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The Adventure Queens Grant 2023

It's Valentine's Day - adventure love is in the air and I am super excited to reveal I am one of the 2022/23 AQ Grant Winners!

A gem of an idea has been in my heart for a while now of doing a multi-day SUP adventure. But it wasn't until the Adventure Queens Big 5th Birthday Campout that I spoke my idea out loud. And was encouraged by other fellow adventurers.

At Adventure Queens, they firmly believe that adventures in the outdoors, where you are pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone can have an incredibly positive impact. After hearing other Adventure Queens talk about their experience of the Adventure Queens Grant, I decided to enter for it myself. I applied in October 2022 and I was over the moon in February 2023 to be told that out of almost 200 applications the judges chose me to be one of 2022/23 AQ grant winners!

This summer I am doing a solo adventure paddle around the Finnish islands around the Helsinki archipelago of remote natural islands!

The other successful Adventure Queen Grant Winners are:

Vicky Moynihan: Rusty hills, green night skies and golden leaves, Vicky will cross the Arctic with a bike and a sketch pad. Specifically she will bikepack from Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, to Alta, a Norwegian town on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Taking mostly gravel roads, she will cover 610 km over 10 days.

Jo Milborrow: Nightwalking - a journey through darkness. Jo will solo walk from coast to coast across England, walking each night and camping during the day. Jo wants to raise awareness of the fear women have of being alone in the dark, to explore why that is and find some tools and tips to journey through it. Follow her at @feraladventure

The three winners are being generously supported by the wonderful folks at Eddie Bauer, Komoot, Osprey, and Adventurous Ink. Read more about it on the AQ blog post:

Image: Julia Kivelä / Visit Finland

What is the Adventure Queens Grant?

“Suffice it to say, adventure has changed my life. That first big leap of faith started a chain reaction which ejected me from the mundane rut down which I was travelling, and catapulted me across bumpy, uneven plains anew. And ever since I returned home from that first big adventure, it’s been a dream of mine to give someone else the option to derail their own life too…”

Anna McNuff – Adventure Queens Co-Founder

The Adventure Queens Grant is their way of helping women take on their first human-powered, boundary-pushing, life-changing adventure through providing funding, kit and mentoring.

This year Adventure Queens has teamed up with the wonderful folks at Eddie Bauer, Osprey and Komoot to provide three winners with £750 worth of Eddie Bauer kit, £700 cash, a legendary Osprey rucksack and a Komoot Premium subscription (worth £79.99) along with support and mentoring from the AQ community.

To apply for the grant, adventurers have to submit an idea for an adventure which is at least mostly, human powered. The odd bus or plane journey is allowed to get you where you want to be! But bikepacking, running, hiking, cycling, pogo’ing…. is the name of the game.

It will probably be your first big adventure and is going to be at least a few days long. It can be based in the UK or in some far off land. The grant would have a significant impact on giving you the gentle nudge you need to get out there and take on your challenge. Ideally the adventure should take place between March and October.

It can't be something which is part of an organised fundraising or sponsored event, or involve a significant other. I figured my adventure met all these criteria so I got to sketching out the details of my application.

My adventure idea

My adventure plan is a multi day solo paddleboarding trip in Finland. Starting in Helsinki I will explore the Eastern archipelago around the city which comprises 330 islands. As a mother of children with additional needs, I SUP for my mental health and find being on the water brings me peace. I applied in October and waited patiently until February when I received the amazing news that I had been successful as one of the grant recipients! Over the moon was definitely an understatement!

I have always loved Finland, and only ever been in winter. I've had a yearning to go there too in the summer months across Finland - known for their white nights, and in Lapland, as a time when the sun never sets.

I also love the idea of tieing in my adventure with my love of nature and hygge. The whole appeal of paddleboarding for me is the peacefulness and calm it brings me. It would be a privilege to experience Finland from the water, in a truly mindful way. I am inspired by a previous Adventure Grant Winner Vanessa who wandered one summer along three of Sweden’s most iconic hiking trails.

The beautiful and unspoiled islands boast awe-inspiring scenery that can only be reached by boat or watercraft. The islands are all different, ranging from valuable nature sites and important bat habitats to valuable forests which contain over 150-year-old pine trees and rare fungi.

I will be powering myself a way across the Baltic sea - aided mainly by adventure spirit and chocolate.

Plus where better to do an awesome adventure than the happiest country in the world?

Why Finland?

My original plan was to do it in the UK but I was inspired by Adventure Queens who were planning travels in France, Scotland and further afield. I thought SUP-ing in a different country would add an extra layer of awesomeness to the trip! (and a whole lot more scariness...)

Why paddleboarding?

I am delighted to be the first paddlesports winner of the Grant. I can't wait to show that adventures don’t have to be done only through hiking, cycling and running.

I became inspired by the Adventure Queens, particularly speaking to Community Leader Kate Garner who has done a multi-day paddling trip on the River Wye. Following people like Jen (@sup_erjen), Shilpa (@sup.loving.shilpa) and Sarah (@plussizepaddler) was inspiring to see that ordinary women could do epic long paddles. I also loved Fiona Quinn's book Ignore the Fear. Fiona set out to see if she could stand up paddleboard up the west coast of Britain, 800 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG).

I would love to inspire other Adventure Queens to follow their dreams too. I would especially love to encourage greater participation for females in paddlesports, particularly paddleboarding. Stand-up paddleboarding has seen a surge in participation according to British Canoeing, with just under 600,000 people regularly getting out on the water. It would be amazing for people to realise that paddleboarding adventures are right there ready to be had!

Having been lucky enough to win a grant to pursue my dream I will keep going and give my all to the adventure of a lifetime. Follow me on social media to find out more about my adventures in Finland! @natashastarseeker

Image: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland, Helsinki Archipelago

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