How Shell from Camping with Style Continued Doing What She Loves Following a Serious Accident

For camper, hiker and outdoor blogger Shell Robshaw-Bryan, camping and getting outdoors have definitely helped her to find perspective in life. Let’s read on and be inspired!

Camper Shell Robshaw-Bryan Interview

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Shell Robshaw-Bryan. I’m a full time Marketing Consultant & Technical SEO and I run the Camping with Style blog in my spare time and my blog turned 3 years old in May of this year. I live in Cheshire and was born in Staffordshire, England and love the area I live in. It’s quick and easy for me to get to the coast, the Welsh mountains, the Peak District and the Lake District, so there are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities not very far away.

Apart from camping, my biggest other love is snowboarding. In fact, it was a serious snowboarding accident that first got me into blogging. I was snowboarding in Whistler, my favorite place in the world to hit the slopes, and I took a bad fall. I broke my back, and as you can imagine I was out of action for a long time.

Being unable to move around, get outdoors and remain active really took its toll on my mental health so instead of focusing on the negatives, I decided to use my time productively, and started the blog I’d always wanted to start, but just hadn’t had time for until then.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan Interview

Because of the accident, I was no longer able to camp in the same way I had done previously. In fact, left in chronic pain and with mobility issues, for a time, camping suddenly became something I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do again: Lying on the floor, getting cold and stiff overnight, bending to get in and out of a tent, struggling in a small space to get dressed.

So instead of giving up, I started researching different styles of tent and looking at camping gear that would allow me to camp in comfort – and Camping with Style was born!

How and why did you get into camping?

I’ve always loved camping ever since I was a little girl when I used to go camping with my dad, his friend and his sons. I guess, I’m a bit of a tom-boy and as a child was very much into making dens, riding my bike at the BMX track and playing in the woods near my home.

I was also a bit of a nature nerd. Teaching myself bird and fungi identification at the age of about 7 – most of which I hasten to add I have since forgotten and am relearning!

Shell Robshaw-Bryan camper

Why is camping and adventuring important for you?

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and viewed it as being a bit of a sanctuary. Away from the stress and pace of everyday life, escaping to the countryside or coast has always been something that has had a positive impact on my well-being, so I’ve always prioritized spending time outdoors.

Whilst I love the calm of the natural world, I’m also a bit of a thrill seeker. Last minute road trips, exploring new places, hiking up mountains — all of these things go hand in hand with camping, and whilst I do suffer pain and mobility issues as a direct result of my spinal injury, I recognize that I’m exceptionally lucky.

Realizing it could have been so much worse and that I could have ended up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life was like a catalyst, driving me forwards to do more of the things I love, giving me desire to push myself and to experience more of the great outdoors.

What has been the most difficult parts of your camping?

On days when my pain is bad, it would be easy to grumble and moan and use it as an excuse not to get on with my life, but every single day I am thankful I can walk out of my front door on my own two feet and it might sound cheesy, but my life now feels like a gift and not something that I just take for granted; to waste it by not getting out there and living life to the full just feels wrong.

That said, camping isn’t always a relaxing and fun experience! There’s nothing more demoralizing or strength sapping that camping in terrible weather, tracking mud into the tent, tent poles snapping in high winds, getting soaking wet and being cold, but those are all temporary states. In the great scheme of things, getting a bit fed up and wet isn’t really a big deal is it? I think camping has definitely helped me find perspective.

We never have a terrible time, because it’s only terrible if you think that way and make it terrible. No matter what I try to be positive about things; that doesn’t mean I’m a relentless optimist, but it does mean I don’t let little things add up to make a disaster – I just get on with it and do my best to focus on the good bits and laugh through the less than perfect getting wet and tent pole snapping bits!

One of my biggest challenges is the limited amount of annual leave I have, which seriously curtails my ability to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way because of the blog. It can be frustrating, but I have no great aspirations to turn my blog into my full time job, I’m pretty realistic about the fact that despite good traffic thanks to my background in technical SEO, my blog in no way generates an income I could live on. I think it will remain my part-time passion for the foreseeable future, something that I just have to slot into every second of the free time I do have!

Shell Robshaw-Bryan camper

How do you prepare for outdoor adventures and camping trips?

A couple of months after my accident, I started my blog, and around the same time, I invested in some new camping gear. A big standing height tent, a comfy bed, camp furniture and so on and it gave me something to focus on whilst my back healed. After two months of being unable to do anything, not even dress myself, I made the decision one day that I would go camping by summer, and so I started by returning to my old gym.

All I could do was swim at that time, and the first few times I did, I have a vivid memory of crying into the pool as I swam, it was so painful for me. I kept at it though, determined to get myself back in shape and to retain as much mobility as possible – there were so many things I wanted to do, and that felt like my turning point.

I swam 5 mornings a week before work and within a few weeks my fitness levels had improved and my mobility had increased a little. Feeling like I was getting my life back was exhilarating, and in my head I was frantically planning all the things I wanted to do again: Kayaking, horse riding, walking.

A year after my accident I did a hill walk in the Lake District, something I’d never done before. It was terrifying and wonderful all at the same time, and since then, I’ve developed a love of high level mountain hikes. I’m definitely a much braver person than I used to be; I get anxious about things, but I don’t feel fear in the way I used to.

Camping these days is such an accessible hobby to have, there are big spacious tents, camp furniture and lots of home comforts that mean if you have a disability that makes roughing it impossible, with some planning and a little investment, camping can still be part of your life. Sure I had to invest a little initially to get new camping gear, and I’m definitely no longer a minimal camper! I’ve become a glamper out of necessity really, but packing the car with our camping gear and getting away for the weekend isn’t expensive at all, and within 2 hours, we can be setting up a tent at the coast or at the foot of a mountain. Every time we go camping, it’s like a mini adventure and the sense of excitement is something that never fades for me.

Setting up camp reminds me of carefree days as a child spending hours outdoors building dens, and sleeping under the stars and having that chance to slow down and reconnect with myself and my loved ones is priceless.

That said, to keep our costs down, we usually choose small, basic campsites. It’s quite typical for a UK pitch at a holiday park style campsite, to cost £25 per night or more. We don’t like the noise and bustle of big sites though, so choosing a smaller site means we get more peace and quiet and it’s much cheaper too.

When it comes to going away on camping trips, I use Pinterest for planning. I have a board that is packed full of campsites in areas we like, so when I have a free weekend, I usually refer to that for a bit of inspiration and then just book wherever takes my fancy at the time.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan camper

How do you finance your camping?

I think the vast majority of my salary goes on camping and travel really. I rarely have nights out in town, though I do make sure I go out for cocktails a few times a year with friends, and I love gigs too, so I try to make sure I go to a few gigs each year, but definitely the bulk of what I earn goes on travel and adventures!

How do you balance normal life with adventuring?

From May to October, I am usually away almost every weekend. If I’m not camping, then I’m out hiking and testing out walking gear. If I’m not camping or walking then I’m trying out a new activity or reviewing glamping accommodation. I’m immensely proud to have grown the blog to what it is today, and I have plenty of wonderful opportunities come my way as a result.

I should stress though that not all of my weekends are free or sponsored by a brand! I still fit in time to go camping with friends and family and to do activities I want to do just for the sake of it.

I try really hard to balance my weekends, and whilst most of them are spent doing blog related activities, I still make time for nights out with friends, weekend barbecues with my family and so on. It’s easy to get carried away with endless road trips and adventures, but it’s important that I don’t neglect those closest to me at the same time.

Luckily my immediate family, including my partner, all love the outdoors too, so often I can spend time with them whilst fulfilling blog obligations!

A lot of people see all the fabulous opportunities I get, but don’t see the (at least) 25 or so hours a week, on top of working full time, that I put into the blog. Most weekends are dedicated to the blog and it’s a lot more hard work than it looks! That said, I do have workaholic tendencies and find it hard to switch off, so blogging doesn’t feel like a chore, and because I’m writing about things I genuinely love, it’s mostly a pleasure. I do have to be very strict with myself though, and I’ve now started having 2 nights out of 7 where I don’t do any writing in the evenings, and actually turn off and relax for a bit instead.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan camper

What favorite gear/gadgets do you have?

As you can imagine being an outdoors blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of amazing camping and outdoors gear. Three things are top of my list, my Craghoppers Kiwi stretch pro walking trousers are hands down the best walking trousers I’ve ever had, coping equally well in a blizzard up a mountain in Scotland and summer walks. I love them so much I have a total of 3 pairs of them now!

Next, both camping related, it would have to me my Boutique Camping rainbow bell tent. It’s enormous, but gives me enough space for all my camping comfort essentials including a raised bed and even a wood burning stove so I don’t get cold when camping in Winter.

Finally, I have a HUBi solar panel and charging kit which is amazing. When I camp I try not to be online at the same time, but sometimes brands want Tweets and posts making when I’m out and about so having a full charged phone is a must! I never camp at the kind of places that have electric hookups, so the HUBi is brilliant for keeping phones, tablets, speakers and camping lanterns full charged, no matter how long I am camping for.

Shell of Camping With Style

What are your best advice for new campers and what advice can you share to find motivation again after injury?

If anyone reading this is dealing with long term health issues like mine, all I can say is it’s really important to keep on pushing. Don’t just admit defeat. I was told there would be a lot of things I’d not be able to do after the accident and whilst snowboarding and kayaking DO hurt my back, I do them anyway. It can take a long time to work back up to it, but even going for a 15 minute walk or doing some gentle yoga each day is a great starting point.

Also, allow yourself time to mourn. It took me a long time to come to terms with the person I now was; someone who couldn’t just go out and do whatever activity I wanted to do; I was forced to turn into a person that was sometimes in too much pain to leave the house, let alone do anything active, so I had to learn to live with and love the new, more limited person I had become. Don’t underestimate the emotional impact following an accident or when coming to terms with a long term health condition, and allow yourself space and time to mourn and come to terms with the new you.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan camper

What will the future bring?

I’m hoping that at some point I’ll be able to do a challenge hike, something like the three peaks, though I think currently that’s still a little beyond my capabilities! I’d also like to tick a few more things off my travel bucket list. A couple of months ago I went to the Maldives and was able to tick seeing Manta Rays off my list. The next big thing I want to do is to go to Borneo. Hardcore multi-day trekking isn’t really my thing because of my back, but walking in the rain forest and learning about the ecology of the region is very high up on my list.

The main item that’s been on my wishlist for a couple of years now is an inflatable kayak and just a few weeks ago, I finally bought one! We’re going camping this weekend, and will be camping beside a lake in the Peak District, and I can’t wait to get out onto the water in it! So the only thing that remains on my wish list is a bigger SUV to pack the crazy amount of camping, sports and walking gear in that we always take with us!


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