Exploring Mindsets: the voyage to change a lifetime
We live in a time of constant change where the importance of our actions have a wider reach and impact more so than at any other time in our existence.
Combining an ocean voyage with a programme of specialist workshops designed to stimulate and focus your passions and areas of expertise into an effective future path, join Emily Penn and I on a life-changing 8-day journey across the Caribbean, on S.V Sea Dragon.
We’re offering a special opportunity to experience an environment that provides a true escape from society and the daily distractions of land, allowing freedom to think and develop new ideas with a like-minded crew at the same time as having a unique adventure.
Departing from cosmopolitan Miami, Sea Dragon will trace the length of the Florida Keys before spending 24 hours anchored off Garden Key. Steeped in history and beauty hidden by the shifting sands, the uninhabited desert islands of the Dry Tortugas offer the perfect opportunity to spend a day snorkelling on remote reefs in pristine, turquoise waters and exploring the other-wordly Fort Jefferson, watching the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico.
Experience the joy of feeling Sea Dragon in her element, sailing the wrong way against the wind and the Gulf Stream until she rounds the western tip of Cuba and enters the Caribbean Sea, leaving a final leg of the voyage into Georgetown, the capital of the Cayman Islands.
Emily and I would love you to join us on this voyage. We honestly believe it has the potential to change your life, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.
The man in a royal blue long sleeved football shirt pause, the number on his back half worn away by time. His legs are split at 90 degrees beside his wheelbarrow, into which he’s been packing the mounds of seaweed that washed up onto the beach during the early morning tide.
He straightens up and looks left, then right, and then up at the skies from where the rain has begun to gently fall. Sunny and clear just ten minutes earlier, a light grey has replaced the sharp colour of usual. The man shrugs and continues his work, which has left a clear rectangle of sand surrounded by seaweed. It’ll make a perfect pitch, later.
Only two kids kick a football around, although soon there will be a hundred or more. The smaller children, not yet strong or quick enough to compete, enjoy a ready-made sea saw in the form of a redundant dhow and outriggers. Others sprint up and down, deftly keeping a bicycle wheel rolling with the odd whack of a hand.
Small, half-domesticated cats stroll happily through the grounds of the lodge, occasionally casting a glance into the trees to trace the buzzing of a fly or, more likely, the rustling of a red colobus monkey. Another cat, not interested in the antics of his primate neighbours, has eyes fixed on two soldier ants which scuttle around beneath its nose. They’re each a full inch long, yet the aimless pattern of their trail decreases their menace.
My world, only last week soundtracked by the sirens and taxi horns and occassional arguments of a cold London, now enjoys the brief patter of rain on the thatch and the cheeping of baby birds in their hidey hole, a tinkle from the kitchen and happy, rhythmic chatter from the clusters of immaculately dressed women sprawled around the edges of the beach.
Gladly, one sound hasn’t changed. The thuds beside me signal the arrival of coffee. Good morning, Zanzibar.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to present the Derbyshire Young Adventurer’s Awards as part of the Buxton Adventure Festival, and as part of my duties I introduced a series of short films. They’re all great and I thought they deserved to be shared to as many people as possible, so every day this week I’ll be doing just that.
Each film has some magic to it. From the effort it takes to capture and edit even short films to the skill, creativity and sometimes majesty of the subject(s), each one of these did what a good film should do: transports the viewer to a different place.
First up we have Light Line by Jean-Baptiste Chandelier. Graceful and gorgeously shot, this will redefine whatever you previously thought about paragliding and will make you realise that perhaps we’re not so far from being able to fly.
Well, 2013 is winding down and a dramatic relocation has just occurred. What better way to finally prove that a laptop is all you need for an office these days than to position oneself in a tropical paradise for two months.
But this isn’t intended to be a smug journal entry (although I’ve already had a couple of friends suggest they’d be willing to kill for this white sanded, crystal blue watered view of mine). It’s been a strange, adaptive year, thrown into the unknown by a spinal disc ruptured by a clumsy slip while carrying an elliptical bicycle down some steps, as you do.
That was the first expedition in my life I’d have to call off earlier than expected. Luckily, by then the thousand mile mark was already long gone so the journey would still count towards my Expedition1000 project, and although hindsight assures me that running on over the Alps for a further 500 miles was both foolish and physically traumatic, that blind need to accomplish a previously set goal thankfully subsided in tune with my body’s declining ability. Sometimes, you just need to be able to react to your situation, regardless of perceived failure.
I had always thought that Nice would be a good spot to end a journey, anyway. It was time to rest.
Without doubt, eagerness overcoming common sense led to an overly premature return to action, and 46 hours of non-stop football just 6 weeks after Nice almost certainly cost me a couple more months of fitness. Lessons, lessons…
Since adventure started flowing through my formerly apathetic and chronically lazy veins I’ve mercifully avoided serious injury and I suppose, have always taken my youthful health for granted. Then, a groaning back screaming with mirth after just a simple rise from a chair jolted me into reality. I was in too much pain to even consider the possibility of going on another journey, let alone begin planning one.
So for the first time since adventure became a constant in my life, I was forced to go small because big just wasn’t an option.
All this ‘adventure is just a mindset’ talk is absolutely bang on. Apart from being faced with the horror of staying in England for more than three solid weeks, my identity as a long-distance adventurer was severely under test.
So, what does one do in such a situation? Roll around in a boring heap of incessant moan? Or play to one’s remaining strengths? The latter, I think. Otherwise you become a menace to society.
In many ways, I’d become too comfortable planning then popping off on large journeys, so the chance to sustain a more macro style of living brought the sweats on.
Evolve, don’t exist: three words that creep up on me now when monotony even suggests it might encroach on my time. And how do you evolve? Do something new. Get nervous. Fail. Or succeed. Doesn’t really matter.
So I travelled around my home country, worked hard on my public speaking, spread some SayYesMore love and stretched out the boundaries of my comfort zone with a new social project called 50 Ways to Make £50. I mean, a day job isn’t a day job when you do a different one every day, right?
Getting nervous is brilliantly exhausting. I went into each role knowing I was a total amateur, yet wanting (needing) to feel like I was earning that fifty pounds. Cleaning Bristol airport, instructing a karate class, mucking out a cheetah enclosure at Dartmoor zoo (thanks Sita, your pancreatic problem left a right mess), bossing some wonderfully motivated people around as darkness descended upon a fitness bootcamp, even being an accountant for a day and tucking into some meaty spreadsheets.
Man, I’ve grown these past few weeks. Minute tastes of new skills and new possibilities, piles of new friends, loads of new stories.
All of a sudden, I woke up and thought, ‘Man, I’m ready to be back on the road.’ At the same time my back thought, ‘Hold up, not so fast fella,’ but the sentiment was there, at least I was ready to imagine again.
2012 had been ludicrous and trying to match it would have been folly in many ways. A new book, three big expeditions, a couple of small ones, a speaking tour. Non blimmin’ stop. I sailed across a chunk of the Pacific, battled across the American South on a Bikecar and swam 1001 miles down a big river.
In comparison, 2013 has been a little undercooked, but I needed it, probably. You can never replace the new perspectives of slowing down, experiencing a forced reinvention, questioning what remains from an old identity when its usual actions are on temporary retirement.
So, we’re into the last phase of healing. The bags were packed last week, the final speaking engagements delightfully giggled away, a warm flush of achievement rewarded with a farewell to the brisk snap of approaching winter. Then a plane, and another, and suddenly we landed on an African island for two months of super slowness.
As I write this I’m looking through a glassless window between whitewashed walls, a creamy blue ocean lapping against a snow white beach patched with seaweed. It’s cloudy today and the morning rains have briefly washed away a humidity that was stifling when we landed earlier this week.
My back is a little stiff but I’m not restricted any more. A daily two mile SUP paddle out to the reef is reminding my core of what exercise feels like, and in two weeks I should be ready to start kitesurfing lessons, with a view to going far at some point next year.
Now the usual scramble of UK-wide lectures and 50-50 jobs is on hold, I’m going to scribble on here most days, more to get back into the habit of writing than anything. I used to think it was always best to shove a table up against a wall and write without a view, but I admit, I may have been wrong. Here’s what I’d be missing if I were facing the other way…
…and, in case you were wondering what the other way looks like, here you go.
If you haven’t seen Sean Conway on the news this week you’ve probably had your head in a hole.
On Monday afternoon at six minutes past midday he pulled himself out of the water in John O’Groats, Scotland, to become the first man to swim the length of Britain. Not an experienced swimmer, Sean had been in the sea for 135 days (over four months) battling jellyfish, exhaustion, weight loss, cold water and rough weather.
A few days before he set off from Lands End in Cornwall Sean and I caught up and made a video about our friendly swimming rivalry (see below). In actual fact, there’s no rivalry at all, apart from the fact he’s way better at growing beards than me. Sean has been a good friend for a while and that, coupled with the utmost respect and understanding for what he’d been going through these past few months, I wanted to go and see him before the journey was up.
So, armed with a window of less than two days to go between engagements in Buxton in the Peak District and Bristol, I decided to see if I could make it to Northern Scotland to deliver a much needed hug to my buddy and his valiant support crew, which included Em Bell, who starred on my own swimming support team on the Missouri last year.
So, without further ado, here’s little film I made about finding Sean.
My favourite interaction of the week.
Man hands Sean a newspaper to sign, which he does. ‘Have you had much coverage like this?’ asks the man. 'A bit,' replies Sean, 'although BBC Scotland decided not to do a story on us because a panda had a baby.' 'Ah,' hummed the man, 'that's a miscarriage of justice.'
So, a massive thanks to Glen the taxi driver from Thurso (who also observed when we drove past Doonreay Nuclear Power Station that after swims past he’ll be able to read the newspaper at night without lights). Ros from the Royal Hotel in Thurso for your help! Casey at St Andrews University for allowing me to come and speak to you and pay for half the travel costs!
Ocean rowers are ten to a pound these days (which isn’t to diminish the achievement of a crossing) but now and then a trans-ocean project comes along that is worth really taking notice of.
On Monday night I was privileged to attend a fundraiser for the Coxless Crew, to speak alongside paraympian Danny Crates, Walking for the Wounded athlete Martin Hewitt and ocean ambassador Emily Penn.
The stars of the evening though, were Laura Penhaul, Nat Miles, Ella Hewton and Emma Mitchell. The girls talked us through the immensity of their proposed challenge, to row 8500 miles across the Pacific from California to Australia.
En route they’ll stop in Hawaii and Samoa to both re-provision and magnify media for their efforts and fundraising work for Breast Cancer Care and Walking for the Wounded.
They’ll be rowing two-on, two-off constantly for the best part of 160 days on board their currently nameless 29 foot ocean rowing boat (I think they should call it YES, myself). Danny had the idea to tape out the footprint of the boat in the middle of the room, which really brought to life the living quarters the girls will experience. 29 feet for four people in the middle of an ocean isn’t that much!
It’s important to note that none of the girls have extensive rowing experience and yet they’re still gunning for three world records, including the fastest crossing of the Pacific by rowing boat.
They’re slowly chipping into arguably the toughest bit of the entire project; getting to the start line. Fundraising (both to cover the trip’s costs and raise for the charities), logistics and psychological evaluations are now par for the course.
Here’s a short video that should give you a flavour of the evening, and I fully recommend you support them where you can and follow the journey via www.coxlesscrew.com, Facebook and Twitter.
I’m doing something new tonight, I’m sleeping on a train.
Now, I spend a lot of time on trains, mainly because I don’t have a driver’s license. I love trains. I can get places and work en route. Contrary to popular belief they’re usually on time, and they’re often quiet and comfortable.
Sure, sometimes there’s a 42 minute delay because someone dropped a crisp packet on the line and then you finally get on the train and happen to be surrounded by beer-drinking football fans singing a bad song (and none of them can sing, not really), or there’s a screaming child in the vicinity, or something.
But on the whole I bloody adore trains, I like them a lot.
And I like bed, too. Which is why I’m grinning from ear to ear tonight. What’s more, I’m a cheap arse and booked the cheapest standard ticket, which means a shared cabin.
But is there anyone else in my cabin? Is there hell! It’s just me! And two little beds stacked on top of each other (I still don’t know which one I’m going to go for - if I go for the bottom one it means I’m old and fuddy duddy, and if I go for the top one it means I’m immature).
The top one also has some worryingly Hannibal Lector’esque leather ‘safety’ straps just in case you’re a roller…
And there’s a mirror and a light switch and a shelf for my bags and the books I didn’t sell at my talk tonight and a shaver socket and it’s basically a tiny little hotel room that creaks and squeaks as we go around a bend. Wicked.
Each carriage has a conductor who looks after her residents. Mine seems very nice, although she’s going to struggle to get down the corridor. She’s going to wake me up in the morning with a drink and gave me a choice from three. I went for coffee because it’s the only thing that can make me like someone when they wake me up.
There’s also a restaurant and continental breakfast for £4 and a lounge and some small bathrooms.
So let me get this straight. For the price of a fairly middling hotel room, I’m basically getting both a hotel room AND a trip from Edinburgh to London?
I think it’s time to celebrate.
I’m taking the bottom bunk…
If you enjoyed this blog you might enjoy my other stuff. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube (and make sure the content is pretty varied in each place) and now and then I send out a newsletter to put a smile in your inbox. See you soon!
As with many ventures into the unknown, there’s a slight thrill in relying purely on belief when embarking on a project that requires discipline, perseverance and, sometimes, months or years of action.
But having a good idea of the final product and how you’re going to bring it all together helps with the process from inception, so here’s a blog about how I constructed my project and video, Every Moment Counts.
(It’s worth noting that there are lots of other people who have done these projects and perhaps they used a different technique for their final video).
Taking the photos:
Work out the angle you want to take your shot from. Keeping this consistent really helps make the final video look professional and well thought out (sometimes, especially at the beginning of my 1000Photos project when I hadn’t put much thought into what I was doing, the angle of my face changed daily. Try and keep it straight on.)
For the best effect, do your best to keep your face central in the image, this will reduce editing time later. Also, ensure your image is in landscape for better final effect. Compare this landscape video to this portrait one, to see what I mean.
I totally failed on these two, but using the same camera and taking your daily shot in roughly similar lighting conditions will add to the quality of your final video.
Taking photo 980
How photo 980 looked after editing
Editing the project
For me, the editing process was a chance to look back over 1000 days-worth of memories, at the same time as editing each individual image to ensure my face was central and the photos were sized properly.
I wanted to have a full widescreen video so cropped each image to the dimensions of 1920x1080 pixels (HD size). This way, the full screen in YouTube (the same would apply to Vimeo) will be used well with no borders.
To ensure my face was in roughly the same position in each shot, I used photoshop to draw guidelines at eye-level, mouth-level and at the base of my chin. Of course, depending on the face I was pulling, I’d have to estimate where my chin/ mouth would usually be.
I also had vertical guides which I’d line up either side of my face, to the point where my earlobes joined my jaw.
A typical editing screen. Note the rulers on the eyes, mouth and chin.
Throughout the project, store and edit photos week by week, or month by month. (I got a bit slack sometimes and ended up having to scour my photo library for the photos, and then edit all 1000 in one go. It took a solid week!)
Back your shots up to an external hard drive.
Be creative with your photos. Don’t be afraid to show some personality, or how you’re feeling at that moment.
Ask people to be in your photo when possible, it makes a great addition to the project and a much more interesting video than just a pale-faced bloke in the same room every day.
The final video
I rendered mine to 1080p, uploaded to my YouTube channel and did a bit of research on what other photo project videos had used for keywords, titles and descriptions. Some projects have millions of hits, some just a few thousand. It remains to be seen how many mine will get, but either way, it was super fun to do and is both a great way to retain memories, and a grand incentive to make each day count.
Model maker/collector and photographer Michael Paul Smith is a master at recreating incredibly accurate outdoor scenes using his extensive die-cast model car collection and forced perspective.
Mixing up miniature cars, detail items and buildings into a scene whose backdrop is the real world, he shoots the gorgeous miniature vistas of the town he has created and named “Elgin Park” — and he does it all with a cheap point-and-shoot.
Hey Dave, I saw a few months back you were looking for interns. Was wondering if you were still accepting any? Thanks!
We’re pretty full but if you have the right skill set/ needs from the Internship then possibly.
Please send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with a brief two paragraphs explaining why you’re interested in the internship, what you can offer and what, ideally, you’d like to come out of it with.
When you’re open to anything, anything tends to happen.
Here’s an example:
My friend Greg is a dude. He knows a whole bunch of stuff, is an expert at what he does, and he likes checked shirts.
So his beautiful partner Charl decided to ask everyone attending his birthday party to come wearing a checked shirt.
Time was short. I had a talk in Bristol and only a couple of very tired hours the next morning to go checked shirt shopping. I don’t like shopping and I don’t have any checked shirts, so I wasn’t much looking forward to any of it.
But after the talk someone from the audience approached me. He had a beer in his hand and his name, I soon learned, was Michael.
'I want your shirt,' he announced, gently prodding the big YES on my chest. 'This one?' I asked, prodding it, too. 'Yes,' he said. 'That's the spirit,' I said, before my lovely partner Em noticed something that made my heart glad. You see, Michael was wearing a checked shirt. 'I'll give you this if I can have yours,' I said, and immediately Michael said, 'Yes!' It would be a slightly better story if he hadn’t then realised that his shirt was actually pretty nice and expensive, but he agreed to give it to me if I posted it back the next week after I stopped his dilly dallying with a stern, ‘Say Yes More, Mike.’
Michael seems surprised that I’m wearing his checked shirt, which is strange because he’d just taken it off and handed it to me.
As you can see from the image below, there’s something unbelievably special about everyone in the room wearing a checked shirt. Suffice it to say, Greg had a nice birthday and I managed to avoid going shopping in Bristol. Win win. Thanks Michael!
Should you find yourself with some spare time and some inclination, you are able to follow my adventures on my website, through Facebook, or Twitter. And my latest book, Life in the Slow Lane, is now available in whatever format you prefer to read books these days.
I’m going to keep this simple, because that’s Quad Lock's style.
I was planning a crossing of Europe by ElliptiGO earlier this year and researched a few different options for attaching my iPhone - which I planned to aid navigation - to the handlebars.
The first few options seemed to be too wobbly, no good in bad weather and prone to breaking. You see, I’m fond of my iPhone and didn’t want to risk it detaching and plunging to a desperate death on the road below.
And then I found the Quad Lock. Reviews were positive so I pressed click and 1970 miles and two months of riding later, I felt ready to write my own: five stars.
Quad Lock provide a special case for my iPhone with a mould on the back which clicks with an easy twist into the handlebar mount, which is in turn affixed firmly using tough elastic bands.
Even on rough terrains (I rode for miles on dirt paths now and then) the Quad Lock kept my iPhone safely planted in its mount, and with the option to have it fixed in landscape or portrait position it was easy enough to scroll on Google Maps even when on the move.
A waterproof poncho came with my iPhone kit, and it was well used as rains fall every day for four weeks in Holland and Germany. It’s not easy to use the phone when rain is streaming down, but it’s safe and secure, which is the main thing.
Cases and adaptors are made for iPhones, GoPros and selected Android phones, with wall and car mounts available too.
The product did everything I could have asked for. All I can say, to sum up, is that next time I’m on the road I’ll be using a Quad Lock.
- Should you find yourself with some spare time, you are able to follow my adventures on my website, through Facebook, or Twitter. And my latest book, Life in the Slow Lane, is now available in whatever format you prefer to read books these days.
For a little while now I’ve been laying the groundwork for a project called 50 ways to make £50 and next week promises to properly kick the idea into action.
The concept was born from a desire to show that with a bit of open-mindedness one person can earn money in a variety of different ways.
In the event that you’re held back from changing jobs because of financial responsibilities, this project might give you some ideas, hope, and perhaps even a chuckle.
I plan on creating a short book from the project, and am still on the lookout for more £50 opportunities, so if you have any ideas or would even be willing to create a one-off job for me, I’ll do anything!
Having already ticked off Magazine Stacking, Fundraising Consulting, Giving a Talk in a Hurricane and Designing a Logo, next week I have a couple of new jobs lined up.
I’m going to be a Bootcamp Instructor near Bristol, with the abuse-ridden remit of getting everyone up to B.O.R.G Level 10. Which basically means, vomit.
And then I’ll be heading down to Plymouth to work as a Zoo Keeper for a day at Dartmoor Zoo, with the carnivores! Watch this space for a picture of me feeding a tiger (not with myself).
Jump for joy! CoppaFeel! are on the hunt for enthusiastic applicants to join our Official Uni Boob Team Leader collective.
This voluntary brand ambassador scheme will equip you with the tools and knowhow to infiltrate your University campus with the CoppaFeel! message, that knowing your boobs could save your life. Campaign activity will include recruiting a Boob Team, social networking, securing PR and causing a stir through stunts and events.
Last week I put out an important call. It went something like this:
I need a name for my monkey.
You see, my journeys have been mascotless for, well, forever. And I’m getting lonely. My friends at Powertraveller saw this and attempted to remedy the situation with a present. A gorilla. A toy one. A nameless gorilla.
With the promise of a SayYesMore Adventure Buff to the person who supplied the best monkey name, the suggestions came rolling in. I’m assuming all were serious, because they started with…
Steven. But thankfully it got better. the next one was Stewart (really?). Then Bolo, Rufus (this happened several times, is there a famous monkey called Rufus somewhere?), Delmonte (he say yes), Lars, Chunks, Bundles, Goliath, Buffy, Buffila, Bufferson (the previous three were posted on the Buff Facebook page, believe it or not), Frank, Noddy, Austin, Gruffalo, Baloo, Mr Coppafil, Bear Frills; one girl even wanted to call him Gorgeous! And there were more…
Then there were the foreign links: Dis Oui (pronounced Diwee) which of course means Say yes. Ndiyo and Shani (swahili for Yes and Adventure respectively). Leo - Lyo is the Congolese (lingala) word for yes.
I particularly liked Washington (as in D.C), Phileas, George Foreman (he usually puts his name on Grillers), Rihanna (you can stand under my um…gorilla illa illa).
But…drum roll (you know gorilla’s can drum)…the winner of a Say Yes More Adventure Buff goes to Lucy Berry for a quite brilliant and slightly clever suggestion.
The gorilla is now called….Seymour. Just think of the Spanish word for Yes, ‘Si’, and then say ‘Seymour!’ We liked it, and monkey liked it. So it’s stickin’.
I daresay you’ll see more (see, it’s ace!) of this little guy around. Lucy Berry, there’s a Buff on its way to you right now! Damn you for living in Singapore!
Big thanks to Powertraveller, the best in the business making solar and portable power solutions for travellers.
And Buff, super adaptable multi-functional headwear.
Jon Beardmore had one big aim for 2013, to drive from London to Asia, and back again.
Recently Jon and his trusty truck Boris made it to the halfway point in Kuala Lumpur and Jon recently posted a video of his adventures since leaving London. It’s a great watch and will get your adventure nerves twitching.
On a personal note, I met Jon a couple of years ago when he joined my Internship scheme and he is one of the most diligent, hard working and determined blokes I know. He’s got a Say Yes More attitude to die for, even when in Afghanistan!
Should you find yourself with some spare time, you are able to follow my adventures on my website, through Facebook, or Twitter. And my latest book, Life in the Slow Lane, is now available in whatever format you prefer to read books these days.