Women in the Wilderness – Cheltenham Literature Festival REVIEW

There’s a big world out there and Cheltenham Literature Festival gave a few of us a tiny glimpse into it. This years festival brought us an event which discussed breaking down the barriers facing women in the outdoors and offered practical tips for building an adventurous life, whatever your circumstances.

The stars of the hour were Phoebe Smith, editor of Wanderlust Magazine, and author of two adventure books including Wilderness Weekends, Extreme Sleeps and Wild Nights: Camping Britain’s Extremes and Anna McDuff, who has cycled in all 50 states and run the length of New Zealand and wrote The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000km Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand.

phoebe smith
Phoebe Smith

They were interviewed by Melissa van der Klugt who has been the Deli and Africa correspondent so is certainly no alien to an adventure. She seemed to have a genuine interest in the topic of conversation but I found her questions lacking depth; they were a little 2D.

It was an evening of inspiration that left everyone in the audience itching to get on their hiking boots and run for the hills.

They divulged their best tips and tricks for roughing it in the wild, like always carrying chocolate and a decent pillow as well as some myths around exploring such as the dangers of being a woman alone. They spoke about the beauty of the things they’ve done, causing appreciation as well as jealousy from every person in the room.

anna mcnuff
Anna McNuff

Their message of “I’ve never thought of myself as a woman who goes on adventures. I’m a person who goes on adventures that happens to be a woman” was inspiring. In a world where the media of exploring and adventure programmes is mostly fore-fronted by men, they want to pave the way for female explorers to be adventure role models, and I’m all for it. 

The whole talk made me want to head to Heathrow and get on an airplane and fly anywhere, Germany, Ethiopia, San Diego… anywhere! Or hop on a train with rucksack for the day. Just to get out and see more of the world, even if it’s somewhere close, as long as it’s new and exciting.

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