Has the past year left you yearning to embrace more adventure?
Nearly a third of Brits want to push themselves to take on new challenges once pandemic restrictions ease, according to a survey by Marloe Watch Company. Nearly half (44%) admit they often don’t know where to start though, or doubt they have what it takes.
To help budding challenge-seekers along, Marloe asked 12 inspirational Brits – whose feats include South Pole treks, flying with the Red Arrows and ultra-marathons – to share insights into how they pulled it off.
Among them is Londoner Dwayne Fields, who in 2010 became the first black Brit to trek over 400-miles to the magnetic North Pole. He hopes to inspire the next generation – especially young people from underprivileged backgrounds – to fall in love with the outdoors.
We caught up with Fields to find out more…
What does seeking adventure mean to you?
“Everything. I was born in a really rural part of Jamaica, so the outdoors was a big part of my earliest childhood, and the shock of coming to London age six – everything I knew about the world changed instantly. For me, adventure means going back to my earliest years, back to a time I was happiest. It’s freedom. There is a quote from Henry Thoreau which says: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you’ve imagined’ – and this is what my dreams and imagination had me thinking when I was a kid.”
Marloe’s survey found lots of Brits would like to be more adventurous but don’t know where to start. What advice would you give?
“Often people say, ‘I’d love to tick off my bucket list…’, and it’s a list of relatively difficult things, like climbing Everest. But adventure starts the moment you step outside. We’ve got so many green spaces nearby, so absolutely start local, start small, and work your way up to bigger things. You will learn as you go, and it will be a much better experience when you do get to the larger things.”
Do you think there’s lots to explore close to home?
“Absolutely. One of my favourite places is Epping Forest [Essex]. I’ve been lucky enough to see the UK all the way from Dunnet Head [on the north coast of Scotland], down to Lizard Point [on the southern tip of Cornwall]. I’ve walked the length of it and there’s still so much more to see, and it is beautiful. There are forests and woodlands, mountain, hillsides somewhere near you.”
You were the first black Brit to trek to the North Pole – can you tell us about that?
“First of all, I am really lucky. I’ve had some negative experiences in my life – I’ve never carried a knife or gun, but I have had them wielded at me. I am exceptionally lucky to come out of those situations as well as I have. So, what does being the first black Brit trekking to the North Pole mean to me? To be honest, it was my life.
“At the time, I wasn’t aware I would be the first. I was thinking: ‘I am going to do something which allows people within my community – Hackney, one of the most diverse boroughs in London – to believe that they can set their goals really far afield, on things they might not have otherwise believed they could do.’ Hopefully by me doing it, they’d understand they can do it too.”
Why is inspiring more people to love the outdoors important to you?
“One of my biggest passions is the outdoors – nature, the natural world, the climate, wildlife, and of course, humans. We’re at the cusp of a climate emergency, but we still have time to turn the clock back if we change our behaviours now. We all have to pull together to get this to work, and that’s why it’s so important we get more people outdoors from a range of backgrounds, so they can feel the benefits and learn to love it, and in doing so, they’ll want to protect it.
“Society talks so much about mental health, and the outdoors generally is a great place to let go of stresses, to just free yourself for a little while and get some space.”
What are your next big goals?
“My next goal is to start something epic – the #WeTwo Foundation [which Fields set up with fellow adventurer, Phoebe Smith]. I want to be a part of creating the next generation of ambassadors for the outdoors and climate change activists, and to do that by encouraging people from deprived backgrounds. It’s about getting young people, who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance of doing anything adventurous, creating a platform they can be part of.
“We’re [planning] to take a group of young people to Antarctica at the end of the year. We’re raising the funds, but what we are expecting is for the young people to take part in local initiatives – and talk to their peers about supporting these initiatives in whatever way they can. It could be planting trees, cleaning up a river, rewilding a meadow.
“I’m looking for social workers, friends, teachers, members of youth offending teams, etc, to highlight and point [young people] in my direction. Send me an email, with their guardian’s permission, saying: ‘This young person would be a good fit’. It could be they’re a young carer and have never had the opportunities other kids have, or they’ve never had money for school trips, or never been out of the city, or they could be from a pupil referral unit.” To find out more and contact Fields, see teamwetwo.com.