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Trash Free Trails on How to Have a Purposeful Adventure

Boy picking up litter

Trash Free Trails is a Community Interest Company based in the U.K. that exists to protect our trails, and the wild places they take us. Our mission is to remove 75% of Single Use Pollution (aka: Litter) from these places by 2025, and (re)connect people with nature through Purposeful Adventure!

#LeaveAPositiveTrace when you ride, run and roam

This summer, we’re asking you to #LeaveAPositiveTrace on the people and places you pass through on your adventures. Here’s a little more on how you might be able to do that and why it’s so important…

What’s the purpose of adventure?

What does adventure mean to you? For us, the sense of adventure that hitting the trails, mountains and wild places brings is a fundamental part of our enjoyment of the outdoors. It’s what draws us back time after time; there’s always somewhere new to go, something new to see… adventure is about answering the question “what if?” over and over again.

There is no satiation. In fact, the more times we ask the question, the more what ifs we discover. And so the cycle begins again. Except each time we have learned something – about the places we have visited and about ourselves – and we have deepened and strengthened our relationship with the great outdoors. “Relationship”: that’s an interesting word. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Women trail running

Image by: James Poole

Adventure opens our mind to possibilities. Self-propelled journeys affirm our most basic human traits. We are remarkably talented at achieving something that we put our mind to. Our ability to endure and to thrive and to innovate and to find joy through play is second to none. And through adventure we learn to apply this to other areas of our lives.

Adventure is about answering the question “what if?” over and over again

Adventure also nourishes our connection to the natural world. Forgive us for eulogising for a moment, but think about the sheer sense of awe that comes with watching the most fiery of sunsets, or examining the complex patterns of a pinecone, or coming face to face with a wild animal on the trail. It is specifically adventure – passionate curiosity – that breeds these moments of wide-eyed wonder.

And through that, we reframe our reality. We discover and reaffirm our sense of place; as a tiny, miniscule part of an enormous yet intertwined natural world.

Boy holding litter

Image by: >Rich Baybutt

In love with nature – a two-way relationship

Our relationship with nature is no different to our relationships with the people we love. There can be different phases: the fiery intensity of falling in love, the deep and long-standing connection with a partner, moments of questioning and uncertainty, and even times when we fall out of love. For relationships to endure we need more than a simple soul connection; it takes effort and the deliberate and constant reaffirmation of care.

For many of us, our love for the mountains, woods and lakes will always be there, as will our passion for the activities that we enjoy doing in them. Riding, running and roaming bring us joy; our relationship with them nurtures us, enriches us, refreshes us. We return to our daily lives as a better version of ourselves. We are mentally and physically healthier than when we left.

The thing about relationships though, is the successful ones require mutual benefit and kindness. When the situation arises that one party is taking much more than the other, the relationship cracks and crumbles over time.

Purposeful Adventure ideas to try this summer

Now let’s think about our adventures once more. What if our adventures not only sustained us and our connection to nature, but they actually contributed towards a positive impact to the places we visit? It’s not just an ideal, it’s a reality that YOU can be part of.

That’s why we are encouraging you to embark upon a purposeful adventure this summer and take part in hands-on action to preserve and enhance the environment that nurtures you. That doesn’t mean your adventure should shun your personal enjoyment. Choose something that motivates and excites you, but think about how you can make a positive impact at the same time. We are Trash Free Trails, so of course we’ll always suggest a trail clean, but it absolutely doesn’t have to be limited to that.

A purposeful adventure can be anything you want it to be. But if you are looking for some inspiration, we’ve pulled together a few ideas under three different areas: places, people, and personal.

01Explore new places

A sense of place is a magical thing. It engenders a deeper feeling of belonging and as with many other things, the more we know about somewhere, the more we care about it. You might like to try out these:

  • A summit bivvy and ten minute mountain-top trail clean the next morning
  • Volunteer for a trail-maintenance day
  • Download an app that helps you identify flowers and trees, or birdsong. How many different varieties can you find on your local run, walk or ride?
  • Running, roaming and riding bikes are about as environmentally friendly as it gets, but how are you planning on getting to and from the hills? Can you get creative and use public transport to create a linear route that couldn’t be achieved easily with vehicles? How about plotting an adventure from the door?
  • If you need to drive, how can you make sure that the positive impact of your journey is maximised?

02Connect with other people

We share this planet with billions of other people. Positivity is infectious; your positive actions can leave ripples in the pond that drift far wider than you ever imagined.

  • Take the time to chat with people you meet on the trail.
  • Enjoy the simple pleasures of small human interactions; and never underestimate the power of a smile and a ‘hello’ in bringing some happiness to someone else.
  • Help a friend reach the next level in their chosen activity. Devote some time to helping them step out of their comfort zone safely.
  • Have you got a tonne of kit that you no longer use? Why not donate it to a community group and volunteer some time with them too.
cycling picking up litter

Image by: >Paul Box

03Be a better version of yourself

Great things happen when we push ourselves a little beyond our comfort zone. An adventure is the perfect excuse to discover what we are physically and mentally capable of – but an adventure definitely doesn’t have to be about an epic sufferfest.

  • Try riding further than you have done before and embrace the journey into the unknown (as an aside, it was on a bikepacking trip in America that Trash Free Trails founder, Dom, had the realisation that he could make his idea a reality).
  • If you are the kind of person who gets sucked into Strava times every ride, leave the GPS at home and pack a book and a stove. You know that lovely spot you race past each ride? Stop there. Make a brew, read, slow down.
  • What’s the one thing that you’ve always wanted to do? That dream. The one you have maybe even been too scared to tell anyone else about? Take the first step to achieving it. Whisper it to a friend. Put in an entry. Whatever. You’ve got this.
  • If all this sounds a bit much, why not take a step back and remember what brought you here. We’ve all got our reasons for adventuring, be they big or small and now’s the time to get back in touch with that Purpose.

Share the love

Hopefully that gives you a little flavour of some of the purposeful adventures that might be possible, but please don’t take the above as a definitive checklist or anything other than a starting point for inspiration. As the summer goes on, we will share your adventures, as well as a few of our own. We’d love you to tag us on social media and use #PurposefulAdventure and #LeaveAPositiveTrace so we can see what you get up to.

#LeaveAPositiveTrace when you ride, run and roam

Have an amazing summer, whatever you get up to and don’t forget that one person leaving a positive trace changes the world around them. Everyone leaving a positive trace has the power to change the entire world.

About the author

Tom Hill is a freelance outdoors writer and Trash Free Trails“Wordsmith-in-Chief”. He’s happiest when outdoors, whether that’s riding, running, climbing, wandering or simply enjoying the view. Tom is passionate about telling the stories of his own and others adventures. He is a firm believer in the power of storytelling to inspire, entertain and mobilise. His work has been published in Sidetracked Magazine, Cranked magazine, The Guardian and elsewhere.

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