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.


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.


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.


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!


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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!”


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

razor tarka.jpg

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!




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


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!


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”.


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!






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


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

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

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













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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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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.


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

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

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

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

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

Jen and Rory

Reach us at:

Twitter @jenwilliams33

Twitter @RoryCrewACA



Kayaking for Blackthorn


Kayaking for Blackthorn

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


Looking More, Learning More - Developing Our Relationship With Nature


Looking More, Learning More - Developing Our Relationship With Nature

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

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

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

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

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

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

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

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

Credit: Jay Kolsch

Credit: Jay Kolsch

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

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

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

You can see the 27 Images here.

Walking Wild – Helping others connect to the land  

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

Autumn Woodland.jpg

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

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

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

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


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






From Desk to Yes

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From Desk to Yes

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

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

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

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


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

Begin with YES!

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

Make time for stories

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

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We are not alone

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


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



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Yestival 2017 saved me!


Yestival 2017 saved me!

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


And so it began


And so it began

by Rolfe Oostra

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Who is Rolfe Oostra?!

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

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


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

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

Find out more here.


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Losing my mind in the Atacama Desert


Losing my mind in the Atacama Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Read more about my world cycle on my blog.

Also plenty of nice pics on my Facebook page!