Zoe Langley-Wathen introduces her aims for HeadRightOut, and the fears she regularly faces. As an experienced solo long-distance walker, she wasn’t always the brave soul people seem to think she is. Her mission is to encourage more midlife women to head out of their comfort zone, within the outdoors. It’s hoped that Zoe’s honest approach and storytelling style will encourage you to take more Outdoor Medicine as you listen and look forward to her conversations with many resilient women.
Hello, and welcome to the HeadRightOut podcast. My name is Zoe Langley-Wathen. And I am so, so flippin delighted to be here with you for my very first episode, I can’t begin to tell you what this is feeling like for me now I’m wrapped up with nerves. I’m wrapped up with excitement. And I am just absolutely, just chomping at the bit to spill the beans and let you know who we are going to be interviewing and what’s going to be happening over the course of the next few episodes. So first off, I’m going to start with a request. And that’s to ask you this. If, by the end of the show, you are even remotely interested in what I’ve shared with you today, please, please would you be kind enough to hit the Follow button in your podcast app? It would be great for me to know that I’ve got a group of people other than my family and friends, of course, who wants to share this excitement with me, this excitement of heading right out of my comfort zone on this podcast journey. I you know, I’ve spent the last 10 years doing things where I’m heading right out. But this is a biggie for me. So please hit the Follow button button in your podcast app. Okay, so it’s the 24th of August 2021, as I record this, and as I launch this, we’re just clambering out of the summer, and into that beautiful season of harvest, and the autumn. Oh my gosh, I love the autumn. Autumn for me is a season that’s just ripe for potential new adventures. You know, the weather’s cooler, the outdoor space isn’t so full with holiday makers, the children are back at school, and the spider’s webs, they are just decorated with heavy droplets, hopefully not frost at this stage. And the rich colors of the fall, have begun to paint the tops of the trees… and I just find it’s one of my favourite times of the year.
The 29th of August is the second anniversary of me launching the HeadRightOut website. Now that was a blog space and place a guest to share my challenges and adventures. I never dreamt that I’d be sat here two years on muddling my way through an audio swamp. That’s all I can call it. I might still be learning how all of this tech stuff works. But you know, that’s fine. It’s just like playing a complex game of cards, I’ll just simply learn the rules as I go.
Now what did you think of the theme music? I hope you liked it. It was one of the first pieces that I stumbled across almost a year ago now, when I was looking for potential clips to use for the pod. Now I saved this one knowing it only is EA29 something or other, I forget what the code was now. And it took me ages to re-find it a few weeks back. I went through trying to find it because I wanted to be sure that I could legally use it, and imagine my total astonishment when I discovered I’d chosen a piece of music by Caffeine Creek Band, (thank you Caffeine Creek Band), called… you’ll never going to believe this… ‘Stay Strong’. Yep! ‘Stay Strong’ for a podcast that centres around resilience, what a coincidence. I just love synchronicity like that. Seriously. It’s a true story. So our theme tune is Stay Strong by Caffeine Creek Band.
Okay, so in today’s show, here’s the plan. I’m going to give you more of my story and my aims for the podcast. And I guess perhaps I might even let on a few of my fears with you, as this is what it’s all about. I’ll also happily share why I felt moved to set up HeadRightOut. I’m going to be revealing how I see the podcast being delivered to you. Though I realise this will no doubt be a moveable feast as feedback and reviews are left, and as I develop and discover new opportunities for the show. You know, it’s got to grow and flow. Oh, that rhymes! For the benefit of the listeners who’ve never heard of little ol’ me, I’m going to be giving you some of my personal background too. And particularly in my own history of heading out of my comfort zone. And believe me, I’m not the brave soul that many people seem to think I am. One of my biggest issues to hold me back is imposter syndrome. And I’m sure that topic is going to come back time and time and time again. It’s going to pop up, not just with me, but with some of the guests that I’ll be interviewing as well, I’m sure of it.
So HeadRightOut, what is it? What do I aim to achieve? How often is it going to happen, when, what format? Right HeadRightOut was born in 2019, when I took the leap of faith out of my permanent contract teaching role, though, I had nothing to go to, signing up as a supply teacher did at least give me some hope of financial backup. Deep down, I knew there was something more out there for me, something that would allow me to use my teaching skills without the pressure of planning, preparation, marking and exam analysis within that school environment. And now I find the calling to develop my creative and adventurous path to inspire other women to HeadRightOut and do something that scares them, is stronger than ever. And I talk to as many people as I can, you know, when I’m out and about I meet people, when I’m shopping at home, I live on a public footpath, on a towpath, and you know, I meet people all the time, and I just want to share this message. Now, as I mentioned earlier, HeadRightOut started life as a blog along with the usual Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and I’d set it up with a view to inspiring others, to challenge themselves to head off on an adventure or to step out of their comfort zone. And I’m so enthusiastic about this, that I’ve got plans to publish various books on my personal experiences of adventure and well being, in addition to growing the podcast, and I hope that we’re going to have some really interesting and fascinating women that are really going to inspire you, as time goes on. I’ve already got a list of women that I want to interview. And I’ve also got a lovely group of people that I’ve already interviewed. So yes, it’s very, very exciting about doing this.
Now the calling to develop my creative and adventurous path to inspire other women to HeadRightOut and do something that scares them is stronger than ever. As mentioned earlier, HeadRightOut started life as a blog, along with the usual Facebook, Insta, and Twitter accounts. And I’d set it up with a view to inspiring others to challenge themselves to head off on an adventure, or step out of their comfort zone, do something different. And I’m so enthusiastic about this that I’ve got plans to publish various books on my own personal experiences of adventure and well being in addition to growing the podcast, I hope you’re going to stick around and dip in and into those as well and hopefully get something positive back.
Now my first foray into writing for publication was during 2020 when I wrote a chapter for the Biggest Book of Yes, my story captured the tale of my first solo long-distance adventure along the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path… that’s always a tongue twister! The book was sold to raise funds for the charity Teddington trust, supporting those that have a rare and life… not life-limiting sorry, a rare and limiting skin condition of exoderma pigmentosum, or XP, as it’s more commonly known. It was such a good experience for me. And while I’ve always loved to write, it gave me the push I needed to aim for the big one. My own book. So I’ve got Dave Cornthwaite of the Yes Tribe, and John Doolan, and all the rest of the team around the Biggest Book of Yes, to thank for that. So there’s Esther and Claire, and what an amazing team, it was putting together that book.
November is the month of NaNoWriMo. And so over November, January and February of 2021. I did it I penned over 88,000 words of my first draft. I’ve never written that amount of words in my life. It’s currently resting, but I can’t wait to get back to it and actually start editing. Just you know, to go back and do it some justice, get it out there, proper job. The book is an adventure memoir, and it shares an honest account of my fears, feelings, achievements, and all those wonderful people that I met along the route of the South West Coast Path, many of whom were influential in my darkest and my bravest moments. Meeting people and being inspired by their stories, learning from them their expertise and from their mistakes, as well as, gosh, many many of my own hiccups. I guess I realised that this isn’t something to be kept private any more, and so many other women need to hear how capable they really are. You need to hear how capable YOU really are, of doing something big, something seemingly impossible. You might have thought you could never possibly manage a long-distance walk, something that took you off for six or eight weeks. But it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. And if you’re anything like me, you will you know, over-analyse it, overthink it and just find yourself coming up with all sorts of obstacles and problems and reasons why you can’t do it. But you ARE capable of doing something like this. Midlife women need to see and hear others like them, telling stories of doing amazing things. Sowing that seed that perhaps they too, you, too, could try something similar.
Now as it stands, I see the HeadRightOut podcast being delivered as a series, in which to share conversations with resilient women. New episodes will be out every Wednesday at 6am. UK time. And the focus will be mainly with women in their mid-life and upwards doing brave stuff in the outdoors and how they believe it’s benefited their resilience, their well being, how it’s impacted, on their life going forward. And I also have planned to have one solo episode, so-lep, sorry. I also plan to have one solep. Doh. I also plan to have one solo episode, approximately every four to six weeks to update listeners of where I am in my own journey. Hmmm. I probably should be editing this out the solo, solopes, solopisode. Maybe I should just call it ‘Solopisode’. I like that. Well, I’m always making up new words, but I quite like it. So perhaps we’ll keep that word in. So we’ll just nickname it the ‘solopisode’.
Now, every so often, I’m going to be getting out and about and trying new activities, things that previously I might have felt fearful of having a go at. And in these cases, I’m going to be sharing all my vulnerabilities, my anxieties and my achievements, recording where possible in different environments in the moment. Although sometimes, it might be that I have to do the activity and record directly after, just before, middle or after – I don’t know. Well, we’ll just go with the flow, see how it goes and just take each activity as it comes. Now, I hope you’ll understand that these episodes won’t have the same sound quality as you would expect from an indoor recording. But it should prove to have a great in the moment quality to them instead. I’m already incredibly nervous about doing these. But in a type two kind of way. I’m also massively looking forward to them. And here’s the thing though, I’m still working on a catchy name to give these episodes, these activity episodes, these outdoor recordings. So if you can think of anything I could call them I would love to hear from you. I don’t know about you, but I get quite excited by a clever play on words. Perhaps not solopisode, but anyway, if you could think of something you can tweet me at HeadRightOut, private message me on any of the socials – I’m @HeadRightOut there too. Or just email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
And because the HeadRightOut podcast is all about sharing those stories of achieving something brave and way beyond your comfort zone limits, I thought it would be a great idea for listeners to send in their own HeadRightOut moments. Now I’m going to pick at least one each week to read out so you could get a mention on the show. And as before, if you’ve got something you want to share with us, you can private message me on any of those socials or email me on email@example.com
So who am I? What do I know – what on earth do I know about resilience and comfort zones? Although I’ve been a secondary school teacher since 2005, I’ve been adventuring long-distance paths, in addition to that since 2011. And I found I was discovering the life changing benefits of pushing my own comfort zone boundaries and facing my fears. When I set off on the South West Coast Path at the age of forty, ready to walk this 630-mile national trail solo, I don’t mind admitting that I was… I was terrified. There’s no other word for it. I was absolutely, completely blank with fear, and ‘what the heck am I doing’ type of feelings. But determined to accomplish this footpath, I still felt doubtful of my ability to achieve a successful outcome. And it was that fear that had put me off trying the path for a full fifteen years before that. I’d waited fifteen years to go ahead and walk this path, because I didn’t think I had the ability to do it. I doubted my physical ability, and I’d also doubted my mental resilience, or maybe I just didn’t think I, I had mental resilience, or maybe I didn’t understand what it was, I don’t know. But I just didn’t think I could face those aspects of the walk that scared me the most.
Walking solo, wild camping solo, making river crossings, you know, the sort where you’re wading across. These were all the things that that I feared. By announcing it to the school that I worked in, and then publishing my intentions on my very basic level of social media that I had at that time. (I think I actually only used Facebook and Twitter at this point). But I made it a thing. And by making it a thing, it was no longer a dream that was just out of reach. It was something I had to work towards and I had to complete, no matter how much it scared me or how hard I was going to find it. By hook or by crook I was going to do this thing. You have to make it a thing. The challenge was supposed to be a one off challenge to mark my 40th birthday and then I’d just go back to my normal routine and tuck the adventure into my imaginary Journal of Achievements. How wrong I was to think that’s what would happen. Little did I know that I would come home a different Zoe. A different Zoe to the Zoe who left seven weeks earlier. I was different physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was fitter. I was smaller. And yes, I actually dropped two dress sizes. And I now carried a mental toughness that I’d never known before. I missed the path. I hankered after the simplicity of the day-to-day survival and after a new adventure, especially as people began to ask me what’s next? What’s your next challenge going to be Zo? I was definitely after a new adventure. I definitely needed something else to be working towards. I’d proved to myself that I could walk on my own and feel confident. So I kind of tucked that one away. That was good. I had proved myself, eventually, that I could wild camp solo. And I proved to myself that I could wade across a river, and I was still here to tell the tale. No catastrophic disasters had occurred. I hadn’t been washed out to sea, which is what I thought was going to happen. It was a massive, massive lesson for my brain. And my resilience strengthened tenfold that year.
The following year, I found myself walking the Wales Coast Path with two friends I’d met on the South West Coast Path. We headed up to Cardiff Bay on May the 5th – that was the day of the official Wales Coast Path opening, and we ran the last mile with Arry Cane, (she was then Arry Beresford-Webb), as she arrived, having spent the last forty days running the full perimeter of the country. And she handed the baton on to Dave Quarrell, who continued on to walk around the country. Two months later, I set off with my friends from Chepstow, and on completion of walking the Wales Coast Path, I realised I’d just become the first woman to walk it. And it felt like such an honour. It felt like an honour to be able to run that last mile with Arry and see her coming in having become the first woman to run around Wales. Probably the first woman to run around the country. I don’t know. But it was an honour to know that I had this little tag that said I was the first woman to walk it. And it gave me more confidence, it spurred me on to do more.
Year on year, more challenges were being tucked into my logbook and I was determined that I should keep that independence of walking solo alive, because it’s very easy to become dependent on having a companion, having somebody to reassure you with questions that you might need to find solutions to, or directions that you might need to find, just decisions you need to make. So with that in mind, wanting to keep that independence, I set off to walk the Offa’s Dyke national trail on my own over the summer of 2013 and then that completed my own perimeter of Wales.
In 2014, I was planning to do a perimeter of my then home county, Dorset. I had a huge knock to my confidence however, when my long-term relationship ended abruptly at Christmas 2013. And with much to sort out over the coming months, I was unable to undertake this challenge, but instead managed a few days of solo backpacking along the East Mendip Way. And I’m so pleased I did that. Because it just felt like it was the medicine I needed. It kept my feet wanting to walk solo. And don’t get me wrong, I still love walking with other people as well, but I just think keeping that independence is important. It was a positive step towards maintaining my confidence, despite those personal difficulties I’ve been experiencing. Although during that first walk along the South West Coast Path, I had already discovered the power of being on my own out in nature. I know, I absolutely know that I truly felt the impact of outdoor medicine over those few days and I can’t recommend it enough. You know, if you’re going through any issues, any problems, any things that you need to solve being outside, I’m not saying for days and days on end, necessarily. But just being outside is such a tonic, such a medicine. You’ll hear me going on about outdoor medicine or outside medicine such a lot. So yes, we will come back to that. Not necessarily in this episode, but later on.
So I was no longer somebody who simply loved a challenge or wanted to see if I could do a long walk every year. I was now someone for whom adventure had become wholly entrenched in my life. And I longed for the next walk, and the next big adventure to come round. Because it was a part of my life. And as bizarre as it might seem to you, it’s actually become a necessary part of my identity. Other people expected it of me – not that I do things because other people expect them. But as much as I needed it, I wanted to do it. But other people also were asking, “what’s next?”
So two other little known facts about me, (one of them I’ve shared earlier), is that I suffer endless bouts of imposter syndrome. Thankfully, I realised I’m not alone with this and I’m working really hard to get on top of it. It involves a lot of self-talk, believe me and self-coaching, and it’s often reared it’s ugly head over my shoulder with that voice of doubt, whispering incessantly into my ear telling me I’m not good enough, and that there are others, you know, who are going to be far more qualified than me. Who the hell do I think I am? Why would I think I could possibly make X,Y,Z work? It is a constant battle. I’m sure you can imagine how much I fought with myself over launching this podcast even.
It’s been around four years, I reckon since the first seed was planted by Sarah Williams of the amazing Tough Girl Podcast. If you haven’t been to listen to that, make sure you do. It was her podcast, in fact, that set me on the road to devouring the spoken word through the medium of podcasts. I remember her telling me personally and her listeners, that I’m a wonderful storyteller, and my heart lit up as I knew how much I love to share stories. I pride myself usually in being able to deliver them well, especially the stories I’m well-practiced at. But that mean little voice gradually crept back over my shoulder and into my ear, borrowing deeper and deeper into my psyche. “She doesn’t mean you tell great stories. That’s just another way of telling you that you talk too much. You have too much to say Wath, get over yourself. Learn to say less.” Imposter syndrome once again, all my insecurities came flooding back in an instant. And I found myself burying the idea. Until I heard Sarah mentioned me again a couple of years later, and then at a face to face gathering, she reiterated how much she believed in me to be able to share stories that would empower other women. I’m actually feeling quite emotional talking about this. Because I can feel this ball of emotion and power and need to share these stories just starting to burn in my chest and in my belly.
Opening myself up like this and letting you know my vulnerabilities is a scary thing. But also putting myself out there as an expert on this subject, I guess, is also a scary thing. I’m not an expert. I’m just somebody who has experienced a lot of fear-facing and a lot, I mean a huge amount of positive impact and positive response to stepping out of my comfort zone. I knew I could do it. I just had to fight my demons and be brave enough to contact some amazing women who’ve done much bigger and better things than I’ve ever dreamt about, let alone had go at. Little me who gets scared at trying so many things in case I look stupid, why would they want to talk to me? And there once again, my downward spiral returned, it was like a spring, going down one day bouncing up again, another down, up, down up. There’s never usually any signs of depression that cloud me with these limiting beliefs. It is purely the message that I give myself, or perhaps that others have given me in the past that I’ve listened to for too long and not learnt to work around. I’ve just found myself unable to shake them off.
In addition, I’ve recently discovered, contrary to my family and friends’ beliefs about me and even my own beliefs about me, that I am in fact, an introvert. Now don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love speaking, and I love some social situations as well. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m shy either. Although sometimes I can be, especially when that imposter syndrome is in full swing. It’s more about how I draw my energy. For some people, they feel recharged and are buzzing from the contact with a group of people. But for me, on the other hand, I’ve realised how drained I feel when I’m around people, particularly now I’m a supply teacher, and regularly visiting schools with so many different students and staff. I don’t see it as a negative by any means. It’s just an observation about me that I’ve finally begun to understand and manage. To ensure I can socialise, but still giving myself the time I need to revitalise my brain and mental capacity. And that’s really where the Outdoor Medicine comes in too – knowing that giving myself an hour outdoors after I’ve had some bigger social interactions with people, where I’m feeling drained, being outdoors for an hour to go for a walk can absolutely be just what the doctor ordered. I wonder how many of you actually deal with these two traits, imposter syndrome and being an introvert?
HeadRightOut. Why am I so passionate about setting up this podcast? Well, there’s some things I discovered about me after these years of walking long distances, and that I want midlife women to know that they ARE capable, and it’s never too late to have a go. And I say midlife women loosely because midlife women to me is forty to forty-five plus and that’s all the way up to eighties or nineties. I’m not cancelling out anybody there. However, I was really interested to talk to a friend of mine yesterday, who is a veteran hammer thrower, a Masters champion hammer thrower. She won two golds yesterday, up in Derby and now she is seventy-four. I asked her what the age range of people that were at this competition was and she said the eldest was ninety-seven, and the youngest was in their thirties. I’m thinking how can somebody in their thirties be classed as a Masters? So yeah, I don’t quite understand that. I don’t get it. But anyway, midlife is a very cloudy, foggy area. So please don’t think I’m cancelling out anybody because, you know, if you’re in your twenties, my daughter, my stepdaughter, they’re in their twenties. Actually, they need to know too, what you’ve got ahead of you what things you have to look forward to not something where you reach a certain age and your life just gets cut short because you know, you’re too old to try anything. It’s never too late to have a go. You ARE capable.
So it’s wanting the midlife women of the future. My daughter, my granddaughter, my niece yours. I want you to know that there are no limits set by age or gender for that matter. I want you to be inspired by the older women of your present. The older women of your past, so that you can transition into midlife. Not with the resentment of reaching a milestone age but with excitement about reaching the next chapter, and all the opportunities that that brings.
This has all come from stuff in my past. So following many long journeys weekly back and forth to support my elderly parents, in 2017, I finally discovered the power of podcasts. No longer able to head off for weeks or months at a time, due to my care commitments, I appreciated that distraction of listening to other women’s personal stories, living their adventures vicariously through my in-car speakers. This was a definite lift to my mental health. Instead of driving home in tears and despair, as I watched my parents struggle with their failing health, I found myself looking forward to the two and a quarter hours of driving each way, keen to hear about a range of experiences and conversations. And since then, I’ve become an avid consumer of podcasts, and have been delighted to be interviewed myself for numerous shows.
Unable to head off on my usual long distance trails anymore, I was craving a new adventure. My head needed it as much as my body needed the physical movement. It was during this time that the penny dropped about why I was missing my long-distance walks. Although I love walking and the meditation that naturally breathes its way into my day, I realised I was missing the challenge aspect too. When I’m facing a new challenge, I’m planning, I’m preparing, I’m wholly focused on an end goal, and that target keeps my mind and drive to achieve the goal, super-sharp.
Without the focus of a challenge, I was floating and beginning to feel myself sinking in my mood. I knew I needed to act. So rather than unhelpfully trawling the national trails or long-distance walkers handbook for walks that I knew I could no longer commit the time to do, I built my own challenge. It was called 100 Mappy Days, I decided I’d walk one hundred different walks, all using a map or map app. They could be anything over a mile long, and I’d aim to walk all one hundred in the space of a year, equivalent to approximately two walks per week.
Well, all the best plans… my Dad had a fall in the April and went into hospital. In the meantime, Mum had three weeks restpite in a residential care home while the family tried to clear some of the house in readiness for both Mum and Dad to return with some more specialised care for Dad. Mum was having her little holiday eleven miles east of her village. Dad was in hospital eleven miles west of the village. It was a really difficult time. Even more so when we needed to collect Mum to visit Dad in between locating and filling a storage container with years of hoarding. I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally.
All I can say is thank goodness for 100 Mappy Days. Without that to give me a little nudge towards continuing the challenge, I’d have probably lost the plot. Making time for a minimum of forty minutes walking around the village, down through the fields along the old Cheddar Valley railway line and down to the River Yeo gave me the outdoor medicine I needed, to keep my mental health afloat. There we go. I did say I was probably going to mention outdoor medicine again. I just didn’t think it was going to be quite so soon. But I’d come to accept now that I wasn’t going to manage to complete the challenge within the year timeframe, I’d given myself for 100 Mappy Days. And that was okay. I was making up the rules. So actually, it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to beat myself up about it.
As it was I walked the fiftieth Mappy Day on New Year’s Eve of 2018, which we dedicated to our lovely dad, who passed away just three weeks before that. 2019 was then about achieving the next fifty Mappy Days, and it became such a great habit. Even my husband, Mike, would ask if we were going to be walking a Mappy Day today. And “where was our next Mappy Day going to take us?”
After Dad died, my subconscious brain started to niggle at me with messages that there was more for me out there, and that the teaching role I was in, more than just the hours of planning and preparation marking analysis, there was something more that I could offer. And I was sure that I could use my skills that I developed over the years of teaching to benefit women. I knew I wanted to write and spea. I started speaking in assemblies at school and really felt a buzz from doing that, and I was always given good feedback from it. But how could I make this happen? How could I leave a secure job with nothing to go to and a mortgage to pay? Well, the pull became so strong that by February of 2019, I handed in my notice, with my last working day being in July of the same year. I’d worked in the same school for 13 years and I remember shedding a few tears as I handed my letter of resignation to the head teacher. I felt such an oaf, honestly. But he understood.
Once I’d done that the relief was immense. I knew that whatever happened now, I would just make it work – I had to. I had a plan… sort of. I’d leave school set up a new website and blog, write the first book of many that I’ve got tucked into this brain of mine, and work part-time as a supply teacher down in Dorset. Mike and I also decided that on the day I should have returned to school that we’d head off on a hike of the Wainwright’s route of the northern Coast to Coast, from Whitehaven to Robin Hood’s Bay. At only 192 miles it was doable in a two week window, which was all I could really spare, before needing to be back to support mum for her weekly care day.
How could I have known that by April, I’d be on crutches, having had a little accident, on the ski slope accompanying a school trip to the French Alps. That was a HeadRightOut Moment as well, because I’ve never been skiing. It was all completely new and I was on day four of ski school. It was a weird time. But the first half of my very last term in the school was spent at home, resting a torn ACL, MCL and a partially dislocated kneecap.
Instead, I focused on sorting all that stuff I’d collected over the years. And planning. I was doing lots of planning in my head. Mike would bring me down a box from the attic and I’d sort it and I got rid of masses of clothes and I had the biggest spring clean I’d ever embarked upon. And I think I started listening or watching Marie Kondo as well and sorting out my drawers, making them look tidy. It was really cathartic, hugely cathartic. And I also use the headspace to consider where to take my life once leaving my teaching post.
This is actually where the full shape of HeadRightOut began to develop, if I’m honest. I now had a focus again too, despite still being on crutches. I was determined to still be able to walk Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. Once I’d had the all clear from the hospital to start physiotherapy, I exercised my knee to ensure it was strong enough to get up into those Lakeland mountains and do some much needed long-distance walking again. Did I make it? Yes, I did! It felt pretty good. Actually, most of the way I only had one or two little twinges. But I was so proud. I won’t say I wasn’t fearful of injuring it again, because I was and I was careful. I did everything the physio told me, and I worked so hard on those regular exercises to regain the strength and movement I needed. It was four and a half months from injury to leaving for the walk, and I did it. So I hope this gives you some hope if you’ve been injured, and working through a recovery program… and I should add, I was 48 years old when this all happened. So once again, it’s never too late.
Back to that plan, then of part time working, websiting, writing, and walking. In addition to this, Mike and I made the decision to move up to South Wales to live on a narrowboat. She’s a forty-foot stern cruiser called Alys, who had been with Mike for around twelve years. It was a good plan and an exciting plan. A bit scary but exciting. I needed to register with the teaching agency in South Wales, and I’d only be an hour’s drive away now from Mum, instead of the two and a quarter hours drive that it had been from Dorset. That was only one way – two and a quarter hours. It all made perfect sense.
The house in Dorset could be rented out and we’d finally need to sort through our accumulation of stuff and let some of it go. Well, let let most of it go. We were moving from a three-bed house with a garage, to a six-feet ten wide by forty-feet long, narrowboat. Well, after multiple changes to our dates, our final plan was to move to Alys on the 28th of March 2020… we all know what happened in the UK on the 23rd of March!
Mike and I had spent a few weeks emptying our house in readiness for our move on the 28th. We had no fridge-freezer, no washing machine, no bed, no telly (not that we watch TV anyway). We had a few basic things. My yoga mat, an inflatable mattress, a fold up table, two chairs. We did have a sofa that was being given away on the day before leaving, but we couldn’t move. So essentially, we found ourselves glamping in a near empty house for four months. It was a strange experience to begin with. It could have sent either one of us over the edge, I guess. However, we just treated it like another adventure.
Mike cracked on with working on all those little jobs around the house that needed to be done. I’d been due to set off on a walk along the Southern Upland Way in Scotland. This couldn’t happen either. So instead I pulled together a small band of Instagram and Facebook walkers and runners, to climb the equivalent ascent of the trail in their back gardens. We completed it over a period of two weeks walking or running the final day in fancy dress. It felt like a really positive way to begin the lockdown instead of struggling with the emptiness of the house. I mean, it could have been such a different experience. But I think sometimes it’s just the way you frame it, the way you want to look at it.
By June, I’d set up a new Facebook group, the HeadRightOut Hub, a group for women who need a safe space to talk about testing their resilience. Come mid-July, we were finally ready to move up to the boat. And it all felt right. It felt exciting. Although it was emotional to leave my house of twelve years, I was happy in my new surroundings on the towpath.
Trees, water, hills, mountains, exceptionally yummy greenery and scenery – there’s another rhyme! It served me well throughout more lockdowns and it continues to fill my soul, thirteen months on. And, you know, the more I was interviewed for other podcasts about my experiences during this time, the more I knew in my heart that I needed to begin this podcasting journey for myself. It still scared me. And I could easily have delayed further but the time had come, the time had come and I knew I had no more excuses I could make, I had to get this show on the road, as they say, or on the canal.
Anyway, over the years, so many past students have got in touch with me to thank me for inspiring them. Receiving feedback like this is such a joy. It’s such a simple thank you, such a simple message of gratitude. To know that I’ve lifted a student to a point where I’ve been able to facilitate or inspire them to take a new direction or believe in themselves is profound for me. Sometimes the message from them hasn’t been about the teaching. There have been numerous occasions where the ex-student said they were inspired by one of my assemblies about facing fears or my courage to go off and walk a coast path on my own. So much that they took off and did it themselves! Each time I hear this, it reminds me that one small message can make a huge impact for another human being for their lifelong wellbeing.
Women, empowering other women is a thing. It happens. I know this firsthand because I’ve felt it. Listening to and watching women adventuring, being brave. Watching them trying new things or hearing about how they’ve pushed their bodies. It’s like a subliminal message that’s being delivered to us over and over until finally, we realise. We understand. We believe that we too can take that chance. We can have a go. We can experience the life-changing benefits of adventure. Gosh, this feels like it’s really come from inside me here. I mean, I’ve written a few notes to share with you and I just felt like that flowed in a way that I can’t explain, because I feel so passionate about this right here, as a fifty-year old female.
Yes, I did turn fifty in May. I know that I am in the perimenopause phase in my life. Changes even if unwanted are happening to my body that I can’t stop. I’ve got to accept that. What I do not have to accept however, are the chemical changes in my body that control my hormone levels and what it does to my brain. I cannot accept that my way of thinking is going to change because my hormone levels are changing. I understand that my estrogen levels may lower and cortisol levels are likely to drop, causing me to lose confidence. I’m not an expert at this and I haven’t read as much or researched as much as perhaps I could, or should have done yet, but you know that’s going to happen. But I do understand that at this time of my life, I need to make a concerted effort to stay strong, fit and healthy to protect my bones.
I’m determined to maintain my confidence by exploring the many outdoor and fitness opportunities that there are there for me, by preparing myself with knowledge and the support of those around me if needed. I hope that I’m going to be able to harness a healthy, calm transition through the menopause. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blinkered to what many people go through, and I do acknowledge that it can be a traumatic ride for some people. But I hope my experience, whatever comes my way is going to be manageable with the physical and emotional tools that I have on board. And as I said, I am going to spend some more time reading around this topic and I’ll come back to you in a later episode perhaps, with any nuggets, any pearls of wisdom that I’ve found. We might even be able to bring an expert onto the podcast to join me in an enriching conversation about female wellbeing, physical activity and health regarding the menopause, that would be a good one.
So this is a good place to call it a day for this first, what did I call it ‘Solopisode’. Thank you for listening in today. I hope you’ll be hitting that ‘follow’ button so you don’t miss any future episodes. I’ll be back with the next episode, where we’ll be talking to Julia Goodfellow-Smith.
She is a walker, and adventurer and speaker and we’ve got some amazing nuggets from Julia. I do like those little nuggets of wisdom that are passed on from woman to woman. Don’t forget too, that if you think of a catchy name to give to my outdoor episodes, I’d love to hear from you. I’m also looking for some HeadRightOut Moments to read out. So for either of those, private message me on any of the socials FB: @headrightout, TW: @headrightout, IG: @headrightout or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come and join us for the next chat in the second episode. I do hope you can join us. And if you head over to my website, there’s also a freebie booklet that I put together called packing for a multi-day hike. So if any of you are planning an adventure across a few days or weeks, then this might be of use to you. There’s a sample kit list at the end, so you can see everything that I generally carry with me. That’s at headrightout.com.
Okey doke. That’s it for now. Start thinking about how you can HeadRightOut of your comfort zone. I’m Zoe Langley-Wathen. Thanks for joining me today. HeadRightOut Hugs to you all and I’ll see you all next time.