I know a lot of people who refuse to look back. They believe that one should only look ahead, to the future, to the things that we are heading to. This is all very well, and will certainly make you focus completely on your future goals, but if you never turn around and look behind you, how will you know how far you have come? Or see the most amazing sunsets? And what better time to allow yourself to look back than the end of the year? I’ve read a few “year in review” style posts over the last few days and have really enjoyed them. I find it interesting hearing from other people about how they feel about the year gone by, and wanted to do the same. So here I offer “My 2017”, I hope you enjoy it.
Walking in the winter sun.
At Home Adventures
In the summer of 2016 we took almost three months off work and flew over to Canada with our motorbikes for our Zartusacan road trip. We rode nearly 10,000 miles in Canada and the USA, exploring some of the best the western states have to offer. It really was the trip of a lifetime; it had taken over everything for us, all of our time and thinking (and money). By New Year 2016/17, although it had all been over for several months, I still hadn’t been cured of the post-adventure blues. They say that the biggest positive and negative of travel is that it makes your world smaller. I was so full of wanderlust that I couldn’t begin to imagine a whole year spent at home with no travel, which was the price to pay by a normal couple with full time jobs and a mortgage for going on such a big adventure. There was no regret, just a desire for more. And while I was looking forward to a great year, with some big UK based plans ahead, I was conscious that I was doing a lot of wishing for “the next big…”.
Riding in Zion National Park in 2016.
I made a conscious effort to stop wishing my life away on whatever “big” was next and make something of my 2017 even if it didn’t involve an aeroplane or another 10,000 miles on my motorbike. I filled my diary (and I mean filled…) with days out, experiences, little adventures, and a couple of bigger things. I was determined to sit here at this particular moment in time as the calendar is pushing towards 2018 with the same fondness for 2017 as I had for 2016. Would it be another life-changing year? Would I feel accomplished and satisfied? And I can confidently report that it has. My 2017 has definitely been full, adventurous, and life-changing.
A Champion of the Outdoors
My year started with the news that I had been chosen as a GetOutside Champion for Ordnance Survey, and that filled me with pride. Encouraging people to spend time in the great outdoors is something I try to do as much as possible, and to be recognised for that and given the backing of an organisation like Ordnance Survey has been truly fantastic. The launch event was in the New Forest in January, which was a great opportunity to meet fellow Champions and the team at OS. I readily admit that I felt quite inferior to begin with, but have been reminded time and time again that adventure and the outdoors is for everyone and we can all have it in our own way.
My official GetOutside photo. Awkward or what?!
In the interests of doing my bit for the GetOutside community and throwing myself right into it, I organised a walk in the Peak District for those who could make it in February. There was a handful of us who braved what felt like all the weather, and we had such a giggle as we hiked Kinder Scout. I ended up knee deep in bog, we all got cold and soaking wet and nearly blown off the Plateau, but it was a day that demonstrated what adventure can be had in the Great British countryside when you are willing to let go and go for it.
Plastic Patrol by SUP in Nottingham.
There were other GetOutside Champion adventures to be had, with better weather. I joined Lizzie Carr and her Plastic Patrol for a morning collecting plastic rubbish to help clear the waterways. And I attended Countryfile Live with the Ordnance Survey team to chat all things getting outside with whoever set foot in the pink dome.
I may have taken the branding a little far!
Being a GetOutside Champion also allowed me to share my One Hour Outside campaign with a wider audience, including those who came to hear me speak at the South West Outdoors Festival in September. It was a huge privilege to be on the Adventure Tent line-up with “proper” adventurers including Anna McNuff and Sean Conway. The first opportunity of many, I hope.
One Day Adventures
My bucket list has always been as much about short one day activities, that give me the chance to try something new and provide a great memory, as it is about the big challenges and ridiculous sounding ambitions. And in 2017 I have had a whole host of quick Tuesday afternoon or Saturday morning adventures thanks to press trips, gift vouchers and just being in the right place at the right time. In March alone I went mountain biking, caving, clay pigeon shooting, axe throwing, went camping in storms and did Go Ape. Not bad for a very wet month!
Go Ape, Rivington.
Then there was the BMW Off Road Skills course, which I know was two days but it still counts, getting to drive my dream car, a Lamborghini, around a track, and flying all over the world without leaving Boston with Flight Deck Reality. And finally, towards the end of the year I went over to Wales to take on Zip World Velocity, the fastest zip line in the world, and up to the Lake District to do the Via Ferrata at Honister Slate Mine. It’s actually amazing how many little bucket list ticks I’ve had this year, and I am thankful for every single one of them.
Riding off road in the Brecon Beacons.
Holidays and Road Trips
I am very happy to admit that I go to work so I can go on holiday (and the bills, but you know…), and even though there have been no vacations in the traditional sense of the term this year (or for a number of years… they don’t feel like me any more), there have been some brilliant trips. We spent a week with family in Center Parcs, spending lots of time outdoors and trying out all kinds of activities such as paintball. And then we headed as north as we could without getting on a ferry when we did the North Coast 500 road trip with a couple of friends, camping our way around some of the most beautiful country Great Britain has to offer.
Hanging out up on Knockan Cragg.
Walking. All the Walking.
I signed up for the Walk 1000 Miles challenge set by Countryside Walking magazine, breaking through the all important thousand back at the end of November. Not bad! My walks have been of all lengths from one mile right up to 100, and all over Great Britain. I think my favourite was probably Ingleton Waterfalls because it was just such a beautiful day, the wettest was the Harvest Hobble in the Lincolnshire Wolds where I got soaked through to the skin at about mile 13 of 26 but still managed to finish with a smile on my face, and the hardest was probably the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge which I did with a few Outdoor Bloggers members in early summer. The thing with walking and hiking is that it is just so inclusive and accessible; wandering around Painshill Park with family, exploring the Shropshire Hills in the sunshine, and testing out new kit at Ladybower Reservoir, each provide great days out and amazing memories as much as any other.
High up on the Long Mynd, Shropshire.
The biggest walk this year, and my biggest hiking challenge to date, was the West Highland Way, which I did with Jenni and Chelsea back in October. It is a week I will remember for a very long time for all kinds of reasons, and not only because I got to spend one of the days with Julia Bradbury and her TV crew to film a little bit of our adventure for a programme she’s making. I know, huh?!
Walking in Glencoe with Julia Bradbury.
The West Highland Way was a huge bucket list tick that took me clean out of my comfort zone, made me realise how resilient my body can be when I ask it to, tested my psychological resolve to its limit and made me both laugh and cry hysterically, and that still makes me grin from ear to ear when I think about it. If you’ve ever done a long distance hike, carrying your own gear on your back, then you will know what I mean when I say there is nothing like it. And it’s got me hooked; while I doubt there will be opportunity for long distance hiking in 2018, two walks have made it onto my “to plan” list, and I hope to at least set dates firmly, making my intentions known to my future self.
Hiking the West Highland Way.
I crammed 2017 so full of little experiences here and there that it has been exhausting. I’ve only really mentioned a few (and realised that I’m a little behind on my blogging as there are some key posts missing!). But it has also been fun, and I have come away more developed as a human than ever before.
I have genuinely learnt so much about myself in the last 12 months. The number one lesson for me has been to discover my passion and understand my own needs more than ever. I have also learnt that it’s okay to be a planner and a list maker even if others think you should live spontaneously and with a “just do it” attitude, that finding all kinds of emotion in scenery isn’t weird or unusual, that I really do want to do my bit to save the planet by using a lot less plastic and creating a lot less waste, that it is fine to be both a mountain and a sea person, that I don’t have to own any lipstick or know how to curl my hair to be happy, and that adventure really is something I can have and I am not misusing the term even when I am only spending an afternoon doing something I consider adventurous.
Mountain biking in the Forest of Dean.
At the start of this year I worried how it could possibly compare to that time we went on our big motorcycle adventure. But just a few days in I realised that it would match up just fine. As I sit here writing about my 2017 I am overwhelmingly reminded of how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have, grateful to those who help me fill my days with fun things, and humbled by those who support my endeavours. Even when time and funds are limited, it is possible to find so many different ways to make memories.
I hope that your 2017 has also been full of experiences you will treasure and lessons you will remember for years to come.
Caving. That’s a grimace, not a smile.
I’d love to hear from you. What is your top memory and top lesson learnt this year?
If you’ve written a review of the year please feel free to link below so I can come and take a look.