Adventure withdrawal.

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since I got back from Chile. I got straight stuck into celebrating my return by promptly getting pissed for most of the weekends since I’ve been back. Whilst fun, it’s not sustainable and I knew the post-adventure blues would hit a little bit once the initial excitement/hangovers had worn off. They always do, I know exactly how it works for me:

  • Stage 1: Excitement at getting home and catching up with people
  • Stage 2: Over stimulation being around people after spending weeks in limited company
  • Stage 3: Become a hermit for a while and enjoy pottering around in my own company
  • Stage 4: Run lots
  • Stage 5: Rejoin civilisation and start socialising again
  • Stage 6: Plan next adventure

I’ve now made it through all the stages! Earlier today I booked flights to New Zealand to go over Easter. This wasn’t part of a plan and was a bit of a spontaneous decision and is mainly so I can go buy my friend Mike the beer I’ve owed him for about 3 years now. I met him in Hong Kong briefly and he lent me – a complete stranger – his truck when I was in New Zealand so I could do a road trip. He was in Oz so I never got to see him again to thank him properly. So when he moved back to NZ and the option of being able to have just over two weeks off work when only taking a few days holiday (thank you Easter bank holidays!) came up, it was a no brainer.

OK, so I’m pretty skint after Chile but this is what that savings pot that I shouldn’t touch is for. Sometimes you have to grab an opportunity when it comes up.

And so that, dear readers, is how I am flying off to New Zealand in just over a month for some (in Mike’s words) “insane hiking”. And a visit to Queenstown, NZ’s alcohol/party capital to celebrate my birthday. Expect lots of pictures of mountains, adventure stories and possibly drunken photos. But hopefully this time, wearing my own pants and no bar stool incidents.

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JFDI.


Just fucking do it.

People think this is easy for me. And perhaps it is in some ways. Now. Not always. It’s been a bit of a journey to get here. After a long time (too long) in an unhealthy relationship (for both of us) I had to redefine myself. I had become a shell of who I was. In fact, I didn’t know who I was. I remember very clearly a moment in a shop where I had to buy something for my new home when I first became single (towels I think). I was so overwhelmed with the feeling that I didn’t know what I liked any more. Because I couldn’t tell whether I actually liked something or whether I liked it because actually my ex would have, or actually because he wouldn’t have (I went through a slight rebellion phase). After putting someone else first for my entire adult life, it was completely alien to me to purely only have myself to please.

I started to realise that I could do anything I wanted. Anything. I didn’t have to check with anyone. Ask anyone’s permission. Worry about what they might think. Consider whether it fitted in with our plans. Worry that I was prioritising time alone above time with them. I could make decisions knowing I was pretty much the only person they affected. And let me tell you, that was a fucking liberation. It started with towels, but it soon grew like mushrooms in a dark damp forest. I realised I loved running more than I ever thought possible and started doing races. I discovered hiking and mountains. I started going places. I fucked off for weekends to visit people I hadn’t seen in years. I chatted to strangers and got myself embroiled in different social circles. I started saying Yes more than I said No. I started travelling on my own. I tried new things.

And I realised the whole fucking world had started to open up.

I saw a life beyond my front doorstep. I saw different viewpoints and ways of life. I realised ‘normal’ was only what you made it. I understood what it was to fail. And figured out that actually, there is no failure, just a way to learn. I realised that by doing stuff, I was educating myself. Developing, growing, however or whatever you want to call it. By doing the same stuff I’d always done, I would get what I’d always got. I didn’t want that. I found new stuff exciting, the unknown becoming this mythical magical land where I wanted to skip around forever. I didn’t want to know what was happening next. Like a child, I wanted every day to bring me something new.

And that shit won’t come to you. It’s up to you to go out there any get it. It means going out of your comfort zone. It means seeing something and wanting a piece of it for yourself. It means putting yourself out there. It means taking risks and being scared. It means making yourself vulnerable and open to hurt. It might mean sacrificing stuff, whether that’s money, material things, relationships or careers. It means looking deep inside you and trying to figure out what your gut feeling is telling you. And going with that gut feeling. It means ignoring what other people might think or feel and doing it anyway because it means so much to you.

When I was little my Dad told me that I could do or achieve anything I wanted, and that the only person to stop me was myself. Somewhere along the line I’d forgotten that. As adults, we quite often do. We get bogged down with ‘real life’ that seems to be driven around those life events we’re expected to achieve; job, house, partner, marriage, children, retirement, with a nice two week beach holiday each year if you’re lucky. Why shouldn’t real life be the dream? What are we waiting for? Financial security? To be a grown up? We’d be waiting forever.

Alongside this I’d been told in my relationship that I was an idealist and a dreamer. That I should be realistic and that life was as it was and I should be grateful. That I was stupid for thinking there was more than work and the weekends and the occasional weekend away. That I couldn’t do some of the things I wanted to. That I wasn’t good enough to achieve stuff.

I never believed that. Not deep down. I just let it slide until I couldn’t any more. Until I realised that one day if I didn’t start to do the things I wanted to then I’d get to an age where I couldn’t. And I’d regret it. And one think I don’t want in this life is regrets. Or regrets of things I haven’t done.

So one day, I thought “F*ck it, Do it.” And I did it. And then I did it some more. Yes, I was nervous. Yes I was scared. Yes, I had a crisis of confidence. Yes, I didn’t think I could do certain things. I still don’t. But, how do I know if I don’t try? Only one way to find out. I let go of any fear of failure, because now I know there is no failure. Giving things a go and trying does not mean you will let anyone down. It means there will be no ‘what if’s’. If you’re going to do something, give it your best shot and see what happens. The unknown is scary, like a dark wooded forest. But it’s also a forest where unicorns skip around and rainbows shine once you get in there.

Someone told me yesterday “You’re the person I want to be. Carefree, not frightened to make a decision”. I told them they can become that person. They just need to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fuck it, do it. Think ahead in the future and figure out the worst case scenario. Is being unhappy but not rocking the boat for the next 10 years better than ripping a plaster off and short term pain? Hanging around the bottom of a rainbow with no pot of gold or riding on the top with sunbeam in your face and a view to beat a million.

Life is too short to hold yourself back. To be the best version of you that you can be. To live a life true to yourself. To exist in black and white.

And I’m not just talking about skipping off around the world or adventure if that’s how you’re reading this. I’m talking about anything you want to do but are unsure of. Learning a new skill, deciding whether to try a new activity, being more sociable, taking the kids on holiday, leaving a relationship, starting a new one, giving the cute girl in Boots your number, running a marathon, quitting your job, applying for a new one, getting a new hairstyle. Literally anything. Everyone is different. You have to figure out what it is that makes you happy and remove those barriers you stick up.

Ah yes, those barriers. Money! Mortgage! Kids! Job! “I can’t just drop everything”.

For example, travel. We’ve all seen the internet memes. Go explore the world. It’s that easy!

No, it’s not. BUT. It’s not impossible. Actually, it’s a lot easier than you think. But people don’t even start to look.

If you really want to do something, you can do it. You might just have to be a bit creative about how you do it. Or it might take you a long time. But it is achievable.

Got a job? How about asking for a career break or unpaid leave? How about quitting or working abroad? If you don’t ask, you don’t know. You might even get a better job when you come back. People forget if you go travelling and aren’t paying all your bills, you don’t need to earn a shed load of cash (e.g. when you come back) straight away. Think about the skills your travel can add to your CV. The stuff you can learn.

Mortgage? Rent your house out. The rental market is strong. Get a professional house sitter. Air bnb it. Save up extra to cover your mortgage. Sell your house and move into a caravan.

Kids. OK, a little trickier. But again, not impossible. Take them with you. The life education they will get will be immense. I met quite a few families when I was travelling. The kids were amazing (like the Meeks). Go in the summer holidays. Go on different types of trips. Make them into adventures.

“It’s so expensive”. Well, this is subjective. If you want to stay in 5* hotels then yes, it probably will be. There are so many ways to travel. It is NOT an extended holiday. Go to countries where it is cheap as chips (£5 a night guesthouse in SE Asia for example). How about volunteer programmes where you get your food and accommodation covered? Cycle trip and camping? No accommodation or transport costs. Set a budget and save up for it. Stop buying a coffee and lunch every day. Do you really need that 10th pair of shoes? Rent a room rather than a whole flat. Walk to work and get rid of the car. Don’t go out so much, or stop some of that expensive hobby (or cut down). Honestly, if you really want it, then you can achieve it. It just takes a bit of effort.

When you’re sat in a nursing home thinking back on your life, what do you want to remember? All the extra hours at work, the big TV and the flashy car? Or the moments that count. That sunrise, that look on someone’s face, that time you gave something to others? The time you took a risk or tried something new. Who gives a shit what the outcome was? You’ll remember giving it a go.

So why not try it? Go on, see if there’s something you can give a go. Something you’re maybe not sure of? Something you’ve been putting off?

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Day #34 03.02.16

This week I remarked to someone how I missed my walk to work. Last time I did a photo a day I had a half hour walk each way morning and evening. I saw so much and had so much stuff to possibly take pictures of, or things that made me think. I don’t really have that now. I have a 1.5 hour drive to work, but I don’t really see much, as I’m concentrating on the road and listening to the radio. There’s certainly not much time to stop and take pictures. It does make me a bit sad. I miss the fresh air too, and being outside.

So today’s picture is me in the car. As when I’m in the office, I spend a lot of time in it getting there.

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Day #23 23.01.16

Today was a Ronnies Sex Shop (deliberate no apostrophe) t-shirt day. In between doing BMF, having a haircut and going out with BMF buddies at night I lazed around at home. This t-shirt is from South Africa and I wouldn’t really wear it outside in real life as I’m not that keen on the idea of walking around in public with the word Sex splayed on my right boob. So it’s saved for home use only. Loungewear if you will (ha! Loungewear=all the old/shit clothes that are so comfy they’re nearly falling apart or you wouldn’t be seen dead in public).

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Day #17 17.01.16

Home sweet home. After around 24 hours of travelling, I was finally home. The fire went straight on (my lovely neighbour had already put my heating on about an hour or so before so it wasn’t such a shock, but I was still cold, haha). I wasn’t ready to come home, but I kind of had to, and there is always something really lovely about coming home after being away. And I love my little flat here in Cheltenham, I really do. So it wasn’t so bad.

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Day #16 16.01.16

My last day in Cape Town and South Africa. My flight wasn’t until 6pm so I had most of the day before I had to be at the airport dropping Figaro off at about 3. I had two choices; a) either sit around and count the hours of waiting to go home (and also have to check out of my apartment at 11) or, b) go and do something with the day and make it count. So I chose b). Of course.

I decided to go tag along to a Saturday session with BMF South Africa (you’ll probably know I do BMF – British Military Fitness – in Cheltenham so I decided to see how they did it in CT) so I checked out at 7.15am, chucked my bag in the boot and trundled off in Figaro to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens to find the meeting point. 4 conversations with different people at two different locations later, I just about managed to find where I needed to be (apparently there are two ‘Top gates’ at Kirstenbosch depending on who you speak to) and bounded up to the only group of people gathered round who looked like they might be about to hike up a mountain. Because their Saturday session wasn’t a round of burpees, press ups and the like. No, their session today was a hike up Table Mountain. Which was fine by me. Although I was secretly fearing they might make us do killer burpees at the top or something. I didn’t know – they could have been massive hardcore athletes for all I knew. Luckily for me this was more of a sociable Saturday jaunt so although it was a tough hike (pretty much straight up to the top of the mountain scrambling and climbing up rocks, ladders and waterfalls in 30+ heat) we were rewarded with a swim in a lake at the top (yep, who knew there was a lake at the top of Table Mountain? Not me.) rather than burpees.

So I got to hike a mountain, go for a swim in a lake, catch some rays and meet a new bunch of people. Now that’s what I call making the most of my last day.

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Day #13 13.01.16

Today was more driving to get to Cape Town. Again I hadn’t actually planned on getting to Cape Town today but I changed my mind while driving and decided to push on round the coast road (through some SPECTACULAR scenery) and get to Cape Town. And I was rewarded. I decided to book a hotel in the Seapoint area as I’d not stayed around there before and after getting upgraded to the biggest hotel suite I’ve been in yet (it’s bigger than my flat at home!) I dumped my stuff and got outside to explore and went for a stroll down the Atlantic Seaboard promenade, which is basically a massive seafront prom all the way along the coast for a few miles. Full of people running, skating, walking etc. My kind of place!! Loved the feel of it.

And THIS is the backdrop. Signal Hill, Lions Head and Table Mountain (which, in this photo, is underneath the big white cloud. Honest.). Beaut eh?

Oh yes, I could live here….

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Day #12 12.01.16

Today was a day of driving. Hours of it. From Storms River Mouth to Swellendam. Around 370 km. I wasn’t originally going to end up in Swellendam to overnight but I changed my mind while I was driving and decided to push on a bit rather than stop in Stillbaai which is where I’d planned to stop. But the weather was shit and it was another 20 odd km down to Stillbaai from the N2 so pushed on and ended up in Swellendam and found a fab little hostel, where I got my own room and became anti social Tara. It was GREAT.

I’m loving driving in South Africa, it’s a real pleasure rather than an ordeal. The roads are mostly great condition (well, the tarred ones anyway), they’re wide and have yellow lanes (for people to move over into so faster cars can overtake), people generally don’t seem to be in a mad rush, there’s WAY less traffic than the UK, there’s always so much to look at (scenery, people, animals, people crammed into the back of pick up trucks hanging on for dear life etc.) and for some reason I really like 4 way stops. Singing along in the sunshine to music blaring out from some SA radio station or other (my favourites were Goodhope and Five FM) while driving with mountains all around is a damn good driving experience in my book.

Figaro the hire car is a delight to drive, even if he does need a run up to get up hills or overtake. ESPECIALLY if you have the A/C on (which, let’s face it, I’ve not turned off since I picked him up). But I drove old minis for years, so I’m used to that.

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2015. What a year eh?

Right so let’s just say this; I’m not going to go through everything that has happened in 2015 because: 1) it would take too long, 2) I can’t remember everything without looking at my diary, 3) I can’t be arsed and need to get to sleep soon as I have a 5.30am alarm call and 4) I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine (I’m currently staying in South Africa in the WINE region, COME ON…) and it’s taking all my energy to type properly.

BUT.

What I can say is that 2015 has been pretty fucking awesome. A bit of a rollercoaster at times, but hey, isn’t that just life?

On 2nd January 2015 I moved myself and my meagre belongings in a van (first time driving a big van, and 9 hours driving in one day, the same 3 hour route 3 FUCKING times, ouch) to a place called Cheltenham. I didn’t really know the place, and only knew one person there. I figured it would be an adventure and it seemed like a place I’d like to live, and it wasn’t Lincoln. I actually didn’t think much further that than. It had hills and outdoor stuff, that seemed like generally enough to pique my interest.

And it has lived up to it’s expectations. To be fair, I didn’t have many. I was just pleased to be living by myself again and having my own place. After 2 years of travelling around and staying with people, it became pretty damn important to have a front door I could shut on the world. And I did when I first moved, I didn’t want to talk to anyone new for a couple of months. I was actually quite happy to not be doing this but it got to about March and I figured I really should. And I did, and I’m glad I did. I finish this year thinking about all the people I have met along the way, and there’s a lot, and it’s been, well, interesting. And special. I made more friends than I maybe thought, and I’ve met some pretty amazing people.

Because people are what make the world go round. Before I went travelling I used to read travel blogs that would always say “it’s the people you meet”. And I wondered what they meant. But now I know. When I was travelling, I DID meet some incredible people, and they’re some of my best memories of my year away. And this year, it’s been the same. I’ve done some cool stuff, but I’ve also met some cool people. Them, and their stories, is what life is all about.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my alone time (not to be confused with quiet time Donna, that’s different, although I obviously enjoy that too) and in fact, I really, really, really needed this bit of time right now where I’m travelling by myself and spending the majority of time alone. Yep, I love it and need it, and if I’ve been too busy and sociable I have to make sure I get some. 22 hours travelling to another country? YES – BLISS because I sit on a plane by myself and don’t have to speak to anyone. Yay.

But also I love people, I love being sociable. I love the more the merrier nights and bringing people together. I love a good chat, laugh and a beer. Standard.

So I guess I want to end 2015 saying a massive THANK YOU to everyone I know that touches my life in one way or another. And I think there’s a lot of people that maybe don’t realise they do. And I should tell them. Maybe not publicly here, or on Faceache or similar, but if there’s someone in your life that makes a difference, then tell them. I will be doing. You’ve made my 2015 special and brilliant.

I was looking to see what I posted last December but I didn’t write anything, I was having a blogging break if I remember. I did post in early February though. I even made some kind of plans and stuff to do in 2015. Ha, I’d totally forgotten those, and never looked back over them. Hmm, I didn’t get round to doing them all but I gave it a good crack. Some were a bit of pipe dream, and maybe stay on the list for next year. There’s some new stuff too. Should I write it down? Nah, I’ll leave it for later.

I end 2015 in South Africa; not somewhere I thought I’d be for a while (although I knew I’d be back, I kept the plug adaptor in the divorce settlement, haha) and spent New Years Eve taking a drive down to the coast and to the southernmost tip of Africa. Keeping my travelling itchy feet at bay for a little bit I hope, and getting some Africa sunsets. Not sure where I will end up in 2016 or what will happen but that’s all part of the adventure, and keeps my life interesting. I’ve got a few ideas but a year is a long time and a lot can change. So we’ll see.

I’m a change-anything-you’re-not-happy-with-any-time-you like person, but I do like the start of a new year to start some shit. Not resolutions as such, but just as good a time as any to punch the shit out of some stuff. This year, I start with the first few months dedicated to being healthier and getting fitter. I need to do some actual training for a bike ride I’m planning at Easter and if I don’t, then I’m going to suffer. So I better get my shizzle sorted. Anything else after that will be a bonus.

This is a bit of a rambly but short post, not quite with mega meaning or structure but I’m running out of time as I need to go to sleep as my alarm is going off tomorrow at 5.30am as I’m off on a big hike early to beat the fierce sun. This is probably the only year I’m starting as I mean to go on – healthy and not hungover!

But a couple of messages before I finish. Firstly, THANK YOU for reading. I write this blog mainly for myself as I just enjoy writing about whatever is in my head but if you like to read it then thanks, it means a lot. Two, the photo a day project is returning! Starting from tomorrow, I’ll post a picture a day. Might be a bit late over the next few days because of Africa wifi #TIA issues but they will be there. I did my last one in 2012 which for some reason a lot of people enjoyed. I suspect it’s because it was my first single year and so I did a lot of stuff and it was a bit all over the place. In a way I suspect this year might be a bit more settled/rounded although I actually probably do a lot more crazy/interesting stuff now.

Three, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Whether 2015 was amazing or shit for you, I wish you all the best in 2016. May you make it a year to remember. May it be filled with love, laughter and happiness. May you weather the storms with a smile and a laugh, and a determination that life will not beat you. Grab life by the balls and if you’re not sure about something, then maybe using my mantra will help:

Fuck it, do it.

Live life, don’t just exist. Don’t be scared to do anything, it’s never as bad as you think, and there are ALWAYS people looking out for you.

Go smash the shit out of life!!

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