Walking in a winter wonderland: 30 mile trek to our work Christmas party


Walking in a winter wonderland: 30 mile trek to our work Christmas party

Our Yes Story is pretty small compared to some of the amazing ones featured on Tribe Stories– but that’s partly why we love it!

Despite my colleague Rory and I having relatively exciting careers working for a humanitarian charity and travelling quite regularly, we have bonded over our feeling that our day to day working lives are not quite enough for us and that we need more adventure, excitement and challenges in order to be satisfied with what we’ve achieved in our short life on this crazy planet.












We’d been playing with ideas over the past year about what we could do – drive a tuk-tuk from Nairobi to Cape Town, cycle across Asia, rollerblade across Europe – but, whilst our dreams are definitely big, reality has unfortunately got in the way. We’re broke to start with! We also not only need our jobs but LIKE our jobs. And I am the mother of a crazy two year old so it is not realistic to simply  disappear for weeks at a time in pursuit of adventure – as much as I would like to!

But, despite the challenges, we’ve kept the faith and kept talking, often over too many glasses of wine, about the adventures we could and should be having. This desire to live life differently and break out of our comfort zone led us to Dave Cornthwaite and the Yes Tribe – and the ideas that had been zooming around our heads started to seem less and less crazy.

That’s what led us to a London pub on a freezing night at the end of November to join the Yes Stories monthly meetup! Weirdly, we were both really nervous about going along and felt incredibly intimidated by all of the amazing adventurers and speakers we knew would be in the room. It was as if we were outsiders or frauds because we hadn’t quit our jobs and walked across Mongolia, or something equally adventurous! But, after a bit of Dutch courage, we got ourselves seated and settled in to be inspired. And inspired we were – not only by the big adventures, the walk across India, the trek across Israel and Palestine, the waterbike around the coast of Iceland – but also by the smaller adventures, the ones being fitted into everyday existence.  And one quote from the night stuck in our heads most of all – “Say Yes and figure it out afterwards.”


So, that evening, still in the pub and still drinking wine, we wondered “what shall we say Yes to?” We decided it had to be something soon – something we couldn’t overthink, something we could afford but something that felt like a proper adventure that we could be proud of. And we somehow came up with the random idea of walking overnight from home near St Albans to our South London office in time for our work Christmas party. When I woke up the next morning to a text from Rory saying “we had better start planning the walk”, I of course had no idea what he was talking about for a few minutes but, after a shower and a coffee, planning commenced!

And by ‘planning’ – well, we found two Ordnance Survey maps and looked at them in the office for 10 minutes; we bought a head torch and we checked our walking boots still fitted. But we were still quietly confident – even when four inches of snow fell two days before we were due to set off and we started getting texts from alarmed friends and family saying “nobody would think less of you if you didn’t do this you know”. But this just spurred us on even more. Plus, we were fundraising for Concern Worldwide (our employer) and turning up in an Uber to see all the people who had sponsored us for the walk just wouldn’t cut it!

Luckily for us, despite the icy conditions, the night of the walk was mild, the sky was clear and, as we set off at 1.30am, dozens of falling stars twinkled overhead – a rare meteor shower that we were so lucky to walk beneath as we set out on our adventure!

By 3.30am, we’d hit St Albans and, by 5.30am, Radlett. We followed the line of the numerous train stations that I pass through on my daily commute without a second thought, usually with a nose in the armpit of another commuter, smartphone in hand, scrolling through social media and dreaming of more.

image_123986672 (1).JPG

We thoroughly enjoyed these first few miles. Walking in the dark and passing through deserted towns and villages and imagining everyone fast asleep in their beds whilst we were on our journey really added a twinge of excitement that we hadn’t expected – and  this feeling that “we’re living life a bit differently to most people right now” is what we had been searching for, and can already feel ourselves becoming addicted to.

Crossing the M25 at 4.50am was weirdly one of the highlights – the most hellish ring road known to man and the barrier between London and ‘everywhere else’. My horrendous sense of direction meant I had never really known where the M25 is in relation to where I live so reaching it stimulated some excitement! Even at this time of the morning, it was absolutely packed with lorries and early commuters and was a truly depressing view of our modern world. Yet walking over the top if it, head torches blinking and flickering and maps in hand, was a real milestone.

From here, we suspected it would get easier – we’ve crossed the M25 so we’re in London right?! The commuters were starting to appear and the first hints of dawn appeared on the horizon. But this was actually the hardest section by far – walking through Elstree and Borehamwood and on to Edgware was rather monotonous. Straight road, fast cars, narrow pavement, and an increase in the number of fast food shops, garages and industrial estates. We’d left the countryside yet still had a long way to go to reach London, and the ‘adventure’ side of things was definitely waning.

But, then we hit Kilburn at around 11am, my old stomping ground, and our spirits lifted immediately – ZONE TWO of the underground! This was actual London! We were going to manage it despite aching muscles, Rory’s sore knee and the hole in my toe! So, we stopped for a pint! This was a glorious idea and a terrible one at the same time because, even with alcohol soothing our aches and pains, re-starting the walk  after an hour of rest was very difficult, and this was probably the closest we got to actually calling an Uber  - but we heroically resisted!

After this, things got better – through Maida Vale, Royal Oak and on to Hyde Park and ‘proper’ London. With our Concern Worldwide tabards, maps around our necks and disheveled appearance, we received some baffled looks from the Kensington crowd but by now we had our eyes on the prize. The glorious feeling of seeing the Thames and belting out Heather Small’s ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’ was briefly overshadowed by the lack of shop to buy Prosecco.

But Google Maps came to our rescue (Benedict Allen, take note, so handy) and we finished the final mile with bubbles in hand and a spring in our step, to be greeted by the cheers of our colleagues and a very enjoyable Christmas party, even if we did have to bail early due to exhaustion.

It was a small challenge compared to what some people achieve but one that we wanted to do in order to prove to ourselves that we could devise, plan and execute our own adventure  – even with minimal preparation and in the middle of winter – and now we’ve been spurred on to more . We have some exciting plans up our sleeve. Watch this space!

Jen and Rory

Reach us at:

Twitter @jenwilliams33

Twitter @RoryCrewACA


Kayaking for Blackthorn


Kayaking for Blackthorn

To say that Yestival 2017 had a big impact on me is an understatement. I had no intention of coming away with the resolve to undertake a big physical and mental adventure, but that’s what happened after hearing Darren Edwards talk.


Looking More, Learning More - Developing Our Relationship With Nature


Looking More, Learning More - Developing Our Relationship With Nature

“Once you have respect you care, when you care you share, once you share you teach”

As soon as her words enveloped my thoughts I knew I’d heard something special. Freda was Northern Shoshone and lived in a remote region on the banks of the Yukon River, Canada. As we sat outside a small cabin beyond the abandoned church from the Klondike era, I contemplated the week of paddling in the canoe that it had taken me to arrive here, hundreds of miles from the source of the river. I had at least one thousand four hundred miles left until I reached the river’s mouth in western Alaska.

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Along the way, from Freda and other native elders, I’d get a lesson in what landscape and connection truly meant, shared with me by people who rely on it as a way of life and a means of living.

All of my journeys, long or short, involve the intertwining ribbon of culture and landscape, which I see as intrinsically linked. Within this is my ongoing search for simplicity, meaning and a way of life. This simple notion is what drew me to the vastness of the Yukon to meet the first nation groups who have permeated this landscape for 10,000 years. For the people of this region, their culture, identity and psyche are firmly rooted in their partnership with the landscape and the wildlife. For centuries and even up until the modern day, their success as a culture is directed by this vital partnership. To lose this connection would be catastrophic for their spiritual health, and ultimately their survival.

The elders explained to me how all humans need a living dynamic relationship with the landscape in order to feel nourished and to feel connected. On returning to the rhythm and rush of urban life, I realised this was as true for the people of Alaska as it is for the people of London. We are one and the same, nourished in life by the land. My outlook towards the greater framework of nature was indelibly shaped by those intimate conversations.

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

With the recent insights of the Yukon expedition crackling like an ember inside me, I developed the Kodak / 27 Images project in the spring of 2017. At its heart the project was as much about disconnecting as it was reconnecting, experimenting this time in the landscapes I call home. I decided to cross, on foot and alone, two major regions of the Lake District - Coniston to Buttermere. Instead of taking my DSLR I would use a simple Kodak throwaway camera to photograph the entire journey. If I took my DSLR, or even a smartphone, there would be countless opportunities to get the images I wanted. But spending so much time behind the lens meant the camera could become like a middleman, moderating my relationship with the land.

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

With the Kodak, I wanted its limitations to become its strengths. The limit of 27 exposures meant I would have to slow down so that I could more closely observe my surroundings, in search of the best picture. I also hoped that that slowing down would bring more presence, clarity and a new creative perspective.

Essentially, stripping back technology and choice would give breathing space for more meaningful things like nature, creativity and connection with the land.

An elder once said to me “ When you slow down more, you’ll look more, and when you look more you’ll learn more”. This became not only the ethos for the project but shaped my way of living and became a component of my new business, Walk Wild.

You can see the 27 Images here.

Walking Wild – Helping others connect to the land  

I’d always been drawn to ancient forests and dense woodlands: their enchantment and complexity captured my imagination. Within the mosaic of these wonderfully wild places lies a hierarchy of families and cross species generosity.

Autumn Woodland.jpg

After my expedition to the Yukon I became even more intrigued by the complex society of life within a forest ecosystem. Months after the journey, it was now time to share and teach the knowledge that had inspired me. Focusing on the landscape of forests and woodlands, I said “Yes” in the face of fear and failure to starting an immersive outdoor business where walking, slowing down and looking more took precedence over the mileage counter on a watch or smartphone.

I founded Walk Wild to offer people carefully crafted day walks in some of the southern UK’s most ancient woodlands. They are designed to give people more time and space in wild locations, to support the development of their relationship with nature. During these walks I share nuggets of information about the inner workings of forests, wisdom about individual trees and how the rich variety of trees species communicate with each other and the ecosystems they’re part of.

For some, connecting with nature is a sense of a relationship with something far greater than ourselves. The lessons passed to me from elders on the Yukon River, lessons that had been shared from generation to generation for thousands of years, had changed a humble life on another continent. It spurred me to found an organisation with a mission to spread their teachings to one million people.

All across the world, first nation and indigenous communities believe that everything around us - the humble butterfly and the bird, the forests and the river, the mountains and the sky, all possess the spirit of life. I am now convinced of this too. Nature is a healer, the great teacher and a universal force of birth and death. Spending time in nature and taking time to listen, observe, and use all of our senses, is how we can start to understand the wonders of nature, and develop a personal relationship to the land.


I also wholeheartedly believe that if we begin to adopt that same awareness to the interconnection between all life, as the native communities do, we’ll naturally develop a deep sense of connection to and respect for the landscapes we all call home.








From Desk to Yes

1 Comment

From Desk to Yes

I used to watch Say Yes More events from the sidelines, cheering people on silently while slumped over my desk at work scrolling Facebook to kill time. I was following Dave Cornthwaite’s expedition adventures, absorbing Yes Tribe blog posts like a sponge, and sitting on the edge of doing something more meaningful with my life.

Then one early spring evening I joined the Yes Tribe for a spontaneous after work woodland campout. We played frisbee together, shared food and stories around a cosy campfire, and slept in bivvy bags in the wonderful woods. It was simple, magical fun at its best - and the following morning on my way back to work, I felt a massive shift.

With this community of adventurers, I felt a warmth and sense of connection that had been missing from my life. It was incredibly inspiring to hear people’s tales of adventure and plans for their future. I knew that I wanted to embody this spirit of Say Yes More - I could feel it in my bones.

This led to my next Yes - to step off the sidelines and into the playing field. I applied to become an ambassador for Say Yes More and I’m extremely grateful to say that I am now part of the team. As part of this role I volunteered at Yestival 2017, which became a very special experience for me.


In those five days I learnt valuable lessons about life, about other people, and about myself. I want to share some of them with you because I think that there is potential to inspire others who are looking for deeper social connections, considering pursuing new experiences, and navigating a world so full of opportunities, that sometimes, the choices can be paralysing.  

Begin with YES!

If you feel in your heart that you want to do something, then say yes and figure out the “how” later. I turned up at Yestival having zero festival-putting-together skills. We worked together through Storm Brian, supported each other at every twist and turn, and had so much fun every step of the way. In this friendly, can-do environment, I became a fast learner, and had a giant smile on my face throughout.

Make time for stories

The stories I listened to at Yestival – from both the fascinating speakers and casual conversations with others - had a very deep impact on me: I realised that I wasn’t making enough space for my friends and family, or for meeting new people. Yestival takes you away from the busy city life and frenetic online world of Tweeting, jammed inbox and Facebook, into a feeling of presence and gratitude. Since then I have made some adjustments in my life that have freed up my time for sharing stories and experiences. One of the most powerful changes I have made has been to switch off notifications on my phone. Instead of being triggered to check my phone I am present with the people I talk to, and I have a new appreciation for nature when I’m adventuring. These small but significant changes mean that my energy levels are much higher and I am communicating better.

Yes Bus Dave C.jpg

We are not alone

Whatever your journey, there are people out there who can support you and who you can support too. Surrounding yourself with positive, empowering “can do” people can be so transformative! My experience with Say Yes More has shown me how much connecting with others (my tribe!) helps me to feel truly alive and happy. I believe that while there will always be peace and beauty in solitude, it is in the moments of sharing that we really open up and shine.


Sarah is an Adventure Coach, facilitating career and lifestyle changes with people who want to start again but don’t know where to begin. She loves hiking, trail running and exploring places that aren’t so well known.

Coaching: www.sarahventurer.com
Blog: www.summityoursuccess.com


1 Comment

Yestival 2017 saved me!


Yestival 2017 saved me!

Over 400 people joined us on Brinsbury Campus for the third addition of Yestival, and each one came along for their own reasons. Glen Pilkington tells us about his... 


And so it began


And so it began

by Rolfe Oostra

“pass world, I am the dreamer that remains, the man clear cut against the horizon” Roy Campbell.

My first venture as a mountain guide could not have been better conceived. The backdrop was Africa, the mountain sat nicely balanced on the equator, and my paying client was a good buddy. I had just turned 20 and survived some bad craziness in the New Zealand Alps and needed to escape the gloom and doom that followed. Researching for a back-door, I found a black and white photo of a striking mountain in an old book by Eric Shipton. That mountain beckoned like a wonderful dream which you don’t want to wake up from - the Mountain was Mount Kenya. It set the stage for what was to come; years of shoe-string travelling and dirt-bag climbing.

2014-02-14 03.46.49.jpg

I had little money; no dirt-bag climber worth his salt does. Working as a farmhand I’d scraped together enough cash to buy a one-way ticket to Nairobi, and I had accepted my client's offer to bankroll the expedition. My plans for Africa didn’t extend beyond the mountain. I had borrowed the guide book and determined a route but had thought no further. Faith and Providence landed us on the porch of a Polish Lady called Mamma Roche. This huge utterly crazy vodka swilling lady possessed angel wings and a heart of solid gold. If ever I found a true home from home, her ramshackle house jettisoned in the roughest part of Nairobi was it; the tropical gardens complete with monkeys and chameleons eventually served as our HQ for three years.


The mountain is 200 kms north of Nairobi and the villages at its foot are conveniently linked to the city by tarmac roads. Excitedly, we jumped on a local bus (a matatu) and headed the wrong way. We quickly learned to phrase things Africa style. The question “does this bus go to Mount Kenya?” will always be answered by “Yes”. The question “Where does this bus go?” goes a long way in getting you to your destination and not Lake Victoria where we first ended up.  Days later, having found the right matatu, we loaded our stuff on the roof and headed north.


The park entry fees, although in Africa always open to negotiation, were well beyond our meagre budget and forced us to try diversionary tactics by going bush. This plan, from the onset a fine balance between adventure and stupidity, had its foundation in the bushland excursions we made in our native Australia when we were kids. That we’d be more likely to encounter a leopard than a wallaby we gave no thought to as we rambled up a steep bank and waltzed into the trees. Since we were trying to avoid park rangers we struck a course through the equatorial forest running parallel to the dirt road which our guidebook showed lead to the first camp.

The going was tough; thick stands of bamboo, thorns and spiky jungle vines caused endless delay. Clothes, hair, skin and rucksacks were each in turn grabbed, scratched and stabbed by millions of barbs and spines. The equatorial nightfall pounced on us with the suddenness of a wild beast. We had long lost the road and were well short of our designated camp. Camping where we stood had become necessary. We scratched out a level bit from the leafy forest floor and nervously struck our tent.

Night in these jungles have a curious rhythm to it. There is always a background noise your brain does it’s best to explain away with what is familiar; cicadas, mosquitos, horn-bills and frogs set up a wall of white-noise through which blared the occasional unfamiliar hoot and grunt. I tried putting on a brave face as we were going about the camping routine but the realisation that I had no idea what was out there was hard to disguise. As soon as the tent was up we leapt in and tried to sleep. “Are you still awake mate?” became my client’s catchphrase as each hour he’d illuminate the tent with the light of his watch.

At 3am we heard a loud crash outside the tent; the noise was not a noise made by an insect or an animal but sounded like something ripping a branch from a tree. I turned on my petzl headtorch and shone it into the startled face of my client. “Did you hear that, mate?” he whispered. I opened the tent fly and beamed my light into the dark jungle night. I could see nothing until another loud snap about ten meters away revealed the outline of an enormous arse. Standing with its backside towards us was an African elephant merrily tearing down a tree; branch by branch. “What is it, mate?” came a voice whispering behind me. The guidebook and prior experience had no way to explain how to react to seeing an elephant tearing down a tree only metres from our tent. So I did what that other African creature does and stuck my head in the sand. “It’s nothing, mate. Go back to sleep”.  

Once we broke out of the forest we entered broad moorland and climbed steadily up to the edge of a huge canyon. This seldom trodden path to the base of our wall took us four days to complete. It led us through an enchanted landscape of tarns, pinnacles and weird plants that suggested both Tolkien and Planet of the Apes. Perhaps because this was my first mountain expedition I have developed a bias but I will always hold up Mount Kenya as a yardstick to some of the many stunning wilderness landscapes I have climbed in since. These days passed too quickly.


We arrived at the wall feeling strong and acclimatised. And as an additional bonus we had not been challenged by officialdom. The only people we had seen had been a large group of porters carrying down the body of a South African man who’d abseiled off the end of his rope. His young wife in utter shock trudged numbly behind the group. They explained that they’d sent a runner down to organise a chopper to evacuate the couple as soon as they’d been alerted of the accident but it had never made an appearance. The two climbers had made a successful ascent of the Shipton route but he had made the rookie error of not tying a knot in the end of his rope for abseiling. After he’d fallen his wife had continued down alone until she reached the glacier where she’d bumped into the porters bringing up loads for a group coming up the regular trekking route. We introduced ourselves and tried to offer assistance but she was in another world entirely. I knew how she felt and we left her to descend to the dark world below; another life shattered by the thing we loved the most.

Being dirt-bags, we camped well away from the hut right against the base of the wall. Although we could see the hut across the glacier and watched several people moving around, we revelled in our independence. I had settled on repeating the line of the original first ascent; the Halford Mackinder route. (Alpine grade D, 700 meters.). Mount Kenya is the original twin peaks. Both its summits are named after Massai chiefs with Batian (5199m) being only a fraction higher than its twin Nelion. Separating the brothers is the Gate of Mist; a sharp notch often cloaked by streaming mists.

This choice of route was equally adventurous and naïve. The more often climbed Shipton route offers some great rock-climbing and is usually ice-free. By attempting the original route we’d be traversing onto the very steep diamond glacier and climbing into the Gates of Mist before reaching Batian. I had brought two ice-screws and we each carried crampons and an ice-tool on top of all our rock-climbing equipment. Still, we blustered that if fat boy Halford could climb the route in breeches and studded leather boots then today’s space-age kids would have no problems; naturally we were about to be impressed. Our tights, camera action moments reduced to insignificance by a singular monochrome image of a pipe smoking, bespectacled fat man.


“Halford might have had a fat arse but he sure had some balls too” puffed my client. We had just finished the first half of the climb to the South ridge. The initial pitches had not been too stiff and we even simu-climbed for a while.


But as the outline of the ridge grew sharper the climbing had become increasingly tricky; enough to make me think that we had gone off route.  I re-checked the guidebook and found that my client was bang on; old Halford really did have some balls. When we popped over the ridge we were confronted with a huge drop. Below us stretched the serious diamond couloir and the mighty south face. We scrambled over the ridge and crabbed our way to the couloir which linked up to the Gate of Mist. We climbed some way on ice and then a short rock step lead to the summit.  

We had done it! The route was in the bag! Eagerly we lifted the camera from the bag to take those irreplaceable Kodak moments. The views were non-existent; we’d been so focused on the climbing that the rudimentary weather checks had gone unheeded; the Gates of Mist were living up to their name. We took a summit shot that could have been taken in a steam room and began the descent to Nelion and the abseil route down its eastern flank.


When we got there the weather turned for the worst; hail began to bounce all around us and loud thunder claps were growling up the valleys. Luckily for us a tiny coffin shaped structure has been built on the summit by the enterprising Kenyan climber Ian Howell. This largely unsung local Alpinist soloed the Shipton route thirteen times carrying sheets of tin and mattresses to create this unusual summit post. Still, we were grateful to be able to escape the weather and scrambled inside. “It’s just like being in a coffin mate” said my client again. He was right; the last few people who had spent the night here had been the couple we’d bumped into on the way up.

The sun always shines again. And it did so the very next day. Stiffly we crawled out of the coffin and began the long process of rigging up nineteen abseils to reach the glacier at the base of the mountain. Once down we began the long walk back to civilisation.

There is not much more to add to the story except to mention that Mount Kenya had the last laugh. A mountain like anything else is nothing more than a sum of all its parts and on this mountain this includes a zoo worth of strange beasts. Having so far represented dirtbag climbers around the world by displaying exemplary resourcefulness in not paying park fees, we felt the need to maintain form; it was back into the bush for us.

We followed the most popular path down until we reached the forest and reluctantly tried the “sticking to the road whilst scraping through the forest” routine again. This time the going was easier and as we drew nearer to the gate and the noisy ranger hut, we began to feel optimistic about passing by unnoticed. It was all going so well; the forest was relatively open and there were many tiny paths created by local people foraging the forest. We could hear the activity at the gate but the forest was dense enough to camouflage our presence. Fortunately the forest was not so impassable as to disguise the dozen buffalo blocking our path. “F**k mate!” began my client.

We were far enough away for the herd to have noticed our presence but not to be alarmed. Or so we guessed. “We need to get around them mate” whispered my client. I was glad he had begun to catch on. On tiptoes we began a journey off the paths into some dense undergrowth. We scrabbled through bushes, bent around trees and shuffled amongst branches in an ever-widening arc. Eventually, we were far enough away from the herd to make a run for it. And this we did at breakneck speed. It wasn’t long before we broke out of the forest and bounced into a neatly ordered banana plantation. A grizzled old man wearing a neat jacket and a pair of shorts was tending to his trees. He did not seem alarmed by our sudden appearance and smiled knowingly as he pointed out the direction to the road that led out of the forest and into a very crazy future.

Who is Rolfe Oostra?!

Rolfe is Co-Founder of 360-expeditions and has been travelling the globe on raw and exciting expeditions since he was 18 - the early years with his thumb stuck out and the later years always with a gaggle of excited trekkers and climbers.  Since setting up 360-expeditions, Rolfe has taken clients all over the world on exciting, fast paced and often extreme expeditions, including summiting Everest! He is a Berghaus and Stubai athlete and lives life to the full.

If you want to join Rolfe or 360 and MAKE LIFE MEMORABLE check them out here.


GET INVOLVED and say YES! The Yes Tribe is off to Jordan and you can come too!

SayYesMore has partnered with 360 Expeditions and are offering an incredible opportunity: a huge campout in Jordan.

Emma Taylor from SayYesMore will be leading the expedition in May 2018 for 10 days. This magical adventure in the heart of Jordan will see you trek through canyons filled with lush clear water and desert plains while camping out under the stars with the Bedouins before reaching the magical awe inspiring Petra. Thereafter it will be time to enjoy your hard earned treat - two nights at the Dead Sea.

Find out more here.


Jordan- Find Petra.png
2014-10-16 14.23.25_jordan_2014.jpg
desert sun jordan.png


Losing my mind in the Atacama Desert


Losing my mind in the Atacama Desert

Cycling around the world is never meant to be easy. By definition, to bicycle 50,000km is meant to be bloody difficult! The way is not always paved and the going is not always downhill. To bicycle around the world means cycling over mountains, through deserts and over many unpaved roads.

To quote Alistair Humphreys, “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun!” I have now been on a world cycle for two years and have peddled over 30,000km, through 28 countries.  Although you may call me ‘experienced’, there are times when the going is so hard and the road feels never-ending; when you feel exhausted and lonely, and you ask yourself “why am I doing this?” or “what am I trying to prove?” “ Shouldnt I be back home, with the safety and security of a regular job, with my friends and family around me?”

But my reality is that I’m in the middle of the Atacama Desert, pushing the pedals relentlessly, on my own with only my thoughts for company.

The Atacama Desert is located in Northern Chile, and is the driest non-polar desert in the world. Often compared to Mars, this lunar looking landscape lies between the Andes Mountain range to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, occupying a region of over 100,000sq kilometers and including climbs of 4500m. Needless to say, when you are cycling across the arid land you really feel small, a tiny dot on earth making a slow and steady pace.

I started my Atacama adventure in the town of Copiapo; my original intention was to head over the mountains from Chile to Argentina instead of cycling through the desert, but when I arrived at Copiapo, I was told that I was too late in the season: the border between Chile and Argentina is now close. So I had no choice but to head north for the more temperate borders and the beginning of 1000km of desert cycling.

The first 200km was actually quite pleasant since the road swung inland and took me along the coast with little shops along the way and the Pacific Ocean a constant companion. The road would climb up to give you majestic sea views before plummeting back down to sea level where I was able to purchase a snack or bottled drink. I was making good progress but once at the seaside town of Taltal, everything changes. The road begins to climb and you must climb from sea level to 2500km on very steep terrain and to make matters worse, the headwinds are constant and unforgiving.  So my speed was halved meaning my supplies were also halved since it took me twice as long to reach the next re-fueling stop, therefore I had to carefully ration what I had. That was the start of my struggle with the Atacama;. I slowly made my way north, eating half rations and wondering why I was doing this. Who was I to take on the mighty Atacama?

I was really struggling with the wind, and to make matters worse, my bike began to click on every pedal stroke, not letting me forget I was pedaling, and this started to drive me mad!  I would scream and curse at the wind and at my pedals, hoping that something would change to make the journey just a little easier. But I reminded myself how far I’ve already come;  and so tough it out I did, and after six days, something magical happened. Reaching a toll booth I stopped and asked the police if I can charge my phone (so I can listen to podcasts and not have to listen to the squeaking pedals!) – he agreed but only to a decisive “five minutes!” After five minutes he comes out and instead of telling me to move on, presents me with a package of biscuits, yoghurts and a cheese sandwich!! Yes a cheese sandwich and I was so happy, it was probably this guy’s lunch and he had given it to me as token of goodwill. It was the tastiest, most satisfying sandwich I have ever eaten! Bread, butter and cheese but also sprinkled with the goodwill of humanity.  I was so thankful to the policeman and cycled off with a massive smile on my face, and then to my surprise….he wind changed.

So instead of plodding along in the desert, it now felt like I was flying! I was full and I was happy. That night I found an abandoned train station so I set up camp and built a camp fire and watched the stars. Millions and millions of stars! And I was at peace with the world. I was happy and yes I was still alone, exhausted and asking myself again “what I am trying to prove?” but with the stars for company, I was content that whilst I hadn´t beaten the Atacama Desert, it also had not beaten me.

I love what I do and have accepted that sometimes the road will be hard and your head will drop; but the world is a beautiful place and if I never started this journey, or stopped when the going got tough.

The wind didn´t always stay with me after this day but my mood did, and I loved the rest of the desert and the big climbs and beautiful starry nights. It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun since if you did not have the hard times how would you truly have the good? Don’t be scared - simply SAY YES MORE…. And who knows what will unfold. Be open, surrender to what life brings, and appreciate every moment… the hills and valleys, the clicking bikes and the cheese sandwiches.



Read more about my world cycle on my blog.

Also plenty of nice pics on my Facebook page!


Opening to Adventure

1 Comment

Opening to Adventure

I’m perhaps not what might some may consider your stereotypical Adventurer/YesTriber.  I was a pretty daring and adventurous girl; loved the outdoors, hiking, climbing, camping and the like. When I was 15 I used to scale our 2-storey detached house and sit smoking fags on the rooftop with the boy next door!

But somewhere along the way the twin forces of Fear and Responsibility began to shape my life.  I trod the conditioned path of achievement and success: university, professional career in IT, bouncing locations for work, marriage, kids, package holidays.... 

Then, at 37, I found myself a single mum to my two young daughters, without the financial and emotional comfort blankets of all those outward successes.  Socially isolated and overwhelmed by the unfolding car-crash of separation and divorce, I experienced a period of acute stress and anxiety, which closed me down even more.

During that time, I stumbled across the YesTribe; it flashed up among my Facebook feeds, and sparked my curiosity.  The ethos, positivity and enthusiasm appealed to me instantly! Dave’s grinning profile photo was heart-warming and welcoming; so without hesitation, I clicked to join.

But then I saw the other tales of epic adventures and expeditions, and I backed off.  ‘This is great, but not for me’, I thought.  ‘All these 20- and 30-somethings with their freedom and youthful carefree outlook, in stark contrast to me: children to feed and clothe and house and school. 

‘I’m trapped’.

Still, I lurked on the group, peeking enviously at other people’s adventures.  Whilst making efforts to overcome some of the issues that were constraining me, I ‘followed’ the YesTribe and the constant drip-drip of posts on adventure, expedition and alternative lifestyles - they began to rekindle my own curiosity for of the things that contribute to a meaningful, more adventurous, spontaneous and carefree existence.

I bought a couple of books on micro-adventure.  I dug out my kids’ National Trust ‘Things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ booklets (a great resource).  Most significantly, I began listening to the quiet whisper of my own fears and anxieties. 

One day, I wrote them all down, every single one: falling, getting lost, pain, not being able to cope, financial ruin, homelessness...(there were nearly 50 in total).  Seeing them on the page, I began to confront and accept them and for each, noted ideas of manageable things I could do to ease them; some with the children, some solo; some physical, some emotional. 

The only way is up

Balance on a fallen tree, get the tattoo I’ve always wanted, have a camping trip with my girls, reach out and ask friends for help.  Each time I felt a fear catch hold, I figured, ‘well, I’ve been through some pretty rough stuff; it can’t be much worse!’

With baby steps and gentleness I am re-connecting with my sense of purpose – I know it was only lost temporarily, it hasn’t disappeared forever.  Time and funds are limited, and I might never summit Everest or paddle the Amazon but actually, the  small adventures can be just as fulfilling. I’ve done simple and joyful things with my girls like hiking in the woods, summiting our local ‘big hill’, wading in a stream. Exploring the local area with them has been our starting point, and who knows what we’ll end up doing when they’re a bit older!

As for me - I celebrated my 39th birthday doing a guided white-water rafting adventure with a group of strangers.  I have plenty more activities on my hit-list, which are all realistic with regard to time and money.

And I am finding that the more I do, and the more people I meet, the more opportunities that present themselves, including writing and sharing my story for Tribe Stories!

A new expansiveness

Most importantly I’ve made a commitment to being open to possibility and opportunity: be it making friends, falling in love or building my own business.

My advice to anyone in a similar position is this: don’t be envious or over-awed by others’ tales of adventure.  Be inspired by them.  Explore your own fears, challenge and question them and consider how you can shift them, gently and consciously.  Recognise your constraints but don’t be paralysed by them. 

To parents (especially single ones): don’t be limited by having children;  they have an in-built sense of fearlessness and adventure that we grown-ups have often simply forgotten along the way.

Gently does it

Don’t attempt mission impossible.  Start with baby steps and build from there.  Gradually, you may find yourself beginning to experience every day as an adventure, opening to fears and opportunities large and small. 

Finally, remember: Saying YES isn’t necessarily about how far you travel or how high you climb.  Adventure is a state of mind.

Faye Ashton-Wright

1 Comment

Slow mo – glow mo!

1 Comment

Slow mo – glow mo!

I am not someone who spends much time just sitting still. Even at some of the most demanding times in my life - working in New York, flying between Houston, Chicago, Phoenix, London – when I was working hard, playing hard - the idea of slowing down or having a lie-in, or just being still, rarely felt like a good idea.

It’s usually my insatiable curiosity and drive that gets me out of bed, often with a jolt, every morning.  The mantra of every day: “Go go go! So much to do and so little time”.

My friends and family have always understood this about me and accept me for it - being on the go is just part of being Phillipa.  They never told me to ‘slow down’ or ‘chill out’. But it became clear, even to me, that living life in the fast lane was leading me down a path of certain self-destruction. It just wasn’t sustainable.

I realised that much of my motivation comes from my mischievous monkey mind and learning how to work with it, rather than trying to cope with it, has been life changing. Now, I no longer try to keep it behind bars, as it’s actually far more fun and effective to go adventuring with it! This led me out of the city and into the wilderness, where my chimp could roam free. In these wild spaces, I realised that tuning into all of my senses made me feel more alive than I’d ever felt before…thriving, rather than just surviving.

I can still summon up the total clarity I felt when I finally made the decision to fully reconnect with nature on a deeper level on a retreat in Spain with Way Of Nature. Just sitting still and ‘being’ … it was like my real ‘self’ had been awakened for the first time in 30 years. I suddenly connected with so many of Way of Nature founder John Milton’s teachings. Feeling like I was nothing and everything all at the same time was humbling to say the least.

That 24 hours ‘solo in nature’ in the Spanish wilderness gave me the support and courage I needed to remove myself from the corporate world I’d become so wedded to, and instead, let myself be guided by my heart and gut instinct to other avenues. This resulted in me starting up my own life coaching company. And I fully embraced the completely different lifestyle this entails.

Senses for self-care

Nowadays, I consider one of the best things about being a Life Coach and Change Agent, apart from witnessing breath taking transformation in the people I work with, is that I HAVE to be diligent in my self-care and personal development practices. Ain't no point in thinking I can be of any help to anyone if I’m coming apart at the seams, frayed around the edges or barely holding my sh*t together. For me it’s about finding ways to show up as my very best self in order to support others to do the same.

My evenings and weekends get booked up by my clients pretty quickly, so with self-care in mind, I am now careful to take a day 'off', and this is no longer restricted to weekends. Giving myself a day to re-boot is one of the best gifts I can give myself, and it’s truly essential. 

The great outdoors

As I get more practised at listening to my mind and body, and feeding them what they need, I am realising that the things that nourish me the most are being outdoors, discovering new places, breathing fresh air, appreciating places with no artificial noise, getting my heart pumping by outdoors exercise, eating healthy food, meditating outside, snoozing outside, swimming outside, chatting outside – spot the pattern?!

On my most recent day ‘off’ I teamed up with a close friend to hike Kinder Scout in the Derbyshire Peak District, have a dip in the stream, eat fresh fruit and salad, snooze on the rocks, listen to the new lambs, marvel at the technicolour time of year, learn about the area's history (in the pub) and then sleep like a lovely, heavy, moss covered, grub filled, hedgehog homing log.

On top of Kinder Edge, Derbyshire

On top of Kinder Edge, Derbyshire

Perfect for cooling off pup's paws!

Perfect for cooling off pup's paws!

Ready for the world!

Now, with all senses stimulated but satiated and rested, it is back to 'work' with my whole revitalised sense of presence, balance and focus. I am fully charged and in the best shape to support others to discover what nourishes them the most.

Being on go-go mode 24-7 just isn’t healthy for me. It’s easy to get swept up in all the distractions, bright lights, deadlines, targets, late nights and living in the fast lane – but saying YES to prioritising my health was the best gift I could have given myself.

John Milton helped me understand we have more than just our five senses keeping us connected to our inner and outer nature. In addition to sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, John explained there is also balance, movement, experience of life force, emotions and thoughts. Tuning into all these senses enhances our experience of life and enables us to connect in much deeper ways to the world (and nature) around us, until we can truly realise that we are nature, part of a huge, complex, beautiful, interconnected system.

Getting the heart pumping - a walk up Kinder Edge, Derbyshire

Getting the heart pumping - a walk up Kinder Edge, Derbyshire

So in between the big adventures, marathons, lengthy cycle trips, or the long work days, spare a thought for how you might tune into ALL of your amazing senses to boost your own self-care. What ‘slow motion glow moments’ could you pursue to nourish your mind, body and soul? Let me know in the comments section below.


As well as her private practice as a Life Coach, Phillipa is also currently completing her Basic Guide Training with Way Of Nature UK, supporting nature connection retreats on The Land in Derbyshire and spearheading an Health and Empowerment Collective in Derby City to bring about social change and community skill sharing.

1 Comment

When you look back, are many of your decisions driven by fear?

1 Comment

When you look back, are many of your decisions driven by fear?

Mine were, which meant so many opportunities missed, and all because of this one emotion.  I think many of us avoid trying certain things for fear of failure, or the opinions of others, or looking awkward or incompetent.   

At the beginning, my relationship with running was driven by fear, but soon it became the escapism I needed.   Later I realised that my motivation to run was less to escape anything, rather a way to return to my real self, rather than the guy who created walls to hide some aspects of his self. I preferred being the guy who was happy to grin manically, to do things that others said couldn’t be done, to feel frustration and anger openly and to seek out adventure.

Running helped me return to a mentality I had when I was younger where I felt totally invincible, my self-belief was unshakeable, and I was determined to overcome every obstacle whether I understood the ‘right’ way to do something or not.   Certainly, the open mind-set of my early youth often put me in situations where fear would rear its head and try to control me, but I was too focused on the task at hand to let it win!  

Even on a bridge, crossing a river was a frightening experience when travelling through the Arctic Circle'  

Even on a bridge, crossing a river was a frightening experience when travelling through the Arctic Circle'

Accepting fear

I realised quickly that it was ok to feel fear, but it wasn’t ok to lose myself to it. 

The wilderness doesn’t always allow room for mistakes – one slip and you’re tumbling down a cliff. Fear’s ability to rob me of my capacity to think, to act without hesitation, could have led to injury or even death.  I spent my time running Europe battling one fear after the next until eventually, I could embrace fear like an old friend. 

Fear’s harsh warning tones became gentler.  Its visions of pain and discomfort became the subtle encouragement of a friend, and as my relationship with it evolved, the mood of the journey became lighter.  I stopped running from the cold harshness of winter and instead began to enjoy the beauty of a cold, frosty early morning. 

A frozen morning next to a German motorway is suddenly the most beautiful place I have ever woken.

A frozen morning next to a German motorway is suddenly the most beautiful place I have ever woken.

When you finish an adventure, I think it’s good to test what you’ve learnt about yourself and your relationship with your surroundings and emotions.  I knew I wanted more adventure.  Who doesn’t?  So I thought hard about my next challenge.

Irrationality of fear

In thinking about fear, I tried to understand what triggered it - was it based on the beasts that live in the depths of the deepest lakes and seas or was it simply a fear of drowning?  Pondering this eventually led me to realise that my fears were based on totally irrational thoughts. Knowing this, I wanted to find out if I could make friends with my fear, to make it a familiar sensation, where I was in control, so I said YES and took on my toughest, biggest, scariest adventure yet:  #ProjectBigSwim.

Why this challenge? I AM PETRIFIED OF OPEN WATER!  So there is really nothing more mentally and physically challenging to put me to the test!

My first open water dip with the awesome Googley Bears.  Arms crossed, bobble hat on in defiance.  I spent 7 minutes standing in the water before I got out saying ‘This is stupid!'

My first open water dip with the awesome Googley Bears.  Arms crossed, bobble hat on in defiance.  I spent 7 minutes standing in the water before I got out saying ‘This is stupid!'

Acknowledge small progress

The first steps were to re-learn how to swim, otherwise jumping into deep open water would be foolhardy and dangerous. 

I took a quick dip in a local reservoir with a group of open water swimmers, made a handful of visits to Buxton swimming pool and taught myself to relax in that unfamiliar watery world.  I practiced breathing into the water, which took 20 minutes of insistent and dogged determination; eventually, I made it into the lakes of the Lake District, swimming short distances(3-6m max) supported by my incredible friends who realised that dissuading me from my swimming challenge is pointless.

Wandering into Windermere for a swim with friends, determined to get in and swim despite everything telling me to stop and turn around.

Wandering into Windermere for a swim with friends, determined to get in and swim despite everything telling me to stop and turn around.

I swam to the centre of Derwentwater, accompanied by a friend; the swimming was slow but there was abetter level of understanding.  I felt the fear but the presence of someone else in the water helped familiarise me with the sensation and instead of losing all control, writhing in the water like a hooked fish, I stayed calm. 

Then the swims got longer - I attempted a SwimRun challenge called the Frog Graham Round with a friend and completed the longest swim I have ever done in my life: a whopping 1.6 miles across Derwentwater. Success!  Maybe a small success on the grand scheme of things but still, it’s acknowledging the small successes that lead to bigger ones.

To most this will seem like no big deal  It took me 4 weeks to build the confidence to do this, thanks to the support of those around me.

To most this will seem like no big deal  It took me 4 weeks to build the confidence to do this, thanks to the support of those around me.

“It’s not for me” mentality

Amongst the effort to stay in control, the panic attacks mid-swim, the frustration that I wasn’t  in control 100% of the swimming time, that I didn’t quite swim as far or for as long, there have been some moments of pure beauty. 

Seeing the fells around me bathed in the golden glow of late spring sunlight, beams of light shimmering through the water creating a mesmerising pattern on the aquatic plants and rocks below the surface, reminded me of those pure and simple moments whilst running in the wilderness.  The felt a deep privilege at being able to witness these moments and I realised that life at its simplest is beautiful and precious.

Life at its simplest is beautiful and precious.

Life at its simplest is beautiful and precious.

The voice of my fear is changing its tone and I feel I’m on a path that will show me yet another kind of happiness and all that it means to be alive.  And to think…

For years I’ve sat on the shore, watching friends surfing, swimming and generally enjoying the open water, maintaining that‘I don’t like swimming.  It’s not for me’.  I convinced myself that I wasn’t scared – I just wasn’t interested in water. What struck me hard was realising how misguided this was, and how this “cant do wont do” attitude had quietly invaded other aspects of my life.  

The fear is still there when I step into the water, but each time I stare into its eyes, its gaze softens.

The fear is still there when I step into the water, but each time I stare into its eyes, its gaze softens.

Perhaps it’s time to say YES more often.  Get past the initial frustrations, the fears, and see what you’re missing out on.

If you’re intrigued by #ProjectBigSwim or just curious to follow the journey from land lover to reluctant long distance swimmer, follow me!

Instagram         Facebook         Twitter

Aleks Kashefi


 Would be great to have you along on the journey and hear your thoughts

Have fun!  Be more feral!


 Aleks Kashefi

1 Comment