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.
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
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