adventure

The contradictions within me

What is it about human beings and all our contradictions? 

I’ve been feeling a bit mellow the past few days. A bit itchy. Yes. Mellow AND itchy. I feel down. I don’t want to do anything. But I’m really really itching for an adventure.

Just now, after flicking through my Facebook feed, I thought, “All I want to do is to go somewhere where I can completely distance myself from other human beings.” Yet only 30 minutes earlier I told my husband, “I need to get out and go somewhere where there are other human beings.”

Yesterday I was watching Come Dine With Me on TV. One of the contestants lived in a beautiful old home in the English countryside. She had her own lake in her back garden. So I thought, “I’d love to have a grand old house in the English countryside with my own lake.” The reality is that when my husband and I got serious about buying a larger home, I ended up feeling completely overwhelmed, I couldn’t find anything that lived up to the much smaller house we currently have, and I was the one who decided that we’re fine just where we are. So it was mission abort.

I love beautiful things. I love walking through the shops and looking at all the wondrous things that have been created by my fellow man. Then I look at the price tag and realize there was no way on earth I’d be willing to spend that kind of money on something no matter how nice it was.  (more…)

Smashing the UK national three-peak challenge

Ever since I was a little girl…

…is NOT where the story of this next grand adventure begins.

In fact, I can think of only one grand adventure of mine (which happened not to be sport or activity related) that originated in my childhood. I’m constantly coming up with new dreams and new ideas for adventures.

This story actually starts here:

I'm not sure which mountain this was taken on. The backgrounds in our pictures on all three summits are almost identical. Let's just say it was bleak.

I’m not sure which mountain this was taken on. The backgrounds in our pictures on all three summits are almost identical. Let’s just say it was bleak.

Ever since about four years ago when I first heard of the UK’s national three-peaks challenge, I’ve wanted to give it a go.

I have no idea who thought of this idea or when. I’m not even going to look it up to tell you about it because to me, that part is irrelevant. The national three-peaks challenge is about hiking up the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in a period of 24 hours.

It’s not an official race. There are no official times. There aren’t marshals or registration forms. There’s no one to announce you’ve accomplished the task. There are no certificates at the end or event T-shirts. There isn’t a specific day to do it, although I hear throngs of people choose to do it on June 21, the longest day of the year.

You just go out and do it.

I’ve been nagging my husband ever since I heard of this being “a thing” that we go and do it ourselves. He had already done it twice. He wasn’t enthusiastic in any way to do it a third time. I couldn’t understand why. My husband is huge on physical activities and challenges. But after four years of nagging and an opportune relatively free summer, he obliged.

He put together a team of five. It’s better to have a few people with you because the challenge involves an incredible amount of driving. Only days before our set date, two of the five pulled out, leaving us with a small team of three: me, my husband, and one of his work colleagues who also, it just so happens, was our third team member on our grand cycle from London to Paris in three days only three years ago.

I knew the national three-peaks challenge would be challenging. It wouldn’t be called a challenge otherwise. (more…)

Getting the Post-Marathon Blues…Pre-Marathon

I’ve long known I have a lousy personality. I’ve written as much many times. In five days I’ll be trying to Barcelona Marathon 2013run a marathon after months of training and all I can really think about is: and then what will I do?

While I was training, I read lots and lots of articles on running. One of the things that really stood out was the amount of material available on post-marathon blues. There I was, hating almost every single minute of my training: the boredom, the loneliness, the freezing cold, the rain, the snow, the mud, the puddles, the pain, the injuries…and there were people out there telling me that once it was all over I’d feel depressed. They were saying that all that training gives the runner a sense of purpose and a routine. Once it’s done, runners feel loss. It all sounded crazy to me. I couldn’t wait for it to all be over.

Yesterday I did my last training run and I already feel a horrible sense of loss. Training for this marathon took over my life for many months. My whole life revolved around my training schedule, my workouts with my personal trainer, and my visits to the physiotherapist. I ate to fuel myself up, iced and stretched to recover, swam to get rid of lactic acid, saunad to relax tight muscles. I put many other activities on the side burner because I needed my weekends for the long runs and non-activity days to rest.

And now it’s all done.

I’m freaking out about the marathon, of course. (more…)

The pros, cons and responsibilities of popularizing adventure

This morning I woke up to the news of ten people dying when two helicopters collided while filming a French survival reality television program. This horrible accident has me questioning, yet again, the wisdom – or lack thereof – behind popularizing highly risky adventure activities through reality television.

Several weeks ago, British television aired a two-part documentary about a British adventurer trekking the length of the Nile River. While on the trek, the adventurer and his guide, at this stage completely on their own, had to walk through territory they knew was under the control of armed men. They clandestinely filmed an exchange in which they gave the armed men some of their gear in order to secure their passage through the territory. Later, in the same documentary, a journalist and his photographer came across the adventurer and asked to join them for part of their trek. Apparently they were heading in the same direction. They were welcomed by the adventurer, who continued on his way to trek by the side of the Nile, during the daytime, in exposed 50-Celsius heat. The journalist got heat stroke. Due to the nature of this particular trek, the emergency evacuation available to the adventurer was hours away. All that could be done was to set up a makeshift shade for the journalist and try to cool him with the little amount of water the group had. The journalist died. The adventurer appeared incredibly sad. The end of the documentary showed a black screen with the picture of the journalist and a nice “In memory of…” And viewers were expected to then watch the second part of the documentary the following week and cheer the adventurer on for the remainder of his journey.

I felt insulted. A man died, in my mind and from what we were shown, directly as a result of this group engaging in unacceptably risky behavior, and I was expected as a viewer to take this in my stride as being normal and expected. I was supposed to accept that the adventurer continued on his trek, continued to film, and continued to enjoy and revel in his own experiences. I refused to watch the second episode of the documentary the following week. Not that it mattered to anyone.

I believe it is one thing for an individual to engage in risky behavior only at his or her own expense. But that it is a completely different and unacceptable thing to take inexperienced people under one’s wing while engaging in such behaviors. Much worse, I believe, is popularizing this sort of activity in a way that undermines the seriousness of the activities involved. (more…)

Life’s Lessons: Marathon Training and Doing What’s Right

I’ve done everything humanly possible to do this right. Yet it doesn’t seem to be working. Today, or tomorrow, or in the coming few days, I might have to make a very difficult decision that will leave me frustrated, to say the least. But it won’t be the end of the world.

I’ve said this now many times: I find running particularly challenging. I’ve engaged in many types of physical activity in the past few years. I go to the gym and workout. I hike. I cycle. I dive. I’ve climbed tall mountains and cycled across a continent. I’ve had to train very hard to do both. I’ve had to endure pain, cold, wet, mud, heat and disappointment in my activities as well. But for some reason, at least in my head, none of that compares to the challenge of running and trying to be good at it.

It is specifically because I find running so difficult that I decided to challenge myself and train to run a marathon. I started running about six years ago. So I’m not exactly a beginner runner. I incorporated running into my general training regime to keep fit and healthy.

But I only started trying to become a stronger runner about three years ago. My husband encouraged me to sign up for a 10km race. I had never done anything of the sort. I wasn’t sure I could even run that far. With some training, I did. Then I ran another. And another. They were all very challenging. I almost gave up on my second 10km race. I was the third or fourth from last to cross the finish line in that race. I could have given up then. Instead, I decided that I needed to figure out how to become a better and faster runner. (more…)

Looking Forward to a Year that Begins With Spring

In my head, my year begins with spring. I always feel surprised when I notice friends suddenly talking

One of many wonderful memories from the spring of 2014.

One of many wonderful memories from the spring of 2014.

about the end of one year and the start of another as the end of December nears.

It makes me feel rushed. “But wait!” someone inside my head remarks. “I’m not done yet! There’s still more to come!”

Spring is where everything starts for me. I organize my years from spring to spring. Springtime is when I try to go on an adventure because it’s usually the best time of the year for that sort of thing. Spring comes, I go on a wonderful adventure, come home, wind down, have a fabulous summer with my children, start wondering what I should do next year, and then I start training for it through the winter months until springtime and my next great adventure arrives.

Right now I’m smack in the middle of my winter training regime. In the spring of 2014 I went on a properly grand adventure. I cycled for two months across Europe almost completely on my own. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life. It would be great if I had the money and the time to be able to commit to that sort of an adventure every year. But I don’t. So my current big plan for the spring of 2015 is to try to run a marathon. I have a one-day adventure planned that is taking me months of training to get to. I have no idea if I’ll manage to make it. (more…)

Travel, a Longing, and the Ultimate Destination

There is a longing inside of me. 

I can suppress it for weeks at a time. But eventually it resurfaces in a way that I can no longer ignore.

There is a longing inside of me.

That longing has shown me how big and beautiful the world beyond my tiny little one can be. It has shown me that within me lies another world the depths of which I’ve barely touched.

That longing has taken me places. It has taught me things. It has pushed me beyond every limit I thought I had.

There is a longing inside of me.

That longing has placed me face-to-face with my fears and anxieties and has told them to go fuck themselves because I’m going to do this anyway.

That longing has shown me how I can be incredibly weak yet exceptionally strong in the same moment.

That longing has made me dream. (more…)

What Real Reality TV Might Look Like: My Life in a Month

I tend to watch a lot of crap reality TV. It helps take my mind off more serious issues: like wars and death in the Arab world and whether my children will be safe going to school in Egypt today.

But being the semi-intelligent person I am, I realize that most if not all of what we see on reality television shows is staged in one way or another.

A couple of my friends have mentioned over the past two years that I should have a reality television show of my own. I always reply, “Do you have any idea how boring and commonplace my life is? There would be absolutely no element of entertainment.”

Of course, my life isn’t really boring. Quite to the contrary, if you ask me. I manage to spice things up as often as is possible given my circumstances. Even so, my life, as is anyone else’s, is comprised of a lot of routine interspersed with some excitement.

Last month I had a sudden burst of creative energy. I wanted to do something a bit different. How about I take small videos of random parts of my day for a month and see what that month of my life looked like in retrospect?

So I carried a mini camera with me all month long. It went with me everywhere. Sometimes I’d remember I had it with me and others I wouldn’t. When I would randomly remember I had it I’d take a short video clip of whatever it was I was doing. I kept that up for a full month.

I put together some random four-second clips from the videos I took. I thought of making it move fast-forward or of adding some music to it. But then I decided that the normal speed and the normal noise is what my life is really like. I’m going to leave things just as they are. Normal.

(more…)

Memories of an Adventure and the Gifts It Brings

It has been exactly two months since I returned from my cycling trip across Europe. I remember arriving into Tallinn, my final destination, as if it was yesterday. It was a very rainy day. My husband and I were exhausted. Colin had joined me for the last two weeks of the trip. We spent hours finding a place to stay for the night. I didn’t really have any special sense of accomplishment. Cycling 100 km per day had become a normal everyday thing for me. I just wanted food, a shower, and to get some sleep like I did every night for the past 61 days.

When I finally got home to the UK, my mother-in-law told me I must feel very proud. I didn’t really. I was just happy to be home.

It has taken two months, but it has finally started to settle in.

After the trip, I focused on settling back into my normal home routine. There were days when I struggled, but generally it was an easy and comfortable transition. Now that I am properly settled, my mind has sometimes wandered off, remembering all those days alone on the road. The one thing that really triggers the memories is when I consider getting on my bike for a short ride. I haven’t been on the bike since I got back. I’m finding the thought extremely intimidating. “Cars are dangerous,” I tell myself. “There are lots of hills in this area and you might skid and get hurt,” Little-Man-In-My-Head convinces me. I’ve always been like that. Those thoughts are not new to me. I eventually overcome them to start training for something new. But when I consider that those are my normal thoughts and that nevertheless I managed to cycle myself across the whole of the European continent…well…DAMN! (more…)

A Life of Adventure Impossible to Have

It’s back. 

The restlessness.

I almost thought I was cured.

I came back from an amazing two months of cycling across Europe and I finally felt content.

I was happy just recovering from the after-pains, relaxing and reading a book, watching my crappy reality television shows.

I found pleasure cooking for myself and for my family at home after two months of eating at restaurants.

I was enjoying testing out my general fitness by going back to the gym and by trying to run again. I discovered that I had great lower body strength, I ran 5km faster than I ever had before, my cardio was going strong, but I have zero upper body strength, my hamstrings aren’t stretching the way they used to, my knees make crunching sounds whenever I go up stairs, and I feel lots of pain all over my body after a normal workout at the gym.

I’ve been back for 19 days. It’s only been 19 days. And I feel – again – that something significant is missing from my life.

I need purpose. I need a project. I need to be doing something. But not just anything. I need something I can be passionate about again. (more…)