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.
Feel free to drop us a personal message, or enquire through this link on the Pangaea website.
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.
Signing out from the Red Monkey Lodge in Jambiani, Zanzibar. Have a lovely day.
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.
Written at 11:30pm, Tuesday 5th November 2013
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…
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