Hell YES!

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Say Yes More. The tagline to a weekend spent in a field somewhere in Surrey with over a hundred strangers. Sounds a bit weird if you say it like that. But it wasn’t. It was pretty damn special. A weekend festival full of camping, adventure, positivity, hugs, inspirational speakers and unicorns. Led by Dave Cornthwaite, founder of Say Yes More and the Yes Tribe, a movement designed to encourage living the life you want, outside the usual confines of 9-5 life.

It’s the kind of event that if I just wrote down what went on, it wouldn’t do it justice. Or convey the energy and the effect it had on people. It was potentially life changing for a lot of people, me included. It was an event that everyone came away from buzzing, wired and high on life. Ready to face the world and anything that was out there. Imagine the highest high and triple it, stick a unicorn on top with a cherry on its horn. I didn’t take any photos (or even turn my phone on all weekend) because I wanted to fully throw myself into the experience. So there won’t be any pictures from me. But you can find plenty on social media if you just google.

There were speakers. Inspirational people. From professional adventurers to people who had decided to live life a bit differently, or been on an adventure. All normal people, just deciding to live a bit differently. So many amazing people. Not just the speakers, but everyone who went. I’ve never been surrounded with such a brilliant bunch of people. Everyone so super positive, friendly and encouraging. This is what really made it. Two days of intensely charged positive attitude. It’s intoxicating. Like the way there’s a cheer if anyone mentions quitting their job (YES! ESCAPE!). It’s the hugs you give to and receive from strangers like you’ve been friends for years. It’s the way I only met some people for 48 hours, but already my life feels richer with them now in it. Almost a bit too intoxicating though. SO MUCH AMAZING STUFF IN ONE GO. I got totally pissed on it. And like any high, there’s been a comedown. I got a Yestival hangover. Yesterday was a bit flat. Normal life seems a bit shit after that, even though I feel my life is pretty bloody sweet as. I felt like I needed to go sit in a dark quiet room by myself. Concentrating at work on Monday was HARD. How the fuck am I supposed to follow a weekend like that?

By creating a YES LIST. Not a bucket list. Or a fuck it list. A Yes List. Stuff I’m going to say Yes to. Mine is still a work in progress. I’ve spent the last 4 years without a list, but just doing anything and everything, and it’s worked pretty well so far. But, I know sometimes [read: lots of times] I get a bit lazy and procrastinate to SHIT. So, I’m going to take Dave’s advice and have a Yes List to give myself a kick up the arse when I need it. I’ve got loads of ideas, I just need to figure out what to start first. Going part time in 2 weeks time with my new job will help. Only working 4 days and having a 3 day weekend. YES. Fridays will become Fucking Do It Fridays. F-DIF. Helps to have a handy abbreviation I find; let’s brand this shit. Joke, I’ve got no idea about stuff like that. What I mean is I will write things down in a book under a heading of F-DIF. Step in the right direction, right?

What was pretty ace for me though is that I felt like I was a proper part of it. There were people just like me. On the same wavelength. This amazing group of people and I felt like I am one of them. Not stood on the sidelines, unable to join in because I’m not quite doing what everyone else is, or that I’m not part of the clique, or that I haven’t done a massive adventure. No, I could join in. And the nice thing is that I haven’t done a massive adventure, and aren’t doing half the things that other people are or haven’t got a crazy thing planned, but it’s not about that. It’s about mindset and ideas. The mindset of saying yes, regardless of what may happen. Of taking the leap, taking the risk. Saying yes or saying no to make more room to say yes. Being open to other ways of doing things, of looking at life differently and willing to explore, just for the sheer fucking hell of it.

It helped me realise you don’t have to be a full time adventurer. Or do a crazy adventure. Or get sponsors. There are no comparisons. Just have the attitude and mindset and the rest will follow. Be aware there is a different way. Ignore the people that say it can’t be done. The people who say that you have to return to ‘real life’ eventually. Who says what real life is anyway?

I can’t mention all the speakers but I do feel I have to mention the Meek family. Parents and two kids who have been on a journey around the UK in a caravan for the last 18 months, and who are about to upgrade to a campervan and start touring around Europe. They sold their house, quit their jobs, took the girls out of school and went off on a family adventure, and aren’t about to stop any time soon. And I think that is bloody amazing. Anyone who thinks anything but what an amazing thing should meet this family. Meet the two girls who are a credit to their parents. Confident, adjusted, educated and well rounded. Speakers at the festival at ages 12 and 10. Fully grown adults would shit themselves at that, but not these girls. Are they missing out by not being at school? Meet them and decide for yourself. I’m a firm believer that education is so much more than sitting in a classroom for hours a day; the Meek family are a prime example of this. They call it ed-venture. Inspirational. I don’t have kids but if I did, well, I’d be a prime example to want to follow the Meek’s lead.

Oh, and Project Awesome. How can I not mention Project Awesome? A free fitness movement led by Danny Bent and Anna McNuff. Mainly in London but now expanding to Bristol and elsewhere. SO much fun, happiness and craziness is squeezed into these sessions and mega energy radiated out of every single person doing it. I only did a little taster session at the Festival but I know if I lived in London I’d be right there at 6:30am to start my day shouting, cheering, hugging, pledging affinity to unicorns and doing killer burpees. Absolutely fucking awesome.

I still don’t quite know what I’m here to do in life, I don’t know my purpose yet. But that’s OK, because I know I’m doing the right things to maybe eventually figure it out. Maybe I won’t ever figure it out, and maybe that’s the point. Who knows? I’ll just keep on plodding on, doing what feels right and trying new things. There were several open mic sessions to give everyone a chance to share anything they wanted. A story, a commitment, or just a comment or thanks. I didn’t, I didn’t really feel I had anything to share. I told some parts of my story to individual people, but not into a microphone. But, now I’ve thought about it, this is what I would have said “4 years ago I had an epiphany and left my job [CHEER], my home, my [now ex] husband and my cat to live life alone and head off round the world on an adventure to see what was out there. Since then I’ve said yes much more than no, and discovered things about the world and myself that I never would have dreamed of. I’ve brought adventure into my life and am not about to let that go. I’m now back in ‘real life’ but about to work part time instead of full time to give me more Yes time and carry on the adventures, big or small, and carry on trying to figure out what my purpose is.” [LOTS OF CHEERING AND SHOUTING AND WARM FUZZY FEELINGS]

That’s my story so far. Still so many pages to fill and hopefully many more adventures to come. South Africa at Christmas, that’s the next travel adventure. And next year has got a few things in the pipeline but I don’t like to plan too far ahead. Let’s see what the next few months bring first eh?

HUGE MASSIVE thank you therefore has to go out to Dave and his team who did an amazing job organising Yestival in just 8 weeks. It just shows what can be done with a bit of effort and the right attitude. I think it’s pretty certain that there will be a re-run in 2016. And in between there are Yes Tribe events popping up. Mainly in London but not exclusively. So if you like the sound of it (and come on, you have to admit, it sounds pretty fucking incredible right?), check it out, join the tribe and change your life, someone else’s life and the world.

And of course a massive thank you to every single person at Yestival. You’re all bloody ace.

Let’s go change the world.

 

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San Fun-cisco.

Thanks Ross Allen, TV creative extraordinaire, for inspiring the blog post title 😉

SF or San Francisco. People round here don’t tend to call it San Fran. Which is what most tourists seem to call it. I spent a week here. It was only ever just a stop off on the way back (because my flight tickets is a round the world I had to land somewhere in North/South America, and I’d always wanted to go to SF), I never really had any intention of travelling elsewhere. And, to be honest, by the time I got there I was just about ready to come home, so any longer than a week would have felt a bit of a drag I reckon.

No hostels this time, I stayed with a guy I met in New Zealand. Another brief meeting, I met this guy for all of 5 minutes at the hostel I stayed at in Queenstown. I was quite hungover and pretty tired; everyone else was drinking his Jack Daniels but I felt shit and went to bed early. But, in true traveller style, we swapped contact details and a month or so later he gave me his sofa for a week while I stayed here. That cool traveller hospitality. I also got to meet his very cute dog Tango.

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San Francisco is awesome. It was a bit of a culture shock from New Zealand. There’s a lot of homeless people here. And a lot of ‘interesting’ people. The area I stayed near is quite a hippy hangout so there’s a whiff of weed pretty much everywhere you go, and a lot of people talking to themselves (or people that don’t seem to be there) and just chilling/flaking out. On my first day I had someone tell me that they loved me and that I had pretty feet. Now, as soon as he said the latter I knew he was not quite with it. Pretty feet? I don’t think so. NZ is so laid back, so friendly and there’s not a lot of people that SF was a bit of a slap in the face. That’s not to say people aren’t friendly here; they most definitely are, but there’s also a lot of people that aren’t so much. Like the woman on a bus who was talking about if someone makes eye contact with her she finds it really rude and was quite specific about what she’d do to someone if they dared to look at her. I didn’t look at her. Or the man who was calling the bus driver a ‘motherf*cking b*tch’. Not sure what the driver had done to piss him off. Or the woman who was shouting obscenities at someone she was pretending to be on the phone to “f*ck you asshole, you’re not my boyfriend” before jumping off the bus and running down the street with the guy who was shouting at the bus driver. I liked going on the buses. They were interesting. Because it’s real life at it’s best. This is what it’s like people. This is real life. These people are real. They exist, they live, they travel. It’s not like my life, but that’s the thing about travel; you get your eyes opened to the world. I like being immersed and surrounded by all kinds of different people; to other people and their lives.

When I landed a heatwave started. Typical, of course. Usual temperature should have been around 18 ish degrees. For the first few days I was there it was around 30. It was hot, but not unbearable though. What did surprise me was everyone around commenting on how hot and how awful it was. I didn’t think it was too bad, but I remembered that this is an oddity for SF. Their temperatures rarely get that high, especially for days at a time. It also made me realise that I had kind of become accustomed to higher temperatures. This hopefully will bode me well should we have a hot summer in the UK this year.

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It also meant that there was none of the famous San Francisco fog for most of the week. So wherever I went I got great views. The place I stayed in had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which I could see most mornings. The city is really pretty, I loved all the coloured houses on the hills and the steps up to some of the most amazing doorways I’ve seen. The place I was staying in felt very American. It had a laundry in the basement, a trash chute and the kitchen just looked like ones I’d seen on the TV in films, with a window out that faced the neighbour’s window which was in exactly the same place. For some reason I loved how American it was, I loved the little corner shop a few doors down, and the lovely little cafes and grocery store at the end of the road. The brunch of omelette and potatoes I had at one place was to die for. It also had outlets (plug sockets) that constantly looked frightened. They made me smile every time I charged my phone.

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I had quite a busy week. A mixture of sightseeing, normal stuff, a cheeky run, a fair bit of socialising and some lazing about. Here’s a brief run down.

  • Haight Street. A road full of vintage shops, cafes, smoke shops, tattoo and piercing places and a few things in between, with all kinds of different characters milling about. A great place to just wander down and absorb the atmosphere.

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  • I went downtown (they don’t call it a CDB here) to have a wander round a couple of times. I sat in Union Square and ate my lunch, went to the Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s and walked all the way up Market.
  • I walked all the way along the Embarcadero from Market to Fisherman’s wharf, stopping at Pier 39 to marvel at the tourist tat and sea lions, and gaze out over Alcatraz (didn’t manage to get round to have a tour as it was all booked up too far in advance).

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  • I went on a tour on the back of a motorbike with a guy I’d never met before. Thank you couchsurfing for the intro, and thank you Brando for an awesome couple of hours. Great way to see the city and so cool to go down the famously crooked Lombard Street on the back of a Suzuki gszr 600.

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  • The Golden Gate Park was just a few blocks from where I was staying, so I hung out there a bit, and also managed to fit a little 4 miler in one morning too. Huge park. Well, this is America. Everything is BIG over here.
  • I treated myself to an end-of-travelling tattoo, a proper haircut and a new nose stud. I’d had my eye on a tattoo design for a while, although when I first went to the studio I left with a booking for a completely different design and size. However, when I went back we realised it might not work exactly how I wanted it so I went back to plan A. And the haircut was just fab. I went from straggly-haired-hadn’t-been-cut-in-a-year-and-a-half-traveller to nice-and-tidy-with-a-few-layers. It felt nice to do something normal and something that was a standard thing in my old life was turned into a bit of a treat and a luxury. Travelling makes you appreciate the little things.

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  • I drank mint juleps on a roof somewhere downtown with Rodin and some of his workmates, in honour of the Kentucky Derby, a bit like an American Grand National. A mint julep is a bit like a mojito but made with bourbon. Basically bourbon, mint, sugar and lime. Surprisingly tasty, especially given that I’m not a huge fan of bourbon after drinking far too much of it when I was younger. I also got to check out a SF office where their conference room was called The Batcave, their kitchen was stocked with food, including nutella and cookie dough spread and they had a fatboy hammock in their meeting area. The whole place was pretty groovy, although it was still an office, and still reminded me that I have to get a job at some point.
  • I had meatloaf for the very first time. I figured that as I was in America, I’d try something that I see mentioned on the TV all the time. It was in a trendy restaurant in the Castro area, so I’m guessing it’s maybe not like the one that everyone’s Mom cooks that isn’t that great. This was was bloody amazing!

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  • I rode a cable car. San Francisco is famous for it’s little cable cars that trundle up and down some of the hills because they are so steep. They’re pretty cute and although they’re not that fast and there are cheaper public transport options, they’re really quite handy to get from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market and are a must do for tourists.
  • I went to the How Weird Street Faire on the afternoon before I flew home. It’s a festival where anything goes. And I mean, anything goes. I saw all kinds of weird and wonderful things, costumes and people, danced in the street to some wicked DJ’s, soaked up the great friendly vibe and just marvelled at some of the amazing costumes. I loved how expressive and accepting everyone was, and amused myself by trying to picture something like this being held in Lincoln. Maybe, hey? Who’d be up for it?

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  • And of course, no one can go to San Francisco without going to the Golden Gate bridge. The iconic piece of orange engineering separating San Francisco and Marin County. The Bay Bridge on the other side of the city is actually bigger and longer, but it’s not orange. It doesn’t have the same impact. I walked across the GG bridge and back again (about 3.5 miles in total) and it was beautiful. The views up at the towers as you pass them are just fab, and the views back to the city and across to Marin County are stunning. I was lucky it was such a clear and sunny day (although epically windy) and we got great shots in every direction.

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All in all, a fun filled week, filled with new stuff, new friends, new experiences and the excitement that I’d be going home at the end of it.  It was hard not to try to wish it away the nearer my flight got, but SF is such a great city it was easy to keep myself busy and out of mischief. I could have stayed longer, but a week was about enough. I did everything I wanted to (and a bit more). Well, apart from Alcatraz, but I couldn’t help that. And besides, it’s always good to keep something back for next time.