27 Jul 2022

Shared adventures strengthen bonds and build new connections

Don’t walk behind me: I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus.

Making time for friends is just as important as exercising for our overall wellbeing. We double the benefit when we combine the two.

Rediscover an adventurous spirit and create special memories on shared outdoor adventures.  

Going on outdoor adventures, exploring new places and discovering new things together rekindles friendships, injects fresh energy and adds variety to our relationships.

Friendships flourish when we spend time in nature to recharge and reconnect. We build bridges with new acquaintances on stretch challenges, having fun together.

That’s what I discovered organising AWOL (adventurous women on the loose) adventures over a decade, catering for a diverse group of women with different skill levels and abilities, with differerent perspectives at different ages and life stages.

These experiences inspired me to write a book about Going AWOL*.

Being outdoors surrounded by nature strengthens bonds and builds new connections.

Shared outdoor adventures are a wonderful way of bringing together like-minded people for relaxed conversations and getting to know one another better.

Walking in nature lifts our spirits; the conversation flows more freely. We can spread out, sometimes being alone to enjoy the surroundings, and at other times, walking beside one another. 

Spending time outdoors deepens our connections as we learn more about one another, developing camaraderie and discovering what we are capable of.

There is safety in numbers as we overcome unexpected hurdles on our adventures. Embarking on exciting new challenges, supporting one another, then celebrating our achievements, we are more likely to repeat such experiences.

Good relationships keep us healthier and happier and strengthen our social ties. 

Friendships make us healthier when combined with good habits, like going on walks and cycle rides together.

What makes AWOL adventures really special is the company of female friends, the camaraderie and the robust conversations; that’s the nature of our group. Women only adventures have a different vibe and different conversations take place.

Lydia Denworth’s book** on friendship highlights the importance of companionship and cooperation and having positive relationships in our lives.

Strong relationships rely on consistency, mutual respect and authenticity.

Meaningful relationships need to be nurtured; too often time pressures get in the way. 

Having regular times to meet up, showing up, then being intentional about connecting again; all these contribute to robust friendships. One-sided relationships are more likely to flounder. 

Making friends in midlife is harder when careers and other commitments get in the way. 

Although not easy, sometimes we need to free ourselves from old ties, especially when they are holding us back from making transitions.

As circumstances change, we have opportunities to make new friends alongside valuing long-term friends. It takes time for strangers to grow into close friends, and to nurture those friendships. 

The rewards are worth it. New acquaintances see you as you are right now, not an outdated version of who you were. New friendships enrich our perspectives as we grow into new versions of ourselves, and we enliven existing friendships with new possibilities.  

Mutually rewarding diverse friendships help us succeed and thrive.  

Quality friendships emerge when we give our time to others, so we understand and are understood. When we nurture our friends by spending time together, it is time well spent.

Proximity matters. Face-to-face interaction is important for cultivating and maintaining relationships.

Having diverse relationships boosts our health and well-being. Interesting things happen when people from diverse backgrounds with different life experiences come together to discover new things. This is particularly important with intergenerational friendships, widening our perspectives and shaking up perceived differences.   

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.

Questions for reflection:

Which relationships and activities have shaped your life and made it more meaningful?

What adventures would you like to try with others to strengthen bonds and make new connections?

What gets in the way, and how might you overcome any obstacles?

* Adapted from my book: Going AWOL – Inspiration and Insights from Adventurous Women On the Loose. This book has a downloadable guide for creating your own AWOL group.

Further reading:

** Lydia Denworth, Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond (London, 2020).


Mary Somervell

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