I have written this blog post following a day of learning advanced navigation skills with Clare Kelly, owner of two businesses Navigation for Women and Her on a Hill. Our day out on Kinder Scout consolidated the navigation skills that I’ve been learning with Clare over the past couple of years, and got me thinking about how fear can stop me from doing things that can actually really help and nurture me.
As soon as I started going on guided walks a few years back, I was always drawn to speaking to the leaders of the group. I eagerly asked questions about how they got into walking, why they decided to start leading groups, where their favourite hikes were, and what they were planning in the future. I observed their map-reading skills and enjoyed listening to their knowledge with admiration. I used to wonder how they were so confident in themselves to take out up to 50 people on mini adventures away from the city, and able to balance their responsibilities with friendly chat throughout the day. I was also amazed that most of them had full-time jobs and this was almost a weekend hobby to them.
I looked up to these leaders and thought wouldn’t it be great to have these skills and offer such amazing experiences to people! As the months rolled by and I enjoyed more and more of these trips, I eventually decided to have a go at some solo mini adventures to discover new places and see if I could find my way. As I had very little idea about reading maps, I initially went with printing off written instructions of walks. Some went really well, others went quite wrong and I ended up in some frustrating situations. I wanted to start leading my own small groups on short walking trips, but instead of learning how to read a map, I would practice the routes over and over again until I felt confident in taking other people with me.
I started a Meetup group in London and I organised local walks, then stretching further afield out to Kent and the South Downs. Although I enjoyed the recces, it was quite time-consuming to hike the routes multiple times before I felt ok with taking other people along with me.
Why was I making life so difficult for myself?
Well, I had fears around learning how to navigate. In fact, I had fears around even looking at a map. These fears mostly came from childhood experiences of looking and feeling stupid in the classroom, and I was avoiding a repeat of this in an adult learning environment. I didn’t want to be the one who needed things explaining more than once.
Although I don't like admitting this, my fear of looking stupid on a navigation course stopped me from learning the skills that I needed to go on adventures safely and confidently, to offer great experiences to groups, and to start taking bold steps away from a desk job into a new career path in which I could spend more time outside.
And there were times, even after several recces, that I got distracted in conversation with people in my groups and forgot to take a turn! The panic that must have washed over my face you can hopefully imagine - it was a sinking feeling. Luckily I found my way out of those situations but the risks that I took were, looking back, unacceptable because they were easily avoidable.
You might assume that I decided there and then to learn navigation - but I really did feel frozen by my fear. It wasn’t even a consideration of mine to seek out a navigation leader, but then I luckily met Clare from Navigation for Women through a mutual friend.
Clare has changed my experience of learning by bringing navigation skills to life, from the very basics up to an advanced level. I have learnt map and compass skills within her small groups and as 1-1 experiences. It’s all been such a fun way to learn because we practiced the skills as we learnt them, taking turns within small groups to lead the way. With Clare’s patience, compassion and encouragement, she has helped me to move beyond my fears with an approach that has both challenged and nurtured me
By taking part in these experiences I feel increasingly connected to the landscapes where I walk and run because I observe what’s around me and feel more confident to go off the well-trodden paths. I also feel more confident when I’m out hiking and running because I know what to look out for and what to do in a variety of conditions. Now I can open up a map to plan routes and I feel really excited about the prospects, often from our own front door.
It’s been a whole experience that has made a positive impact on so many areas of my life, from finding local hidden gems to meeting Clare - an inspiring leader who can relate to people’s fears and concerns and help them believe that they can learn and benefit from navigation skills.
It’s got me thinking about what other fears I have and what it stops me from doing. I want to unravel those fears. I believe that by calling them out and realising how they stop me from doing things I want to do, then I can start to take the steps to move beyond them, one at a time.
It’s a bit of an experiment! Would you like to join in?
My fear of ____________________ stops me from _________________________
(Repeat as many times as you like)
What’s one step that I can take today that might help me to move beyond my fear?
Try it out and if you’d like to share with me, please do: email@example.com
I have previously written about my experiences of learning navigation skills with Clare in this blog post: How do you know until you try?
You can take a look at Clare’s courses and guided walking holidays by clicking on the following links: Her on a Hill website and Navigation for Women website. Both offer gift vouchers which can be used towards a day walk , navigation course or a walking holiday.