The pursuit of wisdom leads into understanding the laws of natural knowledge and gives you the courage to adventure into the human mind. While investigating world’s recent adventures, our team came across with Catherine Edsell’s story, who encourages women to step out of their comfort zone, and enter one of the most transformative, spiritual, imaginative, generous experiences: Adventure! Together they track desert elephants, push their limits and meet challenges head on. After becoming a mother, Catherine rediscovered her sense of herself through adventure. Connecting with nature and wildness helped her find her inner confidence and her story opens Catherine’s world to other women who dare.
For the last two decades, Catherine mastered her passion for real adventure and effective conservation through independent and collaborative expedition work around the world.
With a vast expertise in both terrestrial and marine environments, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, an avid naturalist and lecturer in coral reef ecology, a PADI Divemaster, jungle trainer and a true adventurer at heart, Catherine is inspiring generations of mothers and daughters to push their own mental and physical boundaries, and rediscover themselves.
Eldest daughter of a family of five with four brothers, Catherine grew up in a small, noisy house in North London gave her a ‘hankering for freedom’ at an early age. After graduating as a choreographer at Nottingham University, she felt frustrated with the limitations of planning her life a year ahead of time, with no room left for creativity. Catherine decided to leave everything behind and explore the world. For the first five years she worked with Leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica, line-handled yachts in the Panama Canal, worked for an NGO in India, trekked in the Himalayas, visited ashrams, lead exploratory hikes in the jungle, amongst other thugs’.
With her new-found love of the tropics, I earned the position of jungle trainer for a biodiversity science expedition company. ‘I would spend one week training volunteers in jungle survival, and then the next week setting up all the logistics for remote base camp surveys in the rain-forests of Indonesia. This, interspersed with working for other expedition companies in the jungles of Belize and deserts of Namibia, taking time out to go on my own expeditions to the remotest corners of the planet, and also set up a new biodiversity operation in Honduras kept me very busy.’ Catherine says.
During this time, she met her husband, the expedition’s medic, and they had their first child together. ‘At this point my world tipped on its axis, and I soon realized that nothing would be the same again. My naive idea of strapping my baby to my back and carrying on was nipped in the bud, when my daughter hated being wrapped like that – I was not prepared for the emotional roller-coaster that having a baby brings.’
Unlike other mums who were going back to work at the bank or at the law firm, her work was in a jungle! Taking a job in Australia for a year, to look after her baby, came as a temporary solution and with a forever parental commitment, as Catherine gave birth to her second daughter, in Melbourne.
‘I wanted to go out and change the world, but I couldn’t find a babysitter’
‘When my husband went to spend 3 months at Everest base Camp conducting medical research into altitude sickness and hypoxia – I was at home with two children who wouldn’t sleep! Around this time it became apparent that my eldest daughter was exhibiting quite substantial development delays and some sensory processing disorders. My world closed in, again, and it was hard to carve out any time or focus for myself. My brother sent me a card for my birthday one year with the words ‘I wanted to go out and change the world, but I couldn’t find a babysitter’ emblazoned on the front. He’d meant it to be funny, but it was so true, it hurt!’
Her brother’s message, made Catherine thinking… She decided to take her girls (aged 4 and 6) into a month-long adventure to Thailand, working at an elephant sanctuary, which gave her the confidence to lead diving expeditions. ‘I felt like I had really found myself once again and could stop talking about myself in the past tense.’
Going on these amazing adventures and expeditions Catherine realized that she could create an adventure just for women, an adventure to challenge and transform, an adventure that would take them so far out of their comfort zone, but in a supportive nurturing environment, allowing them to return home to their everyday lives more confident and ready to take on the challenges that life threw at them. Catherine discussed her idea with her contacts in Namibia and The Matriarch Adventure was born!
‘We practice yoga every morning as the sun rose, we sleep out under the stars, we track elusive desert elephants by day and chat and sing around the campfire at night eating delicious food. I now lead not only The Matriarch Adventure, but The Mother & Daughter Adventure a new wilderness bonding experience for mums and young teenage daughters. I also lead The Bluemoon Adventure an all-female coral reef conservation retreat in the wilds of Madagascar.’
Each experience is an immersion in wilderness and it appeals to all women who are going through a transition period – children leaving home, reaching a plateau at work, or just, as was Catherine’s original intention, to take time out of ordinary life, leave the family behind for a few days and have a real adventure. Sometimes they just want to do something great for themselves by themselves.
‘Coming on one of my adventures is very different than going on a tour or a safari – firstly it is a real expedition, and my motto for that is ‘always expect the unexpected!’, secondly I don’t give everything away – often as women we are the ones who organize everything, the holidays, the kids, the food, so I want this to be a real treat where the women who come don’t have to organise or think about anything. At the beginning of the week all phones are handed in and they are not given back until the end. I keep things secret and then surprise them – it’s amazing to hear how quickly laughter and giggling come back into the vocabulary of these women (…) this stripping back reveals all sorts of things that the women may have forgotten about themselves!’
Catherine believes that women need each other and supporting each other’s dream in the business world is a moral duty.
‘We are naturally cooperative, we work well in teams and we think laterally about issues from our own experience. Sharing this experience gilded with our own personal wisdom is the key to forward thinking relationships. My expedition, ‘The Matriarch Adventure’ is all about fostering this wisdom, creating a ‘herd’ which works for the good of the group and the individual. Matriarch’s can sometimes get a bad rap, and are thought to be bossy and dominating, but a true matriarch leads with a gentle touch – it is her wisdom and experience that guides her decisions, not fear, anger or greed. Watching elephants in the wild with their powerful matriarchal systems in place is a fine example of this harmony and is also awe inspiring at the same time!’
Catherine’s story is not about changing the world or finding a baby sitter but about ‘a deeper understanding of your own strengths and resourcefulness in the face of self- limiting believes that can easily be dispelled by spending time in the company of other women, just like you’
Catherine’s life is an adventure into what is possible, and while we could only guess where she is taking us next, we learned with gratitude that being a woman, or a mother, or both doesn’t need to be a spiritless affair but rather a leap of faith into the human kind’s courage, for the daring soul.
Do you know a woman with a big dream who takes her children with her on an adventure? We want to hear her story!