I didn’t manage to get a 2017 round up post in by the end of last year, but I enjoyed reading other people’s posts and decided I couldn’t let a whole year go by without sharing some thoughts. It was a good year for adventure, and I found myself doing new things, meeting new people and taking on new challenges.
So here are 17 things I learned in 2017:
Some of the best adventures can be had with parents
I feel so privileged that although my parents are in their 60s, they love being outdoors, are super active, and we enjoy doing a lot of the same things. My Dad and I did two trips away together this year – to Milan where we soaked up the city style and cuisine, and had a beautiful day walking out by Lake Como. In October we flew up to Inverness to spend some time around Loch Ness and Fort Augustus, which involved hillwalking and striking views.
In 2017, I got to visit my Mum and Stepdad up in the Peak District several times, which always involves endless dog walks and even a few early morning runs. They are both active members of their local running club and do the Saturday Parkrun in Derby, so I tag along and try to keep up (which is more challenging than I care to admit).
Parents are parents and you get what you’re given, so I feel hugely lucky that I was blessed with ones that I adore hanging out with and sharing common interests.
You can read about Loch Ness here.
Time outdoors with friends is the best therapy
My walking group, ETAS, consisting of three of my closest friends and me, is such a positive presence in my life. We meet up around once a month (though this year has been harder to book in dates) and take it in turns to plan walks around the UK. Sometimes it’s an evening wander after work and sometimes it’s a long weekend somewhere further away. We all love walking, which is all very well and good, but a kind of magic happens when we’re all together. We open up, we talk about our feelings, we explore our emotions, we challenge each other, we listen, we offer support, we learn, we laugh a lot and we become closer.
In 2017, we have stomped around Tring in the snow, discovered the Gower Peninsula to celebrate turning 30, strolled around the South Downs, visited the beaches of Margate and Broadstairs, hiked through the Ashdown Forest complete with yurt and foraging lesson, explored the Surrey Hills with an enthusiastic spaniel and done several London canal walks.
Our regular meetups involve plenty of pubs, tearooms, and fireside chats.
These wild women are the best walking companions I could dream of.
Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world are right here in the UK
While 2016 was about counting countries and squeezing in as many holidays abroad as I could, 2017 was about finding beauty on my doorstep. I had more UK adventures than ever before this year, and spent time in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at various points. I hiked on the South Coast overnight, I visited national parks I had never been to, I went to new counties and enjoyed more of the parks around Greater London. My conclusion is that the landscapes of the UK are on a par with countries I have spent hundreds of pounds flying to.
I guest posted about my overnight hike over at High Peaks Hiking.
In the outdoors, strangers quickly become friends
I met some pretty wonderful women this year, because of a shared love of adventure. In 2017, I found Love Her Wild, and was selected from over 100 applicants to join a team of 6 women, climbing the equivalent ascent of Everest using the peaks of the Lake District. We bonded quickly, as we worked together to find brand collaborations, build media interest, plot the route, train, raise funds for charity, and then of course to climb the mountains, wild camp together, support each other physically and emotionally, deal with injury and ultimately, failure of our goal.
The friends I made from this adventure are the real deal and we built a very special connection. It’s incredible how quickly this can happen when you’re walking and talking and working towards a common goal.
And now I have been chosen as ambassador for the community in 2018, so will be able to help other strangers to become friends!
It’s okay to fail
So we didn’t climb the equivalent height of Everest. Our goal was too ambitious in the time we had. When I realised we weren’t going to make it, I didn’t deal with it very well. I cried. I felt ashamed that I would have to tell people I’d failed at the thing I had been banging on about. I have a fragile ego and it was wounded.
But with the support of the team, I essentially got over myself. I created a new focus – the camaraderie, the spirit and just enjoying being in the stunning Lake District amidst dramatic landscapes. Suddenly, I was having a better time, I wasn’t putting pressure on myself, I wasn’t beating myself up and I ended up having a much better experience than the one I expected.
It taught me that it’s okay to adjust the goalposts and it’s okay not to achieve what I set out to do as long as I learn from it. Well I learned that friendship trumps any kind of target and that dealing with failure with humility was a more important challenge to me than the metres of ascent we climbed.
Doing things that scare you help you grow
I love being comfortable. Even within the adventure realm, I have often challenges myself within a range of comfort. It’s a side of myself I don’t necessarily like. This year, I really wanted to get out of that comfort zone, so when the opportunity to go to the Arctic to cross the Finnmark Plateau in Norway came along, I jumped. I couldn’t afford it, I have never been cross country skiing, my fitness wasn’t good at the time, and the thought of extreme cold without respite for two weeks made me feel ill. So I booked it. As I write this, the trip is three weeks from happening. I have been dragging my tyre around my local park, running, lifting weights, hiking, trying to get the enormous amount of gear I need together, and for a portion of the year, I took a second job to fund it. I know I haven’t done it yet, but I have committed to getting seriously uncomfortable, and I feel stronger for it.
I have also been working with an adventure coach who has seriously helped me push past my comfort zone and I am now planning the adventure of a lifetime for 2019.
Israel and Palestine are beyond fascinating and the situation is more complex than I had ever realised
In 2017, I had the privilege of visiting Israel and a small part of Palestine. It was a hugely enriching trip and helped me to understand a conflict I had been very one sided about before.
Israel was a country I loved for its people, its nature, its history, its food and its unique identity. Visiting Hebron gave an insight into Palestinian life and the complexity of the conflict. I really warmed to both Israeli and Palestinian people, and I wish with all of my heart for a solution.
Enter competitions – someone has to win
I won a few competitions in 2017, including a Berghaus hoody that I now live in, an OS Map for Snowdonia, some Keen Terradoras, a sleeping bag, a backpack, and some walking socks. The real highlight though, was winning a weekend away in Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains.
This meant visiting somewhere new and beautiful, staying in a delightful bed and breakfast, and getting to share it with my best friend.
I wrote about Climbing Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest peak.
Exploring an entirely new country can be done without annual leave
I didn’t do many trips abroad in 2017, but in February, I managed to squeeze in a weekend in Porto without using any annual leave. I had always thought that it wouldn’t be worth flying overseas without at least one day off, but flying late on the Friday and back on the Sunday night worked perfectly. I packed a lot into my two days there, fell in love with the city and ate some delicious and very different foods.
There are all kinds of festivals and being teetotal is okay
Festivals done well can be absolutely magical. But in May, when I decided to give up alcohol permanently, I wondered if I would still be able to enjoy the kind of festivals I had been to before.
But then I found out about adventure festivals, and got fully involved. I attended Basecamp Festival in the Peak District and Yestival in Sussex. At Basecamp, I spent my time trying different activities, from kayaking, tree climbing and photography to slacklining, foraging and bouldering. Yestival is a chance to hear adventurers deliver talks about what they have done, and is the source of much inspiration. I was pleased to get to perform a poem at their poetry slam which got a great response. And yes, both of these festivals have bars, and people drink around the fire, but that isn’t what they’re about. Being teetotal is fine – everyone is just there for the community and the adventurous spirit.
Watching the sunrise is the best possible start to any day
I made a concerted effort to watch the sun come up more often in 2017. From a sunrise bike tour in Jerusalem to getting up early on my 30th birthday to see it from the top of a skyscraper over breakfast, it always led to a calmer, more positive day.
Wild camping isn’t so scary
I have slowly gotten over my concerns about wild camping, particularly on my own. I even got to try my first night in a bivvy bag in Epping Forest, which I think I enjoyed even more than being in a tent. I have become so much more confident about rocking up somewhere and sleeping out under the stars.
I found my blogging niche but my blog can be anything I want it to be
“Find your niche” is something you constantly hear in the blogging world. There’s so much out there, you have to have an angle to get people to read, and to come back. I didn’t have a niche for a long time; I just did things then wrote about them. Gradually, it has moved from general travel to more outdoor and adventure focused and I feel really good about that. I feel it’s more ‘me’.
However, I need to remember, this is my space to express myself, so if I want to write things that don’t quite fit that, it’s okay. I’m not trying to be a professional blogger, so I have the luxury of being able to write whatever I feel like writing.
Nature is the best possible thing for wellbeing
My mental health has gone through some ups and downs this year, but getting outside is the one thing I can rely on to get me back on track. It doesn’t stop the difficult emotions, but it helps me to cope with them. And if I’m already feeling good, some time outdoors makes me feel even better. I have prioritised my wellbeing in 2017, which has meant more time outdoors. I feel stronger and healthier for it.
Bloggers conferences are extraordinary events
I attended two bloggers conferences in 2017, and they both blew me away. It isn’t just about the classes, workshops and everything I learned, it’s also about networking with other bloggers and brands, and enjoying the fabulous activities the hosts put on for attendees. Parties, walking tours, boat trips and visits to local tourist attractions are all part of the programme.
Having time at home is just as important as exploring the world
I pretty much always want to be outdoors, discovering something new, exercising, getting ready for challenges, or seeing friends. But I got burned out a couple of times in 2017, and have started making time for curling up with a book and some scented candles, catching up on laundry and scrolling through Twitter. It’s okay to do nothing sometimes.
I can do things I never believed to be possible
When I say things I never thought possible, I’m not talking about great athletic feats. I’m more surprised that I have been able to build habits I used to find nearly impossible. From getting up super early and working out before work to giving up alcohol, so many things used to make me say ‘There’s no way I can do that.’ But it turns out I can.
I must say, it has been a fabulous year. I’ve learned a lot and feel like I’ve really come into my own in the way I explore the world, connect with others challenge myself.
All I can say is 2018 has a lot to live up to, but I have a feeling it will deliver. You can read about my Goals for 2018.