowledgement before she bounded off into the bushes. 

A black SayYesMore water bottle slants across half the photo, the other half is a blurry white and green spring landscape

A black SayYesMore water bottle slants across half the photo, the other half is a blurry white and green spring landscape

As I enjoyed this feeling of adventure just miles from my own home, I thought about how to capture the feeling and explain to others how they can find it themselves. And the easiest suggestion I have to is take yourself away from human-made comfort and out into uncontrollable nature. When you do that, you put yourself in situations where the unexpected will occur. You open yourself up to adventure.

And like love, you’ll know it when you find it.   

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