Category Archives: Adventurers

My Top Tips For Inner Happiness: Learnings From The Wilderness

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My top tip for inner happiness this week, wee Gazer, is a mix of tried and tested learnings from my last few days in the wilderness:

1) “This above all, to thine own self be true” – Shakespeare

2) “Don’t ever stray away from yourself to get closer to someone else” – Anonymous

3) “Approval from the people we admire is sweet, but it’s not enough to be the foundation of a happy life” – Gretchen Rubin

4) “If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” – Anxiety Cure

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What 5 Days In The Wilderness Taught Me…

These are learnings from the pink lipped, fur coat clad city chick about town, pictured above, turned rock climbing, camping novice extraordinaire that you see in the pictures below. The wee Gazer who’s undergone a week of firsts which have pushed me way outside my comfort zone and solidified my values, my limits and the importance of being true to yourself alongside.

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This was a week which saw me driving from the Alps down to the South of France in a huge white van, hoping I wouldn’t prove my boyfriend’s impression of my driving, true. I almost managed this… Almost ;) 

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This was a week which saw me camping in a showerless camper van for five days feeling just how Carrie did in that episode of Sex & The City where she finds her usually good humoured self way outside her comfort zone at Aidan’s country ranch, struggling to find the fun in skidding on cow pats…

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This was a week which saw me completing two 3 hour long ‘Via Ferratas’ (ascending climbing routes found in the Alps covered in metal ladders) and not letting the panic get the better of me. Initially inducing the kind of terror that leaves me suspiciously speechless, I finished the second one with a great sense of pride wondering if my adventure-nut boyfriend realised what an achievement this was for me.

And then something rather strange happened..

A Little Message From A Far…

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You know those moments that feel heaven-sent, like a guardian angel has just landed on your shoulder and whispered something in your ear that speaks straight to your heart? This was one of those…

As I sat exhausted and a little frazzled in my oversized van, a random French lady approached and asked if I was the girl she’d been watching finish the route. I confirmed that I was and explained that though my boyfriend was an extreme sports lover who finds these things easy, I get pretty scared by these sorts of sporting ‘endeavours’.

She looked stunned and stared at me intently as she said with the warmest of tones, “Really, really well done. I’m a seasoned climber and I would’ve found that terrifying. Really, really well done”. The kindness of strangers, I thought and just what I needed to hear.

Why Was This Such A Eureka Moment?

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That single moment summed up my learnings during my week in the wilderness. My belief in the power of stepping outside our comfort zones and embracing fear as the progressive, self-developing force that it is; the power of opening our minds to new people, new interests and new worlds but doing so with no expectation of approval from others – only with the hope of achieving something that you yourself are proud of; and the beauty of pushing ourselves to share in experiences that mean the world to those we love whilst not compromising who we are too much alongside.

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If I’d have done too much of the latter, I would’ve indulged in my boyfriend’s idea of paradise – living in a camper van for the next 4 months. But you know what? While I love a challenge and tried to find every which way I might have been able to indulge his idea of heaven, I’m super relieved that I trusted my gut to be true to myself and found a wee apartment nearby. That way, I’d have the space and solace that I need to Skype with coaching clients and maintain my own sense of balance and peace whilst not compromising his values.

How Can You Apply These Learnings In Your Daily Life?

So remember as you apply yourself to new things this week, wee Gazer, praise yourself for your bravery. Praise yourself for engaging in the interests of those you love, especially if it pushes you to the boundaries of your comfort zone and above all, always guard what makes you feel at home. That’s the surest way to all the right kinds of love.

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The Vallée Blanche: An Unforgettable Day

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“The starting point of all achievement is desire”

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I’m not what you’d expect from a girl who’s lived in Chamonix for 4 months. You’d think I’d be a whizz on the skis by now but I’m not afraid to admit that I remain pretty average… Some things click, others don’t and that old chestnut, fear, hasn’t quite been conquered slope-side yet. Which is what made yesterday all the more magical.

A Journey Into The Unknown

Doing The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix’s well-known off-piste ski route – 20km long with a vertical descent of 2700m – was something I was determined to do. I knew I probably wasn’t good enough, I knew it would be tough and frightening but most of all I knew that I’d really regret not doing it before leaving.

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As you can see from the pictures above and below, the views are stunning, with the high mountainous plains providing a sense of wilderness like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t matter that I nearly toppled down the side of a mountain at one point or that I was tethered like a horse to my patient companion, Mowgli, down the narrow descent at the start – this was a once in lifetime experience I wasn’t prepared to wimp out on. And boy was it worth it.

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Journeying into the largest glaciated domain in the Alps, the Mont Blanc massif, was nothing short of sublime. The sheer scale of the mountains and the giddy heights which see you looking down upon the puffy white clouds is incredible, swamping worries like little ants. No matter how bumpy the slopes were in parts, no matter how many wobbles I had, I couldn’t help laughing at myself – even more so during those moments tinged with terror. My anxieties simply felt so small compared to the grandeur around me.

A fitting end to an unforgettable few months.

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How Can You Apply This In Your Daily Life?

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or weighed down by anxiety, go to nature. The sound of the stream, the bark of the trees, the scale of the mountains – they heal souls. The beauty of nature cracks you open like a nut and relieves those man-made worries which so easily weigh you down.

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#nature

#peace

#beauty

 

 

Vertical K: Hike & Fly Challenge: Chamonix!

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If you’re an adventure chasing, mountain lover thirsting for a flying challenge, check out this video from Alex Ledger of Sky School

Whether you’re a trail-runner, paraglider or a wannabe superhero, watch the sky man on the loose in Chamonix’s wildest plains, running 1000 metres up the Vertical K and acro-paragliding back down! Combining running and flying in stunning surrounds, this is sweaty but seriously exhilarating stuff!

And if that’s not enough for you, read my interview with Alex, recent Entrepreneur Of The Fortnight, giving top tips to budding entrepreneurs about how to set up their dream business. Anything but your average way to earn a living, this is cracking inspiration fodder!

If you’re Chamonix based and you think you’re up for the challenge or fancy some para-fun in England in May, Sky School is where it’s at!

Vertical ‘K’ Hike & Fly Challenge from Alex Ledger on Vimeo.

From Dead In The Dust To Soaring Over The Rift Valley: Royce Rolls With The Blows

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“Lance Corporal Cayle Royce from the Light Dragoons was blown apart in Afghanistan and waited for the end to come. What was left of him was flown back to hospital in the UK. As fellow soldier, Captain James Kayll, said: “His family has been told that he was going to die, that there was no hope, they had even turned off the life-support systems when there was a flicker of life”.

Royce had spent 48 days in a coma. He had a severely bruised heart, collapsed lungs, broken neck, loss of both legs, and amputations on his left hand.

Not only did he live, but he did not procrastinate for one minute. He came back with a hunger for life that would leave even the most able-bodied jocks trailing in his wake. Not that Royce has let the loss of limbs define him in any way — that’s what media tends to do for a sensational story — but for a soldier it’s like just another war wound so there is no point in letting it get in the way”.

Charlie Norton for Vigour Online

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If you’ve ever struggled to pull yourself out of a metaphorical black hole, read this interview with Cayle Royce by Charlie Norton for Vigour Online. Inspiring doesn’t come close.

#cayleroyce

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#exceptional

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Adventurer Of The Month: James Kayll

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The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, who telephoned the crew on the final stretch of their journey across the Atlantic with land almost in sight, described their achievements as:

“The most stunning example of courage, grit and determination that the Army has seen for a long time”.

Brace yourself! This interview will leave you feeling inspired, refreshed and everything in between. Unless, of course, you’ve already met someone who’s completed the world’s toughest rowing race – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – rowing across the Atlantic with a team of wondered ex-servicemen and finishing in 3rd place ahead of a raft of able-bodied competitors. 

The only person to have rowed and sailed across both Atlantic and Indian Oceans, James Kayll, ex-Army Captain and Ocean Adventurer, is one of a kind. So if you’re an adventurer, an aspiring adventurer or you’re simply looking for a new challenge, this interview may be just the inspiration you need.

And if you’re unsure you’ve got what it takes, whether physically, mentally or otherwise, reading about James and his injured rowing colleagues Corporal Cayle Royce and Corporal Scott Blaney may seriously shift your limiting beliefs.

Over to you, James…

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Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?

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I was an Army officer for 9 years serving in a regiment called the Light Dragoons where I twice served in Afghanistan. During my military career I was able to develop a love for ocean rowing which saw me take a crew of wounded ex-serviceman across the Atlantic in a rowing race. I have now left the Army and I work for KPMG in Canary Wharf.

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting On This Path?

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I grew up in the countryside and love the outdoors. Most men in my family have served in the Army at some point so that was probably in my blood… I have travelled loads and done a lot of sailing in my life, including some significant offshore racing and ocean crossings. 

What Inspired You To Adventure?

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I relish challenge, the excitement of the outdoors and the natural environment but above all I love the ocean, the tranquility, the power and the unpredictability. The ocean inspires me; she keeps calling me back!

What’s Your Greatest Motivator?

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My last two adventures have involved wounded ex-Army colleagues. After rowing across the Atlantic together, I helped organise a flying expedition up the Rift Valley in Kenya which saw my colleagues flying across African skies in custom-built para-trikes. The wounded servicemen are my greatest motivator, or certainly were for my last two expeditions. They are utterly inspirational people.

Can You Tell Us More About Your Atlantic Adventure?

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Our Row2Recovery crew, which comprised two amputee and two able-bodied soldiers, set off on 3 December 2013 to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. After an exhausting 48 days, 9 hours and 13 minutes at sea, we touched land on the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua, securing third place overall. Our 4-man crew was made up of me, Captain Mark Jenkins, Corporal Cayle Royce and Corporal Scott Blaney. Corporal Royce was wounded in Afghanistan in May 2012 when he stepped on an explosive device which resulted in above-the-knee amputation of both legs and the loss of several fingers on his left hand. Corporal Blaney had to have an above-the-knee amputation, also as a result of a bomb-blast in Afghanistan, in 2007. Despite their injuries both service personnel are committed to still enjoying life to the full, and that’s why they took on the Atlantic challenge.

Was Your Adventure Across The Atlantic All Plain Sailing?

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It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing. At the start of the race we had to cope with two weeks of storms and in mid-December the Row2Recovery boat capsized in the middle of the night when two 60ft waves crashed into us and we and much of our kit were thrown overboard!

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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I have been very fortunate to have had some amazing experiences so it is difficult to select a highlight! I’ve led soldiers in battle in Afghanistan, I’ve rowed and sailed across various oceans, swum with a whale in the Indian Ocean, camped in the bush with Masai warriors in Kenya… But the one moment that stands out was arriving in Antigua at the end of our trans-Atlantic row. We arrived just after dark and were escorted into English Harbour by a few small boats but as we entered the harbour it erupted with the noise of super yachts sounding their foghorns, classic yachts firing their cannons and four or five hundred people celebrating on the dock.

We let off some flares in front of the crowd and they wet wild, screaming and waving flags as we rowed in the last few yards. The exhilaration and pride I felt during this small moment of my life makes it my biggest adventure highlight, emphasised by the fact that I had a crew of amputees and we had had a pretty rough crossing! Finishing third out of 16 crews - considering we were without 3 legs and a hand was beyond all expectations and made the moment even more special. You can read more about our adventures on the Row2Recovery Atlantic Blog.

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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The biggest challenge was fundraising before rowing the Indian Ocean – it took 2 years and it was demoralizing at times feeling that you might not reach your target.

How Did You Manage To Build Your Adventure Following / Get Sponsors?

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I am not a full time adventurer so can’t really claim to have any following but I have had various sponsors over the years. I think you should never underestimate the value of gifts in kind. This is where you are loaned or gifted items of equipment by the manufacturer. Sometimes this is much better than trying to raise the funds separately to pay for the equipment. Otherwise I think sponsorship is all about linking your expedition to the values and standards of a corporate. It is about finding synergy and overlap so a corporate can relate to what you are doing – coupled with a good PR plan.

What’s Your Favourite Adventure Event? 

Antigua Sailing Week, Monday April 26 2010

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I really enjoy sailing in the Caribbean and so events like Antigua Race Week and the Caribbean 600 are a huge amount of fun.

What’s Your Favourite Product?

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I have been sponsored by Kiehl’s a few times so I recommend their products but from an all round adventure perspective a jetboil is an awesome bit of equipment! Small, robust, compact, light and boils water super quickly. 

What’s Been Your Favourite Adventure So Far?

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If you are looking for a life changing adventure and something that will challenge you both physically and mentally to the extreme then I would recommend the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. This is a 3,000 nautical mile rowing race across the Atlantic. It is a race as well but you will make some great friends within the fleet and have a great time in La Gomera during the preparation before the start. The arrival in Antigua is also spectacular! Not to mention the bit in the middle; it will test every ounce of your ability, your team, your boat and your commitment. You can watch a promotional video for The Talisker Whiskey Challenge below.



What’s your Unique Selling Point?

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This changes for each expedition and I don’t think I really have a USP. I aim to row and sail across the Atlantic, the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Two down one to go…

How Do You Build Your Fan Base?

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What fan base? Maybe you can help…..?

What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Received?

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Cayle Royce’s father thanking me for giving his son the opportunity to row the Atlantic. 

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Adventurers?

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The hardest thing is usually getting to the start line, the adventure is your reward and it will be worth every minute of your preparation, fund-raising and late nights writing sponsorship proposals!

What’s Next For You?

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Ideally rowing the Pacific but I currently have another adventure ongoing in Canary Wharf…

How Can We Contact You?

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@jameskayll on Twitter

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….

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I was chased by pirates off the Horn of Africa whilst sailing from India to Djibouti in 2005. We out-ran them and then hid using the cover of darkness…

Watch James Chatting About His Experiences 

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Adventurer Of The Month: Sean Conway

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Prepare to be gripped, incredulous, refreshed, inspired and everything in between. I guarantee you will have never met anyone like this superstar (as my dad put it – and he’s hard to impress!)

If you’re apprehensive about changing your life, this interview with extreme endurance adventurer, Sean Conway, might change that.

He’s the only man in history to have swum the length of Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats – a mere 900 miles. He’s also cycled around the world (is that all?) and has running the length of Africa next on his wish-list. Standard. Oh, and he’s also penned three books.

I can see why he has nearly 20,000 Twitter followers and an impressive list of sponsors to boot. And best of all, his modesty is in direct contrast to his achievements.

The stuff of film scripts, no adventure seems too big for the bearded daredevil. 

Over to you, Sean…

#indianajones #eat #your #heart #out

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Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?

I do endurance adventures. I basically like to try and break records that are adventure based. 

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting On This Path?

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I used to be a very grumpy school photographer. I hated it. Photographing crying babies in front of white backgrounds all day. It was torture. 

What Inspired You To Adventure?

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I hated my job so much I decided to sell it for £1 in 2011 when I turned 30. I then just needed to do something challenging to get me out the rat race of London so I decided to cycle to Australia and back. 

What’s Your Greatest Motivator?

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Fear of just existing. I did that for my entire twenties and I was miserable. I vowed to spend the rest of my life trying and achieving as many things as possible. 

How Did You Manage To Build Your Adventure Following / Get Sponsors?

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Im not really sure? It’s taken me nearly 4 years of slowly getting fitter, stronger and sharing my story. My advice is work hard, train hard and keep to your goals. The other stuff then falls into place. 

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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Climbing Kilimanjaro dressed in a penguin suit. That was fun. 

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Becoming the first person in history to swim the length of Britain. It was 900 miles up the west coast and took me 135 days. Completing that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – oh and the book is out now: Hell and High Water #ShamelessPlug. 

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What’s Been Your Favourite Adventure? 

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Not really one for doing ‘events’. I prefer to go off on my own and just see what happens. I loved cycling through the Atacama. That was one of the best things I’ve done.

What’s your USP?

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Sorry I don’t understand the question. 

How Do You Build Your Fan Base?

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I don’t have a plan to build a following. I do what I love to do, and what I’m good at and share it on various social media platforms but mainly to hopefully inspire people. I don’t do it to grow my audience. If people want to follow me then I’m really grateful and it’s always good to chat adventure but I just want to show people you don’t have to ‘work for the man’ if you don’t want too. 

What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Received?

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I wish I had a beard like yours.

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Adventurers?

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Just go out there and do it for the love of it. Don’t think about being an ‘adventurer’ because the act of trying to ‘be an adventurer’ often goes against the philosophy of why you want to do adventures in the first place. If you love something, go out there and do it. If you’re good at it then people will find you interesting to follow. 

What’s Next For You?

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20th March I’m running the length of Britain.

How Can We Contact You?

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Send me a smoke signal from your garden, like batman, I’ll see it! 

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….

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I can speak Zulu.

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In lieu of Sean’s modesty, you can view his website here where you can apply for The Sean Conway Adventure Scholarship, if, irrespective of age, you have an adventure idea that costs £1000 or less.

You can follow him on Facebook here and Twitter here

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