The Explore Weekend Through The Eyes of Laura Kennington

Some weekends are a bit special.

I’d never been to Explore before so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was glad that I was there for the first time as part of the Pangaea Explorations stand with Emily Penn and, after a hugely successful Friday night following Emily’s talk, the Pangaea stand split with a table of Dave Cornthwaite fuelled YES. It was a good place to be!

Emily’s talk on the Friday night really did set the bar incredibly high. Her tales from the remote communities she visited stirred up a sense of magic that, if I’m honest, had faded a little from recent battles with endless paper work  and  a reunited quarrel with my arch nemesis: Microsoft Word/Power Point.  I sat there, consumed with a burning wanderlust and an excitement about all the possible adventures that lay ahead. I’ve heard information about plastic pollution before but it doesn’t really ever get less shocking. This, too, lit some kind of spark and the rest of the evening was buzzing with people passionately discussing how they might helpfully contribute to the issue, using their own unique set of skills.

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Luckily, Saturday and Sunday both rose well to the challenge and by the end of Explore, I was a bizarre mix of completely shattered and exceedingly motivated. Saturday began with a welcome by Paul Rose and this was shortly followed by a great introduction by Alastair Humphreys. To hear Al speak of his journey from audience member to speaker, really just made me smile. The idea that you don’t have to be a superhero to be an adventurer is something that I think people should really pay attention to and is an idea I hope to promote by completing the row. None of us have rowed before, none of us have ever seen a challenge anything like this before but we know we will succeed – people are amazing, you are people. Get it?

Explore provided incredible inspiration but also really useful wisdom from people with experience. The really fun bit about this weekend was that at any time, I’d find I’d been chatting happily away to endurance cyclists, polar explorers, mountaineers and other prolific adventurers, without even realising it for the first 10 minutes or so. It was like some kind of brilliant conversational lucky dip. This, I suppose, is what made it stand out for me and perhaps why I’d never been before – having never really had confidence in myself to actually consider that I might one day also be planning a huge expedition. However, this crowd that I find myself in these days – I really like it. Not one person I spoke to this weekend dismissed me or the row as impossible, absurd  or reckless. Instead, people generously and prolifically offered help however they could. This support and understanding is sometimes lacking in our own social networks so I think it’s really important that you find yourself surrounded by others who might better understand you, rather than trying to adjust yourself to fit in with something that doesn’t feel right.

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If I had to highlight some of my favourite bits of the weekend, it would be:

It’s okay to fail – Mikael Strandberg delivered a poignant and beautiful talk all about the benefits of failure, how it makes us grow and how regardless of disappointment, you should trust in people.  Anyone who has travelled will back this theory up – the world is generally a beautiful place and the ratio of good/bad people is much more positive than the newspapers would have you believe.

Just start and go with it. Emily Penn’s talk on Friday mentioned how she had no idea when she began that this is where she’d end up. Allow life to change you. It seems most of us are too concerned with figuring out a secure future to allow life to just happen.

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Lastly, a heartfelt thanks to Shane and Tilly for organising Explore, thanks to the speakers for your fantastic presentations/workshops and  thanks to everyone I had the pleasure of hanging out with this weekend. It was wonderful to be surrounded by dreamers and story tellers, by people who relish life and seek to exploit the most out of their time. You gave me energy, you gave me advice and some of you even gave me cake. New friends, big plans.

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Laura Kennington started out in the arts and worked as an actress for many years before briefly being convinced to save up for a mortgage by having a grown up job in the city. This didn’t work out and instead of being financially responsible, Laura qualified as a Personal Trainer and then decided to follow her sense of adventure instead. Laura is a founding member of Team Boatylicious (www.boatylicious.org) – the only all female team of four to be entered in the first ever rowing race across the Pacific Ocean. She has no intention of returning to a grown up job anytime soon.

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