I am writing this from Seville, the capital of Andalusia.
A year and half ago I spent a magical few days in this region with my family and some close friends. I was at a lowish point in terms of my working life and the seeds of my idea to change the way I work were first sewn.
Earlier, in July of 2015, I had joined my best friends to do the 3 Peaks Challenge. It was many years since I had been out in the hills in this way and this somewhat nonsensical challenge was enough to remind me why I like time spent in the wild; the physical efforts entailed, the camaraderie of the outdoors and the beauty of the mountains and hills.
In all honesty, as the millions who have done it will know, a lot of it is done in the dark. But an early morning up Ben Nevis, an evening climb of Scafell Pike and a rain lashed ascent of Snowden in the black of night was enough to re-ignite my passion for mountains and the outdoor life; a flame that had always somehow flickered even through years of prioritising work.
Then, in August 2015, in in the sweltering Andalusian heat I laced up my trail shoes and started running in the Pinar del Hacho and the hills surrounding Antequera. Sweat pouring from my glowing head, legs burning from the rising terrain, I found a kind of personal glory in my untrained efforts. Perhaps the years of working life had helped me shed a good deal of self-consiousness; at least enough to revel in the moment, unconcerned by what others might think of my amateurish endeavours and enjoying a selfish elation at my own modest achievements.
It just felt good to crunch laboriously over the dusty Spanish soil, and compare myself to myself.
That summer, after Andalusia we moved on to Menorca for a week and I continued with some more run / walks on sections of the Camí de Cavalls, a 185km route that traces a path around this beautiful island.
As daft as it seems, re-discovering this personal satisfaction gave me the strength that ultimately led to me quitting the rat-race, setting up this web site, changing the way I work and planning a life with more adventure and more "outdoors" in it.
I would not be writing this had some friends of mine not asked me to join them on the 3 Peaks Challenge and The Armchair Mountaineer would not exist had I not found myself in the hills of Andalusia, running and contemplating what really makes me happy.
CHALLENGES FOR 2017
I will not let these embers die down again, so its time to make myself accountable by getting some of my non-work plans and challenges for 2017 out there:
- Use every opportunity to travel and see new places and people.
Trips to Thailand and Iran being planned.
- Visit Scottish Mountains.
It is a disgrace that I have only been twice in my life to this fabulous wilderness on our doorstep.
- Climb again in the Alps.
It has been too many years!! I hope in July I will be able to climb above 4000m, in the Alps again.
- One long "Adventure"
This is harder when you are a family and jetting off alone for long periods is not really possible so we are planning a family trip around the Balkans to include a number of countries and a number of adventure activities, from the sea to the mountains and the rivers... and of course the local history and culture.
- Run an ultramarathon.
It seems that after a few too many cocktails a couple of weeks before Xmas, I promised to do one of these. Now I need to train in earnest. Probably looking at June for this challenge... and it may involve a degree of very slow running, which to the untrained eye, may appear like walking.
- Learn Spanish
Why not? They speak Spanish in interesting places.
- Do more voluntary work.
Don't really need to explain this, do I? Well ok, I could recommend this for any number of worthy reasons but one (selfish) benefit for the worker-from-home is the possibility it affords you to be part of a team - a skill which one should guard against losing!