Last week my life changed. Today, instead of being in an office I find myself at 9:30 am drinking a coffee with my wife, having taken my daughter to school. Shortly I shall go for a run across some Cambridgeshire fields but first I feel I must write this.
When I started writing a blog a few months ago it was simply a way of finding a reason to write and to reconnect with my personal interests. It changed rapidly and grew into a website. The subject of it was always going to be based on my love of the outdoors and mountains in particular, but I did not envisage how it might evolve and grow into a project designed, one day, to make a living. Or perhaps I didn't dare to think this.
How will it make a living? Well I’m not entirely sure yet but I hope it will help others in Finding Inspiration in Mountains and Wilderness.
But, as of today I am working almost full time on The Armchair Mountaineer. I have shelved my other full-time employment. I have left the rat-race and whilst I continue to do consultancy work and other entrepreneurial projects, I am choosing carefully. This web site is now my main "employer" in terms of time, albeit one that doesn't pay! I am sure that in due course I will write more about the reasons for my decision to drastically change tack and about the crucial support from my wife in taking this decision.
I am looking at a future filled with new challenges, many of which I hope will not only be outside the office but actually in the great outdoors, from longer distance travel to weekend micro-adventures.
It's a long road but it is leading me where I want to go.
Yesterday the traffic to the site was 15. After nearly 20 years working with online businesses I understand that this is not quite enough to monetise. However what the site is doing successfully is reconnecting me with the things I love; the wilderness, the outdoors and mountains.
For too long I have neglected these passions and it took a mixture of occupational burn-out, a dissatisfaction with the often inflexible formats of working life and some inspiring people to push me back to focus on what brings me pleasure. I can’t help feeling it is a point I could have arrived at sooner and with a clearer head but such is life. The important thing I feel is that I reached a fork in the road and I chose the less-trodden path.
I would like to be clear that this does not mean I have lost my appetite for hard work. I have set up my own businesses in the past and been reasonably successful. The entrepreneurial spirit in me is still alive and well.
However, now I am looking at a future filled with new adventures and challenges for myself and my family, many of which I hope will not only be outside the office but actually in the great outdoors, from longer distance travel to weekend micro-adventures.
Right, time to get my trail running shoes on. For those interested below is a list and some notes on the people that inspired me to make a drastic life change.
Who has inspired me?
Escape the City describe their mission as being “To help 1,000,000 people find work that they love”. Their communities (tribes) give like minded people the chance to exchange ideas and garner support and learnings from each other. They also have a programme helping people engineer a career change all aimed at Escaping the City and doing something out of the desire and passion to do it. This may mean teaching English in Africa or launching some tech start up. Escape the City provides not just coaching to help the kind of transformation I have been looking to do but also effectively supplies a "safety net” of like-minded individuals to spur you on.
Now, here’s the kicker; above is my understanding because in truth I never actually "used" Escape the City. I signed up. I thought long and hard about it and I decided it was worth the money, but in the end, unfortunately, the timing wasn't right. I apologise to the founders for not having supported them financially but, as daft as it may seem, the thought of such a thing as Escape the City existing fills me with confidence, as if a safety net were there. If I get something wrong in my new life I can go to them and give it another go with renewed encouragement to find that thing that I love. I am not alone.
When a friend (and business partner) of mine gave me a copy of The 4-Hour Work Week I was very cynical. Like many people self-help of any sort was something of a con, in my mind. Ironically it was at a time in my life when I really needed it. Anyway when I eventually got around to reading this book, it caused me to change a few of my working ways and inspired me to concentrate on aspects of my life that were important to me.
"Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan"
Whilst I still think a lot of the ideas are out of reach for many I found by taking the elements from the book that fit my life and my aims I was able to streamline certain aspects of my work, personal life and to focus better on what really matters to me. What is particularly poignant to me is the principle of finding a way to do the things you enjoy. I have employed this in many small ways to avoid the "deferred-life plan" which so many of us tend to follow.
For more details on what I took from it you can read a blog post here.
Sarah Williams is the host of the Tough Girl Podcast which is aimed at inspiring women to greater challenges through her interviews with… inspiring women of course. Now, it is not actually her interviews that have inspired me, although plenty have been interesting. Sarah used to work as banker in London but after eight years she left her job. like me she says she wasn’t either “happy or fulfilled”.
I think I came across her podcast more than a year ago and it is the occasional mention of her own story as well as similar tales from some of her guests that actually helped inspire me to think about changing my own life.
My friend Dan.
Sadly you don’t all know my friend Dan. He is a singular-minded individual who has had the strength of character to follow certain dreams and aspirations that have led him to live an interesting and admirably unconventional life. I have not asked him if he is fulfilled. I don’t know if he has any regrets about the path he has taken but I do know that he has done things that many would not have the courage to do - me included. From walking the length of the Pyrenees, the GR20 in Corsica, the Lycian Way in Turkey or travelling in India, living in the French Alps, sailing around Thailand or taking up open water swimming just because... the list of his adventures is long and, as he looks towards joining a sailing trip across the Atlantic later in the year, it doesn't look as if he has run out of ideas.
As you can see from this brief summary some years ago he embarked on a life driven by an appetite for discovery, of the world and of the individual. The safety net of the world one knows can also be stifling. By removing himself from it he has been on many an outdoor and travel adventure that has made him grow into an inspirational person to me. He has run, jumped and plunged into life and in doing so I am sure he has challenged himself in ways he never imagined he would. Or perhaps I do him a disservice, perhaps he knew exactly how he wanted to challenge himself. Whatever the truth is he has set an example to me of what is possible and helped rekindle the smouldering embers of my own passion for outdoor adventure.
Let the fire burn bright.