Friend of FINDRA - Wendy Pring

Friend of FINDRA - Wendy Pring

Last year, we were excited to hear from Wendy Pring for support during her expedition to Antarctica with HomewardBound. We provided some much-needed layers for the trip, so that Wendy’s pack was lightweight but effective. Wendy has now shared her thoughts on this incredible journey and its impact on her views of climate change and our planet's well-being.

Hi, please tell everyone who you are and what you do!

I'm Wendy and I am what some would call a serial entrepreneur! I see myself as someone who is passionate about sharing solutions that both support People and the Planet. I'm also a chartered civil engineer and have worked in circular economy and dirty water/waste for most of my career!

In November 2023 you took part in an expedition to the Antarctic with HomewardBound.  Can you tell us about what made you decide to do this? 

My passion for the benefits of strong and inclusive leadership is what attracted me initially to this project. Having taken part in many leadership programmes, they all have slightly different audiences and immediate purpose. They also always provide a deeper clarity on my “why” and reinforce ways in which I can be the best version of me. This one was also of greater interest as it was around climate leadership. How we could  collectively, as a group of globally connected women across 8 cohorts, now start to do some needle moving work on communicating behaviour change and influencing policy.
Having never been on a ship due to my strong fear of anything to do with sea and water, it also felt like a good way to tackle this fear! My youngest daughter who was 9 at the time came alive when she was at the sea and I wanted to be able to support this love of water rather than my avoiding it!

What other locations did you visit and did any of them stand out to you?

We started our journey in Puerto Madryn in Argentina, a beautiful place. When we arrived there were pink flamingos casually feeding on the sandy beaches and many magellen penguins along the rocky coastlines making their nests in the adjacent land.
We travelled to Antarctica via the Falkland Islands and had initially been planned to travel onwards to  South Georgia Islands. This part of the voyage was cancelled due to outbreaks of Avian flu. The Falkland Islands were spectacular and so much more than I would ever have imagined with an abundance of  wildlife and some of the most wonderful landscapes. As an archipelago of over 480 islands this is very similar to where we travelled afterwards as Antarctica is also an archipelago. The extent of which is still not fully known.
Our return destination was to  Ushuaia, otherwise known as the End of the World. Again, somewhat resembling Swiss towns with snow capped mountains and a wide variation in old  and new buildings. For a small Argentinian town the noticeable part was the very busy port with a range of medium to large icebreakers and expedition ships. 
A short stop in Buenos Aires also provided further insight into the importance of this part of the world and their connection to conservation of nature.

How do you prepare yourself for an expedition such as this, did you do any training?

I did not do any physical training as our landings were split to be as inclusive as possible, we had wheelchair users on board our ship too. So all landings, where possible, had solutions to support all abilities. Some of the climbs were definitely challenging, however, and the katabatic winds were the biggest challenge I met. We climbed a couple of ridges; one on Deception Island and another at Orne on the continent. The weather was polar opposites at each location and the temperature at Orne significantly colder.

You were at sea for 28 days - how did this affect you, both mentally and physically?

One of the reasons I had submitted my application was to address my fear of water. So my mental preparation had been fairly intensive ensuring I had the tools and space on board to meditate or to find a quiet corner. Not easy with another 109 women and non binary sharing the space! The fear I had was fairly tangible and I had practiced ‘ walking’ on to the ship to make sure I did actually do it. The fear was very real!
I always knew that the place would bring masses of reflection time and it did not disappoint. I was both in sensory overload and at peace for the duration, with the place. Mentally I was definitely in awe every single day. The expanse the beauty and the way Antarctica speaks to you was an immense privilege. 
The programme was focussed on climate leadership and the relevance & importance of emergent leadership. A concept that I am familiar with from my teaching at Strathclyde Business School. I was well prepared for the very intensive programme- not so much the extent of learning which was 8-6pm every day. It was a Symposium at Sea and as well as the hardworking faculty our expedition crew were phenomenal. Experts in their field around climate; planetary boundaries and Antarctic importance. One of the leads was the researcher that supported David Attenburgh on Frozen Planet II.
Physically I ate too much- did very little exercise- slept exceptionally well- breathed the most amazing air and every step on each part that we landed on energised.
The resulting output from this voyage mentally, physically emotionally and spiritually was enormous and I am still unravelling the many insights.

Climate change is clearly a huge motivator for you and the reason why you did this trip.  What learnings did you gain from the environments that you were in?

The main learnings- as there were so many are:
  • Climate change is about species loss - including human species
  • Those less likely to be  able readily to adapt to changes in diet; digital skills; financial means. Or not able to access public transport or heat their homes. Adelie penguins are becoming extinct as ice sheets melt and over fishing of krill removes their ability to access the right food. 
  • Climate change is happening faster
  • The planet has been cooler and warmer – notably without humans being able to survive.
  • We can make a difference but we all have to recognise we can and then do something.

    Our audience are keen outdoor enthusiasts and have a strong, vested interest in protecting our ecosystems (as everyone should), is there something that you wish to convey to everyone about the condition of our planet and what we can do to change its trajectory?

    We all have to be aware. Every one of us makes decisions every day that can make a difference. Unconscious bias - confirmation bias plays a big part in us understanding what we can do. Climate change is defined as a wicked problem and this requires a more complex approach and one which requires all actors to take part.
    In our business we use the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to support our approach. I also developed a suite of accredited Carbon Literacy training - called Carbon Dating - supporting challenging conversations by entering the conversation with a curious mindset. 
    We cannot solve  problems with the same thinking that we used to create them.
    Those with the highest carbon footprints are not the homeless.

    And is there a piece of advice that stands out that you have received?

    I do want to expand on this a little - it’s about asking the right questions and making judgements based on their view on climate change; their knowledge and skill on the subject. Their commitment to prioritise non-political ways and to support the complex ways in which all the levers and factors across social, environmental and governance takes place.

    The Antarctic is an exciting ecosystem, not experienced by many of us.  How did it feel to be in this remarkable environment and what was the highlight?

    It was a complete privilege and as I mentioned before an intense connection with place and appreciation of being part of this ecosystem. Understanding and witnessing both fragility and the power.
    The highlight every day was witnessing another facet of this place that exposed more and more very visually the damage that we do. 

    Does the outdoors play a role in your life outside of an adventure like this?

    I am a very outdoors person. I am very fortunate to live in a very rural location in Ayrshire, its beautiful and I am  surrounded by hills and water. I have been a much more active outdoors person however my current physical health does not support this as well as I'd like!
    I feel a connection to nature and one which I have had most of my life . Being present in nature rejuvenates and allows clarity for me. The location is not as important as the ability to be present and isolated in it. In Scotland we  are blessed with an abundance of this. Its why I still choose to stay where I do as there is a positive energy simply by being in nature.

    How do you find balance between endeavours such as this and life’s other responsibilities?  i.e. work and family? 

    Balance is hard. I live with my 3 children and 5 cats and we are all busy. However, we seem to manage. The balance of work and life has not been as equal as I would like and this is more to do with my 2 start ups. We have lots of group chats-lists. Getting all of us available at the same time is almost impossible- so we do value birthdays and  special dates. My parents live a couple of hundred yards away, in the next field LOL. So we have birthday teas and Friday beer nights. 
    My children may have a different view on ‘we manage’!

    Do you find that nature has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

    Absolutely and to avoid repeating myself- everything I said before! I am also a great fan of blue green prescription and there only seems to be one drawback and it’s a reduction in our pharmaceutical industries. 
    Is there anyone who inspired your love of nature and passion for climate action?
    I'm not exactly sure...if there was ever an anyone. More an exposure to it from such a young age that when it was not in my life then it was noticed…? I've had a number of personal tragedies and having accessibility to nature has always been a must. I lived in a rural part of North Wales for 10 years after graduating and my children have been brought up in rural areas too. 
    Nature is a healer and exposure rather than simply knowing is needed.

     When did you first discover FINDRA?

    I first saw Alex present in the Scottish Parliament at a business conference 7/8 years ago, maybe? I was interested more specifically because of the originality and sustainability of the company and her passion for making a difference. So I followed the story for a while but never initially saw me as a customer so was less familiar with the product than I was the brand.
    The first time I actually saw face to face the products is when I was reconnected with Alex in 2023 and came along to the store in Innerleithen.  So I guess that’s when I discovered FINDRA. I was initially sceptical because I am one of these people who cant wear scratchy wool! And I had clearly never experienced the feel of Merino wool.  From seeing it to then coming in and trying on so many beautiful items was an amazing experience.
    The benefits to wearing FINDRA when I away was firstly the warmth; then the absolute convenience of not having to wash them ( reducing any negative effects of possible water pollution) and they were really beautiful. The style and design meant I did not have to pack lots of stuff too.

    FINDRA were very proud to support your trip, providing you with layers for warmth, but what else makes up your equipment on a trip like this? 

    Beyond staying warm the other factors we had to take account of was Biosecurity and Safety. Whilst we were on any landings we were provided with specific rubber wellington boots and over-jackets. This was to ensure that we didn’t not bring any foreign species. We were not allowed items with Velcro and prior to leaving any non new clothing etc had to be vacuumed and scrubbed.
    We had strict biosecurity cleaning before and after leaving the ship and we were not allowed to lay anything down or make contact with any surface on our landings other than the boots.
    We also had to have polar lens sunglasses to combat the reflection from the ice. 
    Dry bags for phones/ cameras and any spare clothes for when travelling on the zodiacs.
    We were also supplied with our own lifejackets which we had to wear the whole time off the ship over our clothes. Any climbing/walking sticks were also able to be provided.
    We also had the chance to do a polar plunge at Deception island so a pair of sea shoes were necessary!

    On writing this blog, is there a key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers?

    “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage! “ Matt Damon

    Sunday Inspiration

    Favourite Book

    The Healing Power of Forests, By Akira Miyawaki and Elgene O Box
    Favourite Audiobook
    Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler
    Favourite Song
    Insanity by Oceanic

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