‘You can’t get lost if you don’t have a destination’


That’s what my newly made friend Jayne Thompson told me as we ploughed through a muddy forest on bikes, the wind in our hair and puddles beneath our feet.

As we cycled, those words stuck with me. Because for the first time on one of my adventures, I didn’t have any idea where we were going or where our bed for the night would be. 

We were wild camping – the act of sleeping somewhere untouched and rural, without toilets, showers or indeed a fee, which is technically illegal. However, it is mostly tolerated as long as you leave no trace, don’t light any open fires and aren’t really seen. It was my first-time experiencing this form of exploring, and the place I had chosen was perfectly suited to the task: the New Forest National park. Remote, beautiful and positively wild. 

The idea of going wild camping popped into my head after seeing numerous posts from other outdoor enthusiasts in adventure Facebook groups. It just seemed so simple. Grab a tent or bivvy bag, make your way to somewhere wild and pick your own camping spot, (normally with some pretty rewarding views) all for free. 

So I decided to do it. I posted on Facebook for advice and asked if anyone wanted to come with me, which is where I met Jayne. I ordered a tent, told my mortified mother, and later that week we were off.  

Seems simple, right? Well on paper it was, but in reality it didn’t quite feel like that. 

A couple of days before I started to get nervous. Everyone I told about my trip was looking at me as if I was crazy. ‘Why would you want to do that?’ ‘It’s not even the right time of year for camping!’ ‘Where are you going to sleep?’ 

I didn’t know, and their reactions were starting to put me off. They were making me doubt myself and my reasons for doing it, which is when I realised that wild camping, although growing in popularity, is still a relatively misunderstood concept. I wanted to go so I could feel a connection with nature, for some solitude and peace. I will admit as the date drew nearer doubts did manage to burrow their way into my mind a bit, especially when I was sat on the train, biting my lip and wondering what the hell I was actually doing, but I managed to be brave and ignore them.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to put yourself first and go.



Of course, as well as being nervous another feeling that coursed through my veins was excitement. Adrenaline. I was going on an adventure! I was going to be sleeping under the stars! 

I got off of the train at Beaulieu Road station and met Jayne who I soon discovered was lovely as I imagined, and we cycled off from there. We had decided to make a day of it and go on a ride before we camped, which was not only fun but a great way of exhausting ourselves so we’d sleep well later.

Once out there, we didn’t follow a map, we just went whichever way we fancied, which felt great. 

Emily and Jayne
Myself, Emily Cox (left) and Jayne Thompson (right).
Jayne Thompson cycling in the New Forest

I struggled a bit to keep up with Jayne as I’ve only got a road bike, and we decided to leave the boring tarmac and instead ride along mud ridden trails and grass pathways, which was a bit of a struggle for my thin tyres. But I managed it, and it was all part of the challenge. 



After a couple of hours, and unfortunate thing happened. The weather forecast defied what it’d told me earlier and it started to rain, which was a bit of a problem because I didn’t have my waterproof with me as I couldn’t find it, and I suddenly, those earlier doubts returned and felt quite silly and unprepared. 

Getting wet meant getting cold, and the rain soon soaked into my skin. As we headed back towards Beaulieu along the road my legs were aching and I was starting to feel more and more anxious. Getting these clothes wet meant very little attire left for the night ahead, as I didn’t have room in my bag for much. However, once again nature put a fresh smile on my face. 


Perhaps the best rainbow I’d ever seen appeared behind us, so huge that I couldn’t fit it all in one photograph. 


Spurred on by the rainbow and the blue skies ahead of us, we cycled the rest of the way back in no time and stopped off at a pub to dry off and get a sandwich. 

By that time it was getting dark so we left to find somewhere to camp, which may have been the most exciting bit of all as we had the whole forest to choose from! After a little cycle, we stumbled across an absolutely perfect looking tree a couple of hundred yards from the trail, with thick branches for cover and a fantastic circle of green beneath it. 



We set up camp quickly and Jayne got out her stove so we could cook some soup before bed. It was only 7pm but by then the stars were already out and we both stood and marvelled at them for a while. I was shivering a little and I could see my breath coming out in clouds in front of me, but when your view is an unpolluted blanket of starry night sky I can tell you, you don’t care. 

I got into my tent and Jayne got into her bivvy and we chatted for a few hours until we felt tired enough to sleep. It was then that I discovered my second problem of the trip. 

My roll mat was broken, leaking so much air there was barely any point blowing it up. This meant that I was forced to sleep on the freezing ground (it was 2 degrees) instead of a layer of air, and I was really surprised at the huge difference that made. Every time I would feel myself start to drift off to sleep a shiver would run down my spine and I’d realise, ah, the mat’s flat again. 

This did lead to a very uncomfortable and cold night’s sleep (I resulted in folding the mat in half at one point but still to little avail), which was a shame, but it by no means ruined it, and I know for next time to buy a proper durable roll mat to keep me off the ground. 

That said, being awake did mean I heard a fair few animals: birds, geese, owls, and a large bark/growl that sounded as if it belonged to something big. I googled it and perhaps it was a wild boar or a just a regular pig, but whatever it was it gave me a bloody fright! 

At about 7am, just when it felt like I’d finally got cosy and had stopped shivering; it was time to wake up and see the sunrise, and oh boy, I’m glad Jayne persuaded me to get out of bed so I didn’t miss it.


It was beautiful. The most stunning sight I’ve seen in a long time. Frost glistened on the ground beneath us, birds sung and chirped. It may sound cliche, but in that moment that view really did make everything worth it. 



Our camp.
There was frost on the ground everywhere apart from under our tree.



Myself, Emily Cox (left) and Jayne Thompson (right)


We sat for a while and had some tea and porridge for breakfast, the view just stunning. With the fresh air in our lungs and sun on our faces. One thought kept running through my mind. This is it. This is feeling alive. Isn’t that what we live for? 

After breakfast, we sat and procrastinated packing up and leaving. Shortly after that a dog walker nearly caught me going to the toilet and I had to dash behind a bush! So after that we did finally pack up and get going, which I understand is common courtesy anyway with wild camping: you arrive late and leave early so you’re not seen by passers-by.

After a short ride back to the train station we parted ways and our adventure was over, but I’d definitely do it again in a heartbeat. Just those few hours of peace and that connection with nature were worth the nervousness and the cold. I think times like that are really valuable for everyone, but especially people like me who live in a built up, fast-paced areas where you can rarely switch off and find some peace. I needed that.


Jayne Thompson (left) and Emily Cox (right)

For next time, a few things I’d do differently is: buy a new roll mat for a start, but also find some gear that packs down small. The less weight the better, and one of the reasons I was cold was because I couldn’t fit as many clothes as I’d have liked into my bag.

So, coming back to what Jayne said: ‘You can’t get lost if you don’t have a destination.’ I would agree wholeheartedly. Being prepared, yet not knowing and not overplanning this adventure was half of the fun. We never would have found that beautiful tree and the peace that came with it if we’d booked into a campsite for the night. 

If you’ve been thinking about going wild camping but haven’t quite made the leap yet, go. In my humble experience, it won’t all be perfect, but it’ll probably be pretty damn good.


Waving goodbye to the assholes in life

Have you ever been stood at a party or someone’s house, staring into the eyes of a ‘friend’ who just insulted you or made a rude joke at your expense, and thought to yourself: why am I here?

I have.

Throughout secondary school I made some new friends. Funnily enough, people actually warned me not to be friends with them before I even was, but I still got close anyway. You know, being all lonely and insecure like I think most teenagers are when they’re twelve.

Time moved on, and I’m not going lie, we had a great few years – and I’m not salty about that. I will always treasure those memories. But a couple weeks ago the relationship finally turned sour, which I think a part of me had always expected really, considering the type of people they were.

It doesn’t mean there wasn’t some degree of hurt, though.

I’m not going to delve into the details, obviously. But it didn’t end well. When I saw they’d been deliberately malicious (again), I took a deep breath and did what I’d been meaning to do for months: wipe them from my life. This meant unfriending them on social media and leaving some Facebook group chats. It meant taking down the old photos on my wall and resisting the urge to tear them up. It meant moving on, for good.

And there’s no going back.

Now, this may sound like an immature move from me, but actually I don’t think it was. It wasn’t a rash decision, I took weeks and weeks to think about it, and I decided I wasn’t gaining anything from their presence in my life anyway.

It had become a toxic friendship that mainly left me feeling sad and unhappy; and that is not one I wish to partake in any longer.

So on that day, after a few surprisingly easy clicks, they were gone. Poof. And I definitely feel better for it.

The reason I think it’s important to talk about this is because I’ve just experienced a fairly normal situation in life, and some of you may encounter it too. A particular Tumblr post I spotted the other day  (created by the online counselling college) is worth mentioning here. My old friends literally ticked every box. Every. Single. One. So here are a few questions that you could apply to your own situation – if you ever find yourself struggling with this problem.

When feeling unhappy in a friendship/relationship, ask yourself:

1. What am I getting from this relationship? Is this person there for me when I need them most? Do they build me up and bring out the best in me?

2. Is this friendship draining, or is it mainly negative? Do I feel like I’m being used? Are things always about them?

3. Can I be genuine and real – and just myself – with this person? How are they likely to react if I share my honest thoughts?

4. Do they care about my feelings, my views and opinions? Or do they treat my like an object whose feelings don’t count?

5. Am I putting up with things because it’s started to feel normal? Am I scared that no one else would want to be my friend?

In my view, having no friends is better than clinging onto people who don’t treat you right. You’ve got to let go sometimes. People change and go in different directions. That’s fine. It’s okay to drift apart. It’s also okay to realise you’re not happy anymore and do something about it. That’s life. People move on. They will say horrible things sometimes. They will turn into people you thought they weren’t. They’ll surprise you. But their words don’t define you and your actions.

It’s fine to say you’ve had enough.

I hope, in my own humble experience, that I’ve been able to relate to some of you. I think this happens to everyone at some point, and it really can be a big deal, so let’s not be afraid to talk about it.

For me this is certainly a change, and hopefully a step in a new direction. I will never forget those friends, but I will never regret my decision either.

Adios, bitches.