I’m at my happiest when I’m outdoors, the wilder and remoter the place the better.
I’m at my most miserable when I’m cold, with no immediate prospect of getting warm.
My happiness and the misery often collide when I’m trekking in the hills. Continue reading
Last year I had the complete joy of teaming up with Simon Greaves from Cairngorm Treks, to run Trekking for Wellbeing. Seventeen intrepid women came on our women only treks.
We wanted to break down some of the barriers that can prevent us accessing the freedom, beauty and healing of the remote outdoors. Barriers can include confidence, navigational experience and the kit required to eat and sleep in the hills.
Many were nervous and unsure what lay ahead of them but something within urged them to commit to spending 3 days and two nights wild camping in the Cairngorms.
Was it worth the risk?
Last night, nearly a year on, I emailed the ladies to ask them, with the passage of time what do they feel changed for them as a result of their experience.
Here’s what they told me:
“I felt like my love of the outdoors, which have been suppressed by many years of humdrum life and busyness, was reawakened.” (Louise)
It has made me more determined to get out with my kids more, we are going on a bothy weekend next weekend. That’s definitely came off the back off this trek.” (Louise)
“It definitely made me want to be in the outdoors and trekking a lot more! I’ve been up a few Munros since.” (Kelsey)
“Definitely got me wanting to do more similar treks and enjoy this beautiful country side on our doorsteps.” (Wilma)
“I found you really can disconnect, even if that was not your intention, the wide open space just makes you feel.., free. It just twigged, I want to be Free!” (Donna)
“My take back was simplicity.
I found it really liberating to carry everything I needed for a few days and not be weighed down by other stuff, and it shows how little material stuff we need in life really.
I’m trying to keep it simple at home too.” (Jo)
“Being able to switch of and de stress – left me feeling completely rejuvenated and put things in perspective, this made me want to do it more so I even got a tent so I can do it with my daughters.” (Seonaid)
“It did remind me of how good it feels to be out in the wilds with a few good companions sharing stories and enjoying the simple pleasures.” (Wilma)
“I like the others benefited from the ability to just be in the here and now while away on the trip! The beautiful countryside the graft of heaving myself up a mountain was liberating! Makes you not take anything for granted and delight in being able to do it!” (Susan 1)
“I really appreciated the break from the internet/social media/my phone in general.” (Susan 2)
“When I felt like giving up it became mind over matter.
Afterwards I had an overwhelming feeling of achievement.
When things are tough now, I often think back to how I felt after my last little power sprint to the end –
I wanted to give up, I couldn’t give up and I’m so glad I never gave up. What a great sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.”
“It just refreshed things in general to me in that the time away and time to yourself gave you time to reflect on your life and put things into perspective.” (Jill).
“It gave me the confidence to tackle more walks, and even did a couple on my own with the dog…I would never have done this previously.” (Seonaid)
“The main impact for me from the trek was belief in my own ability as I really had major doubts before whether I could do it or not. Actually, managing to complete the trek helped me massively to believe that I could do other things I have always wanted to.” (Lynn)
“The West Highland Way is one thing I’d put off over a number of years due to, amongst other things, self-doubt. This is now something that I am definitely doing at the end of May!” (Lynn)
“The wellbeing part of the trek helped me focus on how I was feeling about quite a few personal issues that were going on. For instance, always putting others first and not being able to say no to a lot of things. I am getting better at dealing with those feelings.” (Lynn)
“I am still proud of myself for doing it, 5 years ago I would have laughed at anybody suggesting I could do something like that…but I did it!” (Seonaid)
Each of these ladies could have easily found a reason to stay safe at home; or to choose a more comfortable holiday.
Yet each of their stories reminds me of something that feel I’ve always believed but that feels truer to me than ever:
“It’s good to do hard things”.
Doing hard things changes us.
We get to know ourselves better.
When we are stripped away from the distractions and seducations of the every day, we see life from a more spacious place.
A place where we can wriggle out of the old mould that is constricting us.
A place where we can question the life script that’s limiting us.
We can step into a new freedom. Things that seemed impossible become possible.
At the time of writing we have 9 places left on treks in 2018. I’d love to walk with you! Find out more here.
I love the idea of our lives being framed as story.
Just as a good story doesn’t happen by accident, neither does a good life.
As a life coach a big part of my role is to help people to decide what story they want to their life to tell.
At the end of the year I decided to reflect on my ‘2017 Story’.
It’s a story of dreams, self-doubt, distraction – and tiny baby steps towards these dreams.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I shall begin.
It’s late summer 2017. I’m not long home from a 10-day trek in the Cairngorms [you can read more about the trek here!].
The trek was a massive revelation to me.
I felt a growing sense of connection to the landscape and a peaceful joy as I walked, ate and camped. Nothing was asked of me, other than to put one foot in front of the next. And I asked for, nor needed nothing more than the basic shelter and food we ate.
As the days on the trek passed, my mind became quiet and still. In the last couple of the days as the trek neared its end, I felt a resistance in my body. I didn’t want to return home, rather my body – the part of me that knows without thought – wanted to just keep walking.
Now home, I start to dream of doing a long-distance hike – across America, maybe? Or Europe or New Zealand? I dream of doing these things alone – of learning what I’m capable of physically and mentally.
It’s also my passion to inspire others through sharing my stories. I dream of creating blogs, articles and, maybe one day, writing a book about my adventures.
My brain immediately shuts down to these dreams:
Shona’s brain: “You don’t have the time nor money… and you can’t do it on your own”.
Shona’s body: “Sigh”.
So, normal life resumes and I bury these dreams under a buffer of distraction.
My chosen modus operandi for distraction is working. And when I’m not working, I’m ‘fake working’.
‘Fake working’ is where I sit in front of my lap top scrolling Facebook.
After scrolling Facebook it’s time to check
my personal email,
By the time all these are attended to…. it’s time to check Facebook again.
Phew, I’m busy.
And I’m nicely numbed out on social media.
A few wines at the weekend provide additional security that there’s no thaw to this numbing anytime soon.
But dreams are persistent things.
In the evenings, I find myself hooked on a series of You Tube Vlogs (video logs) of a through hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Sarah William’s had set herself the challenge of both walking the 2200-mile trail across the East Coast of America in 100 days; and documenting and sharing her experience to inspire others.
I sit down with my dinner and watch Sarah walk and chat about her day. She shows and tells us where she’s walked, what she’s eaten, where she’s sleeping and how she’s feeling.
As I watch I think “I wish I could do that…”.
Sarah’s younger than me. She’d never done anything like this before. She’s not wealthy – rather she relies on podcast patrons and her own savings to fund the trek. She has a fire in her belly to inspire other women to have adventures.
I remind myself – I’m quite fit and I’m growing in my walking and camping experience. If Sarah can do it, why can’t I?
As slowly and subtly as Autumn becomes Winter, so to my thoughts slowly and subtly change. I didn’t force it or notice an immediate change.
But at some point before the end of last year I noticed that my “I wish I could” – had become – “maybe I could”. And my “maybe I could” has become “I will”.
It’s my plan to walk the Pacific Crest Trail 2670 miles from border of Mexico to border of Canada in spring 2019.
To prepare, this year I plan to solo walk the Cape Wrath Trail and the Camino in Spain. I hope to rent my house out and to work really hard to save the funds I need. I also have a dream and plans underfoot to build and live in a Tiny House but I’ll save that story for another blog!
As a life coach, my work is about helping people navigate their way through this process. We could waste years of our lives feeling stuck and numb but with courage and insight you can live a story that exciting and authentic to you – regardless of what others think or expect of you.
Lots of things could go wrong between now and April 2019 so who knows if I’ll make it to the start of the PCT trail.
But I’ve re-categorised my dreams. They have from ‘bonkers’ status to ‘highly possible’.
This has changed everything!
I’m living my 2018 with a new energy, focus and passion. I don’t want to waste any of my energy on things that deplete me or take me off track.
So much so, that I’ve found it relatively easy to remove my ‘buffers’. I’ve stopped drinking and I’ve come off internet dating sites (#freedom). I’m still on Facebook more than I’d like but I’m working on that one! (My stopping drinking is a longer story that I’ll save for another blog).
“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but through perseverance”. (John Manson)
May we be persistent in the pursuit of good stories, stories where we create and live our dreams. May we move steadily and gently as a stream – yet with rock eroding power!
Do you have fears and doubts that have led you to bury your dreams? What habits do use to keep your dreams buried and to distract, or even medicate, yourself?
Whatever happens I feel I’m creating a good life story. I hope my story unearths some thoughts about your dreams. If you want any help navigating this exciting terrain I know a really good coach!
If any of this resonates and you’d like some help in knowing what story you want to tell and how to move beyond stuckness then you’ll be interested in my life coaching package, Unstuckified. In Unstuckified we work together to find out what is keeping you stuck and how to get free. More information here.
His lips are moving, words are being spoken. He’s smiling so I know he’s kind but I just can’t hear what he’s saying. My brain is in survival mode, drowning him out, screaming: “Get In The Shower – NOW!”
I compose myself and return the smile:.
“I wonder if I could have a shower and get warm first and then we can talk about keys?”
I’m getting ahead of myself – that’s day 5, a cold wet Thurso day, on my North Coast 500 trip.
In the first part of this blog I share WHY I decided to cycle alone for a week, covering 530 miles, on some of Scotland’s hilliest roads. The second part of the blog is a photo diary with mileage, route and a few of my strongest memories. Continue reading
It’s 7am, Thursday 27th of July, I put on my backpack, lock my front door and say goodbye to civilisation.
In this blog I share some dreams that a 10 day Cairngorm Expedition inspired in me this summer.
The second part of the blog is my photo journal from the trip. Continue reading
Last June, as I approached my 40th birthday, a self limiting belief hit me smack bang in the solar plexus.
I was trying to decide how to mark this significant birthday.
I’d always I dreamed of having great outdoor adventures. Continue reading