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Founder's Blog: #bethebird

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Founder's Blog: #bethebird

A seagull sits atop a sign, a sign showing a red line through a silhouette of a seagull, which happens to be facing exactly the same way as the real-life bird sitting on it.

A seagull sits atop a sign, a sign showing a red line through a silhouette of a seagull, which happens to be facing exactly the same way as the real-life bird sitting on it.

If there's a photo that sums up the idea behind the YesTribe it's this!

Originally it was shared by Avani, one of the team at Facebook looking after this year's Community Leadership Fellows. She said,

"This bird is really inspiring me today. I've been reflecting a lot on the journey with you all - watching you lead, deal with the craziness of the world, your communities and sometimes your lives.

Then I watched a talk by Seth Godin about building tribes and I realized a large part of your work is sitting like this bird, pretty much openly flaunting some "rules" made by some authority - to not do exactly what you are doing to make the world better by connecting people.

I won't be over philosophical here. I love you all for being this bird. This bird is cool."

--

For me, SayYesMore has always been an idea that helps me ignore the self-set or ingrained rules in my head, a reminder that it's ok to do something that other people might think is wrong, it's ok not to look for guidance and safety before we land, it's thoroughly encouraged to ignore (or even poo on) the silly, restrictive rules that are there for the plonkerish of reasons (ie. I can put a sign there, so I will).

I'd like to think you're all here because you recognise that life isn't transactional and that every single day you bosh down some barrier that someone else thoughtlessly put in your way, led by a sense that the other side has a lesson, or a new friend, or maybe just a cool place to camp for the night.

It's mental health week this week, but let's keep up the conversation all the time. Remember that if your mind can be the bird that doesn't care and the bird that isn't influenced by rules or thrown stones or even the sharp edge of the surface it happens to arrive at, then your mental health will be in a pretty good place.

You're awesome, regardless of what they say and even what you think sometimes. You're the cool bird living life your way.

#bethebird

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Advocating for Adventure in the Everyday

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Advocating for Adventure in the Everyday

I need to make a confession: until yesterday I do not think I really understood the word ‘adventure’. It’s quite embarrassing really. I call myself an Adventure Advocate. I produce a podcast called Seize Your Adventure. I ask all of my guests what ‘adventure’ means to them. And yet, when people ask me what adventure is, and more importantly how to have one, I could not quite get the explanation right.


You see, the word ‘adventure’ is like the word ‘love’. It is a poor signifier of a feeling that is difficult to explain. I have heard it described by multiple people in similar but differing ways. “Adventure is a mindset… it makes you feel all the emotions… it feeds your soul…it’s uncomfortable but worth it”. None of these description are wrong. If you know adventure, you know exactly what they mean. But how do you describe adventure to those who do not have it? How do you advocate for something so intangible?

The first time I remember feeling adventure, I was seven years old. My family went on the first of many holidays to Snowdonia. We drove across the country from our home in the South. My mum and dad would share the long drive and my older sister and me would sit in the back with our rescue dog between us. The day of travelling was filled with cassette tapes and car games, and the landscapes outside the car windows became increasingly unknown. It was a holiday in Britain - my own country - and yet we crossed over a border that bought a new language into my life for the first time.  I remember us giggling at the Welsh word ARAF, teasing the dog with the bark-like word for SLOW.  We walked into slate mines and rode trains along the coast. The day we walked up Snowdon, we stepped into the cloud and I never reached the top because I was too scared of the wind and rain. It was the epitome of a family adventure holiday. 

Red dragon mascot sits on wet, mossy rocks in a foggy mountain landscape in Snowdonia.

Red dragon mascot sits on wet, mossy rocks in a foggy mountain landscape in Snowdonia.

Since then, I have felt adventure many times: when I’ve stood on glaciers; when I’ve navigated Spanish streets; when I’ve pushed my body to keep walking in the hope of a bed. Yesterday, I felt adventure again. It might not have looked like much from the outside. It was a simple walk through the parks and commons near my house. There was no terrifying weather. I was not walking across a foreign country. I came home for lunch. So what made it adventurous?

It was the fact that I put myself into a situation that invited the unexpected. I did not plan my path (I rarely do) but instead took tangents where I felt like it (the confines of the common kept me safe!). I stopped to watch a robin trilling his song on top of a post. I was surprised by the spider that had taken a seat on my water bottle. I giggled at the charcoal burner that had the name ‘Norman’ embossed on the side and wondered if all charcoal burners have names. And best of all, I found myself far enough away from the bank holiday crowds that I surprised a doe on my path and had a frozen moment of mutual acknowledgement before she bounded off into the bushes. 

A black SayYesMore water bottle slants across half the photo, the other half is a blurry white and green spring landscape

A black SayYesMore water bottle slants across half the photo, the other half is a blurry white and green spring landscape

As I enjoyed this feeling of adventure just miles from my own home, I thought about how to capture the feeling and explain to others how they can find it themselves. And the easiest suggestion I have to is take yourself away from human-made comfort and out into uncontrollable nature. When you do that, you put yourself in situations where the unexpected will occur. You open yourself up to adventure.

And like love, you’ll know it when you find it.   

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This is very ambitious, but here goes

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This is very ambitious, but here goes

This is an account of social media fulfilling its potential to do good in the world, at a time when that message is especially important. By Chris Lee.

Early in March I left my prized Alpkit sleeping bag - the one that kept me warm while cycling across Canada - on a train bound for Newcastle.

alpkit bag.jpeg

I'd thought it was a train bound for York until we'd been sitting in York station for about thirty seconds. The next three seconds involved me realising the train was about to move; that if it did I'd miss my important and imminent meeting; and that I had to get myself and my stuff out of the train sharpish.

The sleeping bag was mistakenly abandoned in the frantic fluster that followed.

"Bugger", I thought, when I noticed its absence after the train departed. Bound, irretrievably, for Newcastle.

I asked the platform attendant where to report lost luggage. "Try the ticket office", she offered.

I asked the ticket office if I could report lost luggage. "Try the kiosk", they countered. "We're LNER, you need TransPennine". The first allusion to the multi-company rigmarole I was about to encounter.

I asked the kiosk if I could report lost luggage. "Sure. What was it? What did it look like? Which train? Where did you get on? Which coach? Which seat?" They noted everything down in a book, and told me to wait for a call.

Which I did, all morning. The prescribed time came and went, while images of my suspicious sleeping bag package being detonated by The British Transport Police filled my mind. "See it. Say it. Sorted."

I took to Twitter in an attempt to expedite things. LNER put me in touch with TransPennine, because they operated the train I'd been on. TransPennine put me back in touch with LNER, because they manage the station at Newcastle. LNER put me in touch with Northern, because they manage Manchester Victoria where I'd joined the service.

By the end of this I had the call sign of the train when I'd been on board, it's new call sign, it's current location, and various other bits of information. But no further information on the location of my sleeping bag.

Then, later in the afternoon as I was beginning to abandon hope: "Chris, great news! We've got it! I've just spoken to the conductor and he's now back in Newcastle so it must have been on a trip today!"

chris-yang-746390-unsplash.jpg

I was elated. Getting it home from Newcastle was the next logistical challenge, preferably without me having to go and collect it in person: A return ticket to Newcastle from home costs about the same as the sleeping bag did new.

So this time I took to Facebook, and more specifically to The Yes Tribe: An excellent bunch of people with the tagline "where strangers are just friends waiting to happen".

"This is very ambitious", I typed. "But here goes."

I wrote a post recounting the spiel above, then asked if anyone living near the station could pick it up and send it down to me. "I will of course pay for the postage and add the price of two pints (or equivalent treat) for your troubles."

The silence I expected was short-lived. "I have a friend who will be passing through Newcastle late tomorrow evening so could potentially pick it up?" "I can pick it up on Wednesday / Thursday if you’ve not found anyone yet." "I'm going to Newcastle next weekend so can if no one has got it by Saturday!"

The offers poured in. Seven people, formerly strangers, all willing to go out of their way to help. A few days later the postman handed me my sleeping bag, safe and sound.

The YesTribe was founded in 2015 by Dave Cornthwaite, who by then had spent a decade being led by a personal motto, ‘say yes more’. Dave dropped me a line after seeing the sleeping bag post and was delighted to hear it had been returned safely. Dave said, “If there was ever a vision for the YesTribe, it would be that its members were mirrors of those trail or river angels who once helped me, a stranger, when I momentarily passed through their lives in the midst of a personal adventure. My belief in humanity was refreshed at each encounter, and now The YesTribe has blossomed into a community that puts kindness and decency first, whether in the midst of an exciting adventure, or the hardest times in life, or like this, a little moment where making someone’s day depends entirely on you willingly offering a few minutes of your day to help someone you’ve never met before.

“It should be noted that Graham, the YesTriber who helped return the sleeping bag to you, got in touch and said he’d like to donate the postage fee you’re sending him to the YesTribe. We’ll gladly put it towards a fund to buy a sleeping bag for someone who wants to go camping, but can’t afford the gear”

If you want to find out more, follow the YesTribe on Facebook and Instagram and visit the SayYesMore website.

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Accidental Iceland- Part One

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Accidental Iceland- Part One

As all great adventures do, it started with a pint in the pub. In my case, this was a pint of lime soda as I’d had a long day working at a school and any amount of alcohol would have finished me off in seconds.

This was actually my first proper meeting with the YesTribe apart from the ambassador’s training weekend back in February. Up until Christmas, I was teaching at a school in Dorset and had never been able to make it to any of the meet ups, so now that I had the freedom to be out in the big city ON A SCHOOL NIGHT and meet some like-minded folk in Covent Garden, I grasped the opportunity straight away.

I’ve been generally blown away by how welcoming everyone is in the YesTribe and everyone was soon asking about where I had been for my daily adventure.

My adventure for the day had been a bit lame to be honest and involved me walking from London Bridge to Covent Garden after the tube station was suddenly shut and I got claustrophobic surrounded by so many people who weren't wearing any outdoor kit.

A photo of the list of tube stations Eastbound from Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line

So, what happens when you ask a table full of YesTribers what adventure to do that night. The ideas started rolling in, ranging from walking down the Thames and getting a boat back to visiting one of the city parks. I was on the verge of simply finding the nearest tree and climbing it so I could have an early night when the suggestions escalated wildly with the proposal of getting to an airport and spending the night partying in Ibiza (This may have been boss-man Dave’s idea).

A new type of adventure this may have been for me had I accepted, but I genuinely can’t think of anything I would less like to do for an evening than consuming cheap vodka from the bronzed body of mankini-clad male stripper. I was so relieved when fellow ambassador Tom Napper presented the idea of simply getting to the airport and picking the next available flight that I accepted the challenge before any more party destinations were mentioned. At least two people at the table had brought me a lime soda at this point and so it would be terribly rude not to now follow through. The game was on.

I was delighted when I extended the challenge to the table and Ian, who I had met about an hour earlier, discovered that he didn’t need to be in work until 10am the next morning. Downing our drinks we took a rapid selfie and said a hasty goodbye to the Tribe. Sprinting out of the pub, we headed in separate directions- Ian to swing via home to grab a bag and myself to make it back to my car in Golder’s Green to pick up my passport and then dash to Heathrow.

A very blurry selfie of SayYesMore YesTribe members Jen, Ian, Jenny, Tom and Dave in the pub before departure

Italy, Morocco, Scotland, South Africa... potential locations were reeling through my head at top speed. Where would it be possible to get a flight to at this time of night? Could I meet up with some of the foreign SayYesMore cohort in their home city? Would I survive on just the contents of my rucksack?

A tube ride, a two mile run and a cruise down the motorway later, I dumped the car in the nearest car park and sprinted into the departure terminal. I’d had a very quick look at the flights for the evening and knew that we might make it in time for the last flight to Ireland. As soon as I arrived, it wasn’t looking hopeful- the airport was deserted. My suspicions were confirmed by the final two staff left at the check-in desks who informed me that we had missed the last flight by half an hour.

A picture of Jen and Ian at the door of the departure terminal at Heathrow Airport

Catching my breath, Ian arrived from the train and I broke the news to him. We made the decision that despite the disappointment, we would still make the most of the evening and so picked the nearest green patch on Google Earth that wasn’t in the middle of a run-way to go and investigate.

Realising that neither of us had eaten dinner, the plan quickly changed to finding the nearest MacDonald’s to refuel and use the wifi. After a cheeseburger and getting kicked out at 11pm, we made our way to a local nature reserve behind a supermarket depot to bivvy out for the night (luckily I carry lots of spare kit in the car for work and so had plenty to lend to Ian!).

A photo of Jen and Ian in their sleeping bags bivvying in the woods

The plan for the morning was for me to drop Ian back at Heathrow so that he could make it back to work in time. It suddenly occurred to me, as I lay warm in my sleeping bag in the woods, that just because the plan had failed for the evening, it didn’t mean that an overseas adventure was completely lost. If I was going back to the airport to drop Ian off anyway, then surely I couldn’t waste the opportunity to still make it to foreign lands and back again before work in two days’ time?

Grabbing my phone, I got straight on Sky-Scanner. I had to make a decision as to where would be the furthest away, most interesting place to visit that wouldn’t jeopardise my career in the outdoor industry if my flight was delayed and failed to turn up to work on Saturday morning.

After a few thumb-scrolls, the perfect location appeared.

‘Book Flights Now’. I hovered over the button.

What did I have to lose?

I released the breath I hadn’t even realised I had been holding and pressed.

I was going to Iceland.

A screenshot of the Iceland Air booking conformation website page


Follow Jen’s trips on Instagram (@365daysofadventure2019)  or Facebook (@365DaysOfAdventure2019) and come and join me for a day!)

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The YesList

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The YesList

The best thing any of us can do is pass our knowledge on and try to leave the world a better place than we found it in.

I’ve always appreciated the idea of a bucket list, except for one thing: it’s motivated by death! So I tend to gather long-held goals and new-found dreams as a life list, or a YesList, a collection of targets, experiences and lessons that band together as a motivation to not sit still, rather than hustling a last-minute dash towards making something of our limited time left.

This is a chance to get rid of that stumbling attitude we hear all around: “I wish I could do that,” “I’ll never have that chance.” Or the gorgeously passive aggressive “you’re so lucky!” 

All of these are really sad sentiments, and none apply in reality.

We make our own luck, we have the chance in time to do whatever we want, and we’re all, right now, in a position to never have to say those words “I wish” ever again. 

YesLists aren’t just about doing things and going places, they’re at the heart of who we want to be. We inspire through our actions and while our stories make us more interesting, it’s important to remember that unless you decide to make your YesList absolutely central to your identity, the list itself isn’t a story. Instead, it’s a great way to fill those moments of uncertainty or boredom and keep you focussed on learning and growing.

Creating a list is a commitment to action, developing positive habits and making life memorable. Not sure what to do with your time? When you have a list it’s easy, just scour through all these things you’ve always wanted to do and start working towards the one that excites you most.

How to create a YesList?

This bit is fun. Open your mind and be free with your dream chasing, this is a chance to set yourself targets that you didn’t even think were possible before. There are no limits here, just ideas. Be novel! Imagine who you want to be in five years time and the things that by then you’ll be able to talk about. Then get writing!

Later on we’re going to look at some ways that other people can help you do the things you’re not yet sure how to do yourself, but in the meantime it’s important to remember that this is YOUR list, nobody else’s. 

It’s not a race or a competition and there’s absolutely no timeline. The only commitment you make when creating a YesList is that at all times you’re moving, however slowly, towards ticking off another item. There are some days when we feel totally unmotivated and can’t be bothered with anything - but I promise you, a few moments with this list will get you thinking.

Start by getting yourself a piece of paper, or open up a word document or spreadsheet if you’re a digital type, and write 1, 2, 3 and so on down the left side of the page. Personally, I have my YesList on the Notes app of my phone, which syncs with my other devices - so if I ever want to check out my list or make a change or addition, I can do it anywhere.

A good YesList has at least 50 challenges in there. Frankly, the more the better so feel free to aim higher, say, 100. Within the list there should be different categories:

  • Travel: Geographically, where would you like to go? Is there someone you’d like to visit on the other side of the world?

  • Physical: This might be aiming for a PB, or taking up a new sport, or planning an endurance adventure. And bingo, you get and stay fit at the same time as ticking off another win.

  • Kindness: Whether it’s volunteering in your local neighbourhood, raising money for charity or giving a friend a hand with their latest house move, let your list push you towards making a difference.

  • Psychological: Got a fear that you’d like to overcome? Heights, public speaking, holding a spider? Here’s your chance to be less scared of life in general.

  • Habit: Commit to reading a certain amount of books in a year, learning a new skill each month or spending a certain number of nights wild camping. Developing just one habit improves your discipline in other areas of life.

  • Creative: There’s something special about making something. How’s your photography or film making? Maybe you want to learn how to draw or build furniture? Or even a tiny house?!

  • Health: Finally, maybe this is your time to give up sugar in coffee, or cut down on your meat intake? Or maybe you just need to commit to half an hour of exercise each day, hit those 10,000 steps, or down-size your meal portions.

  • Financial: Why not set yourself a savings target? Even £1 a day will give you enough for a weekend getaway by the end of the year.

  • Time: There will be some things you’d like to achieve which you simply can’t do this month or even this year. This is ok, but maybe ensure that you have enough short-term items open your list to keep focus.

You can choose as many or as few items within each category as you like but only choose items that you can qualify (ie. swim regularly is a hard one to tick off, because regularly is pretty ambiguous). Also make sure you have control over achieving your goals (ie. don’t leave things completely in the hands of fate or luck), with a little hard graft and imagination you’ll be amazed at how much easier life seems with a can-do attitude. 

And here’s a tip. If you’re making a list of 100 items, maybe keep five spaces free. No doubt you’ll find something to fill them with soon.

 

To get started, here are some questions you could ask yourself to inspire and aid your own list-building:

  • Are there any special moments you want to witness, or people you’d like to spend time with? 

  • Are you a mountain, desert, ocean or city person? 

  • Which countries, places or locations do you really want to visit? 

  • Is there an event you’ve always thought would be very cool to be a part of? 

  • What have you always wanted to do but until now been too scared of? 

  • What are the most important things you can do with your talents? 

  • What achievements would you like to pop under your belt? 

  • If you had one year left, how would you spend your time? 

  • What would you regret not doing? 

  • What have you always wanted to learn? (Remember, the Internet makes learning pretty damn easy). 

  • Is there a type of food you’ve never tasted? 

  • How can you best give your skills and time to someone else? 

  • What can you do only with someone else? Think of the perfect person, and what you might like to do alongside them. 

  • What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?

Ok, so those are the basics. Here are questions people often ask about creating a YesList:

Can I add small things or do they all have to be life-changing?

A healthy mixture of big and small is always a good idea. Some items you’ll be able to complete in a day, some might take five years. Without doubt, many long-term personal challenges will be quite selfish - and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this it’s important to equal up our list - so make sure it’s a good split between personal development and philanthropy, easy-to-complete tasks and steady, long-term plodding towards a far-off goal.

Break it down

If you have a huge challenge on your list, like learning to fly a plane, cycle around the world or become a millionaire? Create a sub section under that item and give yourself smaller challenges that all add up to helping you complete the overall goal.

How do I choose which item to tick off next?

Think about the weeks ahead, are you going anywhere in particular? What’s the weather going to be like? How are you feeling? If you’re fighting fit (or want to be) maybe it’s time to take on a physical challenge... 

Maybe there two or three items that you can group together and tick off on your next holiday - let’s say you’ve got “Master cooking a foreign meal” and “learn how to freedive” on your list - why not go somewhere where food is yummy and free diving courses are available, like Thailand or Bali?

What if I want to change my YesList?

This is your list and your rules. If an item you wrote down a while ago doesn’t appeal anymore, get rid of it. There’s no point in you being unhappy! That said, there was a reason you put that thing in there in the first place, so try to recall what that was before you get the eraser out.

Even if you managed to start your list with a nice round 50 or 100 items, if you come up with another awesome challenge then feel free to add it to your list, you’re being freed and not limited with this project.

Remember, you don’t have to complete your YesList in order.

Should I share my YesList?

This is completely up to you, but there are a few benefits to telling other people about your list. Saying something out loud is scientifically proven to enforce an idea and therefore you’re more likely to carry it out. 

The more people you tell, the more likely you are to find friends to help you.

And finally, it’s great to have a buddy or two to be accountable to. This could be your partner, a friend or even a stranger with a winning smile. Tune in with each other every week or month and share your wins, struggles and unexpected outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Inspiration from other lists

spring-bucket-list-1284-p.jpeg
 

My YesList

Simple version, using Notes on Phone

With extra columns for deadline, cost and country - using Google Sheets

 

Why would I do a YesList?

It’ll make you more interesting, focussed and motivated. It’ll help you make decisions, become more patient, and experience the life you want to be living. You’ll have something to talk about next time you have friends over to dinner, and you might just inspire the people around you to do more, too.

You are the sum of all your experiences, so why not choose to be the sum of all the cool and hard things you’ve always been interested in? One bonus is that planning and working towards a goal will add more to your character than you know, and that’s all before you get to tick an item off. 

You choose who you are and who you’re going to be, and a YesList is just one of the ways to help you be that awesome person.


Ok we’re nearly there. Finally, a couple of tips from me:

Write everything down

Write an ongoing journal or diary tracing your progress. If it’s been a long day this is the last thing you’ll feel like doing but in time you’ll be so thankful you captured your memories. The small details can so easily be forgotten, like how you felt or struggled on a particular day, or a specially worded line of advice someone gave to you - these nuggets might just add value to a blog one day, or maybe even a book.

An important reminder

This is a practice in enjoyment, achievement and developing positive habits. It’s not supposed to be a blueprint for your entire life. Take the pressure off and don’t worry if it takes a while to tick off an experience you thought you’d have enjoyed sooner. This is your project, your list, your life. Use the YesList as a guiding stick and nothing more, and in turn it’ll look after you in ways you could never have imagined.


Now, it’s time to get started

Choose three items from your list that you’re going to tackle first, and then let me know about them on Twitter and of course, share them on the YesList Facebook group, too!

Ok, off you go and be incredible. Don’t forget to share your list with me and join the YesList group on Facebook so the community there can support and help you along.

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