Anna is a huge fan of the outdoors. Whether that’s on a mountain, camping with her Scout Troop, whilst instructing one on of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy courses, wild swimming in the alps, paddle boarding the oceans, making a brew on a stove outside her tent or just sat gazing at the stars in the middle of a field at night in her bivvi bag! She loves inspiring the next generation too and believes that nature is vital for a good mind and body.
What was the path that lead you to today?
When I was a child, I was raised in a very close-nit family atmosphere that supported my every move. I was well disciplined, yet I never knew what my dream job would be. Originally, I headed for Military, the RAF, to fly SeaKings- but life took a turn and from about 16 I began my Duke of Edinburgh Award. It was from that moment that I knew I wanted to live and breathe the outdoors.
Who inspired you to do what you do?
Inspiration comes in many forms. There were not many female outdoor adventurers that I'd heard about until I was an adult. Likewise, I didn't really know I wanted to be one until then because I didn't think I could. I joined Scouts soon after completing my DofE Gold Award. The Chief Scout was just being replaced- by Bear. His buzz and enthusiasm rippled through my blood and I knew that Scouts was going to be epic- I went on to achieve my Queen Scout Award the following year. I do love Tomb Raider too!
What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?
Everyone encounters obstacles, it's how we deal with them that make us stronger, better people. From losing weight to losing loved ones. I have so many wonderful friends and family that help me manage through those tough times. So, for me, the biggest obstacle is my mentality- the bit only I can control. When I was in school, I got picked on for looking like a "tomboy" – a rather derogatory term. Since then I have educated my brain to accept the way I am and encourage others to do the same. I love that I enjoy getting muddy, sleeping in tents and hiking up mountains come rain or shine. Nature is impartial. Once we are happy in ourselves, we find forgiveness in others. Every-time an obstacle comes my way, I remember that it's MY choice on whether I let it grow, or let it go.
I took on a Scout Group that was close to closing- refurbished the entire building from floor to roof top and recruited over one hundred people to join. I set up a charity to deliver DofE Awards to young people who miss out in school or can't afford it- some even just prefer being with friends from elsewhere. I've reached Everest Base Camp on foot and I have Stand Up Paddle Boarded the English Channel with a team of awesome women! The triumph in all those situations is doing something for the benefit of others, as well as oneself. I love to give back to my community and friends- as well as have fun along the way!
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That nothing lasts forever. Whether good or bad. Every time I enjoy a view on a mountain top, I remind myself that in years to come I may never get the ability to keep doing it so I do it as often as I can, now. When things are working in my favour I try to keep myself grounded and thankful so that when it ends, I don't feel sad. The only time that really exists is now, so I make that count and always show gratitude to those who choose to hold me in their lives.
Why is getting outdoors so important in modern life?
Technology is both great and damaging. I'm from a generation that cusps between zero-tech to computers and phones. My childhood involves spending every minute outdoors. My bedroom was somewhere I hated to be. It was inside, had nothing but a bed and I only recall going to sleep in there. The outdoors is full of life! People can get swamped with work and so feel drained by the end of their day. They go from building to car, from car to another building, from the building back into a car. They miss the "life" part of life. Humans have created another world- the box world. It's hard to step outside the boxes but it's so important that we do because we would see beauty that no human could ever create. Nature. Our minds unwind and our bodies move outdoors. Nature doesn't cheat- it's humans that cheat, using a box to shelter them, a box to move them and a box to sit and watch. That isn't living.
Amongst all the endeavours you have been involved with, which is the most unforgettable and why?
When I took my group of 40 Scouts to Canada. I recall a scout asking me 2 years prior "Anna, can we go to Canada"- without even doubting I said yes. After 2 years of planning and a lot of organisation, we did it. I'll never forget those kids faces from that journey. Each and every one of them said it will stay with them forever. It changed them more ways than any school class could. They survived on an island for a week as part of the 15-day trip. It was just immense. It reminded me that we can achieve anything we passionately desire. That trip changed me too, I saw kids enjoying the outdoors without technology - it reassured me that young people actually want to be free from it once in a while.
Why is this particular project so important to you?
Being a BGSA instructor is something I'm very proud of. There are many survival courses out there, but a Bear Grylls one is the pinnacle to me. What I love about the academy is how professional and dynamic it is. We don't sit and carve spoons; we jump off waterfalls and fly helicopters! The instructors are genuinely passionate about survival and are extremely talented guys with REAL-LIFE skills. We share ideas and adventures - it's like a group of epic adventurers in one place. We all hold one thing in common and that's our interest in Bear and his mission. He has created a brilliant brand. Survival skills are important in so many ways, Bear promotes that and what I love about his message is it's all about how to get yourself OUT of a situation where you have to survive- and not how to survive like a nomad on an island for years. It's all about quick thinking, fast acting and real danger assessing. How to survive scenarios that we fear- Bear is like the action-man that demonstrates the what-ifs.
You don't have to be a military soldier to become an instructor, but you do have to have some grit about you. Just look at Bear! It's extreme but that's what we live for, pushing the boundaries on our physical and mental strength, and above all, demonstrating those strengths to others - we like to RAISE people, not knock them down.
Who has been an unsung hero in your life?
My Sister, Katie. She is an Angel. Since I was born, she helped mother me when my mum was busy looking after my twin or help my dad with housework. Katie being first born had to endure the rights and wrongs of life - she kindly laid the pavement for me so I could just whiz through it unhurt. She stands up for me and supports every single thing I do- but she will also tell me the truth even if it's not what I want to hear. She never seeks first place for what she does, she just wants to help people. Everyone. Nor does she expect gratitude for helping others. She is the most kind, humble person I know. She is like my guardian angel.
Do you have a motto you live by?
Adventure, love and happiness are my core values of life- ironically, they also make up my initials. As for a motto, it would be the one my Grandad always says to me "Live long and die happy" – I believe that's everyone's aim in life. Everything I do is selected based on my core values and whether it will help me live long and die happy.