4,000 miles solo to get more women adventuring | Fiona Quinn
Fiona Quinn is the first to admit that, as a child, she was neither sporty nor outdoorsy. But when she stumbled upon the idea of adventure and took up cycling at the age of 28, everything changed.
“I heard Alastair Humphries, a professional adventurer, talk about micro-adventures 5 years ago – grabbing small opportunities to spend time outside during our day-to-day lives.
“Even though I’d shied away from sport when I was younger, the idea of wild camping oddly appealed and after one night’s sleep in a field in Kent I was hooked.”
All it took was this one simple idea from Alastair to get Fiona exploring the outdoors. She realised she loved spending time outside and challenging herself in new ways. After that night under the stars she then got herself a bicycle, which provided the perfect gateway into adventure.
“Jumping on my bike opened up my world and
enabled me to go to places I never thought I could”
“Jumping on my bike opened up my world and enabled me to go to places I never thought I could. It gave me the freedom to explore on my own, initially staying close to home, then gradually going on longer rides as my confidence grew.
It ignited a spark in Fiona to see just how far she could go, and the first major challenge she took on was cycling the classic British route of Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) in 2016.
It was the first time she’d ever navigated a multi day adventure on her own completely self-supported, and even though she didn’t quite make it the whole way, she was far from put off.
“I got over 80% of the way before being caught out by a storm and having to call it quits. But failing didn’t bother me. I’d just cycled 800 miles when before all I’d done was 80.
“Cycling had enabled me to see new places, get to know the country we call home and meet some wonderful people along the way. I couldn’t have been more excited to get back out there and take on my next challenge.”
“I nearly drowned as a child, so there was no way I
was going to swim it. When I looked and saw no one had
ever paddle boarded it before that seemed more appealing”
The following year Fiona went back to walk LEJOG, before also cycling it again, successfully this time. She then decide to do ‘what any normal person would do’ and turn the whole thing into a triathlon!
Just one problem stood in her way.
“I’m scared of the sea. I nearly drowned as a child, so there was no way I was going to swim it. When I looked and saw no one had ever paddle boarded it before that seemed more appealing.”
Despite having only paddle boarded on the sea 3 times before she left, so as to not scare herself out of going, Fiona set three world records in the process. She became the first women to do a length of Britain triathlon, the first person to paddle board the length of Britain on an inflatable board and the first woman to paddle board across the Irish Sea.
Whilst they’re a ‘nice bonus’, Fiona was not driven by the records. Instead she simply aims to push herself out of her comfort zone each time, meeting incredible people along the way and becoming part of a wider adventurous community.
“Adventure is the one thing that gives me the self belief to go after new goals, and all of this grew from simply starting to cycle again as an adult. The confidence I gained through cycling enabled me to paddle board the length of Britain and challenge my fears. It’s amazing the impact it’s had.”
Now preparing to take on her next challenge, Fiona is getting back on her bike to cycle over 4,000 miles following the coast of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Athens.
Eating her way through 9 countries, she’ll tackle the ridiculously hilly route and cover some 170,000 ft of elevation. As well as discovering the people and food that make this region one of the most popular in the world, Fiona also hopes to inspire more women and girls to take on their own adventures by bicycle.
“I’m hoping that women and girls will see this approach
as really accessible and an incredibly fun way of cycling,
without the need to compete against anyone other than yourself”
“My approach is very much one of ‘have a go’ – I’m not an athlete. Adventure is about pushing myself to go further and quicker than I’ve been before, all the while exploring and eating my way through new regions. I’m hoping that women and girls will see this approach as really accessible and an incredibly fun way of cycling, without the need to compete against anyone other than yourself.”
As well as engaging with her following through social media, a live tracker and weekly video updates, Fiona is also inspiring girls through talks at schools. Pupils will have the chance to get hands on with her kit and find out how they too could take on a cycling adventure of their own.
Expected to take 2 months in all, Fiona will be setting off on 10th April, carrying all her kit on her bike. She is still bringing on board schools and businesses that want to support the expedition, so do get in touch with her to get involved.
Aside from her adventures, Fiona has set up Adventure Book Club to inspire others to take up their own challenges, and the Action Collective, a group coaching programme for business owners.
“I’ve found reading about other people’s adventures a massive inspiration. When I was walking LEJOG, reading about Jamie MacDonald running across Canada through waist deep snow with his trainers falling apart, it put my own struggles into perspective and motivated me to keep going. Adventure Book Club was born out of a desire to both read more often myself and to share this love of powerful stories with others.”
Enabling members to vote on each month’s book, the subscription service brings together like-minded people from all over the world via their online community, offering the chance to meet in person once a quarter with their Club Weekends Away.
Fiona’s Action Collective coaches a group of six business owners over a 3 month period, helping them to ‘refocus and change their perspective in order to move forward.’ She pulls in the power of adventure to shift their thinking too, including time spent outside as a group.
Having previously set up and run multiple businesses, as well as completing numerous adventures, Fiona found the two compliment each other perfectly.
“I’ve found that every adventure I’ve been on has directly impacted my business. They’ve helped grow my confidence, which has enabled me to push my business to the next level, and adventure also fills me with ideas, leading to some incredible opportunities.”