My path into the Outdoors Industry and the reasons why I’m 100% never looking back
Hi, I’m Erin. I’m twenty-five years old and currently working my second season instructing at Land & Wave. For those of you reading this that are perhaps considering your first steps into the industry, here’s a brief introduction into my life, how I transitioned into the outdoor industry, and the reasons why I will never look back.
As a child, I grew up by the sea. Weekends and holidays were spent by the beach, splashing around, playing rounders, and having picnics late into the evening in the company of good friends and family. On the rare occasion, when family life allowed, we were lucky enough to go sailing or be bundled into the car for a long weekend of camping.
To this day, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of times spent sailing around Poole and Brownsea Island. Days were spent moored up and in search of the biggest spider crab or prettiest coloured peacock.
It’s perhaps because of these fond memories that I find it so surreal (and will be forever grateful), that I now get to work in Dorset on a daily basis.
I’ve always had a connection to the sea. There’s something about it that soothes me. When I’m sad, stressed, or low, the beach is one of the first places I’ll go to find comfort and serenity. On the flip, it’s also one of the first places I go to find joy and happiness, spending many a day off swimming and chilling on the sand with loved ones.
As I write this, I’m currently watching my colleagues, who I’m also lucky enough to call friends, swim and play around in the ocean whilst I sit, breathe and gain inspiration for this post.
FINDING MY FEET…
I’ve always been ‘that’ person who’s never known what they wanted to do with their life or what they wanted to be when they grew up. Like many, I spent most of my teenage years stumbling through life, never quite knowing what would happen next, but always making sure I made the most of whatever life had to offer and the opportunities it threw at me.
For the above reasons alone, you’re probably now all thinking, “well, surely you’d be silly not to have considered a career in the outdoors right from the start?” However, the truth is, I simply didn’t know a career in the outdoors was possible, let alone a viable option until a few short years ago.
FINDING THE RIGHT PATH…
As mentioned previously, I’ve always loved the sea, the outdoors, and anything remotely active. Although I never really struggled academically at school, I do remember having to work ten times as hard and stressing ten times as much as any of my peers when it came to assignments. It’s like my brain was wired to be constantly on the move and always struggled to retain even the simplest bits of information.
Fast-forward to my second year of university studying Dance, where crying over my dissertation with a table stacked head high of books was a weekly occurrence. By this point, my poor mum was tearing her hair out and also shared many of my university stresses with me.
Consequently and with a very late diagnosis, I discovered I have a form of reading and language dyslexia that affects processing skills. This means the way I process, read and retain information is far slower than the average person.
Along with this, I also struggle with directions and often find myself saying or doing the complete opposite. Not so great when you’re pursuing a dance degree and you end up in the completely wrong corner of the room or stage!
Suddenly, all my early struggles made a bit more sense and from this point onwards I started to learn more about myself as well as beat myself up a little less for the things “I had no reason to find hard” previously.
I discovered I’m a more practical and hands-on learner in every aspect of life. Learning through doing was definitely the way forward.
A SUMMER JOB THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING…
Whilst at university, I discovered that I was in desperate need of a summer job. My student loan was on the lesser scale and I needed a way of topping up my earnings for both living and personal expenses.
I found a job working as a team leader for the National Citizens Service (NCS), a government-run programme for 14-16 year olds. The programme took place over four weeks, two of which were residential.
The first residential took us to Land & Wave in Swanage and it was at this very moment that I realised a job in the outdoor industry was both a possibility and a viable option.
Throughout the week, my eyes were opened to all sorts of outdoor activities such as Climbing, Coasteering, Paddle Boarding and Kayaking. The instructors were incredible and their enjoyment for the job shone through. They really looked like they had the job of dreams.
The following summer, I returned once more, again with NCS, but this time with the goal of finding out as much as I could about the industry and the possibility of a career in the outdoors.
One particularly outgoing instructor, Luke, told me Land & Wave offered an Outdoor Instructor Training programme. The training took place over 15 weeks in winter and gave you all the relevant qualifications needed to get noticed and with any luck, employed within the industry.
Luke recalled how he’d completed the course in the winter just gone and how Land & Wave employed him the following summer. Throughout the week I continued to meet more like-minded individuals that had values and lifestyles very similar to the one I strived for.
It was at that point I made up my mind. This was the life I wanted and I was going to do anything, at any length, to make doing the course a reality. The only other issue I had to contend with was…
Oh yeah, how could I forget? My dance degree.
A DECISION TO MAKE…
As my university years came to a close, I was confronted with the realisation that I neither wanted to perform professionally nor become a teacher in a school or other institution. The possibility that there was also a new and exciting career in the outdoors waiting for me was also playing at the forefront of my mind.
The thought that I had spent the past three years of my life working towards a degree all while getting in a considerable amount of debt (and not even planning to use my degree at the end of it all), terrified me. I felt like I’d failed for not wanting to pursue the one thing I’d spent so many years of my life training for.
I’m not afraid to admit, like many, that through my college and university years, I struggled with poor mental health and sometimes to this day, still do. Throughout university, the overwhelming urge to quit and give up with each new academic year was strong. However, here I was, in my final year, still in one piece and about to graduate.
When people ask me whether I regret going to university, my initial over-riding thought is always yes. Looking back it definitely wasn’t the right environment for me to thrive in or reach my full potential. However, delving deeper into the question, I respect and acknowledge that my university experiences helped shape me into the person I am today.
I’m a strong believer in the saying “everything happens for a reason.” I believe that wherever you may be, you’re there for a reason, whether it has become clear to you what your next step may be or not.
For example, without university I would never have found a summer job that opened my eyes to the possibility of working in the outdoor industry.
Without university I would have never fully found my independence or learnt to get by on my own.
Without university I would have never met my partner of four years or the people that I get to call my closest friends. This is the thanks I give to my university experience.
The year after graduating, I decided to take things slow. I felt physically and mentally drained from a heavy workload and took it upon myself to take a step back, look after my body and work on saving up enough funds to make Land & Wave’s outdoor instructor course a reality.
I ended up working in a boarding kennels for six months and then received my first taste of instructing when I moved to the New Forest and completed a season as an activities host at a holiday park. The season consisted of in-house qualifications such as archery and rifle shooting and gave me a taster of what it would be like to work with a range of clients in the outdoors.
As the season drew to a close in late October, I prepared myself for my next adventure. The outdoor instructor course was now just weeks away and I was excited to have secured my place.
NEVER LOOKING BACK…
Without a doubt, the winter of 2019/2020 was the best winter of my life.
Days on the course were intense, dark and cold but with each new day came a new set of skills and ultimately new, qualified instructors. In no time at all, four months had passed and I was lucky enough to have secured a job for the following summer season at Land & Wave. I’d made the most incredible friendships and learnt so many new and wonderful things.
Two years down the line and I haven’t looked back. This is why…
I am lucky enough to go on adventures everyday.
I have a job that doesn’t feel like work.
I get to work outside 99% of the time.
I contribute to making memories for people that will last a lifetime.
I feel valued and respected by my friends and colleagues.
I have never felt more at home.
I feel at peace with my surroundings.
My mental health has never been better.
I CAN and WILL progress in this industry with the guidance of good mentors and friends.
As you can probably tell, my path to where I am currently was by no means linear. I tried many different jobs and many different avenues before finding the right path for me.
If you’re at all in doubt, YOU can do it too. If you have the slightest inkling that an outdoor career could be for you, then please just book an open day for Land & Wave’s Outdoor Instructor course today. It could be the start of something really amazing.