Intrepid Englishwoman…but afraid of the water!

Recently I was talking to one of my friends who is also a keen hiker just like myself, and he told me a story that at first I thought was one of his usual leg-pulls!

He was telling me about a girl who apparently paddled the whole length of the United Kingdom, a total of 900 miles. She was accompanying another Englishman, Sean Conway, who was swimming the same distance!

Her name is Emily Bell, a 28 year old Englishwoman who decided to give up not only her day job as managing director at a magazine, but also her boyfriend to boot… that takes some spunk I’d say. But don’t think that this is her one and only achievement…no…for she has in the past, last year to be precise, paddled along a 1000 mile stretch of the Missouri river, too.

But the thing I couldn’t believe was what my friend told me next…that she is actually afraid of water!

Her 4 month journey was especially punishing due to that fear she has had since childhood, although she doesn’t fear drowning, as she’s an accomplished swimmer…it’s more a fear of large, unseen life forms. Many a time she spotted dolphins and seals, every sighting being horrendously frightening. “I suppose it’s watching all those reruns of Jaws on TV all the time” she says, jokingly.

During the kayak trip along the English coast, she battled really bad weather,, stinging jellyfish and lost equipment, as well as running very low on funds….sometimes she had to sleep in her kayak as there was no sight of habitation on some parts of the coast, although mostly she and her support team were able to land and rest in hotels.

Aside of the challenge itself, the hardest part, she says, was overcoming her fears of water….”To say it took a lot of willpower, is an understatement!”, she says, adding “..I absolutely believe I did the right thing and never regret it…I’m always up for doing something odd…”.

Hearing that story, we realised another point about adventurers, explorers and such-like…..why is it that a lot of them are always Englishmen and women? Has that famous saying “Mad dogs and Englishmen” anything to do with it…or are the English just a restless people?

Whatever the reason, well done guys…you deserve several gold medals!



Emily Bell and Sean Conway

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photo courtesy