Well, what a year! Going back through has been an exercise of me saying, “Woah was that actually this year? It feels like ages ago.”
Looking back at my 2018 post makes me smile. It is so worth doing these posts to look back and see how my thoughts and attitudes have developed from one year to the next. In 2017 I thought it would be the year I sorted my life out. In 2018 I laughed at the idea that it was even possible to sort ones life out. In 2019, I feel like I’ve made significant steps towards sorting my life out. Sure, I still agree with my sentiment that life doesn’t work like that: you just don’t have years where everything is perfection. Or at least I don’t!
January – Lakes
As per what seems to have become a tradition, I saw in the New Year in the Lake District. It’s actually got to have been one of my favourites so far. A bunch of us were staying in Borrowdale YHA. For some reason one of us had a 4 ft Christmas tree in her car. We carried the Christmas tree up Castle Crag and watched the fireworks over Derwent Water whilst Prosecco and Hot Chocolate was passed round. Lovely.
I then stayed on in the Lakes for a little bit on my own, walking from Borrowdale back to Ambleside for the bus and train back home. On the way, I had My First Night in a Bothy which was actually far less pleasant than I’d imagined. Basically, if you’re sociable or go with friends I can imagine it’s very fun. If you’re cold and tired, I still think I prefer a tent!
February – Lakes Again
After a traditional mountain trip over New Year, I followed up next month with a traditional February Lakes trip… I think I might need to shake things up a little bit in 2020! The Lake District is starting to feel a bit small. The big plan was to walk across the Lake District from Tebay Services to Braithwaite. It was, in the end, something of a disaster. I’ll drop the full blog post here if you’d like to read the story: Lakes End 2 End: What Actually Happened.
In spite of that, I still learnt a lot – as is the way really. It’s the epics that tend to teach you most. Not that anything went badly wrong, we just miserably failed at our target. I am 100% fine with that and I feel like I’ve come a long way in recent years in learning how to laugh at my mistakes. Like they say, it’s not how you fall but how you get up – and I’m very happy to laugh it off if it’s silly enough to do so!
March – Scotland
Then before long it was March and I was off to the mountains again – this time for a Winter Week in Scotland. Read the full post for the story but we went on a 15 hour road trip up to Glen Coe, stayed a week and then had the 15 hour drive back again. Conditions on the mountains were decent and it was great to be back up in Scotland after so long. I’ve basically decided that I’d like to go for my Winter ML, (I passed my Summer ML a few years back) so I’m hoping to spend more time in Scotland’s winter mountains soon.
Other things learnt on that trip were some surprising revelations for me about how to stay warm outdoors. It’s completely changed my layering system for winter – and for the better. There was also the fairly sobering revelation about risk in the mountains. We drove past an active rescue in the valley over from our cottage and some people died on Ben Nevis days after we were in the area. As a member of a Mountain Rescue team, I’m very aware of the risks in mountains, but it really made me appreciate that actually it could be me.
April – Switzerland
Then, as if I hadn’t seen enough snowy mountains this year, I went to visit Alex for A Long Weekend in Switzerland. She had plans for evening meals on the balcony of her flat in Bern, sunny walks and sightseeing. Instead we had a foot of snow the day I arrived. We still obstinately had dinner on the balcony, huddled over our pizza. We had two great days of walking in snowy mountains – including one bizarrely close to where I’d cycled in 2016. Three, actually, if you include the day spent sightseeing in Bern where I had the time of my life going down a snow-filled slide on top of the local hill. There is video evidence.
Seeing Alex also meant putting the final touches on our adventure plan for 2019 that had been brewing since January. In March, I announced that we’d be cycling the Rhine from Source to Sea – and home back to Devon.
May – Ireland
In May things were afoot in my work life. I’d been headhunted (sort of) for a writing position with an adventure travel company. Hell yeah! I was working in the marketing department of a financial services company at the time. To give some context about how this job application progressed, I was given some writing tasks to complete as part of the hiring process. In the interview, I had to admit that I’d completed it mostly at airports and on trains in the UK and Switzerland – so I didn’t know exactly how long it had taken me. But I had to meet that deadline, regardless of Swiss trip or not.
They hired me. I handed in my notice at work and used the last of my holiday to go on a Press Trip to the Reeks District of Ireland. They were launching the Big 5 Challenge and wanted Intrepid Magazine to cover the adventures. In a crazy sweep of coincidence, I also met a colleague-to-be on the trip. I really enjoyed revisiting the Reeks District of Ireland after cycling through it in the Irish 3 Peaks Challenge. I still have unfinished business in those mountains. Plus I don’t think I’ll ever forget learning to SUP in the darkness of a Dark Skies reserve… or for that matter the restaurant crawl dinner on our final night in Ireland…!
June – New Job (LONDON)
I finished working in financial services on a Friday and started with Much Better Adventures on a Monday. It was surreal. And yes, I know that picture is clearly not London, but we’ll come onto that in a minute. I had to go into London for a few days’ induction before being free to work remotely. The people were lovely, the work was good and we all laughed at the idea that I used to keep a pair of heels under my desk. It was like flipping a switch in my life. Although I wasn’t unhappy in my previous job, I certainly wasn’t happy. It was fine, but just fine.
Bizarrely, one of the things I was most excited about was being able to add all the exciting adventurous people I’d met through Intrepid Magazine on LinkedIn. Sad right? But I guess it represented the feeling I had of being pulled in two separate directions. All my interests were charging down the adventure route – and there was my job, out on a limb, getting in the way of everything. I did not believe I could be happy in a job until I found this job. After 6 months of waiting for the catch, I still haven’t found it.
For more on that shift, have a read of:
Stop Waiting for a Lucky Break
One and a Half Years in Review – Intrepid Magazine
July – Cycling the Rhine
It was an interesting conversation with my new boss, telling her that I’d be disappearing for about 3 weeks in the summer. Luckily, if anyone’s going to understand, it’s a company that sells adventures. I had to use up every day of holiday allowance to do it, but I like to be a (hu)man of my word and Alex and I had agreed we were taking on the Rhine this summer.
For some thoughts and stories about the lead up to the Rhine Source to Sea cycle, have a read of these:
More Rhine Prep – Less than 1 Month to Go!
And We’re Off! Rhine Source2Sea Commences
Basically, as with so many adventures, it all came together very last minute. To the extent that 2 weeks before leaving, I still didn’t have a bicycle. Luckily my trusty Ridgeback Panorama arrived in the post in the nick of time. It came in the biggest box that has ever been delivered to my house to date. I had to cut the box down to a size sensible to take on an aeroplane.
The first part of the trip was complete chaos. I won’t go over again what I’ve already written, so settle down with Rhine Source to Sea: The Story Part 1 sometime. It was stranger – or rather, less believable – than fiction.
August – More Cycling the Rhine
By the time August came around we were only on the Rhine-Rhone canal still. So actually most of the Rhine Source to Sea was in August. By this time we’d kind of settled into the rhythm of it – and the expectation that everything would be going wrong. We spent a week on the kindness of strangers, then a remaining week-ish back in my tent – thanks to the wonderful people in Vaude’s customer support. If I didn’t already love my tent to the end of the earth and back, I now love it even more for being made by Vaude.
Again, I’ve got the full details of the story here: [Err, actually I still haven’t written it up yet!][Future me: here it is] . Or, if you’d like an interesting insight into the field dispatches, try: Rhine Source to Sea: I’m Back! Then, I returned to work and had the novel experience of everyone being interested in what I’d done (rather than just thinking I’m a nutter for cycling a bike). Plus I got to write about the trip and call it work. Bingo.
September – Brecon Beacons
September was meant to be my chance to do the Dartmoor Perambulation with a friend. However, as this year has been proving quite exceptionally: life happens, often when you least expect it. Despite having had the date in the diary for a year, we had to cancel.
Instead, I ended up taking a last-minute invite to an event with Salomon Running, called Run Unexpected. As most of you will know, I don’t consider myself a runner (see How I Trick Myself into Going for a Run). But the unexpected element just got me and I figured I’d just deal with the unexpected-length trail run.
It was a pretty funny experience in itself, particularly because the event was so unexpected I couldn’t get any accommodation within budget for the night before. To save myself the hassle, I simply took a tent and walked up a local hill. That was great until I arrived to discover it was covered in head-high bracken. Much more walking than anticipated later, I pitched my tent high in the hills at 11pm. A great start to the weekend.
Other things I did in September was finally finish editing a YouTube video, a la I Promised you YouTube… I filmed it some time in April and had a great time. I just need to get better at actually editing the footage! Much Better Adventures also had an Investor Party in London that I went to. Plus I also got to interview Laura Kennington, our speaker for the evening (and read her book… for work!).
October – Slovenia
In October, I spent 5 days in Slovenia… for work. Because now I work for a small adventure company who doesn’t have quarterly meetings: it has quarterly adventures. Okay, so two days of it was for work, I took one day holiday and then used the weekend. I got myself incredibly excited about going to the Julian Alps because – have you seen the mountains?!
Although many people were staying on after the work trip, no one else wanted to play in the mountains with me. So I had to Embrace the Unknown and set out on my first solo hut to hut tour abroad. I’d done lots of solo walking and hut to huts with other people, but never all that at once. But the mountains and via ferrata in Slovenia were just too good. I couldn’t resist.
My best laid plans were scuppered by early snow on Triglav and a change of route for the group. Yes, our team adventure was supposed to be climbing the highest mountain in Slovenia. Instead we ended up doing lower-level walking in the Julian Alps much further south than I’d hoped. This, and some other things, meant I almost had an epic on the day I left the group – after promising not to die.
Day two was much better and I made it up Triglav on the via ferrata route in the snow. It’s not Razor, but it was still absolutely epic. I have a lot of things to come back for in Slovenia and the mountains lived up to my excitement 100%. Got back from Slovenia and promptly my parents got a buyer for our family home. Cue chaos.
I also did an interview with Leon McCarron that completely blew my mind about how long distance footpaths are created. It’s not often someone says something that completely changes your perspective and Leon did: “… then someone hiking it will experience it the same way as you would read a book.” You can read the full interview here.
November – South Africa
It has been 15 years since I was last in South Africa to see the family. I have good memories of the last time I was there, but lots can change in over a decade. They probably thought the same looking at me: I look a bit different from when I was 11! We had a great time and I feel like I’ve reconnected with that part of the family.
This trip was also my final exam in remote working. Because, remember, I ran out of holiday in August doing the Rhine. But luckily I now work for a company where most people work remotely. I worked in South Africa, got to spend time with my family and was possibly more productive than whilst I was at home. This really does open up opportunities to see the world slowly.
Well, December has been all about Dartmoor. In fact it’s been pretty Dartmoor Rescue intensive – not with callouts necessarily, but with Christmas events and trainee recruitment and just team stuff. It’s nice to get stuck back in for a month, given how much I’ve been away this year.
Actually, I did spend some time up in Bristol for a team meeting and Christmas Party. It was hilarious and really put my life now into stark contrast to where I was this time last year. This year we had a Christmas party in a rural pub – it felt like going out with a bunch of friends. Last year I was at a 70 strong black tie dinner with a masquerade theme and a pole dancer. I feel like I’m in the right place now!
How has your year been? If you decide to do a year in pictures to celebrate the good parts of your year, do drop a link below, I’d love to see what you’ve been up to. Happy Christmas!