June 04, 2021 4 min read
From hiking solo to building a community of over 13,000 people and establishing a social enterprise in just 4 years, Edinburgh based Iona has created something really special. We caught up with her to chat about her journey, the importance of adventures and some confidence boosting tips for beginners.
Iona’s community first started growing through a walking group she set up on Facebook in 2018,“Iona’s Adventures”. She was simply planning to meet a few people to join her on her previously solo hikes. Very quickly it turned into a welcoming community where people were forming friendships and openly sharing knowledge and advice. Impressed with how warm and helpful the outdoors community is, she states, “it’s the people in the group that really make it special”. The momentum of Iona’s Adventures soon caught the attention of organisations such as Tiso, Berghaus and Mountaineering Scotland. Support like this has boosted her community and enabled it to keep on growing.
Alongside growing her impressive community Iona works as a nurse. There is no doubt her job can be very high pressure which is why being able to switch off is so important to her. Luckily Iona has found a great way to leave everyday distractions behind. She tells us, “getting outside is my favourite way to unwind and clear my head”. As well as being physically challenging hillwalking is a great way to stay connected to the present moment. Something that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. Iona has a natural want to help people and encouraging people to get outdoors and feel the benefits to their mental health is something she is really passionate about.
You can tell from the name of Iona’s group she loves adventures and hillwalking isn’t the only thing she likes to do to de-stress. Stand up paddle boarding is a fairly new adventure she has been trying out. She says “it can be such a relaxing way to get outside. It’s a real change from hillwalking and it’s something I’ve embraced since buying my board last summer.” Iona first started paddle boarding with friends and hiring boards from Tiso. She quickly grew to love it and booked some lessons with Ocean Vertical, then bought her own board so she can go whenever she has the time.
The walking group Iona set up has paved the way for her social enterprise. Seeing the great advice and knowledge being shared on her page she realised the potential to help people gain outdoor skills was huge. Through her enterprise, also named “Iona’s Adventures”, she aims to up-skill people to build their confidence and capabilities when outdoors no matter of the level of adventure they undertake. A group of highly skilled qualified mountain leaders make up her team. They will provide courses varying from outdoor first aid, navigation, rock climbing and more.
Iona herself says she has only learnt a lot of the skills Iona’s Adventures will offer in the past few years. Even the most seasoned adventurer can make mistakes and every time you are outdoors you learn something new. Knowing everyone has to start somewhere and she has the potential to help she explains “I’d like to help people avoid some of the simple mistakes I’ve made”.
Starting a new adventure is bound to make you feel nervous and unsure, but as Iona states, “if it’s something you are passionate about you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try”. Here’s some of her advice for getting started:
Start off at whatever level is suitable for you.
Get a few key bits of kit such as good fitting boots and some decent waterproofs so that you're equipped for the weather.
Learn from others because you might be surprised at how welcoming and encouraging the outdoor community is so never be afraid to ask for guidance.
If you're unsure about solo adventures to begin with then join a group, club or ask a friend to keep you company until you've built up some confidence.
“Getting outdoors is so physically and mentally beneficial - you will thank yourself for it” Iona enthuses. In Scotland we are so lucky being spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor adventures. “There’s so much to love from mountain days with incredible views for miles around to lower level adventures through forests and nature reserves” she adds. Even though Iona has a huge community she hasn’t stopped enjoying her solo adventures. She recently completed a 54km 2 day expedition through the Cairngorms reacquainting herself with her favourite loch walks from when she used to live in the area.
The community Iona has built is so inspiring from the people involved, the engaged Instagram following and inspiring posts she shares. Over the last year she has been sharing lots of #sunshineyhappiness over on her instagram @iona.adventuring, to cheer us all up and it’s certainly been working. If you are keen to find out more about Iona and her social enterprise give her a follow or visit her website here.
We hope this article has left you feeling inspired to to get out on and do some of your own adventuring! Whether you take a paddle board for a spin or get out into the hills and explore somewhere new, as Iona would say; “an adventure is what you make it, no matter how big or small” .
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