Adventuring is all about pushing limits and facing obstacles. It really doesn't matter how big the adventure is or how far you’ve travelled to get there, the defining aspect of a true adventure, is how much it pushes and changes us physically, mentally and emotionally as an individual.
So many of us never experience real adventure because of our fear of leaving a comfortable space. We go through periods of restlessness and feeling unfulfilled by our day to day, whether it be because of our job, the place we live or the ways that we choose to spend our free time, but never make any real change. It takes an extraordinary kind of person to feel that restlessness and take action towards changing things. Sophie Radcliffe is one of those people.
The inspiring adventurer is one of the most recognisable faces in the UK adventure world, famous for the incredible challenges she sets for herself, she has raced through the jungles of Borneo, cycled between London and Paris in under 24 hours, climbed Mont Blanc and achieved a world-first expedition with the Alpine Coast to Coast, climbing the highest mountains in the eight alpine countries and cycling between them in 32 days.
Sophie recently teamed up with KEEN's Better Takes Action campaign, an initiative launched to inspire people to engage their voice and energy into making a positive effect on the world, taking action today for a better tomorrow. We spoke to Sophie about becoming KEEN's latest ambassador and her plans with the brand to empower women into becoming their best selves.
While it appears from the outside that adventure and sport are in Sophie’s bones, the truth is that neither ever came naturally to her and it wasn't until a few years ago when she pushed herself towards adventure as a way to get out of her own feelings of restlessness, that she discovered her ability to take on these huge challenges.
Sophie found her way to a life of adventure, through firstly pursuing another, more expected route. “I went down the traditional path in life thinking that was what I was supposed to do," she says. "Tried to get good grades at school and university and then got a job."
"As soon as I started my job in London as a graduate however, cold calling for a London textiles start-up, I knew that it wasn't the place that I was going to find all the things that I was really looking for. I had all of this energy and felt like I needed something outside of work to put my energy into, to take control of my life a bit."
"Someone had lit a fire inside me that I'd been waiting to be lit my entire life"
What Sophie found was a series of challenges, firstly signing up to an adventure race in the jungle, then getting involved in endurance cycling and travelling further afield, she started t discover the parts of herself that she couldn’t locate in the life she’d worked for in London, all over the planet. “I went off to Borneo to do this adventure race in the jungle for ten days and it just completely and utterly changed my life" she says. “So many of the things that I struggled to find the answers for - I ran off to do that challenge and felt all these barriers I had within myself, with my beliefs and fears and doubts, just completely evaporate, and this confidence and this self belief and motivation appear - it literally felt like someone had lit a fire inside me that I'd been waiting to be lit my entire life."
A few years and many challenges later, Sophie left her job to become a full time professional adventurer and blogger, leaving the nine to five and office life behind. “I’m just like so many people, I want to find out who I am and what I’m capable of doing with my time on this planet" she says. “I realised that the control is completely in my own hands. We all have to go out there and fight to create the life we want because it's entirely our responsibility."
Now Sophie is turning the lessons she learned back around through Trailblazers, a community and year long program to help other young women trying to discover their way in the world and find their place. “It’s for teenage girls that are really finding things difficult" says Sophie. “They're not the huge achievers and they’re not the people at the bottom that are getting a lot of attention. They’re the ones in the middle that are trying to be the best they can, but are struggling with constant criticism and judgement and expectation from people around them."
The program works with girls to encourage them to support one another and find the confidence to go out and discover the things in life that makes them happy and fulfilled. “There's been a 50 per cent increase in youth anxiety, teen suicide attempts and admissions to the NHS for eating disorders over the last five years and that's actually horrific" says Sophie. “So many girls are writing to me saying that they don’t know what to do about their anxiety and depression and a lot of that can be linked to pressure from social media, as well as constantly being on their phones and a lack of physical activity and being outside." Trailblazers works to get these girls on adventures, going and challenging themselves, giving them responsibilities and getting them to take on challenges that they can learn and grow from.
Bodies are an amazing tool and connecting with them gives us an ownership over ourselves and over our lives, pushing us to go and do something. Through Trailblazers and her work with KEEN, Sophie is teaching lessons in the power of movement and the feeling of overcoming physical challenges, therefore sharing a much bigger message with them. You can try, it might be hard and you might even fail, but it will always feel so much better than never attempting anything at all. It’s a lesson all of us need to remember at times.
“Feeling strong in your body, especially as a woman, gives you strength and confidence. It isn't about muscles or about believing you’re the best, it’s having a strong sense of self worth and being able to come back to that when life is tough" says Sophie. "That’s what I’m trying to install into these girls, the best way to do that is by getting outside, having an adventure and proving to yourself that you're a pretty awesome human being."
“To me, adventure is everything. It makes me feel free, happy and alive. It's my reason for travelling the world, it's the best way I've found to discover who I am, what my limits are, and it's helped me find my purpose in life. My mission is to champion ordinary people achieving extraordinary things and I'm so excited to see what is going to come up for me and my community on this new adventure with KEEN."