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In (re)search of happiness

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In (re)search of happiness

I liked to read and write about Adventure, Minimalism and Wellbeing and I wanted to meet some people with similar interests, so I started a MeetUp group. One night I organised a screening of a documentary called Happy, by a filmmaker called Roko Belic, who travels to more than a dozen countries, searching for the meaning of happiness.

It made me realise that people need to feel in control of their own happiness and future, as well as our collective future.  I read more about happiness and learned that The World Happiness Report 2016 identified Copenhagen as the happiest place on Earth. Also that Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens' happiness levels, rather than by measuring gross domestic product (GDP) like most other countries.

This gave me the idea to journey from the UK to Bhutan, via Copenhagen, to research how we can create a happier world. 

My happiness adventure

In 2015, I announced my plan for the journey, which is entirely self-funded: it has taken two years of hard work and some careful budgeting. Some people save up to buy a house or have a family, but travelling held far more appeal for me!

The grand plan

My partner and I will travel 12,000 miles from the UK to Bhutan, which will take us through 18 countries. We arrive at our first stop – Amsterdam – on World Happiness Day 2017 (20th March) at which point we will explore the City and visit the Body Worlds Exhibition - The Happiness Project.

The journey is also an opportunity for us to undertake some formal research conducted as an ‘expedition’ for the Royal Geographical Society. More info on my blog – Road to Happiness.

Interest is growing around the world in how we define and measure happiness and subjective well-being (our personal opinion of wellbeing) and how these concepts indicate the quality of human development. We hope our research will contribute to this growing field of study. Doing the whole journey overland, rather than flying, means we will be able to immerse ourselves more in each country we travel through.

We plan to research happiness in five ways:

1. Using the Subjective Happiness Scale to measure the happiness of people we meet on our journey

2. Visiting educational facilities to speak to students about their thoughts on happiness and social change.

3. Hosting talks and workshops on 'Ten Keys to Happier Living' using Action For Happiness Research.

4. Carrying out subjective fieldwork on the cities and countries we visit that will enable us to developideas on leading more fulfillinglives – this will be documented on our blog.

5. Filming interviews for a short documentary and a book to be released in 2018 via betternotstop.

About me

As well as the trip and all the research we are doing along the way, I also have work commitments. My laptop and wifi 4G dongle will enable me to keep on top of this, working from cafes / universities.

I run Stag & Raven, a UK Tattoo Art brand with my best friend Kate. I also work as the Festival Manager for Off The Record, a multi venue Music Event and Conference in Manchester.

In 2012 I suffered a traumatic head injury which has left me with short term memory loss. However tools like Trello and Google Docs keep me organised. EVERYTHING needs to be written down!

Advice for others looking for adventure

I think every adventure has a purpose, and this doesn’t need to be anything big and bold. My other trips away have helped me to learn more about myself and other people, and that in itself has been incredibly rewarding. I think there can be a lot of pressure in the adventure community for a journey or adventure to be physically demanding – testing your body’s limits - but I think that’s the wrong way to think about it.

Becoming comfortable with who you are and how you want to live and travel is the most important thing, and then everything else just follows. 

What makes you happy?

I’ve changed a lot as a person in the last few years. I spent my twenties being quite angry with the world and tried to be someone I wasn’t. A hectic busy social life and career was what I thought I wanted but I’ve since discovered it’s actually the opposite.

In the last few years, I’ve become more comfortable with who I am, and I have also realised I prefer spending time one on one with people or in small groups. I have a few close friends who I wouldn’t change for the world. I like to have a lot of time alone to read and write. I like good food, reading and travelling. And I ADORE travelling by train - I can’t wait to start the journey!

My personal goals for the trip

In my twenties I was very busy with work and social commitments, which often lead to periods of ‘burn out’. This has helped me realise the importance of finding balance and taking better care of myself.  I am going to explore this further on the trip by thinking about what makes me happy and what can help me to lead a balanced life.

Aside from the fieldwork, I am really excited to document the journey and write a book about what I discover about happiness. 

I’ve spent a lot of my life not liking myself. I’ve not always been a good friend, good daughter or good employee. I want to feel more in control of my happiness and my future, and I think this journey is going to help me to discover some incredible things about myself and others.

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Bikepacking Baja

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Bikepacking Baja

It’s been nearly two months since I joined around 90 people on the waterfront in San Diego at the start of an off-road route stretching south for some 1700 miles, along the length of the Baja California peninsular, in Mexico.

I have been riding the Baja Divide, a new long distance mountain biking (bikepacking) route which starts in San Diego, California, USA and ends in San Jose Del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Since January 2nd, we have fallen into a daily pattern of riding, eating and sleeping, following little used dirt roads to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Cortez multiple times as we slowly make our way south.

We've passed through empty deserts, canyons and mountains and along both coastlines, by way of historic Spanish Missions, remote ranchos, tiny fishing villages and bustling highway towns. The trails have been tough at times - a mix of hard-packed dirt, sand, gravel and small boulders, but the scenery has always been beautiful.

Saying YES to this trip

I've followed the lightweight long distance mountain biking journeys of Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox for a few years now, and when they announced that they were putting together this route, I was really excited. At the same time, they extended an open invitation to an informal 'group start' on 2nd January 2017, as a celebration of the new route. 

I've done a few similar trips before (which are documented here), although most of the longer ones have been on my own, and I wasn't completely sure about joining such a large group, especially as I thought most of the other riders would probably be fitter and more determined than I am! But I also know from past trips that I eventually find long solo cycles a little lonely and I just don't know enough other bikepackers who want to undertake journeys like this, so I bit the bullet and put my name on the list back in March last year.

It's pretty cool to recognise that since I said Yes to this trip eleven months ago, in a year when anything could have (and much has) happened, I now find myself writing this, nearing the end of the adventure.

Ride highlights so far

The route has been incredibly varied - even the desert itself has changed from a vast, empty, desolate space in some places, to a lush green forest of cardon cactus and cirio trees in others. Each change has been unexpected. I used to feel intimidated looking at images of desert journeys, but I've loved riding and camping here and it's given me the confidence to do more journeys in similar regions in the future.  

Being part of such a big group has really added something special to this trip. Instead of being seen as slightly odd by most of my friends and colleagues for wanting to undertake journeys like these, suddenly I've been in the company of around 90 other people who completely 'get it' - we all share a love of the outdoors, travelling by bike, and being self reliant.

As the group has spread out into smaller bands of riders along the trail, it's also meant that it's been easy to get information on trail conditions ahead, good bike shops for repairs, and the best taco stands in the next towns!

I've loved the mix of people and I’ve learnt a lot from them. Riding off-road means it’s essential to minimise your kit and be efficient with how you carry it on the bike. Meeting so many people who are also trying to solve the daily puzzle of the best way to cram all your gear onto a bike, in a way that makes it still fun to ride on difficult terrain, has led to some great insights. It is funny how you think you're travelling pretty lightweight, and then you meet someone who has half the gear that you do, and they are surviving just fine.

The local people have been incredibly friendly. I would like my Spanish to be better, but between us we've managed and have received a warm reception from local families, kids and street vendors, who are always curious about the bikes, the big tyres and the gear we carry. We’ve been welcomed into homes, played football with a village load of kids, and been given fresh fish to take with us for dinner that evening.

Following a route that has been put together by other riders really makes the practical side of this kind of journey easier. I've ridden similar kinds of mountain bike routes before, and at other times I've made routes up as I go. By far the most enjoyable riding has been where someone has put time and effort into compiling a route that is rideable, and has provided some idea of re-supply options. It means that you're free to enjoy the riding more, without the nagging fear that the unknown dirt track you're following might just disappear or become a mountain goat track that is impassable, and for me, I think that this gives you more confidence to explore areas that you might otherwise miss, especially when you have to be mindful of not running out of water.  

 Riding with a big group

I haven't joined a ride with so many people before, but it's been great to do it on this trip. Although around 90 riders started the route at the same time, the group spread out pretty quickly, naturally forming smaller groups. This was important, both because such a large group in one place would detract from the point of being out in the wilderness in the first place, and to avoid overwhelming the smaller towns and villages on the route.

Although we all started together, other than a bunch of people riding the same route at around the same time, this is not an organised ride. Aside from the group start and some arrangements for first night of camping and dinner some fifty miles later, it’s everyone for themselves. It’s up to each individual how they want to ride: whether with a group or on their own; fast or slow; following every inch of the route or bypassing sections; wild camping every night or seeking out hotels and warm showers. No one cares whether you finish the route first, last or not at all. It’s just 90 or so individual journeys linked by geography and timing, and in the end, by new friendship, camaraderie, a love of the outdoors and of travelling by bike.

One of the potential issues of riding in groups is that people tend to have a different pace, both of riding and of life. Some want to ride for ten hours a day, whilst others want to take time to enjoy coffee and breakfast at camp in the morning, and spend more time in the towns and villages along the way. So I was free to push on ahead of the group I found myself with, or slow down and take more time to smell the flowers. Either way it is easy to find other people also riding the route ahead or behind me. And as we are all riding pretty self sufficiently, with all the gear to travel and camp on our own, we have total freedom. I've ridden and camped with around four different groups of people in the last month as well a few days on my own, and I've really enjoyed the mix.

I like to try to document my journeys with photographs, and riding with others makes this so much easier and more interesting. Instead of having to photograph empty trails, or set up time consuming shots of myself, I've had a wealth of other people to photograph!

Advice for others thinking of bikepacking

The nature of (and usually, the point of using) off-road routes means that you're likely to be on more rugged terrain and in more remote locations than you might be usually. And whilst I am keen to not get bogged down in the 'gear', it pays off to consider what your priority kit, and how to plan for most eventualities. Getting stuck in the desert with a broken bike and without enough water is not ideal, so having kit for a contingency plan can make a huge difference.

The biggest considerations for this route were:

•        Chunky, tubeless tyres. The fatter tyres allow riding on the more sandy sections, and running tubeless tyres (which don't use an inner tube, but which contain a latex sealant to immediately seal small punctures whilst riding) means that generally we haven't even noticed the numerous thorns that have punctured our tyres. We also brought a few ways to fix a bigger tear in a tyre (eg caused by a sharp rock), although (touch wood) this hasn't been an issue for me yet. 

•        Water. There are some long stretches of this route without water supply, and so we've all been carrying around 5-8 litres of water as standard, with a couple of sections where more was needed to last a few days. So everyone has had to think about how to carry such a volume on their bikes, and the rhythm of the riding is very much dictated by water resupply points.

Riding in a group can make this easier, because as long as you know you'll be with others, you can share gear, and if one of you has a problem, there are others there to help. 

If you're planning a long journey with a small group, I think it's a good idea to have an idea of the kind of pace that you each ride at, and also the pace of life you want to enjoy whilst on the trip. If one of you wants to leave before sunrise each day and not pause in any of the local towns, and the others want long leisurely breakfasts and a more cultural experience, then things may become tricky. Having said that, riding with others who like to get going in the morning has helped me get moving more quickly than normal, which has been a good thing!

No dramas!

Baja has felt really safe, and the biggest issues have been bike mechanical problems, limited water on some stretches, as well as some illness. I've had to negotiate a lift from a remote ranch to a town as my rear hub bearings disintegrated, and then take a seven hour bus journey (each way) to get back to the nearest bike shop to get the bearings replaced. A few people have had issues where they've been slightly stuck due to other mechanical problems, but the bike shop has been able to send replacement parts where needed, sometimes with other riders who were passing by, or another local solution has been found.

Rain early on caused some sections of the trail to turn into a horrible, sticky muddy mess that became completely impassable, clogging up bike wheels and drivetrains and making it impossible to move anywhere. Many of us avoided these sections by riding the road or taking a bus, but stories from other riders included a couple of girls who got caught in heavy rain and were stuck for two days, only managing to move two miles until things started to dry out!

Some groups have had issues with some lurgy making its way slowly around everybody, one person after another. Whilst I also avoided that, I did have a scary day or two where, after four hotter and longer days that I'd been used to, I realised that I had blood in my urine. It was worrying, but there wasn't really any other option than to carry on. I was with other people who donated water and thankfully although we'd just had four days in the middle of nowhere, the next town was 'only' 22 miles away and mostly downhill. I went to hospital to be checked out and rested up for a week or so before continuing to ride. I am in good health now.  

Serious health issues aside, these are just little challenges to overcome, there's usually a solution, and these become the stories you tell your friends and family back home!

Future bikepacking trips

I don't have another big trip planned just yet, but I'm sure it won't be long. I'd definitely like to ride with a group again, although it's unlikely to be as large - this was a pretty unique trip. And of course, I'll definitely do solo trips again. In fact, the kind of security blanket that comes from being part of a big group on this ride has made me feel more confident about undertaking further trips in challenging environments than I had before, both as a group and on my own.

Do get in touch if you’d like any advice or might want to join me on a bikepacking adventure!

www.uninspiredramblings.com

www.instagram.com/uninspiredramblings

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Canada calling!

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Canada calling!

I’ve been working in the solar industry for a couple of years and as rewarding as it’s been, I made the difficult decision to leave it behind in 2017 and take on a new challenge: heading to Canada for a two-year working holiday and adventure with my fiancée Emma. We plan to explore the wilds of Canada and spend more time doing things like that kayaking on beautiful lakes with crystal clear waters, and spend less time at a desk.

David and Emma visiting a very Canadian insitution: Tim Horton's

David and Emma visiting a very Canadian insitution: Tim Horton's

Why?

Emma and I felt we needed a clean break that gave us the space to define what we wanted from life, not just what life ended up happening to us.

Aside from the thirst for adventure, new scenery and people, and freedom to plan our own 9-5 – all pretty attractive reasons for going (!) - Brexit was another motivator. The decision to leave the EU has left me feeling uncomfortable with the Britain I’ve always called home. Waking up the day after the referendum and feeling a lot less British was a disappointing realisation and the ongoing saga in the media and political landscape continues to worry me. I want my children to have the option to study abroad, and I believe immigrants and refugees should be welcomed rather than viewed with suspicion.

As for Canada - it's only a 7 hour flight, so a lot closer than New Zealand which we considered initially. Also the biggest national stereotype about Canada is that everyone is kind and friendly – so it was hard to argue with that!

We were blown away by the landscapes we discovered when we visited Canada last September. During our three week trip, we stayed in an eco-lodge in the middle of a national park, stand up paddleboarded on an empty beach just after a thunderstorm and were the first ones up the CN tower (due to a jetlag/watch time change error!). We returned to the UK certain that we wanted to go back to Canada to explore more, so we immediately started looking into visas.

Taken from David's canoe on a beautiful lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

Taken from David's canoe on a beautiful lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

We applied for the working holiday visa to Canada (which are limited to just 5,000 per year from the UK) and managed to both get one through the random ballot system.

The Yes moment

Leaving our jobs was admittedly scary, and the uncertainty of what we would actually do in Canada was nerve wracking, but wth everything that happened politically in Britain during 2015 and 2016, I felt less and less at home which made the pull of Canada even more enticing, and this feeling really overcame the initial fear of taking the plunge. In the end it was a leap of faith, but there's no better time to do it at 26 years old aand before we have any significant responsibilities.

 

What are you going to do in Canada?

We are not too sure yet! But the uncertainly is all part of the adventure. We plan to do some volunteer work in exchange for food/board (We’re currently at a vegetarian cafe and are planning to head over to a hostel on the East Coast). Aside from that we plan to simply explore the countryside, do some casual work and travel on the East coast. It's freeing in this world of planning and career paths to have a blank page in front of us.

As we're getting married in July, we plan to come back around May and then head out to Canada again in September. At that point we'll look at more permanent roles on the West coast, probably focusing on the charity sector. We have some grander ideas about driving from East to West coast in a camper-van too!

David exploring Canada's snowy parks

David exploring Canada's snowy parks

Do you plan to return to the UK?

Our visas run out in January 2019, so we will likely come back then, however we haven’t decided yet where we want to settle permanently, and staying in Canada may be an option depending on visas. With Brexit likely to be almost finalised by then, we'll be able to make a decision based on whether a post-EU Britain is the right place to live longer term.

You can follow our adventure here on Instagram: @thetravellingpickups

We post occasional updates on thetravellingpickups.blogspot.ca.

 

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YesTribe North West and North Wales: The First Adventure

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YesTribe North West and North Wales: The First Adventure

After the most positive and inspiring weekend at Yestival 2016, Viv Day and her husband drove back to Chester and wondered how they could get involved more with the Yes Tribe. So much seemed to be happening around the London area - not exactly convenient for them in their own bit of North West England. Viv put out a message on the Yes Tribe facebook group to see if there were any other yes tribers near to her. It turns out that there were!  

The North West and North Wales YesTribe met in a pub near to the train station in Chester just before Christmas and 10 people came, full of happiness and positivity and nerves ... it was a brilliant evening that passed too quickly but they shared stories about who they were and what they wanted to do and Viv devised a little questionnaire to try to help guide their adventures.

Viv is a member of Chester Mountaineering Club. The club has a hut in Llanberis, on the slopes of Mount Snowdon, in North Wales. Viv rented it out for the weekend and 12 of the Tribe descended on it with walking boots, warm hats and excitement. On Friday night they got the fire going and chatted. On Saturday they pulled on their warm stuff and headed up Snowdon. 

The cloud was low and the path was getting icy so they diverted off into the freshly fallen snow (don't panic - there were proper qualified mountain leaders in the group!) and tramped their way accross to a small lake, throwing snowballs at each other and for our collie dog along the way. 

After lunch in the shelter of the emergency bivvy, they headed down, out of the clouds and snow and headed back towards the hut, via some info on local geology and flora and fauna, to the biggest amount of cake for 12 people ever!

Saturday evening they cooked a communal meal which came up to the grand total of £3.40 each, including dessert, and then listened to a talk by Aaron Bailey about his new love for adventures and how he ended up cycling to Istanbul.

Sunday was a chilled day where they completely ran out of time as they all wanted to share so much stuff! However, Sarah Williams, from Tough Girl Challenges, did a wonderful workshop on blogging. Aaron and Jason then did practical workshops, including the use of knives, on making small stoves out of beer cans and baked bean cans!  

 

The Tribe's plan is to alternate weekend meets with day meets on a monthly basis.  The next meet is a day meet on Saturday 18th February where they will be taking bikes to cycle around the trails in Delamere Forest and go and eat and chat lots at the station cafe then in the evening some of the Tribe will be heading to Stockport for the Banff Adventure Film Festival!


To join the North West and North Wales YesTribe or find out more information, please visit their Facebook page

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Journal doodles: 17 Things To Do In 2017 😊

 

Seventeen is my number of choice this year; 17 things I would like to try out, conquer, experience, encounter and experience in 2017. The start of a new year always conjures up excitement for me, a chance to reflect on the year just passed and to dream up adventures for the 12 months ahead, so for the first week of January I crack open a new fresh journal and start doodling!

I sketch, list, bullet point, free write - a few hours spent doodling a word splat of all the things buzzing in my mind. Often my new year resolutions involve practical challenges - a marathon to train for, 100 mile bike ride or muddy race somewhere; this year I wanted to balance the physical with everyday things I would enjoy, so learning to cook new yummy veggie dishes, to get my paint brushes out again and read more regularly are in my 17.

Learning to longboard, turn more confidently when surfing, participate in a SUP race and to complete my own version of an Ironman triathlon by traveling around the coast of Wales or Scotland are also on my list of ’17 Things To Do in 2017’.  

 

Yestival 2016 was such an inspiring weekend – I left with hundreds of ideas, feeling positive and raring to take on an adventure! After a few months of mulling my Yestival experience I finally feel ready to take on 2017 with an awesome adventure: this year, one of my 17 pledges is to travel 70 miles every month. Come join me!  

Last year was certainly a year of extremes – I lost my dad at the start of the year, had health related concerns, a relationship break up and more stress than I'd ever experienced, the exciting development of my business – opening the 4Motion Studio, received our first large funding, became a Mentor and met my adorable new nephew at Christmas. I also completed my Giving It Back Volunteering Project, a 5-week 1,245 mile adventure around the coast of England swimming, cycling, running, SUP’in and volunteering in retirement homes, a donkey sanctuary and schools.

Woo - what a year!

Reflecting on everything that happened last year, I gave a lot of thought to what's important to me, and what I want to achieve and experience this year. I really enjoy the process of transforming my dreams and ambitions into words and action, so I picked up my journal and started doodling!

After attending Yestival in October and feeling utterly inspired by everyone I met, with further inspiration gleaned from the Yes Tribe Facebook page and Tough Girl stories I want to take everything I've learned and truly embrace all the things I love doing whilst still learning, being mindful and making time for family, friends and myself.

My dad would have been 70 this year, so to celebrate his love of being active and outdoors (usually on a cricket pitch!!) I am going to raise money for Parkinson UK and Ataxia by moving 70 miles every month of 2017. This will be by unmotorised travel: either running, walking, swimming, cycling, SUP paddling or even dancing (not sure yoga sun salutations would clock up the miles?!!).

Although of course my dad’s passing was extremely sad and a complete shock, I choose to take a positive attitude and flip my sadness into something meaningful, to carry his life forward by getting out there and making the most of every living breathing moment. That’s why I’ve devised #70mileseverymonth4dads70th and I’d love you all to join me!  

Don't wait for a loved one to pass or feel ill: grab life by the hands now, fuel it with energy and freakin get out there to make something happen!!

I've got a few events lined up (Coast to Coast of Scotland, a few triathlons, ultra marathons) and I'll be on the road this summer exploring the coast in either Wales, Scotland or Ireland on a mission to give it back (Giving It Back - www.giving-it-back.com), so if you want to join me, or fancy a 70 mile moving buddy - hola!

Let's make 2017 great - let's choose happiness, let’s choose our health, let's choose life.

Elaine

 

FB: @Givingitback / @Elainemacey

Insta: giving_itback / elaine_dancingyogi

Website: www.giving-it-back.com

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Yestival inspiration fuels a family’s move to France and a new business

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Yestival inspiration fuels a family’s move to France and a new business

I’ve been a member of the YesTribe for a while and met Dave Cornthwaite (the founder of the YesTribe) around six years ago. Last year Dave started his summer series camp-outs, as a way to turn his Facebook friends into real friends. Many answered his call, but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them.

I’m what you might call a social media consumer. I sit and consume other people’s adventures and enjoy them vicariously. This is where I found myself in the early part of 2015. Inaction was the norm. Money was tight, life busy and my wife and four children rarely saw me due to my time-consuming job in London.

Fast forward to the first Yestival in October 2015. Using our commitments at that time and financial constraints as excuses, I continued with my inaction, and we didn’t make it to Yestival. But, a few days later a post-Yestival meet up was organised which in hindsight proved to be a pivotal moment for me.

My YES moment!

I was unsure about going, nervous about whom I might meet and what they would be like. Thankfully, I took the plunge because I met the most amazing, positive people who filled me with such energy that I went straight home and said YES to my wife.

What did I say yes to? My wife had been asking me if we could re-locate to France ever since our daughter started boarding at a ballet school in the south of France and I always said that when the time was right we could do it. However, fresh with inspiration and a new outlook on life from the YesTribe meet up, I realised that “the right time” was an incapacitating excuse – there was never going to be a right time! With this realisation, our YES moment was born. This Yes to my wife’s clearly superior adventurous side unlocked our adventures to come.

What happened next?

We set a date and worked back from that, making plans and booking ferry crossings. In the end we didn’t find it hard to make the move – our life was pretty unspectacular at the time and so we certainly didn’t lack the motivation - we just needed to give ourselves permission and start planning - translating our dreams into action. In fact our planning pretty much consisted of securing school places for our children, booking a ferry and buying a left hand drive car.

After agreeing to make the move in October 2015, just 10 months later we finally re-located in August this year. We couldn’t actually find anywhere to live and so, in a leap of faith, we booked a holiday apartment and embarked on a three day road trip south with a five month old baby and our three other children.

When we arrived we spent the first six weeks as holidaymakers, except, instead of booking sightseeing tours we were buying school books, bags and pencils. Our children started school and we didn’t even have a place to live! We were flying by the seat of our family pants but we coped and our children didn’t even notice. We managed to find an amazing place to live just in the nick of time and I commenced a commute backwards and forwards to London which again took me away from my family.

We discussed when I would quit my job but the same phrase reared its ugly head once more, ‘when the time was right, I would leave.'

Now that we were living in France we missed the second Yestival in October 2016 as we were settling into our new home. However, just like in 2015, I joined the second post-Yestival gathering, and was met with the same nerves: who will I meet, what will they be like?! But I got involved and thoroughly enjoyed hearing all about the magical weekend at this year’s Yestival on Brinsbury campus.

I once again found myself filled with positive energy and a ‘can do’ attitude. I called my wife in France and within 24 hours we’d made the decision that I would hand in my notice and we would just make it work.

There never was going to be a right time.

I’m now going to be at home full-time just before Christmas as a stay at home dad, looking after our four children. For me, this is a huge adventure having been in full-time employment all my life.

Are you waiting for the 'right time'?

I would ask anyone considering making a change in their lives who are similarly waiting for the ‘right time’: are you waiting for something specific or tangible to arrive, or are you putting up an impassable roadblock so that you can perpetually say no, and stay in your comfort zone?

For me personally I had got into the social media consumer habit of seeing adventure and life changing decisions as something ‘other’ people did, but not me. I asked myself some useful questions: “why not me, why not my family?” and the honest answer was that I couldn’t find a reason why not. All it takes is one Yes.

In our experience that first Yes - that first change - was the most difficult. But the momentum from that point on grew quickly, and we then found it easier to make another change… and then another.

I don’t believe that first Yes to change needs to be momentous or ground breaking. It was my decision to join the post-Yestival meet ups from which I drew so much inspiration, and they led to our life changing decision. So try starting small and building up.

Since we moved to France I’ve been inspired by the natural beauty of this area; the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region is where the Alps meet the Mediterranean Sea and it is truly stunning.

New challenges

One thing we struggle with as a family currently is getting enough time outdoors. We are all surrounded by screens. So we have created Family Unplugged, a new venture where our goal is to figure out how we can spend more time outdoors and become more in control of our use of technology, rather than it controlling us. I really believe this is key to leading happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives.

We want to share our journey with those families who are experiencing the same technologically incarcerating problems and encourage them to live healthier lifestyles through time spent outdoors. We are in the early stages of putting together a podcast which will air on Family Unplugged early next year – the site will also chart our progress as we explore ways to disconnect from technology and embrace the great outdoors. We'll be speaking with a multitude of experts in health, psychology, outdoor, addiction and education and trying to put what we learn into practice.

We also want to provide families with the opportunity to de-tech and de-stress in the beautiful surroundings of the local national parks near us, so we are looking to set up our first family adventure early next year.

If you’re interested in the idea of swapping screen-time for human-time then one of our family adventure breaks could be for you. They are open to everyone, not just families. So if you’d like to keep informed about our family adventure breaks and perhaps even help us develop and test them then please do subscribe to our mailing list here and we’ll be in touch soon!

www.familyunplugged.co.uk

www.facebook.com/familyunpluggedadventures

www.instagram.com/family_unplugged

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Our first glimpse of France on the ferry towards our new home.

Our first glimpse of France on the ferry towards our new home.

The view from our house is something we'll never tire of. 

The view from our house is something we'll never tire of. 

The call of the sea. 

Our new home. 

Our new home. 

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Small life changes lead to big shifts

Sometimes it just takes a few tiny tweaks to bring about positive improvements in your life and in the lives of those around you.

In the last couple of weeks I have changed a few small things, each of which has flowed from my initial YES moment. This was when I was reminded of the quote “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten”. It reminded me that the only thing I can change is my habits and doing so would perhaps lead to other shifts.

Four weeks ago I made a commitment to myself to become the co-parent that held the main responsibility for our kids’ school experience. To me this means building relationships with new friends alongside them, supporting them to find a voice within the system, supporting them outside of school to learn how to play football, and to read and explore other things related to their life in school. I decided to find local part time work near to their school so that I could drop them off each morning and be nearby if needed.

I also committed to meditating for 15mins each day in the hope of becoming calmer and more present.

The impact has been significant. I feel happier and more positive; I have a clearer relationship with myself, and am more conscious of my mind and things around me; and I have completely stopped smoking which has had a profound impact as I now feel a whole array of emotions more intensely and this is helping me work out issues I had packed away until the time was right.

I am enjoying the time I spend with the kids more, and I am feeling the safety of a healthy new structure where our daily routine involves shared time together, in my capacity as a father of two children, doing things like eating fish and chips on Fridays and watching a film together, or pony riding on Saturday mornings.

This is the first year both our kids have gone to school after three years of home education and adventures. So far, the new routine is feeling positive for us all.

I am reflecting a lot on the consequences of our societal and systemic patterns around parenting which often mean that the main care-giver is the woman. My co-parent and I have achieved a fairly balanced child care arrangement where we are truly able to divide our time with them 50:50.

Another small tweak is that I have stopped relying on the TV when I am tired. I now listen to music or audio stories, and I think this has really improved my mood, ability to relax and be present, and my overall happiness.

None of these are ‘turn your life upside down’ changes, but the impacts have been significant. I hope in reading this you might have a YES moment that stimulates a small change in your life.

Also remember that when you are doing new things it is easy to slip back into an old pattern. This is ok, it is an opportunity to choose again and notice what makes you feel more connected and what makes you feel less connected to your greatest possible self.

I am reminded of the saying:

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What change could you make today in your life? What could you let go of?  

Jamie Colston

www.jamiecolston.com

 

Jamie

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Food entrepreneur Billy Smokes shares his YES moment – and makes us hungry!

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Food entrepreneur Billy Smokes shares his YES moment – and makes us hungry!

The YesTribe is a community turning ideas into action, whether that be encouraging adventurous thinking, finding (or creating) work we love, getting involved in charities or simply designing a lifestyle that fits perfectly with our individual personalities and needs. 

We regularly share YesTribe stories of those who are making life more memorable, and this of course includes YES moments beyond exploring the world. 

In the first of the new YES moments column, Will explains that a way that he wanted to make his like more memorable was to follow his passion for all things barbecue, and build a business around it. He has given a few insights and tips on how he made the transition.

Food entrepreneur Billy Smokes shares his YES moment – and makes us hungry!

With a lifelong passion with food and cooking outdoors, Will had always been obsessed with food, and in particular, barbecuing. After quitting his day job, he went on an enviable stint across America's southern States - the home of slow cooked meat - to learn the tricks of the trade from lifelong 'smokers' and sample their sizzling slow-cooked delights. On returning, uni friend Stu Clark became his foodie accomplice, and Billy Smokes was born.

They have just started a new residency at Brewdog's Punk Kitchen, on Essex Road, their second venture which is now running in addition to the hugely successful initial residency in Howling Hops Brewery, Hackney Wick. 

Here's how it's unfolding....

When was your YES moment? 

I got back from a fun and refreshing three week trip to the US and handed in my notice the first day back at work. It was a pretty daunting moment telling my boss that I no longer wanted to be a Sustainability Consultant and was instead going to become a Barbecue Entrepreneur.

At what point did you know this was what you wanted to do? 

It was about 2 or 3 years ago. I realised that all I was talking about and thinking about doing with friends was eating. And I don't mean in a glutinous, hot-dog-eating-competition sort of way; I mean in a curious and insatiably excited sort of way. I had started travelling quite a bit with work, and got to go to China and Peru and when people asked how my trip was, I instinctively just talked about my food experiences.

I loved visiting new restaurants and markets and discussing with friends what makes Honest Burger better (in humble my opinion) than 'the others', and why. Then I remember going to Pitt Cue (a small but perfectly formed BBQ joint off Carnaby St) and buying their book afterwards. I think that's when I really knew that barbecue was my calling. 

What was the first step in taking it further? 

I talked to a lot of people who had set up food businesses and I tried to get as much experience and knowledge as possible. I devoured cook books and butchery books, then I imposed a bit of a barbecue boot camp on myself to learn as much as possible, taking notes on techniques and cooking temperatures. It was like the science graduate in me had finally been let loose. Going back to America to travel through the Southern States was also an amazing experience. I met some of the most celebrated pitmasters in the world and worked with some incredibly talented people. .....oh and I qualified as Certified Barbecue Judge.

What's been the most mind blowing thing about the experience so far? 

I think I'm just so much more comfortable 'being my own brand', rather than feeling I have to act in a certain way as I have done in previous jobs. It's amazing to work with other people who are also doing their own thing, whether it's our staff (some of who are part-time so have music/video interests), suppliers or potential collaborators, it's exciting to develop genuine relationships rather than just swapping business cards at a networking event.

Any surprises?

Yeah, the fact that I've lost weight despite being surrounded by delicious food 12 hours a day, and eating lots of it.

If you weren't satisfying the bellies of hungry Londoners, what would you be doing now? 

Probably still staring at spreadsheets or energy data trying to remember how to do a Index/Match formula and wondering how long it is until lunch.

Billy Smokes also serves veggie food. But you're a meat company. How does that work? 

That's a great question. I think barbecue means a lot of different things to different people and that's just the way it is. I found this out in the US where, in some states the word barbecue actually means Pork. And what we call a barbecue (the metal thing in the garden) is actually a grill. To me, barbecue is about cooking with wood, and that can be meat, fish or vegetarian food. With my sustainability background, I am well aware of the environmental impacts of farming and the meat industry so it's important that we a conscious of this and don't just offer piles of meat. 

You've just opened your second outlet. What's in store for meat lovers?

Yep, we've just opened a short-term pop up with Brewdog at the Punk Kitchen in Angel. It's a great concept where they are hosting exciting Streetfood vendors for a month at a time. We'll be serving up some of our tried and tested favourites as well as some new sharing plates and brunch dishes to fit in with the area. It is a great opportunity for us to try out some new things as they have a great kitchen there.

What advice would you give to those who haven't quite given a firm 'YES' to their ideas? 

My advice would be: answer your calling and make your mark. I'm a believer that you more often regret the things you don't do than the things you do do.

Any websites/books/people you would recommend for inspiration?

All my inspiration came from creative and entrepreneurial friends as well as food heroes of mine. Try to meet and engage with any people who inspire you, and steer clear of naysayers and negative influences. 

Thanks!

Author: Sarah Allison

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Do you have a YES moment to share? No idea is too small or journey too short. We welcome all stories old and new - share yours at SayYesMore.

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