An Outdoor Bloggers event with VARTA

‘Has someone arrived late,’ I asked distracted as I spotted a dark shape in the grass on the left of the path. I was walking back to my tent with Jason after leaving the pub but couldn’t spot it. It was night and my tent was smaller than a lot of the others, but I was certain I should have been able to see it from where we stood.

I directed my torch in the general direction of my tent on the other side of the path. Something caught the light. It was my longboard, dripping wet and standing still in the grass. I turned around, illuminating the unknown shape. ‘It’s my tent!’

Upside down, it was lying on a different field than the one I had pitched it in. I stared at it incredulous and laughed. My tent had flown away with everything in it.

We walked to it and turned it over. It looked fine, so we carried it back to where it was and I pitched it again over the longboard. We said our goodnight and I began to examine the content of my backpack. Everything was fine. I shook my head, not quite able to believe what had happened. My tent had flown away!

Woosh…

I ducked just as half the tent was folding over my face. ‘Okay… That’s how it flew away.’ I knew the wind was strong but I hadn’t thought it had such strength as to make my canvas home bend in half. I put my shoes back on and walked to Jason’s abode.

‘Are you awake?’
‘Yeah. You’re alright?’
‘Yes. I’m fine. It’s just… do you mind if I pitch my tent next to yours? To break the wind a bit.’
‘It’s fine. Do you need help?’
‘No, no. I’m fine. Thank you.’

With a sight of relief, I unpitched the tent one more time and carried it next to Jason’s bigger one. I made my bed, slid into the sleeping bag and laid wide awake waiting to see if the structure would fold on my face again. It didn’t, so I closed my eyes, rolled to my side and hoped the constant flapping of canvas would act as a lullaby.

Earlier that day, I’d arrived at the Royal Umpire Caravan Park to meet up with the Outdoor Bloggers and VARTA. VARTA and some of their friends at Spectrum Brands had invited us for the week-end to demonstrate their products, kindly paying for our upkeep.

It began with a dinner in the pub across the road from the campsite. A chef had been brought in to prepare a delicious meal for us, using Russell Hobbs equipment. I was glad for the food and the effort to cater to everyone. We saw the cookware in use but didn’t get to play with it ourselves. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the food and getting to know my fellow bloggers. Some of them I knew from previous events, while others I only knew as a blog name.

We chatted away, quickly bonding over our common love of the outdoors. Like previous Outdoor Bloggers event I had attended, we all had a different approach to the outdoors but it didn’t matter. There was something about it we all understood, and it didn’t matter if we were walkers, cyclists, mountaineers, or anything else. We were all kin of a kind, not the odd one out.

Our bellies full, we headed to the marquee erected on the pub’s ground. There, VARTA spent some time presenting their various lights and letting us play with them. I had come to the event, unsure what to expect. I wasn’t confident in my ability to get overly excited about batteries and lights but that quickly changed as I found out the extent of VARTA’s lanterns and torches. As is often the case with me, I make do with what I have, usually finding odd ways to use my equipment to fit my purpose. But VARTA exposed me to a range of solution that night that got me excited like a kid in a sweet shop. There was a small campsite lantern that would make camping while cycle touring a little easier, a heavy-duty torch with a rotating head that could light the road while I am on the longboard at night, and reflective straps with red lights to enhance the visibility of my body while walking/cycling/longboarding.

After a night of broken sleep, most of us emerged from our dwellings with heavy eyes and a desperate need for tea or coffee. But a bad night at camp was nothing new for us, so we carried on. We gathered by VARTA’s caravan for breakfast, our body slowly waking up as we were fed bacon and eggs (or veggie sausages) sandwiches cooked with a George Foreman grill under a rain free sky.

Fuelled up we headed to the marquee once more. This time it wasn’t about VARTA but about Armor All. Their products being aimed at cars, I found it difficult to get excited. I do not have a driving licence nor am I thinking of getting one. But I listened nonetheless, thinking of friends with cars. The products seemed great for deep cleans and quick cleans of the car and I definitely could see a use for outdoors people. It looked easy to take care of a vehicle during and after a trip.

The rain had picked up again by this stage so we left the marquee to retreat in the pub where Bowland and Pennine Mountain Rescue Trust was waiting for us. VARTA has been sponsoring Mountain Rescue England and Wales for a while now, providing them with batteries and cash donation to help them save lives.

Spending a lot of times outdoors, I had heard of Mountain Rescue but I knew very little about them. For instance, I didn’t know you had to ask for the police and then mountain rescue if you need them, nor was I aware that so much of their funding comes from public donations. They are an amazing organisation, made up of 48 rescue teams throughout England and Wales, all charities in their own rights depending on us to fund them so that the volunteers can get the material they need to keep us safe.

Amazed and with a new found respect for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, we relaxed around lunch before VARTA took centre stage again but this time to demonstrate their portable chargers. I am old fashion. When outdoors, I don’t bother with my smartphone. Instead I opt for a dinosaur phone I can trust. I get almost a week worth of battery life with it and there is no risk of it breaking if dropped. But I’m also a blogger and increasingly I’m using my smartphone to document some parts of my activities. So a portable charger is something I’m interested in but know nothing about and it was great to learn about their capabilities and specifications.

And that was it. VARTA who had arranged the whole week-end for us, and not cancelled in spite of the grime weather, handed over goodie bags and wished us all the best. Having demonstrated so many of their products, they now wanted us to try them in real life situation and were very generous to us. Here’s what we got:

For the details of Armor All goodie bag, The Urban Wanderer video is a good watch:

We all retreated to our tents to rest before the evening. But being at an Outdoor Bloggers event, a lot of us decided to go for a walk instead. We explored nearby Croston, silent and deserted on a damp Saturday.

Back at the campsite, most of us decided to skip cooking dinner in our tents and we found ourselves at the pub again, ordering mud-free food and enjoying a drink or two before gathering for an outdoor quiz that Zoe had concocted. I lost, but the quiz was a great idea and I hope it will become a feature of Outdoor Bloggers events.

Conversations eventually slowed as we began to feel the weight of the previous sleepless night. So back to our beds we went, hoping for a quieter night.

In the morning it was time to go. We packed our tents, lingered at the site for a while, a little reticent at the idea of rejoining regular life in spite of all the wind, rain, and mud we had endured. The Urban Wanderer gave me a lift to Manchester and I hoped on a train, home-bound.

I will make reviews of most of the products we received from VARTA but they will not be shared on this blog. If you are interested, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Reviews and other outdoors videos are planned for the near future.

Thanks to VARTA, Spectrum Brands, Prova, Zoe and Jenni at Outdoor Bloggers for an excellent week-end.

Women & Bicycles

The alarm rang and I rolled out of bed still half-asleep. I had a train to catch to Oxford for the Women & Bicycles Festival organised by Broken Spoke Bike Co-op and The Adventure Syndicate. I went through the motion of my morning routine and still dozing hopped on my folding bike to the train station. The train whizzed away and I slowly awoke, wondering what the week-end would bring. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was already cycling and doing things people thought of as crazy, so I thought the week-end wouldn’t bring me too much. But I would meet new people, like-minded people and that was why I had booked a place.

Before I knew it I was in Oxford, following Google Maps to the events venue. I parked my bike and entered.

‘Hi,’ I waved tentatively to the first person in sight. ‘I’m Allysse, one of the workshare.’
The woman who I was talking to went in a frenzy of paper checking and looking around for the volunteer organiser who was not around yet. But just as we were trying to figure out what to do with me, she waltzed in the door, bike in hand.

We briefly introduced ourselves and she went away to tidy her bike. I was left standing there, a still figure in the constant flow of woman trying to get all the last minute details ready for launch. It was awkward being there, knowing no one and having nothing to do. But soon the one person I knew came back and my hands were put to work until there was nothing else I could do. So I went to the lounge for a much needed coffee. There were a few people on sofas and chair. I spotted another lonely figure and went to introduce myself.

And that was it. The conversation had began. Bikes were mentioned but soon we drifted to other topics. We didn’t have to explain to one another why we choose to commute by bike, even when it rained.

As the clock ticked, we made out way to the lower hall where the first panel was taking place. We settled in plastic chairs and I began to feel myself shaking slightly. All around me, I was spotting my cycle heroes, but most of all there were just women everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the sea of unknown faces that all owned a bike of some sort. I have spent a lot of my life in female dominated world but when it comes to bicycle, I have always been the only one. This was not the case here and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was thankful, I was afraid, I was outraged, I was angry, I was joyful, I was in heaven. But I didn’t have much time to think about it. The first panel was starting. Alex Feechan, Cheryl Reid, Jools Walker, and Sarah Connolly took to the stage for a discussion about making space for women in cycling. They talked about fear, anger, discrimination, sexism, racism, and their own stories of feeling stupid in bike shops, awkward in male cycling clothes, and how they decided to do something about it. And in that moment, I realised how much I had normalised being a lonely woman cyclist and suppressed a craving women cyclists friends near me.

By the end of the panel I was still shaking and wondered if I would be for the entirety of the week-end. That seemed ridiculous but I couldn’t figure out how to stop my limbs from vibrating. I walked back to the lounge for tea and cake and introduced myself to another woman. We began chatting about touring and well, bikes. We were soon called away. The second panel was about to begin. This time Lee Craigie, Kimberley Tew, Laura Moss, and Naomi Mahendran stepped up tell us about how the bicycle had brought them places. This was not about how far you can travel on two unmotorised wheels, but how this vehicle has widened their world socially, educationally, professionally and emotionally. It became evident that for all those women, cycling was a therapy of sorts. No one was able to articulate it simply, but we all understood that when things go wrong, a bike ride is always a piece of solace.

Lunch was consumed to the delight of all taste buds (food really was one of the most amazing part of the festival). Conversations flowed and were only brought to a close by the bike bell reminding us of the time. There were workshops to attend. I joined the Yoga class with Polly Clark. More than yoga exercises, she took the time to listen to what we expected from the class, what aches and pains we experienced and based on this discussion targetted the exercises so we could all benefit from them and know what would help us best.

This was followed by more tea and cake (yes a lot of cake was consumed that week-end) before we all regrouped in the Lower Hall to listen to Rickie Cotter. As we listened and laughed to her journeys of endurance, discovery, pain, and fun, cogs turned into my head bringing forward ideas that had been floating at the back of it for months.

Dinner was served, the bar opened, music was played, and I got chatting with more women. Bicycles were our links but we soon tired of the subject. We were more than racers, tourers, commuters, couriers, cyclists. We were human beings.

Tired and happy I eventually retreated to the quiet home of my host where we spent more time talking, sharing our stories, building friendships.

The following day I didn’t linger long in bed. I had to be back at the venue by 9am to help out in the kitchen. I had selected a work-share ticket which meant I was dedicating some of time to make sure everything would run smoothly. I arrived in the kitchen and following brief introductions, I was put to work. We had two hours to prepare brunch for more than a hundred people. So I cracked eggs, washed dirty trays, checked on bread, peeled a mountain of carrots, and chopped them off in batons. Meanwhile, the other women were enjoying workshops and bike rides. Finally the clock struck eleven and we were ready. I stood behind a huge pot of cabbage, standing on tip toes to drop an allocated portion per plate. Everybody was chatting and smiling, the ladies coming back from rides ready for an intake of food and the warmth of the venue.

The following panel focused on cycling as a family. Having little interest in the subject for myself I retreated to the lounge. A few people were relaxing on the sofa and around the tables. I sat on one of the chairs and relaxed. My gaze unfocused and I lost myself in thoughts. Why do you think we need a Women & Bicycles festival? This was one of the question on the wall of the lounge, a question I had asked myself a lot and hadn’t known the answer to before coming. People were talking of inspiration, of not enough women on the roads, of male dominated culture… but for me, it was about finding your tribe. Much like I had found a tribe when I attended the Cycle Touring Festival and the HearSay Festival, here was another one. I had become less lonely. The faces I had seen online and the occasional women I had passed on the roads now had names and voices. They were real.

The panel finished and a flow of people walked in to refuel and chat before the final hours of the week-end. We were to assist to the launch of the North Coast 500 film, shot back in May 2016 when the Adventure Syndicate rode 518 miles of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route in 36 hours. We followed those riders from preparation to completion, living their fears, sharing their laughs, and cheering them on as they reached the finish line. Faces merged, all female, all on bikes. It was not the story of a superhero, it was a community, a group much like the one in the room that had set out on a ride they weren’t sure they could achieve, but did.

The room slowly dispersed, everyone present riding a wave of elation and happiness. I found myself next to a woman I hadn’t spoken to before. So I introduced myself and soon I was telling her about my dreams of Audax (cycling long-distances within a set time limit) and long-distances. But there was a problem. I don’t have the right bike or kit for it. That had been the one excuse holding me back, the one sentence I had repeated to myself over and over again. But hearing it now seemed ridiculous. So I promised myself to stop moaning and get on my touring bike for an Audax soon. After all, I did start touring on a Brompton in Devon. That was not adequate but that was a lot of fun. The week-end could have ended there but the woman turned out to be Ellie from Bicycle Explorers who had raced several times on the Transcontinental. From Belgium to Turkey (now Greece), you ride to arrive there first. I had first heard of the race a couple of years ago and since I’ve had a strange obsession with it. Without trying, the name kept popping up in my feeds and I kept reading posts and stories of the race. And so with Ellie telling me she only had two weeks preparation the first time she entered the race, I began to think I could possibly ride it to. And just at that moment, one of the festival organisers arrived with a microphone for an interview for an upcoming e-zine. And I, stupidly, still elated from the North Coast 500 film, said, ‘I will sign-up for the Transcontinental.’ And ever since I have basked in a sea of fears and doubt. But I’ve said it now. The cat is out of the bag and I don’t know how to put it back there. 2018 might not happen. I do after all have plans for that year and probably won’t have enough leave from work for everything. But there is 2019 and with calendars on computer I can add a date that far in the future. So I have.

Coppicing at Stockwood Open Space

‘Does everybody know what coppicing is,’ Anna, from the Forest of Avon Trust, asked. The ten people facing her replied with complete silence in spite of most of the group knowing very well what it involved.

‘Well, in case someone is not sure, coppicing is a traditional management of woodlands,’ she began to explain. And I was glad she had chosen to. When signing up to volunteer my time to do some coppicing in Stockwood Open Space, I had only a vague idea of what it was. I had heard of it, and I knew the reasons behind it but I was very unclear about the details. I wasn’t even sure of the correct pronunciation of the word, having only ever read it.

‘We cut down young trees to ground level. This doesn’t kill them. They will regrow. What it does is allow us to harvest the wood, and manage the growth of trees in woodlands. We do it in rotation so different areas of woodlands are at a different stage of growth, providing a rich variety of habitats for invertebrates, birds, and other species.’

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I nodded, my vague notion of the term a little more concrete. Anna carried on talking about the growth cycle of woods before turning our attention to the tools and methods of coppicing. There were pruning saws, bow saws, billhooks, gloves, and hard hats. We were drilled through the safe use of all the instruments, paired up, and sent to work.

The group spread naturally through the areas and without further ado we began to saw the wood. I watched my partner cut effortlessly through small stumps and began imitating his gestures, pretending I had a vague idea of what I was doing. We pruned one tree, the stump and branches laid carefully to one side for later use. Moving to the next tree, I glanced at it and said ‘Should we start with the smaller surrounding shoots before tackling that bigger one?’ It was the obvious thing to do and didn’t need speaking about. But by voicing it, I felt like I was in control of the situation. I knew what I was doing now. There are many things I don’t know about coppicing, but the vague notion I had at the start of the day, had turned into something I understood and could explain to others.

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We carried one sawing, taking turn with the bow saw for the bigger stumps. Around us, the wood cracked and fell, the mud cushioned our steps, and Anna’s voice distilled advice and knowledge gained through years of work. She weaved her way between us, keeping a watchful eye on our gestures and collecting branches for the kettle she had brought.

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Slowly the ancient smell of burning twigs filled the air and we gathered around the fire for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Conversations flowed easily, drifting away from woodlands and back to it as Anna told us we would build a hedge after lunch. The smaller branches we had cut down would be laid down between larger stumps to create a habitat for invertebrates. Ten people weren’t needed to construct the hedge so most people went back to their trees, finishing what they had began. But my partner and I had run out of trees to coppice, so we set out to gather the felled wood from the others to feed the hedge. Branches were laid down, more hands came to join us, and soon our wooden wall was taking shape and expanding fast. We had built a hedge.

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Taking a step back, I took it in. This had been a day’s work with ten volunteers. I could only imagine how long those tasks would take for a whole woodland. But then, we hadn’t used power tools, we had chatted a lot, and we had taken our time. But it had been good and expanded my skills and knowledge of trees. I smiled as I noticed other members of the group taking photos of the hedge. They too were proud of the work we had achieved.

Anna lingered for a while longer, answering our last questions before we all parted way, half of us carrying some of our work home for fire or whittling.

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Cycle touring for four months taught me a thing or two

This is not my usual kind of blog post and really it’s more of a reminder to myself that the lessons I learned on the road are important. I should not forget them.

Doing nothing is good

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My days would usually start with a frenzy of activity. There was breakfast to be made, my belongings to be put back in panniers, my tent to be dismantled, and my bike to be made ready for the road. I rarely rushed doing it, but it had to be done, occupying my mind and body for the first hour of the day. And then I was off, pedalling an inconsequential part of my travel. My legs knew what to do, freeing my eyes to take in the scenery, and my mind to wander where it would (which often was nowhere at all). A feature in the landscape would stop me or a bench in a village invite me to rest. So I would. Brakes on, bike leant on a wall or laid on the ground, I would stop and watch life go by for five minutes or an hour. I didn’t need to think, didn’t need to read, didn’t need to check my phone. I was allowed to just be there and take in the world.

It’s easy to forget this is okay. And I’m the first one guilty of it. I always have one more e-mail to reply to, one more book to read, one more blog to catch up with, and don’t I also need to go to the post office to send a parcel right now? No. I can stop and sit at my window to watch the garden stand still.

There are many hours in a day

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If there was one thing I was rich with on my journey, it was time. I had no watch and my phone was buried deep in my pocket, an accessory to be taken out in case of emergency. Time didn’t matter. The days were long and mine to shape according to my stomach and fancies. I rarely had to be anywhere and there were no deadlines to reach. I could meander at will, knowing that the feature in the map that had made me turn left, would still be there the following day. I could sit on the grass and read for hours if I wished to. I felt like the master of my own time.

Back in employment, I let this lesson slip too often. I look at the pile of books by my opened laptop and despair. Where has time gone? Nowhere. It’s the same as it has always been, but I get carried away by the constant ticking of clocks on walls, phones, ovens, computers… I have time. It’s up to me to shape it according to my fancies.

A cup of coffee goes a long way

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Cold and shivering from the rain and wind, I huddled closer to the tree in vain hope that its leaves would shelter me better closer to the trunk. Someone passed by and gestured for me to come out. We established quickly that our shared language skills were scarce but it’s okay the warmth in their eyes and their constant pointing at the café opposite the road were words enough. I followed them in, my muscles relaxing as the heat engulfed them. A chair was brought for me and a steaming cup of coffee followed soon afterwards. I would offer to pay but they would refuse, almost offended by my coins. Sometimes they would stay with me, sometimes not. Sometimes it was rain that made them buy me a cup of coffee, sometimes not. But always it was kindness for the stranger on the other side of the road and a need to let me know I was welcomed here.

I am not invited for a coffee any longer, my vulnerability eradicated by the simple fact that I blend in. But not everybody does. There are people who are alone and sometimes cold. It costs me nothing to bring them a warm cup of tea.

It’s important to make time for conversation

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Complete strangers opened the doors of their home, sharing the sanctuary of their privacy with me. They cooked extravagantly, a feast they would have to pay with scarcity the following week. They showed me around their town, proud to reveal the gems to be found in their locality. And then I would leave, a sadness gripping my heart and theirs most of all. I knew I would meet more people further along the road but they would have to remain where they were. Lonely and deprived of human contact in a world where time is made to feel scarce, where busy is the golden word, and were strangers are to be avoided at all cost.

So I remind myself to talk. It’s quite cold today, isn’t it? The person turns their head incredulously and for a second we may be awkward, an unspoken rule has just been broken. But I’m smiling and yes it is rather cold but they’re saying it should warm up next week. And in the minutes that follow, we become humans again.

A 2016 retrospective

When I look back over 2016, I cannot deny that my trip to the Iberian Peninsula dominates my mind. I spent nearly six months away from home and the memories I created during this time are still vivid, feeling indelible. But 2016 wasn’t just about fulfilling my dream of cycle touring for longer than a week. It was filled with many other outings and experiences.

January

The plan was to go to Reading and cycle towards Bristol following Sustrans cycle route 4 along the Kennet and Avon canal. I was going to meet up with Pete whom I had last seen in September and we would make a week-end out of it. Only, Pete wasn’t feeling too well and I missed my train to Reading and found myself in Windsor instead. What followed was a very enjoyable winter day ride.

February

The ferry to France that marked the beginning of my cycling escapade was booked for late February, so my partner and I took the opportunity of left-over annual leave to book some time away. We ended up in Lyme Regis, enjoying long walks by the seaside and on the cliffs, retreating to a cosy B&Bs when night fell.

March
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My journey into the Iberian Peninsula began. Nothing was going according to plan. The weather was colder and wetter than expected, I got sidetracked from the Camino del Norte almost on the first day of it, and I ended up cycling in Spain for almost a month. But it all worked out for the best and those guys are the perfect illustration of it. They invited me for some coffee as I was waiting for the shops to open and we got chatting. They extended their invitation to their home for the night. We took the train to their place only to find out that the wife of one of the guys was not up for it. I ended up in Bilbao after another train ride where I met a man who led me to a hostel, saving me the struggle of finding it in the dark.

April
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I was finally in Portugal, the weather was brightening up, and I was discovering the most beautiful region of Portugal: the Alentejo (I may be extremely biased). I spent my time cycling under the sun, devouring Alentejo bread (that rivals French bread), eating freshly caught fish and amazing sausages accompanied by hand-picked vegetables. All while hopping from dam to dam sleeping by peaceful lakes in the company of other travellers.

May
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In May I discovered the joy of Warmshowers.org, frequently getting kidnapped by my hosts and learning more about the Portuguese way of life. This was also a time when I struggled with the fact that I was on my own and the company of strangers became essential to my well-being. Meeting the family pictured above was a blessing. They had been cycling from Morocco and were heading home (Belgium) via France and the UK. We spent a week cycling together and it undeniably became one of my fondest memory of the year.

June
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I was back in France, cycling long hours of flat straight roads in the Landes region to meet up with my father at the estuary of the Gironde river. It was almost Summer and although the weather wasn’t always up to it, the landscape certainly was with its long, long stretches of forest, immaculate beaches and lakes. It was idyllic. And so was the company of other cycle tourists.

July
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My partner came to France and we spent an unforgettable two weeks travelling between family members and city escapes. There were barbecues on an almost daily basis with beers, wine, and cocktails (and even a bottle of Champagne once). There were long swims and games in the pool. There were football matches and long hikes with my niece and nephew. But most of all there was the sun and long hours shared with my partner, my bicycle gathering dust in a shed at my grandparent’s home.

August
There is no record of August.

I was back in the UK and finally took the time to go through everything I’d recorded and photographed while away. But I didn’t stay cooped up inside. I made the most of the British summer and cycled to Bristol from London (and back) to be re-united with the Belgian family on wheels. I also made my first friends in Bristol, cycled 100 miles as it if was nothing for the first time, and enjoyed being alive and free for a little while longer before the struggle of house viewings and job hunting began.

September

I met up with Jonathan and we set off to walk the 1066 Country Walk, reacquainting me with my walking boots and the English countryside. The sun was still shining and I was full of optimism for what lay ahead.

October

I ended up in Wales sleeping in my tent once more for the #OutdoorBloggers week-end. There were new friends and the crackling of the fires, a long hike up Snowdon and nature all around. I was being reminded of what mattered in life. The strain of modern life and bills had led me to accept a job I barely tolerated. The week-end was all I needed to hand in my resignation.

November
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This was the lowest I had ever been this year. Landlords kept turning us down, job interviews didn’t work out (and the feedback was never helpful), and money was running low. I spent long hours on my longboard, the focus needed to acquire new skills obliterating every thoughts from my mind. But however long I stood on that board, I always needed to come home, to check e-mails, to apply for jobs, to arrange for viewings. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. My partner took me away for a much needed break in Sussex. We followed Constable’s footsteps and discovered Colchester, making me forget about everything else for a week-end.

December
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Not much outings other than walks and rides on Bristol many footpaths and cycleways. So I will only copy what I wrote a few days earlier on Instagram:

Five carefree months on the road when money was no issue (so little was needed, it could be earned easy enough). Four months struggling to find a job when money was a constant struggle (what with rent and food and transport to interviews). And finally today when I receive the first pay check of my new job (well-earned and much appreciated). This year has seen many ups and downs (literal and metaphorical) and I am grateful to end the year on a positive note. A new life lies ahead of me and to celebrate its beginning I treated myself to churros at the Christmas market. It felt overly indulgent and I savoured every last bit of it.

I hope your year was as good as mine but with less emotional roller-coaster.
Feel free to drop links of your best posts and 2016 retrospective. I’ve missed a lot while away and I’m really enjoying discovering what you’ve been up in the first half of the year.

And finally, as a little thank you if you’ve made it this far into the post, a collage of sounds from this year. This track includes sounds from my trip in the Iberian Peninsula, a little sneak peak of what’s to come in 2017.

Visit SoundCloud for a full description of the track.