Lifestyle

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!

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.