Emily Bell

About

Emily Bell is the first girl to kayak the length of Britain as the crew captain on Sean Conway’s record-breaking swim. Stand-up paddle boarded 1001 miles down the Missouri River as the writer on Dave Cornthwaite’s big swim.

Back in London, she is Deputy Editor of new adventure magazine, Avaunt. With many other adventures up her sleeve.

My Definition Of Success | Growing up I was always so confused about what I wanted in life. I was always told I lived in the clouds because I wanted everyday to be amazing. I wanted to be outside, living life and doing something exciting every single moment – not sitting indoors wishing away the hours. After years of wondering, I finished university with no better idea. So what did I do? Well I went to London with all my friends, rented a house with two of my bestest and got a job in financial headhunting because I was told I might be good at it. Fast forward two years and I was miserable. I couldn’t sit at a desk bored for eleven hours a day. And on top of that, I wasn’t very good at wearing makeup, dresses or heels. I’m not saying this was a bad life. I was very lucky and doing well and surrounded with amazing friends and things but I needed to feel more inspired. And while this would be inspiring for some people, it just wasn’t working for me and I suddenly realised that I was wasting away each day trying to get to the weekend. So I walked into to the office on the 2nd January and quit. That was it. I didn’t think about anything. I didn’t make any plans. I just quit. And suddenly success was about to mean something totally different. I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I knew that I wanted to be able to wear trainers everyday, manage my own time, work intensely hard, be inspired, be challenged, be scared and experience the world while doing it. I gave up my flat, my good salary, my belongings to lead a more minimal life. And I’ve never looked back. Now after six years of sleeping on a floor, working for free and even cleaning for friends, saying yes to new and scary opportunities, pushing myself and slowly working out what I want, I feel that I have finally reached my own personal point of success. I work for myself doing things I love and I try to get outside as much as possible around that!

My Highlights | I think that quitting my job was a major turning point for me so I am proud of myself in that moment for manning up and doing it. I was very excited to reach St Louis after stand-up paddle boarding 1001 miles down the Lower Missouri as I’m scared of the water and had never SUP’d before. My most challenging expedition to date was kayaking the length of Britain last year. Again I was terrified of the water, had never kayaked before and it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. It didn’t help that it took 4 ½ months instead of 2 so I was pretty happy to reach the end!

A Key Talent | Stubbornness. I am very stubborn. If you want to achieve something enough or you want to take hold of your life and change something – whether that be reach the end of an expedition or change your career – you have to be prepared to work hard and continuously to reach your goal. It’s going to be a rollercoaster and there are going to be some serious ups and downs and you have to be prepared to work through them to get where you want. Also with big trips or life plans, I don’t put much thought in. I just wing it, go for it and see what happens! I should probably think about things a bit more. But I feel like if you commit you can work out everything else later. Also make sure you don’t take yourself too seriously! Even if you’re sleeping on the floor and scrubbing friends loo’s to make a bit of extra, you’re working towards your dreams so just keep going.

Lessons I Have Learnt | Keep plugging away. It will all work out in the end if you keep working hard. And keep giggling. A constant supply of Mini Cheddars helps too.

Dealing With Doubt | I am scared of the water. I know it sounds silly when all my expeditions have been water based. I absolutely love the water but I’m absolutely terrified. It annoys me that I’m scared and so when the SUP and kayaking expeditions popped up, I thought I had to man up and face it. I couldn’t say no to something incredible just because I was scared. So again, I guess I commit and then just man up and try to ignore the fear until I’ve made it through. Kayaking Britain was absolutely terrifying. We would be on the water at night, I was sleeping on a tiny boat doing night watches on my own, fins would pop up next to the kayak and scare the c*ap out of me! It was my idea of hell but I just had to breathe, control the fear and appreciate where I was and how incredibly beautiful it was. I just had to remember sitting at a desk and then I would man up!

The Meaning Of Life | Loving every minute of it.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | My Dad once told me to stop worrying that I didn’t know what I wanted to do because the most interesting people he knows still don’t know what they want to do. I love that. I also find anything from Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild so inspiring (even though I wasn’t personally given this advice!) – “make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I would like to do a polar expedition and climb a very big mountain. I love getting to the top of a mountain and so would love to learn to climb properly and attempt something quite big. Rowing an ocean would be my biggest challenge and I’ve spoken to a few people about joining them on that – watch this space. I would also love to live in America, Australia and a few other places over the next few years. I feel like the next ten years are to be filled with adventures and discovering abroad and then I would love to work from a cottage in the countryside with my boyfriend while travelling and adventuring at every moment possible around it. That would be the dream.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Even if you are quite short, quite silly and have never done anything before, you can still achieve whatever you want to in life. Be confident in yourself because you are so much more capable than you realise. And make sure you experience as much of the world as you can, surround yourself with amazing loving people and enjoy life. I would like people to want to do all of those things and I try to encourage people to get out there and do something to scare themselves – however big or small.

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