100 adventures to have before you grow up
Published on: 14 May 2020
Author and Girlguiding ambassador Anna McNuff loves adventure - from toasting marshmallows in the woods with her friends to trekking thousands of miles around the world (sometimes in bare feet). Her new book, 100 Adventures to Have Before You Grow Up, is all about why thrilling new experiences outdoors are so important for young girls - and how to set off on an adventure of your own!
Canvas tents and terrifying long drops
I remember my first camping experience at age six as if it were yesterday. The weight of the gigantic canvas tent, the cumbersome wooden poles needed to put it up in that damp field in Surrey. How it reeked of wet dog as it hung just centimetres from my face. I remember how, if I needed the toilet in the night, that I’d have to wake one of my tent-mates up and convince them to make the perilous journey by torch light to the ramshackle wooden long drop toilet with me. But still, there was such a thrill to it all – I was sleeping outside, for a whole week (without parents!) – climbing trees, getting muddy, making fires and toasting marshmallows with my friends. Happy days!
Being the UK ambassador for Girlguiding
That camping trip was with Girlguiding – an organisation which has 500,000 members across the UK. I’d been away from the guiding movement for a good 15 years, but in 2017 I learned that they were overhauling their badge programme, and new badges included things like entrepreneurship, mindfulness, campaigning, bushcraft, computer coding… ‘Crikey. They’re creating the bold, brave feminists of the future!’ I thought.
So, I became their UK ambassador – doing my bit to encourage young girls to find the confidence to explore their potential in the outdoors and above all, to embrace being their brilliant selves.
Having cycled, swum and run (sometimes in fancy dress, sometimes in bare feet) over 20,000 miles around the world myself, I’ve learned that adventure and the great outdoors are more important for our youngsters than ever before – here’s a few reasons why...
Freedom and creativity
I’ll let you into a little secret – my favourite thing about going on adventures are no longer the adventures themselves. Pushing my body to its limit, seeing wonderful landscapes, meeting new people and eating ALL the food is a magical thing, but the best part happens when I’m back home. When I work out how to share the stories that I’ve amassed, and how they can bring value to other people’s lives. That gives the greatest sense of satisfaction, and I get to unlock my creative side in the process.
I now write books and give talks about adventure for a living. It’s a long way from the plan I had when I was six to be an astronaut (or a truck driver), but that’s the wonderful thing about adventures – they offer the chance to record your experiences in a medium that brings you joy (photos, writing, videos, podcasts…) and to present it back to the rest of the world in a way that brings joy to others too.
Many of the jobs that our kids will have in the future likely haven’t been invented yet. Allowing them the space and time to see new things, have new experiences and test themselves in unfamiliar landscapes (even if it's a local forest) will help our youngsters decide what they enjoy about those experiences as a whole. Best of all, they’ll get to create their own stories and work out how they’d best like to share them with the world – be that through words, pictures or video.
Anna and her brothers showing off their football trophies as children
School on the move
Kids have such a natural sense of awe and wonder about the world, and it’s something that we grown-ups often forget to indulge. Mostly it gets buried under a hectic to do list and a need to be everywhere at once. We lose time for play because it seems frivolous. But nurturing that sense of curiosity in kids and allowing them to constantly ask questions – makes them unafraid to question the world around them.
Adventures are the key to taking a curiosity about history, geography, culture and even maths, far beyond the classroom and into the real world. And if us adults get dragged along for the ride, then surely that’s an added bonus.
There are many wonderful things about adventures and that includes that they come with a hefty dose of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and chaos. Life doesn’t always go to plan, and the same is true of journeys in the great outdoors. Pitching my tent in an electrical storm, waking up to 1,000 ants crawling all over me (!), spraining my ankle deep in the New Zealand bush...
I’ve lost track of the times that things have veered wildly off plan in my own adventures, and for kids it’s important for them to experience this on a smaller scale.
For example - the weather changing hiking plans, forgetting to pack your snacks, falling over, cutting knees, making mistakes – it’s all part of the process. A process which allows our youngsters to see that the ability to welcome change and uncertainty and to find a way to keep on keepin’ on matters far more than everything going to plan.
Anna loved gymnastics as a child, and doing daredevil stunts with her brothers
A confidence booster
Hands up if you often feel like you don’t know what you’re doing? (my hand is fully up). The reality is, most of us don’t.
Adventures offer an opportunity for kids to test things out without fear of judgement. The outdoors is a playground for problem solving but one where the rewards are immediate. Like finding a great route up a tree, building a den with sticks you’ve gathered, balancing on a log, crossing in a river, hiking with friends in the dark (even though it seems scary at first)…. with each problem solved in the outdoors – a tiny seed of confidence is planted. A seed which says ‘I didn’t know how to do that at first… but I worked it out.’
When a child is encouraged to believe that they have the skills to succeed and are able to trust themselves, they find an inner strength that they never knew they had. In a world where there’s a pressure to have all the answers, the emphasis in an outdoors environment is on the trying rather than the knowing what to do right away. Trying is the success.
Anna McNuff is the author of 100 Adventures to Have Before You Grow Up, published by Walker Books, which provides children with fun, empowering adventure ideas that prove that no matter where you live there are exciting possibilities for adventure around every corner.
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