Hey Melanie, Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?
Hiya, I’m Melanie but you can call me Mel. I am a photographer and blogger over at Full Stop Next Chapter, my Scottish travel blog. I moved to rural Perthshire in Scotland a little over three and a half years ago with my partner (affectionately known as the Dude on my blog) for a change of lifestyle.
I spend as much time as possible outdoors and travelling around Scotland. If it gets to about 3pm and I haven’t been out I get a bit twitchy. Down time, I do like a good boxset binge. Grey’s Anatomy is probably my all time favourite.
Have you always been outdoorsy? Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the outdoors and adventure activities?
Yes I think I have always loved being outside and I was a bit of a tomboy growing up and loved being outdoors, out on my bike, with my cousins on the ponies, playing hide and seek in the barns, streams and woods. Coming back with messy hair and mud on my clothes. Blimey, I sound feral!
My Dad’s side of the family are all outdoorsy types in one way or another – owning horses, farmers, gardeners, this made growing up a lot of fun with experiences, at the time, I assumed everyone would have.
Growing up I did everything I could to be outside for as long as possible. That included athletics, netball, hockey, D of E expeditions. There was a point at which I kind of lost my path and love for the outdoors but when I moved back to Malvern it didn’t take long for the hills to start calling me once again.
What is it that you love about being outdoors the most?
For me I think it’s the freedom. Wide open spaces with endless possibilities for walks and wildlife encounters. I think it certainly makes me a better person and I appreciate even the small details.
Many of my previous jobs have held me hostage in a 9-5 office situation and although it paid the bills I think I can confidently say I hated every second.
One thing I do love is that each day is different. I could do the same walk every day for a year but something would be different. That’s what holds my interest.
You live in Scotland, what are your favourite places to explore?
Ooo, this is a tricky question. I genuinely love everything and everywhere. That is, afterall, why we moved to Scotland. But I think my most favourite place would have to be the Isle of Mull for it’s wildlife and stunning landscape.
One other place that has actually been known to reduce me to tears is Glen Coe. The first time I visited Scotland we stopped close by Buachaille Etive Mòr to take photos and I felt like I was on a film set. I had never seen anything so magnificent and the atmosphere was incredible, I struggle to put it into words.
I now really enjoy walking the beaches and coastal paths in Fife too. Perfect for a day out and lots of small harbour towns and beaches to explore.
What is your favourite natural place to visit in the UK?
I miss my beloved Malvern Hills now that I don’t have them on my doorstep, which is crazy, when I live in Scotland. They were such a big part of my life for so many years – walks alone or with friends. I’ve enjoyed them in all weathers and they really are beautiful.
With views across Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and on a good day in to Wales I have spent many a time up there with my camera and I could never tire of them.
Where in the UK would you like to explore, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
A couple of places spring to mind immediately for this. The first is Galloway Forest Park in the south of Scotland. It is supposed to be an incredible place to explore with plenty of trails to walk and cycle, lochs and wildlife. It was the UK’s first Dark Sky Park and perfect for star gazing.
The second one is cheating slightly because I have visited once before but don’t feel like I even scratched the surface. The Lake District. I spent one week in the Lakes doing some hill training practice for our trip to Nepal back in 2013 but I would love to go back and maybe do some canoeing and smaller walks.
What is your favourite activity to do on your own?
Probably the combination of walking and photography. I find both very relaxing and I get distracted from real life for a few hours.
Have you ever done any formal training to help you learn any outdoors skills you have or are you completely self taught?
I don’t have any formal training at all for any outdoor skills I may (or may not) have. Many of the things I have learnt over the years have come from the Dude. He’s had plenty of experience through his time in the Scouts, winter skills training etc.
I think sometimes my lack of knowledge/experience stops me from doing things in group environments. Although I am currently looking into Bushcraft courses.
What is your favourite memory from spending time outdoors?
My all time favourite memory and experience I think has to be trekking in Nepal, with the end goal of watching the sunrise at Poon Hill.
Five days with a group of strangers in the mountains, staying in teahouses and walking for eight-ish hours a day. Absolutely perfect.
At our highest point we were at 3,210m and I was really struggling with the altitude but seeing that sunrise made it all worth it. Some of those strangers have now become friends and we keep in touch and wax lyrical about our trip.
What are you three favourite items of kit?
After years of buying cheap boots that ripped my feet to shreads I now own several pairs of Salomon boots. Lightweight and more sturdy pairs for walking all year round.
Since my trip to Nepal I have been a lover of walking poles. Without these badboys I don’t think I would have made it through all the ‘Nepali flat’ (a little bit up, a little bit down). So, my Leki poles would make my top three items of kit.
I bought two pairs of super cheap fleece fingerless gloves with a fold over mitten cover so that I could operate my camera without taking my gloves off. Genius! That was probably ten years ago now and I love them.
What do you think is your biggest barrier to getting outside regularly and how do you overcome it?
That has to be time. At the end of last year I started doing fellow blogger and outdoor lover, Splodz, one hour outside. A campaign to get people outdoors for at least one hour a day, which is easy enough in the summer when the days are longer but in mid winter sometimes finding the incentive is hard. I found that because I had publicly said on my social media that I would be joining in, I felt I had to. Now it’s become part of my daily routine.
Are there any prominent outdoor or adventure sport figures who inspire you?
I do follow Sean Conway and his adventures on social media. He’s cycled around the world and done a triathlon of the length of the UK. After getting bored at work he sold his half of his photography business to a pal for £1 and switched his life around.
Doing it for the ladies is Anna McNuff. After listening to her Pants of Perspective on audio book recently I realised just how driven she is to continually push herself and for new experiences. I found myself actually laughing out loud listening to this book.
I also admire every single person who treads their own path and makes their own adventures. I follow lots of bloggers and photographers, people who just love being outside but we all have our own Everest to climb.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into an outdoor pursuit?
Crack on with it. Don’t over think the word adventure or compare yourself to someone you have seen on social media climbing munros before breakfast.
This year I want to try outdoor/wild swimming and Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). My plan is to see if any friends want to join me, help take away my anxiety about the water and make it more of a social and fun thing to do. I already have a local place in mind to help with SUP with qualified instructors just in case I panic. At least this way I can try it out and decide if it is for me.
If you want to do more walking the main thing is to invest in comfy shoes and decent socks. You can start by walking the local park, woodland or coastal path. Don’t rush off either thinking you have to do it at warp speed. Enjoy it.
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