My fellow GetOutside Champions have some amazing stories to tell, I’m glad you are enjoying my little interview series. It really is a great bunch of people and I hope this series is demonstrating in some small way that we are all pretty normal and simply love to have outdoors adventures when we can, making them a priority in our lives because we know how much fun they can be and how good they are for us.
Next up for the GetOutside Interviews we have Sanders… I think you’re going to like her!
The GetOutside Interviews | Steph Sanderson
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? What do you do (the day job)? What’s for dinner tonight?
Hey! I’m Sanders. I’m a microadventurer and general purveyor of Slightly Bonkers Ideas. I’m based in the middle of the Midlands, which means I don’t have any national parks or mountains on my doorstep, but I can get to almost all of them without too much trouble!
My day job is not obviously compatible with adventure. I’m a Buyer for a large automotive company; my weeks involve 40+ hours in the office with 7:30am starts and an hour’s commute each way. The job is interesting but the routine is BORING – so I fill my evenings, weekends and annual leave with things that are often bonkers and always outside.
I completed my Queen’s Scout Award when I was 21 and, to this day, I’m passionate about Scouting, Guiding, and DofE. Any organisation that helps young people get outside and achieve the best things they can is a winner in my book – and I’m especially keen on groups that give that forum to girls and young women.
Where and how did you spend time outdoors today?
I used to do a really flexible job for The Scout Association, where we worked all over the country working with young people and volunteers. When I moved into an office-based environment, I was astounded by the number of people who ate lunch at their desks and spent the whole day sitting down in front of a screen. I am outside at every opportunity. Need someone to walk your visitor back to reception? I’ll go! Want a coffee? No problem, I’ll walk to the next building to get it! I get half an hour for lunch and I ALWAYS get up and take a walk outside, even if it’s raining. When I get bored of doing loops of the site, I use the OS Maps app to find footpaths off the main roads in the surrounding area. Take a look at your workplace on a map – I’m prepared to bet that you’ll be surprised by how many footpaths there are around that you’ve never spotted.
By the time I get home, I’ve spent two hours in the car and most of the day at a desk – I’ve had ENOUGH. I take walks around the park near my house and, since being inspired by other OS Champs to start cycling, I use my bike to get to my evening commitments. Cycling does take longer than driving, so I use a bullet journal to organise my week and make sure I don’t try to pack too much into each evening. That way, I know that my ‘evening activity’ is to cycle to Scouts, for example, or to cycle into town to pick up some supplies.
Tell us about your favourite outdoor activities.
I love wild camping. I have the skill of being able to drop off to sleep anywhere, so I can wedge myself between two rocks and still probably get a decent night. I live for lazy evenings watching the sunset, and waking up to the sound of fish jumping in mountain lakes.
That said, try new things a lot and challenge myself to say YES to things: I enjoy kayaking, climbing, cycling, mud running events, and I’m trying trail running for the first time this weekend. Note that I said “I enjoy”, not “I am good at”! I’m average at best at a lot of these things, but I don’t think that’s any reason not to have a blast giving it a go.
With all the pressures of normal life, how do you make sure you find the time for outdoors adventure?
Preparation is key! My schedule makes it hard to be too spontaneous. If, however, I know the weather’s going to be good one weekend, I’ll pack my bag on Thursday evening and have it ready to go for the weekend. Sometimes I’ll plan my own routes, or sometimes I’ll grab a guide book (I really rate ‘Wilderness Weekends’ by fellow OS Champ Phoebe Smith). More often than not, though, I’ll shoehorn a wild camp into another event: I was on a weekend hill walking training course with Leicestershire Scouts this year and, instead of booking a hostel or campsite for the Saturday night, I headed back into the hills for a bivvy night by a lake. It was great fun and turned the weekend from a training walk into a microadventure.
As you are a GetOutside Champion it goes without saying that you want to encourage others to spend time in the great outdoors. Why do you feel this is important?
Everything we do is engineered to make our lives more sedentary. Every day I work on cars which are packed full of features to make our lives as low-effort as possible. But we need challenge, and we need effort: it keeps our bodies strong, and it also keeps our minds healthy. We need physical work. We need to be heated by the sun and battered by the wind. Our muscles need to ache. We need to be out of our comfort zone once in a while. It’s not about discomfort, it’s about living your healthiest life, mentally and physically. Nobody has ever regretted spending too much time in the hills and not enough time in the office.
It’s really easy to fall into a routine, to be consumed by tiredness from regular work, and to let time tick by without filling it with things that make you genuinely happy. If I can inspire a handful of people to take a walk around where they live instead of watching another TV show, or to take a walk at lunchtime instead of staring at emails over a sad sandwich, then I can rest easy. In my bivvy bag. On a rock. On a hill. At sunset. Ahhhhhh…
Thanks Sanders for taking part in the GetOutside Interviews. I completely agree – routine is a killer, and we need to make time outside much more of the norm than it has become. I love that you didn’t book a hotel or travel home, preferring to head up onto a hill and sleep under the stars instead, nice one!
And for more information about the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign, you need to be here.
If you are feeling inspired by my friends, please drop us a line to let us know – sharing the love is always good.