We love the whole ethos behind the Millican brand. They are all about the everyday adventures we find ourselves on, connection and defying convention – all pillars at the centre of This Expansive Adventure. Made from recycled and vegan materials, their backpacks are sustainably made. This is mirrored throughout the spirit and actions of their business – for example, their Care & Repair scheme means that their products are made for life.
Many of us were used to pushing our comfort zones to their limits on our travels, but the pandemic brought all that to a standstill. For over a year and half we haven’t been able to undertake the adventures we’d previously been used to. Has everything we’d built so hard to achieve been lost in that time?On a recent trip to Tenerife, hiking the high-altitude volcanic landscape of Teide National Park, Fay discovers just what is involved in moving into a new chapter of confidence, pushing comfort zones, relishing the unknown and being that bit more kind.
When the pandemic hit and completely curtailed the adventures that I was so used to heading off on, there were many limitations, anxieties, and fears that I didn’t realise would come back when I started adventuring again. You see, adventure didn’t exactly come easily to me – I wasn’t particularly adventurous as a child. We didn’t have very much money, so accessing places to go hiking wasn’t really a thing, and we rarely went on holiday because of this. My parents were also naturally quite anxious about anything you might class as ‘daring’ and I grew up with quite a lot of fear around many things. In fact, I didn’t realise until I started to climb mountains and spend time in the outdoors just how much that fear of the unknown had been ingrained into me. Very quickly, I started to realise that, for example, cliffs terrified me – often into a state of frozen anxiety. Being high up was also something that really scared me – but in many ways the healing and mental health benefits I experienced from travel and adventure were worth it and I learnt coping techniques and managed to build these up over time to become more and more confident.
So, given that I’d become someone who relished the prospect of the unknown, you can likely understand the frustration that came from long, drawn-out lockdowns and a different kind of uncertainty. I realised that I had a sense of apprehension when we were able to start travelling and exploring unfamiliar places once more. It felt new, it felt like something I hadn’t done for so long. Sure, we’d travelled extensively within the UK during 2020 and 2021, but going abroad again didn’t quite feel the same.
As opportunities to visit places abroad started to trickle in again, I felt a sense of excitement. I also felt a sense of apprehension I hadn’t experienced for a long time. One of those opportunities that came with a dose of excitement and apprehension was hiking the high-altitude volcanic landscapes of Teide National Park in Tenerife. As the trip got closer and closer, the adventures we had planned started to feel more real and that sense of excitement turned to nervousness. My anxiety around unknowns started to appear again in a way I’d not experienced for years. What if it was too hard? What if the altitude got to me? What if the paths were steep and slippery? What if there were sheer drop offs and I had a freak out? Or worse still, what if I fell off a huge edge to my death? (This particular scenario seems to be a constant source of anxiety for me). What if I didn’t enjoy it? Or worse still, what if I just couldn’t do it?
When we landed and headed to our hotel to check in, I felt a sense of dread – those mountains looked really steep and tall.
Image Description: From left to right. 1: A landscape image. Matt is small in frame and walks through a volcanic rock landscape. The rocks are dark. There are new green trees sprouting from the ground with are contrasted with the rock. He wears red trousers, black top and Millican ‘The Mavericks’ Smith The Roll 25l pack in Tarn. 2: A portrait image. Matt is pictured closer up with out of focus flowers in the foreground and darker rocks behind. The sky is blue. He wears red trousers, black top and Millican ‘The Mavericks’ Smith The Roll pack in Tarn.
As we set off on our first hike, one foot in front of the other started to feel like a familiar experience in an unfamiliar location. Somehow, even though I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, I’d convinced myself to go into that experience with a sense of wonder – and what a sense of wonder I felt! Presented with an otherworldly landscape, I started to feel at home again in my body – in a way I hadn’t for such a long time. I felt like I was back in ‘my place’ – a sense of identity that felt like it had been missing during the worst times of the pandemic. Those puzzle pieces felt like they were starting to come back together again and remind me what it was that made me love this way of life. It made me remember, as clichéd as it might be, that home really is a state of mind, and can exist in many forms. There’s a certain sense of confidence that I can’t ever replicate from anything other than feeling connected to the place that I’m experiencing. That high I felt from such a seemingly small experience felt profound.
The next day would be a little different. I woke up feeling tired. We’d packed a lot into our previous day, and I just wasn’t feeling it as much. However, I knew from previous experiences that would likely pass once I got out on the trail and connected to the moment again. Except this time, the altitude really got to me, and with that, a sense of anxiety about the unknown. What was obvious to me was just how much self-compassion I’d developed in recent times: rather than looking for all my perceived failures, I managed to keep my head on what I got to do, what I got to achieve and everything I saw around me. What became abundantly clear was just how important having faith in my gear was. After developing a greater sense of self compassion, my comfort had become a key factor for me with the things I choose to bring with me on an adventure. Feeling comfortable is a high priority – I find it practically impossible to try and stay in the moment whilst I’m being distracted by something that feels uncomfortable. My Millican Core Roll Pack 20l in Sunset is integral to this sense of comfort. Knowing I’ve got space for any layers I might need, food, water, camera gear, hiking poles, headlamp etc., is incredibly important to me. The soft but durable shoulder and back supports on the pack has made long hikes that bit more comfortable – so I can think about enjoying my time outdoors rather than not feeling right. This is especially important for me when I might be feeling that bit more on edge of nervous about a particular hike – that sense of comfort is incredibly valuable.
Image Description: From left to right. 1: A landscape image. Fay is pictured from the elbow up and is smiling at the camera and stood to the side and walks through a volcanic rock landscape. The rocks are dark. There are new green trees sprouting from the ground with are contrasted with the rock. Fay wears a grey top and and Millican Core Roll 20l Pack in Sunset. 2: A portrait image. Fay is walking away from the camera into a volcanic landscape with rocks and flowers in the foreground and darker rocks behind. The sky is blue. Fay wears black shorts, grey top and Millican Core Roll 20l Pack in Sunset.
What I love about adventure is it allows us to see so much about our lives and how we treat ourselves and others. What became incredibly blatant to me was just how much my sense of self-compassion had developed over the past few months. I was behaving on the trail in a way I’d never seen before – I was forgiving of myself. My self talk was less harsh. I allowed myself to take breaks and appreciate the body I was in that was allowing me to get to all these amazing places and see these jaw dropping scenes.
As the week continued, so my confidence continued to grow. I was pushing myself to look at things with a sense of curiosity I’d never experienced before. It felt new and slightly surreal – but the harshness I would often find hidden within the way I spoke to myself wasn’t there in the same way anymore. That kindness was allowing me to push further and further than I thought I was capable of, and it paid off. I got to experience things in ways that, until now, had only existed in my thoughts. I was starting to realise that there was no perfect way to be or act with yourself – it’s about accepting the waves that happen. Some days, you just feel better than others, and that’s ok. It’s that sense of kindness and self compassion that become ultra important throughout those highs and lows.
I’ve always seen everything I do as a building block to the next thing – the confidence and skill you gain from one thing can ultimately catapult you onto the bigger thing that you want to do. Whilst gaining more and more confidence and becoming the version of you who you want to be is fantastic, I’ve often found it comes with a lack of appreciation for the moments that got you there. If you want to do a long-distance trail or climb a big mountain, for example, most people aren’t just going to set off on it from nothing. They’re going to have to do a series of other things to get ready for it. For me, that journey has always been important, both in adventure and in life. However, it seems more important now. I have a newfound appreciation for all the moments that make up the fabric of our lives. Not just the good ones; the contrasts that make the lows feel like they’ll end, and the highs feel that bit more special.
By the end of this trip, I felt like I was ready to seriously say out loud ‘I want to complete some stages of the Via Alpina’ (this, if you don’t know, is a long distance trail that crosses the Alps. Many sections are at high altitude and others involve crossing intensely technically challenging terrain). I said that with more confidence than I did when the idea came to me after watching countless YouTube videos some months ago that made me feel both excited and also terrified. What this trip made me realise is just what a fantastic journey it will be to get to that point. When I think of all the brilliant things I’ve done in one week in Tenerife, all the anxiety I’ve overcome, all the skills that came flooding back to me and developed more, I genuinely feel that my dreams of the Via Alpina are within reach.
The feeling of excitement I have for my next journey whilst also taking stock of where I am right now has made me appreciate all the moments that have led to now so much more. Because ultimately, isn’t that what life is all about?
Image Description: A landscape image. Matt stands to the right of the frame looking at a sign post. In the foreground are volcanic rocks which lead to a large volcano in the background. The sky is bright blue and this contrasts with the brown/orange rocks. He wears yellow hiking shoes, red trousers, black top and Millican ‘The Mavericks’ Smith The Roll 25l pack in Tarn.
For this advertorial,Fay chose the Core collection 20l pack in Sunset and particularly liked the bright colour and comfortable fit. Matt chose ‘The Mavericks’ Smith the Roll 25l pack in Tarn and liked the range of pockets both internal and external and especially the padded internal pockets that kept his small items safe and secure. We loved the build quality of the backpacks and the well thought out design that somehow manages to be both contemporary yet still referencing classical hiking packs.