Saying No - and then Saying Yes!

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Saying No - and then Saying Yes!

Ditching my job in The City and becoming a Personal Trainer was definitely the biggest decision of my life, I’m glad to say one I haven’t regretted since and one which has led to 4 years full of Yes moments.

Saying No…..

Before I could start saying yes however, I had to say no…...

I had to say no to the generous salary, pension contribution and annual leave.

I had to say no to the security of a monthly pay check and clear career path.

Alternatively….

I had to say no to the job that gave me nothing but a salary, pension contribution and annual leave.

I had to say no to working in an office and sitting down all day whilst my back hurt and my neck got stiff hunched over a laptop.

I had to say no to the growing sense that it was OK if I was bored in my job and bored in life. That’s what work is like, everyone feels the same, it’s just how it is, that’s why you have holidays.

So, in 2014 I said no to the job in The City, working for The Man, playing on spreadsheets and watching the clock.

Saying Yes…..

Instead I decided to say yes to that little voice inside my head to follow my passion, to take the risk and see if I could make something on my own rather than follow the breadcrumbs from school to university, to graduate programme, to job to better paid job and onwards.

So…….

I said yes to a big pay drop, unpredictable income and unpaid holiday.

I said yes to a 5am alarm each morning.

I said yes to a regular sense of unease and uncertainty about what the future holds.

It turns out I was also saying yes to spending hours outside come rain, sun or snow, afternoon naps, wearing sports gear 99% of the time, making new friends, working with a national charity, being featured in Grazia magazine and The Daily Telegraph and being told I can’t have a kiss by my wife because I smell of a rubbery gym floor!!!!

What I knew at the time was that I enjoyed sport and exercise, I was a big believer in the benefits of an active lifestyle and how much regular exercise can make a difference to your mental health as well as physical.

What I didn’t know was that I also loved helping people. Helping people to achieve things they didn’t think they could do. Helping people to find ways to make small changes that have a big impact on their lives. Helping people realise that there are hundreds of ways to “work out” and that they don’t have to be a chore and sometimes might even be fun!!!!

The happiness and sense of pride when clients not just meet but smash their targets, whether that’s rehabbing an injury, losing weight, completing their first chin-up or simply building lasting habits that make their lives better is immense and safely far outweighs any of the joys I felt in my career in The City.

In saying yes to becoming a PT I’ve also said yes to learning what makes me truly happy, to better relationships with friends and family, to a new love of cold showers and ice baths, to better sleep and less stress amongst a long list of things I would never have guessed would have come my way.

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The next Yes….

Having said yes to Personal Training and stepping out of my comfort zone I am now saying Yes to a new adventure.

I have founded a company called Do More Movement to work with health and fitness retreats from around the world, to help spread our joint beliefs in the benefits and fun to be had with an active lifestyle.

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From surfing camps in Portugal, yoga retreats in Sri Lanka, trail running in the Alps or triathlon training in Spain, the aim of Do More Movement is to let people know that there is more to being fit and active than plodding along on a treadmill or reluctantly getting shouted at by an angry bootcamp instructor.

It’s early days and that familiar sense of unease and uncertainty is back. The feeling that I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing is a regular companion again.

However, whatever happens I’m confident by saying Yes I’ll learn more about myself and have more fun along the way than I ever would have if I had never said Yes and embraced the unknown in 2014.

If you are looking for an adventure or simply would like to know more about Do More Movement check it out at www.DoMoreMovement.com and you should be able to find something to inspire you.

Alternatively, if you’re based in South London and looking for some Personal Training check me out at www.jeremyjohnstonpersonaltraining.co.uk

If social media is your thing, take your pick:

Instagram: @jeremyjohnstonpt & @do.more.movement

Twitter: @PTjeremyJ & @DoMoreMovement

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Saying Yes to La Vie Française

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Saying Yes to La Vie Française

Thanks to Say Yes More, I am spending my summer in the south of France, managing a B&B in the heart of the Pyrenees.

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Rewind to October last year, I was living in London and had just been made redundant from my job. Whilst it came as a bit of a shock, I decided it was time to shake things up and live life on my own terms, which meant escaping the big smoke and the regular 9-5. I hopped on a plane to South America - a continent I’d always wanted to explore - to have some time out, and while pondering ‘what next’, Say Yes More’s Facebook advert for a chalet manager came to the rescue. 

I’d thought about running a B&B for some time, but working my way up the career ladder in a completely unrelated industry made it all seem a pipe dream. Luckily for me, I’d spent a year living in France during my degree and did a chalet season in the Alps post-university which meant I had the relevant key skills for the role. Steve Jobs was right when he said that the dots can only be connected by looking backwards!

What I thought was something for the ‘maybe one day’ list has turned into reality. I’ve redressed my work-life-adventure balance and my days are spent welcoming guests, managing bookings, cleaning, prepping dinners and I’ve got the mountains on my doorstep for hiking, climbing and cycling in my down time. The owners are fellow YesTribe members to boot.

Four weeks into my summer adventure and I’ve already learnt loads - not least how to perfect a Gazpacho soup and hospital corner bedsheets! But more seriously, saying yes to the job (and the unknown) has led to new opportunities, new friends and unexpected adventures. From wild swimming in glacier lakes to summer solstice sunrises and climbing the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. 

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So here’s to escaping the comfort zone, embracing new challenges and saying yes more!

You can follow my adventures! Find me at here on Instagram.

If you find yourself in the Pyrenees this summer, come to Papilio (or @papilioluchon) in Luchon. There’s adventure aplenty on the doorstep to satisfy your thirst for the outdoors: rafting, hiking and climbing, mountain biking, canyoning and paragliding.

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Cycling from Paris to Amsterdam with a toddler (and a bump!)

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Cycling from Paris to Amsterdam with a toddler (and a bump!)

2017 was a bit of a stagnant year for us. We had heaps of opportunities to take jobs overseas, have adventures and live life differently, but fear just seemed to keep getting in the way.

When we had our son Sam in 2016, we promised ourselves that we would be able to be great parents whilst still having adventures and bringing him along for the ride. We swore that we’d still be exciting, have fun and live life differently. Before we had Sam, we lived in Uganda, climbed the ‘Three Peaks’ (the three highest points in England, Wales and Scotland) to make a music video, cycled on a tandem from London to Berlin to run a marathon, and backpacked around the world – and we were absolutely sure that this would continue.

But, as Sam turned 1 and started nursery, things started to change. We got bogged down in a world of baby classes, play dates and trips to Ikea on a Sunday. Sam loved nursery and we suddenly started feeling like routine was more important than it actually is. Compared to many of our friends, we were still seen as a bit ‘crazy’ and ‘hard to keep up with’ but, measuring against our own values, things had become DULL and life had become small.

Luckily, in December, we managed to break out of this a bit, firstly with a 4 day trip to Morocco. Just a short trip but it felt like we were back ‘in the world’ having adventures, meeting new people, exploring hidden alleyways, visiting local souks and living fully in the moment. Then, a few days after we got back, my friend and I randomly walked from my home near St. Albans all the way to South London in time for our work Christmas party in the snow! It was only an overnight walk but, as we walked the route of my commute in the dark through deserted towns and villages and imagined everyone fast asleep in their beds, the feeling of ‘living life differently to most people right now’ was something I was again becoming a bit addicted to.

So, when I returned from the walk, despite one of my toe nails falling off, I announced to Rob that 2018 had to be a year when we become us again. A year of adventure and of living life differently.

And then the Yes Grant was advertised and we knew this was an opportunity we had to go for to take us out of our comfort zone and get us living. We had vaguely been talking for the past year about the idea of doing a long distance cycle again and once, after a few drinks, Rob had suggested Paris to Amsterdam – and the rest is history! I put in an application and we were completely shocked when Dave and Emma called us in January, under the guise of conducting an interview, to tell us we’d won!

Shocked and then slightly concerned when, two days later, we found out I was pregnant. After a quick google about cycle touring and a mini freak out, we decided ‘screw it’, it would just add to the challenge – and perhaps this would be the newest Yes Tribe member yet!

Due to the unexpected pregnancy, we decided not to hang around and planned the cycle for April, when I’d be 4 months pregnant and hopefully still feeling spritely enough to cycle 420 miles! This meant that we didn’t have a great deal of time to train, particularly due to the snow filled January and February. We focused instead on buying/borrowing equipment, doing a bit of training on an exercise bike, route planning and setting up our blog. We were SLIGHTLY concerned by the limited training but remembered our very own Dave Cornthwaite saying that he could hardly swim before embarking on 1001 miles down the Missouri River and felt entirely reassured!

April rolled along before we knew it and we found ourselves hauling our bikes, panniers and toddler on to the Eurostar to Paris to start our big adventure, slightly nervous but mainly excited about having 12 days out of the office! We’d planned to cover around 40-45 miles each day – something which seemed pretty easy when we considered we’d done 100 miles a day on our London to Berlin tandem trip. However, that completely didn’t take into account the toddler we now had in tow and we actually quickly realised that this was probably our daily limit without tantrums, tears and exhaustion – and that was just from us ;-)

This over-confidence about being able to easily cover 45 miles per day did lead me to convincing Rob to take a teeny weeny 10 mile diversion to see the Eiffel Tower on day one! We thought this would take us around an hour but unbeknownst to us, it was actually the morning of the Paris marathon…. Ooops! This meant we got stuck between two roads full of runners and it took almost 4 hours to navigate our way in and back out of the city. Not a great start and meant the day was half over before we even left Paris.

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We sped up a bit after that though and started to get into the swing of things. I have to say though that our first four days in France from Paris to Fourmies were actually pretty tough. This was partly getting into the swing of things and realising that we were going to have to stop approximately every 20 minutes because Sam wanted a snack/jumper off/jumper on/to hold a Thomas the Tank Engine toy/to ring the bike bell etc etc etc, but also because the weather was quite dodgy, the cycle paths were pretty hilly and not always in amazing condition, and the shops, restaurants and bars in almost every town we passed through were completely boarded up. 

Day three nearly broke us when it was 8.30pm and we were cycling up a hill on a crazily busy road in the rain with lorries hurtling past us after a wrong turn. Despite day four to Fourmies being immeasurably better with sunshine and a disused railway path, the hills continued and there was a moment at the end of the day when we did seriously consider just jumping on a train.

Luckily at this point we realised that, rather than trudge North through hilly France, we could leave the cycle path and take a wee detour to cross into Belgium early (past the town of Willies-  heehee!).

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This turned out to be an amazing plan – as we crossed the border, the sun came out, the cycle path improved and, for half a day, was completely downhill- bliss! There were also a lot more cafes and restaurants open which slowed us down as we stopped for lunches, ice creams and Belgian chocolate treats!  From this point on, we started to really enjoy ourselves – we got into a great routine and had a blissful time cycling along the rivers and canals of Belgium in the sunshine, with little breaks in beer gardens with playgrounds for Sam along the way. A definite highlight of our trip through Belgium was a last minute route change to cycle along the canal right through the centre of sunny Brussels – we got some interesting looks as we arrived into the Grand Place on our laden down bikes! Sam had a ball running around the pedestrianised square and Mum and Dad enjoyed a cheeky drink in the sunshine.

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As we left Belgium and passed into Holland, the cycle paths and signposts continued to be amazing, although we were stupidly using a map from 2010 and were for some reason surprised when we kept getting lost! Google maps and random Dutch cycling apps came to our rescue. We were also somehow surprised by the wind (duh, why are there windmills everywhere guys?! – don’t know how we hadn’t figured that out) which made some easy, flat days actually quite a challenge and pretty exhausting – but the scenery and sunshine more than made up for it. An absolute highlight for us was our next to last night in the beautiful town of Gouda – like a mini Amsterdam but super chilled – we highly recommend a visit! Cycling into Amsterdam along the River Amstel on the final day in gorgeous sunshine alongside hundreds of other cyclists was SUCH a joy. Such a huge sense of achievement, pride and relief tinged with sadness that it was all over.

We had an absolute blast and such a great adventure! Thank you so so much to Berghaus, Say Yes More and the amazing Yes Grant for making this happen for us – we would never ever have had the guts to do this without your backing!

Cycling such a long way with a toddler can be tough – I’ve already mentioned the multiple stops every hour and the need to find playgrounds at every opportunity. It also means that you can’t set off for the day early because you HAVE to have breakfast and a play before even broaching the subject of getting on the bike, you need to take long lunch breaks to ensure energy can be burnt off, and you need to try to finish in a reasonable time for dinner to avoid a meltdown (although we totally failed at this one and Sam ate at 10pm each night!).

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However, it’s also completely wonderful! Sam had an absolutely fantastic time. He adored spotting boats, planes, trains, cows, horses, sheep, rivers etc from the bike and his speech came on crazy amounts in just a week and a half. He entertained us with his repertoire of songs: Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine and the Wheels on the Bus pretty much all day every day. And, overall, he hardly stopped smiling for the entire trip. Rather than feeling like we had an adventure that he joined us for, he was actually an integral part of the adventure and I think he had the time of his life!  

So, for any parents of toddlers (or who are pregnant!) who think that this sort of thing isn’t possible: it IS! With, to be honest, not that much planning or training at all. Living life differently and having adventures does not have to stop with kids at all. We let our lives get smaller and ‘safer’ but, now that we’ve broken outside of that comfort zone, there’s no going back. There’s a big world out there and seeing it through the eyes of kids just adds to the wonder.

Thanks for reading!

Jen

For more pics and info about our story:

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www.littlefeetbigworld.com

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Kalahari Resonance

“It is our birth-right as human beings to be telepathic. It is as intrinsically human and available as any other of our other five senses.” Amelia Kinkade

As a storyteller I’m accustomed to the talking trees, animals and other creatures found in folklore from all over the world. But when I watched the South African documentary on Anna Breytenbach, ‘The Animal Communicator’ my view of life changed inalterably. Impassioned, I signed up to Anna’s newsletter, facebook page – along with 42,000 other followers … and dreamed of the day when I may attend one of her workshops on interspecies telepathy.

I planted the dream like a seed. I read books on the subject, meditated more, even stopped eating refined sugar and drinking caffeine and attended a few workshops with UK based interspecies communicator, Pea Horsley to get me started.

And then arrived the email with details of an Animal Communication Safari with Anna B alongside expert guide and tracker James Kydd. Due to anticipated high demand and in the interest of fairness subscribers were being invited to register their interest so that names could be pulled from a hat. Game on! Happily I registered mine before proceeding to forget all about it.

I’d been on the Isle of Iona before I got to open my mailbox. And there it was the very first email, “I am very pleased to inform you that your name has been drawn”. The door was open … my dream was about to come true!

Of course there was a lot more to it than that. A substantial deposit was required to secure my place. Did I have the resources to follow this through? There were travel arrangements and flights to book, was I really going to go all the way to South Africa for one week’s workshop? I’d never been to a desert, did I really want to head into the heat of the Kalahari – days from anywhere with a group of strangers? Transfers and accommodation were being organised by the agent in South Africa, could I trust them? Could I trust myself and the unknown?

Whatever questions and fears raised theirs head over the following 10 months, my heartfelt answer and resolve to release the resistance was always the same, “YES! I can do this, I deserve this – it’s a wonderful opportunity. This is an experience of a lifetime.”

And so the adventure began… into the Kalahari …

Words are fairly inadequate to articulate what was and still is essentially a non-verbal experience. My doubts and fears melted away as I stepped onto the red hot sand of the Kalahari. Emotion rose like a wave as I realised in that moment I’d arrived. In the following days the group bonded easily. We were all there for the same reason: to learn from Anna and James and to connect directly with nature and wildlife.

Each day involved a two hour workshop with Anna where we were given fun exercises to expand our senses and the opportunity to practice telepathy. The vast expanse of the Kalahari and her warm desert wind was the perfect cradle for our practice. The wildlife was abundant: herds of grazers, including the gentle faced Kudu and stunning Sable antelope. I quickly became aware of the inter-relationships between the wild ones. The way different species would visit a water hole, each one displaying unique characteristics depending on the moment and who else was there. I recall the morning watching a pack of African Wild Dog.

A warthog with baby trotted passed heading to the water – the adult cast a wary look in the direction of the pack before hastening on.

One of Africa’s most efficient predators, the pack was relaxing in the dense shade of a black thorn bush – close to the local water hole. With bloody muzzles and fat bellies it was a lazy scene. I watched one scuff out a shallow dint, turning over cool sand before flopping back onto the ground, tongue out and panting. I observed the other animal-beings – some standing in the shade of nearby thorn trees and others wary, slowly moving closer to the water hole. The air was thick with suspense and respect.

Then a herd of Blue Wildebeest arrived, skittish and mistrustful they closed ranks to protect their calves.

I relished it all. Each moment of every day was a blessing and perhaps the bush walks most of all when cameras were left behind and we walked in a silent line deeper and deeper within, never knowing when or who we might meet. With a sense of inner peace and a quieter mind I discovered a profound resonance and connection not only with the Kalahari’s desert wind, red rolling dunes and immense sky but also some of her wild ones – Elegant Grasshopper, Tsessebe, Giraffe and Desert Fox to name but a few.

We live in a Universe made up entirely of energy and vibration. Each one of us is constantly receiving and transmitting a frequency – interpreting the information through our senses. We are continually interacting with the world around us on a vibrational level, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Have you ever walked into a place and felt a distinct “vibe”? Have you ever been into Nature, to the beach or into a forest and felt better for it? Nature and the wild is rooting for us, calling us back to ourselves, reminding us we are interconnected from within and without and that it’s time to wake up.

As I reflect upon my Kalahari adventure I realise the call of the wild is in us all. In fact nature is all around us, even inside our homes. We are nature! We are one of many millions of species living on Earth. Viewed zoologically, we humans are Homo sapiens, a culture-bearing, upright-walking species that lives on the ground and very likely first evolved in Africa about 315,000 years ago. Nature is coursing through us every moment of every day. It’s up to us as individuals to listen and respond without thinking we have to go somewhere exotic to experience it. “Most of the time when people think about nature, it’s of places untouched by humans. ‘Nature’ is often considered something that exists far away from cities.” (National Geographic)

Open your eyes, be still and listen. Wake early if you can, as close to sunrise as possible. Go for a walk – find a quiet spot maybe where there are some trees or open water. Even in the busiest city you can find animals before the day’s bustle begins. Choose your spot, wherever it is and sit in it for up to 20 minutes. Anna calls it the “Sit-Spot”. Relax become aware of your breathing and then take your attention to a small area in front of you. Stay with it, what do you see? What do you become aware of?

If we allow it, Nature shows us how to live in harmony and connection with all life including the relationship we have with ourselves, others and our global communities. The natural world and all its wild ones are continually helping us find our way back to that which never left us, and which instinctively feels like home.

Alexandra Simson

Read this story and more at , my website featuring stories about Inspired Wellbeing.

See here for more photographs of my experience within the Kalahari.

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My post-YES Life: Advice from the other side

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My post-YES Life: Advice from the other side

If you attended Yestival 2016, you might remember me as the girl in the black and white print leggings who was always dancing at the morning silent disco sessions.

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If you attended Yestival 2017, you will remember me as the girl who came back to tell the story of how those morning silent disco sessions changed the course of her life for good. They left me in such a contagiously good mood that I decided there needed to be more of them in the world.

After months of work on the side of my job, in June I took the terrifying/crazy/exciting step of quitting my full time, very serious 9-5 job in politics to start an uplifting silent disco company called Nobody's Watching, hoping to inspire people to dance more and take themselves less seriously.

It was with pride and gratitude that I came back to Yestival one year later to run one of my silent disco sessions where it all started!

I’ve taken the concept a step further to include a warm up, which helps get people into the ‘silly zone’ and feel more comfortable dancing (you know, some people might find it awkward to dance with strangers whilst completely sober!). I’d describe it as an immersive musical comedy experience, a combination of random and ridiculous moves and instructions that give people permission to be an absolute goofball for the rest of the event.

Here we are dancing away outside the tents :)

  This is how people said they were feeling at the end of it!

This is how people said they were feeling at the end of it!

It has been a rollercoaster of a journey. I wanted to share with you the five most important lessons I learnt along the way.

1. Look your fears in the eye - and destroy them one by one

I left Yestival 2016 with a clear goal in mind. I’d been spending the past five years filling notebooks with different business ideas. It was time to say YES to one of them.

By this time next year, I wanted to be freelancing and I wanted to by working on something that I’d created myself. There was only one small problem… I was completely terrified. I didn’t want my fears to stop me, but I didn’t know what to do stop feeling so scared. So I decided to sit down and write  every single thing I was afraid of and all the worst case scenarios I could think of.

After about 10 minutes my fears were staring at me in black ink from my notebook. This was the single most important exercise I could have done because I then went back and, with the same pen, destroyed them one by one. Next to each one, I wrote yes, and?

Then I wrote the worst case scenario, and realised that actually, the worst case scenario wasn’t so bad and things were going to be ok. I felt reassured, and ready to start.

2. Say YES to a project you would lose sleep over

Now that I was ready to start… what should I do? I had about four different ideas that I was excited about. How would I know which one I should go ahead with?

I found my answer by speaking to a lot of entrepreneurs and listening to podcasts like the Tim Ferriss show. As I heard stories of entrepreneurs and adventurers, I realised just how hard it was going to be. Some of my ideas were more sensible than others, and seemed like easier and safer options.

What I realised was that there’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ option. Even people with the most solid ideas had stories of sleepless nights and major upheavals.

I was left with one question: which one of these ideas was I ready to lose  sleep over? Which one of them was I so excited about that I’d want to keep going when everything went wrong? The answer at the point was easy. It was the one that made me happiest and I was most passionate about: the one that involved dancing. That’s when Nobody’s Watching moved from a ‘maybe this would be nice’ to ‘this is happening’.

3. Surround yourself with positive people who can push you forward, no matter what

Working on a new adventure, which in my case was starting a business, is a very challenging affair. In the early stages, it feels so volatile and the smallest thing can tip you in a different direction and generate self-doubt.

This is the same for anyone working on an idea that your average person would define as ‘crazy’. People start asking a lot of questions and putting doubts in your head, making you feel unqualified, inadequate or unprepared for what you’ve decided to say yes to. And you risk believing them and backtracking if you expose yourself to these conversations too much.

It’s crucial to surround yourself with positive, encouraging people who can push you forward, no matter what. Who help you see solutions where others see problems, and remind you that if they did it, so can you.  People who wouldn't let you backtrack. People like the YesTribe, for example.

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4. Say YES to one big thing, and no to everything else

Someone said this at Yestival 2016. I noted it in my diary and it’s the most important lesson I learnt that weekend. When I said yes to Nobody’s Watching, I entered a period of sacrifice and focus, which I’m still in now. It takes a lot of energy and effort to create something from scratch.

Initially I was distracted by all my other passions and interests, and was trying to bring all of them forward at the same time. I soon realised that unless I split myself into four different people, there was no way I could do everything at the same time. I had to learn to say no. It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have made all the progress I have made if I hadn’t learnt how to do this.

5. Don't have a plan B - have a plan A1, A2, A3...

Planning is important and I wouldn’t recommend doing something of this scale without putting a lot of thought into it. I left my job at the end of May 2017, but had been saving up and planning my escape since early October 2016. I saved enough money to get by for the summer months without an income, and I planned to get a part time job in September so I could have some regular income whilst building the business.

There were several occasions in which my plan didn’t quite work out. For example, the plan was for my part time job to be English teaching. I didn’t find a teaching job. But I knew that to keep going I needed to work, so I just found another part time job...dull admin and not very well paid, but it was what I needed to keep me going. I was happy to compromise.

What I mean by ‘don’t have a plan B’ is that working towards a big goal is an incredible experience that you shouldn’t move away from at the first, or second, or even fifteenth obstacle. You will get there with patience and perseverance.

What you need to be prepared for is to compromise on how you get there, how long it will take you and what you’ll need to do on the side to keep you going.

By working on your ‘yes’ as a side project and not your main source of income initially, you have less to lose and it will be harder to quit. Have plan Bs for your part time income. Have plan Bs for the different ways in which you develop your wonderful YES project. But don’t let the project itself be a plan B. If you’ve said yes to it, it means you want it. If you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Saying yes to the one thing I really wanted ended up bringing an avalanche of positive things into my life. This is because it pushed me out of my comfort zone, to seek experiences that were what I truly wanted. This meant that the people I found there were my kind of people.

I haven’t just started a project. I’ve also made incredible friends and in fact met my boyfriend along the way. Life at the moment is very bumpy and unpredictable, full of ups and downs. But it’s never felt better, because it feels real. Everything that happens is a consequence of something I chose. Even the bad days feel better for some reason. They taste like freedom and make me feel alive.

Cheers to saying yes more!

Claudia

Nobodys Watching:

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on Twitter @cloudiercolvin

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Kayaking the Continent

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Kayaking the Continent

What do you do when a stranger you’ve met online asks you to join them on a 4000km world first kayaking expedition? Well, if you’re anything like me, you say Yes!

I’ve spent the last few years leaping at every opportunity for adventure - this has taken me to some incredible parts of the world: I spent five weeks trekking across the wilderness of arctic Sweden; walked 1000 miles across France and Spain by myself; hitch-hiked from England to Morocco; and some other trips.

In October 2017 I was seeking the next “big adventure” when I came across an advert online:

“Female Adventurer - Teammate Wanted!”

My interest immediately piqued, I read on and established that a girl called Kate was looking for someone to join her on a world first expedition, kayaking from England to the Black Sea in Romania.

Noticing the advert had been posted a few months earlier, I wasted no time in sending a brief email to Kate expressing my interest in joining her. The response came through quickly: Kate had received enquiries from over 80 women from all over the world and had narrowed her options down to two hopeful candidates, who were awaiting her final decision the following day.

The pressure on, I quickly replied with my previous expedition and kayaking experience, as well as my age and location. That’s when we realised the stars had aligned: not only was Kate also from Oxford like me, it turned out she had been five years below me at school. She was also still in Oxford, as I was, living a few miles away.

We immediately arranged a phone call and within a few days of our initial email exchange, we were both fully committed. Kayaking the Continent was officially on.

Kate’s motivation to take on this challenge is one very close to her heart. After her dad passed away from pancreatic cancer while Kate was finishing her A Levels, she knew she had to do something to raise much-needed attention and funds for this disease. We are therefore aiming to raise £50,000 for the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action.

  Anna on the left - Kate on the right! 

Anna on the left - Kate on the right! 

Preparations

The last five months have been a whirlwind of activity as we’ve slowly but surely made this crazy idea into a reality. There have been some key things to get into place: training and acquiring the necessary kayaking skills; sorting out our route and logistics; and funding.

Training was the most straightforward of these. Kate and I joined a local kayaking club and immediately set about getting on the water as often as possible, under the watchful eye of the wonderful club president, David. However, things didn’t always go smoothly… On one particularly cold day in late December, a brief lapse in concentration resulted in Kate and I swimming in an icy Thames. We’re still not quite sure how we managed to capsize!

Route planning

Next up was attempting to piece together a network of canals and rivers that span a whole continent. This was not an easy task, but after many hours spent pouring over maps and books we succeeded in creating our 4,345km route.

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London to the Black Sea

Beginning in London, we’ll paddle out along the Thames and around the Kent coast, before crossing the English Channel (accompanied by the obligatory support boat). Once in mainland Europe we will meander through France and Belgium, navigating over 200 locks.

 Open water training on the Isle of Wight ahead of the Kent coast and crossing the English Channel

Open water training on the Isle of Wight ahead of the Kent coast and crossing the English Channel

Reaching Germany will see us pick up the Rhine, Main and finally Danube River, Europe’s second longest river and the body of water that we will follow for over 2,400km through ten countries and four capital cities. If all goes to plan, almost four months after leaving London, we will reach the shores of the Black Sea.

Figuring out resources

Funding has definitely been the least enjoyable aspect of preparing for this expedition; approaching businesses for either financial support or equipment donations was never going to be an easy task. However, our determination to get the expedition afloat paid off and after a few gruelling months we secured what we needed plus all the necessary kit for the expedition. We’ve been astounded by the amount of support and generosity - without it, none of this would be possible!

The kayak

That left only one thing: finding a kayak. We’d been in touch with a kayak manufacturer, but having a kayak built for us was not feasible due to time and financial constraints. Just as we were beginning to give up hope, we had a phone call from a gentleman called Bob, who said he had the perfect kayak for us. Having lost a close relative to pancreatic cancer, Bob was determined to donate his kayak to us in support of our cause. Sure enough, the kayak was exactly what we were looking for and a week later Bob dropped it off.

 With Benji the Kayak! Anna on the left - Kate on the right!

With Benji the Kayak! Anna on the left - Kate on the right!

Given the amount of time we will be spending on rivers and canals, Kate and I both felt that this expedition provided an opportunity to contribute to research the health of the water we would be paddling along. We’re collaborating with FreshWater Watch, a research initiative of the Earthwatch Institute, to investigate the effect of urban areas on the health of freshwater ecosystems. Making use of citizen science, we’ll be taking water samples and uploading our results into an app, adding to the global pool of data.

JOIN US!

 Anna

Anna

Our expedition kicks off this Saturday!

If you can get to Westminster Bridge, we would love to have as many people as possible wave us off as we set out on this world first.

For more information on how you can join us, please take a look at our Facebook event.

To sponsor us, see here.

Or visit our website, where you can sign up for updates from the expedition: kayakingthecontinent.com

Connect with us:

Facebook

Instagram

Thanks for reading and your support,

Anna

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  Kate enjoying the snow during a winter training session

Kate enjoying the snow during a winter training session

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The 100 Days Project – round two!

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The 100 Days Project – round two!

Do not underestimate the power of YouTube videos, for it was a YouTube video that ignited one of my Yes moments. 

In the video, JP Sears suggested doing one uncomfortable thing every day.

For some reason I decided this felt like a challenge that I wanted to take on, and that I would do one small uncomfortable thing every day for 100 days.

My family and friends had plenty of suggestions when it came to uncomfortable things they thought I should do. I retained the final say, however, which was important!

Here are a few from the list (I’ve written about the rest of them here):

             ·       Starting conversations with strangers

·       Finally deal with paperwork I’d been putting off

·       A Yes Tribe campout

·       A cold shower

·       Dealing with criticism in a healthier way

·       Trying a new class at the gym – the one I chose involved jumping up and down on a tiny trampoline for 45 minutes

Because I was doing one uncomfortable thing for just a day, it wasn’t that daunting (and the variety kept it interesting). This also made me realise that doing little experiments can provide the valuable evidence that we are able to handle more than we think we can.

 The sort of view you get on a Yes Tribe campout

The sort of view you get on a Yes Tribe campout

In the year since I undertook the 100 Days Project, I have been able to say yes to a few uncomfortable things I wouldn’t have done previously, partly thanks to the extra boost of confidence I gained from it. Of course this doesn’t mean I’m now a completely fearless person - but it’s funny how, bit by bit, little actions do add up and help to change your thoughts which then influences your behaviour. 

 This sounded really deep so of course I had to put it in

This sounded really deep so of course I had to put it in

This year, I considered doing another 100 Days Project but I have been somewhat overwhelmed by my schedule. I decided that instead of not taking on a project at all, I could choose to do a simpler version – it involves doing the following 3 things every day for 100 days. I'm calling it 100 Days of Appreciation and Creativity) – each day I will:

1) Write down 10 things I appreciate

2) Write down 10 random ideas; this comes from James Altucher - he calls it the Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Idea Machine  

3) Meditate for at least one minute 

While the huge adventures that many Yes Tribers undertake are wonderfully inspiring, not all adventures have to be epic and require months of preparation to be memorable. When you decide you can also have adventures in everyday life you may end up having an unexpectedly thought-provoking conversation with someone you’ll never see again. Perhaps you’ll take a walk in the woods near your workplace that you’ve never explored before. Maybe you’ll decide to meditate a tiny little bit every day (which is better than not doing it at all). You might even go a bit further and spend a morning paddleboarding with amazing Londoners that change your perspective about the city you live in.

 Sadly some of our fellow animals are less welcome in the woods

Sadly some of our fellow animals are less welcome in the woods

If you’re like me and compare yourself to other people a bit too much, just remember that a project like this is only worth doing if it feels meaningful to you. And if there’s any kind of mini-adventure that does sound appealing to you, the least you’ll get out of trying it is a story that you can share with others. 

Roshan

www.tinyadventuresinliving.com/adventures

https://medium.com/@Roshan.Daryanani

https://www.facebook.com/roshan.daryanani.3

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Taking Bigger Steps: Following Walk for Aoife

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Taking Bigger Steps: Following Walk for Aoife

Since going on my life changing journey, Walk for Aoife two  years ago - where I hiked 600km and kayaked 100km across the Irish sea - I had the opportunity to train to become a nature connection guide. My professional background is in the food and farming industry which is closely linked with the outdoors and an appreciation for how nature enables our survival.

However, the training with Way of Nature UK was far more challenging  than I had expected - it really pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Knowing all I had to do was accept this challenge and keep saying Yes to it, was what kept me going throughout.

After visiting friends in Tuscany in October 2017, I decided to say Yes to moving to Italy with my family - as if a change of career wasn't enough! This was a big life change because I had lived in the UK for 20 years in roughly the same area, and my wife Beth had lived in the UK her entire life. However, the excitement and mystery of the move helped my family and I (Beth, our daughter Rae and Suzie the dog) make the big push to get our house packed up and rented out - doing all the DIY jobs I had been avoiding - so we could step into the unknown.

While preparation for the move was going on I began my nature guide training. The process involved many opportunities to be alone in nature. This was a new challenge. Sure, I had walked alone for 600km during Walk for Aoife, where I had the company of audiobooks, plenty of music and even the sound of my own beautiful singing voice, serenading  passing fields of cows and sheep as I walked with painful blisters, my own inner questions and working through the grief of my sister's death. 

A big part of the nature training was going to be about sitting with my 'stuff', the kind of experiential learning that, even as I began it, made me think this is going to be difficult and maybe even pointless; and I'm going to have to resist from looking at my watch too much if it feels as though time is passing slowly. In truth, it was at times very difficult but it definitely was not pointless.

The training involved an exploration of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ nature - a kind of ‘cleaning the glass’ exercise in seeing where I was, both how I related to my own inner mind state and my place in the wider world - using nature as the base for this exploration. Part of it involved learning nature connection techniques which fostered a state of presence and the other part involved spending a lot of time alone in nature. I had two ‘Vision Quest’ experiences during this training.

A vision quest is based on Native American rites of passage. It’s not so easy to explain but when I spent three days and nights alone in nature without food, on more than one occasion - just sitting with my own busy head - clarity started to emerge in a mindblowing way.

For example, even just the realisation that my thoughts were ruling my life and decisions and often in a negative way was a huge revelation and I was learning how to pull what I needed from the clutter of thoughts. This was a great skill for me to learn.

These tools took me on a journey that has impacted every area of my life and brought me more in line with my own beliefs, and strengthered my confidence. The clarity has helped me appreciate the people around me more deeply and really helped me hold personal issues in a lighter way, freeing me up to be kinder and more accepting of others. This work also showed a new way of being, and I don’t think I would ever have found this if I hadn't taken on the Walk for Aoife challenge.

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Living in Tuscany, Italy - a wild place that feels like a massive nature playground - means I can spend plenty of time outdoors, being in nature, exploring and practising the nature connection tools I learned on the guide training. Now, I feel ready to share the tools I have learned, so they can benefit others as much as they have me.  

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All of these new things in my life - country, training, people, environment – were challenging initially. The upheaval and unfamiliarity took some time for my family and I to adjust to. But I was convinced it would all be worth it and that challenge brings nourishing experiences that help you grow, in yourself and in the other roles you play. So it has not been hard to commit and embrace the changes.

I know that if I keep saying Yes that even more challenges will present themselves, and the journey of expansion and adventure will continue. 

Your invitation to the Endless River retreat - May 2018

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Come and explore the beautiful permaculture farm in the rolling mountains and forests of southern Tuscany. I will be guiding people alongside fellow nature connection guide Jez Le Fevre. We will set up camp next to the gently flowing river, far from the well-trodden tourist path, and immerse ourselves in the peace and tranquillity of nature, supported by nature herself. Being, listening, exploring and relaxing.

Running this retreat is really a dream come true for me – it means I can share all the nature connection practices I have learned, and hopefully help others experience the transformative powers of just being in nature, solo (always in an expertly held supportive space) and as a small group.

The retreat is May 22-26. See here for more details.

Fill in the contact form if you have any queries or call me on 07568 577 062 (free to call as I have a roaming deal).

My blog is here if you'd like to read more about me.

Alan

 

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The Accidental Yes

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The Accidental Yes

Growing up on a remote farm in the Yorkshire Dales, I developed a love for the outdoors and adventures. School was not for me; I was bullied due to being dyslexic and for suffering from extreme shyness. I struggled finding work after finishing my education but an Accidental Yes changed my life and led me unexpectedly down an adventure-filled road.

My Yes Moment

When it came to leaving College, I was nervous about starting life in the working world. I had just finished a course in Animal Management, so I was looking for work involving animals and the outdoors.

Pets at home, vets surgeries, zoos and bird of prey centres were my target. I had been working part time in a bird of prey centre already so I was hoping to go full time there.

Suffering from shyness and anxiety meant I struggled with interviews. Often I would stop just before walking through the door and talk myself into turning around and going home. 

A few jobs I had applied for held telephone interviews, which I preferred as I didn’t feel all the pressure in that set-up, in comparison with sitting in a room with other people going for the same role.

Then one afternoon I received an email, offering me a role at the bird of prey centre. It provided  accommodation and food, which I thought was amazing. It gave me the chance to move out and grow as a person. Within a few minutes of scanning this email I replied – I said YES to accepting the role!

Turns out the role I had accepted was not in the UK – I had accidentally accepted a job in South Africa! I had never been abroad – but at 18 years old I knew I had to go for it, so I found myself flying off to a completely new continent! At first I panicked but I thought: go for it!

I worked with birds of prey from eagles to owls. I also helped with the Big Cats, which lead to me getting attacked by a cheetah. A cheetah’s claws are like running spikes and are not retracted like other cats; so as I stood up with the cat on my back, its claws ran down my back leaving me with a nice scar.

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I also helped to raise orphaned animals, like cheetahs, lions, rhino and a hippo called Humphrey; now when a 30st baby wants to play you know about it. It was like taking on Anthony Joshua. Humphrey later killed a man, but if you try to ride a fully grown Bull Hippo, it’s never going to end well.

I loved my time in Africa and I learnt so much.

Returning Home

When I returned home I did many random jobs, from making chocolate to working as a porter in a auction house. I even became an actor in a film version of Wuthering Heights (I don’t recommend watching it) and also appeared in a Mars Bar advert with Peter Crouch.

I started to become depressed as I knew I wasn’t happy - so I went from job to job.

But I remembered my time in South Africa which instantly brought a grin to my face.

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So I left my job, packed a bag and went to Asia. I rented a Scooter and rode it around Vietnam, through mountains, jungles, deserts and swamps, and back up a road with so many unexploded bombs that it would take 300 years to remove them all.

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I found my happiness by saying Yes to something I had never dreamed of, and this has now led me to becoming an Expedition Leader. I now share my passion for the world and its wildlife to groups of people.

All because I accidentally said Yes!

Matt

Follow me on Twitter

Facebook: Matt Kettlewell

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I really should pack Lip Balm

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I really should pack Lip Balm

“So, what’s next?”  Now there’s a question.  I guess if that’s something I get asked frequently then I’m doing something right?! My usual answer is: I’m Saying Yes More!

Just like many people I felt the need for… more.  At the time the idea was born I was 32 and well into my career as a firefighter with a lovely house by the sea in North Devon where I can surf and generally just enjoy the area with my wife, Louise.  So it is certainly a good life but, and this is very cliché - I truly believe this is my one shot at ‘being Scott’ and dammit - I want it to be great!  More than that I don’t want it to end and for there to be nothing left behind to say ‘Scott was here’.

Off the back of attempting to do something new every day for a year, nearly killing myself and self-publishing the book, I formed a plan.  The fat shy kid from my formative years was gone and I wanted to prove, as much to myself as anyone, that the plastic femoral artery I’d picked up when trying Speedway for the first time wouldn’t hold me back (I had a plastic tube called Dacron inserted into my femoral artery as I had bashed it up so badly!) I wanted to climb a mountain and I chose Mt Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe and one of the seven summits.  Looking at the map I noticed there was a little body of water in the way, so I decided I’d row across that to get to the mountain.   Well, I then thought to myself: “if it’s going to be like that I’d better cycle from the UK to the Black Sea then!”

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That was it – the plan was born: ‘The Journey To Mount Elbrus’.  But boy were there some challenging times! The boat I bought, Pacific Pete, turned out to be rotten, the trailer fell apart...and those things were just the tip of the iceberg.

After repairing Pete with no boat building knowledge at all, I set out to pedal the 1,800 miles across Europe in June 2016.  The bike sat nav didn’t work, I hadn’t trained enough and my car that my friends were using to tow Pete to Bulgaria blew it’s turbo in France... and there it stayed for six months.  Bugger.  

This changed things.  I’d finish the cycle and have to continue the journey the following year.  What an amazing if challenging 18 days in the saddle though!  I was shown the warmest hospitality and kindness, both large and small.  When you’ve battled up an enormously long and arduous hill in belting heat – getting your first of many ‘split Lips’ (the result of a lack of lip balm!) and the little old woman who speaks no English shows you to a chair in the shade and brings out fresh lemonade, you are reminded of the generosity of people, and a faith in humanity, which can easily be lost in the daily bombardment of the negative news cycle. 

A year later, I was finally in the port of Burgas with my boat, and making amazing friends.  I gripped the oars and set off in my old plywood ocean rowing boat - I was buzzing!  For five days I rowed, grappling with the two hours on, two hours off system used by most ocean rowers.  Then came the winds and I sat for eight days on my Para anchor (sort of kite that is deployed into the water that slows you down when you’re going the wrong way!) being slowly blown backwards towards the Turkish coast, spread eagled in my little cabin trying to stay ‘comfy’.

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Just as I was running out of sea to retreat into, the winds changed and off I set again, dispensing with the two and two system.  I rowed all day, bar food breaks and slept for four to five hours a night.  The romantic side of it all was eating my meals in the company of dolphins and enjoying breathtakingly beautiful star-filled night skies, a Cuban cigar billowing into the night.

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After twenty nine days I made it to Georgia with another split lip, lighter and hairier than when I had left.  I was greeted by a film crew who spoke no English and they paraded me around for a while!

It was never an aim for the adventure but I had become the first person to ever row across the Black Sea.  Pride doesn’t even come close to the feeling.  I had a few days of rest being entertained and fed by the locals in Batumi who had taken me under their wing and toasted me at every opportunity.

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Then I was off to Russia and the 5,642 metre summit of Mt Elbrus, taking 10 days. Summit day was wonderfully clear and for that moment, I looked down upon everyone in Europe.  The release and sense of achievement was indescribable.  So many things had gone wrong – more than I’ve mentioned here - but sheer determination got me through.  This was my turning point. This was Scott coming to the party.

The Marathon des Sable, the Three Loch Challenge (tandem bike, trailer and two inflatable kayaks), the National Three Peaks challenge, the South Downs way and a second world record followed. I ran the fastest half marathon ‘under air’ - I was wearing the breathing apparatus (BA) that we wear for firefighting.  It weighs in at 16kg and I had to change the cylinder every 2 miles!  I did the race in 2hrs 21 mins.

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Yes I enjoy challenging myself and will always do solo adventures but now I want more people to say YES! The kick I get out of floating an idea to someone and then see them get enthused and say YES! is fantastic.

So we returned to “What’s next then?” and it wasn’t long until our next challenge!  In our four days off from work, five of us shot up to Windermere in the Lake District to complete a loop of the Lake District on foot and camping.  We completed a memorable 70 miles which included knee deep snow ascents of The Old Man of Coniston and the Black Sail pass – which we were lucky enough to enjoy to ourselves in stunning weather.  Everyone dug deep and although we didn’t make the ambitious 93 miles, each one of us discovered something about ourselves in tough conditions to reach the end.

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As for this year’s plans – in June, my brother and I are going from Turin to Venice, which is 422 miles - on Razor kick scooters... wearing capes.

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Add building a railway pushcart and trying to convince someone to help convert a Tuk Tuk to salt water power to drive the coastal road around Ireland with my wife Louise and our dog Hank; currently selling handmade (by my mum!) bobble hats; purchasing a Pedalo to travel the length of the Rhine; and maybe, just maybe, rowing the Atlantic.  With a gazillion ideas and plans in-between, the future is busy.  So it should be.

I’m neither fearless nor very, very fit – the truth is I’m a ‘regular’ guy who wants to see and do everything!  I relish the solo challenges of pushing myself both physically and mentally.  When out on your own you have to find your own motivation when it gets tough but you also have that vulnerability about you that makes you approachable, so you are likely to meet wonderful and diverse people this way.

On the flip side I REALLY enjoy motivating and involving other people who perhaps wouldn’t embark on a challenge themselves, for whatever reason.  The team dynamic, much like a crew at work, brings strengths from individuals to make something much more powerful – we become stronger together.

I’m a ‘jack of all’ – not brilliant at anything, but why should that stop me from trying?  Trying to learn.  Trying to grow.  Trying to find my limits.

Life is a wonderful journey – sure, it can be a rollercoaster with its ups and downs, its pains and joys, but it’s up to us to try and make those highs outnumber the lows. Is there a secret recipe for all this? If there is I haven’t found it!  We are all different with different motivations, goals and methods but one thing should be the same.  Make the most of this precious life and do what makes you happy!    

 Adventure doesn’t have to be big and expensive.  Adventure is what YOU want it to be and just like wearing odd socks, it’s liberating.  You just have to say YES!

Scott

WWW.Splitlipadventures.com

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