Hi, please tell everyone where you are based and what you do.
Hi, my name is Shonagh and I am based in Edinburgh. I started with FINDRA in November 2023 and have been keeping busy ever since, starting with a busy festive season and moving straight into 2024/25 planning.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I was raised in a small community, on the outskirts of a town, where we were free to ramble as much as we wanted. We were always outside, building dens, inventing games and creating new worlds. I now have a son and it is important to me to instil the same sense of adventure in him, even though we live in the city.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
I spent a couple of years working for a conservation organisation based in Zambia called Game Rangers International. My son and I spent time over there, exploring the landscapes that the organisation worked to protect. We lived in tents, and spent time both with wildlife and working with communities that existed completely from the land. It was a remarkable and humbling experience. GRI's main focus is to create a circle of protection around the African Elephant, and they rescue young elephants orphaned through poaching or human wildlife conflict. Spending time observing the orphans was amazing, they are extraordinary, complex and emotional beasts. I have loved them ever since.
How do you manage to find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
It hasn’t always been easy. I am a single mother and balancing the need to provide for my son and also to ensure that I am spending quality time with him can be really challenging. We also have a dog, who ensures that we get outside a couple of times a day, and now our weekends centre around where we “walk the dog” which usually ends up being a fun adventure for the three of us. Fortunately, in my last couple of positions, I have been blessed with supportive employers who understand that my priority is my family, and this was very much a factor in my decision to move to FINDRA.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My parents for sure. I have a lot of memories of them providing us with ways of enjoying the outdoors. My dad always had a game up his sleeve that we could play and my mum was very creative, encouraging us to create little garden spaces. Our holidays were never abroad, but exploring Scotland or the coast of the UK. Since moving to Edinburgh, I have happily surrounded myself with people who share the same love of exploring new places.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely, I am prone to bouts of anxiety and I now know that the best mechanism to combat this is to pull on my boots and take the dog out for a walk. I have been more acutely aware of the benefits since becoming a mother. My son is adopted and due to past trauma, he struggles with his own mental health. I have seen the weight that he carries physically lift from him as we go outdoors. The distraction of outdoor spaces and the endless possibilities that it holds takes him out of himself and into a much better frame of mind.
What is it about being outdoors specifically that you love.
My son and I enjoy walking, including hill walking and often cycling too. For me, it is the endless beauty that we discover and for my son it is the possibility of adventure. He loves to climb trees, find caves and dig for treasure on the beach. My friend once said to me that you never regret a walk. It couldn’t be more true.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I originally applied for a position that intrigued me, however, I didn’t know who the job was for. It appeared to be an organisation on the brink of significant change and growth, and this really appealed to me. When I was first informed that it was FINDRA, I was really excited at the opportunity. My decision to take the job was immediate, I felt such an affinity with the company’s ethos and Alex’s ideals.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I went through the adoption process to get my son, I was told time and time again to always take care of myself. The metaphor of aeroplane safety, where parents are advised to put their own safety masks on first, before they tend to their children was repeated often. I have learned through the years that I am no use to my son, nor to anyone else when I am strung out and run down. Allowing myself time to relax and recover, even when life is busy is one of the most important things that I schedule into my day. Walking is definitely up there as one of my acts of self-care, but so is lying on the sofa reading a good book, a long shower or bingeing on a TV series. The housework can always wait.
On 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.
It is important to remember that time outdoors is incredibly important. It can feel completely restorative in those times when you are overwhelmed and anxious. Being outdoors is for everyone, you don’t have to be a seasoned hillwalker or cyclist. If you are thinking about adding time outdoors into your daily routine, even just 5 minutes outside in nature will make all the difference. One step at a time.
Shonagh's Sunday Inspiration
Favourite Podcast - The Off Menu Podcast
I have two which I listen to regularly, the first is Mel Robbins, which I find so empowering - there is always lots of great advice. The second is a comedy podcast. I love comedy and sometimes, you just don’t want to think too much and just have a giggle. The Off Menu Podcast combines my love of food and laughing. I really enjoy it.
Favourite Song - Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, There She Goes, My Beautiful World
I have been a Nick Cave fan since I was 16 and working the record counter in Woolworths. I have seen The Bad Seeds so many times and they never fail to be incredible. This is a slightly older one, but from my favourite album - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
Favourite Book - Oyster, by Michael Pederson
I have been lucky enough to be in the company of amazingly talented people during my time living in Edinburgh and two of them are represented in this book. Oyster, by Michael Pederson is a book of unconventional love poems which are both funny and poignant. The book is illustrated by his dear friend, musician, Scott Hutchison, who was the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit before his untimely death. Michael is a huge talent in an underappreciated field and if you get a chance to see him perform his poetry, then please do it.