Said Yes More: 2017 in Review

Another year down. So much happened in 2017 it's taken me the first two weeks of 2018 to recall it all. I've visited thirteen countries, camped under the stars 52 times and spent 183 nights at home this year. Ticked off two more non-motorised journeys over 1000 miles (that's 14 in total, now!) and became engaged to my partner in crime (life).

Behind the scenes it hasn't always been easy and I touch on this at the end, but all in all I've been lucky enough to have another super year and would rather focus on the positives; the results of lots of hard work and a few well chosen yeses. Here goes...



I started the year with a delicious spell of man flu, but once movement was possible Emms and I explored London using our non-motorised fleet, including Swifty and Trikey.


The first show of the year is usually the Adventure Travel Show in Olympia, and this was no exception. My role as host is to introduce speakers on the main stage and interview the main guest. This year, Extreme Fisherman Robson Green and a few professional adventurers joined the stage.



A brand new mindset project kicked off in early February, where SayYesMore partnered with Way of Nature for the first Winter Quest. We headed to a gorgeous remote base in eastern Iceland with a group of twelve lucky souls.


In early February I started hosting regular workshops on Enigma, passing on skills like planning big adventures, making a living from a passion and filming with a smartphone among them. I really enjoy these sessions, especially seeing the subsequent growth of participant's careers and skills.



It's always a privilege to receive an invite to speak at a TEDx event, especially when it's one of the biggest on the continent. I really struggle to retain new information and credit to Emms for helping drum a new 12 minutes of content into my tiny brain. And a big thanks to Tegan Philips, who skilfully illustrated several slides of this speech with her fun, quirky style.


TEDx Square Mile

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With a stroke of luck, or perhaps the opposite, a week after TEDx Brussels I took to another TEDx stage, at the Square Mile in the centre of London. This talk, again pounded into my head by Emms, was inspired by a single line fired in my direction by my brother at four years old - "Dave, you're a waste of sperm." I've been determined to a live a life unworthy of that accusation ever since.


This month should only be started by testing out how gullible your friends are. First, an announcement that training has begun for a cross-ocean run in a hamster ball.

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And then a cruel promise to the YesTribe that the community would soon be owning a herd of Alpaca. I must admit, it took me a few days to build up the courage to come clean on this one - mainly because everybody absolutely loved the idea! 

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The early signs of summer always do wonders for my motivation, so I started a regular blog called Self Propelled which honed in on adventure planning, gear reviews and regular articles about non-motorised transport, including the wonderful Halfbike.

Tentsile make some awesome tree tents and after an old film I made for them translated into a few sales they sent me their latest companion, the Trillium. It's a three-sided hammock and seemed like a good item to take on the YesTribe's April campout. 


And then Em and I took the SayYesMore ICE trikes on a little weekend micro adventure around the south of London. This film was filmed and edited entirely on an iPhone...

That little trip got the legs moving for a much bigger one. We ended the month by heading over to southern Germany, where the annual Spezi event plays host to an endless array of special bikes, recumbent trikes, and non-motorised contraptions the rest of the world haven't cottoned onto yet.


Our idea was to leave this awesome show on a form of tandem bicycle, and we asked Facebook to vote on which one we should choose - just so we couldn't take the blame if everything went badly.



On the 1st May we left Germersheim and our annual hosts to embark on what would become my 13th thousand mile journey, and the first Em had completed with me. We zoomed East (once we'd gotten used to the Hase Pino hybrid tandem) and followed the Danube to Budapest.

Seeing as tandem bikes are known as 'Divorce Bikes' it was just as much an achievement for our relationship to be strengthened by this journey as it was to ride 1000 miles together. So it seemed fitting to take things to another level on the last day of the trip. You'll just have to watch this film to find out what happened...

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For the first time the annual Etape Caledonia bike race opened their weekend with a series of talks. I was honoured to open up the schedule ahead of the always motivating Chris Boardman. I remember being a kid and watching this guy zooming around a track in a futuristic helmet, and now my head was bigger than his body on a poster!

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At the end of May Em and I joined our favourite adventurous family for a weekend of swimming down a little river. Fellow Ordnance Survey Outdoor Champions The Meeks were completing a big old triathlon; running 1000km, cycling 1000km and swimming 17km in 2017, and it seemed like a great reason to squeeze into the old wetsuit and spend a few hours underwater. 


In early June another attack in London claimed eight lives and filled the city night with sirens and horror. How are we supposed to feel in the aftermath of a terror attack? I wrote this blog the next morning. 


The YesBus

For over a year the mighty Chris Barnes had been leading the renovation for SayYesMore's new countryside HQ, the YesBus. Turning a double decker bus into a co-working, learning and events space was never going to be easy, so we decided to wait until the renovation was close to completion before trying to raise the money and support needed to make the project work.

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In June we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the YesBus, thanks to a wonderful group of volunteers, and other people and brands who offered up prizes in return for donations. On the opening and closing day of the campaign we drew a prize every single hour, won by someone who had donated in the previous 60 minutes.

All in all we raised just over £22,000 towards the ultimate £50,000 goal, enough to get the project finished off. The rest of the total will be raised in the first months of 2018 once the YesBus opens up a regular programme.


My first speaking gig in July was at the awesome Sunday Assembly community, a kind of church for the positive. With SayYesMore and the YesTribe taking up so much of my time and admittedly, becoming an extreme struggle periodically, it's always nice to see other communities working well - ideas a plenty to take home.



In July the UK's most famous explorer, Ranulph Fiennes, was kind enough to send a message of support ahead of my 14th non-motorised journey over 1000 miles. Very kind of him.

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Before the journey started, though, I had one more speaking gig, this time on the eclectic Sunday Papers Live stage at the Citadel Festival. What a great venue and a superbly engaged crowd, nestled into sofas and bean bags. Awesome!

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To norway

At the end of July I jumped onto a plane and flew to Tromsø, Norway, then boarded the MS Finnmarken, a Hurtigruten ship heading north to Kirkenes. A couple of days later I began a journey by Schiller Bike, a water bike built in San Francisco.


Emms and I live on a boat in London, and every couple of years the boat needs to be taken to a dry dock for the hull to be repainted. There are a lot of boats vs not so many dry-docks in London and it was impossible to shift our booking, which had been made long before I decided to water bike the Norwegian coast. So I took a few days off, flew home and didn't get much rest at all. Turns out painting a boat is more than a full time job!



I returned to Norway a few days later and continued south, encountering endless kindness from the Norwegians I met alone the way. When people have a big connection to the nature around them it brings out there own good nature, and the people, as always, left me with so many fond memories.


Perhaps my favourite moment of the trip was being invited dinner by a farmer named Marten.

While I was there a new addition to his herd was born. Seeing as it was a redhead and a bull, he decided to call it Dave!


Another chance meeting meant that I ended up spending a night at Fordypningsrommet, otherwise known as The Arctic Hideaway. Created by musician Håvard Lund, my favourite hut in his retreat was fondly nicknamed The Nest and I resolved to return and write a book about this journey in the spectacular hut, raised up on a single shaft.

Travelling Norway's coastline by waterbike was undoubtedly one of the toughest missions I'd ever taken on. But for any mild hardship on this waterbike, I loved spending the best part of nine weeks getting absolutely nailed by a raw, gorgeous, ruthless coast.

Spending the Summer as the smallest 'ship' in Hurtigruten's fleet was made all the more special as the other ships started to outdo each other. The MS Lofoten dropped a goodie bag down to me. The MS Richard With sent out a tender with a takeaway meal, and the MS Spitsbergen opened up their tender deck and set up a table for one, serving me a burger as the hotel manager rode around on the Schiller Bike and hundreds of passengers stared in bemusement at this weird chap holding up their schedule. Magical!


Due to bad weather I made the call to halt my journey to Bergen 90 miles early. The back end of hurricanes that had ravaged the Caribbean and Southern USA had made their way across the Atlantic and going the distance was simply impossible without putting myself in danger. With much more important things in life than adventure, it was definitely the right call. 

Still, I'd pedalled 1243 miles from Kirkenes, making this the 14th 1000-mile journey of my life. Another, huge tick on the list.

Here's a playlist of video diaries I made from beginning to end, in case you missed it at the time.


Without a moment's rest, I flew direct from Norway to Ontario to write an article for Active Traveler Magazine about the amazing paddling in Killarney Provincial Park. This place is absolutely gorgeous!

If you like the look of this, you can win an 8-day trip to the area with yours truly in 2018.

The YesBus comes home

Two days before Yestival, the annual SayYesMore Microfestival for Positive Change, the YesBus finally rolled down the lane into its new spot. It was quite the moment, a dream in the making for over two years and here it was, a double decker bus in a field! I was in tears as the bus parked up in its new home, wearing a brand new blue coat. What a moment!

Yestival 2017

The third Yestival went down a storm, quite literally, thanks to Storm Brian, but despite 50mph winds our largest crowd yet enjoyed a weekend in a field dripping with inspiration, kindness and stories of adventure, survival and ambition. Always my favourite weekend of the year, and this time round much more so because the SayYesMore team did the majority of the legwork, especially Andy Bartlett and Emms. Managing to pull off another single-use plastic free festival also makes the feeling richer.




I'm not sure how this number keeps getting bigger but I can't complain, it's been another full 12 months and our good friend Ged keeps providing the most incredible themed birthday cakes. This one depicted my summer's trip in Norway!



In between the odd talk in Portugal, Spain and Belgium we spent November preparing the YesBus for a busy year ahead, introducing the Schiller Bike to its new home in London, and I became a patron of The Teddington Trust - a real honour to support children and adults living with Xeroderma Pigmentosum.


Early December whizzed by and before I knew it I was back on a plane, returning to Norway. The Summer's journey had been eventful enough for a book, I thought, and Norway seemed as good a place as any to write it.

I flew into Bergen and jumped on the MS Spitsbergen, which in September had so kindly stopped and served me a burger on their tender deck. I'm now known as 'The Burger Man' on that vessel!


It was great to soak up the coastline from a higher, more comfortable viewpoint. Three days later, in Bodø, I jumped ship and headed back to The Arctic Hideaway, where I spent Christmas with Em and New Year with a few extra friends. 

Perfect bedroom, swaying in the wind. And not a bad place to write, either...

Perfect bedroom, swaying in the wind. And not a bad place to write, either...

Snowstorms, northern lights, epic sleeps and a raw, remote environment was just the ticket after a long, successful but sometimes draining year.

Jane having a beer in style at the Arctic Hideaway

Jane having a beer in style at the Arctic Hideaway

Floating in a survival suit in near freezing waters and hanging out with cool people on an arctic island. What a place to see 2017 out. 

With friends on the last day of the year. Photo: Spike Reid

With friends on the last day of the year. Photo: Spike Reid

the other side of things

It should be said, it's so easy to sum up a year with pretty pictures and a record of the cool things that happened. In time, we tend to look back on the best bits of our years and when it comes to saying yes it's the things we chose to make happen that carry the bulk of our memories.

Of course, there's another side to life. I'm still learning to lead a community and this has an adverse impact on my stress and energy levels throughout the year. I give over half my time for free to making SayYesMore what it is and thankfully in 2018 we're building a stronger platform for volunteers to join the team. Personally, I'm aiming to spend less time online and carve out a more creative role at the top of the SayYesMore tree. I've not created enough this past year and it's down to doing too much without enough me-time. This is so important, lesson learned.

I've also suffered since returning from the summer trip in Norway. That coastline took a lot out of me and I've had a more-than-average stretch of blues in the back end of 2017. At the same time, my 'day job' is to speak to audiences about adventure and positive mindset, and although turning on a performance for an hour is possible, it saps the energy. I gave over 60 talks in 2017 and it has taken its toll, so I'll be winding that commitment back in 2018.

Luckily, I have the most amazing fiancé to keep me smiling and help me with SayYesMore admin. I couldn't do any of this without Emms, and seeing as she's to become my wife in 2018 my aim for the next year is to be as much of a support to her as she is to me.

Here's to making life count, and spending our time with the people who make us most alive.