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Finding Enjoyment

Finding Enjoyment

Sorry for the radio silence. After Tajikistan I felt the need to simply enjoy everything life had to give without writing it down and sharing it in long form. I still plan on telling the Tajikistan story - maybe some more time needs to go by. It wasn't like it was especially personally traumatic or anything, more that it gave me a new appreciation of my life due to the close edge we got to in that country. 

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What I wanted to write on here is the change in training and mindset I've had over the last six months since returning.

After returning from Tajik the priority was about fun and living life to the full. Of course I already felt I didn't do too badly at this prior last summer but I always felt I had more to give within myself and that I could be a better person in many ways - I needed a focus and this seemed a positive one to have. 

Fun was on the agenda. 

I took the pressure of needing to 'get fitter faster' off my mind with that fear of what would happen if I didn't and this changed everything. 

I started having fun with my training again. 

I had a new gym that proved empty of other people - perfect. I moved house, still in the big city but with the beauty of a large park with rolling hills (kind of) on my door step. This park created more than great hill running routes and fresh greenery, it provided me with imagination and childlike curiosity again.

Well, in my talks I like to ask the audience 'when was the last time you climbed a tree?' As a kid I was forever climbing trees, no questions asked and this kept me happy and naturally fit among the other things. I realised when I was asking these strangers, I was being a bit of a hypocrite! When was the last time I climbed a tree?! I couldn't remember! 

So as I was switching up my regular work outs and keeping it consistent, I decided that when I was home in the countryside for Christmas, I'd put the old rope back on the old wilting willow tree and attempt to climb to the top. This was something I had not done in many years. It was something that was a key part of me growing up but when I realised I had lost it years ago, I was in denial to try to learn again with the fear of failure looming over me. 

Christmas break came and I knew that in my mind it was time - I was thinking in dramatic phrases like this! 

The rope was looped onto the tree, I took off my shoes and scurried to the top in my amazement. I was me again! I can't tell you how pleased and proud I was of myself! I even called over my parents to watch (something we all used to do as kids - 'Come watch me') they weren't too impressed and I think my mum even said 'Well I've seen you do it so many times over the years, it doesn't seem so new!' Well it was new to me once again and I was thrilled. 

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I was thrilled!

After this little moment I bought a climbing rope for my London place and now I head to the park on the weekends with it in a backpack to climb up and down purely for the fun of it. Climb like nobodies watching! The rope even joined me for a weekend in Wales! 

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My point is, because I've enjoyed climbing, running and gymming again, I've naturally pushed myself and found my true self again, even getting all proud and unable to hide my excitement. I get to set achievable goals just because I want to. (My next one is climb the rope with arms only). 

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Tajikistan might have been a wake up call to enjoy these little things like climbing ropes and trees and for that I am thankful for it. I feel ready for this Arctic expedition in 2 weeks time (heading back to the chilly Finnsmarkvidda plateau!) and for the expeditions after that and after that... Let's do this!

Adventurer in the city

Adventurer in the city

The presumed opinion is that to enjoy a life of adventure, one must reject the 9-5, the fast pace of the city and the seemingly superficial lifestyle to then resort to the sticks, become a vegan and hike all day and night. This is fine to do if that’s what you want but it’s not the way I have created my expedition orientated life.

I’ll be honest, I know I’m young and relatively responsibility free (I am fully aware that many people have more commitments) but I wasn’t born with it all mapped out for me. I had to create my own path but I made it how I wanted it to be. I’m fortunate enough to have a full-time job that I enjoy and that challenges me when I am not in the remote corners of the world but a job that allows me to take the time (within reason) to continue my exploration career.

I enjoy the glitz of the city just as much as the peace and beauty of the wilderness.

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ADVENTURE ADDICT

ADVENTURE ADDICT

I've got major cold turkey. Adventure is my drug and I'm a self confessed addict. Oh how I long to be struggling in the extremes, to be questioning why I decided to push myself so far and to be overcoming adversity. 

Pretty sure it's not too good for my skin!

Pretty sure it's not too good for my skin!

It's an odd relationship I have with expedition life. I am desperate to be out but at the same time hoping I last to tell the tale. There's no hiding that the expeditions I do are hard, life threatening and at some times miserable. However those traits go hand in hand with rewarding, living and enlightening. I can't have one without the other (short term memory helps with forgetting how hard it actually is) and now I just want them all now now now. 

I find myself chatting with people and i'm looking at them, nodding my head and making the right noises but really my mind has wandered and I'm deciding on how I'm going to make my next idea of an expedition happen. 

For those people who just don't get the whole 'put yourself in challenging environment with an absurdly hard goal' I can only try to share my experiences and the benefits it has as a whole.

Really though, "why do you do it?" They ask. My answer could fill a book capable of competing with the seventh Harry Potter book. In brief; to create memories, to grow as a human being, to inspire my future self, to get perspective, to appreciate, to see the planet, to honour the planet, to live, to fill me up, to explore. I could go on.

It's an obsession that puts my life in danger, takes my money, hurts my body, strains relationships, builds relationships, takes my free time, distracts me and leaves me wanting more. Despite all this it is an obsession that I am proud to have and I think that everyone has their thing... For some, they simply haven't found it yet. What is yours?

Holiday? What holiday?!

Holiday? What holiday?!

“Going on another holiday again?”

People often think I’m off on another holiday when I commit myself to another expedition.

Truth is, I haven’t been on a holiday since 2011. Expeditions of my type are not a holiday. They are everything but. Yes, I look forward to them and get a sense of escapism from city life, but those are the only comparisons. They are hard going, they take grit and determination to get to the other side and a lot of questioning on why I’m doing it. They are often uncomfortable, scary, exhausting, make me hurt in ways I didn’t know could hurt, involve lack of sleep, (lack of oxygen a lot of the time too), are too hot or too cold, take a lot of brain power worrying and then there’s the making of quick life determining decisions. I cannot say enough how far away from a holiday they are.

The last time I went on a holiday! The difference!

The last time I went on a holiday! The difference!

Not looking my best! Sunburn, no shower, cold!!!!!

Not looking my best! Sunburn, no shower, cold!!!!!

On Denali, myself and Tim swore to each other that our next trip would be a beach holiday with no bag carrying. I can’t see that beach holiday happening anytime soon but I must say I do long to be by the Mediterranean! Of course at the same time I look forward to getting my teeth well and truly into the next big trip. It’s what I live for and I’m not complaining in any way about the toughness of them... The tougher the better!

Coughing my way up! Feeling pretty exhausted on this photo. Not a holiday but a test!

Coughing my way up! Feeling pretty exhausted on this photo. Not a holiday but a test!

The feeling of vulnerability and having to roll with whatever nature throws at you is a humbling experience. You have to know what you're doing otherwise things can easily get out of hand. Knowing you have a situation under control is a rewarding experience however, if anything goes wrong it's easy for that rewarding experience to turn nasty and life threatening. 

I know it’s a privilege to be able to actively put myself into such a challenging and extraordinary position but it is something I work hard for in order to make happen. I thrive on the better person I become after each trip and I am addicted to making wonderful, proud, incredible memories and addicted to the bonds I make with teammates that go on to become the closest friends life can give.

So next time someone uses the word holiday to describe one of my expeditions I’m going to crack down on them. I came back from Denali and it took me over a month before I had caught up on sleep and recovered. A month of bad sleep, lack of oxygen and being cold does that to you. I could not keep my eyes open after 12 noon and had to retreat to bed for 4 hours! Thankfully, I’m over that now and I’m now back after that hardship again.

This is what we woke up to every morning. We breathe in the night, our breath freezes to the tent, it snows on us in the morning. Not a pleasant start to the day and I'll never complain about getting out of bed again.

This is what we woke up to every morning. We breathe in the night, our breath freezes to the tent, it snows on us in the morning. Not a pleasant start to the day and I'll never complain about getting out of bed again.

Having hardship means that you appreciate everything again which is another addiction of mine. One moment that sticks with me after Denali was when we flew out from the glacier. A very short plane ride from the bottom of the mountain back to Talkeetna was out of this world. We went from full expedition mode in freezing temperatures on a barren mountainous landscape to landing in Talkeetna to their summer.

Leaving the mountain behind!

Leaving the mountain behind!

It was full of greenery, the smell of flowers was in the air, warmth on our skin and we were met by Sheldon Air Service crew who carried a plate full of fresh fruit all cut ready to eat! I’ve never felt so high in my life! If ever I’ve felt immensely happy to be alive, that was it!! That’s the closest that came to a holiday! (And knowing a shower could finally be had!)

My Training for Denali

My Training for Denali

Training/workouts/exercise/session/thrashing/beasting/gymming … Whatever term you use it all comes down to one focus – improving yourself physically and mentally.

I feel I can write a post about training now. I’ve been seeing real improvements over the last 3 months on the run up to my Denali expedition. It’s a real relief to see clear results of my developments because in the last year or so, moving forward with training was going at a real slow rate and injuries kept reoccurring. A few years ago I was fit as a fiddle, some may even say too fit/did too much as it later developed to injury (and when I say injury I mean running so much that I broke the bones in my feet.) Being injured really knocked me off guard and I lost my focus a little in the fear of injuring myself again.

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