Following our Insights segment last week on friluftsliv (the concept of connecting with nature regardless of the weather), this Sunday Edition features the perfect guest to expand on this theme.
Jessica Last, co-founder of The Travel Project and Achievable Adventure, champions the idea that adventure is scalable and personal for everyone— you don’t have to be a mountain climber to push outside your comfort zone and invigorate your mental and physical wellbeing.
K: Sometimes in the wellness space, things can get a bit soft, a bit fluffy— but you and Charlie advocate a certain kind of ruggedness and adventure for health, which we love. How did you land on that?
J: For us, it all started a few years back. It was the last year of our 20s, and we were both working in advertising. We decided to take a year out to travel the world and see different things.
Our aim in that year was just to say yes to everything— to go on as many adventures as possible, meet as many locals as possible.
We came back and realised what an amazing impact it had on us— not just from a standpoint of fun, but also in terms of our stress, anxiety, happiness and creativity. Pushing yourself like that each day really does things for your mental health.
We were like, how do we keep this going in a realistic format? Because obviously, no one can just keep travelling the world forever without having a job. Well, most people can't. (Laughs.) And that's when we started Achievable Adventure.
It doesn't always have to be these epic adventures to get that same feeling. We found, sometimes, it’s just about getting out into nature and interacting with the world on a more basic, slower level. You wake up when the sun rises and you go to bed when the sun sets.
Thinking about some of the things we're told about improving your mental health— like, I love yoga, I do quite a lot. But actually, the relaxation I get from going on a walk and seeing as far as the eye can see is sometimes greater than sitting in a small room and doing some yoga.
I mean, I think it's different for everyone. And I think all these different parts can add up really nicely together. So I'm not actually saying you shouldn't do one or the other, but I think nature is something that most people find impactful. You know, it's where we come from. And I think reconnecting to that in some way has an incredible effect on your wellbeing.
K: So tell me about the ethos of your work now— why is the word ‘achievable’ important to you?
J: Our main thing was making adventure achievable for everyone. With adventure, you often think of these amazing explorers climbing Mount Everest and stuff, and it sounds amazing, but most people are like, ‘Well, I'm not gonna be able to do that.’ Maybe they physically can't do it, they can't afford it, can't afford the time. Maybe they just don't want to do it.
But there is adventure for everyone. And it's different for everyone, because it's scalable and personal. Adventure is about pushing yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone. And that is different for everyone.
I think something that's quite important to us, which is actually something I really love about your brand, is that we're trying to make it not just a women's focus with wellness. It's nice that it's me and Charlie because wellness is just as important for men. And I feel like that’s a topic that — it’s getting better, it is changing — but it's not talked about in the same way.
K: Very true. So in terms of achievability, how did your adventures change when your son came into the picture?
J: Since having a son, things have changed a lot. But it's also pushed us in a good way. We’ve found some of our audience has been quite pleased about this, because before we had a family, we perhaps weren't thinking about the logistics from the perspective of parents.
And yes, it changes things, but not always for the worse, often for the better. We just have to slow down a little bit. And we were sometimes guilty of trying to fit too much in— now we just have to decide to do one or two things, but you really enjoy them.
Having our son has really brought something new to our adventures, being able to see him interact with nature from a very young age. He goes to nursery in the week, and just the other day, the nursery teacher was like, ‘God, he really is an outdoor boy. All he wants to do is be outdoors.’ And whether that's because we've taken him outdoors from a very young age, I don't know, but children do enjoy being outdoors when they have that opportunity.
So yeah, things have changed. Logistically, it's a lot. There's a lot of packing. We always say, add another 50% of time on whatever you planned when you’re with the kids. And then you will probably get about the right timing. But once you start to accept this, I think it can really add to your adventures in a different way.
K: Yeah, I bet it’s interesting seeing things on your adventures through his eyes, where everything is so new.
J: It makes you re-appreciate things. We took him to the beach the other day in Cornwall and he just loved it, playing in holes, jumping over the waves. And you just realise, it's incredible what he has there. It's quite easy to take it all for granted sometimes. Seeing the pure joy is actually quite an amazing thing.
K: As the weather changes and we start to feel the chill, do you have any advice on where to visit in the UK this season?
J: Gosh, I mean… we did a year of doing 52 adventures, one every week, to really get to know the UK. And we did think that we would potentially get bored of it, but actually, it's just opened our eyes up to how much more there is to see.
So at the moment, if you wanted to get some nicer weather and do something a bit different, a place that's high on our list and where we're planning to go next spring is to the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall. It’s got white sand beaches, they even have palm trees. You can fly to get there— we try not to take planes, so there's a boat you can get as well.
And somewhere we always love to go is Scotland. Not the easiest weather any time of year, but the beauty of it is almost even better that way, the moody days are the best, because of the way the mountains look. And because of the mountains, you rarely get slapped with that horrible flat weather where it doesn't change— even though it can be moody and wet and rainy one minute, you'll then get a bit of clear sky, and then it’ll move on. Which we just say, embrace it.
I think the Norwegians have a saying that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment. And that's been the approach we've tried to take. Some of the winter sunsets and sunrises are the most beautiful. And you don't have to get up as early for them.
Check out Jess and Charlie’s travel guides and more at www.achievableadventure.com, and keep up with their latest adventures on socials at @the.travel.project.