At this time of year, as everyone starts talking about Christmas decorations going up in November, “did you see the latest Christmas advert?!” and the need to get something sorted for New Years Eve, I find myself wanting to escape.
To get away from the pursuit of stuff, to get some fresh air and space.
I don’t want John Lewis to emotionally manipulate me into buying stuff I don’t need just because it’s got a picture of a jumping dog on it.
What I do want is to spend time with people who matter to me, and to focus on filling my time before the end of the year with new experiences, new ideas and a world of possibility for the year ahead.
This past year has been a big one for me. From completing my #CamTriathlon to cycling the length of the country, growing my coaching business and doing a TEDx talk, not to mention all the incredibly wonderful people that have made my life one I can say I truly love.
And this is a long way from where I was last year. In 2015, I was clueless.
I was working on a veg box business that I didn’t feel was totally right for me and had this desire to grow a coaching business but I didn’t know exactly what that looked like or how to get there. I had no idea what my next move was.
However, I did know that I had to start changing how I lived if I wanted things in my life to change. What if I used this break over Christmas to do something a bit different?
So I started, like I often do, with a small challenge.
Inspired by Al, I decided to attempt (the operative word) to cycle home for Christmas, from London to Newmarket. It was 6am on Christmas Eve and with 85 miles ahead of me my flatmate and I headed out into the early morning darkness excited for the adventure that lay ahead.
What a way to start the holidays! Full of excitement, fun and the challenge of accomplishing something new — all while everyone else was stressing out about trying to miss the mad Christmas rush on the train or in the car.
We headed off through Richmond Park and up to central London just as dawn broke. My flatmate left me at this point to join the crowds hoping on a train out west. As I left London and followed the Lee Valley north the calm contentment that I’ve come to love from adventuring on my own over the past year, settled in for the first time.
It was however, at this point, that Storm Eva (yes, it was that bad that it had been named) was also settling in and as I battled through high winds, driving rain and bouts of hail, I was still buoyed with the feeling of accomplishment as I passed through one town after the next. Who cares if I’m a bit wet and cold — this is awesome!
As the hours came and went and my progress started to slow, I knew I wouldn’t make it to my mum’s by sundown and I was starting to get a little tired of the cold. I was due to meet my old school friend and her family en-route and as I was already running 2.5 hours behind schedule I figured it was time to jump on a train to meet up with them.
As I pulled up next to the pub a short cycle from the station I was super grateful for the warmth of the fire and the beaming smiles of familiar faces that greeted me once inside. While this was the end of the cycle, as I later jumped on the train to my mums in time for dinner, I hugely enjoyed the adventure and the head space it gave me.
At the time I realised that it was the time to explore and the friends I shared the adventure with that really made it special. But looking back it had lots of other impacts too. If I could do this (almost), what else could I do adventure wise?
Plus, with all that time alone and just my thoughts to keep me company, it had given me the space to dream of how my life as a whole could evolve differently in the year to come. Where would I like my coaching business to go? Is the other business I’m working on really right for me? How could I continue this approach of living life a little bit differently?
I feel like a lot of what I’ve accomplished this year sprang from that one decision to travel home in a different way. I’d not done a challenge before that that I’d just made up, and the feeling I got from striking out on my own, even if I didn’t finish how I thought I would, was priceless. You just can’t find it under the Christmas tree or in a TV advert.
So this brings me back to today. We have exactly 5.5 weeks left until the end of 2016. How could you put the adverts, decorations and expectations to one side and challenge yourself to discover something new?
It could be to travel home for Christmas in a different way. Don’t fancy cycling, how about ElliptiGo-ing or kayaking like Andy Barlett and Laura Kennington? Or you could do any kind of adventure over the holiday period; have a go at a new form of transport, discover your local water way, or just get out of the house and into the wild from sunrise to sunset.
Currently I’m considering copying Al and walking home for Christmas — the same route as I did last year, but allowing 24 hours this time. A totally different type of challenge in terms of pace, kit and physical endurance, particularly in terms of sleep. I can’t wait to see where this adventure propels me to next year.