Let Curiosity Be Your Guide Harrogate Panel discussion

Written by: Isobella Ash

Earlier this month we invited four female outdoor enthusiasts to share their most memorable outdoor experiences, what barriers they had to overcome to pursue their passions and most importantly encourage other women to ‘Get Out There’ and ‘Let Curiosity Be Your Guide’. These four ladies were: Dannielle Norman, Jessica Grzybowski, Katie Stewart, and our brand ambassador Marina Gibson.

Dannielle founded women’s platform “Get Out Girl UK” on Instagram more than a year ago. She’s focused on trying to get women out of their comfort zones through well being but also personal development. She’s encouraging women to try new practical things and sports that often wouldn’t be considered.

Jessica was very modest about her achievements. She said, “I don’t do anything special other than I do a lot of climbing and get out into the mountains.” Jessica builds a community for like-minded people via her Instagram page. She invites people to message her and she is regularly asked; “Can I come climbing?” or “How do I get into climbing?” These have led to many meetups with like-minded women, event planning a big group to go to France in September.

Katie gave up her job a couple of years ago and set off to cycle around the world for 8 months. She’s now back in London but is trying her hardest to plan her next adventure and hopefully inspire other women to go out and do something similar.

Marina is a Brand Ambassador, for Orvis UK, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fishing for Schools. On top of this she is also an Orvis endorsed fishing guide and has been working for Orvis for more than 3 years. Marina fishes all year round with her Romanian rescue, Sedge, who she brought to the event and almost stole the show with his adorable antics.

The girls discussed many topics about their love for the outdoors including where it all began. Dannielle explained how she started connecting to nature: “I found that I could enjoy walks as downtime. I think I noticed that my mental health and well-being improved when I went on a big walk or a hike or any sort of trying activity.”

Jessica admitted that she was a rebellious teenager, explaining how her mum used the great outdoors as a way for their family to blow off steam. She said “My poor mum had to get me into the outdoors and throughout my childhood we didn’t really have a lot of money, so my mum took us on a lot of holidays to Scotland or the Lake District. I remember on my 21st birthday she insisted on taking me to the Lake District. She took me up Haystacks in Buttermere and it just ignited something. Being up there it was so uplifting it’s inspired me now to do mountaineering training and I’m planning on taking groups of people out with depression and anxiety. There’s a group of girls I’ve met through Instagram and we’re all doing it together. As a nurse I see a lot of depression and anxiety, but people don’t really know how good for you the outdoors is, it just gives you such a buzz.”

Katie agreed with the other panelists, however, as a result of spending a lot of time in Africa her experience of the outdoors was slightly different to that of the other panelists. She revealed “I’ve always loved being outdoors and due to spending a lot of time in Africa where the lifestyle is a lot more outdoorsy, I realised I was a lot happier there then I had been working in an office. Since I’ve come home I’ve made quite an effort to be outdoors. Sport is a great reason to be outdoors, eventually I stared running and then I realised cycling can take you a little bit further and you can see a little bit more.”

Marina revealed that her childhood revolved around outdoorsy parents, so they would spend their summer holidays in Scotland fishing outside with the dogs doing various activities. She explained how her love of fishing came from her mother: “My mother is an avid fisherwoman, I was lucky to have her to give me inspiration to fish because when you’re younger you want to be like your parents.” However soon the holidays stopped so Marina moved to sport at school instead of fishing with the family, however she did go once a year with her mother. She told us how her passion came back after a thoughtful gift from her parents. She said: “When I was living in London I was going out partying but then on Sundays I would be feeling depressed. Then on my 21st birthday my parents got me some rods. From then on every weekend I was fishing all the time and I found it as an escape from my Monday to Friday.”

There are many people who would like to take part in similar activities but feel they are held back; whether it is the fear of being judged by professionals in the sport, or fear of the dangers associated with the sport itself, or even a lack of confidence. Jessica told an empowering story about how she overcame her fears when climbing up the summit of Cat Bells in the Lake District with her mother: “I had a panic attack. I was clinging to the side of the rock saying I can’t move, I can’t walk, I can’t get down and I was completely frozen. I was crying, and I was begging them to get me a helicopter, I was having a full-on fear driven panic attack. I’ve gone from that to scaling ridiculous mountain faces with ropes and that was only two years ago, I can now run up Cat Bells happily.”

Katie spoke of the worries that her friends and family had when she told them of her plans to cycle the world. She said: “My parents were giving me worst case scenarios. Then one strange man would come and talk to me and all I could think about is, remember when mum said… I had a lot of moments, especially at the beginning of my bike ride of real fear, camping out, people coming past in the night. Through the repetitiveness of it you realise that we build up all this fear in our heads that it almost ruins what you’re trying to do. By the end I was so relaxed about stuff and discovered that the world is full of amazing people.”

Each of the ladies explained why they chose to display their adventures through social media.  Dannielle explained, “I want to make emotions a lot less scary for people to talk about. I found that so much of the inspiration through my twenties that was on social media were these incredible goddesses bronzed on a beach in Bali. I realised there was this distance of where I was and where I wanted to be. There is no conversation about how we progress in life and how we grow. We just see success and I wanted to have these conversations about fear and around progress and how do we get over things that we feel are holding us back.”

Both Jessica and Dannielle explained that they wanted to tackle the stories social media often don’t discuss; the HOW. Jessica wanted to portray a more realistic Instagram about climbing. She said: “I often looked at people posing on big exposed ridges and thought, how do they do that? So, I’ll post a realistic view of myself climbing over a boulder, really undignified and grunting, that’s real. I have managed to get up on cliff faces but I’ve talked about how I’ve got into it and how easy it actually is.”

Katie highlighted that by presenting herself as an average joe completing something this impressive would work to inspire others to have a go. She said: “Before I left to go cycling I felt it was a very male dominated sport and that you had to have some sort of affiliation, like being ex-military, but I overcame that through social media and reading books and thought maybe I could be useful to others and do the same thing. I could have a page of a very normal person doing something way out of their comfort zone.”

Marina explained that for her it was accidental inspiration. She simply began posting pictures of her catches during weekend fishing trips. She admitted that she knew nothing about the industry, and only knew Orvis vaguely, but didn’t know anyone the industry, it just evolved. She explained: “I just wanted to share my experiences and I started getting messages from parents saying, ‘You’re inspiring my kids to go fishing’ and that really spurred me on. Social media is a great tool if used wisely to inspire and break down those barriers. Fishing should not be seen as something that is inaccessible to the general public.”

The stigma and discomfort of fishing or doing any sport alone was an important barrier that a lot of women faced. Our panelists answered questions from the audience about the barriers they faced when trying to participate in any outdoor activity/sport they wished to pursue, and it seemed that this was the largest deterrent to women taking on new challenges outdoors. However, our panelists explained that more and more ladies are coming into Orvis UK stores every day due to our Learn to Fly Fish Courses and our #5050onthewater campaign. In fact, Dannielle emailed our marketing team when she took an interest in fishing and simply said that she didn’t have anyone to go fishing with so what was Orvis going to do to help her.

Marina explained the value of women taking part in male dominated sports like fishing, she said: “I think it is getting easier. It’s good for the sport if more girls get out there as another girl will see you and then she’ll go, it’s just a knock-on effect.”

We were pleased that this event went so well and that those who attended seemed to really enjoy it. Aimeé Kitching even took to Instagram to express how she felt about the event:

“I attended the let curiosity be your guide evening at Orvis Harrogate, mainly to get out and do something. Little did I know just how inspirational it would be and how much I needed to go. Like most of us I’ve always had my dreams and goals but most of the time think they’re too far away to achieve or I’m too scared to go after them. However, listening to so many inspirational journeys from other woman in male dominated sports, has made me realise that anything can be achieved, no dream or goal is too big and where I am now is only temporary. Fear is only something we tell ourselves which holds us back from doing the things we want, and once we break that barrier anything is possible. So, now’s the time to break down those barriers and strive for where I want to be. After all, lions don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all the strong inspirational women Marina Gibson, Jessica Grzybowski, Katie Stewart and Dannielle Norman at the event who have made me realise I’m a strong woman that can do anything she wants.”

So, there you have it. These passionate women have overcome every barrier thrown at them. Will you give it a go?

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