Motorcycle diaries of a former soldier

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Motorcycle diaries of a former soldier

You've all heard it before, the comments coming from friends and family down the pub or wherever,  who claim they are going to do 'this or that one day. What actually is ‘this or that’ is anyone's guess. Most of the time, we convince ourselves that at some unspecific point in time, we will break free from the chains of normality so we can disappear into the sunset. Yet sooner or later, the realisation of what it takes to achieve this dream hits home – and we stumble at the first hurdle, because actually,  the hardest part of ‘this or that’ is just getting to the start line.

I've always liked to travel, experience new things and be on the move, so I was well suited to the military and all the moving around it entailed.  

After returning from my last tour in Afghanistan, I decided to settle down…. you know, do the things you're ‘supposed’ to be doing at 33 years old. Well, I tried to settle and embrace the 9-5 structure that keeps other people ticking along, but something inside was screaming at me. Ever since my exit from the army, I felt as though I was constantly battling some inner demons – they go by the name of Anxiety and Depression.

Trying to be the proud tough soldier, I didn't want to be labelled with anything and have to deal with the consequences of being told I had a ‘problem’. Later, my engagement ended with my partner, and so I started the process of living with friends and moving around a lot whilst self-medicating with a party lifestyle and the instant gratification of shallow attention from the opposite sex.

After disastrous attempts at finding a new relationship and telling myself that my job was great because it was easy, I decided I was in desperate need of a total shake up…something dramatic. I needed the old Aaron back. I knew it was going to take something big to restore me to the world.  

A plan starts to form

I had been riding motorbikes for about two years at this point - not much time at all. And certainly not enough experience to go anywhere far, right? Well, sod it. I had this crazy idea in my head for about two months. One day I visited my parents and told them: “I'm going to ride a motorbike around the world. Oh and I'm going alone too.” That was my Yes moment! My dad's reaction was: “That's great son!” My mum's was: “Is that even possible?!”

I was certain it was possible. I heard other people had done it, so why can't I?!

A plan comes together...

I spent the next year or so planning the trip. Everything I did revolved around some element of the trip! I was throwing everything at it…saving money and selling many of my possessions – I thought to myself, “If I can't carry it on the bike, then it gets sold, and I will turn it into fuel money instead.”

The trip became the new focus I’d been searching for. My next mission, if you like. Sure, I still had some shit times. Mental issues don't just go away overnight but I was slowly learning to understand my issues and how to live with them manageably, so that I could still get excited and passionate for life, and the thought that revolved around my head most days, and often got me out of bed in the morning, was “I'm going to ride my motorbike around the world and nothing can stop me!”

The last couple of days before I left were unreal. I couldn't sleep because my anxiety was in overdrive. But when I looked in the mirror, I was beginning to recognise the face staring back at me. I was rock climbing almost daily, doing long distance assault courses, and I had stopped drinking, so these things combined meant I was feeling fit and strong again. But was I ready for the trip?

I don't think you're ever ready. You just have to go with it…cross that start line, and embrace everything that comes your way. It's been just over a year on the road so far - right now, I am in Colombia, which is country twenty two and continent number four! I have made friends with people I will be connected to for the rest of my life, which is more than I can say about some of the friendships I was struggling with back home in England.

The future

So where do I go from here? I still have a destination to get to: Ushuia, the most southerly town in the world. I am still making it up as I go and I'm grateful to be learning every day as new challenges present themselves. Motorcycle touring is my life now. I’ve gained so much self confidence, and am immensely proud of myself for making this happen, rather than being someone who daydreams about doing ‘this or that’.

I'm putting plans together for future trips and expeditions when I return to England. If you're reading this and have been chewing over an idea for a trip, lifestyle change, or perhaps a new business idea, then my advice is this: take some time, breath, create some rough plans, and let the plans evolve as this can guide you towards taking the first step.  

As cheesy as it sounds, just say Yes! I doubt you’ll regret it.

Aaron

www.AaronMitchell.net
www.Facebook.com/AaronMitchell83
www.Facebook.com/AaronMitchellUk
www.Instagram.com/AaronMitchellUk

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Are you in pursuit of unleashing your best, most authentic self?

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Are you in pursuit of unleashing your best, most authentic self?

Me too.

It’s been quite a journey for me so far over the last eight years.

Akin to floating down a river; sometimes coming across rapids and waterfalls, other times long calm stretches that meander along; and quite often, stopping to meet a fun tribe, try a new float, have a go on a tyre swing, or hear a few words of wisdom from a wizened monk.

Most recently, I’ve exchanged floats and embarked on a new journey of creating, and hosting a podcast called The Lilly Wild Show to help you become unstoppable, to unleash your potential and forge new connections with other like-minded souls.

The Lilly Wild Show

When I started finding mentors for my own health and business, my life transformed. I would now love for you to have that experience too.

Each week, I’d love for you to join me, as I jump into the nitty gritty of how to unlock and unleash your best self with some of the brightest, most badass world changers and forward thinking minds in adventure, health, fitness, entertainment, science, entrepreneurship and much more!

Intimate, raw, open and often intense, these are conversations that will motivate, inspire, empower and provoke you to discover, how you can become the best version of you and create a life you truly love.

This has become my passion over the duration of my winding journey of ups and downs, that I would love to share with you, openly, honestly and vulnerably, so that you feel you can create a life you love too.

It All Began With…“If They Can Do It, So Can I”

Sometimes it’s the simplest questions that prove to be the key to unlocking and unleashing our best, most extraordinary self. 

Tony Robbins says the quality of questions you ask, creates the quality of your life. 

I now know what he means…

It was a cold blustery morning in Vancouver, where I was studying for a Geography degree. I stealed myself away into the student union, a large glass building, it’s gloominess reflecting the outside weather. It was empty at 6am.

When I got onto Skype to talk to my life coach, I felt despair and sadness encroaching in, silent tears rolled down my cheeks. I wanted to quit, but fear was holding me back. 

He asked me ‘Why can’t you quit and do something you love?’ Why can’t you create your own brand and business like Al Humphreys, Rich Roll or Sophie Radcliffe?

I hadn’t been challenged in this way before and my rather pathetic counter argument was.. ’but I can’t’, to which he replied ‘Why?’

It was like a light had been switched on and I suddenly thought to myself, ‘ Well if these people who I follow and love, like Christmas Abbott, Belinda Kirk, Tony Robbins Tim Ferriss, Brendon Burchard and Anna McNuff are creating a successful life for themselves doing what they love, then maybe I could do it too.’

That was all I needed. A whole new world suddenly opened up to me. I used this as my mantra and decided to quit University for the second time, the first being due to ill health. Almost instantly, I signed up to Escape The City.

I was met with resistance, but all I kept saying to myself was; “If they can do it, so can I!’ This gave me the momentum to follow my intuition and heart.

During this time I also created a vision board of how I wanted my life to look; this continues to evolve as I grow to know myself, but now I have my vision and I know I can arrive there.

My vision is to create a life that intertwines the worlds of adventure, action sport and start-ups with life transformation coaching and brain training. 

My passion lies in self-mastery; pushing the boundaries of your mind and body, going against the grain of conventional wisdom, the pursuit of adventure and unlocking and unleashing your best, most extraordinary self - regardless of gender, background or experience.

Creating A Life You Love Starts With Your Mind

The key to thriving is your mind. I have learnt this lesson many times over and it’s finally hit home.

The first time I learnt this invaluable lesson was four years ago, when I fully recovered from four years of moderately severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bladder Syndrome and Irritable Bowl Syndrome.

Using a powerful combination of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis and Coaching, in 3 days I was trained to recognise when I was using my body, nervous system and specific language patterns in a damaging, stuck way and how to develop new, healthier, wonderful neurological pathways.

I’ve found these tools to be incredibly powerful and fascinating, so I’m now training for my Masters in NLP, Hypnosis and Coaching. 

Together, these tools have enabled me to be a catalyst for transformation, for myself and others. 

I can help people uncover and put into action the tools, resources and strategies that they need to unleash their most extraordinary self, achieve astonishing results, reach incredible levels of personal fulfillment and live a life they love.

I believe that everyone is a genius, either at useful or not so useful behaviours.

We all have the resources we need within us to get what we want out of life and most importantly, we always have a choice of the emotional state we’re in at any given time.

Learning and understanding how we can create powerful, useful emotional states and choosing to be in the most useful states at any given time, is crucial to living a life you love. This allows to surf the waves of life, instead of crashing into them.

The Importance Of Mentors

I’ve been fortunate to have three amazing mentors, who have come into my life at the perfect time and have pointed me in the right direction. 

My life coach was the person who empowered me to take action and gave me the confidence and courage to stand up for myself, as previously mentioned.

Another mentor that stands out to me, was one I met in Australia…

Having just arrived back from a thrilling time working on a cattle station, we were sitting in a bar talking about the future. He sensed that I wasn’t very excited about studying Geophysics at Southampton University the following year. 

So he asked the simple question; ‘What the f*ck do you want to do that for? Just quit and do something you’re passionate about’. 

I never knew that it was an option available to me!! So I withdrew my application to university pretty much the next day.

Be Like Water

I have something to confess…I’m a self-improvement geek and junkie. 

I love making mistakes, failing fast and receiving feedback, because I can then improve, develop, grow, and take another step closer to my best, most authentic self. 

My life coach first taught me to go with the flow by being like water. 

If you try to hold onto water tightly, then it will just run through your fingers and you’ll never get anywhere. 

However, if you allow water to flow and cup it in your hand gently, then you will have more success in holding onto it. 

So this is what I try to do: go with the flow of the universe with ease, comfort and a sense of calmness and a knowing, that whatever happens, it has happened for the best, even if you can’t see the wood for the trees at the time.

As Steve Job’s says, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.’

The Yes Moments

For me there is no singular Yes Moment that has transformed my life and led me to where I am today, but rather, a series of Yes Moments.

The feeling to break through the constraints of conventional wisdom had been bubbling powerfully away inside me since 2012, when I heard Paul Rose’s talk about Frank Wild: Antarctica's Forgotten Hero at the Royal Geographical Society. I heard Wild’s quote and thought, THAT’S ME!

‘Once wedded to Nature there is no divorce - separate her you may and hide yourself amongst the flesh-pots of London, but the wild will keep calling and calling forever in your ears. You cannot escape the "little voices” - Frank Wild

Adelaide on Durang Durung glacier, Ladakh

Adelaide on Durang Durung glacier, Ladakh

The dream of embarking on a polar adventure drove me to fully recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and so my most powerful Yes moment was a year after this. In April 2013, I said Yes to learning how to re-wire my bran (in three days) with the powerful combination of NLP, Hypnosis and Coaching.

This has been the single, biggest transformation I have ever experienced.

My Next Yes Was To Adventure…

I had never been adventuring before, but decided to join an Explorers Connect event soon after fully recovering. Safe to say, one microadventure had me hooked on exploring, pushing my comfort zone and having fun in the great outdoors.

The next Yes moment was withdrawing from university for the second time and joining Escape The City’s Startup Tribe. This gave me a spring board for learning how to create a business, including The Lilly Wild Show, and my new coaching business.

Dave Cornthwaite and the Say Yes More Tribe continually inspire me and give me the incredible energy to Say Yes More. Without them, the Explorers Connect community, Project Awesome, and the Escape The City communities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Every member is unique and whether they realise it or not, they have all inspired and motivated me every day to continue along my path.

_______________________________________________________________________________

If you’re intrigued by my story and curious to know more, plug into The Lilly Wild Show to listen to my short n’ sweet episode '0' where I talk about my journey, or you can dive straight into one of the fabulous episodes! A few of my guests have been Yestival speakers too :)

Stay Wild!

Adelaide x

Host and Founder of The Lilly Wild Show, a weekly podcast designed to delve deep into how to become the best version of you, with some of the most badass world changers.

Transformational coach | I can help you unlock and unleash your most extraordinary self in minutes, when normally it would take years.

Join my weekly newsletter to discover the Tools and Tactics you need to Unlock and Unleash Your Most Extraordinary Self

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Minimalism, van-dwelling and DIY

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Minimalism, van-dwelling and DIY

I bought my first van during my travels after university because I got fed up with trying to sleep in noisy dorm rooms! My YES moment to buy the van was actually quite spontaneous and was based on the need for better sleep, more freedom, and knowing that I could also handle any DIY required.

I instantly fell in love with the freedom it gave me – I could choose where to go based on how much I liked a location. I was no longer constrained by cost or the availability of a dorm bed.

I have always been fond of living the simple life, unrestrained by unnecessary ‘stuff’ and owning things, which end up becoming a huge anchor! Planning what colour of sofa or wallpaper to buy has never interested me – what appealed to me far more post-uni was drawing a scale plan of a tiny space and figuring out how to live most comfortably in the confines of that space. And I still feel the same way.

My first van was a Toyota Liteace. I bought it from a few travellers so it was already kitted out and ready to go. However, I always fancied doing one up myself, so in 2011 I bought a Nissan Serena and installed a bed and curtains. It’s a small van so there’s not much room for anything else.

Nissan Serena

Nissan Serena

Nissan Serena - bed structure

Nissan Serena - bed structure

Nissan Serena - cosy interior!

Nissan Serena - cosy interior!

My latest van has definitely been my biggest project. I bought it as a nine seater VW Transporter; the first thing I did was reduce the seats to five and levelled the floor (seat anchor points are a converter’s nightmare!) Other upgrades include a new elevating roof, solar panel, second battery, low consumption LED lights, swivel around passenger seat, fridge and a small unit with a wash basin. In total there are two double beds: one in the roof and one down.

VW Transporter van - tinted windows were the only modification

VW Transporter van - tinted windows were the only modification

I bought my latest van during a period of uncertainty in 2015, during a redundancy situation at my work. However, the uncertainty was motivating, and encouraged me to part with my hard-earned savings – this felt better than simply hoarding my pennies and fretting about what to do next!

I knew that, worst case scenario, I could just move into my van permanently and therefore free myself of all the expenses of renting an apartment in Barcelona. After all, I’d lived in a van for 18 months previously. Living in Spain also meant I could head south and enjoy milder weather even in winter.

In the end, I retained my job, so I still had a source of income to fund the renovations to make the van my dream home on wheels! I could also take more time to think about how I would upgrade it, rather than having to move into it and then improve it based on immediate necessity.

A priority for me was upgrading the van so that I could live in it as self-sufficiently as possible. I installed a fridge but wanted to avoid the use of gas canisters to popwer it – so I turned to solar panels.

Solar panels on the van roof!

Solar panels on the van roof!

Whenever I hear the thermostat click on, I’m still mesmerised by the simple brilliance of the fridge being powered by a square black 100w solar panel on the roof. My little cooker is butane but I’m eyeing up some neat compact solar ovens for the future.

I’ve spent 24 months making incremental improvements to my current van.

DIY in the workshop

DIY in the workshop

VW Transporter double bed inside

VW Transporter double bed inside

 

Office cabinets modified to fit inside the van, and a DIY sink

Office cabinets modified to fit inside the van, and a DIY sink

Unit with salad bowl for the wash basin - I cut a hole in the bottom for the plug

Unit with salad bowl for the wash basin - I cut a hole in the bottom for the plug

The van heals

Having a van means space is limited, and this has been a helpful constraint as it tempers a less-welcome side of me: a need for more. Living in a van means you are restricted to only buying and retaining things that are genuinely useful.

This is hugely freeing and means I take more pleasure from the few possessions I do have, as well as from situations, such as when I find a new spot where I can park up the van and make some food, camp up for the night, and decide the next day if I want to stay or carry on the journey.

I still toy with the idea of full-time van dwelling. I’ve recently discovered the joy of making and drinking spinach, melon and kefir smoothies – perhaps one day I’ll set up a smoothie business, selling out of the van to passers-by.

However, as life unfolds, the realities of this existence, and the footloose and fancy free lifestyle, are becoming less plausible. But that’s ok: I’ll always have the van and can still take shorter trips with my fiancée, who owns the new elevating roof! The van has become a labour of love, a shared love that represents our thirst for adventure and our enthusiasm for the simple life.

Some advice if you’re thinking of buying a van and/or living on the road for a period of time:

1)      Start with the basics

I’ve known a few people that kitted out their dream van from day one and they have all regretted it. Get the basics in there, probably a bed, and see how you interact with the space. Small, incremental improvements are wise – this could be as simple as making a pocket in your curtains in a strategic place to store your glasses! Experiment with the space by doing some trips and then adjust according to your needs.

2)      Magnets and clothes pegs

These two simple things can solve a lot of issues when you are too scared to drill your precious home on wheels. Drilling is scary, especially when something is brand new. My current curtains have magnets sewn into the corners, and I use a mosquito net pegged around a half open window to keep the mozzies out at night.

3)      A sock and cat litter

As odd as that one may sound, condensation is always an issue. Cat litter is hugely absorbent so throwing a load in a tied sock and just placing it under a seat or in a cupboard will keep your van nice and condensation free.

4)      Making furniture

If possible, work right alongside your van so you can constantly cut, and test out. This speeds up the process enormously. For my latest van I built all the installations on my balcony of my flat which made the whole process far more challenging. If you have the same dilemma, try using paper or card to test the addition of new pieces into challenging shapes and spaces.

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The Matriarch Adventure

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The Matriarch Adventure

by Catherine Edsell, Expedition Leader

"10 days, 10 women in the Namibian wilderness, tracking elusive desert elephants (the most iconic matriarchs there are), having an adventure, dawn yoga under huge flame-red skies, group coaching round a camp fire, sleeping out under a myriad of stars, meeting with Namibian women and hearing their story and all else that expedition life has to offer…..”  

I was writing a heartfelt letter to my friends, conveying my wish to open up my world of expeditions to women, like them, who had never done anything like this before (or at least not for a very long time), either because they had been rearing children, or were bogged down with work, or just hadn’t taken the plunge…yet. 

I could relate to how they felt, because I had recognised the need in me, and explained how, as a woman and a mother I had noticed the limitations around what we allow ourselves to do. “We are always compromising”, I explained,” multi-tasking, taking the slack, holding the fort, and this is all great, except when we do this ALL the time, and don’t give ourselves even a few days to go off on our own, to re-connect with ourselves, to challenge ourselves physically, to marvel at the wonders of nature, to learn, to grow, and also to strip away, to get back to basics, to clear our thinking, and to change, where necessary, our mindset.  When we even THINK about doing this we meet amazing resistance – particularly from ourselves, even if its what we actually really need.”

I was offering them an adventure to explore not only the wonders of the world, but their innermost selves.  I took a deep breath, and pressed ‘SEND’.  It was out there, and now I had a responsibility to myself and to those who read my words to make ‘The Matriarch Adventure’ a reality. That was my YES moment!

Eight years ago, my life couldn’t have been more different; I had received a birthday card from my brother with the words, “I wanted to go out and change the world but I couldn’t find a babysitter” written in kids plastic alphabet letters.  He meant it to be funny but, actually, it was so painfully true that it physically hurt.  I laughed – and then cried. I felt stuck: I had two clingy children, no childcare, and I realised that instead of being ‘an expedition leader’ (my profession before having children), I was a frustrated housewife who had big dreams but no way of making them a reality. The card got lost, packed away, forgotten.

Two years later I discovered that very same card in a drawer and was instantly hit by that familiar wave of pain and disappointment. My situation was pretty much the same: still two rather clingy children and no babysitter.  But something stirred in me that day, and I stuck the card to the breadmaker (that I never used), and looked at it long and hard.  “Stop making excuses!” I thought to myself.  

That was the start of a new chapter of my life, and of our life as a family.  First I took the kids on an adventure to Thailand, working in an elephant sanctuary; they loved the hands-on contact with these massive beasts, and I loved being out there, in the heat away from the humdrum of everyday life.  Shortly after my return, driven by a desire to incorporate my family and my skills even further, I trained as a Divemaster and applied for a dive job with a biodiversity conservation expedition company in Indonesia, on the condition that they let me bring the kids.  I could dive and teach, and the kids could play on a beautiful coral atoll in the middle of the Banda Sea. What could be better?!

The next few years were punctuated leading other expeditions, (with and without the kids), both diving and terrestrial, and became quite an expert in marine conservation, but most importantly: I WAS BACK!! I was an expedition leader again, I didn’t have to talk about myself I the past tense, and even without a babysitter I had managed to change MY world.

Back to present day….

So, on 1st March 2017 the ‘Matriarchs’ met for the first time.  It was a very surreal experience, all sitting round the table for dinner –  it felt uncannily dreamlike, mainly because up until that point that was exactly what it had been, a dream, a design in my imagination, words on a piece of paper.  But here they were, real life, eager, visceral, exuberant women ready to embark on a transformational adventure, and they were all looking to me to guide them safely through it.

The days were filled with the practicalities of tracking and monitoring herds of elephants who deviously camouflaged themselves as rocks by spraying the red earth over their backs, mixed with the physical demands of trekking in 40 degree heat to witness amazing geological formations and ancient petrified forests, and with the bonding and openness facilitated by group coaching, quiet reflection and good old belly laughter! 

It was an intense ten days, but in the words of one of the participants,  “I felt like I got back to ‘myself’ on this trip.  It would have been so much easier to cancel, and say that I had too much on my plate, kids didn’t want me to go, blah blah blah.  Thank god I didn’t. The kids were fine and the world went on turning without me.  It was a wonderful and amazing experience, and I’m SO glad I did it!”

So I guess it worked!

Now, back at home in rainy London, I’m still pinching myself. Did this actually really happen? Did I actually manage to conceive the idea, put all the logistics in place, find women who actually wanted to come, make it a reality, track the elephants, feel the heat and breathe in the expanse of the desert, facilitate a transformative experience for the women who joined, and come home and write about it all in just three months?! YES.

 

Quite amazing actually seeing as I, by my own volition, ‘am not a business woman’, ‘cannot do social media’, and am a complete ‘technophobe’ - it just shows where there is a will there’s a way!  I cannot lie, there were days when I woke up and had to override my inner critic who was telling me that there was no way I could pull this off, that I just didn’t know enough, or have enough time, but the commitment I had made in the moment of writing my intention to my friends was enough to hold me accountable.

I have grown in ways I could not have imagined by embarking on this adventure, as it was an adventure for me too, (in a different way).  Now the fire has been lit-  The Matriarch Adventure is to set off into the Namibian wilderness once more in November this year….

Let me know if you want to come too!

www.cathadventure.com

Twitter: @cathadventure

Facebook: The Matriarch Adventure

Catherine Edsell FRGS is an adventurer, a global expedition leader, PADI divemaster, Reef Check Trainer, yoga teacher and mother of two. As an avid naturalist she has demonstrated her passion for adventure and effective conservation through independent and collaborative expedition work around the world. She often brings her children on expedition and is now embarking on a series of transformative adventures solely for women.

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In (re)search of happiness

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In (re)search of happiness

I liked to read and write about Adventure, Minimalism and Wellbeing and I wanted to meet some people with similar interests, so I started a MeetUp group. One night I organised a screening of a documentary called Happy, by a filmmaker called Roko Belic, who travels to more than a dozen countries, searching for the meaning of happiness.

It made me realise that people need to feel in control of their own happiness and future, as well as our collective future.  I read more about happiness and learned that The World Happiness Report 2016 identified Copenhagen as the happiest place on Earth. Also that Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens' happiness levels, rather than by measuring gross domestic product (GDP) like most other countries.

This gave me the idea to journey from the UK to Bhutan, via Copenhagen, to research how we can create a happier world. 

My happiness adventure

In 2015, I announced my plan for the journey, which is entirely self-funded: it has taken two years of hard work and some careful budgeting. Some people save up to buy a house or have a family, but travelling held far more appeal for me!

The grand plan

My partner and I will travel 12,000 miles from the UK to Bhutan, which will take us through 18 countries. We arrive at our first stop – Amsterdam – on World Happiness Day 2017 (20th March) at which point we will explore the City and visit the Body Worlds Exhibition - The Happiness Project.

The journey is also an opportunity for us to undertake some formal research conducted as an ‘expedition’ for the Royal Geographical Society. More info on my blog – Road to Happiness.

Interest is growing around the world in how we define and measure happiness and subjective well-being (our personal opinion of wellbeing) and how these concepts indicate the quality of human development. We hope our research will contribute to this growing field of study. Doing the whole journey overland, rather than flying, means we will be able to immerse ourselves more in each country we travel through.

We plan to research happiness in five ways:

1. Using the Subjective Happiness Scale to measure the happiness of people we meet on our journey

2. Visiting educational facilities to speak to students about their thoughts on happiness and social change.

3. Hosting talks and workshops on 'Ten Keys to Happier Living' using Action For Happiness Research.

4. Carrying out subjective fieldwork on the cities and countries we visit that will enable us to developideas on leading more fulfillinglives – this will be documented on our blog.

5. Filming interviews for a short documentary and a book to be released in 2018 via betternotstop.

About me

As well as the trip and all the research we are doing along the way, I also have work commitments. My laptop and wifi 4G dongle will enable me to keep on top of this, working from cafes / universities.

I run Stag & Raven, a UK Tattoo Art brand with my best friend Kate. I also work as the Festival Manager for Off The Record, a multi venue Music Event and Conference in Manchester.

In 2012 I suffered a traumatic head injury which has left me with short term memory loss. However tools like Trello and Google Docs keep me organised. EVERYTHING needs to be written down!

Advice for others looking for adventure

I think every adventure has a purpose, and this doesn’t need to be anything big and bold. My other trips away have helped me to learn more about myself and other people, and that in itself has been incredibly rewarding. I think there can be a lot of pressure in the adventure community for a journey or adventure to be physically demanding – testing your body’s limits - but I think that’s the wrong way to think about it.

Becoming comfortable with who you are and how you want to live and travel is the most important thing, and then everything else just follows. 

What makes you happy?

I’ve changed a lot as a person in the last few years. I spent my twenties being quite angry with the world and tried to be someone I wasn’t. A hectic busy social life and career was what I thought I wanted but I’ve since discovered it’s actually the opposite.

In the last few years, I’ve become more comfortable with who I am, and I have also realised I prefer spending time one on one with people or in small groups. I have a few close friends who I wouldn’t change for the world. I like to have a lot of time alone to read and write. I like good food, reading and travelling. And I ADORE travelling by train - I can’t wait to start the journey!

My personal goals for the trip

In my twenties I was very busy with work and social commitments, which often lead to periods of ‘burn out’. This has helped me realise the importance of finding balance and taking better care of myself.  I am going to explore this further on the trip by thinking about what makes me happy and what can help me to lead a balanced life.

Aside from the fieldwork, I am really excited to document the journey and write a book about what I discover about happiness. 

I’ve spent a lot of my life not liking myself. I’ve not always been a good friend, good daughter or good employee. I want to feel more in control of my happiness and my future, and I think this journey is going to help me to discover some incredible things about myself and others.

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Tribe Stories Round Up - February 26 2017

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Tribe Stories Round Up - February 26 2017

A weekly (most of the time!) round up of stories, events and projects coming out of the YesTribe.

Written and researched by Richard Potter.


DEVON SEA KAYAKING ADVENTURE 17-18 JUNE

Fancy a paddle? Paul Hughes is organising a sea kayaking trip in June, giving YesTribers the chance to see some beautiful coastline, swim, fish for meals, explore sea caves and camp out under the stars. The trip will involve sit on top kayaks which are very stable (and suitable for beginners!) and there'll be a guide leading the way. The trip is only £155 and the few spaces remaining are sure to get snapped up quick, so check out the event here and reserve your place today!


SUP FOR CANCER

Would you like to raise awareness & funding for the fight against Cancer while having a great time doing it? If so, join some of your fellow YesTribers on the River Itchen near Southhampton on the 25th of June.  There's a 3K, a 6K and a 12K course so the event is suitable for paddlers with a range of experience levels. You can find out more about SUP for Cancer here and you can join the YesTribe event here


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GREG HARRADINE - 7 MARATHONS IN 7 DAYS

And now for something completely different: a land-based event! In April Greg Harradine will run 7 marathons in 7 days to raise money for The Musical Brain (which shares the latest research into how music and the other arts can benefit our minds, brains and bodies) and Creative Youth (which enables young people from all backgrounds to reach their potential through the arts). Greg will start his marathons on the 17th of April and do 6 marathons along the 150-mile London Outer Orbital Path (the LOOP, known as the "M25 for walkers") before finishing the series with the London Marathon on the 23rd of April.  

You can visit Greg's fundraising page here to help support these 2 amazing causes. Go Greg!!


Have you been inspired by any of these stories? Do you have your own to share? We'd love to hear about it. The YesTribe is a community that is free to anyone who is looking to make life less restricted, more enjoyable, more interesting and more memorable. Your story doesn't need to be an endurance adventure: many of the YesTribe are making films, raising money for good causes and developing the community.

We'd love to hear from you: share your stories here at Say Yes More or join the YesTribe Facebook group to connect with fellow YesTribers.

Make life memorable, Say Yes More! 

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Bikepacking Baja

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Bikepacking Baja

It’s been nearly two months since I joined around 90 people on the waterfront in San Diego at the start of an off-road route stretching south for some 1700 miles, along the length of the Baja California peninsular, in Mexico.

I have been riding the Baja Divide, a new long distance mountain biking (bikepacking) route which starts in San Diego, California, USA and ends in San Jose Del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Since January 2nd, we have fallen into a daily pattern of riding, eating and sleeping, following little used dirt roads to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez multiple times as we slowly make our way south.

We've passed through empty deserts, canyons and mountains and along both coastlines, by way of historic Spanish Missions, remote ranchos, tiny fishing villages and bustling highway towns. The trails have been tough at times - a mix of hard-packed dirt, sand, gravel and small boulders, but the scenery has always been beautiful.

Saying YES to this trip

I've followed the lightweight long distance mountain biking journeys of Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox for a few years now, and when they announced that they were putting together this route, I was really excited. At the same time, they extended an open invitation to an informal 'group start' on 2nd January 2017, as a celebration of the new route. 

I've done a few similar trips before (which are documented here), although most of the longer ones have been on my own, and I wasn't completely sure about joining such a large group, especially as I thought most of the other riders would probably be fitter and more determined than I am! But I also know from past trips that I eventually find long solo cycles a little lonely and I just don't know enough other bikepackers who want to undertake journeys like this, so I bit the bullet and put my name on the list back in March last year.

It's pretty cool to recognise that since I said Yes to this trip eleven months ago, in a year when anything could have (and much has) happened, I now find myself writing this, nearing the end of the adventure.

Ride highlights so far

The route has been incredibly varied - even the desert itself has changed from a vast, empty, desolate space in some places, to a lush green forest of cardon cactus and cirio trees in others. Each change has been unexpected. I used to feel intimidated looking at images of desert journeys, but I've loved riding and camping here and it's given me the confidence to do more journeys in similar regions in the future.  

Being part of such a big group has really added something special to this trip. Instead of being seen as slightly odd by most of my friends and colleagues for wanting to undertake journeys like these, suddenly I've been in the company of around 90 other people who completely 'get it' - we all share a love of the outdoors, travelling by bike, and being self reliant.

As the group has spread out into smaller bands of riders along the trail, it's also meant that it's been easy to get information on trail conditions ahead, good bike shops for repairs, and the best taco stands in the next towns!

I've loved the mix of people and I’ve learnt a lot from them. Riding off-road means it’s essential to minimise your kit and be efficient with how you carry it on the bike. Meeting so many people who are also trying to solve the daily puzzle of the best way to cram all your gear onto a bike, in a way that makes it still fun to ride on difficult terrain, has led to some great insights. It is funny how you think you're travelling pretty lightweight, and then you meet someone who has half the gear that you do, and they are surviving just fine.

The local people have been incredibly friendly. I would like my Spanish to be better, but between us we've managed and have received a warm reception from local families, kids and street vendors, who are always curious about the bikes, the big tyres and the gear we carry. We’ve been welcomed into homes, played football with a village load of kids, and been given fresh fish to take with us for dinner that evening.

Following a route that has been put together by other riders really makes the practical side of this kind of journey easier. I've ridden similar kinds of mountain bike routes before, and at other times I've made routes up as I go. By far the most enjoyable riding has been where someone has put time and effort into compiling a route that is rideable, and has provided some idea of re-supply options. It means that you're free to enjoy the riding more, without the nagging fear that the unknown dirt track you're following might just disappear or become a mountain goat track that is impassable, and for me, I think that this gives you more confidence to explore areas that you might otherwise miss, especially when you have to be mindful of not running out of water.  

 Riding with a big group

I haven't joined a ride with so many people before, but it's been great to do it on this trip. Although around 90 riders started the route at the same time, the group spread out pretty quickly, naturally forming smaller groups. This was important, both because such a large group in one place would detract from the point of being out in the wilderness in the first place, and to avoid overwhelming the smaller towns and villages on the route.

Although we all started together, other than a bunch of people riding the same route at around the same time, this is not an organised ride. Aside from the group start and some arrangements for first night of camping and dinner some fifty miles later, it’s everyone for themselves. It’s up to each individual how they want to ride: whether with a group or on their own; fast or slow; following every inch of the route or bypassing sections; wild camping every night or seeking out hotels and warm showers. No one cares whether you finish the route first, last or not at all. It’s just 90 or so individual journeys linked by geography and timing, and in the end, by new friendship, camaraderie, a love of the outdoors and of travelling by bike.

One of the potential issues of riding in groups is that people tend to have a different pace, both of riding and of life. Some want to ride for ten hours a day, whilst others want to take time to enjoy coffee and breakfast at camp in the morning, and spend more time in the towns and villages along the way. So I was free to push on ahead of the group I found myself with, or slow down and take more time to smell the flowers. Either way it is easy to find other people also riding the route ahead or behind me. And as we are all riding pretty self sufficiently, with all the gear to travel and camp on our own, we have total freedom. I've ridden and camped with around four different groups of people in the last month as well a few days on my own, and I've really enjoyed the mix.

I like to try to document my journeys with photographs, and riding with others makes this so much easier and more interesting. Instead of having to photograph empty trails, or set up time consuming shots of myself, I've had a wealth of other people to photograph!

Advice for others thinking of bikepacking

The nature of (and usually, the point of using) off-road routes means that you're likely to be on more rugged terrain and in more remote locations than you might be usually. And whilst I am keen to not get bogged down in the 'gear', it pays off to consider what your priority kit, and how to plan for most eventualities. Getting stuck in the desert with a broken bike and without enough water is not ideal, so having kit for a contingency plan can make a huge difference.

The biggest considerations for this route were:

•        Chunky, tubeless tyres. The fatter tyres allow riding on the more sandy sections, and running tubeless tyres (which don't use an inner tube, but which contain a latex sealant to immediately seal small punctures whilst riding) means that generally we haven't even noticed the numerous thorns that have punctured our tyres. We also brought a few ways to fix a bigger tear in a tyre (eg caused by a sharp rock), although (touch wood) this hasn't been an issue for me yet. 

•        Water. There are some long stretches of this route without water supply, and so we've all been carrying around 5-8 litres of water as standard, with a couple of sections where more was needed to last a few days. So everyone has had to think about how to carry such a volume on their bikes, and the rhythm of the riding is very much dictated by water resupply points.

Riding in a group can make this easier, because as long as you know you'll be with others, you can share gear, and if one of you has a problem, there are others there to help. 

If you're planning a long journey with a small group, I think it's a good idea to have an idea of the kind of pace that you each ride at, and also the pace of life you want to enjoy whilst on the trip. If one of you wants to leave before sunrise each day and not pause in any of the local towns, and the others want long leisurely breakfasts and a more cultural experience, then things may become tricky. Having said that, riding with others who like to get going in the morning has helped me get moving more quickly than normal, which has been a good thing!

No dramas!

Baja has felt really safe, and the biggest issues have been bike mechanical problems, limited water on some stretches, as well as some illness. I've had to negotiate a lift from a remote ranch to a town as my rear hub bearings disintegrated, and then take a seven hour bus journey (each way) to get back to the nearest bike shop to get the bearings replaced. A few people have had issues where they've been slightly stuck due to other mechanical problems, but the bike shop has been able to send replacement parts where needed, sometimes with other riders who were passing by, or another local solution has been found.

Rain early on caused some sections of the trail to turn into a horrible, sticky muddy mess that became completely impassable, clogging up bike wheels and drivetrains and making it impossible to move anywhere. Many of us avoided these sections by riding the road or taking a bus, but stories from other riders included a couple of girls who got caught in heavy rain and were stuck for two days, only managing to move two miles until things started to dry out!

Some groups have had issues with some lurgy making its way slowly around everybody, one person after another. Whilst I also avoided that, I did have a scary day or two where, after four hotter and longer days that I'd been used to, I realised that I had blood in my urine. It was worrying, but there wasn't really any other option than to carry on. I was with other people who donated water and thankfully although we'd just had four days in the middle of nowhere, the next town was 'only' 22 miles away and mostly downhill. I went to hospital to be checked out and rested up for a week or so before continuing to ride. I am in good health now.  

Serious health issues aside, these are just little challenges to overcome, there's usually a solution, and these become the stories you tell your friends and family back home!

Future bikepacking trips

I don't have another big trip planned just yet, but I'm sure it won't be long. I'd definitely like to ride with a group again, although it's unlikely to be as large - this was a pretty unique trip. And of course, I'll definitely do solo trips again. In fact, the kind of security blanket that comes from being part of a big group on this ride has made me feel more confident about undertaking further trips in challenging environments than I had before, both as a group and on my own.

Do get in touch if you’d like any advice or might want to join me on a bikepacking adventure!

www.uninspiredramblings.com

www.instagram.com/uninspiredramblings

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Falling in love with Nepal

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Falling in love with Nepal

Ironically, my love affair with Nepal with its expansive and all-encompassing scenery, along with its generous and charming people, began early one morning on a cramped tube journey to work in central London in August 2011.

Flicking through the mornings free newspaper, I came across an advert for a charity trek to Nepal following the Khumbu Valley towards Mount Everest, culminating at the head of the valley with promised views of Mount Everest – Chomolungma - the world’s Mother Goddess.

At the time, I was restless and bored in London and, having grown up in New Zealand and loving the outdoors, I was starting to lose myself in the urban jungle instead of the real one.  I had always had a keen interest in Tibet and Buddhism and from that had developed a deep love and yearning for the romanticism of the Himalaya.  That was where my true interest lay, and seeing the ad rekindled these feelings; the trek was a way for me to experience the mountains and Buddhism. 

My YES moment

My YES moment was pretty much instantaneous.  My mind was made up before I’d even got off the tube – the mountains were calling and I had to go (as they say) – but I did have to run it by my husband that evening as our kids at the time were 18, 16 and 13. The conversation with my husband went:

ME: ‘Honey, I want to go on this trek.  You can come, or not come, but I’m going.  You’ve got until tomorrow to decide.’

HUSBAND: ‘OK. Lets go’

Fundraising

Over the next three months, we raised nearly £8000 for the children’s charity Action Medical Research. We held a ridiculously successful auction evening, many many office raffles, an online raffle and the rest made up of donations by friends and family.  Fortunately our fundraising coincided with the 2011 Rugby World Cup and with our good connections with players we were supported very well with items to auction and raffle. 

Stepping foot in Nepal

Three months after my YES moment, I landed in the madness that is Kathmandu and although I had no idea what to expect, as soon as my foot touched her soil and my lungs breathed her air, this country, this place, her people, her culture, permeated my heart and my soul.

Over the next thirteen days we took an internal flight to Lukla (reputably one of the world’s most dangerous airports) and started trekking the Khumbu Valley to Gorak Shep, where we would summit Kala Pattar, a small hill by Nepali standards sitting at a mere 5550m. Only then would we see her - Mighty Chomolungma - steadfast and overpowering in her magnificence.

On descending the valley I found it increasingly difficult with each step to move back towards ‘the real world’. I had a sense that the mountains didn’t want me to leave, and as a magnet draws things closer, I felt as though the mountains wanted to encompass me with their invisible arms and dance with me for eternity.

It was no surprise that by the time I arrived back in Kathmandu I had already resolved to return to Nepal as soon as time allowed. Plans got underway immediately, and before the next year was up, I found myself back in the Khumbu Valley….back to what had very quickly become my second home.

I have since returned to Nepal every year for increasingly longer periods of time, with my desire to return becoming far more complex than my original self-centered motivation and the personal gratification of trekking and climbing the highest mountains on earth.

I am now irreversibly aware of the discrepancy of privilege within and between countries. I believe that no human should suffer because of where they were born, who they were born to, or what gender they are. I have truly learnt and firmly believe that EVERY LIFE MATTERS EQUALLY.

I have seen this. I have felt this. I know this.

The devastating earthquakes of 2015 and the continuous political discord within Nepal have acted as an impetus for me to work to resolve in whatever way I can the lack of freedom, the discrepancy of privilege and the marginalisation of minority groups experienced by many Nepali on a daily and lifelong basis.

Unite for Nepal

In July 2016 I founded Unite for Nepal, a small charitable foundation dedicated to the support, development and growth of sustainable community initiatives focusing on the UN Global Goals of improved health & wellbeing, clean water & sanitation, reduced inequalities and gender equality  in rural Nepal.

We currently work in the Dudhakunda district of Eastern Nepal and are running several successful projects in association with the local schools and health clinic out post.

We at Unite for Nepal believe anything can be achieved through generosity of spirit, actions based on the imaginings of the mind, a compassionate heart, and a commitment from the soul.

How can you get involved? 

This year we are looking for people to get involved by taking on a challenge and electing to fundraise for us.

You can also help by following us on social media and help us to share our stories with others. This, combined with encouraging people to travel to Nepal and promoting the incredible country that it is, will keep Nepal in everyone’s conversations and hearts.

You can keep up to date with our latest projects by following us on Facebook and Instagram @unitefornepal, and for further information visit www.unitefornepal.com and subscribe to our mailing list.

Summary

Nepal is a country with a particularly alluring and magical energy. It is a country whose irresistible pull is founded in an ancient society and culture which, to this day, is still upheld on a day to day basis by those who call themselves Nepali.

With all of its layers of complexity and its multitude of contradictions, Nepal has a sense of wholeness and calm.

Above all else, the most lasting impression of any visit to Nepal, is that left by the Nepali people themselves who are always smiling in the face of adversity and whose hospitality, generosity of heart and forever welcoming smiles will most definitely have you returning at least once in a lifetime.

Put quite simply, Nepal is unsurpassable.

Jacqs Leui'i

You can also follow my travel adventures in Nepal and around the world by checking out

Facebook: Jacqs Leui'i Adventures  

Instagram: Jacqs Leui'i

#unitefornepal #mystrollthroughnepal #alphabetmarathon #cantrundoitanyway #girlfromasmalltown #jacqsleuiiadventures #adventuremum

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Tribe Stories Round Up - February 14 2017

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Tribe Stories Round Up - February 14 2017

A weekly (most of the time!) round up of stories, events and projects coming out of the YesTribe.

Researched and written by Richard Potter.


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TOM HELBIG AND JULIA WICKHAM - SUP THE EXUMAS

The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands which begin 35 miles southeast of Nassau, in the Bahamas.  Coastlines are beautiful and life is very peaceful, or at least it was before Tom and Julia arrived! They started their SUP journey in Georgetown and paddled south down the eastern side of the island before turning right and heading north up the western side to Baratarre key. From there they plan to explore the islands further out in the archipelago. They've already seen stunning beaches with crystal clear water, so we can't wait to hear about the rest of their adventure! You can follow them on Facebook using the links above. Happy paddling Tom and Julia!


YESTRIBE EVENT - CYCLING BIG BEN TO DOVER

Are you free the weekend of 1-2 April and keen for a cycle? So are Alexandra Spencer, Emily Burns and Lucy Lucilea Amos! At dawn on Saturday the 1st they'll be setting off from Big Ben and cycling to Dover (they'll be Geocaching along the way and camping out on Saturday night) before getting the train back to London from Dover on Sunday. Everyone is invited so RSVP to the Facebook Event if you're keen to join the fun! Someone in the YesTribe Facebook Group might even lend you some cycling kit if you're needing any bits and pieces. 


Have you been inspired by any of these stories? Do you have your own to share? We'd love to hear about it. The YesTribe is a community that is free to anyone who is looking to make life less restricted, more enjoyable, more interesting and more memorable. Your story doesn't need to be an endurance adventure: many of the YesTribe are making films, raising money for good causes and developing the community.

We'd love to hear from you: share your stories here at Say Yes More or join the YesTribe Facebook group to connect with fellow YesTribers.

Make life memorable, Say Yes More! 

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Canada calling!

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Canada calling!

I’ve been working in the solar industry for a couple of years and as rewarding as it’s been, I made the difficult decision to leave it behind in 2017 and take on a new challenge: heading to Canada for a two-year working holiday and adventure with my fiancée Emma. We plan to explore the wilds of Canada and spend more time doing things like that kayaking on beautiful lakes with crystal clear waters, and spend less time at a desk.

David and Emma visiting a very Canadian insitution: Tim Horton's

David and Emma visiting a very Canadian insitution: Tim Horton's

Why?

Emma and I felt we needed a clean break that gave us the space to define what we wanted from life, not just what life ended up happening to us.

Aside from the thirst for adventure, new scenery and people, and freedom to plan our own 9-5 – all pretty attractive reasons for going (!) - Brexit was another motivator. The decision to leave the EU has left me feeling uncomfortable with the Britain I’ve always called home. Waking up the day after the referendum and feeling a lot less British was a disappointing realisation and the ongoing saga in the media and political landscape continues to worry me. I want my children to have the option to study abroad, and I believe immigrants and refugees should be welcomed rather than viewed with suspicion.

As for Canada - it's only a 7 hour flight, so a lot closer than New Zealand which we considered initially. Also the biggest national stereotype about Canada is that everyone is kind and friendly – so it was hard to argue with that!

We were blown away by the landscapes we discovered when we visited Canada last September. During our three week trip, we stayed in an eco-lodge in the middle of a national park, stand up paddleboarded on an empty beach just after a thunderstorm and were the first ones up the CN tower (due to a jetlag/watch time change error!). We returned to the UK certain that we wanted to go back to Canada to explore more, so we immediately started looking into visas.

Taken from David's canoe on a beautiful lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

Taken from David's canoe on a beautiful lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

We applied for the working holiday visa to Canada (which are limited to just 5,000 per year from the UK) and managed to both get one through the random ballot system.

The Yes moment

Leaving our jobs was admittedly scary, and the uncertainty of what we would actually do in Canada was nerve wracking, but wth everything that happened politically in Britain during 2015 and 2016, I felt less and less at home which made the pull of Canada even more enticing, and this feeling really overcame the initial fear of taking the plunge. In the end it was a leap of faith, but there's no better time to do it at 26 years old aand before we have any significant responsibilities.

 

What are you going to do in Canada?

We are not too sure yet! But the uncertainly is all part of the adventure. We plan to do some volunteer work in exchange for food/board (We’re currently at a vegetarian cafe and are planning to head over to a hostel on the East Coast). Aside from that we plan to simply explore the countryside, do some casual work and travel on the East coast. It's freeing in this world of planning and career paths to have a blank page in front of us.

As we're getting married in July, we plan to come back around May and then head out to Canada again in September. At that point we'll look at more permanent roles on the West coast, probably focusing on the charity sector. We have some grander ideas about driving from East to West coast in a camper-van too!

David exploring Canada's snowy parks

David exploring Canada's snowy parks

Do you plan to return to the UK?

Our visas run out in January 2019, so we will likely come back then, however we haven’t decided yet where we want to settle permanently, and staying in Canada may be an option depending on visas. With Brexit likely to be almost finalised by then, we'll be able to make a decision based on whether a post-EU Britain is the right place to live longer term.

You can follow our adventure here on Instagram: @thetravellingpickups

We post occasional updates on thetravellingpickups.blogspot.ca.

 

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