How did you start making a living from adventure?

I read somewhere recently that if you’re not hating what you’re doing most of the time, then it’s a holiday, not an adventure. And I thought, “what a load of complete bollocks.”

When I embarked on my first adventure I didn’t have a career or a lifetime vocation in mind, I was simply seeking a change of direction. And yep, it wasn’t easy a lot of the time, but the very reason I carried on doing this stuff was because it filled me with life, with lessons, with joy. Adventure for me sticks with the old school definition of heading off to a place unknown and pushing physical and mental limits, and that process coupled with being outside, fit and healthy and moving daily was ever so fulfilling. Directed by a purpose which in many cases was to meet people and eventually make it to a place far off across the the map.

Conjuring up an idea, making it real and enjoying the fruits of the labour gave me a sense of being alive that nothing else had before.

When you hate something most of the time, it’s not worth continuing for long. But living an experimental life and turning those seedling ideas into something tangible: it gave me a slow burning thrill, to honour the dreamworld inside my head. I wanted - no, needed - to keep doing new things that offered a new perspective, and slowly I realised that as personal as the choice for an adventure was, it had a little impact on some of the people I met.

Those first couple of years I weened myself off the ways I knew how to make money, designing crap websites mainly. Every job I took made me hate myself and temporarily destroyed the motivation I had to get off the wheel. But the money kept me going for another month or two so I continued, but bit by bit started to say “no”. Then one day…

I got a book deal.

And then someone asked me to write an article for a magazine.

And I got invited to a school to talk about skateboarding across Australia.

Three new ways to make an income, three indicators that there was money in this. Not much, certainly at the beginning, and these opportunities definitely didn’t come a knockin’ every day. But they came because I had a story now, and I figured that if I carried on doing these really random things that I loved - which you can read as just being true to who I was and who I wanted to be - then my story would grow and hopefully become more interesting, and the opportunities would appear more and more.

And that’s when I thought that maybe I could make a living from this stuff one day.

Values

Values, values, values. The only foundation to build on. It took me a long time to work mine out but I was pretty sure of a few things early on. One, I wasn’t going to get rich making a living from adventure but that was ok, because a wealthy life isn’t dependent on coin.

It’s not what you earn, it’s what you don’t spend. So, I spent barely anything. For a decade I found places to sleep for free - sofas, spare rooms, parks, the space between two trees. I didn’t eat out. None of those desperate takeaway coffees. Peanut butter sandwiches.

Everything I needed fit into a rucksack, so if I bought something it would have to be worth carrying. Everything I spent was an investment. A new camera. A laptop. A hard drive. A train or plane ticket to begin a new road. Absolutely everything I spent had an end goal which I knew would lead to opportunity.

I taught myself the skills that otherwise I’d have to pay someone else for. Designing websites. Writing copy. Taking photos. Editing film. Making podcasts. Scripting press releases. Saved me money, taught me new skills, kept me humble.

My trips were super cheap, cheaper than living in one place and paying rent. I couldn’t bear the idea of renting a place and then still paying that rent even though I was away, even for a night. So travelling and camping on those nights I wasn’t invited into someone’s home was the cheapest way I knew how to live, while at the same time each day added to my story.

I cut out useless from my life and this stretched out the pennies. I knew how many books I had to sell to afford a meal or a plane ticket.

I also knew that I had to serve an apprenticeship. I felt like I needed to earn that .com after my name. I didn’t feel I was good enough to ask for money in return for speaking in public. Between 2007 and 2010 I gave over 200 talks for free at schools and small companies. It was training. Sometimes they gave me travel money and I was really, really grateful.

And then one day someone offered me a fee that covered over three months of living and the best thing: I felt I deserved it.

And the next week I got a message from a company that made dry bags, asking if I’d be that company’s Outdoor Champion for a year. What they said was the most impactful line a sponsor ever sent me. “We’d like to give you £1000 and some gear to help you along the way. And we don’t want you to change a thing, just keep on being the person you are.” *

And that’s when I started making a living from adventure.

Variety

Making an abnormal living is not easy. The pressure of an income can kill a passion. Don’t limit yourself, no human is a one trick pony.

Think about how you can combine your skills and personality with travel and adventure and don't be afraid to consider the parts of your adventurous life that you really enjoy. I always thought that if I was going to create my own living from adventure then it would be stupid to make it from the worst bits!

Work hard. I was endlessly tenacious and every waking moment of every day was dedicated to living the life I wanted. For so long I craved a nest where I could just leave some stuff, a haven with guaranteed wifi rather than wandering the streets for a new cafe with a dark corner where I could work without buying anything or being caught skimping.

Each day I wrote a bit, developed my website, told everyone I met what I did in the hope that eventually they’d remember me when they were in a position to recommend a speaker or a writer.

For the first four years I took every bit of work I could, whether it filled me with joy or not. Every action is practice and I improved with each talk, article, workshop and media interview. The sense of improvement or even dealing with one of those car-crash presentations brought its own satisfaction. Even if it’s not great at the time, ultimately the crap pays off.

And most importantly, I continually lived on adventures and took on self-set social projects. If it interested me then I figured it might interest my audience. Whether it was paddleboarding the Mississippi or finding 50 ways to make £50, I’d set out my stall and this was the line I was living.

Each year I gave myself one or two new skills that I could earn from. At last count, 14 years on from quitting my last job, I have 18 different forms of income, five or six of them are regular, the others are choice or opportunity. When one becomes tiring I switch it off for a while, just to let the passion grow again.

Ignore temptation

I used to bear deep jealousy in those early days, watching suited crowds spill out of their city offices at rush hour, each one of them with a pay check in their pocket.

But I knew I had one thing that they didn’t; time. As much as I wanted more money, I wasn’t willing to give up the way I spent my days.

You choose certainty, or hope. Sew in a hard focus with hope and you’re not going to fail.

Lazy people don’t become successful entrepreneurs or freelancers. After a while it’s too hard.

But if you give up, if you stop working, if you make a decision contrary to your values and accept a paying job that you know wont’ make you feel good, the train stops for a while.

The knock knock knock of bills will always twist a head. If you can go a week without worrying about money you’re doing well. But every time a decision is made just for money that process of shaping the life you want gets a little harder. I always imagined that every time I ignored that temptation and turned down some money on behalf of my value set, then an extra link was added to my chainmail. I got tougher, even a little prouder of myself.

You have to believe and know that if you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing then the opportunity will come.

And even then, even now, fourteen years on and 60 to 80 speaking gigs a year later, I still look over my shoulder, wondering what will happen when people stop asking me to come and speak to their businesses, communities, companies, employees. What happens if speaking stops being a thing? After all, now it’s my main income stream. I have a home now, I have to pay rent. So what if I don’t get another invite?

Then, Dave, you’ll make more films. Or write another book. Or hold another workshop about making films with a smartphone. Or. Or. Or.

The options are there, and that’s the alternative framework for making a living as a freelancer, whether it’s as an adventurer or something else. Life at its best is about creating options, not as fallbacks, but as parallel solutions to the other stuff you mostly enjoy doing.

And yep, you still gotta spend some time on the spreadsheets. Still gotta do taxes. Still gotta deal with idiots and internet trolls and real life trolls. Still gotta deal with the anxiety of not having enough money sometimes. Still gotta deal with the stuff you once enjoyed but now know you have to iron out of your life.

But it’s helpful having to cope with the downwards arrows. Each one of the things that you don’t enjoy doing reminds you of things you do, and if it’s worth the effort of a couple of hours in the dirt, then you know where your values lie, you know that you’re spending your time well, and you know, most importantly, that there’s always another road to take if the dirt starts to become too frequent.

IDENTITY

Who are you and what do you stand for?

I wear two main hats on my identity rack. Expedition1000, the adventure stuff, and SayYesMore, the community side of things. Until 2012 I kept SayYesMore to myself, as a reminder that I couldn’t get lazy and that there were a million doors out there that wouldn’t be answered with a no.

It feels good knowing who I am. I loved that sense of identity that Expedition1000 gave me when I finally conjured up a lifelong mission in 2010, even after I’d completed two of a proposed twenty-five different thousand-plus mile journeys. I had something to look forward to, a ladder to climb, a painting to create.

And SayYesMore led to the YesTribe, a largely voluntary movement which is kind of based on how I think a decent life should be lived. For so long I didn’t know where to find a community of people who would appreciate a zany idea, or sleeping outside, or happily chat about things like mental health with people they didn’t really know. So I created that community and it’s undoubtedly a central part of my life and identity. Possibly too much so at the moment, because that call of more adventures is getting stronger and stronger.

Time to listen to the heart. And this is probably a good time to share my final advice.

Tell people what you do. Make life easy for people to help you out. Offer yourself up. Always be willing to see value beyond money. Be a lifetime apprentice and if you can, help others on their apprenticeship, too.

Know what you’re not good at and find a workaround, whether that’s outsourcing your weaknesses or just doing something else. Be protective of your time and invest your money, don’t just spend it. Shout out about the good work of other people (this is what social media should really be for). Give yourself regular time away from screens and the internet. It’s more productive and this is where you learn to listen to yourself.

And remember, there’s no hurry so don’t rush, you’ll see less along the way if you do.

*I’ll always be grateful to Tim Turnbull and Aquapac for this.

Why I didn't take the train

Switching out a familiar public transport route with a non motorised option might take longer, but it offers exercise and a new perspective of a similar journey and it’s probably cheaper, too. Last week I decided to travel the 50 miles between home and a woodland campout on a running bike instead of taking the train, and despite being gloriously unfit, here’s how it went.

“It would be easier to take the train.” I thought, as I changed a punctured tyre on a Burley Nomad trailer that hasn’t seen much action since we shared a 2000 mile journey between Liverpool and Nice six years ago. The chariot that supported me and pulled the trailer back then is again hooked up to do the donkey work, a bright orange ElliptiGO that lets the rider run without impacting on the joints. This, I figured, was perfect for my current physical state, best described as 'round in the middle’.

Adding a 50 mile ride to an already physical stay in the wood (where felling dead trees and chopping wood are order of the day and has previously left me beat!) worried me a little.

The two ruptured discs in my lower back are once again showing their weakness. It hurts to sneeze. My right ankle has been twinging since I failed gloriously in safely stepping off a wall in Thailand last November. And my mind hasn’t been in the best of places these last few months.

All are reasons for why I’m not feeling very healthy.

All are reasons for why I haven’t exercised much this year.

All are reasons why I’ve decided to break the cycle with a little adventure. Usually it would take two and a half hours by public transport to get too the YesWoods in southern Oxfordshire.

The public transport route to the YesWoods. Convoluted to say the least.

The public transport route to the YesWoods. Convoluted to say the least.

Today I’m going to swap DLR > Underground > Train > Train > Bus > Walk for an ElliptiGO and a trailer with around 30kg of woodland tools and camping gear.

I’m not much looking forward to the aches and pains afterwards and somehow, I’m struggling to imagine arriving at the woods on the ElliptiGO. It feels like a long, long way off.

But some simple maths eases the worries. If I can average 10 miles an hour it’ll only take 5 hours of riding to get there, so even with a couple of cake stops I’ll be there in plenty of time for the 6:30pm meet-up I’ve scheduled with those members of the YesTribe who will join me for a camp in the woods tonight.

And of course, the money I’m saving on public transport can go towards food. And today I can eat as much as I like!

Once the trailer is loaded and my first steps had taken me away from the marina, there was no going back. I left at 6:58am wondering if the heavy trailer would mean I’d have to get off and walk the hills and got my answer after 300 metres, a run-up to a short bank hill interrupted by an impatient cyclist who cut in front and blocked my acceleration up and over the Rotherhithe Tunnel walkway. I had to giggle, hadn’t even been riding for a minute and I was already pushing this thing uphill.

An hour later, thanks to the Super Cycle Highway network, I was in Putney with 10 miles under the belt. 5 miles later I crossed the Thames at Richmond and gently hobbled into an entrepreneur’s cafe called Hobby & Co, grateful for coffee, a bagel and that all important charging point. Note: a three year-old phone’s battery will last for perhaps two hours when recording a GPS route, which makes for a convenient excuse to stop!

Refreshed, I bundled on for the least enjoyable ten miles of the route, a wiggle through cycle-unfriendly suburbs, traffic lights, bumpy pavements and lots of wiggly road crossovers which require care when pulling a trailer. Through Hounslow, past Heathrow, over the M25 and into the countryside, satisfied with a human powered escape from the city.

Would definitely not have seen this on the train! The royal garden at Fifield with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s heads sculptured in giant size!

Would definitely not have seen this on the train! The royal garden at Fifield with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s heads sculptured in giant size!

The battery was back in the red after thirty miles, and a Harvester Pub in Windsor tempted me in with a two-course meal deal. Over halfway now, and that always feels good. I could still walk and the old back hadn’t seized up, so back onto the ElliptiGO with Henley in the sights, a Thameside town that I knew was just 5 miles from the woods.

The Komoot route plan, showing way types and surfaces - thankfully, mostly paved and asphalt

The Komoot route plan, showing way types and surfaces - thankfully, mostly paved and asphalt

All the while I’ve been navigating with the Komoot app, which is a dream for planning ahead of a ride like this, and can then record the basics when you’re on the road, offering navigation advice as you go which reduces the stops. Komoot highlights expected elevation and also, and this bit is deeply satisfying, the surface types one should expect.

A steady uphill on the approach to Henley was mitigated by the Velolife Cafe and Bicycle Workshop, which offered an energy blast in the form of Mochachino and chocolate brownie (have bike, will eat cake) and a small mountain of bike themed books. Always nice to see Joff Sommerfield and Mark Beaumont’s round-the-world rides getting some attention. And also puts into perspective my current venture, if they can go around the world, I’ve got 50 miles in my locker!

A final push to the highest point of the route and then a delightful 28 mile an hour “wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!” downhill to the Thames at Henley. A quick check of Instagram and there’s a message from my old friend Ben Keene who lives in town, and his invite for a cuppa came at the perfect time. As soon as the door shut behind us the rain started to welly down, which always makes crumpets and peanut butter taste extra good.

I remembered Ben’s wise words - “then you’ll go down this great little path” - as I laboured on foot, pushing the ElliptiGO through the undergrowth on a muddy, tree-rooted track that was too narrow for my trailer. Two dog walkers advised that “you don’t want to take the road around the golf course, it’ll add a mile onto your journey” after I’d told them I’d ridden from London, and then I rode around the golf course and made it to The Unicorn Pub just in time for fish and chips, a drink and a wander into the woods with some new friends.

The route map and final tour stats on Komoot. 5 hours 39 riding time, 51.3 miles distance, 9.1 mile per hour average, 1,250 ft of climbing and 950ft descent.


Let’s talk about money

If I’d travelled by public transport this would have been the outlay:

DLR & Underground from Limehouse to Ealing Broadway: £2.80
Train: Ealing Broadway to Reading: £16.70
Bus: Reading to the Unicorn Pub: £3.50
Lunch: A £5 sandwich
Total: £28

And in reality, although the journey took considerably longer, it cost £6.01 less

Breakfast in Richmond: £7.70
Two-Course lunch in Windsor: £8.99
Cake and Coffee Stop @ Velolife Bicycle Workshop: £5.30
Tea and crumpets with friends: £priceless
Total: £21.99

The stats

So, was the exercise and extra time worth it?

Of course it was. A day away from the computer is always good for the soul, as are the unexpected views, the guilt-free refuelling stops and the satisfaction of passing the Heathrow/ M25/Henley milestones without the help of anyone else.

The body aches a little more but I needed to remind myself that I could do this kind of thing, and it’s the first step to getting fit again in time for a much longer ride later in the year.

It’s almost hard to imagine that two and half hours on the train is within a day’s reach of riding a bike (or some form of non motorised transport) and there’s something wonderfully healthy about widening my bubble, seeing that journey with a different, sweatier pair of eyes, and feeling like a celebration is due at the end of a journey.

Next time you have the time to play with, why not ride your commute or the route out to the next YesTribe wild camp? I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

David Foster Wallace: This is water

David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 zeroes in on our default setting. The way we see life before we consider that we have a choice over what we think, believe and act on.

The only thing that is capital T true is that you get to decide how you see (life)

If you worship money and things, then you will never have enough.

If you worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly and when time and age start showing you will die a million deaths before they plant you.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid. 

Worship intellect, you will end up feeling stupid, always on the verge of being found out.

These are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing


Excerpts

Blind certainty - a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know that he’s locked up

Think about it. There’s no experience you’ve had that you aren’t right at the centre of.

Choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centred

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here's one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness, because it's so socially repulsive, but it's pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real - you get the idea. But please don't worry that I'm getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called "virtues". This is not a matter of virtue - it's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centred, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.

By way of example, let's say it's an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired, and you're stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home - you haven't had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job - and so now, after work, you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the workday, and the traffic's very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store's hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it's pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can't just get in and quickly out: you have to wander all over the huge, overlit store's crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough checkout lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can't take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.

Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your cheque or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn't fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etc, etc.

The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it's going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I've worked really hard all day and I'm starved and tired and I can't even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid goddamn people.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. It’s my natural default setting, I am at the centre of the world. 

The thing is of course there are totally different ways to think about these things. It’s hard, it takes will or effort.

The capital T Truth is about life before death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water. This is water.”

Neil Gaiman: Make good art

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 Commencement speech at the University of the Arts is priceless. He tells the story of a freelancer making his way in the world, working out what’s right and wrong, following the wind and a hunch and opportunity and making up the rules that contradict what all the others are telling him.

I’ve copied my favourite quotes and lines from the lecture below the video, a collection of timeless wisdom from the world of doing life, your way.

My favourite lines from the speech

When you start out on a career in the arts you don’t know what you’re doing

If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody has done it before they haven’t yet made up rules to stop it being done again

If you have an idea of what you want to do and want you want to make then just go and do that. That’s much harder than it sounds and also sometimes much easier than you can imagine.

You have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, finding work, getting where you want to go

Decide on the mountain you want to walk towards and keep walking towards it. Take work that moves you towards your mountain.

I learned to write by writing. 

If you do what you love then even if you don’t have the money at least you have the work. If you do it for the money and the money doesn’t come you won’t have anything. Every now and then I forget that rule and every time the universe kicks me hard and reminds me.

Anything I did just for the money was rewarded by nothing but bitter experience.

The things I did because I was existed and wanted to see in reality have never let me down.

The problems with failure are hard. The problems of success can be harder. The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you’re getting away with something, and that at some point someone will discover you. Imposter syndrome.

At some point, you have to stop saying yes to everything because not the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back. And you have to learnt os ay no.

I watched my peers and my friends and the ones who were older than me and I’d watch how miserable how some of them were, telling me how they couldn’t envisage a world where they did what they always wanted to do, anymore, because now they had to earn. Certain amount every month to keep where they were. They couldn’t do the things that mattered or that they’d always wanted to do and that, seemed as big a tragedy as any problem of failure.

The biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do because you’re successful.

When things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. Eventually time will take the sting away. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days too.

The urge starting out is to copy, and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. The one thing that we have that nobody else have, is you. Your story, your vision.


The things I’d done that worked the best were the things I was the most uncertain about. People look back and explain how they were inevitable successes, and I had no idea.

It’s not lying if you say you’ve done something and then seek to ensure that your future makes good on what was once a lie. It’s chronologically challenged.

You get work however you get work, but people keep working because their work is good and they deliver on time. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver on time. 

This is really great, you should enjoy it. The best advice I ever got that I ignored.

Stop, look around and say “this is really fun.” 

The harder you work and the more wisely you work, the luckier you’ll get. But there is luck, and it helps.

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procratinator

It would be apt to begin a series of blogs about excellent TED talks by pointing to one about procrastination.

In one of the funniest TED talks around, writer Tim Urban discusses the process that all procrastinators may not necessarily enjoy, but will definitely relate to. For those of you who are familiar with the stacking up of pressure as a deadline approaches, the fear of the panic monster and the unavoidable desires of our internal instant gratification monkey, this will have you in fits of giggles.

Urban finishes off with a note of caution which poses a question: what is the outcome of a procrastinator’s life, when deadlines are taken away. Watch out for his life calendar, a graphic with a box for every week of a 90 year life. Turns out, when you think about it like that, maybe procrastinating isn’t the best thing to do.

How practical is it to maintain a healthy/vegan diet while on a low budget, long distance cycle?

How practical is it to maintain a healthy/vegan diet while on a low budget, long distance cycle?
- Dominic Harrison-Poole


I try to eat healthy but don’t stick to a regular diet, so am not the best person to answer. So, I’ve asked some other people to do it for me. The final word at the moment of the article is a lovely article written by Jago Hartland.

Firstly, it seems that it’s both possible and practical - in most parts of the world - to stick to a healthy vegan diet.

The winner of last year’s Indipac bike ride, Abdullah Zeinab, is a vegan and, I’m reliably told, so were a number of the other riders. The Indipac is a tough race and covering over 5000km in two weeks or so is no mean feat.

My friend Rod Wellington is vegan and has completed many long distance cycles and paddling trips, including a 3800 mile descent of the Missouri - Mississippi. His website is a source of information and he regularly talks about his diet

I also posted this question on my Facebook page and here were some of the answers:

Shusanah Pillinger cycled across America as a veggie and across Europe as a vegan, she says:.

“Pretty much the same as surviving on a healthy / vegan diet whilst not cycling. Know what calories you need to consume to maintain energy levels, know what works for you in terms or carbs/protein, find foods high in the right nutrients in garages/supermarkets/cafes/restaurants and do some investigations of what is available in the places you will visit. I know I cycle best on carbs, with protein before sleep - crisp and olive sandwiches are my favourite. Nuts and chocolate soya pudding for quick protein choices. Bananas / avocados / houmous are other go to items.”

Kimberley Frances did a low-budget long distance cycle veggie & found the hardest thing is variety. “I ended up having porridge with honey for breakfast, bread rolls with tomato, cucumber and sauce for lunch & pasta with tomato sauce for dinner pretty much every day. Snacks were nuts. Any time there was fresh veg on roadside would chop up into dinner. Beans were a luxury due to extra weight. Had to stock up for several days at a time due to long stretches & shops were sparse in Patagonian towns. Would recommend taking many herbs & spices though for health benefits! Meat would not have kept anyway or would have added extra weight in tins. Took multi-vitamins!”

Paralympian Melissa Nicholls says “In my opinion, long distance cycling and a healthy diet need to go together. And for me too veggi / vegan. It’s often a safer option when it comes to sensitive tummies and as long as you know what you need and if you can prepare a little with taking a few bits, it’s definitely doable. Some countries are more challenging than others admittedly! Even in the Faroe Islands, my only dinner option was an £11 fuel station salad sandwich. I cried when I opened it up and found ham in it.”

Charlotte says “Rich Roll talks a lot about this in his finding ultra book, and when he runs ultra marathons he eats similar to what Shusanah said, lots of nut butter sandwiches, avocados, quinoa, lentils, beans and all have loads of protein 👍🏻 maybe hard in some countries though”

Thoughts by Jago Hartland

To start with, I have been Vegan since October 2017. I feel lucky in the sense I came to realize the health benefits of a Vegan diet after many years of eating meat and finding it slowing me down in my competitive running and other team sports I was playing. If you are vegan, you understand the benefits if you have a good diet, but if you don’t have a good, strong, healthy diet then it could have a much worse effect on your endurance sports and especially anything long distance.

Let’s start with typical ‘easy vegan’ answers and I will help put them into context for endurance. The main things to remember, and I emphasize REMEMBER are to monitor your Protein, Iron and B12, particularly in that order. Everyone’s bodies work differently and that is another reason why a vegan diet suits so many people as a lot of people don’t need higher counts of protein or Vitamin B12 whereas other people do.


Before taking on an endurance sport such as a long distance cycle it may be helpful to watch your average daily diet and keep a track of your protein intake, iron and B12. Typically without pills and supplements is ideal although… why not use them? As long as you keep well hydrated during your adventure there is no reason why using supplements is a bad idea. For example, Vitamin B12 comes from our water sources, because of the filtration, it is hard to contain in a diet other than meat products which have digested the B12. But, great B12 sources can be from Marmite, Yeast products, seaweed, Spirulina and although these may be challenging things to take on a long endurance adventure, there are also many supplements that you can take instead! Understand your body! After going vegan I encountered signs of B12 deficiency after two weeks which is usual, if you feel fatigued, tingling sensations in the limbs and you aren’t functioning very well then it’s likely you need more vitamin B12. On a long trip, this can happen any day from day 3 to day 30.


Protein and Iron can be a lot simpler. On a vegan diet, I myself and many others get plenty of protein through vegetables and fruits including good quality broccoli and spinach. (I will get onto practicality soon). In terms of protein, a good rule of thumb I have picked up on for protein intake is to have your bodyweight in KG, in the same grams for protein. So for example, my bodyweight is 76kg, so I try to keep to a minimum of 76g of protein through my food. I know many vegan athletes trying to keep high muscle growth by eating up to ‘your bodyweight + ½’ to maintain muscle growth. I try to keep to this rule when training hard for more than 2 hours a day: which happens to be most days in my case. But do remember, if you aren’t used to eating such a high level of protein in your normal home diet then you don’t need to keep it so high as it is! But when physically exerting yourself, definitely try keeping a good high amount of protein and that will help muscle repair and your consecutive days of cycling. Carbohydrates is something we tend to eat a high amount of without always realizing. If you are doing a multiple day trip then GO CRAZY! Eat lots of carbs! If you are cycling more than 5 hours a day in most weather conditions at a 50% effort level, you will be burning more than 2000kcal anyway. So eat that pizza, have an extra sandwich, go crazy on the biscuits, you need the calories. Carbohydrates are as important to fuel as protein.


I cycled Bristol to Paris last year covering 430km in just four days, On these days I kept my protein to around my bodyweight (grams to KG) and I had no worries over the four days to cover over 100km a day; although if I was doing it for weeks on end, it may be different so you may need slightly more protein.

This biggest argument for a lot of people towards a Vegan diet tends to be practicality and low budget. When at home, cooking away and training hard; if you cook smart and plan ahead, it can be very easy. But in many countries I have had issues which tends to be based on practicality more than budget. I have always found that if the country accommodates for a Vegan diet, then it tends to be as cheap or cheaper than a meat based diet. Plants always tend to be cheaper and keep much fresher over periods of time in comparison to dairy and milk. You can literally buy KILOS of vegetables for the same price as a kilo of meat in South East Asia.

So all in all, I don’t tend to have a problem with price as it tends to always be cheaper and even the supplements you may want to take as a ‘just incase’ or meal replacement don’t tend to be more expensive than any dairy based products. India, Vietnam and Cambodia are all countries I have trekked in jungles and mountains and all three have been cheaper and very accessible on a vegan diet. I must admit that Europe, even though greatly changing towards Vegan now, is a more difficult area for keeping a strong diet. It will come at a higher price although everything is more expensive so the comparison is practically nill. But the main issues is the fact a lot of these countries don’t cater well on a vegan diet. I have been in many European restaurants that have served no Vegan options and shopping for supplies has also been quite difficult. The best advice I can give you is to research your country ahead. I have been faced with some of the worse scenarios on a Vegan diet. In the Himalayas around 5000m I was hit with altitude sickness badly and I had to keep my calories high just to stop from vomiting and to trek further down. It lasted four days and I did have to switch to a vegetarian diet. For most vegans, this is undreamt of to do but other than in the hidden Himalayas, I haven’t had to do this often.

I will 100% say that a Vegan diet can be as practical and as cost effective as a meat and dairy diet. The only issue’s you may face will be to keep to a healthy diet and shopping around more (but when on a budget, all of us adventures tend to do that a fair amount). I highly recommend training hard at home before going on your big adventure, understanding how your body copes with the stress and seeing how affectively it is recovering on your current diet. It gives you a very good idea on how to manage yourself when travelling and challenging yourself. Even experiment on a slightly more Raw Vegan diet as this will make it so much easier and practical to eat whilst travelling, check out the infamous Rich Roll endurance athlete. He is one of my biggest role models for endurance and he is mostly raw vegan completing Ironman and Ultraman events. I go more raw vegan towards my marathon races and longer events and it helps with my body recovering a lot more.

Good Luck! I hope this can be of help and I know you’ll have an amazing adventure, I am envious just talking about it.

Jago Hartland - say thanks to Jago in the comments below, and follow him on Facebook or Instagram

How and where do you light a campfire?

Where and how do you light a campfire? Really would like mini adventure with my children. Never done this. I live in Scotland. :)
- Morag Howey


I love a good campfire. It’s a meeting place, a hearth of conversation, a reminder that warmth is natural and there are more interesting things to watch than TV.

Let’s start with where:

I’ve made small campfires all over the world but can’t advise you to light fires willy nilly. Start simple, find a place (maybe even your garden) where you have permission from the landowner, ideally where there’s already a designated firepit.

In Scotland, as in all countries, there are country specific rules. Here’s the official word from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:

Wherever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do wish to light an open fire, keep it small, under control, and supervised - fires that get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable. Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.

Don’t burn plastic, and try to avoid burning cardboard as it blows off and litters the countryside.

Remember that fires leave a stain on the earth and in some cases can cause damage to under-soil root systems and habitats, and of course in dry season fires can spread far and wide. Always err on the side of caution and if in doubt, don’t make a fire.

Finally, make sure you have some water nearby to extinguish the fire when you’re done. NEVER leave a fire without extinguishing it.

And to do the how:

Of course, safety is a priority when lighting any kind of fire. Assuming you’re following the recommended guidelines and have permission from the landowner, here’s how to light a fire.

If you google these instructions, you’ll be amazed to hear how many different types of fire set-up there are. Bottom-up, top-down, backlog, campfire, bonfire, on and on.

The simplest way to start is to find someone who knows their way around building a fire and let them teach you.

Start small, find a small number of dry twigs and build them in a mini tipi around a scrunched up bit of newspaper, or even better for the non-patient - a firelighter! Use a lighter or matches toAs the fire takes hold add more fuel. Eventually when the embers start to glow larger pieces of wood or a good log will sustain the fire.

Fire needs oxygen to burn so don’t pile it up too fast.

Always keep an eye on it, and remember, if you don’t top it up at some point it’ll go out. If you start off with a little pile of wood that saves you rushing around the woodland to find new stuff to burn. Many woodlands or campgrounds will have designated firewood - please use that instead of collecting deadfall (wood that’s fallen from a tree).

Finally, as with everything, try to be sparing. Fires are fun and there might be a temptation to burn everything you can find. But you don’t need to make a bonfire, save some wood for the next people to enjoy (this is always a nice thing to do - leave a pile for the next visitors and they’ll pay it forward to the next).


What do you eat on your adventures?

I just wanted to ask you what do you suggest eating while on adventure (in my case is a bikepacking trip)
- Giovanni Brambilla


I like eating, but I don’t care much what it is as long as it tastes good. My diet depends entirely on where I am and how I’m travelling.

I like a social adventure so most of my trips have been in places where food is readily available. When scooting around Japan 50% of my food (and coffee) came from a 7/11.

At times when you can’t just nip into a cafe or restaurant and resupply isn’t readily available, there’s only one thing you need to know: when is it likely that you can get your next food. Then ensure you’ve got meals in your bag for that amount of time, and three days extra, just in case.

On the Mississippi the river would pass through a town or city every three or four days.

In the Atacama we’d carry most of our food.

Riding across Europe was basically just a series of day rides, multiplied by 60. Every day offered an opportunity to buy food on the spot.

I usually eat two main meals a day, lunch and dinner. I’ll grab a small bite for breakfast then snack through the morning and in the middle of the afternoon - whatever’s needed to keep energy up.

When snacking I’ll stick to nuts and protein bars, rather than sweets. Although a little bag of jelly babies or bar of chocolate always helps the mood!

If you’re heading out and going remote there are a few options to carry your food and keep it lightweight. As long as water is available, dehydrated meals like these from Firepot are the natural option and don’t mean you’re lacking in nutrition.

Ultimately, we all appreciate different tastes and need to know our individual requirements. Adventure is a mental battle, so eat what makes you happy.

How do you wash up your cooking equipment?

How do you wash or clean your cooking equipment?
- Giovanni Brambilla


I’m not the most developed of camp cooks so tend to keep things pretty simple when it comes to a cooking set-up. One stove, one pot and then a fold-down bowl or plate if I’m lucky. A spork sorts out the cutlery needs, and that’s your lot.

I rarely carry washing-up liquid, and instead clean off any grease, oil, burned bits and leftover food using sand, dirt or grass. If you’ve got water to spare then rinse before wiping clean with a tissue or a leaf. There’s something liberating about grabbing a handful of sand or a tuft of grass and scrubbing your bowl - if you haven’t tried this, do it!

If you like a shine to your pots after a clean then Dr Bronner’s will give you some chemical assistance. For me I don’t often bother, it’s more to carry and nature always provides an equally good solution.

What are your favourite dry bags?

I’ve always enjoyed following your river journeys. What dry bags would you recommend using?
- Christian Soltermann


Answer

Questions to ask yourself to help decide which drybags you need.

How am I travelling?
If I’m on the water (sailing, kayak, SUP, canoe, waterbike) every day then there’s always the chance of capsize or bags falling in the water. If I’m just on a walk or a bike ride pesky rain or even heavy overnight dewfall demands a moderation of protection.

How rugged will the journey be?
Are the bags going to be tossed around? Do they need to be hardy?

What water type am I travelling on or near?
Gear will last a lot longer in fresh water than it will in ocean salt water. Salt water eats gear faster than crocodiles.

What’s the climate?
Humid or endlessly rainy?

What type of gear needs to be protected?
Electronics are key to some expeditions and are more susceptible to moisture damage than clothing. It’s not fun reaching the end of a grim day only to find your stash of dry end-of-ride clothes are absolutely soaking.


Regardless of whether or not I’m travelling on water, I’ll pack using a layering series of dry bags.

Main choice for river trips:

Main bag: Palm Equipment River Trek: Camping gear, clothing and electronics
My favourite top-layer waterproof duffel bag is the Palm Equipment River Trek. It comes in a bunch of different sizes, is rugged enough to withstand a few months of being chucked about, and it’s my first choice on a long river or ocean journey. A Palm River Trek can also happily survive in the aircraft hold, so no worries about checking it in. They’re top loaded, so ideal for gear you don’t need to grab throughout the day.


Day bag: Aquapac Upano Duffel: Day bag for easy access to spare layers, lunch and other items you’ll use during the day
Aquapac also do duffel bags, which are thinner, lightweight and suitable for shorter weekend or week-long paddles. They’re fastened longways so are good for access throughout the day, and also come with a valve so you can squeeze extra air out before doing the bag up.


Hike rucksack: Aquapac "Wet & Dry" Lightweight Waterproof Backpack - 25 Litres (788)A great hiking and city rucksack. It wouldn’t keep water out if it was submerged but I’ve used one of these for years and it happily keeps the laptop dry in rainy conditions. Good for running into town for supplies.


Inner Layers: All gear inside the dry bags packed away inside AquaPac Pack Dividers
Whatever my main outer choice is, all of my gear goes in smaller waterproof pack dividers. My waterproof pack dividers of choice are by by Aquapac, they come in different colour-coded sizes so you can easily find your gear when in camp.

Main choice for bike trips:

If I’m on the road and need good rain and mud protection for a rack-ready pannier, I’ve always gone with Ortlieb. The back roller panniers are great for the rear rack, and for a handlebar bag the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Plus has lasted me for years, on scooters and tandems and Elliptigos and water bikes and even normal bicycles.

And finally, to keep the smartphone dry but still usable, Lifeproof know what they’re doing. https://amzn.to/2RU6yiA

How do you purify water on your adventures?

How do you purify water on your travels, do you buy fresh or treat it yourself?
-Christian Soltermann


Answer:

If you’re travelling in a remote area and can’t replenish fresh water, I recommend two solutions:

For in-camp filtration (as long as you’re near a river or lake) a gravity filtration system will give you a couple of litres of drinking/cooking water in half an hour, check out this Sawyer water filter system for one of the best on the market. Sling the top bag (with river/lake water) higher than the lower bag and let gravity do the rest.

For fast access to drinking water there are now multiple bottle options that come complete with filters. Water-to-Go bottles come with a bomb-proof filter that enables you to fill your bottle and drink straight away through the filter - these do leak a bit so only use if you can guarantee keeping your bottle upright at all times.

Katadyn have numerous options, they’re very good at what they do, as you’d expect from products with ‘Pro’ in the name. They’re expensive though and so are the replacement filters.

My favourite bottle option is an innovative plunger design from Grayl. Fill your bottle to the line, plunge with the lid (almost like you’d do with cafettiere coffee) and hey presto, in 15 seconds you’ll have a litre of fresh water.

As Anwar, a beautifully dry, focused and cunning West Bank hiking guide used to say, in a three-worded display of absolute, live-giving genius. “Drink water, please.”

How do you manage hygiene on a big adventure?

How do you manage your hygiene and your money while on a big adventure?
- Dominic Harrison-Poole


Answer:

As crucial as both of these are, I’ve already dealt with how to pay for adventures here, so below will focus (briefly) on the smelly bits.

There have been times when I’ve been so oblivious to my own stink the reality only hit home when I walked/rode/paddled into a populated region, then wondered why mothers were frogmarching their children swiftly in the other direction.

The human nose is very clever. When it’s had a bit of something it turns off most of the receptors. It’s nature’s way of helping us cope, I guess.

My attitude to hygiene is fairly simple. If I have an open wound I’ll keep it religiously clean until it heals up. Otherwise, I like being dirty as long as nobody else is effected. You’re more likely to need a wash when on land and the fumes, dirt and general detritus settles on you without so much as a second thought. Skin and body hair especially does an incredible job of harbouring bacteria, and in hotter and more humid climates just a couple of hours on the move take you way beyond need-a-shower level.

I do enjoy a little splash in a sink in a gas station or roadside McDonalds, hand soap does the trick pretty much anywhere, but I’m carefully to wipe up afterwards. I don’t think the cleaners there get paid enough to deal with my mess.

If I’m travelling on or beside water I’ll swim wash at least once a day, more often if it’s fresh water. I did a trip in the Atacama desert a few years ago and my mates and I showered once in 19 days. We were just walking lumps of red dust but it was okay, because we were in the middle of nowhere and barely saw anyone. We smelled so bad ourselves we didn’t notice each other’s whiff.

Most of my trips are more social than that, so I’ll try to stay moderately clean if the chance allows. But still, I’d say on an average trip I shower every four or five days. A little splash under the pits is always a good move if a tap or stream presents itself.

Dr Bronner’s All-In-One soap is a good thing to take on a trip if you have the room, they come in small containers and wash hands, body, hair and clothes. And of course, clothes smell just as much (if not more) than a dirty human, so I treat my clothes just as I would myself on a trip - at some point everything needs a bath.

And if in doubt, if you smell so bad you can’t have a good conversation with someone, you smell too much.

Let me leave you with two words. Wet Wipes.

How do you decide what to do next?

I'm a compulsive over thinker so trying to decide on something is a daily struggle, from ordering in a restaurant to choosing between the red pill and the blue pill (a Matrix reference if you have ever seen the film). Every action and social interaction will have 1000 different possibilities and I will think of most of them before I decide how to move forward.

So the big question, how do you decide what to do next?
- Jon B


Answer:

We have more information at our disposal today than any of our ancestors had to deal with in a lifetime, and the option of multiple angles, results and effects means it’s rare that we face a simple yes or no.

Personally, when faced with a hard decision I feel a knot in my stomach throughout the process, one which tightens with time. I’ve lived a weird adult life, often on the move and without consistency, and as a result I’ve had to make many varied, sometimes surprising decisions.

Ultimately, the more we do something the better we get at it, especially as we develop and understand our values and beliefs, upon which all decisions should be founded.

I trust my gut instinct implicitly, and favour excitement as an indicator that I’m headed in the right direction. I’ve always wanted to be excited about life, so I try to make every decision based on whether or not the potential journey and outcome makes me smile. I know that sounds a bit flappy, but it is what it is. I recommend giving it a go.

I’ve also created a few parameters for different parts of my life which instantly help me narrow down decisions. In adventure I usually travel at least 1000 miles without a motor, and then the variable factors usually come down to physical state and the time I have for a trip. Narrowing the field of your decisions is another step towards simplicity.

When it comes to money, I only spend when it feels like an investment. I don’t buy crap for me (or anyone else) that is useless. I really enjoy living cheaply and feeling like the money I spend develops me as a human.

We make decisions every day, consciously and unconsciously. We’re really good at it most of the time, when we don’t think about it. There are a hundred reasons why a decision might be difficult, and understanding these cons might help you along on your own path, so I’ve listed a few of those briefly below and then offered a couple of different tasks and processes which should help make your decision-making clearer and easier.


The bad news

Every decision requires a compromise and choosing one thing will mean you miss out on another, infinite amount of experiences. Thinking about life this way is suffocating, and luckily, most of the alternatives we’ll never have cared or thought about. So let’s focus on the important stuff that is pulling you left and right, and that’ll simplify the decision.


The good news

Almost always, you know the right answer already, even before the weighing up begins. It’s just hard to realise because of the noise, head vs heart, opinions and expectations and potential for regret.

Remember: Gut instinct bypasses temptation, greed, finances and expectation - learning to listen to your gut sometimes takes some bravery.


Do yourself a favour

Remember that whichever way you choose, it’s not the end of the world. If it doesn’t work out, something else will come along. If you choose not to take the job because it doesn’t feel right, another option will come along because you rightly made the space for it.

Simplify the process by understanding all the options and what they mean.
Make a list of your options, then alongside each one list the pros and cons. Then narrow your favourites down until you have only two possibilities. Then, discuss it with others to come to a final decision.

Who are you making this decision for?
If you make the decision for anyone else, you risk disappointing yourself and then not being the right version of you for the person you were trying to please.

Overthinking
Think too much and you’ll miss the important bits, you’ll stress yourself out and become ill. No decision should make you ill, ever. The only reason to take an eternity deciding on something is that you already know the exact outcomes of each choice. Ironically, if you already knew the outcomes, the decision would be easy.

However obvious it might be, you can’t predict the future. You only know how you feel now and trying to outthink your gut might mean you miss the obvious choice.

Treat the decision as a game
This isn’t life or death. If you were controlling a video game character who had the same choice to make, what would you go for?

Choose your counsel wisely
Don’t ask everyone their opinion, most people won’t be able to help and the more input you get the harder your decision will be. Avoid people who make it seem as though they want what's best for you, but assume they know what that is when even you don't. Their suggestions might be right, but if they ignore your thoughts and don’t account for your feelings and concerns, they’re likely to miss the mark.

Life is a lesson
Even if you’re a braniac you didn’t get everything right at school. And guess what, look at you now! Each choice we make teaches us a little more about how to act in the future. You’re not supposed to get everything right, so stop trying so hard. There’s ice cream to eat and friends to hug.

Do you have all the information you need?
You can’t decide anything on a hypothetical. Make sure you know what factors are at play before starting to decide. (This is especially key in a decision that involves other people - make sure you know what they think about it, rather than assuming or fearing the worst).

Is the decision worth your time?
Paralysis by analysis. A big, life-changing choice is worth good consideration, but spending a week deciding on the next movie you’re going to watch is silly (tip: if the decision making process is taking longer than the probable result, you’re over thinking this).

Remember that at some point, indecision becomes a decision to do nothing, which might be the worst decision of all.

Walk on it
Get outside, never make a big decision in a room. Give some space to your thoughts. Ask what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Can you choose both?
Perhaps there’s room to leave the door slightly ajar in case your first decision doesn’t work out.

Are you torn?
If you’ve been in decision mode for a long time, there’s a good chance that both options were as good as each other. That’s why it’s difficult, right? Both will have compromises. Which one will help out more in the short, medium and long term?


TOOLS AND TASKS

A handful of ides that might aid your process:

1) Understand the source of your fear: write down and answer - “What am I afraid of happening if I make the wrong decision?

2) What’s the worst case scenario for each choice? Write this down, and then think about what actually needs to happen for worst case scenario to be reached. You’ll see that it’s really unlikely and understanding that you’re in the right position now to avoid catastrophe can go some way to removing the doubt and nerves

3) Is your decision permanent? If it’s reversible, take comfort in this, it means the pressure is off!

4) Ask advice: You don’t have to do all this by yourself. Choose one or two people who might be impacted by your decision, or whose opinion you trust. Let them say their bit, even if they voice things you don’t agree with. Remember, you chose to share the problem with them. Give them a chance to help. (Speaking out loud can also help put thoughts and decision into perspective, so find a neutral observer who is a good listener!)

5) Stay calm. Ensure you have all the information you need to make a qualified decision. Consider your values and beliefs (ALL of your choices should be in line with these) and understand your priorities (family vs work, time on the road vs extra sleep, exercise vs commute, etc).

Operation: Decide

List all of your options, be thorough.

a) Write down pros and cons for each.

b) Think out of the box (are you considering all of your options, or just the obvious ones?)

c) Get rid of impractical options.

d) Go for a walk or meditate - stop your mind being so busy and give space to your thoughts.

e) Play devil’s advocate with each potential option.

f) Consider whether you feel guilty. Are you finding yourself saying the words “must” or should”? This can be a natural feeling when caught in a decision, but choices should not be made out of guilt, they’ll come back to bite you in the long run.

g) How are you going to feel about this decision in two years?

h) Trust your instinct.

i) Where’s the excitement? (If there isn’t any, over any of your choices, perhaps you’re looking in the wrong direction?)

j) Know your back-up plan. You'll better react to potential outcomes when you’ve considered them and your likely course of action in any given situation.

k) Look to the positives - assess the cons in your list and find ways to make them better. ie. if you had to take a job that might involve a really long commute, what could you do with that time? More work? Read a book? Meditate (not recommended if you’re driving). Could you stay closer to work for one or two nights a week to reduce your drive time?

l) If you go for it and it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world. Just go in prepared to act whatever the outcome. Maybe the job is great and the commute isn’t that bad, but it’s impacting your relationship or health.


Once you’ve made your choice…

Carry it out as best as you can. Don’t worry, don’t second guess yourself. Just go for it and spend your energy on more important things. If doubt persists after a decision and it just doesn’t feel right, this isn’t a one-chance life. Be flexible and realise it’s ok to choose wrong. Go back through the process and do what feels right. Take responsibility, and ensure where possible that have someone to support you when you make your choice. You’re not in this alone. Good luck!


If you haven’t heard of the YesTribe, it’s a group on Facebook where people are willing to help each other. If you’re struggling with something or want to share a win or something that excites you, post away. The supportive response

How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs helping others?

I work in the charity sector and I love my job and what we are working towards. However sometimes there are not enough hours in the day.

I’ve started trying to make the most of the time outside of work with micro adventures and crafting projects. I do occasionally get paid to cycle around for part of the day so it has its benefits. The charity sector is full of passionate people who work over and above but this can sometimes take it toll.

How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs working/ helping others?

- Emma T:


Answer:

Before diving in to explore work vs life balance, it’s important to understand where the question comes from for you personally. That there’s a question at all suggests something isn't working for you.

We all have to work, without it we don't get paid, can't afford rent, food and the lifestyle we choose. Deriving a sense of value from the work we do is a prerequisite that most of us consider, but how far that value takes us is a question of will. People who work in the charity sector have almost always chosen a lower wage in return for adding value to other people's lives.

Yes, there's a (good) selfish return from the feeling of helping others, but when that feeling of worth is outweighed by doubt the most obvious answer lies in a lack of balance.

There are lots of different ways to help others, and there are many charitable jobs that require people to sit in offices and never see the direct results of their contribution. At some point, for most, the appeal will wain.

Direct contact with other people and feeling the tangible impact of our work is something we all crave, Helping others can keep the fire going, but the fire is brighter when the contact is face to face rather than from afar. 

I'd always encourage folks considering a new career path to first assess ways to try and change their current role so they can be more satisfied, and at the same time make more of a positive impact from within an organisation.

When you're working in the charity sector and then start to feel like you're not enjoying yourself, there might be a great sense of guilt. After all, you're contributing to the wellbeing of others, and surely there are plenty of other people doing similar work who are satisfied with the honour of helping others? 

The simple answer to your conundrum is one you already know, that your work vs life balance isn't level.

There are many different ways to help others and your current role certainly isn't your only option. It's natural to want for a new challenge and whether it's within your current organisation or not, there's another more satisfying work option out there waiting for you. Remember, this isn't your fault - even if you enjoyed your job more in the past, we change, we need different things in time. It's not a phase, it's time. Look after yourself now, not then.

On the personal side, if you don't feel like you're doing enough for yourself, then sort that out, now! If you're not happy then it doesn't matter what your job title is, you're not going to be at your best when helping others.

You can make more difference smiling and chatting to every stranger you meet in a day than working in a refugee camp with a scowl. Our ability to help and give comes from within, and when you're forgoing self care in the pursuit of helping others, you're caught in a vicious circle between feeling and expectation.

An idea:

Find half an hour out of your day and split a page into two columns. On the left side, write THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT WORK AND LIFE and on the right side write THE THINGS I DON'T LIKE AND NEED TO CHANGE.

Then list as many bits about your work and life as you can think of. By the time you get to the bottom of your page, you'll have plenty of things to work on, and a pretty good idea of what your ideal life looks like. Go in pursuit of that, and your work/life balance will start to look after you a little more.


Do you have a question that I might be able to help with? In 2019 I’m answering one new question a day; about adventure, lifestyle, resilience, facing up to a challenge (or a naysayer) and so on.

Even if it’s a small one, why not ask? I’d like that. Thank you!

Something had to change

I’ve been working on my storytelling recently, by condensing what could be pages and pages (or books and books) into a few sentences.

I’ve just finished the first episode of a series of 60 second films that tell the story of my last few years. This is the first one, a general overview that ends with what feels like a natural call to action: which is, how can I help? Other episodes will zero on on each one of my Expedition1000 journeys, and different aspects of SayYesMore’s creation. But for now, here’s Part 1! Let me know what you think!

To paddle around an island

For some time I’ve suffered from an affliction that arrives in the form of a shoulder-mounted gremlin, who maintains silence until I arrive on a tranquil island for some much-needed downtime. Then it pipes up with a word that can’t be ignored…

“Circumnavigation”

God damn. It always sounds so romantic and intrepid, the concept of rounding an island on the sea, but nature also has her way of ensuring that we continue to do silly things by painting upcoming pain-fests as baths of honey.

In reality, these sweet, ever-huggy thoughts don’t last forever. Not when the ocean is gently bopping you on the head and your poor weedy arms are trying to pump out 25,000 paddle strokes in 12 hours.

Emms and I are enjoying an extended honeymoon in Thailand, as you might have read earlier. We’ve spent our first weeks on Koh Phangan, the middle island in a chain of three in the Gulf of Siam, which also includes Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It wasn’t long before I wondered whether some kind of adventure might interfere with our bliss, and slowly a plan developed to paddle round each of the islands.

The decision was made partly because of the distances. Long ago, in 2014, some friends and I paddled around Martinique in the Caribbean. It took around 10 days and was intended to be the first of a series of twenty-five mini-journeys that might go some way towards padding the gaps in between my longer 1000-mile+ trips. Each one, I proposed, would be on a Stand Up Paddleboard, at least 100 miles in distance, and in a different country from the previous paddles.

In order of circumference, Koh Samui is 75km around, Koh Phangan 50km, and Koh Tao 25km. Which comes pretty darn close to 100 miles in total.

We have ourselves a little challenge. As Koh Phangan is the current base this is where we’ll start. The maths are easy. My average speed on an inflatable SUP hovers around 3.5miles per hour, including the odd water and photo break. The sun rises at 6:15am and sets at 5:55, so with Twilight I’d have twelve hours to cover a touch over 30 miles. Normal speed + a couple of meal stops and this felt more than doable. 

Morning view

Morning view

When you’re away only between sleeps then preparation is minimal. We’ve already got our boards here, inflatable 12 foot Pathfinders by Lakeshore. Mine’s called Mud, after its maiden voyage on the Mississippi. And then I gave myself a £20 budget for the whole day, which is hearty living in these parts.

I was excited, I really was. It had been a while since my last adventure, largely because that waterbike trip along Norway’s rugged coastline had properly kicked my ass, but as we pulled ourselves out of bed at 5:30am I didn’t even hold the slightest envy knowing that Em would be right back in the bed as soon as I paddled off. 

Morning thunderstorms were 50% likely but this is normal during late monsoon season, and the grey-blue surface was mirror-calm as I headed north along the coast, Emms and the co-working hub’s two dogs – Jay and Bruce, bounded alongside briefly until their beach ran out.

Pace was fast, it felt great to be on the move. After half an hour I was into new territory, far beyond my previous recreational paddles. This newness is forever a motivation and for the entire morning I’d be treated to a convex coastline, each headland acting as a carrot before the next one would slowly reveal itself. I was being pulled around the island two or three kilometres at a time, with the rest entirely secret – a reward I had to work for.

The headland carrot

The headland carrot

The night before I’d made a map for Em with distance markers around the island and my estimated time of arrival at each spot. She anticipated renting a moped (for a massive £7 per day) and coming out to find me, but the eastern half of the island is only accessible by boat or 4x4, so I didn’t expect to see her before lunch.

I hit my first mark, which always feels good. 3 hours after starting I’d covered 18km and it was time for a breakfast. A wide open beach seemed to offer plenty of cafes and I paddled in under the curious gaze of holiday-makers, confused by this man who had apparently come in off the sea. “Passport?!” asked one bearded tourist, jokingly. I grinned, shrugged with a wink, and ordered eggs and coffee. 

After ten the wind picked up but, at least for the backside stretch of the island, it was mostly to my tail. This is rare in SUP, where as a rider you’re doing a half-decent impression of a sail. In years-worth of adventure and expeditions I can recall perhaps ten days of solid tailwind. 

We whizzed along, Mud and I, swell and wind encouraging us both south. Headlands were often mounds of strewn, house-size rocks, toppled into the ocean over the centuries then smoothed over by salt water and nature’s encouragement. The swell to my back would bounce off the rocks and return to whence they came, offering a confused, mogulled landscape as a reminder that this wasn’t all simple.

Why nam Beach

Why nam Beach

Over halfway I popped into a small, isolated cove and landed on a beach where the early seeds of a party were developing. It’s easy to forget that most foreigners come here to howl at the moon and spread their well-earned cash widely over a considerable amount of cheap cocktails and Asian beer. This was a party I’d been invited to, and dropping in was worth the endless, wide-eyed, “You paddled around the island to get here?”

This is what I love about water travel. When you make it a habit, the world is your oyster. The secret coves and offshore islands become a playground, while the rest of the world still looks out to sea and wonders what it might be like, one day, if they ever headed out there. The truth is, for a few hundred dollars and a recognition for modern-day inflatable technology, this freedom can now be carried around the world, and then becoming a sea creature is just an easy, daily decision. I said my hello’s, waved goodbye and left the soon-to-be-drunk in their spot of paradise. 

At Mile 20, my two-thirds marker, my enjoyment of the day changed. The wind and tide had switched and I only realised as I rounded the boulders of Haad Riin, the southern-most point of the island. From here, home was north west, then north, and immediately the wind howled in my face somewhat inexplicably, because it had never blown in this direction before. My pace halved, the next two miles was akin to crawling through mud, uphill.

Image by  @EmKarembo

Image by @EmKarembo

By the time I caught sight of Emms and her camera, I was a mess. We collapsed into a raised bar roughly shaped out of driftwood to become a pirate ship. Flags fluttered in the increasing wind and I stared along the coast, no longer a mysterious cascade of headlands — just the ten mile infinity beach that left nothing to the imagination. When you can see your upcoming challenge laid out from the beginning, the incentive to explore with effort is greatly decreased.

A mound of chicken and a bit of prodding from my masseuse wife was just, just enough to get me on my feet again. This was it, the final stretch, and I wasn’t looking forward to these final four hours into wind. 

The wall. Marathon runners will be familiar with it. Endurance adventures offer them up at least once a usual day. Beyond the new perspectives and exercise, the thrill of optimism-paid-off and a gentle notch-in-the-self-confidence-belt, the value of a self-set adventure is in hardening the mind more than the muscles. More is gained from the battle than freewheeling.

Two hours later I could still look back and see that damned pirate restaurant. But the distance ahead had been reeled in, inching slowly and painfully towards the island’s main port of Thong Sala. This, with the ever in-and-out of local ferries, kept me focused. Mother Nature can try to splash, drown, blow and exhaust, but the most likely danger on any venture is man. And man at the control of a big metal craft that doesn’t expect or care for a lone paddler down below — this is a dangerous creature.

This safety is up to me. The boats stay their course, they have their channel. I just need to pick my moment. The safest route would have been under the beach-side struts of the pier but the tide was out and my fin dragged on the sea-bed 100m away from shore.

Once past the port I was on the home straight. 6 kilometres left, around an hour and a half into the wind. Problem is, the sun was already licking the horizon and twenty minutes of twilight was the cushion before darkness.

I was beat. Lifting the paddle for each stroke was now an effort and the easiest thing to do would be to go to land, deflate the board and jump in a taxi. Perhaps finish off the rest of the distance tomorrow. I want to do this yet I don’t want to, and my solution is always to carry on until the giving-up solution is not the obvious one. I started with the intention of paddling around an island and just because I’m tired, hungry and out-of-energy, and just because my enjoyment of the scenario has greatly decreased, I must hold onto the original intention because I once knew going all the way round would be good for me. 

So, going to land packing up is the easiest thing to do until the easiest thing to do would be to carry on regardless and arrive back where I started, without having to deflate the board tonight, then inflate it once again tomorrow (or in four days when I’m ready for a paddle again).

My hands were screaming, and I finally found a reason to begrudge the temperature of the water. The sea is 28 degrees here, and while this is lovely for a quick sun-escaping dip I actually missed being able to cool-down my hands and feet, long-numb from gripping paddle and board. Cold water is an elixir for claw-finger. After my Mississippi paddle in 2011, three months of paddling left me with slightly curled fingers for two months afterwards. It would have been longer were it not for the chill of the lower river.

PB240087.jpg

For the last hour I was in pitch darkness. The wind has slowed and I was alert to the danger of incoming fishing boats. What I didn’t expect was an enormous whooshing of water to my right, an out-rushing of air and the circular retreating wave from a smooth, rounded back. At first I thought, ‘how the hell did I paddle so close to that rock without noticing?’ but then I realised that I’d paddled this bay before and there had been no rock before. In the ever-so-pale combined light of the stars, the final refractions of sunlight from far below the horizon and the luminescence of coastal road lights over a kilometre away, I wasn’t able to make an exact identification, but I’m around 90% sure that a Whale Shark just surfaced five metres away from me, and then disappeared forever.

Twenty minutes later the end of my paddle was out of sight, and this meant that I only saw the turtle when it was beside me. It shat itself and mightily kicked downwards, throwing up a shower of sea water and leaving my little heart panting like Freddie Kruger had just jumped out.

PB240095.jpg

Finally a familiar noise, “Woooo whoooop.” Em! Immediately post-wedding we’d venture to the Lower Mississippi and she’d picked up the paddler’s call. There she was, Jay the dog a faithful Boy Friday on her board, and suddenly we were paddling alongside the Srithanu channel navigation tower, a three metre high lighthouse that takes us three minutes to paddle to from our beach.

From the beach where I started this morning. From the start of this little journey. And the end. 

Twelve hours and forty seven minutes after setting out, Mud’s nose touched the sand again. Koh Phangan had been circumnavigated.

With a couple of hundred Baht to spare, the day’s budget of £20 had been spent. But this included Em’s moped hire and a good lunch for both of us, and welcome-home treats in the shape of a pizza, three large Leo beers and a Magnum each. I managed a few slices, slid the Magnum down, sipped about a quarter of one beer, then passed out.


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this article please do leave a comment, a like, an applause, and even better — share with one person who you think would appreciate it.

My website is stocked with over 13 years of adventures, blogs, projects, photos and films. I share these in the hope that others will experience similar feelings to those that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.

And here are my homes on Facebook and Instagram, for daily tidbits, stories, ideas and habits.

The Thailand Project: lifestyle mapping for nomads-at-heart

We’re spending two months in Thailand over the first half of British winter. But this isn’t a holiday, it’s a first step towards re-engineering our lifestyle, work-lives and expectations of married life.

Emms and I married 9 weeks ago, and now I’m faced with answering the question I’ve been posed for years; “what happens when you get married, have kids and settle down?”

Do I carry on adventuring? Do I swap the nomadic life for an office? Or would our family life look very different from the average?

Firstly, to answer the silent question: no, Em is not pregnant. But we are talking about the possible pitter patter of tiny feet (or BabyCorns) in a couple of years, and are very open about how that will (likely) change life as we know it.

These last three years I’ve been face-to-face with the settling-down demons — added responsibility, increased cost of living, ambition-killing-comfort, limited scope for creativity forced by limits on time and money— and I haven’t coped so well. I wrote more deeply about this, here.

The need for change rarely comes from a comfortable place, and I see the past three years as a guiding stick for a re-map of what the next stage of life could look like. There are dreams to chase and swamps to avoid, so let’s start with the bits to cut-out and learn from:

  1. Cold winters: we live on a boat and the last winter in the UK lasted for five months. We weren’t there for the whole winter, but the other 5 weeks were spent above the Arctic circle on a Norwegian island. That was awesome, but no sun and a feast of general darkness is no way to live.

  2. Working space: I need my own space to work in, and this needs to change frequently. For two years Em and I have both freelanced from home. And when home is a 45ft widebeam houseboat and the only viable office is in one room, distraction is high and creativity is cramped.

  3. Prohibitive cost of living: I earn well but in recent years I’ve put a considerable share of my earnings into community work and this has coincided with paying London rent/prices, which feel so unnecessary when life has felt more enjoyable in previous less costly scenarios/ places. Not saving much for a rainy day, future tiny humans and new investments/ projects/ expeditions just to have the same roof overhead feels like standing still.

  4. Lazy belly: Living in a city, even if it is on a boat, doesn’t excite me anymore. Even worse, motivation to get out and ride, paddle and move is limited when the nearest considerable green space is at least half an hour away. Spending life sitting down is deeply unhealthy. I’m not image conscious, but I’d like to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see physically (this isn’t the same as looking internally — I’m pretty content with the person I am). This is a health thing, not stigma or self-loathing!


A realistic blueprint for home, work and family in the future:

  1. What I choose as a lifestyle must also satisfy the needs of Emms. Marriage is not just for September.

  2. Freedom: many of my biggest pain points since buying a home in the UK in 2016 have revolved around a lack of room for manoeuvre, in the expectations I have of those around me/ they have of me and in an inability to pursue exciting work without being held back. After living freely and nomadically for a decade, I didn’t know how to stay in one place and still maintain the momentum that had formerly been powered by shifting location and focus.

  3. UK: The majority of our work, friends, family are in the UK, so being there during Spring, Summer and Autumn feels right and makes a lot of sense. Our main project, The YesBus, is a fulfilling priority and in 2019, at least, we’d like to live nearby rather than endure the current two hour journey each week.

  4. Winter sun: While there are more pleasant climates available, choosing to be damp, cold, Vitamin D deficient and frankly miserable for 4 months is bloody stupid. The only catch is that Em loves Christmas.

  5. Water: I love it. And more specifically, being in and on it — especially when it’s not cold. What I’ve learned from the past couple of years is that even living on the water and being able to waterbike and paddle daily isn’t enough. Proximity to water that doesn’t want to kill me — ie.warm, swimmable, accessible, soothing water— is the only medicine I crave.

  6. Movement in nature: Whatever the season, wherever we choose to live, it must be within nature. An enjoyable, peaceful environment to exercise in daily and maintain physical and mental health.

  7. Work: A healthy balance between personal and community work. One should not override or suppress the other. My best days of work are not necessarily location-dependent but when I feel unstoppable, ideas pour out like water and possibilities and potential are endless. Positive response from new partners, my team and community are fulfilling. Successful events and creations are icing on the cake. But I need to be free in decisions and actions: this means not having to chase the company admin and tax — someone else should cover this — I’m much better at shining a light on others than sitting in a dark room doing dark work. I get more joy from having a silly idea, chasing and making it a reality, then sharing the lessons.

  8. Family: I can’t see my kid(s) in the standard English education system. I’d love them to become independent, problem-solving, light-at-heart / strong-in-mind characters, with an empathetic global view. I’d also love them to have more of a social childhood than I did — which means finding community for them as well as weening them on intrepid behaviour.


Paddle boarding in to our new home, with everything we’re travelling with in bags on the back of the boards —  see the film of this microadventure

Paddle boarding in to our new home, with everything we’re travelling with in bags on the back of the boards — see the film of this microadventure

So, to start the process of redefining and redesigning our lives, we’re spending the next few weeks on the Thai island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Siam. We’re here to reset and re-energise, to look after ourselves and each other, and to start researching some of the unanswered questions that stand between now and the blueprint above.

Questions like…

Is it cost-effective monetarily and emotionally to spend a proportion of the year in a tropical climate?

Is it practical to be here? What compromises need to be made compared to living at home in the UK? What are the pain points and are there easy solutions?

Ok, so the photos are great, but what are the real benefits of living in an Instagram-friendly place/climate?

Can we find potential partnerships out here to work with SayYesMore?

What is it really about water that makes me tick? And how can I use this longing/ passion to help others?

At a time when our mental health could use some nurturing, is just a few weeks on an island sufficient medicine? And if not (in part or full), can the lessons this new perspective teaches us transfer back to life in the UK, or somewhere else?

I write this on Day 12. We’ve based ourself at a just metres from the sea, at a co-working space called BeacHub in Koh Phangan. Fast internet and a community of other freelancers creates a positive working environment, and our paddleboards are happy to be spending at least an hour a day out on the waves. There’s colour in our skin and a satisfaction at the end of each day. A couple of fresh adventures are brewing and so far, the experiment is working.

In a month or so, as our final days in Thailand draw nearer, I’ll re-visit this blog and see how many questions have been answered.

At our new base,  BeacHub  in Koh Phangan, Thailand

At our new base, BeacHub in Koh Phangan, Thailand


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this article please do leave a comment, a like, an applause, and even better — share with one person who you think would appreciate it.

My website is stocked with over 13 years of adventures, blogs, projects, photos and films. I share these in the hope that others will experience similar feelings to those that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.

And here are my homes on Facebook and Instagram, for daily tidbits, stories, ideas and habits.

A reflection on burnout

My new wife and I have been making a temporary nest on a Thai island for the past week and a half. It is now mid November and rather than battle the driving rain and less-than-tolerable temperatures back home in London, we’ve started out our married life the way we plan to continue it; warm and free.

Since Emms and I started to (pretend to) act like adults after fusing our lives in early 2016 I haven’t always coped well. The previous decade I’d been largely nomadic, foot-loosely loping around the world with a laptop and any cafe/ co-working space/ boat/ sofa or beach as an office. Commitments, responsibilities and expenses were low.

But then the combination of a bad back, a flourishing homegrown community project and a girl who made me want to stay home led to exactly that…a home. Along with the comfort, a place to store some stuff and the gorgeous familiarity of living with my favourite person, this also meant rent, a more work/income-focused mindset, paperwork. And crucially, the loss of creative spark that I’d always taken for granted when living on the move.

burnout 2.jpeg

A place to call home felt incredible, as did finding another human who I never got tired of. The compromise, certainly at the start, was worth it. Soon though, as SayYesMore and the YesTribe started to grow the add-ons piled up. Monitoring endless social media and email accounts. Starting a company so an official bank account could account for the budget of our annual festival. Slowly forming a team, and coping with the two-way dependency and responsibility of other humans. Suddenly, in less than 18 months, life felt very different indeed. And as all this change hadn’t been planned my inner compass started to lose track.

I lost my mojo, my creativity, my energy and, occasionally, my love for life. The only way SayYesMore has kept going these last 18 months was because of a handful of people who kept the momentum going, and at home Emms took over the day-to-day running of the team, online spaces and admin. Her official title: “the cog turner.” Pretty sexy. SayYesMore doesn’t bring any income in though, and Emms had assumed what was essentially a ten-month full-time job without an income, and the only way to make this work was if I worked more to cover our expenses, at the same time spending a few hours a day on SayYesMore.

All of this probably sounds terrifically boring, and while there was an underlying sense that the structure we were building was worth the effort, it started to take a toll. Somewhere along the way I’d lost the energy to exercise and the space to get creative, and while my speaking career was on the up the really juicy bits of my previous Adventure-life were non-existent.

I longed for the freedom to get up in the morning and conjure up a little social project, to work on a new book, nurture a brand new adventure or to simply fly with the wind and land somewhere unknown for a period of time. Despite the great work being done through SayYesMore I began to resent the whole thing. This idea that had blossomed because I wanted to share what I’d learned about living without limits had cost me my own freedom. And stepping back — or out — didn’t feel like a satisfactory option - the sunk cost, faith and commitment from everyone on our team prevented me walking away. Meanwhile there were plenty of little wins but behind-the-scenes, the place that so few people see or think about — I was drowning and only my closest friends could tell. Perhaps there was something in there, a real glimmer of hope or shard of light that was more important than the way I was feeling.

But for a while I was stuck in the mud, professionally more unhappy than I’d felt in a long, long time. Which was, so claustrophobic, unfit and stereotypically unhappy that I had to gruffly laugh at my own paradox. When I realised that my happiest moments were up on stage, energised for an hour at a time because it was stories from the past that excited me, the need for change was looming fast.

Hello mojo

My absent mojo has said hi again these last two months. Our wedding in September was magical, as was a first adventuremoon in the States. The SayYesMore growing pains have proved to be worth it, as the community were selected by Facebook for their first Community Leadership Programme, one of only 100 plucked from thousands of applicants. This annual programme and a healthy dose of funding takes huge pressure off the next year, and the recognition we’ve received as a team has lit a fire in my belly again.

It feels so good to be excited about community work again

The belief that maybe I can be a strong leader rather than a flailing one has led to an interest in learning rather than winging it, and once again I’m excited about the community aspects of my work. Our SayYesMore team have bonded so strongly in recent weeks, freeing me up to pursue more personal projects again, and our fourth annual Yestival in mid October was a blinding success. How grateful we all were for the endless sunshine that blessed the weekend (as opposed to Hurricane Brian that muddied and flew the tents in 2017), and the wave of positivity and thanks that has followed Yestival 2018 has literally shed further light on how worthwhile this movement is.

Yestival jubilation

Yestival jubilation

I’m so lucky to work with my friends, almost all of them folks that I didn’t know before the YesTribe started, and for the first time absolutely everything is clicking. There aren’t any obvious impending departures, struggles or weak links. We’re a family, a mini community in the image of the wider one that we just happen to run. What a strong foundation upon which to build our next chapter.

It might seems like a no-brainer to spend a couple of months on a Thai island over Winter; this is so much more than a holiday, a honeymoon or a blissful escape. It’s a celebration of new beginning.

For the first time in a long time I’m finding time to work forwardly, rather than catching up. We’ve found a lovely little co-working space in Koh Phangan to base out of and I write this with the sea a few metres away, and the coastal breeze supplementing the very necessary fans dotted around this open-plan, wall-less office. Coffee is on tap, I’m writing (this morning I wrote my first blog on Medium for over a year) and creating and bashing old to-do lists on the head. And it’s so, so fun to feel productive in this work again.

Our sunglasses enjoy their view here

Our sunglasses enjoy their view here

Creativity is fuelled by hope and possibility. This is a recipe, I’d imagine, for the years ahead.


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed it please do leave a comment, a like, an applause, and even better - share with one person who you think would appreciate it.

My website is stocked with over 13 years of adventures, blogs, projects, photos and films. I share these in the hope that others will experience similar feelings to those that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.

And here are my homes on Facebook and Instagram, for daily tidbits, stories, ideas and habits.