As a teen in Wellington, Emma was convinced she didn’t like camping, after going on school camps in less than waterproof tents. So it may seem a little surprising that she co-founded Adventure Queens, a women’s adventure community set up with the aim of ‘delicately smashing down’ the barriers that prevent women from heading off on adventures.
In July 2017, Emma and co-founder Anna McNuff began by organising 50 women around the UK to go wild camping as part of ‘Wild Night Out’ – a night under the stars with fellow wild women, led by a volunteer queen. Emma’s group of half a dozen or so women camped out in the Chilterns. “I hadn’t met them before but in a short space of time we were sharing and enjoying experiences with people who had recently been strangers.”
Now there are over 6,500 women in the Adventure Queens community with 33 local Queen groups in the UK and beyond. Throughout the year, four in-store workshops are held at Arc’teryx London and four campouts at wilderness campsites around the UK, supported by Kathmandu. Plus there is a £2,000 Adventure Queen grant to help send one woman off on her first big adventure. Last year’s winner, 55-year-old Sue Barrett ran, swam and cycled 1,500 miles along the spine of the Alps from Trieste to Monaco.
Emma says, “The focus is on getting women outdoors. Some members have grown up with the outdoors experience but don’t have others to go on adventures with. And some want to get into outdoor adventures but don’t know where to start.”
Emma and Anna are currently planning the next 18 months of Adventure Queens but say they’re focusing on finding new ways to feed money into the community to run more events, offer more advice and help more wild women. Emma is also thinking about her own working life and says the future will involve a focus on a “more purpose-driven and people-oriented environment.”
Emma’s working life began after she gained a commerce degree majoring in marketing and e-commerce and an arts degree majoring in psychology at Victoria University. While at uni, she worked part time for an advertising agency, Lavender, and after graduation her agency work turned into a full-time role. Emma is a self-described Brit-Kiwi hybrid – born in the UK but educated in NZ – so almost inevitably, in 2008, she found herself working in London.
In 2011 Emma left the agency world and took an in-house marketing job with Sky, where she first met and worked alongside fellow-adventurer-to-be, Anna McNuff. From there she moved to credit card provider New Day where she managed a team developing and delivering the marketing strategy for aqua credit cards. This was a pivotal moment for Emma as for the first time she felt that was working in an environment that wasn’t right for her.
Emma says realising that she was in the wrong place led her to seek out other communities in London and she signed up for some workshops at Escape the City – an organisation set up by two former management consultants whose motto is ‘life’s too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you’. Emma joined the Escape Tribe where 50 people take part in a 14-week programme aimed at helping them find more purposeful work.
Through the Escape Tribe, Emma realised that she wanted to build communities to connect people and help them to positively change their narrative. She and Anna did some Escape the City workshops together and when Anna posted online about camping for women and messaged Emma about working on this together, Adventure Queens was born.
Since New Day, Emma has concentrated on contract marketing work – first for Internet Matters, then The White Company and the AA – trying to keep her corporate life down to four days so that she has a fifth day to work on Adventure Queens and other interests. She has also found time to travel solo and hike in Slovenia, cycle for a month in Cuba where she discovered “the joy of travelling by two wheels” and continue her joy of bike touring with other longer trips to Spain, Scotland and Chile, and numerous weekend adventures in the UK
A trip back to New Zealand earlier this year, also left her looking at the country with new eyes wondering whether her future lay there. But no matter which side of the world Emma finishes up on, it’s clear that her life will continue to involve the outdoors and a life of adventures.
Adventure Queens: https://adventurequeens.co.uk/
Wild Night Out: https://www.wildnightout.org/
Escape the City: https://www.escapethecity.org/