Katy 'K-dub' Willings is event manager for two of our toughest adventures, the Ice Run and the Mongol Derby, she eats live scorpions for breakfast and wipes her arse with stinging nettles. She's something of an expert on hardcore adventuring which makes her the perfect person to tell us the top five charaqcteristics of a Lady Adventurist.
Ha, no not really. It's not about anatomy, it's about attitude. Lady adventurers need to be plucky, resourceful and physically resilient, but the same is true of our fellow chap-venturers. To venture out thinking you need or possibly deserve special treatment "as a woman" is a mistake, for the endowment of adventuring prowess and skills is not distributed along gender lines. It's more a division between chumps and champs.
That doesn't make for much of a blog post though, does it? So in the interests of #Ladyadventurists I shall be teasing out some particularly feminine adventure-traits, and apologising in advance to all the chaps who also exhibit these fine qualities. I'm not the editor, I just work here.
This sounds peculiarly narrow but in fact encompasses a whole raft of adventure-acing traits which can be loosely grouped around "being likeable" and "being human". Adventures are about the kindness of strangers; putting yourself in situations where you must rely on local knowledge, local hospitality and local customs to get where you're going, fed and functioning. I find that good character transcends language, and if you are genuinely interested in the world around you, how other people live, what you have in common, what you can teach each other or share, you tend to get back in kind, and then some. You are a curiosity, and what a lovely thing that is. If you're not genuinely interested in these things then I would recommend you restrict your travel to resorts and places where things are "just like home" so that you needn't concern your self with them and can get everything you need in the normal transactional manner, surrounded by other people just like you. That is not really an adventure though.
2. emotional intelligence
Terrible generalisation this, sorry, but picking your people is mission critical on an almost-daily basis on an adventure and girls tend to be good at this. Maybe it's all those Cosmo "mostly C's" surveys we can't resist. That is a joke.
Some people are incompetent and well-meaning, some people wish you harm; you need to try and identify and avoid both, and failing that, extricate yourself with dignity, good humour, and all your essential shit. You need to know who to trust, and be trustworthy yourself, in short shrift, as you won't have time to build deep and meaningful relationships on the whole. You limp into a butt-fuck nowhere Siberian outpost last thing at night with no benzine, a persistent oil leak and one last frozen fish for sustenance, no retail outlets catch your eye and it seems like everyone's on a curfew except the drunks. What to do? This is where your lady-skills come in. Finding assistance, and figuring out whether this assistance will cost you money, your evening plans or your first-born, and whether that monstrous-looking guy is a kindly foreigner or not-even-normal-for-Norfolk, is a crucial calculation. It's made much simpler by prior experience navigating the bars of Bedminster in a low-cut top, I find. Big data and all...
Yes, we ladies love to plan, and not just what you're getting for dinner. And that cupboard full of your favourite flavoured Nik-Naks didn't happen by accident either. If your adventure involves complicated logistics, multiple border crossings, temperamental vehicles, battery-powered equipment, specialist clothing, long-haul flights, letters of invitation, expensive stuff you'd rather blag than buy, then you are going to have to don your adventure apron and get on with it. Some see a terrible dichotomy between micro-planning and then going off the edge of the map and having an adventure, saying, "oh I am so crazy and adventurous I am not even going to plan! Lists? Meh!". This is total bullshit. Any fool can be uncomfortable. You will never get to leave your flat and actually go on the adventure unless you get your act together and take all of the steps necessary to enable it. All of them. In some semblance of order.
You can be as much of a flake as you like once you have actually left for the airport. Roald Amundsen (a man) once wrote that "Adventure is just bad planning". This is NOT what he meant. In the same fucking breath he said, "I may say that this is the greatest factor: the way in which the expedition is equipped, the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order, luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time, this is called bad luck."
So make your own luck. Plenty of stuff will go wrong if you are tackling something truly ambitious. Don't get felled by being a lazy incompetent arse-hole when there are so many real hazards out there to fell you. Like...bears.
4. vulnerability - a) acknowledgment thereof
Controversial, this one. It's a fine balance between putting off the would-be #Ladyadventurists and being brutally honest. In many of the places you'll be going in search of adventure, you are more than a novelty, because you are female. Wake up; in countries where women are subjugated, ignored, genitally mutilated, all that jazz, the sight of you whistling through on a moped you have bought for yourself and will service yourself should you need to might be threatening, or offensive, not just a curiosity. In some cultures, predatory behaviour towards women by men is ingrained and sadly perpetuated. So, personal security is an issue for lady adventurers in a way that just doesn't apply to men. The best lady adventurers are aware of this, and take steps to manage this risk, without letting it modify their overall character radar (see point 2 above re emotional intelligence). This may consist of delivering a swift kick to the balls where warranted and riding off sharp-ish - on an adventure there is rarely a helpline if you're getting harrassed, you need to take matters into your own hands (knees). The best #Ladyadventurists can recognise the arseholes as arseholes without denigrating an entire country, culture, or gender for that matter.
4, vulnerability - b) exploitation thereof
Handily, where some strangers will see someone to abuse, or rip off, most will see someone who needs a bit of protection. "What's a nice young lady like you doing in a shit-hole like this?" Once the parameters of your adventure have been established - yes, you really are riding this horse across the Andes, yes, you can read the map and you have already heard about the quicksand/wild dogs/bandits/hay shortage/hurricane warnings - you may well experience a shift in how you are perceived, and treated. People will stop trying to stop you, and start trying to help you. The finest #Ladyadventurists can distinguish between being patronised and being offered protection, assistance and real goodwill.
Real adventurers use them, and so do ladies. Surely this is more than a co-incidence. The first use of the adventure tampon is (bleedingly) obvious, and so I have spared you an instructional video. Although it should be noted that bleedings of all kinds can be successfully staunched using the tampon; been shot, gored or stabbed? Get a tampon in there! Been in a meeting with Adventurists Dan too long and had a nosebleed? Bingo! Sterile, highly absorbent, easy to handle, easy to carry...the tampon is the adventurer's secret ally.
Did you know there are several others ingenious uses for the tampon in adventure scenarios? Such as lighting fires, filtering water and making a rudimentary blowdart.