Q&A

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!