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Adventures of a single parent family [or how we went from mild to wild!]

Question: So how does a single parent family with no budget but lots of curiosity and a bit of wanderlust manage to get some Adventure?

Answer: It can be very tricky but here are some things we have managed to do so far and some of the inspiring people who helped us on our journey to tiny adventures.

This is our back story of how we went from mild to wild.............

So I have three great kids and we live on a single parent income. I love the idea of adventure and always have but for one reason or another it has never felt like it is available to me or that I could achieve it. It has always been out of my grasp. I was only an Adventurer in my mind, not in real life.

And then about 6 years ago something pretty big happened to my family and me, we became a single parent crew!! There were obvious big changes and it was really hard especially financially and sometimes a bit scary but without going into gruesome details it's fair to say that we suddenly had tonnes of freedoms that we never had before-so we started to have small adventures.

My youngest was nearly 5 then and as a family, apart from my work commitments, it was pretty hard to go places or see people before, so a day out with the National Trust was an Adventure in those days.

I had been fortunate enough to be working as an educator/facilitator with charity groups leading activities for families and this was sometimes an indoor thing but slowly it became more and more outdoors and wild. I started to lead big woodland days where we would cook, eat and play with lots of families in the woods all day. These were families who for a multitude of reasons, without support would not have made it out for family time in the woods. I totally got it. I loved it. My kids loved it. Happy days.

I remember around the time my ex Husband left for the final time, I was working with Rogue Theatre in the woods at Tehidy, building their woodland installations for King Arthur. This was probably our first single parent family adventure. It happened while I was in the middle of the project. Rogue were just so fantastic and supportive. Rudy had her 5th birthday there with them. As a family we spent the Summer hanging out in the woods with Rogue and King Arthur! Our first unplanned adventure. We were so pleased that I was asked to go on and do another project with them in the Autumn and so the kids and I had another lovely time hanging out with Rogue on the beach at Par while we worked on a Community project in St. Blazey. Later, we worked at Port Eliot Festival with them also and through these experiences Rogue taught us about fun, adventure, community,creativity and making things happen.

A key development was when I bought a tent. We had a massive ridiculous family tent that was a bit too much for me to use on my own easily. I bought a 3 man tent that was easy to put up and the four of us and even the dog, could fit in it. At first we went to a camp site that was just up the road for a night or two. We walked and explored the area, it was really nice.

In those early days we had small weekend adventures. We went everywhere around Cornwall and would maybe skip over the border to Devon and hangout. I had not long discovered the Kelly Kettle. We had a bit of kit in the car and would do "car camping", where we might go out for the day and then use a cheap gas stove to make noodles or bbq beans while we were out and about. We loved Boscastle and Lamorna and would go to see the minions or go up Castle an Dinas for a small picnic or other tiny car camping adventures. We were in a frenzy of new found freedom, it was great.

With our new tent, one summer holiday we thought we would go on a little tour. This was pretty pivotal. We took two weeks to visit different campsites and some friends and their lovely cousins. We took the dog and a minimal amount of stuff and had a really tiny road trip. From Cornwall, to Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Shropshire and back. We got very good at putting the tent up quickly in bad weather and getting organised quickly. It was great. We loved it. We used each campsite as a base to explore the area we were in, we learned a lot and saw a lot in that short two weeks.

Later we got to know an amazing family. Catherine, Ned, Tino and his kids, Jake, Avena, Kai and Silva. They lived differently, on a small holding, working together, others would visit and input into their community on a short or long term basis. Sunny, my middle daughter had made friends with Ned and was invited to go to the Green Man Festival in Wales with them. In the end we all went together and that was the start of a new friendship and another whole set of adventures with them. Through them we met lots of people who love to play and just squeeze all of the juice out of life. They taught us a lot about being together, enjoying simple things, supporting each other and just getting on with ideas and projects. Lucky for us they still include us in their adventures.

At some point amongst all of this I started Miss Elvy's Curious School of the Wild. Building on my educational and outdoor experience I started a group actually called "Adventurers". In fact, because it was trendy then to have long Victorian-esque titles for things, it was called Miss Elvy's Club for Young Adventurers but not being such a snappy title, it's now known simply as Adventurers. With this group, we went out every week into the woods to play, make, build and cook food on an open fire. It started as a small group with only about 4 or 5 kids plus my own family. We had loads of fun and developed ways to make it work with no kit on site and would take everything we needed into the woods and then take it home again a bit like a mini expedition rather than your typical forest school set up with forest furniture and parachute shelters. Every Saturday then became a tiny Adventure. Now we probably have at least 20 people at Adventurers each week. Oh, and we really love it!

In January last year, I had read about micro adventures somewhere on the net. Alistair Humphreys, an Adventurer, had invented a way of having small adventures anywhere, using the 5-9 idea so you would turn up in a place camp over night in the open air and then leave early the next morning and go about your normal day. It totally caught my imagination, it was just what I needed, as it was cheap and could happen anywhere at any time with no planning. We thought we'd have a go at at least one per month. Our first ever one was in Shell woods in January in Biblical rain! Since then we have done many more and still continue to micro adventure. Sometimes it is with friends, or it may just be Sunny and I. Bit by bit we have got better kit for Christmas and birthday presents and so it has become easier I guess but we still go out on cold ones, wearing nearly all of our clothes!

Adventurers started having camps. We did a tree hammock camp for one night which was just amazing. We have also wild camped on the Camel estuary and visited the local campsite where we first used our new adventure tent 5 or 6 years back. We also found a way to do a group microadventure! I found that camps allowed us more scope for learning, the kids were much more focused and ready to try or learn new things.

For one Christmas I took the kids to London. This felt like a really big deal. It was part of our Christmas present, that's how I made the finances work. London was a major adventure. We got used to the busy-ness and the underground and just went everywhere that we could squeeze in to our 3 night, 5 day trip. For us, used to the rural wild, this was much more wild! But loads of cool things happened. Some lovely friends, Mik and Angelina, got us free tickets to lots of the attractions in Winter Wonderland. This was such a treat that I would never have been able to afford. It also helped me to justify the trip as a Christmas present as it was SUPER christmassy. We also saw a play of a book that my kids had read and then met the Author in the Theatre bar and realised we had been in a workshop that she led in Cornwall. Those serendipitous happenings have got to be one of the best things about a little adventure

All things started to look like mini adventures to me as I realised that if WE couldn't afford actual massive adventures in new countries and cultures abroad, that many of the kids and families that I was working with in Schools also couldn't. In school I started to teach and talk about Adventure differently and help kids to have the aspiration for even small adventures. I even wrote a blog about it. We would plan walks along the Camel trail and camp in the school field for a night. You would then realise that for many of these kids, learning to put up a tent was an adventure and being out over night was a big deal for lots of them.

Determined to adventure somewhere other than the u.k. but with no budget I figured out that if my kids were willing to go without Christmas, that we could spend that money on an adventure outside of England, a bit like when we went to London for a present. I did loads of research looking for safe but cheap places that would work over the Christmas period. That year, we spent Christmas 2016 in Transylvania. Best time of my life so far and it made me make loads of artwork!

After I had booked tickets for Transylvania I was imbued with a sudden confidence about travelling even though we hadn't been yet!! Jay, my eldest was about to be 16. She was not that excited about a big party or anything and so I offered to take her somewhere, wherever we could get super cheap flights. It would just be the two of us so I felt more able to wing it if need be. It turns out that flights to Iceland are super cheap so we went to Reykjavik for 5 days for her 16th birthday. Iceland isn't cheap though, so we were on a pretty steep learning curve as far as travel was concerned. Just because flights are cheap doesn't mean the rest is! We ate lots of camping style, just add water type food to stay on budget. Neither of us had flown before. We managed to also get flights from Newquay to Gatwick and so we kind of did lots of new things in small gentle steps. Iceland was a brilliant place to begin and practice. After that, I went back to my school groups and all of our usual outdoor games and warm ups suddenly had volcanoes and boiling rivers in them. Awesome.

last year we didn't go anywhere! I worked too much, anxious about finances. Over Christmas I was ill and exhausted from too much work and couldn't understand why we hadn't been somewhere. I did some research. Wanted something different but still super cheap. We need to see what a hot place is like, I decided. I booked flights to Malta. In July! It will be so hot I may puff up like a blow fish! I still don't know where we are staying or what we will be able to afford, but we can get there and get back!

When I was first writing this blog, I had just been to a meeting about being part of a team that goes on an educational trip to Uganda in 2019. After much thought and research and chatting to my kids, I confirmed to the team that I would go. Blimey! That's huge! Uganda! I don't think I could have considered it a few years ago. It's only possible now because I think we have built it all up in baby steps. My kids were great about it. I said, guys, I think I've decided I will go to Uganda and one them went "nice one Mum!"

At a point of frustration about our severe lack of adventures I went to look at some Alistair Humphreys blogs as he has such a go and just do it attitude that makes you feel as if you just can. I read about a trip he made around Spain with a violin and that he busked his way to a Spanish Adventure. I thought, well that's pretty tricky for me with kids, how would it apply to me? I usually have to work all Summer to afford my rent and everything else how could we possibly afford to go away for the holidays like other people do?

Not giving in, I had a think about our lives and how we could busk our way to an Adventure and put a post out on social media asking if anyone would swap dinner or tent pitch in exchange for us working with their outdoor groups or Forest Schools. So, this Summer holidays we are planning a 6 week camping tour of forests and forest dwellers around the U.K. We are going to meet up with others who do similar work to us and explore some of the great and beautiful woodlands that are right here where we live. After that post so many lovely, kind people got back to us with offers of wild camping and invitations to their groups and sessions or even a pitch in their gardens. This is so exciting. It's great because such a lot of it is unknown and that's o.k.

I can imagine already that the next trip will be a similar camping tour but in a different country............

Nowadays I'm more confident that Adventure isn't only found in the actual Adventuring and that I CAN be a REAL adventurer even in my mind because I now think that Adventure is an attitude. It is about resilience, creativity, resourcefulness, trusting other people and without being too cheesey pie, feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I so don't have all of the answers but I do know that a bit by bit approach seems to be working for us. I have also learned that you need to want adventure more than other things, more than certainty, more than control, more than material things and stuff, maybe even more than Christmas!

"I believe that adventure is about stretching yourself: mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

If that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Adventure is accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money.

Adventure is only a state of mind." -Alistair Humphreys

If Alistair is right in his concept of Adventure, that's great news for us single parents, as I'm pretty sure we are all, already most of the way there.

I for one am pleased to have survived the adventure journey from mild to wild. And of course this is just the back story, so now our lives are full of loads of the most wonderful, adventurous, wild people and wild moments. Each day now feels warm and lush and green even when it's cold, wet and muddy!

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