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Amazing female adventurers
24/11/2019

Amazing female adventurers


Adventurer, explorer and author LILY DYU hopes that her new book, FANTASTIC FEMALE ADVENTURERS, will help inspire a new generation of young influences and adventurers!

In FANTASTIC FEMALE ADVENTURERS, Dyu brings to life some of today's brilliant women explorers, who encourage us to follow their dreams and not to let anything hold them back.

We asked LILY DYU to tell us more about her exploring and her writing:


Q: Can you tell us a bit about your own life of adventuring?

A: If you'd known me as a child, I'd be the last person you'd expect to become a mountain runner and outdoor junkie. My parents had a Chinese takeaway and I often worked there after school. The outdoors was an alien place to me and not somewhere they ever took us to.

But one day at university, I laced up my trainers and jogged my first mile. That run changed my life. Over the last twenty years I have run, hiked and biked all around the world. At the heart of all my adventures, big and small, is my love for the natural world and a desire to spend time in nature.


Q: Why did you decide to write about today's unsung heroes and adventurers, and how did you decide what approach to take in Fantastic Female Adventurers?

A: I'm innately curious about people and love to hear about their lives, what drives them and the experiences that have shaped them. I've been inspired by so many people and I thought that children would love to learn about these people too.

I interviewed as many of the subjects as I could, to capture the authenticity of their tale. For Fantastic Female Adventurers I planned to write a dozen stories covering different activities and geographies but I ended up overshooting by one!


Q: In Fantastic Female Adventurers, you look at what some women have achieved and what it took to get them there. Why did you decide to focus on women as adventurers?

A: I was inspired to write Fantastic Female Adventurers when I couldn't find a book of female explorers and adventurers for a little girl's (Francie's) birthday present. I knew of many women doing incredible things but their stories just weren't being told. There's that old adage that says 'If you can't see it, you can't be it'.

It's important for girls to have role models that teach a risk-taking attitude through participation in activities like sports and outdoors, or other things that might be slightly scary to them.

But this book isn't just for girls. I hope it will encourage boys (and grown-ups!) to have adventures and get outdoors too in the hope that they will fall in love with the natural world and cherish and fight for it.


Q: How did you find out about their achievements and decide which to include?

A: I wanted the book to feature the adventures of modern-day women rather than historical explorers, to make it more relatable. It was also important to include a range of voices from all sorts of backgrounds. After that, I wanted to showcase a variety of activities, geographies and environments.

One exception to the 'modern-day' rule was Gwen Moffat, who is no longer climbing (she gave up in her 70s), but she's still hill-walking in her 90s and is such a huge inspiration for living life completely on her own terms. And I was thrilled to be able to include Helen Sharman because her story shows how an ordinary girl can grow up to be Britain's first astronaut ... plus I did once harbour dreams to be an astronaut, so including her allowed me to vicariously travel into space.


Q: What do you feel children can learn from their stories?

A: What inspires me in many of the stories is seeing how far you can get and what you can achieve if you "just try" and give something a shot regardless of the outcome. Cyclist Jin Jeong was terrified of leaving San Francisco airport when she started her bike adventure but decided to at least complete riding across the USA. Today, eight years later she's in Australia having cycled most of the way around the world.

Failure and mistakes, if they happen at all, are simply part of the learning process. I think that many people would probably surprise themselves if they applied this approach to things that they're daunted by. And, as Sarah Outen's story of her human-powered journey around the planet shows, sometimes the best things that happen in life were never part of the plan.


Q: How have your own life adventures changed how you see the world?

A: Through spending a lot of time outdoors, here and overseas, I've witnessed the impact humanity has had on the planet - whether it's retreating glaciers in the Alps making decades-old climbing routes too dangerous to attempt, the shrinking habitats of our wildlife, or beach tidelines covered in plastic.

Over the years, my relationship with the natural world has grown to be one of the most important things in my life and is at the heart of much of my writing.

Through my travels I have also seen people living in extremes of wealth and poverty which gives me a wider perspective and a realisation that my life could have just as easily been one of poverty and hardship too. This gives me a responsibility to use the opportunities I have been given to work on issues I care about.


Q: What has been your favourite adventure to date and what are you planning next?

A: My biggest adventure was the Manaslu Mountain Trail race in 2013 - a stage race over eight days running around Manaslu, Nepal, the eighth highest mountain in the world. It was the toughest thing I've ever done, both mentally and physically, but an unforgettable journey on sky-high Himalayan trails through fascinating Hindu and Buddhist villages. It really did feel like a place where Heaven and Earth meet. Best of all I met wonderful people, both the local Nepalese and fellow runners. On a personal level, the experience was the catalyst for changes in my life and career on my return home.

I love going fastpacking (multi-day running) and I've even written a guidebook to this form of adventure-running. In 2019, I've spent far too long at my desk but in 2020 I'm planning to fastpack the Monte Rosa Circuit in Italy and Switzerland, staying at mountain huts along the way.


Q: If you could do one thing to help change the world, what would it be?

A: I'd send our world leaders into space (without the associated carbon footprint, obviously) so that they could look down on our beautiful blue planet. There they'd see world without borders - a miraculous swirl of land, oceans and clouds - and our planet's fragility and vulnerability with its paper-thin shell of atmosphere nurturing all life. Perhaps then they would understand the interconnectedness of life on Earth and realise the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis.


Q: What is the most positive message you would want young people to take from your books?

A: From Fantastic Female Adventurers I hope children will be inspired to try things that scare them slightly, that are out of their comfort zone - whether that's trying a new sport, doing something outdoorsy or singing in a choir - and learning that it's okay to fail at things as it's an important part of learning.

From my other book, Earth Heroes, the message I want readers to take away is: "You are not alone. Everyone is needed. All our actions count." As Indian conservationist and tiger defender Bittu Sahgal says when asked what we can do to protect the planet, "Be who you are and do what you do best... when many of us do a little bit, a lot gets done."
 
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