It's always great when we add a closing bookend to Winter's hibernation with the first YesStories of the year. Andy Bartlett was back to host the event, and as usual brought a whole lot of energy to the room as well as sharing a tale about a cycle ride in Portugal which didn't all go to plan.
Andy defines himself as "a solar-powered energiser bunny" in search of warm adventures, and he reminded us that even if things don't work out it'll all be ok if you're willing to roll with the punches (and if you remember to pack your bike pedals in the hand luggage).
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Stace Martin has been with the YesTribe since Year One and his confidence as a speaker grows each time he steps up to the front. His Christmas hiking adventure in Scotland became a series of falls, map-reading fails and what seemed like an eternal search for a non existent path, and Stace had us all in stitches with his dry one-liners.
"It's ok to have a slight sense of humour failure, especially when you've got one bent pole, you're tired and there's no path" Stace told us, adding that his rucksack is called Blue, because...you guessed it, it's blue. "I'm not the quickest walker, not the quickest anything really," Stace told us, which isn't all bad, we reckon. He was motivated to get himself out of what turned out to be a tricky situation with a determination to not be that person on the news getting rescued. Thankfully, for all of us, he made it.
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Val Ismaili was next up, with a brief insight into a recurring knee problem which required a number of surgeries. Then, of course, Val embarked on a long walk, becoming the first thru-hiker of the new Trans Caucasian Trail. Not only did he give everyone a little nudge towards visiting the region (a group trip he'll now be leading for the YesTribe later this year), but Val's story was a reminder of just how fulfilling it is to make a contribution on top of doing something just for the sake of it. Especially if there's vodka involved.
A yes isn't only a gift we can give to ourselves, sometimes it takes someone else (in Val's case it was the TCT founder Tom Allen saying 'yes, you should come and hike the trail') - an important reminder that we're all in that position to push others forward by giving them a bit of positive support. Of course, the kindness of strangers is never more apparent than when we're in the midst of an adventure and the friendship Val experienced on his journey made the region even more attractive.
Our fourth speaker was a new Outdoor Champion for Ordnance Survey, Matt Kettlewell, who has a ridiculously varied working CV from working with disabled owls in South Africa to babysitting little (big) hippos. Matt's sometimes hapless approach to life made his presentation all the more entertaining, and you know it's going to be good when you realise he's the type of guy who accidentally accepts a job offer in South Africa thinking that SA meant 'Suffolk'.
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Each YesStories we enjoy a call-in from someone in the midst of an adventure, and this time round it was Frances Mills who announced her intention to run around the coast of Britain at Yestival 2017. Frances called in from her tent, which was shrouded in red because she couldn't work out how to operate her headtorch properly!
She's taking a wonderfully free approach to her journey, aiming to round Britain over the next three winters and only running, hiking and moving when she feels like it. Daily distance goals are not on her agenda and she takes decisions according to how she feels. Frances invites people to join her on her journey and is even open to a surprise visit - just not at nighttime!
Follow France's run on www.asiwandered.co.uk
You can spot a maths teacher from a mile off, and Roshan Daryanani's slides and charts explaining her journey into doing something uncomfortable each day for 100 days were both insightful and hilarious. Roshan was full of perfect soundbites, "You have to trust yourself even when other people think you're a bit weird, and when you do something new you can't predict what's going to happen" and she left everyone wondering what their next little adventure would be.
Read about Roshan's adventures on www.tinyadventuresinliving.com
Ewan Paterson usually presents alongside his fiancé Katie but as she was ill he took the stage alone to talk about their round-the-world cycling trip. Ewan was full of insights, including the freedom of travelling light, learning about cultures and environmental issues by moving slowly and a reminder that you don't have to visit monuments and landmarks to really travel.
He wrapped up with a great flip, imagining that a British family were explaining to their friends that they took in an Uzbeki cycling tourist, fed them, gave them a bed and then sent them off the next day without any clue where they were going or what they were doing. It's the type of hospitality so many of us experience on adventures and this is one of the reminders SayYesMore tries to push regularly - wherever you live remember that if someone is cycling, kayaking, walking or skateboarding past your home on their way to a far off destination then taking them in for a night is such a valuable offering.
Follow Ewan and Katie on www.thefreewheelers.co.uk
Dave Cornthwaite wrapped up with a short adventure story about not having a clue how to make a film and then updated us on all things SayYesMore, including progress with the YesBus, plans for a new Tribe-wide book club and a 2000 mile community ride on the waterbike he took down the Norway coast last year. Keep your eyes peeled on The YesTribe to get involved!
Thanks to everyone for coming, to Andy Bartlett for hosting and all our speakers for sharing their tales. Here's to an amazing year to come.
Signing out, Team Yes
You don't always need a path to have an adventure.
Sometimes it's ok to have a slight sense of humour failure, especially when you've got one bent pole, you're tired and there's no path
I am a solar powered energiser bunny - Andy
Your plans don't have to work out if you're willing to roll with the punches
It's great to make a contribution on top of doing something for the sake of it.
A yes isn't always something we say to ourselves, sometimes it's a gift from someone else
Kindness of strangers often appears when conditions are bad. Vulnerability means we're open to this kindness.
SA does not stand for Suffolk!
Sharing an adventure plan at Yestival meant that I was accountable, so I couldn't back out - Frances Mills
Make decisions based on how you feel
You have to trust yourself even when other people think you're a bit weird
When you do something new you can't predict what's going to happen
What are we missing out on because we somehow feel awkward - it's worth being conscious of
Challenge to everyone - be completely honest for a day
You don't need a lot of gear to be happy, if it's not being used then get rid of it!
You don't have to visit monuments and tourist attractions to really travel
Next time you see a traveller, be kind to them. It means more than you could imagine.