Has it really been 2 years already?
The anniversary of reaching the South Pole seems a good time to pause and reflect on the events of the last 2 years.
In particular the latest 6 months have been full of change and excitement.
Following this I was able to move back to beautiful Derbyshire with my parents and look forward to new challenges post-education.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded a place on the Stellar Leadership Development Programme to Norway for 2 weeks in the summer which saw me canoeing amongst the Southern Fjords with other graduates and working on personal development goals and a community project (introducing Norwegians to the British community staple of a pub quiz). This was an interesting experience and provided a stark contrast to my previous expeditions with lots of leadership/management theory and the chance to meet like-minded people.
Throughout the summer I continued to work for Cotswold Outdoor – following their sponsorship of my record-breaking expedition I was fortunate enough to be offered a job. My mum often remarks that my favourite part of an expedition is seeing my new equipment arriving in the post – I would dispute this, I enjoy all stages of planning and preparing an expedition and even the actual trip itself! Nevertheless outdoor equipment and gadgets remain a hobby.
In a bid to break the monotony of 2 hours car commute each day, I began to cycle the 21 miles to work instead. I am fortunate that one of the routes between Melbourne and Nottingham (my place of work over the summer) lies alongside part of the Cranfleet Canal, Beeston Canal and River Trent, as well as the Attenborough Nature Reserve – a wonderfully peaceful alternative to sitting in traffic jams (at least until small dogs decide to attack your wheels).
After several weeks of this commute and finally getting the hang of cleats, I joined 3 friends on a bike ride from Nice to Barcelona. This ‘summer holiday’ was my first foray into cycle touring and it’s safe to say I’ve caught the bug, even if my knees decided to give up when crossing the Pyrenees – the training regime wasn’t quite up to my South Pole standards.
They say that variety is the spice of life and I feel very fortunate to be able to add canoeing and cycling to my expedition transport options.
Having survived 10 days of cycling and camping with no major incidences, or indeed even a puncture to my tricross, it was perhaps predictable that upon my return to the UK I would be immediately soaked by a combination of torrential rain and rush hour traffic. Unfortunately this was on my way to day 1 of a new career so many thanks must go out to the friendly staff at the conference centre who let me use the spa facilities as I’d turned up “a bit bedraggled” (their words, not mine!).
September therefore saw me trying my hand at a new line of work, encouraging teachers and students to participate in expeditions abroad.
I never cease to be thankful for the opportunities and experiences, as well as the personal development, that have come about as a result of my expeditions and adventures – right through from family activities to Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh Award, trips with friends and my 2 months in Antarctica. Each experience has helped shape me, and I’m sure future escapades will continue to do so. Hopefully, similar opportunities are open to all students and young people, or if not, they have the courage and determination to make their own.
Since I returned to the UK 2 years ago I have been honoured to be invited to St James’ Palace twice to present Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards to scouts and discuss my experiences both with the scouting movement and in Antarctica.
Whoever the audience, I relish the opportunity to relive the expedition with all the (really bad) team jokes, trading at mealtimes of unwanted dehydrated food – normally in exchange for sweet and sour pork in my case and the wonderful, pristine environment through which we skied.
In addition to speaking engagements I was also featured in the ‘Inspirational Women of the North East’ Exhibition in Newcastle, celebrating the achievements of women past and present, in the hope of inspiring the future. The exhibition was a powerful series of interviews and portraits with the added bonus of online teaching material with a ‘draw your own polar explorer’!
Closer to home I have been a guest of NHR – discussing my expedition, training program and Antarctic playlist with the wonder Rajiv in a bid to entertain hospital patients – and even occasionally being called by the BBC for an ‘insiders’ opinion on Polar travel and exploration.
Through this exposure I hope to have inspired others to reach for their goals with confidence and determination – ‘moxie’. One young man who seems to have this in abundance is Lewis Clarke, the British 16yr old who broke my record, and indeed the world record, to become the youngest person to complete the Hercules Inlet route to the South Pole.
I have always said that my record was there to be broken and actively offered advice and encouragement to anyone interested in an attempt. The hard part with age records is that, once beaten, you cannot return the next year to regain the title – unfortunately I shall need to find another excuse to return to the frozen continent!
Lewis is to be congratulated on his success and I look forward to future adventures from him – at only 16 I’m sure there will be many – and I wish him all the best for his GCSE studies, it can be very difficult readjusting to ‘normal’ life after expedition training and planning has consumed you for so long.
As I have often mentioned, I would love to return to Antarctica for another expedition, unfortunately I have many adventures planned and I accept I cannot complete them all at once! As I often say in presentations “at 21 and a record-breaker I refused to accept that I had achieved all that I could in my life” and now, 2 years on, I am looking for my next challenge.
Throughout this whole experience, in truth my whole life, I have been incredibly fortunate to have such fantastic support from my family, friends, teammates and sponsors, as well as the masses of well-wishers who supported my record attempt and charity fundraising.
Thank you all for your support and for coming on this particular journey with me, I hope that you will join me for the next adventure.