For this week’s inspiration, we meet with Shropshire based paramedic and Friend of FINDRA Jules McRobbie, who shares with us her love of hiking and biking.
Hi Jules! Let’s start by introducing yourself and telling us know who you are and what you do?
I’m Jules and I’m based in Ludlow in Shropshire. I am nearly at the end of retraining to be a paramedic in the Black Country, Birmingham. I was just 4 weeks from the end of my course when Covid-19 arrived and we were pulled out of university and put back in our ambulances and out onto the road. As you can imagine, it’s been fascinating, challenging, and occasionally very stressful. When I’m not working I read a lot, paint a bit, and spend as much time outside as I can.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I’ve always liked to be outside. My Mum is a farmer’s daughter and encouraged my brothers and me to learn about the outdoors when we were very young. We went on adventures, played hide and seek (so Mum could get some peace while we were all hiding, I think!) and got messy and dirty at every opportunity. I’ve been a walker, horse rider, jogger, swimmer, and now I’m a cyclist. I like the smells and sounds of the countryside, the changing seasons, and the surprise of discovering new things. I find joy in small pleasures.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
in 2017, before I started my paramedic course, I closed my editing business and spent nearly a month in New Zealand. I went alone, knowing nobody, but managed to meet up for lunch with my best friend who was on a cruise there. I used public transport, camped and hostelled, and did a couple of New Zealand’s great tramps. The Round the Mountain walk in Tongariro National Park is a multi-day hike staying in camping huts. It’s self-supported, and all the food for the 4 or 5 days has to be carried in and the rubbish carried out. It's a remote and spectacular walk around Mount Ruapehu. I went with someone who I’d met on a Facebook adventure group, but we mainly walked alone, meeting up for meals and to sleep. I washed in waterfalls, wore the same clothes for 5 days, ate the most basic of food, and camped in huts with long-drop loos. I loved it!
I followed this straight afterwards with the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The contrast between being just me and my companion on Ruapehu, and the crowds doing the 1-day Alpine Crossing was breathtaking – I certainly know which I preferred! I met lots of different people in New Zealand, and realised how much I’d missed solo travelling (I used to do a lot of business travel when I was younger and had forgotten how easy it is to get chatting to people when you travel alone). I spent the holiday trying things out; caving, abseiling, sea kayaking, eating unusual foods, using different modes of transport. It was a brilliant way to mark the change in career too.
How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities – i.e. work and family?
I work a 4-on, 4-off rota, so although I do long shifts, I get a lot of time off. This means that I have days off on my own as well as with my partner, so I’m lucky to be able to do what I want and balance my commitments. That said, when I’m working, it’s full on and there’s little time to do anything apart from work, eat and sleep!
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My Mum has always encouraged me to try whatever I want, and told me that anything is possible. I think my time for downhill skiing or skydiving is probably over, but walking, swimming and cycling are all well within my capabilities. She is still my greatest fan and a huge support.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
I work on an ambulance in a very urban environment with a high level of deprivation and poverty. I see a lot of sick people in the course of my job, and I need to find ways to relax and refresh myself between my blocks of shifts.
For a long time I have used swimming as relaxation, literally washing away my stress in rivers and lakes in Shropshire and surrounding counties. The flow of the river helps me visualise any upset or lingering distress floating away downstream as I swim, and I clamber out refreshed and revived – and cold! I’ve recently taken up cycling again after years of not using my bike, and I am rediscovering the joy of speed, and exploring the mental challenge of off-road riding.
What is it about riding a bike specifically that you love?
I'm a born again cyclist and I’m developing my skill for riding off road! The absorption I feel in looking for a solution to the next obstacle in the terrain is a good way to both use and relax my brain, and the balance between how fast I can solve these problems and how fast I can ride means I’m living on the edge at times! Whilst I love to chat as I ride, I find the concentration on where I am going and what I’m riding over is a great way to let my mind run free.
I’ve got a lot fitter and more adventurous on my bike in the past year, and I frequently find myself diverting from my planned route to explore somewhere new or try out a new track. My partner delights in these excursions, when I come home after a ride and describe how my bike ‘made me do it’
When did you discover FINDRA?
I’m new to FINDRA, but I wish I’d discovered it sooner. I love the soft merino jumpers and neck warmers, cosy and warm but also tougher than they look. It’s a pleasure to wear something that does a good job technically and still looks good in the evening when I’ve got off my bike. I’m a total convert!
What does being a brand ambassador for FINDRA mean to you?
As someone whose body shape doesn’t match the norm for cyclists, it was great to find clothes that are comfortable and form beautifully to my shape. Everyone should be able to buy beautiful, well-crafted clothing to wear outside, and to feel special while wearing it. FINDRA achieves this so well, with quality materials, great seamless tailoring and a fantastic range of densely-dyed colours. I also appreciate the FINDRA messages of sustainability and have recently had a few bramble snags mended by the FINDRA team – even I can’t tell where they were!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was in primary school, a teacher wrote in my autograph book: “Be like the sunflower; count only the sunny hours.” I didn’t really understand it then, but I often think of it, and her, now.
In a time of 24-hour news and social media, it’s easy to hear and see all the bad things in the world as they are beamed into our homes and onto our phones. But there is a lot of good which doesn’t make the news, small triumphs over evil, quiet generosity, kindness and love. I try to focus on this and bring light wherever I go.
In this interview, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our readers?
Returning to Henry Ford’s quote, If you think you can do something, you can! Have a positive mindset, start small, and just see where you can find yourself. I’d never have thought I’d end up where I am now – I have a new career, a new relationship, and a whole new hobby. I’m as happy now as I have ever been, and I'm bursting with excitement about what comes next - whatever it is!
Thanks Jules and welcome on board!
Fortunately with Fi and Jane
I really love Fortunately with Fi and Jane. It’s the perfect blend of silly chatter, amusing anecdotes, and stimulating interviews. Jane Garvie (BBC Woman’s Hour) and Fi Glover (BBC Listening Project) talk about being a woman in today’s Britain, gossip about BBC characters (and others) in the public eye, and conduct light-hearted interviews. When I’m home alone, it’s like having a couple of mates at the end of the worktop; when I’m driving they are a pair of sometimes rowdy passengers!
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford.
For me this underlines how important attitude is to life, relationships, and our view of the world.
In challenging times in particular, it’s so important to remain positive and to believe in ourselves and our resilience. I don’t mean to be Pollyanna all the time (recognising sad or bad feelings is crucial) but to be able to enjoy life, to find the joy, to spot the kingfisher, watch a sunset, or revel in a deep conversation with a friend is a way of helping us to get through tough times.
A can-do attitude stops me getting in my own way in life!
Jules didn’t pick a song this week, so we’ve selected one with connections to New Zealand via lead singer Neil Finn from Crowded House. So enjoy Don’t Dream that it’s Over that the band enjoyed international success with back in 1987.
Crowded House – Don’t Dream that it’s Over