“It is better to have lived one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep” Tibetan Proverb.
I collect quotes on my phone. Not the memes you see on Facebook or Instagram but the actual quotes. I make a note of those that resonate with me should I ever need something inspiring to focus on.
A few years ago, I found myself in a hole. I’d moved away from Newcastle to London and was struggling. It was a bad period of my life and while I did a good job of hiding the drinking, I was sinking deeper into a depression. I wanted a way out and needed something to focus on.
I remember walking into the office and sitting at my desk, staring out the window. It was the same walk I’d done every day since I moved. It took roughly an hour and gave me time to wake up and watch the city come to life. It was raining on this day and, as I sat staring through the big windows, I thought I would rather be out there than sat behind the desk. It was then that I knew I had to plan my escape.
I’d always enjoyed being outdoors but over the years that fell by the wayside as career and financial aspirations took over. But on that day I sacked off what work I had planned and started looking at what I might do. I came across an outdoor instructor scheme at Plas Y Brenin.
Looking at what it entailed I narrowed it down to the Mountain Leader (ML) qualification. I didn’t need the full list of qualifications the scheme offered, the ML fit into my aspirations and offered the opportunity to lead people in the UK and work on overseas expeditions. Along with that I also knew I wanted some adventure so would take a few months off and walk from Lands End to John O’Groats.
The next 4 months I was consumed with the planning and logistics of these adventures as well as trying to hold down my day job. By the time I’d quit London and was traveling to Penzance to start the walk I’d completed Hadrian’s Wall, The Reivers Way, undertaken the Yorkshire Three Peaks and logged a few QMDs (quality mountain days) towards my ML, as well as learnt how to navigate, climb and some winter skills.
Over the last few months I was in London I’d spent more time getting away into remote areas of the country. It had reignited my love of the outdoors and changed my whole outlook on life. The first few weeks of my LEJOG walk were difficult but eventually I got into a groove. I was moving quick though, too quick, and not really stopping to appreciate things. I got to Fort William in 7 weeks and was burnt out and ill with exhaustion. I took a few days off to consider my next move. I decided to push on and keep going up to Cape Wrath. It would be a hard three weeks in very remote areas with unpredictable wild weather, but it was all part of the plan.
Setting off with my rucksack weighing the heaviest it had for 7 weeks I trudged along for 3 hours in the rain. Negativity was flooding my brain and despite my best efforts I couldn’t shift the feeling like I wanted to quit and move on with my life. I sat by the side of the path and slipped off my rucksack. I started crying. Months and months of planning and this was it. The purpose of the walk had gone. I was rushing it just to move on with my life. It took all my strength to walk back to Fort William. It was the hardest thing I’d had to do but it was over.
After I got back from Scotland I moved to Bristol. I’d met a girl (Sally) while I was on an Expedition Leader weekend and wanted to see where it might go. After deciding I’d still work in IT but as a freelance, I spent a few years falling in love with Sally and the city as well as working towards my ML qualification.
After passing this my world opened up and I now split my time between freelance work in IT and outdoors. I’ve worked on overseas expeditions in South Africa, Lesotho and South India as well as led trips in the UK. I have a great work life balance and I’m is less encumbered with all the trappings of “things” that anchored me earlier on in my life.
Myelf and Sally set up Lightfoot as we enjoy working together and want to put on events and trips that not only we would enjoy but also we think others would. If you’ve ever been on one of our events you’d see we’re a great double act. We both love being outdoors and sharing that with other people. Sally is now an International Mountain Leader so I’m considering working towards that as well as doing my Rock Climbing Instructor qualification. But for now I’m just enjoying the freedom my life affords me and getting outdoors when I can.