WILD ADVENTURE WOMEN // SARAH “BEAR” ROWLANDS

WILD ADVENTURE WOMEN // SARAH “BEAR” ROWLANDS

I have been following Sarah for absolutely years maybe from the start of my Instagram life! She is a strong independent woman solo traveling across the world, working her way up the property ladder on her own and even has one of the jobs “for the lads”. She documents her life with her two dogs, talks openly and honestly about most things! Including finance a subject some of us shy away from! Here is a bit about her amazing life and buying her second home as a solo woman!

You can find Sarah on Instagram at @plum_stone and @plum_stone_renovation

1. Can you tell us something about yourself?

Sarah Rowlands, nickname from a baby is Little Bear, I’m 34 and these days I like to go on seaside and countryside walks with my two snow flirts, or go on organised safaris. I last went to Kenya and it was incredible. 

2. What is the first memory of an adventure you had? And why does it stand out?  

My first memory of an adventure would be to Rhydymwyn in Wales. 

We went for a whole day of walking as kids with my two brothers and my mum, and we found all sorts!! 

An abandoned cabin with old tools and lamps, rope swings over rivers and my favourite bit was discovering a HUGE cave filled to the brim with fools gold!! 

I went so far into this cave all on my own, up to my waist in water so I could dig out this absolutely massive piece of fools gold. I wish I knew where that rock went to because I worked hard digging it out and carrying it home. 

3. What are three things on your bucket list?

– a gorilla safari in Uganda 

– a whole month travelling the Galápagos Islands 

– going on a research expedition to the Antarctic before it disappears 

4.  Can you tell me more about your beautiful dogs?

In 2011 I went backpacking. In 2013 my final destination was Iceland for New Year and whilst I was there, I was taken up to the top of this active volcano where there were sled dogs being trained. I was taken on a sled ride whilst the sun was setting over this volcano and it was the most incredible thing I’d witnessed in a long time. 

I knew there and then I had to own a husky. The ones in Iceland were the sweetest, most loving, and funniest dogs I’ve ever seen!! And within a week of being home, I found my husky Nanook on Gumtree. 

He wasn’t in a good state when I got him but he was a beautiful 18 month old puppy with this most incredible personality. He’s so funny!! He’s really a human in a ton of fluff and I honestly can’t call him a dog because he isn’t a dog.. and dog is so generic. He’s my puppy wolf. 

And then came Nox – my Alaskan malamute and another dog just being sold away on a selling site. Poor Nox had been very badly abused. I took him in when he was 3 years old and he was – to be blunt – violent. The advice I received was to have him put down. And I’ll be honest I came close 

But I persevered. He was upset because in his 3 years, I was his 5th home and he had clearly been hurt because of the missing teeth he had. He was so skinny and just didn’t seem to know how to be loved. 

Nanook was the most patient Saint with him and he taught him to relax. It took such a lot of time though. He used to be muzzled and was so scary to walk. Now? He walks off lead with me and has learned I am no threat – he used to sleep in a curled up guarded ball. Now he sleeps upside down on his back, completely exposed. It’s a great sign he feels safe. 

I love my boys. They are very hard work and very expensive to maintain but they’re worth it. They’re my babies. 

5. What piece of advice would you give your younger self? 

You’re pretty. You really are. Please don’t think you’re not. 

6. What is the best adventure you have been?

I had an incredible adventure in Thailand. I had decided I had to go backpacking and get out of the stressful and depressing rat race, and so I quite literally handed in my notice, booked a flight and booked a month tour in Thailand that day with flights to go on to Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and India. 

I met a group of fellow very nervous solo travellers in a hostel the morning after I landed. We visited Bangkok’s sites first which was incredible. The street food!! My goodness. Pad Thai and banana pancakes will forever be my favourite abroad meal. 

We then went to Kanchanaburi which was so very special to me. My great uncle was a Japanese prisoner of war and he helped/was forced to build that famous bridge – the bridge over the river Kwai. And its my understanding my grandad was part of the task force sent to rescue him and the others. It meant a really lot to me to see it with my own eyes and feel the atmosphere with my heart. 

We next went to Sangklaburi where I disappeared off with a team into the jungle to build a water pipe from a waterfall high in the jungle to a village that had no running water. What a time I had there!! There was a lot of hard work and a lot of whiskey. 

Our final leg was Kho Pan Yan where we went to a half moon party in the jungle and got to relax on the beach. It was just a phenomenal trip. I recommend it to everyone. The friends I made on that trip are my friends for life.  

7. What is the hardest adventure/hike you have done and why?

For me it was the three peaks challenge which I did to raise money for Marie Curie. I won’t blame anyone else but myself… I hadn’t prepared even slightly. I got half way up Ben Nevis and was in agony with my knee and hips. I decided to walk back down and couldn’t even start the other Peaks. It was a real shame and I’m annoyed with myself to this day that I couldn’t complete it. 

8. Is there a sport/adventure pursuit you would like to try? If yes what’s stopping you? 

I’ve very recently started training to play rugby! I adore watching it so I thought I might have a go at playing. Unfortunately due to my shifts at work, I can’t train regularly enough to justify a place on the team however I have volunteered to be a match photographer so that’s exciting! 

9.  Are there any women that inspire your adventures or that you look to for inspiration? 

You know, I think it might be my mum! She is a HUGE wuss lol. She wouldn’t ever dare dream of doing anything in the form of adventure like I have around the world. BUT she raised me so well single handedly and gave me so much confidence that I DID dare to dream and to follow it. She’s my hero. 

10. You have a job that some would consider “male based” (apparently some people think women can’t do all jobs now!) Can you tell us about it?

I am a railway signaller, and there are really surprisingly a great number of people who don’t think this job is for a woman. 

For example, the rubbish collectors came to the signal box and I opened the gate for them. I literally walked out the signal box and opened the gate so you would think they would assume I’m the signaller but no!! 

They asked me if I was running my husbands errands for him in opening the gate and if I was there to pick him up… no pal! I run that box single handedly during my shift and single handedly ensure the safe passage of 100s of trains that go past a day! 

In the rail industry, according to the Women in Rail survey (https://womeninrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/WR-Industry-Survey-Report-December-2015.pdf) out of 31,945 staff, only 4,157 of them are female. That’s 13.01%. And that includes office based staff which other surveys suggest is dominated by women. So if we take them out and keep just us ladies in operational roles, the figure is incredible low. 

So we need more women!! Signalling is an incredible career move. I adore it. I’ve done roles varying from credit control to manager of a mental health and learning disabilities rehabilitation unit! But signalling is the one. 

I work on an old school lever frame and for me it’s the best signalling method. I really like to be in full control of which train moves where and when. I can’t recommend it enough. 

11. You have just bought your second house on your own, very amazing? Has it been hard?

Getting on the ladder for my first house was quite hard because I had no money. Literally no money. Rent was sucking every penny out of my wages but then something amazing happened. 

I found a house that was 50% shared ownership, and a 95% mortgage. Alright.. the house is in a “rough” area and therefore you could consider it cheap. I bought my share for £45,000 with a 5% deposit which was £2250. At the same time that house came on the market, I got a small loan of £3000. I bought a step on the ladder for £3k. 

And the best advice I could give anyone – OVERPAY YOUR MORTGAGE!! In the 3 years I have lived in this first house, I’ve managed to pay £15k off the mortgage by using every spare penny to pay a little more off the balance. 

I’m now using the equity as a deposit on a forever house and a renovation project. 

Would it have been easier if I had a partner to help pay the bills? Obviously yes!! But I have GREAT satisfaction knowing I OWN THIS HOUSE. It’s JUST mine and I worked my arse off for it. 

12. What are your plans for house number 2? Are you excited, nervous?

Excited and very nervous. I haven’t got anything in savings because I’ve been overpaying the mortgage so this entire renovation is going to have to be budget DIY – which in itself will be tricky because I want to do this once and I want to do this right. 

As we speak, I’m currently planning the rewire of the whole house. I have expensive wants lol. Scary. 

13 Any advice to women that think they cant buy a house alone?

Do what I did and set your standards initially very low lol. Paying rent is dead money. If you can be paying that into a mortgage and gaining equity, then it doesn’t matter for the first few years where that house is. 

Think of it as a reverse savings account – instead of getting interest on your money, you’re paying interest on it but it will be worth it when it comes to selling. Reverse save a bigger deposit because you can’t save the same when you’re paying rent. 

14 . What is your next adventure?

I think it’s the new garden!! I’m going to be very tight for money for the next 5 years I think whilst I slowly do the house up, but my new garden is over 100ft!!! I plan on getting a hammock and sleeping out in my own oasis, little fire pit, bbq, my wolves. It will be perfect and I will make it perfect because I deserve it. 

15. What are the top 5 songs on the playlist of your life?

– Good Life by OneRepublic 

– One by U2

– Take the Weather with You by Crowded House

– Hand in my Pocket by Alanis Morrisette

– Pictures of You by The Cure

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