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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:

on Facebook

on Twitter @cloudiercolvin

the website!

 

 

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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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The Bumbling Middle Aged Man who Cycled the Pleasure Piers of England and Wales except St Anne’s, Lytham

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The Bumbling Middle Aged Man who Cycled the Pleasure Piers of England and Wales except St Anne’s, Lytham

Lost in Norway

In the summer of 2017 I had been cycling to Bergen in Norway on my first European cycling adventure.  It felt as if it had been raining since I had cycled across the German border into Denmark and now that I was in Norway, cycling the Viking Coast, Thor had decided to turn the rain up to eleven.  There hadn’t been a rain free day for seven days and I mean torrential soakings.  Wet through, crouched in a bus shelter, I fumbled Facebook with shivering fingers looking for another cyclist in Norway with whom I could share my misery.  There was, but his bike was on the open water, madness!

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Reading Dave Cornthwaite’s Facebook feed I realised that he was pretty done in and with the eyes of the adventuring world on him he took a break, he announced that he was going to have a week off.  To me, this was the bravest moment of his trip and it brought relief to mine as I checked into the next town’s hotel and became an official member of the YesTribe.

Three Months Later, Yestival 2017

I met Dan at Yestival, by the campfire just to the right of a large 7-foot high ‘YES’ lit by two spotlights.  If you were there you would have heard a softly spoken man whose words were as thoughtful and deep as the eyes that looked on the flames escaping the wind.  He stood tall to my right and we both looked at the warmth as we chatted.  Two strangers free with our thoughts knowing that our words would be trusted to the night and the fire’s flying embers.  I liked Dan instantly; there was no bullshit, no bravado, no ego.  He had a young family and with those pressures was catching his breath at Yestival.  I guess we all had our reasons for being there.  

“Dan, I’m going to cycle the UK coast, starting next week. I need to be back for a party on the 9th December but I think I can do it. At 85 miles a day I should be able to do it in 45 days and still give me some contingency time.” The words spilled from my mouth, leaving a sick void inside me where they had once poised.

“That’s impressive, 3825 miles.”  Dan was a science teacher and clearly good at mental arithmetic.

I had done a quick estimation of my own using google maps. This involved me entering some town names to create a short leg along the south coast. This gave me a mileage to a length. Then using a ruler held flat against the computer screen I was able to measure out the total distance for rest of the UK. It took about fifteen minutes to calculate.

“Yes Dan, give or take. To help me navigate I will need to use way points, there isn’t a road that runs around the coast!”  I joked.

Realising that 3825 miles was a long way and that with just two days to go and winter storms becoming a dead certainty, I did whatever anyone in my position would do: I decided to stretch the bravado muscle further.

“I will use the country’s extremes; Land’s End, St David’s etcetera and Victorian pleasure piers as way points to stay in contact with the coast. You have to dip in and out, you see”. I made semi-circular motions with my finger in the air to add credibility to my adventure plans.  “I’m going to call it ‘Piers and Points’” I announced to Dan.

“Piers and Points, good title”  Dan said.

I’m not too certain if Dan was genuinely blown away with my plans or whether the secondary school teacher in him surfaced, hell bent on forcing me into a corner. Because what he did for the rest of the weekend was to turn my campfire boast into my personal calling card.  Whenever we met new tribers Dan would say something like, “Hi there, athletic fell runner.  My name’s Dan and this is John, he’s cycling the UK before Christmas.  It takes in all the Piers of the UK and the furthest points like John O’Groats, you know.”

By the fifth introduction I had become a natural at embroiling myself further, casually throwing in facts about the country’s 56 pleasure piers and name dropping coastal towns as if they were distant celebrity friends.

If you were there, I apologise now - the cocktail of Awesome Men (a fitness training group) waking me from my sleep and truly heroic speakers stirring my desire for adventure is my only defence.

I had told Dan that I would leave either Monday or Tuesday as I was at the end of a cold and I didn’t want it interfering with the trip with a revival. This was Bumble speak for “I could go Monday but I’ll probably catch up on Dr Who and find a problem with the bike that I’ll need to sort out.” Which is exactly what happened. I had a Monday of pre-expedition faff.

Dan sent me this text Monday night 21:32: ‘Best of luck John. I hope you’re off to a good start!’

I left at 7am sharp the following morning.

With a little help from Dan and Yestival, I realised I’d said “Yes”.

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I did not achieve entirely what I set out to do because I was a little too ambitious.  Big mile days can be done in the summer, but when its dark at 5 o’clock, its a little trickier to keep going.  I had to scale back to a forgivable 2,000 mile journey instead. 

However, that initial Yes is birthing more Yeses: Yes to sharing the story you read now, and Yes to telling you the whole story in a book. Bicylebumbles tells the story of how ‘Piers and Points’ was renamed ‘The Bumbling Middle Aged Man who Cycled the Pleasure Piers of England and Wales except St Anne’s, Lytham’.

Drop your details here if you'd like to be updated on the date of the book launch.

It will be a riveting read!

John

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

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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.

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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!

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And by ‘planning’, 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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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Kayaking for Blackthorn

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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.

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