Ginny, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do?
It is difficult to say where I am based as I am on the move a lot and I am probably what you would call a digital nomad. I can be based anyway. I have been running WalkingWomen with my sister, Sara, since August 2021. A travel company offering walking holidays for women across the globe. This is our one year anniversary. Before that, I was a charity Chief Executive and life was very different. My partner died 7 years ago and I re-assessed everything – it just took me a little while to take the courage to actually change everything. Now I have. In this first year, we have set up 30 holidays across the UK and the continent and for next year further afield and twice as many holidays. With that and joining most of our holidays I have been travelling all year. I also have a new partner in Switzerland, a home in Spain and look after a friend's house in Surrey. I love this way of life and thought if I don’t do it now when will I? Luckily I have a sister equally as ready to jump in and do what we love best – sharing wonderful holidays with women that need a break.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I have always loved the outdoors. I grew up in rural Lincolnshire and spent most of my childhood outside. At school, I wasn’t academic and failed most of my exams until I was 16 and scrapped through a few! Instead, my confidence came from getting involved in outdoor sports and this has always continued. I chose to be a student in Leeds and spent many weekends walking in Yorkshire, the Peak District and the Lakes. As a student, I started cross country running and loved running through the muddy fields. Later I took to the pavements and in 1986 I ran the London Marathon – I’m still thinking I might do it again one day!
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
I do say to have a loving relationship is one of the biggest adventures in life – I was lucky to have one for over 20 years. We had so many great trips but the best for me was Patagonia. Maggie had given up work in 2012 and I had changed jobs giving me 3 months off. I’d always wanted to go to Patagonia so off we went on this incredible trip starting in Buenos Aires, down to Ushuaia and the very tip of the South American continent – Tierra del Fuego. From there we got a boat to Cape Horn which was stunning sailing past glaciers and stopping on islands to walk with penguins. We landed in Punta Arenas in Chile and travelled overland up to Santiago. We carried on to Brazil and stopped to see the Iguazú Falls and arrived in São Paulo for Christmas and New Year with friends. At that time we didn’t know that 2013 was going to change everything as 6 months later Maggie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The one thing that helped us both was to know we had done everything we possibly could in our lives together. We loved to travel and have new experiences and now I love that I can offer this to others.
Not many people get a second chance and I feel privileged to be embarking on a new adventure with a woman I met hiking!
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
Now I have WalkingWomen I feel I have made a lifestyle choice to run a business that gives me all the things I love – being outdoors, walking in great places, being creative and putting together wonderful experiences, meeting and walking with such incredible women. I don’t need to balance being active as it’s my day to day work! I do have other responsibilities like seeing elderly parents and this is something that is more difficult as they are in Lincolnshire and I am travelling so much. But as I can work from anywhere I do always find time to work from their house and the same with other friends. It means you don’t have to leave everything for the weekend!
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
Growing up in the countryside I think it was always within me to love being outside. Both my parents love the outdoors and for them, it’s the garden. Both turn 90 next year and on most days you will find my Dad tending his vegetable patch and my Mum weeding or doing something. Our holidays were always to somewhere you could be outside most of the time and I have many happy memories of swimming, cycling, and walking in some lovely warm place.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely yes. I am a lover of walking and outdoor swimming. When Maggie went through two years of treatment and we had trips to the hospital every other week it was tough. Suddenly our world closed in and we were in that medical world with little time to be outdoors. At that time I grabbed short times to swim as I knew I needed to swim not sink. I needed to keep both body and mind for what lay ahead. After Maggie died the outdoors was the thing that saved me – slowly I came out of the darkness and felt hope for life again. Both walking and swimming lifted my spirits and now both are such a major part of my life. I can’t imagine a life without them. I am doing as much as possible whilst I can.
What is it about walking specifically that you love?
This year I have done so many different walks from the high Swiss Alps, to the streets of Newcastle, the valleys of Snowdonia, the epic mountains of Mourne and the traditional village paths in the Alpurrajas. All bring something similar which is walking in the company of other women and with guides that really know their place. You can relax and enjoy being well looked after as you experience fantastic views, mountain lake dips, unknown paths and always experiences that feel new and exciting. For me, I love fresh air and being active – not going fast but that steady pace with no rush. I now much prefer walking to running as I love to have time to take in everything around me.
When did you discover FINDRA?
On a walking trip this year a friend was wearing a lovely merino top. I asked her where she got it and she said Findra – a company run by a woman. I loved the colour of it and very soon bought myself one. I also thought this could be a fabulous partner for WalkingWomen as we are both women run and we have hundreds of customers looking for outdoor clothing. Now I always wear my Findra stuff and they always get positive comments.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I had a coach after Maggie died. She was there to support me as I took a new job as a charity CEO and really struggled in the beginning. It was Jane that used a Mary Oliver quote and said to me ‘ what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life ‘. I thought yes it is so very precious and I mustn’t waste a moment. That is why I wanted to take on WalkingWomen and I don’t regret it one bit. We were still in Covid times but we have relaunched, rebuilt and redeveloped and I am living a wild and precious life.
In writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?
From all the women I walk with always say they feel much better when they are outdoors and that they are inspirations for each other. As one woman said “The perfect antidote for a stressful life. I didn’t want to go home and I can’t wait to come back”
Once you try it you want more and the key is doing the right walk for you so no one feels afraid or too stretched but just enough challenge so that at the end of the day you feel proud.
My favourite podcast of the moment ‘ How to Fail ‘ Elizabeth Day which celebrates the things that haven’t gone right. I love listening to the stories of people who discuss what their failures have taught them. Life has its ups and downs and it is refreshing to hear so many people discuss the ‘downs’ and how they moved forward.
I changed my job after 35 years in teaching and charities to try something new. This quote resonated with me as exactly how I feel.
Janelle Kroll - Walk With You