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Journey into the Outdoors #3: Em Pope

By :Lauren Cattell 0 comments
Journey into the Outdoors #3: Em Pope

We are thrilled that our third blog in our Journey into the Outdoors series is with Em Pope. Em is a researcher and practitioner guided by her own affinity with nature and inspired by the connections and positive impacts the outdoor experiences create for people, places and nature. She loves slow adventures, with plenty of coffee stops along the way! 


Em’s professional life is within a research space, particularly what people’s time outside means to their relationship with themselves and with the places they go. She has a PhD in transformational adventure, and currently works in environmental social science. She is also involved in the work of Trash Free Trails. She currently lives on Ynys y Mon (Anglesey), but is also a Kickback local, having grown up on the edge of the Peak District, near Leek.


How did you first connect with Kickback Coffee?

The first time I met the Kickback team was at an A-Team weekend for Trash Free Trails (TFT) where they bring all their staff and core volunteers together. It was a really cool weekend - I was there helping TFT with their nature connection projects. This meant working with the team, thinking about how nature connection sits within the TFT ecosystem and how they can help facilitate that. Lauren from Kickback was there as a community partner, so it was this magic combination of coffee and connection for us all! That was the one of the first in-person involvements I had with TFT too, seeing and being part of the awesome community they’ve built.


Talking about your work with nature connection, could you tell us more about what it is?

I think for me, a lot of it is realising that nature connection is not prescriptive and recognising the individuality of nature connection. There are so many ways to go about it. It’s about just giving people a space to understand what their time with nature means to them, on what resonates with them, and really trying try to encourage awareness of that connection in subtle ways. In my work I get to both facilitate that and understand it through research – for me, evidencing how important nature connection is feels like an important step to making sure everyone does more of it!

A lot of people are understanding it in terms of ‘slow’ adventures, that it’s okay to be outside the whole day, and not clock a certain number of miles, where it’s more about the length of time outside. And it doesn't matter how many coffee stops you have! It is just about being out and taking your time and soaking it all up.


So how about you - what is your relationship with the outdoors? How did you first discover the outdoors for yourself?

This is a massive question, I’m constantly trying to unpack it and I think that's part of the magic of it as well. It is ultimately a feeling, you can delve into it and explore it.

In terms of my person journey, growing up I lived rurally. I think just being surrounded by nature probably is a big part of it but that was something I didn’t realise until I got to university. As soon as I started to spend more time outdoors, I learnt a lot about myself. I started to feel more strongly about my identity, having always suffered a lot with being self conscious and worrying about fitting in, and all that stuff. I think the outdoors, for me, was just that place to go where none of that mattered. And that belonging, and that sense of comfort really helped me on a personal level.

I did a lot more solo walks, where I’d go out and feel reunited with myself. When I was in those spaces, I had time to process things, figure out what mattered and get a bit of perspective. That led me then on a journey to developing skills around that. I remember doing a map reading course being really quite transformative! I started to understand the landscape more, and it just opened up so many opportunities for adventure, and I like to hope these lessons and learnings can help me help other people go on that journey themselves.


Was there any particular walk or day you remember being a big part of that journey for you?

I did the Peak District boundary walk during my PhD and was the first time I committed to doing something long distance. Even though it wasn't continuous, it was a commitment to spending my weekends walking, sometimes big 20-mile days. It really accelerated that love for hiking and just being outside for the day with no other noise or distraction and having the structure of the boundary walk really allowed me to relax into each day. I could be present, notice what’s around me more, rather than worrying about the route and having to look at a map. Having a start and end point, anything can come up in the middle which adds to the adventure.


How does your time outdoors change around the seasons?

Yeah, I've really noticed that this year. I think because I’m now living near Snowdonia, every weekend offers a new adventure and I've really noticed the season change more with it all being so new.

Summer normally is my time for camping, which is one of my absolute favourite things. That first unzip of the tent door in the morning, you just can't beat it. But this year, I've really loved autumn for that more, I’ve been getting out with sunrise but fortunately its not actually too early! But there’s so few people around and the quietness is just really special.


Kickback Coffee exists to fuel adventure. Everyone's definition on adventure is different and can change, which I think that's the beauty of that word. What is your definition of adventure?

I think for me, it is that sense of exploration. It doesn't even have to be somewhere new, although that that does bring layers of that excitement of discovering a new place.

I think perhaps adventure and calm don't traditionally go together. But I think that for me, these places and these adventures are where I find the most calm. In the everyday when I do feel quite overwhelmed, the outdoors settles me. Adventure doesn't have to be all about that adrenaline. It's about finding that that calmness, and that connection. That's the real adventure for me because it feels very different to how I feel in other spaces.


If you want to follow more of Em’s adventures, head over to her instagram or website

categories : Trail Seekers

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