To say that Yestival 2017 had a big impact on me is an understatement. I had no intention of coming away with the resolve to undertake a big physical and mental adventure, but that’s what happened after hearing Darren Edwards talk.

Darren described how a day’s lead climbing in a quarry in Wales, aptly named ‘World’s End’, had turned to disaster when he fell, leaving him paralyzed. Faced with such a devastating life change, he bought a kayak, and in the year that followed he qualified for the GB Paracanoe squad – an incredible turnaround in which the world that he had known ended in a split second, paving the way for an entirely new trajectory that he could never have imagined.

My adventure began 18 months ago as an enforced life-change, when my new husband discarded me after just eight months of marriage. The months that ensued were incredibly challenging, and on one very difficult day I booked myself on a kayaking course. On the River Medway, I discovered the power of kayaking. Being on the water was the one place I could forget all my troubles and absorb myself in learning new skills and enjoying the company of my fellow kayakers, and for the next few months I would escape my woes as I paddled up and down the river in a more or less straight line.

My new challenge

I have had to completely re-build my life, and this latest adventure is the final phase. In July 2018 I will be whitewater kayaking through the French Alps. Not a big feat for some, but as a beginner I have a very short timeframe to get some pretty advanced skills under my belt. I’m fearful of the cold, and I struggle with coordination - suffice to say, I’m not a natural kayaker!

The adventure is much longer than the Alps adventure itself - I’m building a team of people to help me, and the trip will evolve according to the people who get involved. The idea is for everyone to benefit from the experience and to make new friends and connections. I’ve just posted my first blog, which gives a more detailed explanation of why and what I’m planning – take a look here.

Why Blackthorn?

The staff at the Blackthorn Trust, a most incredible Kent-based charity where I also happen to work, extended a huge amount of support as my life crumbled around me, and it made sense that this adventure should be used to raise funds for the very valuable work they do to help people improve their lives in times of crisis and ill health. You can donate here – all funds gratefully received!

My learning curve

These are some of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last 18 months:

To ask for help - and I’ve discovered that more often than not people are really happy to oblige.

My capabilities - I have suffered from a real lack of confidence in the past; 18 months ago it was absolutely inconceivable that I would take on something like this!

That it is possible to turn a dream into reality. I always dreamt of having a more outdoorsy life. Listening to the speakers at Yestival made me realise that you don’t have to have some special ‘outdoors’ gene, you can be a normal person who has chosen to say Yes! Once this decision has been made, you then start have to do something about it!

What have I enjoyed most about this new phase of my life?

The beautiful interactions I have had with the people I’ve met along the way. The creativity of putting together this project, learning new skills in the process, and turning heartbreak into probably the best experience of my life!

Get in touch with me at the channels below. Thanks for reading my story!